Monday, July 28, 2008

waxing, mystery bubbles, and the joy of new things

Last week was a hoot in may ways. I've hit the point where I have enough made that I need to start getting things ready to glaze. I moved everything that had been painted out to the studio and started waxing, on a day that I decided to do another bisque firing when it was already 90 degrees. I began to worry that the wax would just run back off, but then talked myself down, realizing that it probably wouldn't get much higher and the wax takes a couple of hundred degrees before it starts dissipating. Not running. It was so exciting to have a place to put them in this stage, thanks to Ian and his spiffy new shelves.

I got out my trusty bucket of black glaze, only to find that it had dried to a nice chunk of plaster like hardness. So, I wheeled it over to the faucet and used the attached hose to fill it halfway with water, thinking that I would leave it to soften up before I started the arduous process of digging it off the bottom of the bucket. Because, for all the good qualities my glaze has, it sticks, as my friend Bob would say, to the bottom like goose poop on a blanket. I then went on my way, waxing and buzzing around the studio for about an hour. Imagine my surprise when, an hour or so later, I stuck my hand in to feel the glaze was perfectly dispersed and mixed. Besides that little oddity, it also felt... well... kind of foamy. I took my hand out and it was covered in bubbles! The glaze was bubbling and foaming, but was not settling back down. I thought for a minute, then turned the hose back on. Sure enough, preceding the water was a foam of white bubbles. Somehow, we had gotten soap in the hose. How, I do not know, but it was there. I called the Clay Connection and they had never heard of this and told me to do a test firing to see if it had affected anything. If not, I may have just solved one of the great trials of my glazing life.

The week ended with an e-mail from a man answering my Craigslist post asking for pottery wheels. I needed at least one more so that I could teach, but hated to buy a new one when I know there are so many lonely wheels out in people's garages, unused and forgotten after the thrill of a new hobby was forgotten. This man had six! He had a business teaching art to children and they had tried to venture into adult pottery classes, only to lose their teacher after three lessons. It was first come, first serve, and I was first. I managed to get two wheels, a stack of bats, eight new tool packs, two stools, and a bucket of tools for about what one new wheel would cost. I was overjoyed, needless to say! I also now have about six buckets of mystery glaze that I need to research. I grabbed them in my frenzy of abundance, only thinking of what color they were, and was juuuust retarded enough not to remember that glazes have different cones. Now, to find out if they'll go to 5 in a way that doesn't involved grinding test pieces off of my kiln shelves.

Friday, July 18, 2008

triumph and utter defeat

That's the way it is, right? You have to just nod at the successes, and just nod at the dismal failures. I had way more time to throw this week, thank goodness, which allowed me to revisit some of my old friendly shapes. Well, I don't know that I would call the teapots friendly shapes, but they are beloved. They're more like difficult children than good friends.

I managed to make eight of them before I pooped out, seven little guys and one large beastie whose two large friends grew weariy of my pulling and flopped to the bat in disgust. I did, however, attempt a new idea on an old form. Introducing... the sugar bowl:

I think that I've tried this one before with painful results. We'll see how they thrive at the end! I also got to try my hand at the platter again. As I remember with both of these forms, it's all about timing. You have to catch everything at juuuuuust the right time to make sure you get them assembled and trimmed so that they don't turn on you. Even then, the moon must be at it's apex and the barometric pressure at just the right level and a druid priestess must be serenading them as they dry. I kid.

Things have gone pretty well, except for the large footed bowls. The first set of six I threw turned out just awful. Perfectly functional, but that conical shape that I try so hard to avoid like the plague. I find it amazing that everything is coming back pretty well except bowls. I'm still struggling to get them just how I like them, in that hemisphere shape that may be unoriginal, but is satisfying to my psyche and feels so good in the palm of my hand. I won't share the cones of distress, but the bowls are looking pretty good... pre-foot at least.

I'm really excited about a new design that I'm playing with on a few pieces. All of my designs come from doodles that sprang up in school, and this is an offshoot of a design I did on my very first painted vases. I stopped doing it because it was too elaborate and took forever to get anything complete. I found a few bowls that I did in my apprenticeship years that had the design on the inside, and decided to try it again on the outside. I really want to see it on a big bowl before I get the full picture in my mind complete. We'll see how they turn out...

Monday, July 7, 2008

a bad week for throwing

Last week was pretty much wasted, as far as throwing was concerned. With a toddler in full-on destruct mode, there's no way I'm getting time to throw unless there's help. Of course, there is the nap, which made it possible for me to get in some quality painting time!

Today my mom came up to help out and watch Wren, which gave me a chance to get back in the mud. I had big dreams of finishing lots of 1 lb lidded ginger jars. The clay gods had other ideas, however, perhaps inspired by Wren and I planting basil and lavender seeds in the kitchen last week. The clay gods wanted to see flower pots today. As many as possible, please.

I did get the kiln loaded with my haul of big vases. I have to have the planets aligned just right to get them to work, but I did have a day where they were coming together nicely. It helped that Ian had the day off and I had more than 4 hours to devote to it! It looks like this week will be better for getting help and getting to throw. Now to say a prayer that those little jars will behave at our next session and hopefully I'll stop knocking them off the bat with that naughty pointy stick.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

coming back to it

Wow. It's been a really long time since I was able to throw or even get my hands into the mud. I guess it was lucky for me that our office had a slow down (read: could no longer afford me) and Ian suggested that I was still a potter. Somewhere deep inside. I suppose that I had to cut that part of me off for awhile as I made a steady income and then was pregnant with our first-born, Wren. The combined effect of a full time job and a full time baby pretty much ruled out any time or energy for pottery. I think the last time I had done anything was when I was about 6 or7 months pregnant, trying to hand paint pots with a giant kicking baby and glazing with a giant belly. I remember throwing my shoes at the wall and crying and being very dramatic about the whole thing. That was the last I did, to get ready for a show that Sharon and Duy talked me into at Sangati.

Amazing how you can jump right back into throwing like there was never a time gap! Sure, the muscles are a little weak and the pots a little heavier... but the center is still there and the forms come right back to you. There was a little learning curve to it, or a re-learning curve you might say. You know, where you accidentally trash something at the end and go, "oh yeah, you can't jam the pointy stick in like that or the vase will fly off the bat." Or, "oh, I remember now... gravity won't allow big bowls at that angle." A lot of laughing at myself and marveling at how quickly catastrophe can swoop down on you when throwing.

Anyway, now that I'm giving it a go again, I'm going to try it whole hog. I managed to design a website (not that hard) and get it up and running (agonizingly painful) yesterday. My brain absolutely goes limp and noodley when confronted with technology. Now I'm jumping on the blog bandwagon as a companion to the website... we'll see how this all works out. I'm mostly afraid of trying to teach classes at home, due to insecurity for the most part. I've got a few interested takers, now I just have to get the studio fit for human habitation and get some new supplies. Like an extra wheel. Ouch. We'll see if anyone can hang with my garage and it's plethora of invading nature. Maybe if I get it below 100 degrees in there...