Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oven Baker

I'm working on this porcelain oval oven baker. I had to bring this home from the Rec Center so that I could watch it because everything was made at different times and I'm not too sure how well it will dry......The rim was thrown on the wheel first. Just the bottom....and allowed to sit under plastic for a few days to firm up. Then I threw a round bottom, let it firm up a bit and lifted the rim from the drying batt, scored the bottom and shaped an oval form. I trimmed the bottom with a needle tool into the oval shape, rolled worms and placed them in the inner join of the rim and bottom and super-slowly rotated the wheel while running my finger at the join to firm it up. I didn't cut the bottom off the bat, but brought it home so that I could watch it as it firmed up.

(I also cut out a newspaper template in an oval form to check the trueness of the shape and tweaked the base and rim to correct it slightly.)

After a couple of days, I made the handles and after scoring everything, attached them to the rim. These are made by cutting a paper pattern and hand-forming the handles. It's a shape I developed a few years ago and it is hollow. After the clay got a little firmer, I use a needle tool to stick them several times on the underside to allow air inside the form.

The next morning, both handles had developed cracks between the curly edges and the bulbus part. I've never used paperclay before, but mixed up a batch and repaired the cracks. Then I carefully inverted the baker onto the batt so that it rested on the handles and wrapped it up again. ("Gluing without pressure is a waste of time." I could hear my father saying.) The repair worked! Or at least the cracks disappeared.

As in everything clay, the proof will be in the baking. This piece will be ready for the kiln next week, I hope.

Unfortunately, I did not make two.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making TWO instead of ONE

Why, oh why don't I think to make TWO of everything?

Good reasons for making TWO:

1. Insurance Factor : ONE could get bumped, explode in the kiln, have glaze acne, develop a fatal crack, get dropped on the concrete floor or have any number of things happen along the way from the wet clay to finished-thing-out-of-the-kiln.

2. Other Insurance Factor : Making TWO can cut the odds of the above happening by 50%. (Well, it sounds good.)

3. Thing number TWO might actually be better than thing number ONE.

4. I would more likely to sell ONE if I had TWO.

5. I would be more likely to remember ONE if had made TWO; then I could even make ANOTHER.

6. When the Gods of Museums and Galleries approach me for my retrospective Book, One-(Wo)Man Show, Honors Award, or Grand Prize, I would still have in my possession ONE example of my works.

Note to self: Print MAKE TWO on every page of my clay journal. (Insert forehead smack here)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Terra Cotta

Two weeks ago, I made this little round-bottomed bowl using a plaster mold and added a spout to it. I thought about making a clay spoon to rest in the curve of the spout, but instead decided to make the bowl more 'important' by putting it on a rounded pedestal. Today I leveled the feet of the base and drew test lines to see where I would like to put some black underglaze. I was originally thinking about making the whole bottom of the bowl black, but when I looked at it on the base, I decided to change the decoration to just strong lines on both. Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the doing of it that I forgot to take any more pictures!

I did, however, take a few pictures of the large platter I've been working on. Here's the beginning of the snake plate design:
I've had this in my designs/doodle notebook for years.

**I generated some pages for the design notebook by drawing pages with blank circles and curved oblong forms to draw design ideas in--ready-made basic forms drawn with Superpaint. Loved that old program. I did a lot of graphic design with it. **

I did create a commissioned bronze plaque from this design idea. But I didn't go much farther with it because in the Pacific Northwest, snakes are taboo. I doubt I could sell this plate there. But in the Southwest, it's a different story. Having grown up in Missouri, I learned my how-to-identify-a-poisonous-snake lessons early and don't really have a dislike of snakes.

They have been revered as keepers of knowledge in some ancient cultures. At the bottom of a temple excavation in Bahrain of the Dilman culture which was the contemporary of Babylon, there was discovered a fragile skeleton of a snake curled around a perfectly round rock and tucked neatly into a delicately woven basket. The interesting thing is, that whole idea is shared with ancient Chinese culture as well. ( Just thought you'd like to know that little brain tickle.)

I was lucky enough to be able to go down into this particular dig when we lived in Bahrain in the early 1970's.

Anyway. Here's the translated snake from an oval form to a round one using 3 coats of black underglaze on greenware. It's ready for the bisque kiln and then I'm planning to glaze it with a non-shiny transparent glaze, letting the clay show through.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Handbuild Salt & Peppers

I'm drying these handbuilt shakers at home. They're made of terra cotta, freely cut out and constructed. I brought them home because I didn't have a good pattern for the cork holes for the bottom. So now they're rounded up and are sitting on my kitchen counter so that I can look at them and decide how to glaze them. This is foreign territory for me, having never worked with this clay. I slabbed the clay out, then flung it on a table top until it began to develop a texture. I like the look of it and would like to preserve the surface. They are interesting to hold. It's a guess as to the size of the holes, not knowing how much this clay will shrink in firing.

I'm tempted to use a black underglaze and paint a strong line down each side seam, make the base and feet black and maybe the pouring part. I'll either do it in class on Tuesday or drive across town today to the supply store and pick some underglaze up along with a few other things to work with.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Robot Jag

So, I'm sitting around this Sunday thinking about what I'll do with terra cotta clay and I remembered a project I had mentally shelved about doing robot tile/sculpture/drawings--just playing around with the sterotyped robot image in antique tin toys from Japan, the cliche robot as in Lost in Space or the one that scared the hell out of me as a kid in "The Day the Earth Stood Still." R2D2 and C3PO, the modern Japanese cartoon robots--all of that.

I began to doodle while watching the pro football playoff game between the Colts and the Giants. 3 or 4 pages later of sketches of robots and the game is over. I didn't see or hear one bit of it even though I was sitting in my kitchen sketching away on the bar and the TV is right there just churning away. I was in Robot World. Funny about that.

I begin with the most conservative form. The square headed, square bodied robot and move on from there tweeking the image and playing with 'hands', arms and legs, dials and antenna.

The ideas come fast and thick and I have to sketch these guys quickly in order to get them all down. The sketches are rough, but enough to make notes that can be translated into more detailed drawings and then converted onto tile with an undercoat brush rendering. Some are influenced by Clayton Bailey, ( a master maker of full-sized metal robots, references to Star Wars, even modernistic dive suits, a memory of a precursor to G.I. Joe named Major Matt Mason. I remembered the Popular Science magazines my Dad read. I even have a picture of an old streamlined Electrolux vacuum cleaner that came in handy....

Anyway, when ideas start to flow, you'd better be there with a bucket--it's a rare and wonderful time when it happens.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Year; New Clay

Today I went to my first class at the local community center. It's rather a strange feeling to be sitting in a classroom. I'm there just because I don't have any of my studio equipment here and haven't decided whether to get a wheel and a kiln and work out of the garage. Space is tight. So, for the time being, I'm in a low-fire hand building class and a cone 10 wheel class which meets day after tomorrow.

I've never worked with terra cotta before, but I found that this particular clay develops a very interesting texture if it is slabbed, then flung out on a canvas covered table top, turned and flung out again. I made a couple of three-sided salt/pepper shakers on pointy feet.

Also will experiment with a press-molded plate form, a little sculptured mouse and a plaster bowl form. We'll see how the clay reacts.

Pictures to follow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's UN-Resolutions or How to Feel Miserable as an Artist

This list has been floating on my computer desktop for several months. I can't remember where I first saw it, but it's a good reminder (with a tad of editing) about not letting negative thoughts invade the creative flow:


1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.

2. Base the success of your entire career on one project.

3. Stick to what you know.

4. Undervalue your expertise.

5. Let money dictate what you do.

6. Bow to societal pressures.

7. Only do work your family would love.

8. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner/patron/investor asks.

9. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals to be accomplished by tomorrow.

10. Expect to become famous/rich/understood.

Now I don't like negative thinking. It sucks the life out of things, kills incentive, undermines your attitude, and blocks progress. So I find the above list a bit of a downer. I like to think of art as a continual process.

It's my observation that art is always moving, changing, progressing. I want to explore and constantly change my work. New thoughts, new ways of doing things, new discoveries--that's the exciting thing about art. An artist makes new discoveries all the time. It's part of the doing of it.

Sometimes it takes the form of a big loop. Sometimes I make something and go on to the next step in developing a surface treatment or shape or technique. But sometimes I go back to where I started and try the same idea again, only going in another direction or using another technique. The possibilities are truly endless.

So here's to 2008! May it be a wonderful year filled with work and discovery.