Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movies Galore

This is what I did over my "Spring Break."


Throwing a Bowl

Finishing a Bowl (rib & chamois)

Trimming a Bowl

Bowl Examples

I made quite a few other new videos as well. I'll link to them eventually but I wanted to get this set of bowl videos up on the blog this week since my beginning pottery class may wish to view them this week.

Making the videos was an interesting project. It was a little too large for the time I had allowed, but it is nice to have it done. I threw about 10 bowls, a teapot, a couple mugs, a couple plates and a vase or two, but the throwing didn't take up my time, the camera did.

I learned quite a bit about making videos, maybe you can see it in the difference from the earliest videos to the latest (or maybe it won't show up yet). My new camera was very useful, as my old camera didn't seem to allow me to to take long enough videos.

I also got a new tripod before this project which allowed me greater control over the placement of my camera (the old tripod slowly sunk down if I positioned it too high.

I spent this weekend uploading videos, since each one needs to be uploaded from the camera, put into iMovie (at least that's how I did it) and then cut and labeled and uploaded to YouTube. I mostly just cut the start and end of each video so that it didn't show me reaching for the camera (at least not much). I wasn't able to watch every video through as I uploaded it--it would take too long but it was also annoying to do everything two or three times (do it, review it on the camera, review it on the computer, etc). I vaguely remember sneezing during one of the early videos, but I couldn't find it when I was editing (I was going to cut the sneeze section). Maybe some nice viewer will clue me in to when the sneeze happened (or maybe that video didn't make the cut).

So, enjoy the videos and let me know if you have any requests or suggestions for future videos.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Daily Mini Sculpture Project: Recap & Found Tools Edition

I've been working on this mini-sculpture project for a couple weeks now. I haven't missed a day (yet) and I've even done a few extra pieces. I haven't had any epiphanies but I wasn't planning to assess the quality of the work until I was farther along.

So far I have done ~18 pieces.

Click here for my first post on the Daily Mini Sculpture project, explaining the project and showing my first piece.

The next post covered the next 2 pieces (plus a re-showing of the first one).

The third post included five new pieces.


Five more pieces in the next post.


New Stuff:

And finally today I am showing 5 new pieces and three extra mini pieces. I can't remember if its been 4 or 5 days.

This first one was a free day--no inspiration hint.

The inspiration hint for today was "tool" which probably meant use a tool in a new way. At least that's how I interpreted it. I used my favorite paddle tool to create the crossing lines all around and then paddled a dried cherry into the wet clay to create the other smaller texture mark.

So this one must have been a free day. The base of the pitcher plant has a rattle. I'm pretty sure I forgot to put an air hole in the rattle or a hanging hole in the back of this object. I was thinking of making it a little more threatening than usual with the spikes on the rim.

I believe this was a bonus piece. I used a flosser as my tool for texture. I paddled it in sideways on the big one and endways on the little one.

Random bonus piece with edge of paddle texture and found plastic thing pressed in for decoration.

Yesterday's inspiration was "car" which I took to mean I should make a little guy who will roll. Once he's fired his wobbly wheels will glue onto a dowel (hopefully) and he will roll--badly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Daily Mini Sculpture Project: Cat Edition

Play Time Toys:
Here are a few more pieces from my daily projectFor this challenge, I will make small sculptures on a regular basis, alternating assigned inspiration and open-ended projects.

This piece was from a hint that suggested I sculpt my favorite animal. I had just bought a book of sock animals so that my daughter and I can make some more stuffed animal friends. So this sculpture is a "cat" based on the baby cat in the book.

The next day was an open day, so I tried the cat inspired piece again. I think of cats sleeping curled up all around the house, so I started working on a ball of cat. Unfortunately I couldn't really remember what a curled up cat looked like (besides general round-ness), so I had to go check on our cat. She was not impressed.

Not Cats:
The next day I was ready to be done with cats. I had been thinking of sculptural vessels, and I guess I must have ran across an article about carnivorous plants (such as the pitcher plant). So when I pulled out an inspiration hint that said the name of a fellow ceramic artist, Carolyn Nelson, this is what I came up with.

Carolyn Nelson's work is influenced by architecture and ruins of brick and stone. She intermixes these inspirations with the human body. So I created the texture of this pitcher plant by pressing it onto cement and then pressing the end of a popsicle stick into it in a mini-brick pattern. I filled the pitcher plant with red clay bricks made by slamming a slab of wet red clay onto pebbled cement in our yard.

While I was working on the pitcher plant, my daughter played in her sandbox for the first time. though her sandbox has a crank-down top, apparently tulips don't need as much light as we though. This guy was sneaking up through her sand. Though it took more than a day with several interruptions, I finished this tulip-inspired piece yesterday.

Yesterday's inspiration hint simply said "book." I can't remember if I was supposed to make something from a book or if I had planned to change it to something inspired by a book I was reading. I decided to change it to what I was reading. Since I've been reading about art instruction, I decided to base it on something I'm listening to in the studio. Anyone who knows me well knows that odds are I'm listening to Harry Potter. So I made a snitch.

Ironically, I am listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the one Harry Potter book in which Harry doesn't play any quidditch or handle a snitch. 
After I had started the snitch project, I came across this picture in National Geographic magazine. I think this would make an interesting snitch.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Quarter Prep & Campus Pictures

New Quarter Prep

This week I am getting ready for the new quarter. At minimum this means updating my syllabi to include the correct quarter and classroom (for those classes which are mobile). But this quarter I am teaching a new class, so I need to create a new syllabus.

I am also making plans for the entire first week, since I will be at the NCECA conference in Seattle at the end of March. I have made arrangements for my students to visit Larson Gallery and the library to meet with the gallery director and a reference librarian. The library trip is usual for the end of the first week, but the Larson Gallery trip is a factor of timing. The clay show closes March 31, the end of the first week of classes, and I would like to get the students to the gallery to see as many shows as possible.

Clay Classes

I'm always amazed at how much prep work my classes still need after all this time. I've taught Functional Pottery 17 times at YVCC, but I still find that there are changes I need to make in the syllabus for this 18th rendition of the class. It often seems that some event or problem in class forces the addition of new syllabus language. This time around I adjusted the language referring making up missed critiques and clarified language about showing me projects after a missed critique. I also consolidated some hand-outs into the syllabus so that students have less of an excuse to misplace other pages.

But these were just minor adjustments or clarifications. I also made an addition to the class requirements; I added in a pre-test to address an issue that has been bugging me for a while now. Students in Functional Pottery are primarily learning to throw, but there are quite a few pieces of information they simply must know in order to operate safely and efficiently in the studio. I lecture to them on clay, glazes and firing. I demonstrate kiln loading, glazing and surface decoration as well as throwing techinques, and I test them on basic terminology and concepts. But for next week I have added what I am calling a "pre-test." They will take it while I am away and submit it to me when I return. The test is intentionally open and pretty easy (I hope), but I am serious in its intent. In the test, I ask them to do things like identify what tools we use to throw, how we keep clay pots from drying too quickly and how we clean up in the studio, as well as why we clean up in the studio and what I expect of them as Functional Pottery students.

I have consistently had trouble with students in Functional Pottery being (or pretending to be) unaware of important terminology or concepts relating to the very basics of the studio. I felt very frustrated last quarter when, by week 5 or so, some students seemed unaware that they could look online or in the classroom books or on YouTube for throwing demonstrations or answers to clay questions. I was also annoyed that they didn't seem to understand the why of several class processes like clean-up and recycling clay. Keeping clay dust to a minimum is important for our health, especially since we do not have good ventilation in the studio.

So my objective with this pre-test is to force them, at the very least, to identify and practice (write down) important terminology and explain the reasons behind various studio policies. All of the answers will be covered on the first day of class. Some of the answers are also listed in the syllabus or in the classroom on signs around the studio. The idea is that ALL students will earn full points on the pre-test. But by forcing them to write it down, I will force them to practice and consider seriously what it is I am asking or stressing.

Vill it Vork? Ve shall see. (Maybe I should make the intermediate and independent students do the pre-test too, a few of them could do with a reminder.)

It is my plan to have an excellent studio experience this spring. I plan to have a highly motivated group of students who understand both the techniques and the concepts behind them. I hope that I will be able to build on the energy of last quarter with a bit more discipline and regimentation. (This isn't an unreasonable expectation, is it?)

Campus Pictures
And finally, I have some pretty pictures to share.

It was a gorgeous day today. Around midday, as I was leaving campus, I took some photos of campus buildings, art and recognizable features to be used in some publicity materials for the YVCC college honors program.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Daily Mini Sculpture Project: Kid Edition

Play Time Toys:
Here are a few more pieces from my daily project. My daughter helped with this first piece because the inspiration hint said "Play Time Toys." The hint came from the Noah Scalin book, "365." The original suggestion in the book was the play with toys, borrow them from your kid or someone else's kid and for extra credit, you could have the kid help make the project, too.

So we looked for a toy to use as our inspiration. We worked in the kitchen at my daughter's playdoh and paint table because it was chilly in my clay studio. I guess we were either being very inspired or sort of lazy because when I discovered that my preferred paddle (wooden spoon) was at school, I used her plastic hammer to compress the hollow body form from two pinch pots. 

We based the clay form of of a pair of My Little Pony toys from McDonalds. I made the body and head while my daughter formed the legs. They were a little skinny and our prehistoric pony seemed to be suffering some sort of muscular dystrophy so I thickened up his legs after she made them so our My Little Eohippus could stand.

We were making something inspired by My Little Pony so he OBVIOUSLY needs to have hair. I included plenty of holes to fill with hair follicles after firing. I am thinking he will need to be painted with some sort of wax or encaustic to really capture the plastic essence of the original. I assume we will need to find neon pink hair as well.

No Particular Place To Go:
Everyday I am alternating an outside inspiration with a free project. With the bunny and the horse (above) I made a multipart form rather than a simple hollow ball, so I thought I would play with that relationship in a more abstract subject. My daughter had two and a half nails left over from her Build & Grow project at Lowe's and I was again working at her table, so I decided to use the nails as both texture and an added material. I haven't tried firing nails in the kiln. A quick moment of research on nails and the melting point of steel suggests that the nails might be made of a steel allow and it is unlikely to melt at my firing temperature (~1800°F) or even high fire  (~2350°F), but it may soften. That shouldn't cause any structural or messy kiln issues since I've left room around the nail for the clay to shrink.

Bridges (& very small rocks):
Thursday's inspiration hint was "bridges." I didn't remember much else from the book, so I thought I'd build a bridge linking two of my pieces. Pretty straight-forward, really, though I was thinking of Stephen Robison's talk about bridges in his work this past weekend (sorry, no picture, you had to be there). 

More Collaboration:
My daughter chose to help me again. Her is my hollow form construction with her surface decoration (inside a greenware bowl to minimize messes).

Before beginning to work in the studio, we collected debris from the front porch with which to decorate our hollow forms. She forgot once she discovered a jar of slip; I pressed tree helicopters into the wet clay of my own piece. They'll show up better after glazing.

She wanted to continue working, so I made her another ball and one for myself. Moments after I finished making the forms, she decided she was done but I asked to finish. She allowed it while she investigated the studio. The studio is also the entry/exit from/to the back yard, so amongst the clay projects, tools and assorted detritus of the winter were the remnants at our vegetable-growing attempts last summer (gardening tip: gardens expect to be watered regularly). So while my daughter pretended to dig up my clay studio carpet and plant peas, I built another bridge linking my piece and hers. then we pressed peas into the wet clay surface because dry peas look interesting.

peas after "harvest" from the carpet