Thursday, March 29, 2018

Northwest Artists Ceramics Invitational

Next week I have work in an invitational ceramics show at the Robert Graves Gallery in Wenatchee. I took work up to the show last weekend and was surprised to find that more than half of the work already delivered to the show came from Yakima. I'll have to get in on the carpool next time around.

"Bounty" 2017

The show features work by myself, and other Yakima artists: Gary Dismukes, Eunsil Kim, Carolyn Nelson, Jan Crocker and Debbie Sundlee. When I dropped off my work, there was also work from Wenatchee artist, Ruth Allan. The card features work by Michael McClun, Gary Dismukes, and Jan Crocker. For some reason, neither the card nor the website lists all the artists' names, so there may be other people in the show.

The show opens Monday, April 2 with a reception on Friday, April 6 from 5-7pm. The show runs through April 26th and the gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9am - 1pm. The gallery is in Sexton Hall on the Wenatchee Valley College campus. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Packing and Shipping Long Pieces

The sculpture end of these pieces

Before I left for NCECA (post-NCECA posts coming soon), I finished a commission for my aunt, but I didn't get the pieces shipped out until after I got home. Packing these pieces for shipping was tougher than I initially anticipated. 

short and tall rods

The ceramic part of these pieces is fairly small, but each piece is attached to a metal rod support which makes the pieces long, longer than any boxes I had around the studio. 

my studio mid-pack

Luckily I had been cleaning my studio this winter, so I had the space to completely take over my studio with packing materials. I used several pieces of foam from a bed that my husband had taken apart several months ago. 

cutting the foam wrappers

I wrapped each of the pieces in foam and then grouped four of the six pieces in groups of two. I divided and cushioned the wrapped pieces with more foam. 

wrapping the pieces

I had four long and two short pieces. The short pieces fit in a box I already had, but I had to build a box around the long pieces.

large and small box (the large one is about 5'3" tall)
I laid two wrapped pieces down on another piece of foam, then wrapped the new foam around the two, I then wrapped cardboard boxes around the whole thing. 

wrapped pieces on their second piece of foam

The two boxes I had were about half the length of what they needed to cover, so I taped them together. I then took apart another box, oriented this third box in a different direction and wrapped that one around the weak spots on the first layer. This one didn't fully cover the original cardboard layer, so I have a wonky looking taped box that's about my height (and width).

wrapping the second box around the foam

At this point I only had four of the pieces boxed up. My husband found a very thick, durable tube that we cut in half. The pieces barely fit inside, so we had two tightly wrap the foam around the ceramic part with several layers of tape, then shove the pieces into the tubes.

pushing the last piece into the tube

Finally I reinforced all four boxes with tape and made some duct tape handles for each box to (hopefully) encourage them to be handled fairly gently. My fingers are crossed for everything making it to California intact. I'm also very happy to have my studio space back and be done with the shipping part of this project.

wrapped and ready for shipping

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Art Club Juried Show & End of Quarter Firing

Art Club Juried Show

Escapism Juried Show

Last week the YVC Art Club installed their juried show, Escapism, in the hallway gallery of Palmer Martin Hall. The show runs through April 23 and is open whenever the building is open.

Escapism 3D work, featuring lamp by Les Delzer, bust by Emily George, dinner set by Sara Lawrence, fox by Chelsea Blodgett

The show features work by high school and college students in and around Yakima. Some of the work was completed during classes and some was done on the students' own time. This show is not the same as the annual Department of Visual Arts Student Exhibition at Larson Gallery in May.
Escapism Juried Show, 2d work on display

This show was organized by Art Club students. This was the first year and we had over 50 entires including painting, drawing, photography, and ceramics.

fox and bunny by Chelsea Blodgett

 The four ceramic items in the show are all made by students in my clay classes this quarter, though only two were actually made this quarter. The fox, by Chelsea Blodgett, was build for the second project in my flipped hand-building class and was taken out of the kiln within an hour or two of when it was put into the display case for this show.

Frog vase and dinner set by Sara Lawrence

One of my intermediate wheel students, Sara Lawrence, created this frog themed dinner set during the winter quarter, too. Her frog vase and dishes feature a glaze recipe she tested this quarter during class. Her work was out of the kiln at least a day before the show was installed.

Last Firings of the Winter Quarter 

Reduction fired work in the gas kiln (before unloading)

Today is Sunday, but I went in to unload and load kilns both today and yesterday. My students were told that the last day to glaze cone 10 reduction work in the gas kiln was Thursday by 3pm and the last day to glaze cone 10 or cone 04 work in the electric kilns was Friday 3pm. I also warned students that I would be loading the kilns during the day on Thursday and Friday and once they were full, they were full.

Batman, by Humberto Urrutia-Jr (before unloading)

My students and I finished loading the gas kiln on Thursday about 3:10. There were a handful of pieces that wouldn't fit in the kiln at that point, based on how and what we had to load. Moments later, an intermediate student walked in with her 10" tall piece ready to load. She was unhappy when I told her she could load it in the "oxidation" firing in the electric kiln. 

Sculpture with copper red glaze in reduction by Jordan Miller

Some of our glazes look different when fired in a reduction atmosphere vs the neutral atmosphere of an electric kiln. Copper Red and Shino glazes are particularly impacted. Reds in reduction will look green and transparent in the electric kiln.

3D printed turtle pencil holder by Chelsea Blodgett

An extra firing in the electric kiln is relatively easy to add, because the kiln is smaller and the kiln can be programmed to fire to temperature. The gas kiln is larger and requires hourly adjustments to the gas, air, and damper during much of the firing process. I did not offer to unload that kiln on Saturday and reload it with one piece in it to fire all day on Sunday.

Lady with flowers by Autumn Nugent (picture taken from inside the kiln before unloading)

I did, however, end up loading and unloading more than expect on the weekend. Next week is finals week Wednesday through Friday, but I am presenting at NCECA in Pittsburg on Wednesday and Thursday, so I will not be here for finals week. The upshot is that I have adjusted our finals due dates and, by extension, our firing schedule.

3D Printed vase in high temp oxidation firing by Humberto Urrutia-Jr

At the start of the week I had anticipated firing one of each type of kiln (cone 10 reduction, cone 10 "oxidation", and low fire), but by midweek it was clear we had more work than that, so I loaded an extra cone 10 firing in the smaller electric kiln.

cone 10 oxidation fired vase by Humberto Urrutia-Jr

This small electric kiln was too hot to unload on Friday when we were loading the second cone 10 in our larger electric kiln. I knew that I would be coming in to unload it and reload it with low fire work on Saturday, but the kiln was small and the load/unload would be relatively quick. 

oxidation fired crab (before unloading) by Cigdem Collins

I had just finished loading and had started the second cone 10 in the electric kiln on Friday morning, when a student came to me with a problem. For context, most students had finished glazing already and I only had about 5 students finishing work during class that morning. I had already checked in with every single student about what they were glazing. They all assured me their cone 10 work was done and they were glazing only low fire work.

Coil build low fire vase by Margarita Cruz

The student who came to me with the problem had spent a couple of days very carefully applying underglaze to her sculpture. She had already assured me, twice, that the 24" tall sculpture would be going in the low temperature firing. I just had to figure out how to fit it and some of its larger friends. 

low fire stuffed elephant sculpture by Margarita Cruz

The high temp kiln was at a little over 200 degrees when this student came out of the glaze room and explained to me that she had glazed her work with the high temperature clear, instead of the low temperature clear over the underglaze. She couldn't wash off the glaze because it would wash off the underglaze she had spent so much time on. She couldn't fire the work to a low temperature because the glaze wouldn't melt and become clear. I happen to know, from other students being confusing about firing temperatures, that this high temperature clear glaze looks rough and white when fired at low temperature.

student coil vase, low fired

So, of course, I ended up coming in on Saturday to unload the small high fire kiln and load and fire the low fire work. The large low temp kiln I had loaded on Friday was too hot to unload. I came in Sunday morning to unload the low temperature work (both kilns were cool, but the smaller kiln was easier to unload alone) and load one last high fire with just this tall piece and one small friend who had appeared Friday afternoon. 

too much glaze on a thrown piece in the large high fire electric kiln

 Raku Firing

3D printed vase (which didn't survive the firing well) with horse-hair decoration

Last week we also ran two class raku firing days. On Tuesday, students in wheel classes were able to fire their work, but somehow I didn't get any pictures of it. On Wednesday hand-builders fired. The students really seem to enjoy using horse hair on their work. 

Horse-hair 3D printed and hand-built bunny by Nadene Orlando-Urlacher

A few students also took advantage of the raku glazes and one that was particularly nice was a vase by Chelsea Blodgett. She used wax resist for the black areas and white crackle glaze for the rest. Her coil-built vase was modeled on Ancient Greek vases, I believe.

Vase and cat mug by Chelsea Blodgett

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Student Projects using the 3D Printer

3D Printed character and photo by Jordan Miller
This winter, I flipped my hand-building class, adjusted the assignments, and added the requirement that all the students use our new 3D clay printer for one project.

The results have been pretty exciting,  and even though most students only printed one or two pieces during the quarter, we all got some experience with the printer and with the software. I didn't use the software as much as the students did, but I did get to use the printer many, many times this quarter. 

student print

Having the students bring their files ready to print, and monitor the printer while it was printing allowed us to use class time more efficiently and get everyone some experience with both the printer and troubleshooting. I am looking forward, next quarter, to spending some time working through the entire process for myself, but this quarter gave me a better foundation on which to build next quarter and helped me be aware of what students are likely to need help with.

3D printed bee planter and photo by Cigdem Collins

The assignment this quarter required the students to use the printer and software, but didn't impose a lot of extra restrictions on their project. They were told to use Tinkercad, though later I suggested they could use Blender or Fusion 360 and one student did use the latter.

3D printed bee planter and photo by Cigdem Collins

To prepare for their printer time, the students were told to watch a short playlist of videos about 3D clay printing and Tinkercad and were then sent out to try the software. I told the students they should try the software but if they got really frustrated, they could come to class with just a simple shape ready to print. (I had tested Tinkercad with a 9-year-old, so I knew that my adult students should at least be able to make a simple shape even if they weren't very computer savvy.) I also told them they could print several simple shapes, the combine them using hand-building techniques to make a more complex form.

3D printed bee planter (back) and photo by Cigdem Collins

Most students were able to make forms of varying complexity using Tinkercad. They combined simple geometric shapes together to make several anthropomorphic vessels, a bunny, a pokemon, vases, and a tombstone. Once I've got more confidence in the other software, Tinkercad may not our best option, but for getting started it worked just fine. I ran into some compatibility issues with Fusion360 on my Mac and for students using Chromebooks which muted my enthusiasm for adopting this software.

3D Printed character and photo by Jordan Miller

Throughout the project time, I scheduled printing days for each student in the class. Since there was space for 16 students in the class and preparing and printing one piece sometimes takes an entire class period, I knew that I couldn't have the students all do the 3D printer project at the same time. I divided the class into four groups and each group was assigned about a week on the printer. During the time one group was scheduled on the printer, other groups were making projects using the extruders and the slab roller, both of which can only be used by one or two students at a time. Spacing out the projects like this reduced the amount of time students were waiting to access the equipment. Because I flipped the classes this quarter, each group had a different online demonstration playlist each week to prepare for class and I didn't have to spend class time introducing how to use the equipment.

3D Printed Headstone and photo by Autumn Nugent 

If the class had been full, each student would have one guaranteed day during class to print. As it turned out, I did not have a full class, so each student had a little bit more time and flexibility. It was fortuitous that we had the extra flexibility, because we needed that extra time. Most students needed more than one work day to print, either because they made changes to the print or, more often, because the printer behaved strangely. Some students were not prepared on their scheduled printing day and some wanted to reprint the initial form at a different size or because the first one dried too quickly.

3D Print and photo by Chelsea Blodgett

If I took a guess, I would say that at least half of the time we started to print, something went wrong with the printer. Either the speed or the size wasn't what we expected or the machine simply wouldn't move and had to be restarted. Several times we'd select one file, but another would begin to print. Usually the solution is simply to turn off the machine and start again, which doesn't seem so bad, except that every time we stop the machine, the whole tube apparatus moves back to the starting position at the top and has to move slowly to the bottom for a new print.

The most time consuming problem with the printer was when the clay was too dry. The class that was using the printer met every other day, so we wouldn't always go through an entire filled tube of clay in a day or two. Sometimes we'd use some of a tube on a Friday and then leave it over the weekend. We could tell that the clay was too dry when it began making terrible sounds (like a dying cow, my students say) or when the speed of the extrusion (the rate at which the clay comes out) changed mid-print (often accompanied by the dying cow sound). To swap out a printer tube, we need to run a retract program, take down the tube, unscrew 18 bolts with an Allen wrench, unscrew the shaft (the part that pushes the extruder), fill the tube (although we now have a second tube and a second set of half of those bolts), replace the bolts, reattach the tube, reset the height, and run a prime program. Needless to say, this isn't the most exciting part of the process and it eats away at a two-hour class time alarmingly quickly.

3D Printed Headstone, hand-built bird, and photo by Autumn Nugent 

Another nice thing about the structure of the class is that students were able to learn from each other. The first students who used Tinkercad and the printer learned enough about the printer to help the students who printed later. It was great for me because once students knew the machine well enough, they could help each other if I wasn't around or if I was helping someone else.

3D Print and photo by Chelsea Blodgett
Early on in the process of designing and printing shapes, students learned that some shapes won't print. Most of the students who did their project late in the quarter learned this by watching their classmates and didn't waste time making the same sorts of mistakes. The printer extrudes a continues line of clay while it moves around the shape. If the form a student wants to print has a flat top or a curve that is too steep, the shape won't be able to support itself. Most of the time students solved this problem by either ending the print with an open top or by building something by hand in place of the part that wouldn't print. Jordan and Nadene attached hand-built heads to printed bodies Autumn reinforced her walls with rolled and printed sections, and Chelsea added coil and slab reinforcements and additions.

Student work after printing

Another solution was to print the piece in pieces. This week a student printed a form with a lid. She printed the lid upside down with the knob printed inside the lid. She then cut the knob off and reattached it on the other side. I thought this was a nice solution, Unfortunately, the flat slab on which she printed the rim edge and the knob of the lid was quite thin and cracked as it dried.

3D Printed character and photo by Jordan Miller
Sometimes the prints come out fairly thick and have to be altered to avoid the risk of damage during firing. Some students simply trimmed away sections after printing, but one elegant solution was to use a rib inside the wet print to stretch the clay walls. Humberto did this with a vase that he printed but didn't design. The walls were thick enough and wet enough to easily accept the stretching without damage.

3D Printed form altered by Humberto Urrutia-Jr
Interestingly, most of the students also decided to smooth out the printer lines. This surprised me for two reasons. First, because much of the 3D printed work I've seen at shows and online leaves the lines visible and prominent. Second, because smoothing the lines takes a little more work. The end result of the smoothed lines is that we can't always tell that the piece was printed. In fact, one of my students referred to the printer as a "mechanical extruder" (it does, in fact, extrude clay and though it is computerized, it is also, like the other ones in the studio, mechanical).

Interior of bunny by Nadene Orlando-Urlacher
When I wrote the equipment request for the 3D printer in the spring last year, I indicated that one of the goals of having the machine was that this technology is so new that our students can be innovators and trailblazers with it. The goal was for them to surprise me with the ways in which they utilized the printer. This one class included students using the printer in a variety of ways, all of which I find really exciting and filled with potential.

3D Printed Bunny by Nadene Orlando-Urlacher
Jordan, used the printer, much like I've seen resin printers at Yakima Maker Space used, to make a figurine. Autumn printed two forms on their side and later combined them and turned them on end to make a form that couldn't have been printed vertically. Nadene's bunny is almost unrecognizable as a printed form until you look inside for the printer lines, and Cigdem's bee is a form that would be really difficult to make using techniques other than printing or maybe casting. Humberto's forms could probably be made with coil-building or wheel throwing techniques, but he left the lines visible and created a visual contrast by decorating the bottom edge with a contrasting pattern. A student in another class combined wheel throwing and printing techniques (but I didn't get a picture of her work yet).

3D Printed work by Humberto Urrutia-Jr. The work on the left was altered from a found object, the two on the right were made in Fusion360.
The new flipped structure of the hand-building class and the staggering of each student's printer time combined to make some really interesting work. I'm looking forward to teaching this class again (alas, I do not teach it in the spring). I plan to spend some time this spring preparing for that class, giving myself some more practice, working through some glitches with the printer, and preparing some videos to support a more effective flip of that section of the class. Next time I teach the class, I might even direct the students to this post so they can see what their peers were able to do with the technology.

3D Print and photo by Chelsea Blodgett