Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh happy day!

'Tis indeed a happy day. Why? The reasons are two fold. A: School is out for Christmas break starting today. I do not have to return to dealing with 17 year olds that act like 7 year olds for two full weeks. 2: My kiln was hooked up today! Since I was home today instead of at school my wife's cousin dropped by to do his electrician thing. Everything went astoundingly smooth and I now have a fully functional L&L beauty in the corner of my studio. And later I get to go to a party...I guess that makes three good things about today.

And for those of you who like to look at pictures...Here are a couple gorgeous tea bowls I purchased recently from Southern Clay Works (the faculty and grad students at SIUC).

This picture doesn't really do them justice. The one of the left hold a tidy 6 oz and is perfect for that nightcap to wind things down at the end of a long day. Great hand feel, not too heavy but sturdy enough to be functional. The one on the right I have not used yet. Technically it is a Christmas present from the sweet wife and I am not allowed to use it until the 25th.
And what did I get the wife in return for such a great gift? Behold!

I guess it doesn't look like much now, but then again it isn't finished yet. I will post the progress on here as I get more of it done. She knows she is getting a painting (in fact, she demanded it), but I am still going to try to keep it somewhat secret. "But Rob, how will you keep it secret if you are posting pictures of the painting on your blog?!" Well, aside from when I first set it up and showed my wife, I don't think she has ever read my no worries!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heat up the griddle and break out the bacon!

I know this has nothing to do with pottery, but I have decided that I can still put it on here...I won't get in trouble.
So anyway, my chickens (all two of them I have left) have finally started laying eggs! Well, at least one of them is. I was getting pretty frustrated with their progress thus far, what with them being over six months old and not having laid a single egg yet. Last weekend, though, I was gone for a couple days and came home to two eggs; and right in the nest box where they belong! So what did I do with my new bountiful harvest? Why I dropped and broke both of them, of course. Not to worry, though. I got another (unbroken) egg on Wednesday and one more today. They are still rather small, but so are the chickens. The shells seem a little brittle too, but that can easily be fixed with a little extra calcium in their diet.
So yahoo for for eggs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The studio, that is. Everything that wasn't nailed down has been moved, shifted, re-shifted and so forth. This is bad because it is preventing me from getting much needed throwing done. I have a little show at a winery the weekend after Thanksgiving and not a ton of work.
What could possibly make this situation good?
How about the fact that my studio is in shambles so I can hook up my new kiln! That's right, I have a brand spanking new kiln with which to fire my wares. (On a side note, what does spanking have to do with being new? Isn't spanking generally considered a bad thing and new a good thing?) If you have read my blog before you know that my previous kiln decided to quit working at the most opportune time possible. While I probably could have fixed it (or, more likely, pay someone to fix it...I'm not extremely handy), it gave me a good excuse to get the new kiln I have been wanting for a while. So now I have a handsome L&L electric kiln with digital controls sitting in my garage. Now all I have to do is talk my wife's cousin (a licensed electrician) into rewiring for me. I will take a few shots after everything is hooked up and the studio is back in order. Until then I will do my best to bore you with inane chatter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mug analysis

I was reading through the blogs I follow the other day and this post by Brandon Phillips piqued my curiosity. Obviously, I immediately began mulling over the mugs I have been making, thinking about the weight, capacity, heat retention, etc. "Exactly how much do my mugs weigh/hold?" I wondered. "Sure they function, but do they function as well as they could?"
Now, I had always been taught that thinner is better, thus my stuff tends to be pretty thin and rather tightly controlled. But I have always admired work that, although a bit hefty, has a very fluid, natural feel; a loose, gestural quality. One of my favorite video clips (that's right, just a clip off of Ceramic Arts Daily. I am too cheap to buy the video) is of Matt Long throwing a mug and explaining his philosophy behind it.

So I set out to throw some more substantial mugs. I started with a full pound of clay instead of the 1/2 to 3/4 that I normally use. Here are the results, freshly trimmed and awaiting handles.

It was obviously not very comfortable for me throwing that much clay just to make a mug. And as I was getting ready to trim them, feeling the weight, I had my doubts. Afterwards, though, I must say that I am rather pleased. I have a couple new forms I will be playing around with, and while I am still not entirely comfortable with them, it is pushing me to move in a bit of a different direction. Now lets hope I don't screw everything up with the handles...

Oh, and as far as my previous work goes...I picked four mugs that looked like they represented a pretty good cross section of my work (I like to experiment with form & size)to measure and such. The weights ranged from 5.5 oz to 10 oz. The capacities ranged from 8 to 12+ oz. They all have pretty thin walls and smaller handles. I'm not saying you would burn yourself on them or anything, but they get pretty warm with fresh coffee in them.

I will measure and weigh this next batch when they are finished. That might not be for a few weeks, though, as I am preparing for a new addition to the studio. More on that it is time for bed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Productive Weekend

I had a fairly productive weekend in a none pottery sort of way. That is not to say that I did not get any work done in the studio; but I was feeling about as good as a bottle and a half of wine can make you feel when I did. Suprisingly, I came out with a couple things I was pretty happy with.

But my main accomplishment this weekend would have to be "winterizing" the chicken coop. After the involuntary reduction in our flock (6 out of ten turned out to be roosters, which my wife's morning schedule could not abide, another was claimed by probably a racoon) the coop was a bit large for their needs. Therefore the old coop (which unfortunately I do not have a picture of) was torn down and replaced with this.

Granted it is no master work or anything. There is obviously still much to do. I need to add a door, shutters and some roofing material, but they should be much warmer and happier here than in their previous dwelling. At least I hope so.
And here is shot of the girls adapting to their new abode. They can no longer roost in the rafters of the coop, so they claimed the tomato cages that are still in their run.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Show Report

O.K. So a couple of weeks ago I had a couple of shows in which I was involved. The first of which was not great, but not as bad as I thought it would have been. The set up was not out standing, but when you are setting up in a commercial business, what can you expect? The second venue was more of a craft fair than an art show, but I had a pretty good day, especially compared to previous years.
The Friday night setup...
No sales this night. It was kind of cool and rainy so there was not a whole lot of traffic coming through. Seemed to be a generally good response none-the-less.
The Saturday setup...
Fall Festival at the Saxon Lutheran Memorial in Frohna, MO. A really nice day aside from the mud. Hectic what with nieces & nephews running around everywhere (my parents run the place the festival was held at, so lots of family there), but a pretty good time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

You call THIS and art show?!

It is now 5:35 central Standard Time, and technically the "show" I am participating in has already started. And yet I am here at home. Does this bother me? Not really. I am trying to take advantage of every opportunity I can to help build the rather paltry art scene around here, but I am finding it very difficult to be very enthusiastic about tonight. It is an art walk of sorts put on by Heartland Arts (a good group to be sure). Since there is a severe lack of art galleries not associated with the university in Carbondale, however, a number of businesses down town display art work in their shops for the night. This is all well and good, unless you have a less than stellar business in which to show. I am trying to be positive, but the business (which shall remain nameless) in which my work is displayed has a... oh let's say a very "lived in" feel. I stopped in there earlier this week to check things out and the floors were not swept, counters were cluttered, etc. I says to myself I says, "Maybe they are busy and are planning to clean up a bit before Friday."
No such luck.
Floors are still not swept, counters are still cluttered...just not a very appealing place to show work. Or even to go look at art work for that matter. But enough of my belly aching. My sweet wife just got home and she is in a very good mood. Maybe she can lend me some of it for the night. Now it is off to get some grub and check out some art. I'll take the camera and try to get some pictures posted later this weekend.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kiln-tastrophy; or, I really am quite foolish

Next weekend I am supposed to be participating in a couple of shows around my neck of the woods (southeast MO, southern IL). So like any well prepared individual I was scrambling this past week to get work made, decorated and dried to get a load through the kiln so I would have enough work for both shows. Friday night I got everything decorated with slips & whatnot and loaded the kiln for a bisque fire. Saturday morning the kiln is still firing...Saturday at lunch the kiln is still firing...Saturday after lunch the kiln is still firing. Now this is not a large kiln, mind you; and even though I set it on a slower program, should not have taken anywhere near this long to fire. I do not have any witness cones in there, though, so I cannot really check on its progress. I think to myself, "maybe the elements are just starting to go. It is a pretty old kiln, and I've never had any problems with bisque firing before." I finally decide that even though the kiln sitter has not tripped I will shut it off. Let's take a look at the results, shall we?


Oh doesn't it look great! Full shelves; so much potential!


While it makes for an interesting piece of sculpture, it's not really something I can sell at a craft fair.

The problem? I relied on the kiln sitter to do its job. Much like tigers and tuna fish sandwiches, I am kind of stupid that way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

One Step Closer to Dinnerware Independence

So lately I have been working on some place settings for my sweet wife. Here is the progress so far. They just came out of the bisque firing earlier this week along with some other fetching items. Ten plates made it through so far. I originally started with twelve, but two of them bit the bullet during trimming. They are not entirely consistent in their shape, but they are pretty close; just a couple that are a little off. I haven't thrown many sets this large, so I am not great at it just yet. I sprayed them with a couple layers of colored slip with a newspaper resist. They will get a coat of clear glaze and will hopefully look like the second picture when they are finished.

These are some vases that I threw a while back but just now got around to firing. They also have slips and glazes sprayed on with some abstract sgraffito work. Like the plates, these will get a coat of clear glaze before heading back to the kiln. And yes, the one on the right is broken. Apparently it did not clear the kiln lid like I thought it had.

And this is one of my favorites out of the batch.
My wife thought the the skunk was kind of foolish, but I liked the idea of pairing somethig that smells bad with something that smells good. I think there will be more skunk vases in the future.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Instant Spray Booth

I was just going through my not so routine blog check and came across a post by Jen Mecca, part of which concerned the application of surface treatments (i.e. terra sig, slip, glaze). So I thought I would use it as a nice little seg-way into my own “spray booth” set up. For a while I have been spraying slips and glazes onto my pieces so I do not have to brush them. I do not have batches big enough to dip pieces and I hate brushing on glaze; thus spraying. I found a used air compressor and spray gun relatively cheap; the only problem I have run into is a spray booth. I do not have the space or funds to get a “real” spray booth, so I have been trying to adapt as best I can. For a while I just sprayed without anything, which worked, but also covered everything in the garage with a nice layer of slip/glaze dust. Then lightning stuck and an idea worked its way into my head.

The most advanced spray booth since the stool on a side walk!
Clear plastic tub + blocks + banding wheel = instant spray booth! And the tub is tapered at the bottom, so when you set it on its side all of the overspray runs to the back. Drill a hole in the bottom and you can easily catch and reclaim all that precious glaze! Granted there is no exhaust system and you are somewhat limited as to the size of pieces this will work for, but better than nothing. And relatively good for smaller spaces as it can be used for other storage or tucked away under a table or in an attic or something until it is needed.

And the group for this post is the ever impressive Clutch. Good old fashioned rock n' roll/heavy metal. And they have some of the best, funniest, wittiest lyrics this side of the chicken shack! "Condoleeza Rice is nice, but I prefer A-Roni"...freaking great.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garage Days Revisited

To get in the proper mind set for this post I am listening to Garage Inc., which is a compilation of a bunch wicked cool recordings by Metallica from '84 - '98. They are all covers, re-releases of garage days revisited, b-sides, one offs, etc. Excellent listening, and fitting since I have been forced to move my studio out of the new shed and back into the garage. That is not to say that everything is packed up, but I am once again cramped between the front end of my truck and the back corner of the garage. Oh well.
I have managed to get a bit of work done in there since moving everything back. Aside from glazing a bunch of stuff with my fancy pants spray booth (more on that later), I have started a dinnerware set for my wife.
These plates are about 12 inches across right now, but they are still wet so they will shrink quite a bit yet. And they will be accompanied by dessert plates and bowls. No cups as we already have plenty of those.

And here are some more very unprofessional shots of some of the mugs out of the last firing. These are actually the first mugs finished for the 100 mug challenge. I gave myself a tentative deadline of the end of June, but I don't think I'm going to make that one. Only about 12 completely finished so far...
Yellow slip with clear glaze, I forgot to glaze the inside though! Drat!

Light brown slip with clear glaze, cone 6

KPI celadon, cone 6 (slightly over fired)

KPI Speckled Tan, cone 6 (slightly over fired)

Friday, June 12, 2009


So there has really been almost no progress on the ceramics front for the past couple weeks, with the exception of finally getting a glaze firing done (pictures to come). This is due in part to other family and household obligations... and in part to the fact that I am so freaking tired! Since school is out I started a new job this week working construction with my father-in-law. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind the work. Actually I haved enjoyed a lot of it so far (except putting in fiberglass insulation, that I hate). What I didn't count on, though, was how exhausted I would be after doing manual labor for 8-9 hours. Everyday this week I have come home after work, taken a shower and promptly fallen asleep on the couch. Needless to say not much work got done in the studio. Hopefully this slugishness will abate as my body is reintroduced to manual labor and I will be more productive when I get home. As for now my plans are to hit it hard this weekend cranking out plates.

Here is a quick peek at one of the pieces out of the kiln on Monday. It looked so tasty I had to make some tea and try it out.

Cone 6 porcelain with commercial glaze, slightly overfired

Friday, June 5, 2009

Getting back in the swing of things

As I have been having problems staying connected to the internet I have devised a plan. I am going to type this stuff and save it on the ‘ol computer like a journal (which is kind of what a blog is anyway, right?), then post it in the fleeting moments when the internet is cooperating. So here goes…
The past few weeks have been busy, but not. That is, if feels like I have been very busy, but it doesn’t look like I have accomplished a whole lot. That is very frustrating. So in an attempt to get back in the swing of things I think I am going to have to set a specific time each day to get in the studio…and stick to it! Sounds simple, right? My wife says I have a knack for doing things the most difficult way possible, so I’ll probably figure out a way to complicate it. First order of business, finish glazing so I can finally fire the kiln.

And so this post is not without any pictures...

Teapot #7553, 4" x 4.5" x 6.75", cone 6 porcelain with colored slip

Teapots are by far one of my favorite things to make. There is something about them that just seems complete, that seems right. Sorry, these pictures are not great. I am not a photographer and have a pretty shoddy picture set up right now. Building a light box is another thing on my very long list of stuff to do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Howdy all...

Wow! It has been forever since I have posted on here. Not that I haven't wanted to, but technology is the devil, especially when it is not working properly. Internet service at my house is notoriously unreliable. Of course the fact that we are really just filtching wireless internet from my in-laws 100 yards away may have something to do with it. I cannot, though, take any credit for the storm that put many without electric for days on end. Being that we live in southern Illinois, we were hit by the inland hurricane or mega cyclone or whatever the hell you want to call it. And while, thankfully, there was little damage to our house, it did mess up all kinds of stuff around here and southeast Missouri. Needless to say, blogging was not on the top of my priority list for a while. Anyway, the stupid internet appears to be working right now so I thought I would pop in and let everyone know I was still around; and that there will be more posts regarding a number of things in the near future. Now for those of you (like myself) who like posts with pictures in them...

Lidded jar, 4.5 or so tall & wide, cone 10 reduction stoneware

This is a jar I made a number of years ago when I was still in school. One of my absolute favorites. It just recently found a new home after a sale over mother's day weekend.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Busy as a turnip...

It seems like it has been quite a while since I posted on here, but I don’t guess it has been that long. I guess it seems longer since I have been so busy, unfortunately not so much with studio time. Not to say that the time hasn’t been productive; just not as productive in the way I would like it to be. I have been doing an awful lot of teaching lately. I am booked almost solid for subbing between now and the end of the year. That’s right, I am…SUB-MAN! Wherever there are teachers (within 30 minutes of my house) that are sick, busy or just too damn tired of their students, I’ll be there! Good for the pocket book, not so much for the potter.

I have also been busy with other endeavors more closely related to pottery. Last Thursday I did a pottery demonstration for the grade school in my home town. It is a pretty small school (34 students K-8th), but that made it easier for everyone to see. The students appeared to enjoy the demo. They had never really worked with clay before, so it was something new for them. While prepping for the demo I also got a little time in the studio to work on some stuff for an upcoming mother’s day sale.

These are some 2 pound vases. The tallest one is about 8 inches. They will get some sgraffito decoration later this week.

And this stuff will (hopefully) get glazed so I can get a glaze fire done this Friday.

Speaking of surface decoration, here is my newly painted studio. It used to be a rather unsavory dark green color which didn’t exactly match the house. It still needs another coat of paint along with some other things, but it is on its way. Between this, the yard, the garden and a grass fire I had a pretty interesting weekend. Maybe things will slow down some this week...but what fun would that be?

And here is a little segment I'm going to call "This week on Rob's playlist," where I will feature a different musician/group from the depths of my cd collection. This week it is going to be Hank Williams III. Hank III is the son of Hank Jr., grandson of Hank Sr. and one of the finest country music singers out there right now. He sings good old fashion country; more like his grand daddy than his dad. And don't overlook his hellbilly fare; country music with more than a dash of thrashy punk. AND (that's right, there's more) for you truely hardcore folks there is always AssJack, his thrash metal side project. Good stuff. He is probably my favorite musician as of right now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That's some mighy fine picking and a diggin!

So here I am, sitting at the computer keeping up with this whole blog thing and thinking about what I need to do today (wedge clay, get throwing/glazing/firing schedule figured out, make clay stamps, go to the library, etc) and it suddenly hit me; bluegrass music is freaking great! Now I like a wide vriety of music; everything from heavy metal (I'm going to see Slipknot & Devil Driver in a couple of weeks!) to world music to country/bluegrass and even some wierd electronic stuff. And then there is the really odd stuff like Tub Ring, Super 8 Bit Brothers, Bad Livers, etc. But I am sitting here listening to my country/bluegrass station (good, old country, none of that new pop country crap) on Pandora, drinking my coffee...there is really nothing like some good bluegrass music to start the day. A little bit of Flatt & Scruggs, some Dillards and Stanley Brothers, and throw in some Wayne Hancock and Hank Williams for good measure...good stuff. Ok, now I have work to do; off to the studio!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Barrel Firing

The first of April was a rather busy day. After setting up a new shed/studio I managed to squeeze in a barrel firing. It was full of Christmas ornaments that had been waiting to be finished for quite some time. I started firing about 5pm (after the shed was in place and the ruts left by the delivery truck had been flattened out and filled in) and let it burn till about 10. By that time the fire was pretty much out and I was ready to go to bed, so I slapped a lid on the barrel, weighted it down and let it smolder.

My extremely high-tech firing apparatus.

I expected to be able to unload it the next day, but with the lid on it continued to smolder for another day or so. When I finally opened it up, this is what came out.

One of the great things about barrel firing is that the results are somewhat unpredictable; you can never be quite sure how things are going to turn out. This is also one of the more difficult things about barrel firing. I got about a 50% success rate with this. That is not to say that half of them broke, but half of them were good enough to keep. The others wait to be fired again another day. And after being cleaned up and polished…

It's like a little ornament family portrait, awwww.

I love the colors on these ornaments, especially the rusty oranges. Unfortunately I am not sure what exactly caused them. I had a number of combustibles and such in the barrel (straw, salt, copper wire, baking soda, banana peels, coffee grounds) and I tried to keep track of what was where, but everything got pretty jumbled up. I can say for sure that the saggars didn't really work though. I guess it did not get hot enough that far down in the barrel (they were at the bottom). I will try stacking the barrel different next time to see if I can get a hotter, more consistent fire.

Some of these were finished with floor wax and some were finished with acrylic spray. The wax gives a nice satiny finish, but also leaves a rather unpleasant aroma (it actually made my wife sick). The spray is a bit more glossy, but more efficient and I think it will probably protect the ornaments better in the long run. All in all a pretty good firing.

A new home for Simple Circle Studios

Wow! Somehow I managed to let two weeks slip by without posting anything! I can’t say that I have been terribly busy, although I have had some things going on. Most notably of which, I got a new studio! That’s right, a new studio…well, sort of a new studio…ok so it is really more of a little shed, but a shed where I make pottery! Sure, it doesn’t have electricity so I have to run an extension cord 40 feet from my garage to be able to throw or listen to music or have light. And sure it might not have insulation and only one tiny window, so it is going to be terribly hot in the summer and unbearably cold in the winter. And perhaps it does not really have quite enough space for all my studio equipment (the kilns are still in the garage). No, it is not perfect, but definetely a good start for a studio. No grills, bikes, tools, lawnmowers, etc, just pottery. (Ok, maybe some chickens, but on the outside and probably not for a while.)

The new home of Simple Circle Studios! Sure, it may look like just a shed on cinder blocks, but...ok, it's pretty much just a shed on cinder blocks.

The inner sanctum; my escape from the hurly burly of life...I think it needs a fern.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Glaze Fire Results

I hadn’t planned on posting on here today, but the weather is less than great, canceling both my roofing plans and my barrel firing plans, so… This morning I did get to unload the glaze firing I did yesterday. I have been having some problems with firing my kiln to cone 6, so this was kind of a test firing.

I never really realized how small my kiln is. I got done unloading and thought, “Wow, there was hardly anything in there!” I knew my kiln wasn’t huge, but man, it is small! Now I’m always going to be self conscious about my kiln size. Actually, between the realization about my limited kiln space and its recent chicanery with glaze firings, this would be a good time to look into hooking up my “new” kiln. (My wife’s cousin recently moved and gave me all of his old pottery equipment, including a kiln and wheel!)

So here are the results. There were a couple of grow pots (planters), some tea bowls, a few mugs and a number of glaze tests. I was fairly pleased with how everything turned out, especially the toasty color of the clear glaze over the tea bowls. The color doesn’t come through too well in this picture, but it is nice…or at least I think so. I still have to go through all the glaze tests, but I think they will yield some good information.

This is one of the mugs that I have been working on. It has a light underglaze wash and clear glaze on it. I have a few more that are textured like this, but I am not sure about finishing them the same way. Would a colored glaze be better? Do I need to do something with the handle? I don’t know. Any comments or suggestions would be more than welcome on this.

And finally, the over firing issue. This load was over fired, but only slightly this time. I set up a witness cone so as I could keep an eye on it throughout the firing, but apparently I didn't watch it quite close enough. After running through the firing schedule for about seven hours the automatic shut off had not dropped on the kiln sitter, but the witness cone was bent so I turned it off. When I unloaded this morning some of the work was slightly warped, but not terribly so. And then there was this…

You can see that the cone is bent slightly more than it should be (at least I think it is), but the bar for the kiln sitter is hardly bent at all! What?! So the question; is there a problem with the kiln sitter or did I somehow get a bad batch of bars? Both puzzling and frustrating.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sleepy Sunday Morning

So this morning I get up kind of late because I had a fire call at 2am (I am a volunteer fire fighter, by the way) and didn’t get back to bed until 3:30 or so. As I stumble around groggily I says to myself, I says, “I know! I’ll start some coffee and when I get done unloading the kiln it will be piping hot and ready to go!” How’d that one work out? Not too good! I came in from unloading the kiln to find my counter tops covered with freshly brewed coffee. Apparently the filter broke, and the pot got clogged with grounds sending the brew everywhere but in the coffee pot. Since then I have been sitting around smelling coffee but not being able to drink any because I am too stubborn to make more.
Anyway, another fairly productive week this week. Aside from teaching a couple times and helping my neighbor tear of his roof, I was in the studio most of the time. I was able to run a couple bisque loads through this week, which was cool, but I still do not know what is going on with my kiln. The firings went off without a hitch, which is a good thing; but I don’t know what will happen when I try another glaze firing. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Bisque load #1, featuring glaze testers, larger bowls, Christmas ornaments and failed canisters...

...and bisque load #2, featuring the beginning of the 100 mug challenge, more Christmas ornaments and low fire glaze tests. I don't usually do low fire work, but I had some glazes laying around from a few years ago and I was just given a box of 50 or so more, so I figured I'd test some and maybe use them on ornaments or sculptures or something. The vases in the back are not mine. They were made by my wife's cousin about ten years ago and have been sitting around unfired ever since. Now they are fired and ready to be glazed!

The mugs are rolling pretty good. I have 30 in either green or bisque ware. Now I have to start worrying about glazing…Ugh. It would be easier if I had some test tiles to go by, but if you read my last post you know how that went. Well, I have lids to work on, mugs to glaze and I guess more coffee to make, so I probably ought to get to it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Burnishing my balls on spring break

That title is a double entendre, by the way. It has one meaning which is rather innocuous and one which is...not. Keep reading to find out which way I meant it!
So this past week has been a good week, with the exception of Wednesday which was a little demoralizing. It’s never fun having someone tell you that what you are doing is little more than a glorified hobby, especially when it is what you are trying to turn into a career.
But anyway…it was spring break this week so I didn’t have to worry about being interrupted by teaching. The only thing that took me away from the studio was applying for a job at the SIU library. Sure, it is not exactly what I would like to be doing, but it would be nice to have a steady income for a change, and I would still have plenty of time to get in the studio. Here’s hoping that goes well. In the mean time I got a decent amount of work done. Not as much as I would have liked, but decent.

In order to keep myself motivated I have decided to take the 100 MUG CHALLENGE! (doesn't that sound like something you would hear on Oprah? "Next time on Oprah, the 100 Mug Challenge and how it can change your life...") You can check out the inspiration for this at the Fine Mess Pottery blog. I do not have a deadline or show set up for my 100; I am doing it more for the practice and to build inventory. I started this week and have 13 green mugs thus far.
These are a few more of the mugs and a couple canisters I made as tests. Man, those were a trip! I didn't realize how long it has been since I made lidded jars. The forms are close to what I was looking for, but I had quite a time getting those lids to fit properly. There are definitely a lot of flaws with these canisters, so they may end up being used for saggars or just in the scrap heap. Maybe my next project should be 100 lidded jars.

12 glaze testers. Since my last glaze testing went horribly awry I had to make more pieces to retest. I decided to make things that could actually be used, though instead of just little tiles. So...bud vases! And they were pretty fun to make to boot.

And finally, bowls. I have been wanting to try some bigger stuff and bowls seemed like a good place to start. The walls might be a bit thick, but even. They would work well for mixing bowls. Now I just need to get those handles figured out. It is the first time I have tried that type of handle and it was troublesome getting something I was half ways ok with. The balls inside the bowls are more christmas ornaments like the ones I talked about earlier. They are all burnished (hence the title) and ready to go in the kiln. I guess that is all for now. Back to the studio and moving a kiln.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh the Irony-or-This IS a real job!

So I wasn't really planning on posting on here today, but after reading a great post and comments on the blog this artist's life by Whitney Smith I decided I had to, but more on that in a bit. First...

What is wrong with this picture? Nothing much on first inspection; maybe these are some pendants or earrings or something. But then there is that "Oh shit" moment when you realize you just opened the kiln and these are supposed to be the witness cones and kiln sitter bar. I'm not entirely sure what happened, other than the kiln over fired, which made the glaze tests that were in there completely useless. Most everything was scrap except for a few things that didn't have hellacious bloating in the clay or weren't slumped beyond salvaging.

The few things that did come out were actually kind of interesting. These are a few keepers. The three cups in the front and the two blue cups had slip sprayed on them and should have turned out matte, but with the over firing the slips appear to have melted into a satiny glaze. Of course this isn't exactly what they were supposed to look like, but hey, you take what you can get out of something like that. The really ironic part is that I put the witness cones in this time because I was afraid the kiln might have been under firing. I can definitively say that is not a problem. Now if I can just figure what went wrong...

And now for the really great post. Ms. Smith talks about the trials of being a professional artist in her blog, and in this post in particular she talks about the crap we often get from other folks about not having a "real" job. It seems to me that most of the people who look down on being an artist as a profession are people who have a JOB. And by JOB I mean they do not get any sort of satisfaction out of work other than the paycheck at the end of the week. It seems some people think that if you enjoy what you are doing it doesn’t really count as work. Thus artist, who enjoy what they do for a living, don’t really work and do not deserve the same level of respect as people with jobs that do work. Why can’t people understand that being an artist is just as valid an occupation as anything else? Some people choose to be lawyers; some people choose to be plumbers; and some people choose to be artists.