Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Toad houses...with toads


                                                                                   
I made two toad houses for a customer who wanted to give them as gifts. I was instructed to make each one a little different from the other, and with toads on top of both. I made large toads perching on the sides of the roof rather than try to make tiny ones to fit on the very top.  Getting the details of the feet and legs seemed like it might be too difficult in miniature.  By the way, the toads bodies are hollow and after attaching to the roofs I made a hole through the roof and the toad bellies so as to avoid any unfortunate toad explosions.
                                                            
The houses were made on the wheel as closed forms.  When leather hard, I placed them back on the wheel and threw the little finials, one an acorn, and the other a beehive (sort of) on top.  
The color application came after bisque firing.  I have some engobes and slips that can be used on both greenware and bisque, but find I prefer to use them on bisque since, being dry and porous, it holds the material better.  Also, I often apply the color then wipe off to leave a light stain in some areas and darker stain in areas with etched designs- a technique which works best with bisque fired pieces.  Next, the toad houses were glazed, then a 50/50 by weight combination of frit 3134 and mason stains was brushed over the glaze to get the toad color.  A little disappointment here- what worked great on a test tile (chartreuse spots over tan) did not work as well on the toads, as the chartreuse can barely be seen.  Actually, at least around here, toads are not green, but the customer asked if I could add touch of green.  I am very glad that this particular customer understands that working with glazes is not the same as choosing crayons out of a box!
One of those grab and go mornings with the items, still warm from the kiln: Quick pictures of the finished toad houses with an oak tree for a backdrop at River City Farmer's Market in Marietta, Ohio just before meeting up with the customer.





Monday, October 2, 2017

Where Catfish Bloom

In the last post I showed the greenware version of this piece. It progressed to bisque fired and now to glaze fired. This project was inspired by the poem by Lisa M. Pursley, "Where Catfish Bloom", which I am sharing with Lisa's permission.


Where Catfish Bloom
Yesterday she was daisies,
dahlias and a spray of baby’s breath
until she was trapped
by the frailties of a civil engagement;
an iron woman achieving honesty,
sanity and swept floors.
She shares a confident understanding
of individual smallness.
All her lovely habits fortified,
trampled like the spirit
of a goddess in the rain.
Now she sits, cut
and stuffed, in a clearly gripping vase.

Lisa's poem was one of many submitted to Riverside Artists Gallery's 2016 Poetry in Art and was one among some great poems that were not chosen by any of the participating artists.
It was in my short list of poems I was considering for myself, but at the time I could not seem to solidify my thoughts on how I would approach the project.
I am no longer with the gallery but at that time I had been coordinator of the 2016 Poetry in Art exhibit and had a file of poems that were submitted by poets for consideration by the artists. When cleaning out files this spring "Where Catfish Bloom" was one of several from that exhibit I kept. 
It was very difficult to delete any on them!  
Above:  As you can see the piece stands on a flat surface, but is also wired for wall hanging.
Below:  Some decision making about whether to leave it alone or keep going.  This is the bisque fired head. I thought about leaving the head just like this.  The color of the bisque fired clay is very much like flesh tone and I had burnished the clay a bit so it has a smoother appearance than usual.  The glaze I used on the box is rather rustic so I decided to go ahead and fire the head to cone 6 (my usual glaze firing) in order to get the tan color this clay obtains when fired to maturity.


Below:  I decided to add a little iron oxide to the hair and darken the irises with a combination wash of cobalt ox. and copper carb.  Later, I brushed a little clear glaze on the irises (not shown).  The bisque fired head is among some pots awaiting a cone 6 glaze firing.



Friday, August 25, 2017

box in a box

A new project underway which may be submitted for an exhibit if it works out.  I never like to say it's a sure thing until I open the kiln after the final firing.

The head is decorated, somewhat minimally, with colored slips and engobes.  Not sure yet if I will be glazing this.
 The main part of the project, building the box, especially with the extra step of a recessed inner box, requires a fair amount of planning.  I used templates.  In measuring, you must allow for the thickness of the clay which is 1/4 inch thick.  So for a six inch square box, two of the outer sides are 6 inches and two are 5 and 1/2 inches. Sides are butted together on top of the square slab. Making sure the sides are at a 90 degree angle to the slab which is the front of the box is just as important as all the measuring.  If I continue to use this shape I might build frame or two right angles out of wood to use as a guide.  As it was, I used a couple of small scrap boards to press the sides against.  This seemed to work pretty well in squaring up a couple of wonky areas.  Same process used for the recessed box, only those sides are a quarter inch narrower than the ones on outside of box in order to accommodate the small slab which backs it.  Then the box is flipped over and the small square is cut from the front to form the inset.  Of course all the pieces were slipped and scored throughout  assembling and I followed up with working narrow coils into the seams.
You can see in above picture that I also added a couple of blocks to thread a wire through for hanging.  Unless some warping occurs in the firing this piece has the option of standing on its own.

All the pieces were a stiff leather hard before building.  It is very important to have the separate slab cut-outs dried as close as possible to the same moisture content.
Right now I have the box slowly drying.  Then bisque fire, glaze, glaze fire and cross fingers!



Monday, July 31, 2017

clay and found object sculptures and some toad houses!

She's come undone-
A clay/found object sculpture which is partially the result of a kiln accident.  Though the head had been destined for a similar project, the theme somewhat changed when the back of the head blew out in the firing.  I admit to rushing the process due to a hurry-up on a mug commission and wanting to get the head in the same firing.  Some moisture must have been trapped despite the candling time I programmed into the kiln.  Or perhaps her mishap occurred as she was facing the other character in the kiln-

Click to enlarge.
"Tweetily Dee" came about this way: Having seen pictures online of hats made of felted cat fur, and since Red the cat sheds copious amounts of that substance, I decided to give him a good combing and try my hand at cat fur felting.  I placed a mass of fur in an old shirt sleeve, tied the ends of the rag, poured boiling water over it, then tossed it in the dryer.  It turned out looking like a small toupee. See below.  So, the next thought was to make a clay head- one whose hair seemed to resemble Red the cat's, and glue the toupee on after the head was fired.  As I formed the head it seemed it wanted to be too big for the toupee so I gave up on the cat fur gluing idea.  And, I doubted anybody would care to have my cat's fur in their home.  I don't want my cat's fur in my home.  But he does have a great personality.


Scavenged political sign frames were used for the arms in "Tweetily Dee". 
Quotes from tweets were taken from ones which were sent out since taking office.  Seven coats of polyurethane over the tweets!
Acrylic paint used on both "She's come undone" and  "Tweetily Dee".

Motivation for these projects came from Riverside Artists Gallery's upcoming Found Object exhibit opening Friday, Aug 4 during First Friday in Marietta.

Red, the cat.  A source of inspiration.
                                                                   

A plein air event at The Castle in Marietta, Ohio. I threw 3 toad houses on the wheel a couple of days in advance.  During the event I added decorative elements, some of which were taken from The Castle's architectural details.
Other artists present were Ginny Killian, Lynda Rhodes, Karol Goldstein and Alan Norris.
The day started out chilly with a little drizzle which didn't bother me but challenged the painters at times. Pictures are thanks to Janet Chase.

This is one of the toad houses.  Another one has an owl on top and a third has a squirrel.
Will be using some engobes and washes on these after the bisque firing.



Monday, July 17, 2017

cairns


Some lately assembled cairns.  I'm pretty sure it takes me longer to put these together than it does to make the individual parts.  Each one morphs several times before I decide the arrangement is right.
I've been putting aside the various cairn parts for a good while- from birds to wheel thrown rocks, to slab rocks. When a commission only takes up a shelf or so cairn parts are good to make because they dry quickly and evenly. They have been kiln fillers- when I need to rush a firing for a commission and don't want to fire the kiln light.
Occasionally the holes I make in the rocks are too small for the metal rod that runs through the piece so I get to spend some wollering out time with the Dremmel tool. Apparently "wollering" is not a word, according to spell check.  I know what I mean.  Since I am using the same metal tube to make all of the holes I am not sure how this hole size discrepancy occurs.
Above cairn is 18 inches tall.  The one below is 10.5 inches.  I may have talked myself out of making more like the one below (no wood base).  It is very tricky to  get these squared up without the drill press making a nice straight hole through wood for the metal rod that runs through the piece. 
Same cairn above and below.  The color is more accurate in the above photo, but I saw the shadow from the early evening sun and had to capture it.


Cairn with small base is about 9 inches tall and larger base is 10.5 inches.  I have put these two pieces aside for a customer who made a request for a smaller size cairn.

Friday, June 23, 2017

mini churn making

An interesting project has come my way.  I have been working with a local historical group to reproduce small versions of a pottery item.  The original was made by a potter who once worked on the property known as "The Castle" in Marietta, Ohio.

I will more or less quote the information from The Castle Facebook page:  The items I reproduced were butter churns.  One, approximately 11 inches high, is about a half size version of a churn made by Nathaniel Clark at The Castle location in the early 19th century. The original churn was stamped by Clark with his name and the Marietta location. The downsized copy re-creates the shape and incised decorative banding of the original, and is marked on the base as a one-of-a-kind reproduction authorized by The Castle Museum.  This one was available for purchase by raffle at a special garden party fundraiser at The Castle this week.

Then there are the really down-sized versions:  The mini churns which are sold in The Castle's gift shop.  So far, I have completed 56 of these small churns which are only 5&1/2 inches tall- about 5 inches after firing.


The mini butter churns are a very narrow- approximately 2&1/4 inches wide at top and bottom.  For part of the making process I am using the old sponge on a stick method (above) in order to get to where my fingers cannot!








The 11 inch churn surrounded by some of the mini churns.  
It took some experimenting to find the best possible way to reproduce the look of the clay and, since I am using an electric kiln, the lightly salted wood fired surface on the original.

All is not work!  Ivin and I had a nice visit with some friends at the beach last week.





Friday, April 28, 2017

the secret life of potters

This week:
Obsessing over making an oxidation fired plate coordinate with a reduction fired plate.

Obsessing over making mini butter churns fired in oxidation that correctly replicate the 23" tall salt fired original in both proportion and glaze.  I may be explaining this more at a later date.

Major obsessing about getting this mug commission right. 
Size, color...yes, but mostly fear of glaze failure during the last firing for the decals.  Having had a few problems with pinholing in the past, I did a search and found that better kiln ventilation may solve the problem- leaving the lid and portholes open up to 500 degrees F.  That, and spacing the mugs about 2 inches apart in the kiln.  Success! At least this time.  And, hurry up to get some birds and cairn parts in the kiln to be bisque fired along with the decal firing.  Luckily, the sun was out to help the drying along.

15 emails and several picture taking sessions about a possible commission through etsy. It is possible I gave the customer too many choices.  Some of the test tiles involved:

And, these are a few of the closed forms in the glaze firing this week.  Made these just because I wanted to and am trying to learn what I can do glaze-wise with this spotted clay.  Will have these at River City Farmer's Market tomorrow.

Picture taking session is not over until I can focus on the interactions of a wood ash glaze and several other glazes used on this pot.  Yes, this is what we obsess over.


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