Friday, June 17, 2016

Rotary Commission

This week, my first summer studio work week, I am mostly working on a commission. I was asked to throw a set of matching cups as gifts that Yakima's Rotary Club can present to speakers at their meetings throughout the year. I am basing the cups on some slashed surface pieces I threw last summer.

the prototype pieces

When I agreed to take on the commission, my daughter and husband asked me how long it would take me to throw the roughly 50 pieces for the commission, so this week I timed part of my process. (I meant to time the whole  process, but I forgot.)

25 lbs of clay in 20 pieces

It took me about 20 minutes to cut and wedge one bag of clay (25 pounds) from which I was able to throw 20-24 pieces. It took me about an hour to throw ten pieces. I was able to prepare my wheel, wedge and throw 20 pieces and clean up the wet stuff on my wheel in 3 hours. Then, after a lunch break that involved some mom-duties related to summer camp transportation, I was able to trim all 20 pieces that afternoon.

the wet forms right after throwing

I didn't time the trimming, initially, because first I needed to make and test some stamps. I made the stamps out of Sculpey polymer clay so that I could bake them in the oven and use them right away. It took me about half an hour to form a variety of stamps, then they took 15 minutes to bake. After they cooled, I tried the stamps in wet clay, made adjustment, and fired a new batch of stamps based on the wet clay results. By the time I was ready to trim, I had completely forgotten about timing my process.

a polymer stamp and the results after trimming

I ended up using three stamps for each piece. One stamp is my regular name stamp. The other two are specific to this commission. One says "Rotary Yakima" the other is a gear with "S/S",  referring to the Rotary motto, "Service over Self". In combination I think they are legible yet subtle.

double stamp close up

Over the next few days, I threw and trimmed almost 75 pounds of clay, which was about 56 pieces. I used some stoneware and some porcelain clay. I was able to wedge and throw faster with the porcelain, I think because it was wetter. The stoneware was leftover from last summer and the porcelain I bought last month. 

I tried to redo the video (without the side of the jar in the way), but someone called halfway through. Also I can't listen to my audiobooks while filming at time-lapse on my phone.

I only lost two pieces so far, but about half of them are still wet, so I may have some cracks show up during drying or firing. One had a small crack on its base and another flew off the wheel while I was trimming. I also have a few that I will pull out of the batch because I was trying different stamps on them. I eventually decided the other stamps were too large and looked awkward on these forms.

some pieces ready to trim (with the prototype)

I had one last step to complete before loading up the kiln to fir this weekend. Once the pieces were dry, I sanded down the surfaces of the slashes I had made on the wheel. When I cut the walls, the edges of the cuts were raised up. These were fairly quick to sand down and I think they'll look nicer with glaze. I'm not generally a big fan of sanding bone dry clay, but I wore a mask and will wipe down the table and vacuum. I will also have to wash all the pieces after firing and before glazing so that the glazes adhere well.

sanding station

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