Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vase Sets

One of a potter's greatest challenges is making a piece to replace a beloved favorite piece. When I got a phone message from Real Mother Goose that a customer had broken their favorite 10.5" tall dancing vase and wanted a replacement, I was glad the gallery person could give me more detail than that. "About 2" diameter top, base is 4" x 5" oval and it's the greenish-blue rather than the blue-blue." In the end we decided I better make several from which the customer could chose the one he thought was closest to his broken piece. (Wish it had been wisked away rather than being a sad reminder of the accident and to which the new piece will be compared.)

Normally when I'm making these pieces a ruler never comes into the picture; I just cut them out and put them together as whim would have it. Today I got it out the ruler and made allowances for 10-12% shrinkage and then a little more on one (a little less on a couple) to try and get the right height. Trouble is, I've never done my own shrinkage test on this clay so will have to go with the manufacturer's shrinkage percentage on this... Hope customer is not a stickler.

Here is the set of today's vases, all slightly different poses, opening sizes and heights. The clay was wetter than I like to work with it so there were more than a few finger marks to rib out. All together they make a nice still life with just enough off-kilter in them to make it interesting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lefty or Righty?

I know it's hard to tell on this slightly fuzzy photo, but one is a lefty mug and one is a righty. The handles were applied with a slightly larger opening on one side or the other to facilitate being held in different hands. Me, I'm a righty and often a one finger person at that, but the heavier the mug the more fingers are needed. I've tried to make these mugs be light enough for a full cup-o-beverage, but still feel substantial and stable. Some are one finger handles and others at least two. If you're a three finger or whole hand person my mugs will probably not feel right to you. Some of my earlier handbuilt mugs could've been door stops, but I was compensating for the disturbingly thin-feeling of some handbuilt mugs.

After many years of mug making I feel like mine are just beginning to get there...

How Firsts turn into Seconds

Yesterday's firing turned out some super seconds for bargain hunters at next spring's Garden Sale, but of course, that wasn't my intent. Slightly muddy-looking glazes, (that one bad burner?!?) and over reduced colors. Bubbled up glaze two pieces--different places in the kiln which is unusual. One glaze too thin so application of it not thick enough for desired results on any of the pieces I used it. Gunk on kiln shelves bungling up the feet of one of the "good pieces." Pieces fired for a friend running on to one of the new shelves.

And the capper: Arts Center Reliquary that was already making me nervous it was so odd looking was a real YUCK, so no photos of that. I'm trying a reglaze/refire of it that is sure to make it worse, or may do what I hope and be better...we'll see.

Is it possible to turn around make new ones for approaching deadlines in the limited time I have? I guess I'll make an attempt and see how it goes.

PHOTOS: Above--Mugs getting water tested. $20 ea. Below--One set of Stacking bowls that look nice but are light on the glaze drips on the outside.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Firing Fun

It always amazes me that ones internal alarm clock seems to function all too well sometimes. The past month I've had an abundance of adrenaline due to all the "get-up and Go" I've had to do with the festival. This past weekend was the first in awhile that I could've slept in and just taken it slow and easy in the mornings, but nooo. Dogs and that internal alarm had me up and going anyways.

This morning the I.A. came in handy as a 3:30 am wake up was timed just right for cranking up the gas on the kiln so it would be hitting Cone 010 at 6:30 for regular wake-up time. Sure enough 6:30 am saw the first cones starting to soften and bend both top and bottom. Damper in, gassy smell and some flame out the bottom peep and back to bed until the hounds convinced me it was time for their breakfast.

The kiln has changed in the way it fires. It never used to get so warm on the bottom in the first few hours of the firing. One spot in the kiln seems a little more reduced, too, and no manner of burner/orifice cleaning has seemed to do anything. Infrequency of firings keeps me from truly problem solving this as I forgot all about it until this morning seeing that that burner was the only one without nice blue flame (orange).

Also, I had hoped the storm might come in bringing a little moisture but this clear blue sky may bring some turbulence and unevenness as the day progresses. So far so good.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Neptune's Folly

Have I created work only another potter could love?

Here are my two Sitka sculptures completed -- Another case of expectations and the finished pieces colliding instead matching up...

I wanted these to have a darker finish so I did a heavier layer of black underneath the top layers. This created even more bubbles, pitting and leathery look of the multi-layers. Some of it looks positively lava-like.

When finishing the greenware I left surform marks and a few deeper gouges for glaze to pool into when applied, and stay lodged when everything is sanded. As I sanded away between bisque and high fire I tried to do it strategically: leaving enough top layer glaze to accentuate the twist, but also get down to the base layers for the patterns to show. Even with all the "control" I could muster, during the firing the kiln just said, "Hey, let's bubble and burn." Honestly, I don't know how I got what I did on two pieces in a row... (Changes in the glaze formulas?)

I alternate between thinking these are swell and wishing I'd used even more restraint.
Here's to More is Better, and hope that someone out there agrees with me.