Friday, April 27, 2007

Ray Guns

I just noticed an article in Wired about a potter who is makeing raku ray guns. They're really nice. You can find them at

I've been making ray guns for several years and also do them on the wheel, but they're made from procelain and used a clear glaze fired at cone 6. On the first two, I selected primary colors in order to relate to the colors used in cheap, shiny plastic toys. Sometimes I have used underglazes and sometimes overglazes. The first one is named "Molecular Redistributor".

The second is "If Mars Attacks" and has more overglaze treatment, though it is difficult to see the difference. Both "If Mars Attacks" and "Molecular" were exhibited at "Toys Designed by Artists" at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock AR and "The Whmsical Clay" show in Beverly, MA a couple of years ago.

The white ray gun, "Ectoid Extractor" , has not been shown anywhere yet. I have a mate to this one still in the studio yet to be assembled. I like the white shiny surface and glass combination.

The darker fourth gun is "Lunar Artifact" and it was included in the Whimsical show at the end of last year.

Paul Lewing's China Paint & Overglaze

Paul REALLY knows his stuff. This is a great book. This book covers so much territory, it's a mini history of an area of ceramics that has not been addressed in such a contemporary way. With this book, Paul has created benchmark and a major reference as an example for others to use in this kind of research. It's a great resource not only for potters, but historians, china painters, antique dealers and collectors.

I know how long he has been working on this and the results are stunning. I'm savoring this book in bits in order to absorb the amount of information that is packed between the covers. Paul not only is tackling the subject full-on from the origins and progression of china decoration through cultures, there's a complete data dump of technical aspects; tools, chemistry and technique. Makes ya want to run, RUN to your studio and start working! (Big problem there, since I usually get my reading in while all tucked up in bed between 9 p.m. and 10 or 11 o'clock at night.)

Beside being a luscious book to look at, it's a generous one. The narrative is easy, just like talking to Paul, and completely comprehensible. He holds nothing back, giving everything he knows and he knows a lot. I'm so glad the publisher, The American Ceramic Society, splashed out in heavy-duty slick pages and beautiful color photographs.

You may need two copies. One to keep pristine in your house and one to paw over in the studio! Go to Paul's webpage at to order the book.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another Example of Appearance

This bowl is made with a basic white glaze and various glazes applied over the base coat.

This is a minuet, ballet music, pizzicato. It has a completely diffferent look than the second bowl--

The second bowl is only two glazes overlapped in different ways: A shino which breaks into a reddish color when thin; cream when thick and a satin black that reacts depending on which thickness it is over, how thick it is.
This is Wagner, trumpets and horns, drums and cymbals.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Form & Surface Treatment - What a difference

This is a bowl I made about a year ago using a 50's plastic salad bowl as a form for the bowl shape and cutting a newspaper pattern out to make the base. It is quite large and was absolute murder to put together. I had to form the base and bowl shapes, allow them to get leather hard, assemble the base and then mount the bowl form on top. Even though I thought I had estimated the curve, it still took quite a bit of twiddle to get the two forms to marry well. I added the side detail at the side of the base just off the top of the head as I was assembling the piece and manipulated the rim of the bowl to creat the undulations, then added the tendrals to finish it off. The whole thing is glazed in celadon. This form really encourages glaze run and I had difficulty after the firing with a stuck foot. (A previous piece which was just the base form only with an added bottom to make a square vessel did not work out well and the foot pulled away when I removed it from the kiln.)

What a difference between the top image and this one. The second piece has a Southwest feel because of the glaze. I love the variations of color on the base. This time I made the base a bit taller and the corners are joined at a different angle.
The second piece was constructed in exactly the same way, but appears to be very different because of the glaze. This is a shino from Cayote Glazes. And this time, I waxed the feet far up on the base to be sure that there would be no sticking this time to the kiln shelf. I also used lots of kiln wash which allows the piece to roll on tiny granules on the shelf surface as the piece expanded and contracted during the firing/cooling process.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Wolf Tooth Necklace

Here's the Wolf Tooth Necklace just finished. I tried to replicate it from "300". I love the way the necklace threads through the movie as a symbol of courage and love. And the use of it as a symbol of legacy. I only have a few right now. They'are handformed, made of porcelain and fired three times. The necklace length is adjustable with the wooden bead.
Contact me through comments with an email address if you're interested.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Latest plate experiements

Two samples of 6 full-sized plates and 6 bread and butters that just came out of the kiln. An experiment in shape, slab and glazes, I used an old two-part plate mold made for poured ceramics to make these. I found a full-sized plate mold and a butter plate mold at the Goodwill and this is the first time I've used them as slump/hump one-part molds to make anything. I rolled out a slab of porcelain 1/4 inch thick, carefully laid it on the part of the mold that would have been the inside surface of the slip plate. Then I let it get dry enough to handle--about a day--and cut irregular rims, then lifted the form off the mold. Before I took the form off, though, I buffed the bottom surface with a plastic spoon-back to create a smooth surface, since these were to be fully glazed and would not have a foot ring. I did the same thing with the bread & butter sized plates and made 6 plates in each size.

I like the Cayote Glaze Co.'s shinos, so I used the light and dark for the two base colors, then took a baby ear syringe and filled it with glossy glaze, laid the plates on newspapers on the studio floor and slopped away. The plates were all fired with large stilts underneath and there was little grinding needed to remove the glaze pips on the bottom. Some warped a bit, but that's okay; goes with the loose design and spirit of the plates. They stack nicely and will wash in the dishwasher just fine.

I'm thinking about throwing some much larger plates and glazing them in a chocolate black/brown to go under these plates in a place setting. I also have two thrown bowls and used the same glazes and they look great. Can tumblers be next?
An earlier oval casserole with similar glazes was the springboard for the plates. To make this piece, I have an oval pattern (one of many rounds and ovals) cut out from plain paper with a notation about how many inches make up the circumference. I throw a bottomless rim on the wheel in the round, measure to the circumference plus a little more and allow that to stiffin up on the batt. When the bottom and the rim are about the same in dryness, I lift off the rim, carefully place it on top the oval base which has been scored and slipped and seal the rim to the base. Sometimes I have to cut the rim to make a match, but I would rather accomplish a match so that there are no breaks in the surface of the rim. I allow the piece to get to leather-hard, flip and trim the bottom by hand or roll and seal it with a little wallpaper seamroller. I buff the bottom to create a smoother surface, sign it and allow it to dry for the bisque firing.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Flying in Dreams

I had a flying dream the other night. I like them. They don't happen that often, but I always wake up content, refreshed and and happy with an added touch of a feeling of accomplishment. Don't ask me why.

Every time I have this dream, it's different; like a variation or continuing story with a new chapter. It must mean something. I have no clue what, though.

The first flying dreams began when I was a child. I could gingerly levitate but only if I didn't think about it. I would drift upward nearly holding my breath while I controled my mind to NOT think of flying or, I was convinced, I would surely fall. At that time, all flying occurred in the dreams as if it were night. I would lightly land at the windows of domed buildings or drift by skyscrapers enjoying the view and no one saw me.

Later in life, I would fly like an underwater swimmer, making the effort to move through the air, but lightly. Still, no people were involved, although I was 'swimming' over them silently, they couldn't see me, but I could see them. This was like a big secret I was enjoying. Sometimes the trees would toss in the wind and I would have to be careful about altitude. I might have to fight to keep from being swept upward and away.

When I learned to scuba, being underwater was like a flying dream. Traveling over coral was like coasting over landscapes. It gave me the same feeling of exhilaration and peace and a dizzy perspective of very high altitude and great distances if I let my imagination kick in.

And now my flying dreams include towns that look like European villages, ancient forests, people who see me and are friendly. Many times, I go back to the same place and the story continues. In last dream, I was talking to people and we were joking and laughing. And for the first time, I was conscious of a costume with light yellow wings that were attached to my arms from wrist to underarm and continued down each side to the waist. Midsummer Night's Dream comes to mind.

Thoughts about Artist's Statements

Disclaimer: The following is my opinion about artist's statements.
First of all, most artists don't need to read other artists' statements. Statements are not for other artists; most artists 'get it' before they ever read a word. And, it's not just artists who 'get it' either. A statement should only enhance the intuitive quality of art.

But---Since we live in a quantifying world, artists are sometimes required to write statements. It is not easy. I think a statement should answer these questions:

Are you unique?

Are you communicating?

Are you marketable?

Voice, style, whatever you want to call it -- that's the essence of an artist's work. It's what makes an artist an artist. No one else does what you do. You are distinct. Your work stands alone. You are identifiable. This is maybe the most difficult thing to put into words because 'in words' is not where the value resides--it is in the work.Teasing this out and converting it into words--what the work is--is one of the hardest things an artist has to do.

Does your work speak to the viewer? How do you want it to speak? Is it telling them about the uniqueness of your work? Is it your voice? Does the artist's statement help them understand your communication better? At some time, on some level, work must communicate. Even if you are only communicating with yourself, there's no getting around it. Art speaks.*

*conversation with my college art prof.:
"What kind of statement are you making?"
Me: "Statement? There isn't anything to say. It's a teapot."
Prof: "Okay."

Lets face it, no gallery, no show, no body is going to be interested in your work unless it sells. You finding your niche is the key. Marketable to academia/ marketable to the general public/ marketable to galleries/ marketable to connoisseurs/ whatever the target is, whoever is going to take an interest in your work, marketability has to come in somewhere in the mix. To non-artists, marketability sometimes equals validation. People buy art for many reasons. Because they love it. Because it is a good investment. Because it shows they have good taste. Because they want to learn more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Arfs & Crafts charity auction

Drove to Tacoma yesterday to give The Art Stop my contribution to Arfs and Crafts. I made several small, low cat food dishes with freehand, one-line drawings done with a brush. I love to do these drawings and make them appear to be done by a child. It really takes a lot of control to do it, funnily enough.

But the absolutely favorite one isn't a dish at all. It is a joke/noteholder/penholder. Actually you can put a post-it on it. And it could be hung on the wall--the pen stays in--but I doubt it will be used that way. (Click on the image to read it if you can't see it on your browser.)I hope it's in the running for the Silver Biscuit Award or Pick of the Litter prize. The show opens Thursday, April 19th and a silent auction runs through Saturday, April 21. The Art Stop is at 940 Broadway, Tacoma WA. (see earlier post about the companion dog program the proceeds are used for.)

Enough of this ---I must get back to more serious work. Have a kiln to unload this morning. Am I a lucky person or what?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Warning: Some people may find offensive.......or why I love email

Previously today, my friend said:
"Heard on (name withheld) support line Sunday night:
" 'All of our operators are helping other customers. Your call is very important to us. It's easier to reach our associates from nine to five, Monday through Friday. If you don't want to wait, you may prefer to hang up and call back during those times.' "
"Hold on", my friend says. "If I don't want to wait a few MINUTES, I should wait for more than 12 HOURS and call them again? That doesn't make any sense!"


"no no no no no,

'Wait', in this case, is a destination. It's that sucking hole of desolation in the murky dark recesses of Telephone Damnation that you are pitched into head-first to nurse your lurking feeling of total rejection and where that slimey little demon hiding at the back of your head finally sees his opportunity to skewer into your subconscious thoughts like: I know my mother really didn't love me. My sister was right, I am a butt pustule. My life means nuuuuuuthing.

Or (insert perkey voice here) You can hang up."