Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Trimming and Planting

This weekend I didn't have to go to Seattle for the first time in three weeks, so I got some garden planning and planting started and I did a little bit of studio work done. 

plates just off the wheel

I threw some plates last weekend after I got home from Seattle. I trimmed them during the week and loaded them in a kiln this weekend. It isn't quite full so I'll probably fire it next weekend.

lidded piece and plate (on a terrible homemade bat)

This afternoon my husband was painting the back wall of the studio with a spray gun. He needed my help to periodically fill the spray gun container, so I brought some clay out and make a quick planter shape. We planted part of our garden this weekend, but I wanted another large planter. I figured it would be cheaper and easier for me to make one than to buy one.

my studio
I used some Arleo Sculpture clay from Clay Art Center. This was the first time I'd used the clay and I love this one. It feels just like my raku/sculpture body from school. It is fast and workable, but the surface stays pretty rough, which means it might not be the best choice for my sculpture. My daughter came out to work with me but she didn't like the clay. She said it was too hard, but I'm guessing she meant rough.

my daughter pointing out a flaw in my interior surface

We ended up spending a nice afternoon in the yard together, though our activities were a little unconventional. 

paint, clay and a clump of dandelions my daughter wanted me to put in the clay

I didn't want to spend much time on the pot, so I coil-built it fast and pressed some acorns around the rim for decoration. I want to keep the pot outside in the garden area, so I probably won't do a lot as far as glaze decoration.

The pot mostly done. It probably took an hour to build if you count the interruption to go get more paint from the store.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Storefronts Installation in Seattle

Last week I installed some work in a window on Mercer Street in Seattle. The installation is part of a group of works by different artists installed in windows in the South Lake Union area as part of Shunkpike's Storefronts program. The work will be up through July. You can visit anytime, since the work isn't in a gallery, it's never closed (it is also never open).

my installation for Storefronts

The work is in a window on the south side of Mercer between Westlake Ave and Terry Ave. You can see the work from the car, if you're driving down Mercer. This weekend my family went to see the Pompeii exhibit at the Pacific Science Center and I pointed it out on the way there and on the way back. There is a second, larger installation to the east of mine if you're not sure where to look.

a view of Mercer street in front of my window

All the artists will be giving short talks and answering questions about their work on May 7 for the First Thursday Art Walk. I'll be going first, at 6pm. (For those of you in Yakima, May 7 is also the day of the clay sale at YVCC--you can buy your mother's day pottery from 12:30-1:30 in the HUB).

a view of my window from the parking garage

Installing the work was a challenge. My window is accessible through the parking garage, but I had to bring my own ladder. The window is pretty tall, about 10 feet, so I also needed a ladder inside the space. On the second day of installation, I brought two ladders. On the first day I climbed up the ladder into the window, then pulled the ladder up after me. 

I had to lift the work up into the window before I could climb in, it was a strange setup for planning

I'm not great with ladders and heights, so this was not my favorite part of the installation process. At one point both the woman in charge of all the windows and the woman next to me borrowed my ladder and left me stranded in or out of the window.

the long view down while I waited for the return of my ladder

Later, I knocked one of the pieces off the wall with my knee on the way down the ladder after doing adjusting the light at the top of the window. The piece broke, but luckily didn't knock anything else off the wall. I had extra work and was able to adjust the installation so that the missing piece wasn't a problem. Additionally, the piece that I knocked off the wall was and older piece. This piece was originally made for a similar installation I did several years ago. Those pieces had fairly small openings in the back for hooks. More recently I have been careful to create large openings in the back of wall pieces to accommodate large headed screws and/or L-hooks. 

"humpty" after it's fall
I had two days (during my spring break) to install the work. I probably could have done it in one, but there were a few things I didn't know about the space ahead of time. I actually learned quite a bit about this particular installation process. Next time I would just plan to paint the whole wall before I began. For some reason the person before me only patched the holes but didn't repaint. I would also bring a stool, two ladders, an extra light, a sanding block and an extension cord. 

the view up into the window during install

The particularly nice thing about a two-day installation is that I can have ladder-breaks. These are 10 minute walks that acrophobics take every time they install a couple screws up high. After 10 minutes on the nice solid ground, my hands have dried off and I have stopped shaking. 

The installation in progress before the fall (see how hard it is to read my name on the window)

The two day install also allow me a trip to Lowe's and a fabric store (don't go the Jo-Ann's in Renton, BTW) to collect all the things I forgot the first time.

After a trip to Jo-Ann's, the black fabric makes it easier to read my name, and hides the ugly paint-spattered plywood floor

The show is going to be up for quite a while, which means a bunch of people should get to see it. It also gives me a few more "shots" at getting the photography correct. During the day, photography outside the window is ridiculous, since the bright sun makes the photographer's reflection more visible than the work. 

look, it's me and a white truck

On the first day I stuck around until sunset, but my phone and camera batteries both gave up right as I started to take pictures. Even so, the shots I got had car light reflections instead of bright sky reflections. This week, I borrowed a polarizing filter from a friend, but I didn't have time to stick around until sunset, so the reflection of the clouds is darker, but the work is still hard to see.

pretty clouds

I plan to stick around after dark in May to try to take some more pictures with the polarizing filter. In the meantime, I have a few shots of the individual pieces. I took these from inside the window, so no reflection to worry about.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Installation Preview, Spring Break Base, and New Work at Oak Hollow Gallery.

This last week I installed my work in a window on Mercer in South Lake Union for the Storefronts Program. It will be up until July, so I'll write about it later.

my installation (in progress)

Before I left for Seattle, I finish a base for another piece that will eventually have a bike wheel on it, maybe even a tree. Right now it's just a base. 

base in progress

I also fired some work for my installation and took some functional stuff (mugs and plates) to Oak Hollow Gallery.

base in progress later

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Schedule Planning

This week is spring break for YVCC. I don't have a much of a break myself, since I am installing work for Storefronts in Seattle (on Mercer in the South Lake Union area) on Thursday and Friday. I'll also be working at CORE Gallery this coming Saturday for the last day of the current show.

Yesterday I spent most of the day at YVCC working on curriculum with my department, so today and tomorrow are the only days I can get my classes prepped and spend some time in the studio.

Today I am firing a kiln (which doesn't look very exciting) and preparing for spring quarter classes which start next week. Next quarter I will be teaching an alarming sounding six classes, several of which overlap with each other in time. I teach overlapping classes so that I can offer upper level classes for students continuing in clay. This quarter I will be teaching Intro to Clay, Intermediate Wheel, Intermediate Hand-building and two sections of Functional Pottery, as well as a handful of Independent Study students.

The only class I haven't taught before is Intermediate Hand-building, though I taught an experimental version of it a few years back for a student who was technically registered for Independent Study. One of my most daunting tasks today was putting together a calendar for the various classes. I like to keep a calendar posted in the clay studio so that students know what to expect for lectures, demos or due dates on a given day. It also helps me keep track of which classes are doing what on which days. Especially with two sections of the same class and two sections of overlapping classes, it helps me to not forget a demonstration or assignment.

Usually I can just recreate the previous quarter or year's calendar, but this spring's schedule has a few extra surprises I need to factor in. I have the new hand-building class and I'm going to miss a few days for various things, but I want to make some changes to my Intro to Clay class schedule. The class is relatively new (this will be the third time I've taught it) and though I was generally pleased with the class last fall, I didn't feel that the students had enough time on the wheel.

Additionally, with the Intermediate Hand-building class meeting at the same time, I need to leave enough time for introductions, demonstrations and discussions with students in both classes. With only 2 hours of class per day, I don't have much room for error if I'm going to cover all the material I wish to cover.

The schedule looks a bit messy in it's current draft, but I'll be revising it tomorrow when I go in to school. My work time today is already almost over, since the kids are on short days for conference week. If you'd like to take Functional Pottery, I still have room in my classes.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Molds & Cleaning

This weekend went by pretty fast with family activities and a textbook I'm trying to read for class. I got into the studio for just about two hours total. I did some cleaning, made a plaster mold (that still has to dry before I try it out) and used all the molds I made earlier for almost the first time.

my new box with molds (and other stuff)
The biggest achievement, I suppose, was vacuuming the studio, but that never looks very exciting. I also used some boxes from my mother-in-law to set up a little raised station for the molds I plan to be using in the near future. Getting that counter space cleared off took some doing, too.

The slip mold that failed (it was the slip's fault)

I had mixed up my casting slip pretty well a couple weeks ago, but it had already settled pretty badly. I tried casting with it but mostly made a mess. I probably need to find a funnel and a better way to get the slip remixed; the thick stuff on the bottom of the jar is too deep for my immersion blender.

press mold before smoothing seam

The press molds worked fine. I need to make a little more slip to go with this type of clay, but that shouldn't take long after I let some of the clay dry.

press mold during the smoothing process

A week or two ago I had fired a load of my bulbs and the kids' bells. They're waiting for spring break to be glazed and refired. I'm hoping to get a few done before my installation goes up in South Lake Union on March 26 and 27.

box of bulbs waiting for glaze

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Salmon Bells

A few weeks ago, I visited my daughter's elementary school class to make bells with the kids. The kids are studying salmon and are raising alevin (baby salmon) to later release. 

bells in the kiln after firing

I've done bell projects for two or three years running at another elementary school in town. In that situation, I just show the kids how to make bells. With this class, I had coordinated with the teacher ahead of time and I knew what the kids were studying, so I was able to integrate the lesson with their class a little more carefully.

my example bell and a student bell

It made a big difference that this class had roughly 20 kids, whereas the other group has about 75. I brought 3 students from YVCC to help with the project and they were able to station themselves with a group of students to help the kids with their projects. 

a student's fish

Apparently one of the student-teachers at the elementary school, who is Native American, brought a type of bell with him to class to show the kids how they traditionally shake bells when they are catching salmon (I think I got that right--it came to me second-hand). So the bell project fit in quite well with their class experience.

a student's bell with fish and eggs (or water bubbles, but I'm guessing eggs, based on the conversations)

I also knew the class had been discussing scientific observation, so I started out their lesson by having them handle wet, dry and fired clay and tell me what they noticed about how it felt. I then had them drop the dry clay in a cup of water and observe what happened (the clay released bubbles of air and eventually fell apart--the clay term is "slaking").

another student's take on salmon

After making observations, we made salmon together (the kids and the teacher had to help me get the right amount of fins in place) and then I led them through the process of making a bell with clay balls inside to rattle.

this fish has a lot of character

I took the bells home to fire, then back to school for the kids to paint with watercolor paints. They will shake the bells when they go to release the salmon they've raised.

a couple kids at one table made wiggly handles like this (water plants, I'm guessing)

Though the kids were fairly young, they were all able to build a functioning bell with at least one fish on it. My students helped avoid a few squish-mistakes, but mostly the kids followed along well.

two girls had their fish under their handles. one explained that the salmon was swimming under a rock

It is always fun to see how the kids approach their bells differently. After the flat bottom and pinch pot top, the kids were able to add fish, drawings, handles and other decorations. It is clear sometimes that a few kids saw each others and put on similar decorations, but there is also a lot of variety in approach.

my kid's bell with eggs, fish, tree, water plants, and more

After the lesson, it was also fun to watch the kids clean up. They clearly have a routine and classroom rules. They had no trouble adapting their approach to our tools and the clay mess on their tables.

another side of her bell with the waterfall/tunnel and water plants
After we got home, I let my daughter continue working on her bell (like I had a choice). She had already included eggs and fish on her bell at school, but the end result includes a waterfall, salmon and alevin and an estuary. Alevin and estuary were her words, not mine.

Friday, March 6, 2015

One Show Down, One Show Coming Up in Seattle

Last weekend I drove to Seattle to take down my show at CORE Gallery in Seattle. I also met with a representative from Shunpike's Storefronts program. I will be installing my next "show" in Seattle later this month.

My work will be featured in a storefront on Mercer Street in the South Lake Union area of Seattle. I plan to show a wall installation of my sculpture. I'll install the work at the end of the month and it will be up for three or four months. I'm not sure how long, but I know it will be up in May because there will be a first Thursday art walk in early May.

I was hoping to make some new work for the show, but I'm not sure I'll have time at this point. The first week of March (and the last week of February) seem to have slipped by me fairly quickly.