Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Pottery Textbook

I haven't required a textbook in my clay classes in the past, but I have been sorta looking for a good one for a while. It seems like most general clay texts are written with dense technical writing that manages to be boring even to someone familiar with the medium. I've also got several how-to books that have lots of pictures, but no technical or glaze information. 


A couple weeks ago in Seattle I noticed this book: "Introducing Pottery" by Dan Rhode. At first I thought the author was Rhodes, as in Daniel Rhodes who is an famous ceramic expert and wrote the glaze "bible", Clay and Glazes for the Potter, that I used in my technical ceramics course in graduate school. Rhode is not Rhodes, but the book looked good so I bought it to explore further.

The neat thing about the pottery history timeline is how super long the BC side is compared to the AD side. (And it's also weird that that don't use BCE/CE.)

I'm only a couple chapters in, but the book seems pretty useful so far. I was hoping for a brief and clearly written introduction to history, chemistry and technique for an introductory ceramics course. The first chapter is a very brief history of the first use of ceramics in early prehistoric "venus" figures and Jomon pottery through today. I particularly like the timeline which gives a sense of when pottery, basic kilns, wheels, glazes and high temperature kilns were first introduced around the world.


The next chapter gives some fairly simple, but accurate and clear information about the chemical composition of clay and other clay body materials. Later chapters will go into techniques, glazing and firing. I've set myself a schedule to make sure I get the book read before the quarter starts, but I've already listed the book as optional for my Functional Pottery and Intro to Clay classes.

So far it looks like the book closely mirrors what I lecture on in Functional Pottery, but with some more explanation and good visuals. I am hoping to get some feedback from students as to whether the book will be a useful addition to the class. In other classes, like Design, finding a good book and assigning readings has allowed me to limit lectures and use the class time for more in-depth discussion, activities and projects. I'm hoping this book might do that for the clay classes. As a bonus, I bought the book for $30 at Seattle Pottery, which is far cheaper than the price of a lot of textbooks today.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Bit of Work

I again didn't have much time in the studio this week. My daughter was sick for two full days. On the other hand, I did get a lot of reading done in the short bursts of time when she fell asleep on my lap. She's feeling better today, so I have a kiln firing right now with some underglazes work.  

Weekly total: 1 finished (building) piece

Today I finished one piece from the last batch of thrown pieces from early last week or so. This piece took longer than some because I covered almost the entire surface with overlapping sprigs. To contrast with the sprigged surface I created lily-like openings on the end. I added a raised rim around each of the oval shaped openings to add interest, but this process took more time and effort than I expected. 

lily-like end of finished piece

I used tiny coils to increase the height of the larger oval rims and used a slip trailer to add thickness to the smaller rims. All rims then needed to be smoothed with rubber tips on the inside and outside. Later I compressed all the rims with a wet chamois.

Two rubber tip tools, laying on a wet chamois, two hole punches (for the oval shaped holes) and my slip trailer.

After all that fuss, I foolishly decided to add texture to the entire remaining surface with a needle tool. Someday I will learn to make my processes easier and faster, right? I spent hours poking the wet clay with a needle tool.

I started drawing pictures in the surface with the needle tool just to break up the monotony.

Today I also worked on another wall piece from early last week. For this one I used fewer sprigs for the surface and used a slip trailer to add texture dots to the remaining surface. The slip trailer is quick, but also annoying because sometimes the slip gushes out quickly and I have to clean it off the surface before adding new drops of slip.

sprigs and slip trailed dots drying on the surface

I might take an opportunity to finish the work this weekend, though I was considering trying another lily-like end to this piece, so I may not have enough time to completely finish. Kids don't start school until Wednesday, so I won't have a full studio day again until then. In fact, with Labor day coming up, I won't have another full studio week until the second week of September. And the week after that I go back to work. I should probably be wrapping up my building if I expect to finish anything this summer. (slight panic, normal for late August)

I'm tired, so I'm not going to retake this slip trailing picture.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gallery News

Last week I took a trip to Seattle to visit a couple of galleries. Both visits went well and I have good gallery news to report. As of last Wednesday, I have work in the shop at the Schack Art Center in Everett. The center has an art gallery with rotating exhibits and a shop with smaller work for sale year-round. In the back of the art gallery space is a glass hot shop where one can watch artists blowing glass during the day. The center also has art classes and art studios.

lidded box (now at Schack Shop)

I brought some smaller work to the gallery, including some lawn sticks, lidded ceramic boxes and pea pods. The meeting with the shop director went well and she was pleasant and easy to work with. Across the street from the center is a children's museum. My daughter's reward for her patience on the long drive and the wait while I showed my artwork and did paperwork was to spent two and a half hours playing at the museum. It was big enough to entertain her for even longer.

lawn sticks installation (several now at Schack Shop)

open pea pod with mulberry paper (now at Schack Shop)

My other good news to report doesn't actually begin until January. Starting in 2015, I will be a member of CORE gallery near Pioneer Square in Seattle. The gallery is run by a group of artists and managed by Shunkpike. The gallery is made up of 20 artists per year with most staying year to year. February through November two artists show together in the gallery each month. In December there is a group holiday show and in January a community show. Additionally, throughout the year the represented artists all keep one piece on display (for sale) in a back section of the gallery.

one of several pieces I brought to CORE (who knows what will be there starting in January)

The gallery seems organized, well lit and visible with nice walls, and it is close to quite a few other galleries including Punch, Gallery 110, Soil, Globe and Foster White. The 2015 schedule will be out in the next month or two and I will let everyone know when I will be showing. I will have something there starting in January as part of the artists' permanent display wall.

another piece I took to CORE

In the meantime, you can see my work at Tieton's 10x10x10 show with a reception this Saturday during Highland Community Days. You can always see a few of my pieces at Oak Hollow Gallery in the permanent section (my small pieces are on the shelf in the back right corner near the desk/computer).

"Aoi Cephalotini" (now in Tieton)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Small Work and Good News

I haven't had much time in the studio lately but I've tried to get a bit of work done in the time I do have. Last week I was enjoying cool breezes on the unusually short beach (the lake level is higher this summer due to the deep freeze from winter) of Lake Superior with family. The weather was especially nice this year without the black flies or mosquitos harassing us daily.

I can't remember seeing the lake this still before

Despite having some further limits on my time this week, I decided to throw a bunch of forms yesterday. I wanted to replace some images for a project I am working on. I figured I'd throw a bunch of pieces and make some smaller wall-mounted forms fairly quickly.

don't worry, I think I have a better image on the other camera

Of course I often underestimate how quickly I can really crank out "simple" small pieces. I have about four more pieces in progress, but once I got around to attaching sprigs, it turned out that finishing two pieces took most of my day.

little wall hanger with a new gear sprig surface

I'm building a few small wall pieces because I just heard back from Shunpike in Seattle that I will be participating in their Storefronts projects sometime in the next year and a half. More on that later. All I know know is that I will be creating a wall installation in a storefront somewhere in Seattle. I told them I have all the work all ready, so it might be sooner than later. Though I do have plenty of wall-mounted work ready, it never hurts to make a few more pieces if they might be finished in time.

This orange sprig, on the other hand, has gotten plenty of use before.

If you can't wait to see my work until some undetermined day in Seattle, you can see my work in Tieton right away. The 10x10x10 show opened at Mighty Tieton last week. I was kayaking on the lake or eating s'mores or something, so I wasn't there. I know at least a few people have been out to see the show. It runs through October 11, 2014.

In other good show news, this week I have two meetings with galleries, one in Seattle and one in Everett. More on those later, too. Right now I have four pieces to finish and a car to pack.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cookie Mugs and Other Mugs

I decided to throw some mugs with low temp clay and test out some glazes. I bought three commercial glazes a year ago with plans to make some functional work. Actually, I had plans to make some cookie mugs. 

me want cookie (in the bottom, see)
I made a few cookie mugs last year but took on a complicated glazing process that had mixed results. I used shapes cut out of tape as a resist for contrasting layers of underglaze or naked ceramic. Some of these pieces worked well, others were less impressive.

impressive: my favorite resist tape bowl. I actually spent a lot of time on it

The problems mostly stemmed from trying to get too tricky. On a few pieces I painted underglaze on the whole piece, then used some car detailing tape (thin tape) to cover over the first layer of underglaze. applied a second layer over the top of the first underglaze, but when I used light underglaze over dark, four or five coats of the light color weren't sufficient to block out the dark color underneath. 

not impressive: kids, always remember not to put yellow over blue or red

This year I tried a few touch ups on the streaky yellow coats, but even after another firing or two, the yellow still looks a mess. This time around, I decided to test out the new glazes without messing around too much with underglaze layers.

the lazy girl's answer to the carefully resisted bowl above

Besides my standby clear glaze, I used three different Amaco glazes designed for low temperatures, Camel, Green Float and Burnt Orange.  I tried Camel and Green Float on on two of the mugs without any tape resist. The Camel was mixed up better--the other two had settled badly during the year they sat in the studio--and therefore sprayed on thicker.

Resisted Burnt Orange with Green Float overspray; Resisted Green Float with something? over it; plain Camel with Camel drips from rim

I also tried all the glazes with various tape resists patterns. To save time, and because I was mostly experimenting, I mostly used the detailing tape to make my resist designs. On some I sprayed the glaze, then removed the tape and added a little spray of clear to seal the surface and make it smooth. On others, I sprayed a second color on once I had removed the tape.

Resisted Camel with clear spray over it and the other side of the resist Green Float and ? from above

As it turned out, I preferred all the glazes where they reacted with the clear glaze or the second colored glaze sprayed over the top but I also kind of like the resist patterns, especially on the straight walled cookie mugs. 

Green Float with clear and Camel with clear (back of cookie mugs)

One thing I neglected to do was take a picture of the cookie mugs with cookies in the bottom. They make more sense in winter, but they're for cocoa (or tea or coffee) in the top and you can take your cookie (or madeline or biscotti) with you into the other room without a plate. I haven't actually tried them for real as of this writing, but once this post is published, they might be up in Michigan for a field test.

mmm, that looks like space for three cookies

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cleaning Bike Parts

Remember earlier this year when I realized I could get an assistant to all the boring work of recycling clay and cleaning the studio? And then remember how I got a studio assistant and it was great? I still have an assistant and it's still pretty great. She's been working throughout the summer, and though I haven't talked about her here, she has allowed me to focus on my work instead of devoting 3-4 hours a week to cleaning and recycling clay.

This is how I work: all the tools, all the trimmings, all the bike parts and all the sprigs shoved together on the table behind the piece I'm building.

My assistant has, as originally expected, recycled clay for me. Somehow this job never seems to diminish. How do I have so many stashes of dry or sorta dry clay? I think she might get it all done by September. Anyway, she has also vacuumed, cleaned underglaze brushes and tools and adjusted my storage shelves so I have actual room to work.

Ooh, look, a shelf for bisque-ware!

More recently, she's started helping clean my bike parts. In the first year of my bike project, SRAM sent me a box of 100 bike parts. Each part was individually packaged, clean and separated from all the other pieces. Interestingly there were four of every part and quite a range of colors.

Look at all the clean, colorful and duplicated bike parts from SRAM.

Last year, during my sabbatical, most of my bike parts came from Revolution Cycles. I very much appreciate their generosity, but free parts do come with a cost. I had to clean the greasy, dirty bike parts myself before I could use them. I also had to take some clusters of pieces apart to get to the piece I wanted to use.

Yuck!
This year I asked my assistant if she would be willing to clean the gears. It wasn't exactly what she had signed on for, but I'm paying her and the work isn't so much difficult as it is boring, dirty and annoying. She cleaned a whole stack of gears very thoroughly using paper towel, an old toothbrush and some Simple Green.

Clean, shiny gears. They seems to look cleaner when someone else does the work.

Later I introduced her to my friend, the brush grinder in the garage. The wire brush spins while someone holds the gear against the bristles. It is important to wear gloves because the sharp gear can kick back a little and cut into the hands. My assistant bravely used the brush grinder last week on a day when the temperature was close to 100 degrees F. We haven't installed a garage air conditioner, so it was a bit toasty in there.

Safety first: always wear work gloves when holding sharp objects up against fast spinning machines.

Of course the grinder in the garage isn't great for winter weather either. Last December I was cleaning chains using the grinder. I wrapped the chains around a gear so that the teeth held the chain in place against the brush. I could hold the gear and the back end of the chain a safe way aways from the sharp, painful bristles. It worked well except that the garage was frigid. With the grinder blowing more cold air at me, I lost feeling in my fingertips even though I was wearing gloves. Alas, suffering for art.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Larger Base (in progress) for Spinning Bike Wheel

One fault with the spinning bike wheel piece was that it was top-heavy. I filled the base with cement and the problem disappeared, but I've been wondering if I could balance the wheel weight with a wide base. I started coil-building a wide base, but as I built, I realized I didn't want a straight, level top.

The top of the new base, before and after I cut it at a slant for a gear.

I leaned the form over at the top and bisected the top section from the base with an angled gear. The top section is highly textured with small jewel-like sprigs. The lower section has an impressed texture with sprigged decoration.

Attachment for one branch-like "stem" on the sculpture base, set in place (left) and lifted out of star shapes (right).

Thinking about using the bike parts as supports, I designed two branch- or stem-like pieces connected with bike parts. Both pieces are leftover from the SRAM Part Project from 2012. Both insert shallowly into the wall of the base. The irregularly shaped one (top) will have a bolt securing it to the ceramic braces on either side. The star shapes lock the bike part into a vertical position because the metal form has sections that rest inside the notches.

A second attachment for a branch-like "stem" on the other side of the sculpture base. In the picture a paintbrush is showing the location of the eventual bolt or rod.

Both "stems" will be removable for easier transportation of the sculpture. The second arm will be secured with an invisible bolt or rod inside the sculpture. The plastic bike piece will rest inside a cut-out in the wall of the sculpture.

One "stem" base in place while attaching sprigged gears.

Last year I created some sprigs from a round plastic gear piece that is part of the rear derailleur (I had to look that up) on the back wheel of the bike. I decided to use the actual gears as well as the gear sprigs as surface decoration on the sculpture base. 

Placing the actual gear helped me arrange the sprigged gears.

The holes represent the placement of the plastic pieces. I only had one piece cleaned and ready to attach while I was building the base, so I held it in place with a hole cutter punch while I placed the clay gears.

The base is almost done (building).

After firing and glazing, I plan to increase the height (and weight) of the base by attaching a series of coils of bike chain underneath the bottom rim of the sculpture. Revolution Cycles (go buy all your bike stuff there, please) in Yakima is still saving me bike parts, the latest box was filled with chains.

There are so many chains my camera can't focus on all of them!