Thursday, May 26, 2016

Raku Firing During Class in the New Building

Today was our second class raku firing in our new building. We have a new counter lift system to lift the top-hat off the kiln base. The kiln base is all new bricks this year, though we haven't yet replaced the insulation in the top hat itself.

Wax on the bottoms of cool pieces loaded into a hot kiln starts to burn before the kiln is relit. (image by Dave R.)

Students in my functional pottery, intermediate and advanced wheel and independent study classes met starting today at 9am for the firing. We set up the kiln top on the new winch lift system and put in some glazed pieces.
A spot next to the top hat on the kiln helps dry a pot that was glazed after the deadline.

Our kiln runs on propane tanks and a Venturi burner. We heat the work up to about 1800 degrees in an hour or so. Then when the glaze is molten, the pots are lifted out of the kiln with tongs and placed in buckets of combustibles.
Hot pots coming out of the kiln look black on the outside because the matte glaze doesn't melt. 

Our new space is fairly small, but well protected from the wind and isolated from the main classroom by two sets of doors that help keep the smoke smell contained. We fired, maybe five or six loads of work today, including a few pieces that were refired after less nice results.

Hot pots put into the buckets instantly ignite the combustible materials inside. Students are ready to add more paper on top for even reduction.

We also had a few students try horse-hair raku, where the horse hair is applied to the unglazed surface of a hot pot. The horse hair burns black lines in place on the pot. I think next time we raku, I will prepare the students a little more clearly on how the horse hair process works before they are staring at a hot pot.

Applying horsehair to a small bowl like this takes precision and planning.

As for the glazed, pieces, after the pieces are placed into the reduction buckets filled with shredded paper or leaves, we place a lid on top and let the pieces cool and smoke. The lack of oxygen and the heavy smoke affects the surface of the glaze and the unglazed surfaces of the pots.

Reduction buckets are left to smoke and cool in between firings.

This time we used maple leaves and shredded paper for most pieces. The largest piece was so hot that we had trouble keeping the flames contained inside our reduction bucket. 

Pulling a fired pot out of a bucket sometimes causes the paper to relight.

The reduction atmosphere inside the kiln and in the reduction bucket gave us some pretty good results with at least one of our matte copper glazes. These glazes can look like they have oil spills or flamelike colors on their surfaces.

Our classroom's "Hawaiian Copper Blue"

The matte copper glazes can also be combined with clear gloss glazes to add some shine to the surface. 
This piece has been fired about four different time with glaze added at least twice.

Students who used wax resist to keep glaze from some surfaces of their pots ended up with deep black areas where the smoke was absorbed into the bare clay. 

The white side is a White Crackle Raku glaze with wax resist dots, the green is our classroom's "Texas Twister" copper glaze.

Our most unusual results came from a fairly thick coat of a glossy copper glaze with maple leaves heavily packed on top. 

This glaze benefited from heavy reduction with leaves. The underside is a brighter blue green color.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spring Firing Results, Organizing, and Underglaze Color Reference Tiles

I have now fired thrice in the last six weeks, meaning I've been eking out time in my studio to glaze and weekend time to load and fire. The firings have been fairly dull so far; just some low fire odds and ends that had been waiting since last summer.

This is a staged shot, I forgot to actually snap a picture when I was unloading the kiln.

I have a new small kiln that my parents brought me from a friend in Wisconsin. It doesn't have more than one shelf at the moment, but I was able to balance a large domed piece on stills in place of a shelf and thus fire, essentially, two layers of work. 

This is the real firing, after I pulled out the dome piece.

The dome on stilts fired just fine, but either the entire kiln or just some of the pieces under it wobbled at some point, probably when I was closing the lid, and fell off their stilts and into one another. 

Oh no, those red pieces are stuck together!

One small piece fell of its stilt and just glazed itself to the stilt. After unloading that kiln, I realized that it would be beneficial to reorganize (by which I mean organize for the first time ever) my fairly massive stilt collection. 

And that weird purple thing is also stuck to the stilt.

That I have so many stilts is mostly a function of how I got the kilns and partly a function of another  donation of stilts from a now forgotten source. Some of them are great, some of them are not, but I think I've only ever actually purchased one small container of metal stilts.

So many stilts, now sorted by size and type.

The size of my stilt collection is roughly the size of my underglaze collection. After sorting the stilts (with some help from the kid) last weekend, this weekend we sorted the underglazes. Sorting my underglazes consists, in large part, of consolidating half full and mostly empty 2 oz jars  and rehydrating quite a few of them. I have purchased numerous 2 oz jars over the years as portable sample sets and because some colors don't come (or didn't used to come) in pints. Unfortunately the pints stay liquid much better than the small containers.

Duncan Cover-Coat Underglazes

I have two different brands of underglazes (and a few odds and ends). The Amaco Velvets are my faithful standbys and what I use most of the time, but I have full box of Duncan Cover-Coats, too. The Duncan line has some colors I like and they are generally cheaper, but I've had a few instances of peeling underglaze in the last year and those seem mostly to be the Duncans. The Duncan 2 oz jars are great for pouring out glaze, but terrible for this weekend's consolidation project, as the neck of the bottles narrows, preventing a tool from scooping out the extra stuff. 

Amaco Velvets and Liquid Underglazes (sorted into warm and cool boxes).

After consolidation, I took a full inventory of my underglazes (and the extra precaution of labeling the lids or easier identification in boxes) so I can replace those I am missing. A few years ago I made some reference tiles for my underglazes. I painted the number of each glaze (the numbers are short and easy to find when reordering) and lines with three different thicknesses of application onto bisque tiles. I then striped one section of the tile with clear glaze and fired them. These tiles are a handy way to check which glaze I used on a fired piece, since wet and even dry glaze doesn't always look the same before and after firing.

Some of my underglaze reference tiles.

With these tiles, my consolidated and labeled bottles, and my inventory, I was quickly able to determine that I am out of Amaco Velvet underglaze V-372 (Mint Green). I needed to determine this because last year I inexplicably used V-372 it on most of the bottom of a piece, but not all. Then I fired it so that it is permanent and promptly forgot what I had done. Now I have to fix it, but at least now I know what I need. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Getting Ready for DoVA

The annual Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition opens next week! Today some students helped me take work across Nob Hill from Palmer Martin to the Larson Gallery. The trip from the new building is much shorter than the trip from the old building, but with a lot more traffic.

The Cheshire cat looks excited to be on his way to the gallery.

The DoVA exhibition opens Tuesday, May 3 with a reception from 5-7pm at Larson Gallery. Admission is free and there will be refreshments. Awards will be presented to students at about 6pm.

The show features drawings, paintings, photographs, ceramic sculpture, pottery and mixed media works made by YVCC students during Spring, Summer and Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 classes. Many works will be for sale. This is a great opportunity to collect some work from emerging local artists.

The Tiki surfer seems to have suffered a label injury to his eye.

The show will be up through May 28, 2016. Larson Gallery is open from 10-5pm Tuesday-Friday and  1-5pm on Saturday. Admission is always free. Bring your friends and family. 

Rowr! Aliens and fish monsters.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

First Firing of 2016

Over spring break, a few weeks ago, I was able to spend some time in the studio--enough time to apply underglaze and glaze to about half a kiln-load of work. This week I stole some time in the studio again and was able to prepare the other half of the load. I'm firing today. I'm still quite a ways from having all of last summer's work glazed, but I can almost see the end.

two sculptures in process on my crowded workspace

Last summer I didn't really finish any new sculpture during the summer, though I built a few small pieces and started some parts for a wall installation. I spent a considerable amount of my time preparing for the move to the new studio and preparing for, attending, and finishing work from my summer workshop at Archie Bray in Montana. 

my crowded glazing station

The academic year didn't get much less busy, as one could conjecture from the infrequency of my blog postings. I have new administrative duties as head of the art program and there have been some issues with regards to the new building and new studio, our department added a credit to most of our studio classes, and I took on a new-to-me art history series which required fairly massive prep time. But the most exhausting part of my year had to do with the tenure process. This was my third and final year and I was surprised by how emotionally exhausting it was at the end. 

an experimental underglaze decoration on a sculpture piece

Now the tenure process is complete and I have a lighter teaching load this quarter as a balance to the heavier load necessitated by the increased studio credits the rest of the year. I keep anticipating that I will be able to spend a whole day or a whole afternoon in my home studio, but that time is elusive. The academic and administrative duties that require my attention will swell to fill any available time. I need to actively carve out time in my studio, then jealously guard that time or it will disappear into a thousand other activities. 

small flowers to be added to a sculpture from this summer

In light of all this, I think a firing in April is fairly good progress. I'd like to see the results of my glaze application before I finish the last few pieces, but I am optimistic that I might be able to finish my outstanding (in the sense that it hasn't been finished, not necessarily in the sense of quality) work from last summer before classes are over.

glazed sprigs to be added to a summer scupture

This summer, like so often, I wish to maintain my studio autonomy, but I have already said yes to a couple of studio projects that are not my sculpture-making. I think they will be good projects, beneficial even, but not exactly my creative work. I'll write about both of these projects eventually.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Windows Alive Opening Reception March 25

Join me this Friday from 5-7pm at Hotel Maison in downtown Yakima for the opening reception for this iteration of Yakima's Windows Alive Project. I've been told there will be snacks.

I have work on display in the window of what used to be Eddie Bauer in the old mall on Yakima Avenue (between 3rd and 4th street for those of you who haven't lived in Yakima for multiple decades). 


I installed the work a few weeks ago, but it has taken a little while to get everything ready. 

Down the street a few windows some of my clay students also have work on display in what used to be Gap (when Yakima had businesses in the old mall building). The last time I checked, five of my students have work on display, though one was planning to bring work down. 

I didn't manage to get good pictures of the student work, so you'll have to come see it yourself.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Windows Alive

my bulb installation and reflections on a sunny day

Last week I started installing my work for the Windows Alive exhibition downtown in Yakima. The exhibition features a handful of local artists who display their work in empty storefronts downtown. My work is being installed in the window of the old Eddie Bauer in what used to be the Yakima Mall.

hanging up L-hooks (I forgot to bring a tool, so my hand was sore after about the 60th hook)

The space is odd, a fairly large window display space with slats on the walls. Luckily for me, the space between the wall slats matches up fairly well with the size of my bulbs. The process has been strange, too. Unlike the last window display I did in Seattle, and unlike window displays I did years ago in Wisconsin, this time I didn't know what window I would be in until I arrived to install my work. 

my window display (in progress) from across the street

Later this week I plan to bring some sculpture to add to the window display. The space is larger than I expected, so my bulb display looks small in the space. Hopefully the sculpture will help fill the space.
The exhibition opens in a couple weeks (date and time TBD) and lasts from some amount of time after that. Details to follow when I know more.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sherar Gym Mural

In 2007, some of my students proposed, designed and painted a multi-section mural in the foyer of Sherar Gymnasium on the Yakima Valley Community College Campus. This year it was painted over. I have been in a sort of mourning over the unexpected loss for about a month and I think that showing some images of the mural and the process might make me feel a bit better about it's removal from the physical world.

The mural was painted way back in 2007 and since then my website has changed several times as has my computer. I was unable to quickly find the mural images or a way to transfer the .html pages that described the process, but I did have a PowerPoint of the mural process. So that is what I am sharing here, with minimal editing:

That's our project. The slide show used to end with an invitation to visit the mural in person. You can still see my students' Yak heads on the doors, but the top banner sections are gone. If you got to see them, I'm glad. If you never did, now the invitation is to visit them in here the virtual world.