Sunday, June 29, 2014

New Design Inspirations

A friend lent me a really amazing book, and since it's been a busy week I only now got around to really perusing it. It's called Textile Designs: 200 Years of European and American Patterns for Printed...blah, blah, blah. It's a really long title. 

So many patterns! So many ideas!

In fact, there were TOO many to show you! Blogger kept crashing. Any of these will obviously need to be simplified to use as a slip-trailed or glaze-embedded design. When I do my sketches, I do them with a blunt marker, to try and approximate the clumsiness - relative to a pen or pencil - of a slip trailing bottle.Here's what I've got so far:

Luckily - though not coincidentally luckily - I've got a bunch of plates just at leatherhard, right now! Here's the first one:

Cool Projects

A reader sent me a link to another potter's Kickstarter project, and while I was there, I came upon some others that seemed interesting, so sharing the links here.
I, like most of you perhaps, can't contribute to all of these, but maybe one will catch your fancy. And if you can't fund, maybe you can share to help spread the word.

Happy Sunday! I'm trimming, putting on handles, and sketching some new slip designs today.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Handworks Gallery, Blue Hill

Fine Mess Pottery is now at Handworks Gallery in Blue Hill! I'm pretty excited about this. Handworks is a beautiful space in a beautiful town right on the Maine coast. Ya just know there are summer people there right now, wishing they had some nice pottery for their vacation homes. Go shopping, summer people!

Oops, veered off into the weeds of silly. I do that. Now, a little about the gallery: Handworks has been around since 1975. The current owner, Diane Allen, is an artist herself - she makes intricate beaded jewelry. The gallery also carries
magnificent floor cloths, paintings, and glassworks

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Bob and Cheryl Husby

The Husbys have been an inspiration to me for many years. Sometimes I still look and think, I'll never make anything as amazing as that, ever, so why even try? but I can't help myself, they make me want to make amazing things so badly, so I toddle off to the studio and make. Sometimes that's how inspiration feels, for me. 
The Husbys don't seem to have a website, or at least I didn't find it; I guess there are still a few potter who don't. If you are interested in buying their work, you can do that at this link.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday, like most Mondays, was a teaching day for me. I leave the house around 8 am, loaded down with whatever tools and materials I need to teach my handbuilding and beginning throwing classes, and don't return until around 10 o'clock at night. Not a lot gets done in the studio on Mondays! Yesterday was Week 8 of an 8-week class cycle, so we covered wax and latex resist, and glaze trailing. I also shipped out some work sold online.

Today is Tuesday, also a teaching day, for half of it at least. The morning is mine, and I am using it to clean the studio and put away packing materials and in general prepare the studio to begin the making cycle again tomorrow. I also need to pack up some pots for an appointment I have with a gallery on Friday.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow is a throwing day! Feels like forever since I had one. The firing is done, the pots will all be ground and priced and sorted to their various destinations, and it's time to start anew. (Although - oops! haven't ground the kiln shelves. Maybe I'll work that in in the afternoon...)

Speaking of grinding kiln shelves, did I tell you I bought an angle grinder? Shelf clean up is SO much less dreary. I got a diamond cup for it - the regular wheels just dissolve when faced with silicon carbide. The grinder I bought on Ebay for $39, the diamond cup I had to get a Home Depot. The whole deal was only about $85, and I can tell you it has already saved me $85 worth of aggravation.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Flip Side

I got a few pieces out of this last firing that exhibit a marked directionality, one of my favorite soda effects. They have distinct "windward" and "lee" sides, indicating which side faced the burner channel.

The flame, carrying soda vapor, passes over the piece from one direction to the other; specifically, from the walls toward the center. It also passes from the center top toward the bottom, and from back to front and then front to back, but those effects are less marked; buy the time all that happens much of the soda glass has been deposited on the pieces it struck first. Here's another:

This one also got a nice kiln kiss, smooth and glassy with no crusty spots, on the lee side.

In each case you can see the design work I did, and in each case that is somewhat obscured just by glaze fluidity on the lee sides. But on the windward sides, woooo! It's a molten blur.

This is why I do what I do: to have the flame come along and undo it. Is that weird?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Love Wix

Got a nice email the other day from Jade Webber, a jeweler from Indiana who visited me during the Maine Pottery Tour. Jade bought a porcelain button, among other things, and promised she would be using it in her jewelry. Now she has, and it's totally adorable:

Jade's Etsy shop is Love Wix Studios. Check it out!

I know there are other artists have used my buttons on hats or knitted garments. Send me pix! I'll share with the world.
Click here to order

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Steve Hansen

You can see lots more of Steve's intriguing work, and read about how it is created, at this link.

EDIT: After I scheduled this post, I realized that Carole over at Musing about Mud had also chosen Steve for this week's Monday Morning eye candy.  I considered re-doing this post with a different artist, but decided to go with the post as written. It's a coincidence, but he really is a great artist who deserves the recognition, and anyway I need to do my grocery shopping. Enjoy!

Go-To Pots

Do you have certain pots that you automatically reach for, for certain uses? I mean, I guess everyone has a go-to coffee mug. (Oh, wait, re-read that sentence...No, most people probably grab whatever mug is nearest. Cretins. KIDDING, I'm kidding!)


I have a go-to mug, though it changes every couple of weeks. I have a go-to plate; it also changes, though less frequently. Having a go-to doesn't mean you don't use the others; my go-to plate is too small for some meals, so in those cases I choose another. It's just the one you reach for first.

This is my go-to vase. I do think different flowers demand different vase shapes and surfaces, but this one works with a great variety of blooms. I love the rustic, wood-fired surface next to the delicate floral shapes. The neck is just narrow enough to hug the stems of a small bouquet, and the belly wide enough to allow them to spread into a pretty arrangement.
The flowers all came from my garden! Irises, peonies, fleabane, and Snow-on-the-mountain.

Tim Cichocki, a dear friend and fellow Mainiac, made this vase in his Groundhog kiln in Norridgewock, Maine.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

This was maybe my favorite piece from the firing. Ask me again tomorrow - that may change. It was loosely - very loosely, as you can see - based on this textile pattern I found somewhere online. Expect to see more of this flippy daisy:

Sadly, it has a flaw. Or maybe not all that sadly, because the flaw means I will keep it.Yes, technically I could keep it flaw or not, but most of the time I'd rather have the $32 (or whatever.) Basically I can't afford my own work. But I do get first choice of the seconds, and this one is my choice.It's a minor flaw - some crawling in the bottom - but enough that I wouldn't sell it to a store.

This next was tough to photograph, with the dark/light contrast and the high gloss surface. The detail shows the, well, details, better.

Another plate, close cousin of the first:

My yellow glaze has a brownish quality I haven't seen before; possibly just because this was a new batch of glaze. I always tell my students that glazes are not at their best on the first day. Maybe they are not quite at their best the second day, either! Still, overall pleased with the plates.I'm making lots of them lately, in the hopes of having five spectacular plates for a show in 2015.

And, of course, Jaunty Jars! This was pretty much the Jaunty Jar firing - there were about eight or nine in there. Considering changing my business name to Lori's House of Plates and Jaunty Jars.

Looky Looky! Unloading Day!

In other news, my laptop died yesterday, or possibly is just comatose. A very rough ball park estimate from the PC Doc was $150 to fix it...hmmm. It's about 7 or 8 yrs old, and starting to have trouble with some websites...and I can probably get a new one for around $200. It would probably make more sense to buy another one, except I don't have $200. Of course I don't have $150, either, so there's that! Most of my files are backed up to Dropbox (you know about Dropbox, right?) so that's not a big deal, although I will lose some photos. I had a moment of panic because I never dragged the website files to Dropbox, and then I remembered: they're online. Because they are website files. Duh.

Ugh, can't think about that right now! I'd much rather think about pretty new pots. Both glaze and body colors seem to be nice and bright, no dry spots, yay! These will come with me to Portland's July First Friday event, which lands on Independence Day. Come see me, if you're in Maine. I'm planning to go down early to get a spot near the museum, on Congress Street.

UPDATE: It's a Solstice miracle (an almost-solstice miracle, I guess.) My laptop has healed itself! I am hastily backing up any files that weren't already, so as not to waste this possibly-brief reprieve. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yesterday,Today, and Tomorrow

Late spring is a busy time! The lawn and garden need attention, stores are wanting inventory, and the season of firing workshops is upon us.

In the studio I've been trying to get a firing lit for a couple of weeks, but in accordance with Hofstadter's Law, everything took longer than I thought it would, even when I took into account Hofstadter's Law. Yesterday all the glazing was done and I was finally able to load the kiln. It sits loaded and ready, to be fired tomorrow.

Why tomorrow, you may ask? Because today I am scheduled to run the first raku workshop of the season at Portland Pottery. I'm sort of a recreational raku-er; I like the smoke and the flames and the tongs, the glowing pots, and the flashy glazes. I also like it as a teaching tool. In a facility such as Portland Pottery, it's hard for students to have much direct contact with firing. I can talk about firing, we can observe the back pressure and odor of reduction, I can even give fun little quizzes on cones and atmospheric terms, but raku allows students to load and fire a kiln with me, and so to better connect with the actual physical process. I'm not as interested in it as a vocational pursuit, because it compromises the function of pots down to a nub, and function is one of the joys of making, for me.

Nevertheless, I've gotten to know this particular kiln very well, and have a pretty good handle on what it takes to have a successful firing. All kilns are different, so these may not be applicable to yours, but here are a few things I've learned:
  • Don't overload the kiln!  The temptation is to fill every corner. This all but guarantees that some people will have disappointing results, because the ware starts cooling as soon as the door is opened, and if there are too many pieces in the kiln, some of them will be too cool to give up their oxygen to the flames of  reduction chambers.
  • Think, when loading, about how each piece will be grasped with the tongs. In the mouth? Around the sides? Does it need to overhang a shelf, to get the tongs under it? This will allow the unload to proceed quickly and with fewer mishaps. 
  • Good gloves, good tongs, good safety equipment. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!) I don't want to be in pain while unloading. Pain is not a good plan. 
  • This is important for group raku-ing: I make sure to say before I open the kiln that once the kiln is open, no one passes between the kiln and the reduction chambers - not for photos, not for spritzing pots, not for nothin'. I don't want to have to worry about that. 
A bit of luck goes a long way, also! Wish me some, for today's firing, and tomorrow's. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Embedded Glaze Decoration

Like a lot of my students, I used to hate glazing. Glazing was just this tiresome, messy thing you had to do so that the things you had fun throwing or building could get fired and finished. Well, baby, things change!

Glazing is now as fun for me as throwing, or altering. I treat glazing more actively now - no more just dunking in a bucket and hoping for the best. To be clear, I do still do some dunking - in slip if nothing else - but I also trail and brush and dot. And now carve and embed.

This is a new technique for me. In fact I think I invented it! Possibly somebody else is doing something like this, somewhere, but I haven't seen it. I was just trying to think of something to show my advanced students that they haven't seen before.

Unlike brushed or trailed glaze, the embedded glaze doesn't lay on top of  or under the glaze layer; it's surrounded by it. It's sort of like sgraffito and mishima combined, only with glaze instead of slip. Most glazes stay in the shapes you carve, with more or less feathering at the edges, depending on the fluidity of the two glazes. The glazes remain their true colors, instead of whatever color they would be in combination. It goes like this:

Pour or dip a layer of glaze on your pot. Wait for it to dry, about 5-10 minutes. Apply a coat of paraffin wax over the whole pot. The wax should be pretty hot - I think it was about 275 degrees. It's harder to control wax when it's that hot, as it's very fluid. That doesn't matter, since you are covering the whole surface anyway, but careful, because ow!

Using a sgraffitto tool, cut through both the wax and the glaze, so that the tool is scraping against the bisqued clay. This works best for lines and simple shapes, my efforts to carve spirals and swirls resulted in the wax coming off in chunks. (Possibly I just need more practice!)

Dip the pot in the second glaze, or brush the second color over the carved surface. If you brush use a good brush like a mop or a hake, that holds a lot of glaze. The color will embed in the carved lines where there is no wax, resulting in a contracting inlaid pattern.

The photo at the top shows the first one of these I ever did. The jaunty jar in the demo will be in the next firing...the one that was supposed to happen on Sunday. The more decoration I do the longer it takes to glaze! I wasn't even finished glazing on Sunday, never mine loading, never mind firing! Hoping to finish up the last few pots on Wednesday, and load; then the next chance I have to fire is Sunday, again.