I Couldn’t Resist

     

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). 🙂

Conquering Fears

  

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).

Tile and Art Festival

    

I’ve spent the past month creating my latest tile boards. These will be on display at the 14th Annual Tile and Art Festival on November 2nd and 3rd at the Mt. Baker Community Club in Seattle. I can’t wait to see what my fellow tile makers bring this year. I’m especially excited for the “Salish Sea” juried show. My entry “Ghosts of the Salish Sea”, shown above, depicts sea otters which once flourished in the waters along the coast of Washington. If you’re in town that weekend be sure to check it out – this show features some very talented people.

Garage Panel – Part Two

 

 

   

               

Well it was a very busy weekend. Despite all the rain and that amazing lightning storm on Saturday night, I installed the second garage panel. I really enjoyed doing this project but, it took nearly the whole summer to make the tiles, and it feels amazing to finish it! Still have some cleaning and polishing to do but I’m ready to start thinking about the next project.

Ongoing Projects

 

            

I haven’t posted any of my tilework for awhile but I’ve been working on a few different things. I’ve got the concept for “Garage Panel 2” done but I’ll save the sketches for that project for a separate post down the road. The panel will, once again, feature animals of the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be using the orca tiles again but in a different way. I will also include the octopus tile I designed last year. I was never happy with the way the octopuses interlocked so this year I designed a squid companion for them. I’m using this incredible underglaze that Amaco makes called “Flame Orange”. It holds up to a cone 5 firing so much better than their other reds and oranges. I also designed a pair of interlocking sea otters that will float above the deep sea creatures. I’m showing them clustered together but there will be a lot of blank tiles separating them on the panel.

Although I won’t be incorporating it into the garage project, I recently redesigned the flying fish tile I made last year. This version is a bit more sculptural and a little less grumpy than it’s predecessor. I’ve also been experimenting with stamps to make ceramic frames. They’ve proven to be more challenging than I anticipated (lots of warping and cracking) but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m hoping to make a few to display more elaborately detailed individual tiles.

Grand Rapids Murals

             

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.

 

Insect Planters

    

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

New Stamps and Another New Toy

 

   

 

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.

Brand New Toy

       

   

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 🙂