Friday, December 19, 2014

Tape Lines

A while back I ran out of thin tape, the kind I used for taping lines on mugs this summer. The tape was something my husband had already. It looked like a roll of very thin blue masking tape (painter's tape) but it had a shiny surface, more like electrical tape. 

tape resist mugs (from the summer)

I went to buy some more, thinking I could find it at Ace Hardware or Lowe's but I wasn't able to find it. Since I didn't want to wait and I didn't want to drive all over town, I went to Schuck's Autoparts for car detailing tape. I got two different thicknesses, (I didn't get any flames).

auto detailing tape (resist)

I used the new tape this week and was amazed by how much easier it was to use. Other than the difference in color, it didn't look much different, but it behaved very nicely. It stayed on the surface of the pot without wanting to pull off, I could lift and restick it when I made a mistake, and I could even wrap it inside the mugs easily.

auto detailing tape applied to a bisque mug

The old stuff would act like it was in place and only later would I realize that it was pulling away from the walls because the tension was too much for it. I can't tell if the new stuff bends into place easier or has more elasticity in the tape itself, but either way, I'm glaze I have it. It took less time, and certainly was less frustrating, to apply.

auto detailing tape applied to a bisque mug

The one thing I will change next time is the color. It's hard to see the white tape on the bisque ware mug. However, once the glaze has been sprayed on, the white and the blue both show up fairly well, especially with the light colored glaze.

glaze sprayed over tape resist

I use the tape as glaze resist. I apply it to bisque fired work and then spray on the glaze over the top. The glaze doesn't stick to the clay that is masked by the tape. I can then peel off the tape, leaving a clear line of unglazed clay.

glaze sprayed over tape resist

Since I want the interior of the mug glazed for easy clean up, I can either spray clear glaze or a colored glaze over the first layer of glaze after removing the tape resist. Both colored and clear glazes interact with the initial glaze at least a little. Last time I tried this, I liked the contrasting results I go using this method.

peeling off tape resist

I can also leave the exterior unaltered and the resist lines unglazed. This simpler approach leaves the exterior with contrasting color and texture, though the difference is hard to see in a photograph.

glazed mugs after tape resist (old kind) was removed

This last glazing round, I had two types of tape on my mugs. The new tape worked very well, leaving clear distinct lines with smooth edges, especially with the reddish glaze. The old tape left wiggly edges where the glaze had leaked behind the tape, especially with the gray (Green Float) glaze, which was more watery than the red (Camel) glaze.

glazed mugs after tape resist (old on the left, new on the right) was removed

The rough edges can be cleaned up with a knife, but part of my goal in this glazing method was to add visual contrast without significantly increasing my effort level. The second type of tape was easy to apply and I didn't have to clean up the edges much, so it's the clear winner.

glazed mug after tape resist (new kind) was removed

I only have one mug from this batch out of the kiln. The rest go in Saturday. The glaze below is the reddish glaze (Camel) with clear sprayed over after the tape was removed. This mug was done with the second type of tape (the better kind), so the lines are fairly clear.

Glazed mug after this week's firing

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Glazing and Firing a Small Batch

This is the last week of school for the district, but the college finished last week, so I got some under glazing done yesterday and some glazing done this morning. I'm firing again today and hope to get a little extra glazing done today so that I can fire a kiln once more this week.

purple underglaze painted on top of fired orange background underglaze (don't worry, it will be wiped away, next)
Yesterday I had trouble getting warm in my studio so I kept taking hot tea breaks to try to warm up and therefore didn't get much accomplished. I finished up most of my under glazing, but not all of it. I have three pieces left to finish, as well as some colored glaze I plan to spray later today.

work waiting to be underglazes and glazed

This morning, though it was a little wet and fairly chilly, I set up my little spray booth outside and sprayed most of the small pieces with a clear glaze. The clear glaze is annoying to apply, since the pieces tend to roll around if you hit them to hard. The glazed pieces are also annoying to load in the kiln since they each need to be set on stilts. The pieces are glazed on all sides, but if I set the glazed side directly on the shelf, the silica in the glaze would melt, sticking the whole piece to the shelf. With a stilt, the piece is held up by a small metal point and the fired glaze just pops off.

glazed work waiting to be loaded in the kiln

I also reapplied glaze to a few mugs that I had fired a while back. The first, fired coat of glaze wasn't thick enough so I added more and am refiring them to melt the glaze better.

reglazed mugs and a sculpture base in the kiln

The kiln is firing today and should be out tomorrow. My to-do list, as always, is long, and I vaguely hope that I might fire twice, glaze more work, clean the studio and put together fired work and bike parts before Christmas. I probably won't get all of this done, since I also have a bit of work to do for school.
my kiln, firing

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Santa's Workshop

Today was Santa's Workshop at Larson Gallery. It was so amazingly crowded and busy. Last year was the first year for the event and we had a decent turnout, but it never got really crowded.  The goal of the event is to encourage more kids and families to come to the gallery and feel welcome. This year it really worked. For a significant amount of time, I could barely walk through the gallery because there were so many people waiting to see Santa.

Last year I championed the creation of the event as a kid-friendly time in the gallery. Though I finished my term on the Larson Gallery Guild board earlier this year, I continued to help organize the second year of the event. This year our advertising (on Facebook and elsewhere) really paid off because the place was at least four times as crowded as last year. Kids came to see Santa, decorate cookies and create a tissue paper tree. They could also write a letter to Santa, who promised to read them all. Quite a few parents enjoyed making their own tissue paper trees and most of the most patiently and ornately decorated trees were done by artists over age 12. 

unfinished tissue paper trees

I did a fairly terrible job of taking pictures at the event, though you can see pictures on Larson Gallery's Instagram and maybe eventually on their blog. I spent most of my time refilling glue cups and making sure the kids had paper tree bases and enough tissue paper squares. I also did some Christmas shopping, since the small group of artists represented some excellent ceramic pieces, beautiful jewelry and fascinating prints. I also had some work for sale. I believe I sold three little sculptures and I saw three different little boys hanging onto their pieces during the event. I've got a good audience (admittedly one with limited purchasing power).

some small sculptures similar to those the boys bought
We had some excellent help from Larson Gallery members and staff and from some YVCC student ambassadors. The event was supposed to last 2 hours, but the place was busy for at least another half hour besides. The student ambassadors worked hard, with some Larson Gallery Guild members, to cut tree templates and tissue paper squares and instruct kids and parents on how to do the project. There wasn't quite enough room for everyone to sit throughout the event, so by the end I noticed that the approach to the project had been changed for some of the people. We started by telling people to wrap a tissue paper square around the end of a pencil and dip it in glue. Later I saw kids spreading glue onto their trees with the end of the pencil itself or dipping the wadded tissue paper into the glue with their fingers. Needless to say there were some sticky hands and pencils by the end.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Raku Firing & Kiln Trouble

This was a busy firing week at school. We fired two and a half cone ten glaze firings in the gas kiln during the week and spent Saturday raku firing outside. We also fired several bisque and low temperature glaze firings in the electric kilns. Monday is the final critique for my beginning classes, so we are obviously getting as much work finished as possible.

Our school raku kiln shortly after we started firing on Saturday.

Now normally we don't fire half a glaze firing, but this was my first experience with a thermocouple that failed during the firing and caused the kiln to automatically shut off. The kiln went from 1949 degrees Fahrenheit at 4:20pm to 2400 degrees at 4:40 and the kiln shut itself off. I wasn't worried that it had actually gone up 450 degrees in twenty minutes, since the kiln has fired in a predictable way for dozens of firings and the pyrometric cones in the kiln weren't even soft. However, when I tried to restart it, the kiln kept automatically shutting off and I eventually gave up and let the kiln cool down.

Loading the barrel smoke firing.

Later I learned that the thermocouple is designed to read the highest possible temperature when it breaks, thus triggering the automatic shutoff. I also learned how to bypass the broken thermocouple for future firings. That night, however, I didn't feel comfortable taking the wiring apart during the firing. We let the kiln cool, added a few more cone packs to help us gauge temperature and refired on Saturday.

An independent student instructing a beginning student on how to load the barrel.

The raku firing this weekend went fairly well as far as weather and the pieces were concerned. We finished a bit early with all the pieces fired and my students helped clean up the leaves and paper in the kiln yard. The day was sunny and relatively warm by the early afternoon.

Adding shredded paper to the barrel before lighting it.

Our first propane tank froze up after the third firing.

Red/orange heat in the raku kiln top during firing.

After the firing I encouraged the students to move some of the detritus of the studio, including extra shelves, bricks and kiln posts to a different part of the kiln yard.

Pulling work from the reduction bucket after raku firing.

I think the students who fired were generally pleased with their work. The day included more students studying than most raku firings. We had intended to fire in November, but the weather prevented the firing. This firing was about as last-minute as it could have been as classes ended Friday and finals begin Monday.

A raku glazed piece cooling after post-firing reduction.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Glaze Firing

I actually glazed and loaded a kiln during fall quarter. The day after Thanksgiving I was able to spray glaze on some pieces and get them into a kiln. I had time to fire, with some help from my husband, on Saturday and was still able to take the work out on Sunday before classes start up again on Monday.

The top shelf of the kiln before and after firing.

I glazed in the late afternoon, so it was getting dark and starting to rain when I sprayed the glaze on. It was a bit hard to see if I had the glaze on thick enough, but everything seems to be basically fine now that I've taken it out of the kiln.

Most of the base of a new sculpture

I had several pieces in this kiln that needed to be glaze fired before I could start putting them together. I didn't get all the pieces through this first firing, so I'll have to finish glazing and fire again this month, hopefully this week.

The base and a raised section of a new sculpture

I had three parts of one sculpture, two parts of another, and one part of a third sculpture all in this kiln. In the next kiln I hope to fit a bowl full of smaller pieces. Unfortunately, I need to glaze each one separately and place each one on stilts in the kiln because I plan to glaze all surfaces of these forms.

The top pieces of one or two sculptures

The bottom shelf of Saturday's kiln was loaded with a few pieces to be bisque fired and a few pieces that needed their first layer of underglaze fired. I also fired some kids' stuff in the kiln including a small herd of ponies.

Kids' ponies and a pony friend

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Since We Couldn't Raku, I Underglazed

My clay students' raku firing was cancelled this weekend due to a burn ban that was in place because of the stagnant air in the valley. This gave me an unexpected five or six free hours, which I used to good advantage, finishing up some underglaze application on several pieces in my studio. 

I was stuck on this piece for a while. I think the green inside the red will make me happy.
I used the actual time I would have been raku firing to rest and read, but later I got myself into the clay studio while the rest of the family was away. I was happy to discover that the heater in my studio turned right on and I didn't have to go through the rigamarole of relighting the pilot before I could get to work. I did have to wait a few minutes so my hands wouldn't freeze.

Small guys with about four underglaze colors each.
I finished up most of the small, loose pieces that needed their last coat of underglaze wiped away or needed a touch up of color. Most of the work I made this summer is now ready for a spray of clear glaze over the underglaze layers and then it can be fired.

The kid's owl with custom mixed grey.
On Sunday my daughter joined me in the studio for a while and put glaze on some pieces she had made during the summer (or before). The older she gets the more fun she is as an under glazing companion because I don't have to open all the jars for her and fish the chunky glaze coated brushes out of the jars for her.

Grey underglaze painted on the red base.
She mixed more grey than she needed for her owl, so I used the rest as my second glaze layer background on one of my base pieces. It worked out well. I needed a color to relate to the black on the already made top section, but black seemed like it would stain the red base color too dark. 

Wiping away grey underglaze.
After wiping away the grey underglaze from the red fired underglaze on the base, I am happy with the color. I still need to add some extra color or colors to the blue gear sprigs. Hopefully I will have a chance on Wednesday, since we don't have classes at YVCC that day.

Grey underglaze highlighting the textured surface of the red base.
I can finally see the light at the end of the horribly long and dull tunnel that I call applying underglaze. Spraying on the clear glaze should be fairly quick once all the pieces are ready and then I can fire the work and start to attach the bike parts (hopefully I can remember which bike parts I planned to use on which pieces). I also need to get a new roll of detailing tape so I can finish preparing the rest of my mugs for glazing. With any luck, my summer work will be fired before 2014 ends.

Mugs and other pieces waiting to be finished.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CORE Gallery & Sabbatical Presentation

It has been a busy week. Last weekend I had a meeting at CORE Gallery, where I will be a member starting in January. CORE is a non-profit gallery for mid career artists located near Pioneer Square in Seattle.

CORE Gallery's November website

Our meeting last weekend was to introduce us to the gallery and get to meet the other 19 artists who will also be a part of the gallery. I am excited about becoming a member of the gallery and getting to know new artists and a new art community. I have enjoyed been a part of the Yakima art community for more than eight years, but it will be interesting to talk with different people about my art, particularly people who haven't been watching my progression. 

A sculpture from my sabbatical

In February I will have a solo show at CORE, featuring my sabbatical work (and this summer's work if I ever get any of it finished. The February show will open February 4th with a First Thursday Reception February 5 from 6pm-9pm. (Now all I need to do it finish work, make postcards, update my website, advertise my show, get myself to Seattle with all my work and pedestals and get the show installed.)
The wall installation I'm thinking of doing in Seattle

Speaking of daunting tasks, this week I also presented to the YVCC Board of Trustees on my sabbatical and a trip I took to Milwaukee for the NCECA Conference. I heard later that the presentation was received well by at least some, but it was one of about 300 presentations that afternoon and I was asked to stop a little before I got to the end of my images. I think I was asked to stop early because there was quite a lot scheduled. Regardless, I think it went well, but I also found it fairly stressful. Strange, how talking in front of a group of 35 students every day can be perfectly normal, but presenting in front of 7 officials can be completely exhausting.