Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Excuses... excuses...

Work, band rehearsals and gigs, violent storms and torrential, seemingly non-stop, rain, a twice flooded basement/studio, the eruption of a volcano in our cul-de-sac (OK... I made up that last one).  Well you get the picture.  It's been crazy around here these past couple of weeks!  And as a result, I have managed to get very little done in the world of pottery.  c'est la vie
We have about a dozen potted tomato plants (plus various other vegetable seedlings) sitting around in cardboard boxes in our kitchen, just aching to be in the garden... if I only had a garden.  The back yard is squishy.  That's the best description I can come up with right now.  When we walk across it... gingerly tip-toe across the back yard on our way to what should be a garden, water squishes out from under each footstep.  We have had so much rain here in southern Missouri (all over the mid-west and southern states) this past week or so, that it has seriously been impossible to get anything done around the house, outside.  And you would rightly say... well then that should leave you plenty of time to get stuff done indoors; like making pottery.  Great!... but, no.  Eventually everything will settle down and the lazy days of summer will set in.  I hope.  But for now, it's non-stop.  So I guess this is my way of saying that my grand schemes of devoting several hours each week to making pottery, will just have to simmer on the back burner for a while.  I am going to have to put my foot down soon, and absolutely carve out time for these things that I want so badly to accomplish.  It really does come down to that, and it is frustrating that I have allowed myself to get caught up in so many distractions and other obligations.  But for now... I need to go downstairs and check on the sump pump, and make sure that the basement is drying out.  The need-to-do list is long.  But as soon as I check on the basement, I'm going to bed.  I'm exhausted.  Tomorrow's another day, and hey... they say the sun will be shining, and we can expect at least two rain-free days in a row!  How about that!  Of course, that also means that I will be mowing the lawn this evening... Hmmmmmm,  I may have to rent a hay baler.  At any rate, there may yet be hope for those tomato plants, and that long to-do list; and once I get my studio back in order (soon... very soon) I will be back making pottery and exploring a bunch of ideas that are just sitting in a sketch book right now.  I can't wait. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Glaze firing!

I picked up my glazed pots from L&R this afternoon.  There were several more in the load that I'm not showing here, but these stood out as I was taking them out of the box.  I was surprised at how much darker they all turned out, after the second firing.  After the bisque firing, the color of the two tumblers was a nice, warm terra cotta (as intended).  But after the second firing, those two look like they got pretty toasty.  The bowl is by far my favorite, and yet it would likely be considered a "second" if it was sitting on a professional potter's sale table.  But that's part of the learning process.  Try to make them better next time.  Overall, I'm fairly happy with the results, but ready to do more and try some different things.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thanks Ron... I needed that.

A quick scroll down will reveal a previous post which featured a lidded jar I made a few days ago.  I thought it turned out pretty good, and I was happy to share it with you... all two or three of you.  This evening it became just a jar (minus the lid) as you can see.  I had actually finished the sgraffito on it, and took it upstairs to show Pam.  On the short trip back downstairs, the lid tipped out... and down it went.  I watched it in slow motion as it tumbled toward the wooden stairs and crashed, breaking into half a dozen pieces.  Awwww man!  Not happy.  But then I stopped and told myself, it's just clay.  Then Pam added some encouragement by saying "you can make another lid."  Yes I can, and I will, afterall it was just a lid.
But it's hard sometimes to see something that you've put thought and effort into (including a cool, one-of-a-kind design carved into the underglaze!) literally crumble before your eyes.  I recalled something an experienced potter named Ron Philbeck wrote on his blog a while back, which seemed very appropriate:
What if the next week that student came back, unwrapped that pot from the plastic it had been under, turned around, tripped and dropped the pot?  Gone.  In an instant.  Is anything lost?  No.  Some time.  Some clay.  What to do?  Make another one.  And another one.
Making pottery is risk taking.  Everything about it.  Nothing is guaranteed. The bisque could over fire.  The glaze could run, or pinhole, or blister.  You may step on the speed pedal and there goes the pot flying across the room.  Drop the pot on the slip bucket.  Boom, it's gone.  If any of it was guaranteed then it would be boring and not worth doing.  Just like making perfect pots.

Thanks Ron
I have a link to Ron's pottery blog over on the righthand side.  Check it out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

a new one

Almost done with this one.  It turned out pretty good, I think.  I'll put an underglaze on it, and in a day or two, do some sgraffito designs as the last step before firing.  The little handle on the lid will be the beak of an owl.  At least that's the plan right now.  My first slab-built, lidded jar!  It's about 6 and a half inches tall with the lid.  By the time it's completely dry, and then fired, it will probably lose about half an inch.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Success... so far.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk at work (trying my best to appear interested in what I was doing) when my cellphone buzzed.  It was Ted from L&R calling about my bisque firing!  I was encouraged that he didn't say something like... "the pieces that survived the firing are ready to pick up".   Nope, everything fired very nicely... no exploded pottery, no cracks and no real surprises, other than the underglaze color on some of the pieces.  I was a happy guy on the drive home from Nixa; which is saying something considering what traffic is like between there and Springfield at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Before heading off to band rehearsal, I managed to get a few of the pieces coated with wax resist, in preparation for glazing.  Later last night I decided to go ahead and get some of the pieces glazed.  I know that glaze settles when it sits, but when I opened up the bucket of clear glaze I had mixed up a few days ago, that stuff had settled like a brick.  Funny.  It took me a good 10 minutes to get it worked up and thoroughly mixed again.  The results of my first solo glazing experience were iffy, I have to admit.  A few of them came out of the bucket just fine, but then some of them have dribbles and streaks.  They are covered, but just not as smoothly as I would have liked.  I don't know enough about how this particular glaze fires to know if the little flaws will disappear, or not.  I guess that's just another part of the learning process.  These kinds of issues would be so much easier to address if I had my own kiln, but that's just something I will have to deal with for the time being.  Here in the next day or two I will take these pots back down to L&R for the glaze firing.  It's all like little baby steps in the process, but it is progress!  It's a blast learning this stuff.  I wish I had more time to devote to it every day.  There are some mornings when I will go down to the basement to check on a piece that I have been working on, and I will look at the clock and know that I have to put it back under the plastic.  Time to go to work.  Dang.  So many ideas and things I want to do, but they will just have to wait.  Patience.  And that's fine.  They say everything will happen in it's own time.   Yup... that's what they say.     
I was going to take some pictures, but I figured I will just wait till they are done before I put them out here to see.     

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Going for a ride...

Well, I Just got back from dropping off my pots at L&R.  They said these would probably be done by the middle of next week.  I'm pretty sure that this is the most pottery I've ever had fired at one time... these three little boxes.  A close second would likely be when I was taking pottery classes here in town. That was when I was learning the basics of throwing on a wheel.  It was fun, and I learned a bit about handling clay, and how to get things done in a communal studio; but I equally enjoy slab building in my little basement studio... which is what all of these latest pots are.  It is an exciting process.  After I get them back, I will clear glaze them, and then take them back to L&R for the glaze firing.  All of these pots are made from a buff, mid-fire (cone 6) stoneware.  While still in the leather hard stage, I applied two to three coats of Amaco Velvet underglaze on most of them.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tomorrow is a big day!...

Tomorrow I take my first batch of pottery in for bisque firing!  I don't have a kiln... yet, so I will be boxing up my work and hauling them down to Nixa, to L & R Specialties, to be fired.  Hopefully everything will survive, and turn out as I imagined; I doubt it, but that's part of the fun... part of the adventure.  In a few days I will get to see what worked, and what didn't, and hear that wonderful ring that fired pottery makes, when tapped with a finger.  It's the little things that are exciting (ha)...
What you see here, in this rag-tag bunch of pots, are ideas.  Threads... some of which will be followed and developed, and some which will likely be abandoned.  But for now, it's so cool to have things that were just ideas and sketches in a notebook not so long ago, actually sitting in front of me, on a table.  And this is just the beginning.  :)