Friday, February 28, 2014

Half-Assed and Homemade: The Screenprinting Edition

Ahh, Pinterest! What did we do before you? I found this technique there. It was really intended for screen printing t-shirts, but it seems to me it would work well for slip transfer also, especially because the resulting screen is fabric, which you could wrap around a three-dimensional form.

I used an old sheer curtain, which had already suffered from too much cat attention, stretched over a small embroidery hoop. The hoops are like a dollar and a half at AC Moore. While you are there, pick up some Mod Podge and a foam brush; then go next door to Staples and grab some shipping labels. I got 5163s, a little bit bigger than business cards, but they make larger ones, up to full sheets, if you have a bigger image in mind.

Draw, the cut your shape out of a shipping label. Peel off the back, and stick the shape to the sheer fabric, on the "up" side of the hoop. Press the edges down carefully; if they aren't thoroughly stuck down, your shape will have an irregular edge.

With a foam brush, paint the Mod Podge onto the screen, brushing outwards from the sticky label. I applied it pretty thickly. Note: Do not apply the Mod Podge all the way out to the frame, or onto the frame itself. Turns out Mod Podge is sorta just Elmer's Glue in a snazzier jar! It will stick the screen to the frame pretty securely. Yeah, now ask me how I know that...

Hold the frame up to the light before removing the sticky label to see any places that you missed.

While the Mod Podge is still wet, peel off the sticker. I found a needle tool helpful here. It will take a long while for the screen to dry; at least overnight. Store it horizontally! Bad things happen otherwise.

Once it's dry, remove it from the frame and cut it to a convenient size.

Use it by pressing the fabric to the clay surface. Press firmly to stick it to the damp surface. (Here I used a different stencil I had made earlier, as the first one was not quite ready yet. ) A pony roller helped to make sure it was well stuck.

With a brush, press your colored slip (or maybe glaze? Haven't tried that. Somebody try it and get back to me) through the screen to make your image.

The result is a sharper image than one would get with a cut sponge, but softer than a decal. It worked on vertical surfaces also.

A note: Mod Podge is not waterproof, though it is water resistant. Rinse your screen carefully between uses, and immediately when you are done with it, so you don't have to scrub.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Kiln Sitting Poem

Waiting for the cones to fall
Gives me time to think
The world is big and I am small
And I could use a drink.

Inside the kiln the flames they roar.
The glazes flux and flow.
And I, outside, begin to snore
Before I even know

That I'm asleep. But I must be
Because when I'm awak-ed
People tend to notice me
If I'm in public, naked.

Or anyway, I think they would,
Not that I would know!
I guess that now I prob'ly should
Go check the peephole's glow.

Those bloody cones, like soldiers, they.
Standing straight and tall.
When, o when, I sit and pray
Will those fuckers fall?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Yesterday was a day of note here at Fine Mess Pottery, because the first of the spring orders arrived. I received an order from the veterinarian for whom I make the cat cremation urns - which is not, strictly speaking, a seasonal order, but welcome nonetheless. Shortly thereafter, I got a message from Clare at Monkitree: Sugar bowls! Butterdishes, garlic keepers, mugs! Oh, and bring me anything wonderful that you think I ought to see!

I'm paraphrasing. But two orders in one day: good news indeed! Especially because yesterday morning I drove out the The Artisan's Barn to pick up my work for the last time; Barbara, the proprietor, has had enough. Bummer.

Yesterday was also the first day in ages that we had bright sunshine long enough to photograph pots, in my stone-knives-and-bearskins arrangement in my living room that requires actual sunshine as lighting. So I stopped everything to take some shots.

And, lastly, I taught a make up class for one that was cancelled due to snow. As with many make up classes, it was lightly attended - people often choose their class times because it's the only time during the week that works for them.  The folks who were there were a fun and dedicated group, and we got to spread out a little. I did a demo for them on making a homemade mini silk-screen for slip imagery, which I've written half a blog post about; just need to see the results to finish it.

Today was webwork and trimming platters. Remember in college, when you felt like studying for one class, but you really should have been studying for another, because there was a test tomorrow? So you ended up not studying for either. (Oh wait. That wasn't you. That was me.) I learned from that experience! I really should have been preparing the kiln for the bisque, and finishing the cat urns, but I didn't feel like it. It's chilly in here, because we are trying to make the last few drops of oil stretch until the beginning of March, and I just didn't feel like getting my hands wet. I felt like staying in bed and  processing the shots I took yesterday, and posting them in the pottery shop. I've had a little flurry of web sales, so I needed to replace a few images anyway. So I did that. Here are the new links:

Salt and Pepper Shakers
Porcelain Buttons
Oribe/Bauer Casserole
Tenmoku Mug
I also trimmed the platters I threw the other day, compressed the hello out of them, and re-covered them to dry slowlyslowlyslowly.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow I am back in class with my Handbuilders in the morning and my Beginners in the evening. And in between, lunch with Mom and a trip to the gym!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Good Day for Platters

I don't really make platters. I mean, I don't not make platters; I'm not morally opposed to platters. But they are messy to make, slinging a lot of slurry around, and they have a really high loss rate due to warping, cracking, and big bubbly blobs of soda glaze landing on them. (Anything wide is at greater risk of big bubbly blobs.)

But it's February, and these platters can dry for months if need be; and anyway I just felt like it. Truth be told I really just wanted large surfaces to decorate!

I started with the largest one. I was playing with different methods of slip application, trying to get different qualities of line. I used a standard metal-tip slip bottle, a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off, and a pastry tube with a small star tip. You can see the lines here:
L to R: Pastry Tube, Slip Bottle, Ziplock baggie
I had in my mind an image sort of like a Japanese cherry-blossom painting; like this

or this
or this

I wanted to capture something of that feeling, but not try to simply make a slip-duplicate. They have a loose/tight quality...a perfect imperfection...that was the feeling I was looking for.

I started with my new best friend, food coloring:

 Then I used the pastry tube, which made the thickest line.
On to the thinner lines:

And finally to the blossoms. Here I had a decision: I could go with the more literal slip-embroidery look, or just suggest blossoms with slip dots. I went with option B.

So....hmmm. Not sure if it reads in the photograph, but that is some really high relief. (Click the photo to see a larger version. The depth of the relief is evident) It's wonderful and gooey and very appealing, but now I am wondering if it will compromise the function of the platter.
Think, think, think, says Pooh.

Sometimes, as it dries, slip flattens out a bit.  Maybe that will happen in this case. If it doesn't, I can still try sponging the slip-relief. That will flatten it out, and also soften up the image...for good or ill.

Still have two platters to decorate!

PS. Here's the beginning of the next one, which will have sprigs and a scalloped border of slip dots.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Way Too Much is Just Right, Chapter a Million

I started slip-trailing and I couldn't stop.

This is my last wetwork week for a little while, and I am making the most of it. Next week I need to begin preparing to fire, a process that includes an additional task in the deep dark winter: I need to shovel out the kiln. This most recent snow - maybe 10 inches in Augusta - was very wet and heavy, and has now frozen into a solid mass. Maybe I should get my burnz-O-matic involved, to cut the snow into movable chunks. 

Though I haven't been out to the kiln in a while, I see someone else has....

"The fog comes on little cat feet..." writes Carl Sandberg. You know what else does? Little cats!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Natalie Tornatore

Here's a link to Natalie's website.

You can find Natalie's work for sale at Schaller Gallery. (Scroll down at the link. Lots of other yummy pots there, too!) Look here, at Crimson Laurel Gallery, also.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in the Studio

I finally had time and...I dunno, bandwidth, I guess, to get back in the studio and work on this basket.  I had originally thought that it would be covered in a slip-trailed design, but I am having second thoughts about that. Despite my usual approach - "More is more" - in this case maybe not. Maybe the the pot is done, at this stage. This way leaves something for the glaze to do.

Or maybe just a leeeeeeetle more decoration...maybe on the handle? 

What do you think? Slip-trail? Or not?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Debra Fritts

See lots more of Debra's amazing work here and here.

Again I find myself thanking readers for their kindness. There has been more ruckus and dismay at our house this week- maybe that's why these angst-y, yearning faces are reaching me right now - but we are all in one piece and getting back on track. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Square One

Regular readers may remember that back in June, my teenaged nephew came to live with us, from out of state. It was a desperation move, which seemed his only hope to overcome a heroin addiction. It's been difficult for everyone, most of all him, of course, but for my husband and me, too. We've all invested a lot into his sobriety. I blogged a lot less, for a long time; I also worked out less, gardened less, did less yoga, socializing, and even working. My energies were going elsewhere.

Then, slowly, things improved. He got a job, then a GED. He made some friends. He started talking about community college, in the fall. He was eight months clean.

I started to resume my old activities.

Last night, on a visit back home to his father, my nephew OD'd. He's okay - not damaged, anyway - and was released from the hospital this afternoon.

It seems we are back to Square One. I am heartbroken and discouraged and a little angry; but there's nothing to do but bring him back to Augusta where we can try again. He returns tomorrow.

I am in the studio tonight for solace and distraction. I may well wedge up these pots - if heartsickness makes for better artwork you couldn't prove it by me. But the activity itself, the hum of the wheel, the musty smell of the clay, the deep familiarity of the motions provides a comfort. Throwing occupies just enough of my mind to let me think without letting me think too much.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I Knew There Had to Be a Way

I've been trying for years to figure out how to make my website into a tab for my Facebook page. One of the challenges of a online retailing - maybe THE challenge - is to get people to come to the page in the first place. Etsy and Zibbet and their ilk are not much help with this; sure, millions of people go to Etsy every day, but that doesn't help you at all if they don't come to your particular shop, so you're in the same boat with the private website owner.

Etsy does help in that people know and by extension trust the name, at least a little; without that umbrella, an individual website is just some rando, maybe a serial killer for all you know. Even if you don't like Etsy (ahem) this is true. Who would you be more likely to give a lift to on the highway, your least favorite co-worker or a perfect stranger? Same situation. Well, sort of.

ANYWAY! I digress. Again. I always figured a way to get a little bit of that familiarity to rub off, not to mention increase visibility, would be to have the online shop embedded into Fine Mess Pottery's Facebook page.That's been possible with an Etsy page for long time, and I knew there had to be a way to do it with a regular website, but damned if I could figure out how.

Luckily I didn't have to figure it out myself, or we'd be waiting a long time. Like, bring-a-book-and-a-snack-and-your-sleeping-bag long, and then some. Someone - Woobox, to be specific - invented an app called Static iFrame, which exists for exactly this purpose.It's pretty straightforward:
  1. At the link, click "Install Page Tab." You'll be offered a choice of which of your pages you'd like to install a tab on, then asked to authorize the page application. 
  2. There are a couple of authorizations you have to give; I was hesitant, because I don't want some clown bombing my page with Viagra links (or whatever) but the developers promise not to post without specific direction to do so. I went ahead, and so far no surprises. technology, unlike pottery, is a realm in which surprises are rarely good. 
  3. You'll get to a page requesting Tab Settings. the easiest thing here, if you are tabbing to an existing website, is to choose the URL radio button, and just paste in your page's address (comlete with the http:// part.)
  4. There's a bunch of stuff obout restricting who can see the tab content; I just left all those gates wide open, because obvs. That's the whole point. 
  5. You'll probably want to upload your own image, instead of the boilerplate. this is a little fiddly, as the image has to be EXACLY 111 pixels by 74 pixels. Well alrighty then! Save yourself some aggravation by having the image already sized. 
  6. The default name of the Tab will be "Welcome." That's all fine, but I wanted my tab to be named "Shop Now." Not exactly sure what I did wrong, or, eventually, right, but I had to try changing the name several times before it took.
It remains to be seen how much, or if, this will increase my web traffic, but it can't hurt. Yeah, I've read all the same things you have about how Facebook will be dead in five years, and yeah, sure, it won't be around forever, though I doubt the timeline. But so what? It's alive now, and this tab only takes five minutes.

Fine Mess Pottery and SOAPworks!*

The long-awaited day is here! Long-awaited by me, anyway. Finally, the first batches of soap I feel are good enough to sell is finished curing and ready to go. They are:

Cocoa Loco
Click here to purchase!

Citrus Circus
Click here to purchase!
Soaping will obviously never replace ceramics in my heart, but I like a lot of the same things about it: the meeting of science and creativity; the utility, so satisfying; and the unveiling: the moment, and the anticipation of the moment, when you see what your hard work has wrought. Soap is sort of "clay lite:" it takes hours instead of weeks to fill a mold, and I get to see the result the next day. But it gives me a fix of satisfaction during the coldest of winter, when I'm building up greenware, but holding off on firing until it's just a hair more comfortable outside.

Speaking of which. My greenware racks are rapidly filling. I can clean the studio and be a little more efficient with my space, but will have to fire a bisque in the next couple of weeks, and a glaze shortly after that.

In the meantime, get messy. Then get clean!

*The headline was supposed to look like this:Fine Mess Pottery and ClaySOAPworks! But blogger didn't care for the strikethru, or the italics. : /