Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some of my Favorite Signitures

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
---Anais Nin

Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

Worrying about "Commercial vs. Artistic" is a complete waste of time.
---Hugh McLeod

Famous Last Words: "Hey, Watch THIS."
---the car guys

If you want it bad, you'll get it bad.
---Heard in an office I once toiled within.

All that glitters, glitters.

Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

Never wear anything that panics the cat.
--P.J. O'Rourke

Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true.
--Homer Simpson

And a few of my own: (Add your own rim-shots.)

INTPs - Remember, over-analysis IS our Job.

Forget a facelift. I want a TRANSPLANT.

On This Day In History:
The Beetles stole Little Richard's "WOOOOO!"

Help! I'm drowning in a stream of consciousness.

The older I get, the more I think 'Happiness' is a decision.

Id ergo ego
Why be vain when you can just be conceited-----it's a lot less work.

Life isn't worth living unless you scare yourself once in a while.

It's my life, so it had better be good.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Yet More Terra Cotta

I don't know exactly what to call this piece. "Tile Bowl"? "Tray Bowl"? I don't think I've ever seen a piece of clay with this particular combination of pieces.......but that's the joy of being a clay engineer.......inventing new forms.

This piece has a black underglaze decoration and a transparent glaze. I like the primitive look about it. The design is sorta' reminiscent of ancient Ainu (native people of Japan) designs. I was thinking along the lines of that and a bit like the Western Pacific tattoos or modern arm tattoos. Maybe I'll make "Tattoo Pots". huh? Didn't want to go overboard, though, and wanted to only enhance the form.

When I repeat this form, and if I use terra cotta, I'm planning to burnish the surface to see if there is a difference in the whole look of the clay. I'll make my own slump mold with this piece in mind and maybe even engineer in the tray form when I make it so that the whole process will go faster.

I used a plaster block mold that had a bowl indentation in the middle. First, I made the bowl, then formed the spout and attached it. Then I made the tile from a slab of clay and pinched and added the feet. The beauty of using the mold is that the bottom of the bowl and the indentation of the tray marry perfectly because it is using the same curve.

Here's it's ugly cousin. Remember this from last September?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Old Toys

The other day I bought an only-used-one-time; didn't-like-it almost-new breadmaking machine for 10 bucks.

(Look at this baby. Bet you could knock off a few loaves with that. But that's not what I bought, more's the pity.)

Now, I've never had a breadmachine before. Years ago I made all the bread we ate when our kids were small. I have a cherished recipe for oatmeal bread and another for Swedish bread which I used to churn out with great alleau*

*Not a French word? Sounds good. It Should be a French word! Definition: Accomplishing a complicated action with dash and style; "wit won han behind ma baaaaak."

Then I got the bread machine. . . . . . and I discovered I CAN'T MAKE BREAD.

What could be wrong? I read the directions. I measured everything. I threw in the stuff in the proper order. I turned it on.

Result: Brick. Actually worse than that. A brick that caved in on itself.

Okay, okay. I used regular all-purpose flour. But I got the fast rise yeast.

Read the book again.

Another brick, only this time too salty.

Read the book again.

Added an egg.

Another brick. Made croutons.

Searched the book. Searched the web. . . . . . . .

Remembered I'm not living at sea level. AH-HA!
Reduced the water. Reduced the yeast.

Voi-la! Bread!

I'm afraid I'm enjoying this too much.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Finished Robot Tiles

The Robot tiles are finished

After the bisque firing, I applied a ceramic tile sealer over the surface.

They are now keeping an eye on that Snake Plate hanging on the opposite wall in the entryway.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Snake on a Plate

So here's the finished product of the snake plate. It is now hanging on the wall in the entryway.

When I pass it, I think about what I've learned lately about snakes and the Southwest.

It seems that snakes have a mixed reputation among the native people and I haven't come to understand it fully yet. It depends upon which group you're talking to.

Recently, I went to an Indian Market at the Arizona State Museum and while there, asked a Navajo artist about snakes in art.

The news wasn't good. I gather that snakes are not well thought of.

I was reading Halo of the Sun and the author writes that while learning Navajo rug weaving, she put a snake into the first rug she wove. There was much worrying about the fact that it could bring her bad luck. When she placed two roadrunners above the snake at the top of the rug, it seemed to neutralize or at least keep the snake in check.

I also read in the same book about the custom of weaving a pathway with an opening design along the side of a rug to 'free' the design and release it to be used again.

Now, the design of my snake is within many lines and bars. So I'm hoping that will keep it held inbounds and that it can only reside there and not find a pathway out. It cannot call other snakes in. There is much to learn here.

We'll see.

Oh, and by the way. Never speak to a snake.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Easiest Photo Set-Up --- Ever

A chair, a roll of pro photographer's neutral grey background paper. Notice I have a thick pastel drawing pad to insure the seat is solid and level.

No clamps, no tape, just roll it out. Situate the chair to get the best natural sunlight.

Get a solid place to sit and steady the camera. Place the work gingerly in the center and shoot.

I use a Canon PowerShot SD500 with a 3x zoom lens.

For really serious photos, I use the set-up I have in my basement where there is absolutely no ambient light, a tungston light hung from the ceiling, a large paper sweep that comes from the ceiling to a tabletop. I bounce light back onto the base of the piece using a folded piece of foamcore or shiny gold card stock if the light needs a little warming.

That kind of photo set-up is how you get the really black top of the shot with the bright mid background and light grey surface where the piece sits, as shown in this shot.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Boxes and Beads

From time to time, I've made handmade boxes cutting the parts out of hard greyboard and covering them with luscious papers.

The first one is designed to hold several sizes of the small double-pointed knitting needles that are used for making socks. I wanted to keep the needles sorted since at this size, it's difficult to see the numbers and eventually over time with use, the numbers tend to be worn off. Also, I wanted to be able to pick the needles out of the container easily, so by tipping the box forward, the needles all fall to the front, still in their individual compartments and easily accessible. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the needles in the drawer, but they are in small compartments that have a 'bridge' holding them in.

The rope is rafia strands, twisted in the technique used by Japanese to make rice straw rope.

The bead. Ah, the beads. Believe it or not, in the first box shown, the bead is hollow. It is extremely light, yet it is strong because it is made out of porcelain from a two-part plaster mold. I took a large marble and poured wet plaster into a small, rather tall box. As it was beginning to set up, I placed a small child's ball which had a generous coating of liquid soap all over it into the plaster half-way. After the plaster set up and cured well, I applied a good coating of liquid soap to the plaster. I mixed more plaster and poured it into the box, let it cure and then removed all the cardboard. Voila! a square two-part mold. To make the bead, I poured liquid porcelain into both halves, let them set up enough to very carefully remove them and join the center together to form the whole bead. (I learned later I could make a two-part mold with a pour hole, but I'm sure it would have been just as much work as the two halves technique.) Handling beads this way certainly takes a light touch!

This bead is only fired to bisque range. After the clay was set up and was easier to handle, I carved out small openings and made the string hole. The porcelain here is colored with a stain and made in the same way Wedgewood and Minton made wares using liquid slip in white in a technique called pate sur pate (paste over paste).

I wrote a short article for Studio Potter about the process and included several photos of a few of this and other beads.

The box pictured here is a lesson in how to make a sliding drawer. The funny thing is, you make the drawer; THEN construct the box around it. Trickey. This bead is a hand-formed and glazed with a transparent glaze.

The last box is one made for my sister. (A purchased bead tops off the box.) This idea is a box made like a perfume box with a top that slides upwards. It is also a sock knitting needle container and the needles fall forward and fan out when the top is opened.. You can't see it in this photo, but the box has 6 compartments--three on one side and three on the back. If I make this design again, I would incorporate a tiny draw-string to corral the needles before sliding the lid back on. Or, make little sliding compartments that could be pulled up to select the right needles. I would put the needle size numbers on the top so it would be easy to pick the size.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I heard something yesterday that just reached right into my skull and swiveled my brain.

I was talking to my local clay supplier and at the same time fitting plugs into the bottoms of a salt and pepper set when she said, "The holes don't shrink, you know, between when you make the piece and when you finish firing it."

"Whaaaaaa?" Brain said.

"Whaaaaa?" Mouth said.

"Yes. The hole doesn't get smaller; the clay shrinks, but the hole stays the same."

"Uaaaaggggg, Whaaaa?" Brain said.

Jeanette said to Brain,
"Call up that mental image of the hole in the bottom of the salt shaker.
Run the footage of the hole in bisque firing.
See the clay shrinking.
See the hole stay the same.
Run glaze firing footage.
Ask yourself, How can the hole shrink with glaze all over it?
(Milllisecond compiling)
Huh...... She must be right."

By golly, she must be right. I can't visualize the clay gathering up in the firing and shrinking the hole. I can visualize the clay platelets solidifying and the spaces between them changing and getting compressed or with glaze flowing over them, but I can't see them binding together to draw a hole up smaller.

Message to Brain:
Keep track of holes in things and measure after each firing to see if this is true.
File under Puzzle Section in Drawer Re: Screw-on lids and other mysteries. Could have a bearing on figuring out how to make these.

Que music from "Brazil".

Note: If I ever got locked up in stir, I could easily fill my time thinking about stuff like this.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oil & Vinegar

Made on the wheel with Coleman Porcelain cone 10 clay. The glaze is black (slightly corrupted) overlapping an Ohata white.

Note: Care must always be taken when storing vinegar in a glazed container. Actually, it's probably not a very good idea unless you know the liner glaze is very stable and has no elements that could leach out into the vinegar. Also the vinegar's acid will discolor the finish.

The smaller container will probably not be used for vinegar--I prefer to store vinegar in glass. That's why I won't buy vinegar packaged in plastic bottles. I'll search for a cool looking glass container that I can stick the cork dispenser into.

I love making my own fresh salad dressing: One Serving

1-2 teaspoons sugar/honey/molasses. to taste
2 T. Japanese Rice Vinegar
4 T. good quality olive oil
Herbs and other additions, see below.

Mix sugar and vinegar first until sugar dissolves. Add olive oil and blend.

You can add any of the following to vary the mix:

Basil (my favorite)
Soy Sauce
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Italian herbs