Saturday, March 31, 2012

Small steps add up.

Just like a baby taking its first steps, learning a new skill feels difficult. You wobble, fall, get up, wobble a little less, fall and get up again. Making it across the room can seem like a world away to a baby. Making large pieces in clay, throwing mugs and big bowls seemed impossible to me, too.

But I did it. One step at a time.

Here are some pictures of my most recent steps on my clay path.

A hand built jar with leaf accents and a 'leaf' shaped lid.

Large hand built pieces.

A large hand built vase with marbled clay.

A kiln full of wheel thrown pieces including a dozen mugs, half a dozen bowls with sculptural handles, and experiments with sgraffito. Here's a post bisgue pic of some of the bowls.

Just like the baby doesn't stop when she masters getting across a room, I'm not stopping either. I'm moving on to throwing bigger and better pieces and glazing at cone 6 in my own kiln. I'm sure I'll wobble and some pieces will fall. But I'll get the results I want by remembering the real key to success.

Take one small step at a time. Pick yourself up. Repeat.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. And again. And again.

And again. My first try cracked completely through the bottom. I didn’t let it stop me. Nope. I kept working on my wheel throwing, and finally threw a nice small porcelain bowl and trimmed a decent foot. But, I wanted more than just a nice bowl.

So, I went to work coiling handles and sculpting leaves and buds. Then, I decided to add feet. Why? I have no idea now; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought it gave the bowl a little more ‘presence’. I rolled 4 feet, textured them and attached them to the bottom of the bowl. Success!

Or so I thought. That’s when the handle cracked off on one side. I got out the slip and repaired it. It stayed on for a while and started to crack again. I tried again.

Then two of those cute little feet fell off. I put them back on and took them to be bisque. They fell off. I put them back on. They fell off again. Instead of trying to put them back on again, I decided to fire them off and attach them later.

I rubbed the leaves and buds with oxides. I underglazed those ‘cute’ little feet and glazed the body of the bowl in black. I propped up the bowl on a kiln block with two feet on and two feet off. Today, I glued the two feet on with epoxy. And, here at long last, is the bowl standing on its own four feet.

It’s been a year since I started taking wheel throwing classes. It’s been difficult, frustrating and very disappointing. At first, I had many, many failures. It was tempting to give up. But my stubbornness kicked in and I kept at it. Slowly, very, very slowly, my small lopsided bowls turned into better and bigger bowls.

I didn’t succeed on my first, second or even third try. It was trying. But I kept at it and finally, I did succeed.

Ok, no more cute little feet. My next bowls are just thrown and trimmed porcelain and so far, fingers crossed, no cracks!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Clay: It brings out the kid in all of us.

Playing in the mud. When you work in clay, you’re really playing with mud. You can throw it(on a wheel) and make a mud pie dish. Or roll it, pinch it and make a mud face. That’s what my class of happy elementary school kids did the last 5 weeks. They played with mud and made faces.

Lions, tigers and kitties. Owls, ogres and witches. They had a great time creating from their imaginations while learning basic clay techniques like slab and coil construction. I bisque fired their masks, then they added layers of paint, fur, feathers and wiskers.

It was an energetic, creative and curious group. The time just flew by each week as we learned, experimented and played with clay. There’s just nothing like putting your hands in the mud to bring out the kid in all of us.

Friday, March 9, 2012

New growth springing up all around.

There may be ice on the patio and snow mixing with rain, but spring is coming. You can see it everywhere. The geese are honking and chasing each other. Little daffodils are popping out. Green grass is shooting up.

Bundled up against the chill, I took a tour of our wonderful Chines Garden. You could see new growth springing up and out. The magnolia trees were blossoming against the sunshine.

Even in the studio, you can see the change. Shelves are bursting with new work, ready for the first firing. Bowls and mugs are growing brightly painted with green leaves and red buds.

It’s still officially winter, the time of darkness and germination. But the sun is out and new growth is peaking through. What’s springing forth in your life right now?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Glaze firing #2: Full of surprises.

I loaded the kiln on Thursday morning to glaze fire 5 cups, 2 trays, 1 bowl and 2 sculptural faces. I rubbed on a combination of underglaze and oxides , painted layers of sculptural and matte glazes, then poured a satin glaze inside and over cups and bowls.

It was time to load the kiln. It’s still a giant puzzle to me. And with all the sculptural elements, it’s a delicate matter to make sure that handles, legs, leaves and vines were given enough space. I fired up at 11:30 in the morning, kept my timer on, turned up the heat, watched and waited. The kiln turned itself off around 9 pm. I don’t open the kiln until the temperature inside the kiln feels the same as the outside.

Today, two days later, I opened the kiln. I saw my gingko bowl with its new satin black surface and smiled. The big tray was perfect. The cups all looked even better than I’d hoped. Good surprises!

Some surprises were not so good. Some leaves popped off the sculptural faces. Two legs came off the gingko bowl. And one tray got stuck to the kiln shelf.

I got the tray pried off the kiln shelf and it broke in two places. Why? Two small drops of glaze left on the shelf melted fusing the tray to it. Lesson learned, always clean that off before you glaze fire again.

I’m thrilled. I’m celebrating. I’m smiling with wonder at these sturdy, satin glossy cups, trays, bowls and wall art that started out as lumps of soft clay. I’m not worried, the leaves, gingko bowl legs and cracked tray can all be fixed with a little epoxy. Yes, some of the surprises were not so good, but all in all, that’s not a bad thing.