Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buying Handmade

I just found this great lamp. I walked into the used furniture place and it screamed my name the minute my foot was inside the door.

I'm quite aware of why this happened. I recognized it as a woven backpack from the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I have one already only it's bigger. I bought it in a street market in Bagio.

It's about 50% bigger and I can actually wear it. The backpacks are made by the indigenous tribes. They are a fascinating people to look at: tiny, lean, fine features.

Anyway, it had crossed my mind to make a lamp out of the basket, but I just couldn't bring myself to alter it in any way. So now, it can be a companion to the lamp.

Having made a few baskets myself, I have a weakness for any that are well made. The more knowledge you have of something, the more you can appreciate it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Terra Sig

Terra Sigliata, meaning sealed earth, is a pot finish as old as clay. It's really clay on clay, a slip made with a fine-grained mix of earth and water. The mix is allowed to settle out until only the top layer with the finest grains of clay remains.

I've only done a couple of terra-sig pieces and that was in a workshop using gas reduction. It was interesting,

The blue flashes on this tile were the result of an application of a final layer made up of a mix of chicken feed and chicken poop. Who knew?

After the tile came out of the kiln, I applied brush strokes of black paint.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And now for something completely different......

Here's a fruitcake your friends won't "re-gift" or use as a doorstop.

Every year I bake it for my children's families and ourselves. It's not the kind you make in October and keep pouring the Napoleon brandy into every so often, although you can do this if you want.

It all started because I can't eat the multi-colored citron you find in stores at this time of year. They are all preserved with sulfur dioxide. I'm allergic to that. It gives me migraine.

A few years ago, I discovered non-sulfide mango spears. I had experimented with substituting dates, prunes and nuts, apples. They were all good, but not quite the texture I was looking for. So, one year I put in the chopped mango and Voila! --perfect fruitcake.

So here it is.

I don't give this recipe to just anyone, mind.

Dark Fruitcake

3 c. raisins
6 oz. orange juice concentrate, undiluted
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. sugar
1 link (1/2 c.) butter
3 eggs
1 1/4c. flour
1/4 t. soda
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, coriander, ginger and allspice
1 c. diced, dried papaya

In a saucepan, combine orange juice, molasses and raisins and heat until bubbly. Simmer 5 minutes and cool.

In a bowl or mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs.

In another large bowl, sift dry ingredients. Add butter, egg, sugar mix and blend. Add nuts and then citron/molasses/orange juice mix. Blend all well and pour into:

2 loaf pans, greased and floured, or one large tube pan.

Place in the lowest shelf of the oven and bake at 275 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. --About 1 hr. for tube pan, 45 minutes for the loaf pans.

Cool and put in air-tight container (add brandy if you choose after 1 day) or wrap in plastic wrap until ready to eat.

It smells heavenly while baking; is better after one day (if you can wait that long!)

My Gift to You! Merry Christmas

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Gilded Bowl

Is it utilitarian? Does it matter?

I suppose you could put fruit inside. Or pine cones. Or pot puree.

But why would you?

It's just nice the way it is.

So why do some artists feel they must justify what they make?
Big question. It comes up some times at shows. I must admit, I usually give the questioner a quizzical look because I just don't think that way. If something is nice, beautiful, pleasing, that's enough excuse to exist.

This large bowl is made of terra cotta. The gilding inside is fake gold. I did a workshop demonstrating the gilding technique and the bowl has been hanging around for several years. I'm giving it the time-test, I suppose. I thought it would fade with age and be a transient thing. It hasn't.

I never tire of looking at it; the contrast between the earthy, semi-rough exterior with the glory of the interior.

Think I can do another one. Now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Late-Breaking News

Don't you just love it when the same old newscast comes on as LATE-BREAKING NEWS!!!



I got a message last week that my little terra-cotta teapot photo will be included in the PR postcard for the Texas Teapot Tournament in Houston, Jan. 2010.


White Bowl

I just finished photographing a bowl called "Contemplation".

It's a medium-sized bowl, 9 inches in diameter, 4 1/4 inches tall and trimmed so there is a little 'well' in the bottom of the foot. Inside the well are three perfect spheres. You can imagine them rolling around and around.

The design is my interpretation of what I do when I concentrate.

I try to open my mind up and make it totally blank, totally open to allow whatever I'm seeking to flow in.

Agnes Martin, a painter, said, "I paint with my back to the world." In other words, blocking out all of the press of the every-day.

In order for inspiration to come, there must be a completely open, blank space for it to come into.

Writers talk about "A book writing itself. Or the characters taking the story and going with it."

I'm fascinated by what goes on when an artist is in this suspended space; this bubble where the mind, eye, hand and process dominate above all other things. A kind of meditation with action. A state of being and doing. A convergence of the You of you with another power.

There are times when I feel like a pot makes itself while I just hold it.

Makes my head spin with wonder.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clay "Riffs"

A "Riff" is a musician's variation or interpretation of a phrase or composition of music. Exploring. Expanding. Making musical expansions or comments.

A "Riff" to a comedian is taking an idea and pushing it until it spins off into something hilarious.

Steven Wright: "The other day I got my house key and car key confused; put the car key in the house lock. It started right up.
So I jumped in and drove it around the block. A cop tried to get me to pull over.
I put my head out the window and yelled: "Get outta my yard!"

That's really riffing.

"Riffing Clay" is doing the very same thing.

Well, it may not be Exactly hilarious, but you know what I mean.

I like to take a basic form and push it. Not only does it bring a new form idea into being, it gives new life to it.
Here's a basic rectangular slab-rolled baking dish that was oooched into a flowing form. (I'm sure oooched is a verb.)

Granted, I did not start with a square base--more of an old TV screen shape; oblong with rounded corners. I measured the circumference of the base with a piece of string, then cut out the side from one very long piece of slabbed clay. (only one join) I attach walls with vinegar water, slathered on with a brush, and compressed the wall base into the floor. This must be done with a very light, form-encouraging touch. Otherwise, the wall will be weakened and not stand up well.

I secure the inside wall at the base by using a clay worm, compress and round and smooth the inside join. Then I manipulate the walls. I might form a slight outward bulge at the bottom; a slight outward flare at the upper rim.

A turntable is a good thing to have here. You can work on the walls and easily check how the whole form looks as you manipulate it. I sometimes add clay to create an interest area. Whatever 'feels' like it's working. Depending on how the clay is acting, I either work while it is soft, or wait until it firms up before 'riffing' it. Every piece is different. It is very important for a potter to cultivate a light, clay-sympathetic touch that builds strength into the clay, and not weaken or overwork it.

*Note: Riffed pieces are sometimes really difficult to photograph.

Watch and feel the piece until it has begun to dance to your eye. Knowing when to stop is also very important.