Monday, August 24, 2015

New Clay Studio Tour (Mostly Moved In)

Last week a group of volunteers joined me at school to help put the new YVCC clay studio in order. Despite the fact that we had to spend some time at the old building moving boxes before we could finish in the new space, we made a lot of progress in the new building. 

Main Studio

The main classroom has wheel-throwing and hand-building spaces, as well as a teaching station. These seem like the obvious things for a clay studio to contain, but the old studio combined these three functions into the same space as clay storage and mixing, glazing, glaze mixing, and the kilns. 

the main clay studio from the back corner--photo by Richard Telfer
The new studio feels large. It was difficult to capture the sense of space in a small photo, but the wide-angle and panoramic pictures give a better sense of the space. If you are on the YVCC campus in the fall, stop by to admire the space for yourself.

a panoramic view of the main studio, from the black wedging tables on the left to the teacher station on the far right

This main room has plenty of space for 17 wheels entirely separate from the six hand-building work tables. There is also space for the slab roller (which hasn't yet made the trip across the street) and the extruder (ditto). 

the main studio viewed from the hallway door--photo by Richard Telfer

The front area of the main classroom includes sliding whiteboards (ones that don't require me to climb onto the table to use them), storage shelves for my example pieces, and a teaching station with computer, DVD, VHS, and camera. 

The main studio viewed from the door to the kiln room--photo by Richard Telfer

The projector screen comes down automatically from the ceiling, as does the projector, which is protected from dust behind a hinged ceiling tile. The camera is stationed on the ceiling above the teacher's wheel so that I can show a zoomed-in top or front view on the screen while I am throwing.

on the ceiling you can see the camera and five hanging reels for the pottery wheel cords

There are cabinets, counters, shelves, and sinks all around the main classroom. Right now most of the shelves have display items in them and items are beginning to be sorted for the drawers and lower cabinets.

all the drawers were opened by my daughter so we would know they worked

In putting things away it was nice to have built-in locations for everyday items like the example pieces, towels, and aprons, but it was also nice to find specific homes for things that have never had a real spot in the old studio. For instance, the extruder dies have always been kept in a box on the floor below the test kiln that was kept below the extruder. Now the extruder dies have a drawer to themselves.

a space for chucks and towels above the sinks; extruder dies in a drawer

In the old space there was one "library" area with three or four shelves for books and magazines. This space also stored chucks, tape, and paper. In the new space most of our magazines and clay books fit easily into three shelves in the main classroom. The glaze books are stored in the glaze room and some technical books can be stored near the kilns. In the main studio there is plenty of space for adding more titles and additional magazines over the coming years. Additionally, students can actually pull out magazines to peruse since the whole bunch isn't wedged in so tightly.

the new pottery library, with space to expand

While putting away the magazines, one of my volunteers discovered that we have magazines dating back as far as 1951. I joked that the new space should be able to contain our magazine collection for the next 64 years. 

Glaze Room

The glaze room is the most exciting thing going right now. In the old studio there was almost no space assigned specifically to glazing. Glazes were kept under a table and pulled out for glazing. The buckets needed to be pushed back after glazing because there wasn't enough room to walk through the classroom with the buckets out. Sometimes students couldn't use certain wheels because the glaze buckets were in that space. When students glazed, they splashed on wheels and were stepping over each other's buckets to each the sink or their work space.

There was one counter with shelves and drawers for storing dry glaze materials. There were also dry materials stored in buckets under several tables and in cupboards and drawers in a variety of locations around the studio. Glaze mixing happened on a counter after students were asked to move their bags and coats. There was no ventilation for the glaze mixing area. Though students wore masks when mixing glaze, the airborne dry glaze materials were not removed from the space as they should have been.

a view of the glaze room from the spray booth--photo by Richard Telfer

The new studio has a glaze room. This is a long room with shelves, drawers and cabinets as well as work surfaces. The room was designed to be a much more appropriate size for storing our materials, mixing and applying glaze. The room has space to work and I could easily imagine half a class using the space without getting in each other's way. 

moving the dry materials to new buckets

The best feature of the room, from my perspective, is the venting. The new room has a built-in vent system in the middle of the room that is so quiet you have to pay attention to notice it's on. Last week, when some of my students were transferring materials, we discovered that we can actually see the dust being sucked into the air vent.

the vent is pulling the cobalt dust into the slit and out of the room (but you can't really see it in the picture)

For the first time ever, I can see all of our dry materials. We replaced the cracked and breaking, small, white buckets with new blue buckets and lids that fit. Each of these is labeled and arranged alphabetically on shelves in the studio. For several ingredients, we had more than one container in the old studio. Probably this happened when we misplaced the bag of dry material and bought more. Now we have space for all the buckets, as well as the excess, on the shelf. Eventually we should be able to eliminate the excess because we can see what we already have.

in the process of replacing white buckets with blue

The glazes themselves have a new home as well. The new studio has a raised platform for glaze buckets underneath the wall of dry materials shelves. The step means we don't have to lean down as far to reach the buckets. It also means all the glazes can be kept visible and accessible at all times, rather than being pulled out and put away before and after every glazing session.

the glaze room, with glaze buckets along the left side on the raised step--photo by Richard Telfer

The class glazes have always been stored in old pickle buckets and scrounged five-gallon buckets from restaurants. We ordered new buckets to match and to because the old ones are also cracking and have issues with the lids not fitting right. I also printed improved labels for each glaze. Unfortunately all the new lids seems to have disappeared. I am hoping the lids show up before the quarter begins.

here's the new buckets, but where are the lids?

The drawers in the middle island in the glaze room are meant to store our larger quantities of dry chemicals. In the center of the island, there is a low section where a glaze bucket can go when glaze is being mixed. In this low section the bucket is near the sink and the ventilation and is at an easy height for adding chemicals and mixing the new glaze.

the glazing island with vent in the middle and sink on the right--photo by Richard Telfer

Next to the dry materials shelves and above the glaze buckets, there is storage space for slips, under-glazes, brushes and other glazing tools. The far end of the room has room for the spray booth and a smaller shelving section where I can keep glaze books, raku glazes and glazes for other temperatures than those we usually use in the studio. The advantage of a separate shelving area is that I can visually restrict access to these glazes for students who are not yet familiar with different firing temperatures in the studio.

glaze room from the doorway to the main studio, with spray booth (not yet vented)--photo by Richard Telfer

This room is already miles better than what I had in the previous studio. I have work yet to do in here, but I am excited about showing it off to students and seeing how the improved space impacts our glaze mixing and glaze application processes.

 Clay Storage and Mixing

Next to the glazing room, there is a small space for glaze mixing. This space is currently the farthest from complete. We are waiting for the clay mixer to be installed and vented. There are a few items such as the pug mill, still to be put away. This space also houses the washer and dryer and some storage shelves. This room is entirely separate from the other clay studio spaces so that doors can be closed when clay is being mixed. This will help contain both the dust and the noise.

our (temporarily) very messy clay storage room

Kiln Room

a panoramic view of the the kiln room, looking into the main classroom (left) and the clay storage room (dark space in the middle)
The kiln room, next to the clay room and off the main classroom, is separate and spacious in the new studio. In the old studio, kilns were vented for safety, but the heat was contained in the main studio. The kilns were installed in the same area as the pug mill and rolling ware shelves on the side of the room opposite the wheels.

kiln room--photo by Richard Telfer

The kiln room now contains two electric kilns and a test kiln as well as the glass kiln. The biggest advantage of the new kiln room is that the heat and noise of the kilns should be kept separate from the rest of the studio, allowing us to regulate the main studio temperature. I look forward to teaching in May and June in a studio that is not sweltering. Though the kilns were part of the way we kept the studio warm during the winter, I suspect the new building has a more well-regulated heating system than the old building. 

kiln furniture cabinet 

In the kiln room there is plenty of room for rolling ware carts and a built in cabinet for kiln furniture (shelves, stilts, posts, etc). From the kiln room there is an exterior exit as well as an exit to a small contained kiln yard for the raku and pit kilns. The raku kiln needs to be rebuilt before it can be used. it is possible that it will not be ready until later in the year.

exterior kiln yard with pit kiln and raku kiln in pieces

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Slip Trailer Lines on Functional Work

I fired some low temperature functional work. I've been glazing for week and have been using mostly underglazes at this temperature. I've used a few glazes, but mostly I prefer the color contrast and stability of the underglazes.

I'm pretty happy with this bowl, the third attempt at this basic design.

I've also been using a slip trailer quite a bit, mostly for black underglaze. I leave the black underglaze in the trailer so that I don't have to wash it out every day. The trailer has a very fine tip and, with a needle in the tip, the underglaze doesn't dry out.

This mug was fired with a boring cone 04 glaze, then retired with the slip trailing and colored underglazes.

I had several new unglazed mugs and a few mugs with glaze that I didn't particularly like. The low fire glazes I have tend to look best in large plain areas with a drawing over the top, as in the one above and the one below to the right.

These mugs have a similar design, but with glaze on the bottom of the one on the right.

I've also used circular sponge stamps to place dots of underglaze and then decorated the dots of color with the slip trailed black. The texture of these decorations is sometimes a little rough, but I've added some clear and am re-firing the mugs that don't feel smooth.

This was a failed bubble plate, re-fired with underglaze trailing.

I've continued playing with the falling balls of color, like balloons or ornaments on a string. These work best when I am sure to have an even coat of color inside the circles. The underglazes sometimes look or feel like they have been applied evenly, then after firing irregularities show up.

Both of my bright yellow underglazes (Amaco and Duncan) are usually splotchy and hard to use well.

I prefer the look of the cone 6 celadon glazes to the cone 04 glazes in my studio. I intend to use the slip trailer and underglazes in combination with these higher temperature glazes in a future firing.

The uderglaze decoration was added on top of the fired Celadon glaze.

This summer I expect to fire two more cone 04 kiln loads and at least one cone 6 firing. I'm having some trouble focusing on the glazing and firing, partly because I find glazing fairly boring, and partly because I have responsibilities on campus that need to be addressed before the start of the academic year.

The last tiny pots from Christmas, finally finished.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

(Basically) Out of Palmer Hall

gas kiln ready to move

Summer classes ended last week at YVCC. This week I think I can finally say that I am done packing up in the old building. I said that to myself on Monday afternoon, then remembered that I needed to pack the student work from the DoVA show (kept in the back room). I said that again Tuesday morning, then remembered the raku glazes. At this point, I think I actually am done. (Or did I forget the raku cabinet--I'll have to check).

old Palmer Hall with the clock tower and Glenn-Anthon in the back

For nine years, I've worked in Palmer Hall. It's not a large building, so I've also worked in other buildings for most of that time (I've also taught in Deccio, Glenn-Anthon, Prior, the Technology building and once in the old Anthon building). My office has been in four different buildings, counting the new Palmer-Martin building.

gas kiln moving out

Palmer Hall has been slated for destruction for basically all of that time. I was originally told the building was "condemned." The things I am most looking forward to leaving behind:
  • the bumpy walk from Media Services pushing the computer cart
  • the always light and shared room in which we show presentations
  • the tiny space I have to squeeze through to turn on the fan for the electric kilns
  • the one-room clay studio that gets noisy and hot when the big kiln is running
  • the small space that forces me to step over wheels when teaching a full class
  • the pug mill as our main clay recycling tool
  • the clocks that don't match from one side of the room to the other (even after we re-set them)
  • the tiny bathroom in the back room
  • the tiny TV for showing class demonstration videos
  • the increasingly quirky wheels
  • the small damp cabinet
  • the leaky ceilings
  • the awkward screens in the middle room
  • the office location that encourages students to interrupt me when they don't have questions
  • being far away from other instructor offices and our Office Assistant

the old Palmer clay studio

But I shouldn't be so hard on the old building. There are some things I'm going to miss:

  • the large raku area
  • the central campus location
  • the central location of my office, so I can see what is happening in the studios all the time
  • the breeze from the open doors (granted, we are usually trying to regulate the studio temperature by opening the doors)

the old Palmer design studio

So I am, if not done, at least very very close to done residing in the middle of campus in this quirky old building. I am completely moved in to my new office (sorry, not pictures). My daughter went with me to campus the other day to help me unpack in the office. My pens and scissors have never been so organized.

Palmer--I've always disliked that spindly tree thing

Next Wednesday I have invited some student volunteers to help unpack in the new clay studio. We have probably 60+ boxes waiting to be unpacked and put away. Some of them are still in Palmer, but I am anticipating they will be moved this week or early next week.

the new Palmer-Martin clay studio (wheel area)

Yesterday I walked around with post-it notes and identified where things should be stored. Unfortunately, there were some changes made in the original plans, so we may need to get creative in a few spaces. The space feels huge now, but we still have six ware carts, four sets of small shelves, and a slab roller to put away in this space.

the new Palmer-Martin clay studio (hand building area)

I anticipate that the biggest adjustment for me will be getting used to teaching across this yawning expanse of a room. Except now I think about it, this is probably comparable to or a little smaller than the undergraduate clay classroom I taught in during graduate school. It never seemed to be a problem.

the new Palmer-Martin clay studio (teacher area)

The accessible teaching station is pretty neat, too. I haven't played with the projector setup yet, but I did use the whiteboard for the first time (to write a note to my student helpers for next week).

the new Palmer-Martin glazing area

The glaze studio is certainly the biggest question mark for me. I am going from no glaze space to this beautiful glaze space, but the drawers are tiny. They were meant to hold 50lb bags of dry material and the sink spout was meant to be flexible so we could fill buckets without sticking them in the sink. Aw, stop complaining, Rachel. We'll see how it looks next week.

Palmer-Martin (picture from Bora Architecture)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bubble Fail and New Functional Work at Oak Hollow Gallery

Bubble Fail
At the end of last month I was trying to make some bubble plates using iron oxide. I though the plates looked interesting before they were fired and was hopeful the addition of a clear glaze layer would preserve the look of the bubbles.

iron oxide bubbles before firing

Unfortunately, the bubbles were almost completely obliterated during firing. A few drops of color are visible if one looks very carefully, but mostly the plates look a little dirty.

an iron oxide bubble plate after firing

The results were slightly better when the bubbles were captured on top of a layer of underglaze, but they're still fairly difficult to see. I have a few ideas of how I might be able make this process work. I could try more iron in the bubble mix, I could apply a few layers of a light underglaze under the bubbles, I could try a thinner layer of glaze or I could try other additives in the bubble mix. I might try some of these later.

iron oxide bubbles on green underglaze, slightly more visible

New Work at Oak Hollow Gallery
Last weekend I brought some new work to Oak Hollow Gallery in Yakima. 

I brought functional work and took home some small sculptures that hadn't sold. Some of the work was fired at Archie Bray, some was fired in my home kiln. 

Stop by Oak Hollow this Friday, August 7 from 4-6pm for the opening of the new show, featuring some ceramic work and some mixed media, paintings, and drawings.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cone 6 at home

My kiln goes to cone 6! It's an old kiln that I got as a hand-me-down and I've never actually tried to fire it this high. Cone 6 is about 2232 degrees Fahrenheit or 2269 if you fire faster. I don't have pyrometer at home, so I'm not sure how fast I fired the kiln.

cone 6 glaze tests with underglaze and several different glazes 

I usually fire my home kiln to cone 04 which is just 1945 -1972 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperature requires glazes with a lower melting point and even clay with a lower vitrification point. 

cone 04 glaze on the left, cone 6 glaze (fired at Archie Bray) on the right

For the Archie Bray workshop I attended earlier this summer, we used cone 6 clay and cone 6 glazes. Now I have quite a few bisqued bowls and cups made with this clay. If I were to fire the cone 6 bowls with cone 04 glazes, the bowls would be likely to leak because the clay body would still be porous.

my little old kiln

So, I purchased some cone 6 glazes with the idea that I can fire these pieces to a higher temperature and, at the same time, experiment with some more glazes. I keep seeing semi-transparent celadon glazes used by nationally recognized artists, including those at the the Archie Bray, and even local artists (Bernadette Trabue Crider has carved celadon pottery at Oak Hollow Gallery in August).

my cone 6 glaze options

So I purchased two types of celadon, one that is green, another almost clear. I also purchased some darker pre-made glaze samples and I used my trusty underglazes. The nice thing about transparent glazes is that I can use my underglazes in combination with these glazes, which means I don't have to make hugely significant changes in my glazing process.

not a very full kiln

For this firing, my kiln was loaded very loosely. Since I didn't know if the kiln could actually reach this temperature and I had never used these glazes, I didn't want to glaze a bunch of pieces and have everything fail.

the cone in the sitter after firing

Happily, the firing went well, the cone melted in the sitter and the glaze tests came out just fine, everything melted well and the colors were basically good. Now it's time to get down to work and really glaze the remaining work. I have about one kiln load of low fire work (cone 04 clay) and about two kiln loads of cone 6 work. I have begun glazing the low temperature work, but not the high temperature work.

cone 6 bisqueware on the left, the mess that is my glazing process on the right