Monday, April 28, 2008

End of Semester Excitement and Stress

As usual for the end of the semester, it's been a roller coaster ride the past few days. A fun weekend, but a busy weekend, and I can hardly wait for a break. Thursday! That's the day of my portfolio presentation. The last big requirement from this University. The bit of sadness I felt for the last day of wet clay last week has passed, and now I'm so excited to be moving on. I'm craving a more professional atmosphere, a studio where everyone is there because they love being there. A studio that is open to the students 24/7, where the guy in charge trusts the artists to be responsible and not hurt themselves when the professor isn't there. Anywho, I'm tired, so there's my little rant. And here's a plug for another artist who's blog I read occasionally: Mochaware - I think a lot of potters can relate to his latest post.

In other news, I loaded almost an entire kiln today with my own work, so that's exciting! Here's the before photo, stay tuned for the after:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fuzzy Clay and Fresh Work

Water etching
paper porcelain is tough. It leaves a rough texture that I'm hoping I'll be able to easily sand away after the bisque firing.
If you click on the photo for a closer look, you can see that the clay looks sort of fuzzy. I sanded it when bone dry and it brought out the paper fibers. It's one of those little things that amuses me, a new discovery that's just fun. My hand was fuzzy, too, when it was covered in p'slip.

Below are the two things I had in the last kiln. When I first saw the sculpture I was shocked - the glazes I had layered were Susan Filley Black and my own mix, which when tested resulted in a deep shiny black. Instead I ended up with a rich blue. I was put off by it at first, but as I looked at it for the next few minutes I realized it reminded me of the ocean, with a small mountain of land floating on top. Though it was never intended to, this could easily become a commentary on the state of the world today, on what it could become if we continue on our path of over-consumption and ignorance.
It's still a work-in-progress. It will be fired again with a lichen glaze on top of the red, and when it's set up in the exhibition I'd like that part of it to feel warm (viewers will be able to touch the work in this show). So that's my next challenge... any advice?

In Seth's words, this bowl is "rad" :-D I'm so excited about it! This photo doesn't do it justice. It's one that might be hard to let go of, and if my latest goblets are successful, I would consider submitting the set to Madison & Main. That's been one of my goals this past year, to get into the local gallery. Sadly I haven't yet had a strong body of work that I would feel confident approaching them with, but I would still like to try.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Simple and Elegant

Janet DeBoos exhibition at Skepsi on Swanston, via strange fragments.

This set speaks to me because it is simple and elegant, two qualities I admire, and qualities I've been thinking a lot about lately.

Last weekend I was thinking about what I want to make, and as a student just 2 weeks away from presenting my senior portfolio, I feel like I should already have a body of work behind me and already be working on a solid concept. Unfortunately I'm still unsure of what I'm doing, and where I'm going in art. In November I'll have a solo exhibition of hand built sculptures in the Oak Room Gallery, but I've been thinking more and more lately about pots. And what I've been thinking about are 2 separate ideas: elegance, and simplicity.

Why do I want to make elegant things? To make life a little more sophisticated. It's like wanting to get dressed up to go to the Oscars from time to time. It's just fun, romantic, and fancy. A step away from the everyday and a step into something shiny & gorgeous. So how would I describe elegance? It's smooth, suave, simple, sophisticated. It's flowing without frills.

On the other hand, I also want to make a simple everyday set. Something that is easy to make, yet well crafted and beautiful. Something that is intriguing and perhaps quirky or fun, but not too flashy.
Neither of these sets will be created in the next few months, but I think this down time from the studio will be a great chance to educate myself about anything and everything related to ceramics (esp. firing, which I have unfortunately little knowledge of). Also to fine-tune my ideas via drawing and painting the pottery I would like to make. Though I'm sad that this will be my last week working in the University's studio, I'm excited for the summer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Molding Faces

In other studio news, the last project for the sculpture class is an altar. This guy's project: Altar Ego, including multiple slip castings of his face. We got him to laugh a little while he was being molded, so he'll have a slight smirk in his sculpture :) The question of the hour was - what if it goes in his nose? But it didn't. A little in his hair, a little in his mouth, but no harm done, and it looks pretty cool.

More Fun with P'Clay

Yet again I didn't plan ahead and spent most of Tuesday NOT making my porcelain paper clay (p'clay) "Lamp" sculpture. Instead I was preparing the clay. Note to self: prepare p'clay the day BEFORE you plan to sculpt. Duh. So I finally got to work on it today and here's what I've got so far:
What's left is a box-like figure to top it off, so there's going to be some weight resting on acute angles. Hence the p'clay. The benefit of using p'clay is that the paper fibers hold themselves together incredibly well. There was actually resistance from the clay as I was trying to slice through it with a needle tool. An exacto knife would be a good investment. Below is an example of darting - cutting a triangle away and joining the clay back together to make it smaller.

And while we're on subject, below is an example of my cat's lovely antics:

See that dent on the left side? That's called accidental altered art. That bicycle in the background? Was just knocked over by this guilty-looking nut:

His shock at knocking the bike over was amusing enough to still love him. Thankfully wet clay is easy to fix, and it's new temporary home is in my room away from any moving objects :)

So the p'clay is an interesting experience. It's my first time working with it, also my first time working with Southern Ice, and I don't know which one, or both, makes it feel dry and weird. Still crossing my fingers for success. Now I have a bag full of expensive p'clay that may or may not smell like mold when I get to the studio next. That's exciting.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pottery Photo Contest

Another note on Becca Van Fleet, because I just think this is a wonderful idea. One of the ways to keep your pottery business alive is to develop a relationship with your buyers (not that I speak from experience, but simply from what I hear from many potters). It's also nice to know that your pots are being used, and how they are being used. So what a clever idea to combine those two. Make a contest from people photographing your pots being used, give the winner more of your awesome pots, then use those photos for your own advertising. I love it!

A Very Large Kiln

Firing an anagama kiln is an amazing feat of patience and hark work: Becca Van Fleet Wood-Firing. Thinking about that makes me feel foolish for being hesitant to fire a simple gas reduction kiln. Really I would love to take a class or workshop on firing kilns. Though I was encouraged to fire them on my own, I don't feel I was really given a push or instruction on it and I've always felt timid about firing. I do what the professor or the previous firing schedule tells me to do, but I don't know why I do this or that and I don't have the greatest memory to repeat it without looking at the schedule again. I've always been more interested in making the piece than firing it. I feel like I should get one part down before I try to figure out another, but I think that's just an excuse...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pretty Pots

Speaking of other people's pots... these are pretty:

by Kristen Kieffer

and the stamped animals in these cups remind me of sweettart candies. Especially the bunnies. They make me want to eat them, but since they're not really sweettarts, I would really love to drink from them. Yet the handle doesn't look comfortable, so I don't know if it would be as wonderful to drink from them as it would be to look at them. Maybe someday when I have a nice home I'll have a place for something like this to be placed on a shelf to be admired. Or I'll have quaint tea parties.

One more for good measure... These look like they would be fun to touch and hold with the texture on them. Nice little tumblers, they're something I would like to have several of to use as everyday pots or for special occasions.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Interesting Design

I'm always intrigued by designs I haven't seen before. Like the spout on this creamer by ang. I'm not sure I like it, but it's interesting.

P.S. I recently came upon a wonderful blog post about pottery blogs. I had no idea there were so many out there :-D

Friday, April 11, 2008

Visiting Artist

As I mentioned before, we had a visiting artist at the University last weekend - Willi Eggerman. It was awesome! Better than NCECA - for one thing, it was free for the students (funded by the school), second, it was more personal. I sat no more than 10 ft away from her and asked questions left & right. Third, since the group was pretty small we ended up doing some hands-on work and having a quick group critique of each other's work. I didn't benefit as much from this, but I know some other students did and I was grateful for the experience. What did she demonstrate? ...

Throwing. She says she isn't very good at it, which is kind of encouraging. She makes beautiful pots, so it's nice to know that you don't need to be a perfect potter to be a great artist.

Tripod pots. It's something she's been making for several years now, and she still enjoys making them (perhaps goblets will become that thing for me, something I never tire of).

Slab built teapots. She first rolls a slab with a good ol' rolling pin, then rolls her hand-made stamps into it, and makes it into a cylinder. Since she stretches them, she doesn't wait for the slabs to set up, and since they're becoming cylinders anyway, they'll stand up easily without the slab being stiff.

Leaf-like bowls. A technique she learned from a Julia Galloway workshop, she pinches the lip and foot rims all around to give it an organic appearance.

Water etching with lacquer. Wax is commonly painted on bone-dry pots to make a design that will be etched away using water and a sponge. Instead, Willi uses clear lacquer because it isn't washed away as easily as wax and it gives a more crisp line.

Incising / mishima. This was similar to the way that Lorna Meaden was decorating her cups at the NCECA deomstration, using an exacto knife to make thin lines. The important trick to remember is to first water down the slip to make sure it runs down into the thin lines, then apply thicker slip to give it the color you want. The other thing she did differently than Lorna was wipe away the last bit of slip with a sponge. It sounds like Willi actually heard about first scraping away the slip with a rib from someone who saw Lorna's demonstration. See how useful demonstrations are? :-D

Faceting cups using a paring knife. A few things she did to her pots were similar to preparing food. It looks like she could be peeling an orange in this picture. When she was pinching the rims of the bowl, she said it was sort of like pinching the edges of scones.
So that's a wrap up of the weekend, both days 10 am - 4 pm. Willi and her wonderful assistant stayed at a lovely bed & breakfast called the Sod Buster Inn. Highly recommended! Cozy, friendly, and a delicious breakfast.

If anyone's reading this who is a student, teacher, or administrator at any type of school, find a way to host a visiting artist. They are inspirational, educational, and otherwise awesome.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Bicycles rock. As do indie clothing stores. Check it out on Etsy.

Fun with Paper Clay

After a long period of unmotivation and slight apathy for life, I found some joy in the studio today. For one thing, I've quit worrying about money thanks to my friend Chipotle giving me a job. Not the job of my dreams, but it serves its purpose. So today I finally got to making paper clay, 2 months after I should've started. Boy is it fun! I started out visiting my old friend Sieger in the printmaking studio to get some worn blotter papers. I started in a 5 gallon bucket and tore up 2 sheets, approx. 18 x 24 in. into 1 - 2" pieces. Then added hot water almost to the top, just enough so when I beat it with a drill it wouldn't completely splatter my pants. Drilled it for a few minutes, let it sit for an hour, and drilled it some more. Meanwhile I had some slip going in the pugmill... I didn't mean for it to be slip, but of course I didn't think ahead to dry out the clay before attempting to pug it. First lesson of the day: thick slip cannot be pugged. Damn.

The next fun part was draining the paper... it looked like a fluffy cloud sitting in the sieve :) After squeezing out more water, it felt like wet cotton balls. Go figure - 100% cotton rag paper feels like cotton balls when beaten to a pulp. As obvious as it is, it was still pretty cool. So I took about 1/2 of the pulp ( =1 big sheet of paper) and added about an equal amount of slip from the pug mill. I'm not one to measure things like this, though if you're particular about it, there are books around that can help. Drilled some more, then laid out the p'slip mix on a plaster bat. It felt soft, and my clay-covered hand looked fuzzy. At the same time I laid out some non-paper slip on a bat to dry... is there not a pug mill out there that can dry out your clay while it's mixing?

Several hours later I come back and it's still too moist to work with, so to quicken the process I start hand-stretching the clay into slabs (no slab-rolling involved). By this I mean I start slamming a ball of clay onto the table, picking it up from the edge farthest from me, and flipping it over gently and swiftly so that it stretches evenly. If I only stretch it from one side to the other without rotating, it looks like a lemon, then a surf board. The fun continues!

After stretching and re-wedging the clay several times it begins to dry out, but I realize that the clay looks pretty cool after stretching and rolling it into a cylinder. So I give up on drying it further and improv some vases. Does it matter that they're not "my" style? They're fun to make, and I like them. End of story.

Back to the paper clay... I had some pre-recycled porcelain stiff enough to wedge with the p'slip, though the slip was still pretty slippy and the resulting clay was too moist. Considering what little time I had left in the studio for the night and the fact that paper clay can get pretty smelly pretty quickly, I challenged myself to make a rough mock-up of my planned sculpture in only 3 hours. After 2 tries and only 45 minutes left I decided to give up and use the whole batch of clay to make more slab vases. I wasn't sure if I could make it to the studio tomorrow, and thanks to our lovely director I'm guaranteed to not be in the studio on the weekend, so I thought it'd be best to use up the p'clay before anything could grow in it. Overall, I accomplished my goal. I wanted to test paper clay with my recycled porcelain before I attempted the real thing with my $1/lb. Southern Ice. I'm sure it'd help to experiment more, but with only 1 week left to work in wet clay this semester, I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Some Good News

I haven't had much to write about ceramic-wise lately, because I haven't been creating much lately. I've been unmotivated. So that sucks. But moving on to the good news - 1) 5th Annual Intercollegiate Swing Battle, Friday & Saturday night; 2) visiting artist Willi Eggerman coming to the University, Saturday and Sunday; 3) I finally got a job. THAT took long enough. Yeesh, now I can afford that damn porcelain.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Other Peoples Pots

Every day my desire for a different studio environment grows. Yesterday I was taking photos of my classmates work for our end of semester sale postcard. I realized there are five advanced students who have made pots this semester that are very similar to each other, which are also very similar to our professor's pots, mainly in the way they are glazed, but also in style for some. Though I was at first attracted to the glaze combination our professor discovered, it's now like an average song on the radio - repetitive, unoriginal, and overdone. Unfortunately, none of the pots are outstanding. Lorna Meaden talked about the subject during her slide presentation at NCECA this year in Pittsburgh. She said she was once a subject of "OPP" - Other People's Pots. It seems like an easy thing to be subject to. I know I was. One of the most advanced students in our studio last year made tea bowls that looked exactly like Tom Coleman's. Meaden said that going to graduate school made her realize this fault. So do we blame the professor? Of course a large part of our growth depends on the work we put in on our own, but shouldn't the professor be guiding us? Challenging us, and asking us to question why we do what we do? I hear once in a while, maybe at the beginning of the semester, talk of the matter...
Though I'm not ready in my career for graduate school, I am antsy to find out what it's like. I want to find a professor who will truly challenge me perhaps even more than I challenge myself. I'm just getting antsy to finish my undergrad work. Wherever I go next, I'm excited to be moving forward.
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