I've been chosen for an honor of sorts;
I've been asked to make the unisex restroom sign for Portland Pottery's new store and cafe.
Though it does amuse me, it's also an intriguing graphic design challenge: must be similar enough to the familiar symbol to be easily recognizable by patrons who might not share my sense of humor. So any inclination I might have to utilize other sorts of male/female icons has to be curbed to the audience. (Oh, I don't know...Marilyn Monroe and Jimmy Dean?...An iris and a jack-in-the-pulpit? A veiled pillbox and a fedora?) If the user has to think about what the sign means, the functio n is compromised. But on the other hand, why order handmade at all if I just cough up a dry stoneware rendering of the same restroom sign you can find at the turnpike stop?
Of my alternative designs, I liked this one best, but it shares the same difficulties that many others do: if it's simple enough for a single-glance recognition, it's almost by definition sort of sexist. (Including, I guess, the universal symbol.) Also, maybe the association of lips and toilets (in a cafe, no less) is not the best.
So I'm leaning towards a minor, possibly humorous variation on the sign we all recognize, but I don't want to be dull or disappointing. Note to self: ARRGH, fear of failure!! It's a restroom sign, just make something and be done with it!!!
I did say this was fun, didn't I?
Anyway, Karen, Cooper, Lisa, et al: that is what is taking me so long. I have the slab rolled, I have the border carved....and now I'm stumped. Never fear, however: I've decided to decide by the end of today, and have the image carved by the end of tomorrow.
I had a request in the comments of an earlier post to see how I made these twist-textured handles. They are in the top 10 Easiest Things in the World! I just rolled out a square slab (less than 1/4 inch thick), then used the corner of a small trimming tool to cut a pattern of diagonal lines in the surface. After that piece is bisqued. it can be used as a rolling-plate to make spiral textured handles, like so:
Two commenters on my last post gave me ideas to try next. I decided to combine them.
Barbara Rogers of Alchemy of Clay suggested holding one end of the wire stationary while pulling with the other, to get a different sort of mark. And commenter Schnee mentioned a video in which the foot is thrown first, and then the piece is cut off with the twisty wire, resulting in a fresh textured surface.
So I tried both. The upside-down throwing technique resulted in a flat shape, with no bowl-like depression (yeah, I know: Captain Obvious strikes again.) I haven't seen how this was addressed in the video, but I decided to put the still-wet pot over a hump mold. This mold is made of bisqued clay, so the plastic liner would not be necessary, except it has some carving on it that I wanted to avoid impressing into my plate.
Edit: Here is the video! Thanks, Lynn!
As I said in an earlier post, I was quite delighted with this year's Watershed Salad Days plates. (Here's mine, above.) The undulating surface particularly intrigues me. I can guess that is is made with a twisty bit of wire, but not sure precisely how.
And, after trying a few things, I am still not sure precisely how, as my efforts did not duplicate the effect, but here's a great thing about ceramics: everything you try will do something, and sometimes the somethings are as interesting as what you started out to do.
In this case, I centered a hump of clay as if I were going to make a plate. I used about 4 lbs, which is a lot of clay for what turned out to be a small plate, but I knew I would be cutting a lot of it away.
I used a single wire separated out from a length of steel cable, which you can buy at the hardware store to cut the hump, which was about an inch high, in half.
I peeled off the top half and set it aside.
Then I used a wooden rib to bend the sides upward into a plate shape.
This effect, while nice, was not quite what I was looking for, as it created more of a pie-plate shape, with a flat bottom, than a bowl. The undulations were also smaller and closer together, but that's due to the wire used. A stretched spring might give a deeper, wider wave.
So, next effort: I used my regular cut off wire on an oblong ball of clay, moving the wire in an undulating motion, and then stretched the resulting slab.
This seemed closer to the surface of the original. After stretching and the addition of handles, my result looked like this.
This technique was less successful when I tried to cut round or square slabs - the wire met more resistance and there was an exaggerated difference between the depth of the wave on the sides vs the middle.
If I had to bet, I'd wager that Adam Pauleck used a stretched spring to make a an original, which he then cast into a hump mold, and then threw a foot onto each bowl.
...a little piece of kiln wisdom I've been meaning to share.
Every so once-in-a-while, I make up a slurry of fire clay, and pour it into the burner channel. This helps prevent to molten soda that accumulates in the channel from eating into the hard brick that serves as the floor. I did this a few days ago, in preparation for the firing which is happening now.
I expected to fire yesterday, but when I made that plan, I had forgotten that the 18th is Doug's birthday. Having no work schedule also means having no scheduled days off - there's no such thing as a weekend in this house. But I made the decision to push back the firing by a day, because it's easy to let life become a never-ending series of work-related tasks. Though there's no doubt I love my work, we need some R&R, to. SO we took the day off to go panning for gold. Or rather, Doug panned for gold - I have no interest in microscopic flakes of mineral - and I took photos, splashed in the Swift River and sunbathed under the blue-blue sky. Here's Doug, panning away:
He didn't find any gold - that's why they call it "fishing," not "catching" -
but we had a great day anyway. Here's to spontaneous adventure!
...Who's got the button?
I do - dozens of them. Porcelain, in the whole range of soda color. I made small models of Sculpey, then took casts of those to make the button molds. But now that I've got them, what do I do with them?
Sell them, of course; I'm not a knitter or seamstress. I'm not sure how to price them. Though small they are kind of a lot of fiddly work: the tiny holes need to be drilled, they get dipped in flashing slip, and after the firing the backs need to be ground and polished, so there is no trace of rough texture. I've heard pricing suggestions between $3 and $10, so I thought I'd ask all of you: any knitters out there? How much is a fair price for handmade buttons?
Yesterday was Watershed's Annual Salad Days event. This year's Salad Days Artist Adam Paulek outdid himself; the plates were charming and witty and entirely delightful, incorporating what I think was a stretched-spring texture with decals referencing local sights and landmarks, in clever juxtapositions.
My visit was brief yesterday, I had my salad, shot some photos, and took off. (Sort of like a panda: Eats shoots and leaves. ) I'm not that good at parties, unless I am either giving them, or half in the bag - not an option, as I still had to drive home. I am actually quite shy in person, and I get overwhelmed by big crowds. This crowd was huge, since it is also Watershed's 25th anniversary year.
And it was hot and I had glazing to do.
I didn't catch the names of all the makers of wonderful pots that I photographed, so not all are attributed.
If I have time later today or tomorrow, after the kiln is loaded, I am going to try to acheive the sort of undulating surface you see on many of the Salad Days plates. I'll record my efforts here, so don't touch that dial!
The Watts car curse has struck again - on the way down to Portland for the First Friday Art Walk, our Jimmy overheated. We waited for it to cool, and added water - not that it needed it - and tried again, with the same result. Eventually we figured out that as long as we kept our speed under 45 MPH, we were okay, but by then it was too late to make it. (Plus, I didn't relish breaking down in, say, Bowdoinham, which is just outside of East Overshoe, if we were wrong.)
While we were sitting by the side of I-295, sweltering in the 90 degree heat, watching the minutes tick away as it became increasingly obvious that we were not going to make it to the event, we started to play a game I call Five Things that Don't Suck. It's pretty self-explanatory, and a fine game when some misfortune is playing itself out.
Doug's first Thing That Doesn't Suck was that we would now save the money we would have had to spend on dinner. He reached in his pocket for the twenty I'd given him to hold for that purpose...and it was gone. Somewhere in the efforts to revive the car, lying on his back in the breakdown lane or walking into the woods to find a stream or even a puddle for water, he had lost it.
And we just fell apart laughing, it was such a perfect insult-to-injury.
First Friday will happen next month. I was deeply disappointed to miss it, but there are so very many Things That Don't Suck, and we are blessed to be able to laugh at the things that do.
On the first Friday of every month, Portland, Maine hosts an Art Walk. Last month I attended with a friend, just to get a sense what to expect; today I am packing up the Jimmy and heading down to peddle my wares. There were many openings and a fine crowd, in addition to some unexpected sights, such as the Green Man, above.
If you are in Portland tonight, come see me! The Art Walk runs from 5-8. I don't know exactly where I'll set up - the spaces are first-come, first-served - but I expect it will be on Congress Street between Starbucks and MECA.
This time of year, my mind is very much a house divided: when I am in the studio, the garden tugs at my thoughts, and when I am in the garden, I often think of clay. This can be useful, as I often draw inspiration from things I see there, like this stalk of liatris buds. Couldn't you see that as the finial on a small lid?
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.