Thursday, August 8, 2013

As the wheel turns: Mystery, Magic and Fairy tales.

The kiln was loaded.  Bowls and mugs fired.  Two days later, it was time to unload.  With this glazing cycle ended, I began loading for a bisque load.  This is the process of making clay work but it’s not been my comfort zone. 

What comfort zone?
I’ve been taking classes and learning new skills for the past three years.  I learned to throw on a wheel.  My hand building skills went from strictly sculptural to a mix of functional and sculptural.  Then, there was the whole world of glazing both wonderful and scary.  (You can read more about it by clicking through the clay section to the left or click here.)  There really hasn’t been a place of comfort for me in my work for quite a while now.

Change happens.  Scary stories are part of  life.

And the only thing we can all agree on is change is a constant.  Even though change isn’t comfortable for me, I believe in life is about learning, moving and growing.  I never thought I would learn to throw or glaze or fire my own work.  I’m amazed every day at the chances and choices I get to make.    I’ve been afraid of making mistakes and yet, I’ve made plenty.  I’ve thrown bad bowls, trimmed through the bottoms of pieces, repaired cracks over and over, had glazes turn from black to blue to brown, and clay that bloated ruining bowls meant for a big show.

Lessons learned.  Don’t take candy from strangers.

I’ve been lucky to have some good teachers and advice but there’s been some bad advice, too.   I’ve learned a lot.  First hand, on my own, here in my own little corner of the Earth, I’ve had to experiment, trouble shoot and solve these problems.  

My eyes glazed over.  I was lost in the woods of worry and regret.
I hate to glaze.  Why?  One: it’s messy.  No matter how hard I try to keep everything neat, the glaze just seems to get everywhere.  There are drips on the floor, puddles on the tables and rags everywhere.  Two: it’s unpredictable.  No matter how well I mix it or pour it or test it, the glazes never turn out exactly the same every time.  Oh, I know some feel that’s the beauty of it.  I don’t.  I want my clear glaze to go on easy and consistently, fire up clear and clean with no color changes, thank you.  You’d think if we can send people out in space, someone would be able to create a clear glaze that works every time.  Maybe, I just haven’t found it yet.   I glazed on anyway.

Fire it up. But don’t put the witch in the oven.  Yet.

The peep hole turned from red to yellow to orange.  I knew all was well with the kiln but would all the mugs, bowls and vases make it?  Would the glazes turn the black to brown or the reds to pink?  From Friday morning to Monday, I had to wait.  Wonder.  And, of course, worry.

The end is near. But is there a knight in shining armor?  Or mad Papa Bear?

I opened the kiln to a beautiful sight of bright chartreuse and yellow.   The colored mugs all turned out true to color.  The vases looked ok.  The bowls, well, that’s another story.  Two went from black to brown.  But one, turned out exactly right.  I felt a bit like Goldilocks and the porridge. 

Sometime it’s too hot.  Sometime it’s too cold.

You know the story.  Goldilocks is tries each and every bowl of porridge.  One bowl is too hot.  The other is too cold.  One is too thin.  The other is too thick.  This is a very good analogy for glazing and firing.  Sometimes a glaze gets too hot and runs or pits.  Sometimes it’s too cold and winds up lumpy or rough.  If the glaze is applied too thin, it doesn’t cover and the piece is dull.  If it’s too thick, the underglaze color might go from black to brown or wind up white or grey.

I agree with Goldilocks, I want it just right.
When that happens, it’s magic.   And isn’t that what fairytales are all about?

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