So, after throwing what seemed like a hundred cylinders in my class these past two months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to make things.
Inspired by the book Ceramics for Beginners, Animals and Figures by Susan Halls, I decided to make some animal containers using wheel thrown cylinders. With a title like “Ceramics for Beginners”, what could be easier? Well, as I discovered, many things are easier. Here are a few of the challenges that I encountered:
First, my elephant’s back legs and my sheep’s butt blew off in the kiln. Either I didn’t score them well enough or they weren’t completely dry when they went into the kiln. I was able to salvage the elephant by sticking with low-fire glazes (to minimize warping) and then gluing the legs on after with epoxy. With some carefully painted underglaze lines and splatters, the glue lines are barely noticeable. All I could do for the sheep was sand down his backside and then, using a dremel tool, carve a subtle tail where there was once a sculpted tail.
Next, the lids on my kangaroo and seal fused to their bodies during a cone 5 glaze firing. Guess I didn’t clean up those areas well enough before placing them in the kiln. Fortunately, the kangaroo survived but the seal broke while trying to detach the lid 😦
So, besides improving my throwing skills, what this class has really taught me is that I need to be a lot more careful and that, when working with clay, most problems can be solved (more or less). 🙂
Brrrrr, when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, my studio space gets cold and dark. January is the perfect time to take a class in something that I’ve tried a few times but never really had the patience for – Wheel Throwing. This time around I’ve decided to focus on process rather than product. I see the class as an opportunity to “practice my scales”. Since I don’t plan to make many pieces, I won’t need to find places to store my amateurish pots and, at the same time, I’ll get a good workout recycling all that soggy clay at the wedging table. More photos to come (or not).
These tiles, including my brand new elephant design, will be available for purchase at the Artisan Tile NW Tile Festival this coming weekend. Hope to see you there!
To order online:
Last month I traveled to Grand Rapids Michigan to spend some time with family there. While searching for a place to have lunch in the downtown area, we were struck by the the city’s commitment to public art. There were beautiful murals everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with the local art school, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. Most impressive to me were two multi-media pieces: “Imagine That!” (2009) by Tracy Van Duinen, Corey Van Duinen, and Todd Osborne and “The Metaphorest Project” (2011) by Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne, Phil Schuster, and Andy Bellomo. These two murals combined handmade tiles, mosaics, trompe l’oeil painting, printmaking, and sculpture in such imaginative ways. My photos don’t do them justice.
Look what came out of the kiln today – my first insect tile planters!
I made this series of insect tiles to use on the upper panel of my garage project. It will be awhile until I have the time to do that project so I decided to make some planters with these tiles in the meantime. I’ve made planters from tiles before but they were much larger and used many more tiles. These are relatively quick to make and nice for small house plants. I’ll be posting them in my Etsy shop soon, except for the yellow one. I’m keeping that one for myself. 🙂
To see a demonstration of how they’re made check out the video on my Etsy shop “About” page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GoodPressCeramics
Well my kiln broke last weekend so tile production is on hold until Seattle Pottery Supply sends someone out to fix it. In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with stamps and vessels. I made a few new stamps and I’ve been experimenting with pressing them into different types of clays. The act of pressing can be a little tricky. I think the patterns look better when they’ve been pressed deeply into the clay but this often results in cracking during drying or firing. Hopefully, some of the clay bodies I’m testing out will be more resilient.
I’ve been enjoying the new slab roller so much that I decided to buy an extruding gun. The Super Duper Clay Gun (yes, that’s what it’s called) is amazing! It only comes with a small round die but you can purchase additional ones. They even sell a set that allows you to make hollow shapes. It’s really, really fun. So far I’ve only used it to make feet for a couple of vessels but I can’t wait to make other things with it.
I’m always trying to keeps things simple in the studio (and in life) but here’s an instance where my efforts were kind of backfiring. For the past 5 years or so, I’ve insisted on rolling out all my slabs the old fashioned way – with rolling pins. The problem is, this is difficult to do without a lot of patience (which I don’t always have). I knew if I wanted to enjoy making vessels it was time to invest in a slab roller. I don’t have much space in the studio and they typically require 8 to 10 square feet. I’d seen table top versions but they seemed kind of cheap. Then, I came across one on Etsy that looked pretty good so I bought it. https://www.etsy.com/listing/449252632
So far, I’m very impressed. It was designed by the husband of a potter who was dealing with some of the same challenges. It’s well constructed of steel and wood (no plastics) and, although it required some assembly, the instructions were clear. The only flaw with this roller is that there should be measurements near the adjustment knobs. I printed out rulers and taped them on.
I couldn’t wait to try it out so I decided to make some mugs based on the “darted cups” by ceramic artist Liz Zlot Summerfield who posted a great demonstration video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w63bZyZ9svo
Everything went smoothly at first. I build the cups, painted the sides with underglaze, and carved my coffee beans. Then I made the mistake of attaching the handles at two points. My clay body is not very forgiving and all the handles broke. I managed to scrape them off but it’s kind of odd having tea cups decorated with coffee beans. I did make one cup with a different handle design that works as a mug but I’m still exploring other ideas. It’s so nice to be making vessels again 🙂