Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yogi, doodles and the nefarious air whales...

No, this is not me.  Although I am diggin'  the beard and the orange diaper.

 I have been dabbling with yoga as a means to adding some stretching to my less than regular workouts.  Nothing like this pretzel looking fellow, just simple stuff to loosen up.  I used to be pretty flexible when I was stretching for sports everyday.  Now though...well, I am not.  Perhaps it will help relieve the tension that builds up after sitting at the wheel or scratching pots for hours on end.

The garden got some much needed tending over the weekend.  Not as much as it really should have had, but perhaps enough to keep it going for a little while yet.  Noah helped out, of course.  He was quite proud of the red tomatoes he was picking. most of which he promptly ate.

See this tomato?  This tomato is going in my belly!
Between the meager harvest from my garden and the bumper crop my father-in-law has been pulling in I was able to make up ten or so pints of pasta sauce.

It is just a package of spice mix that you add to the tomatoes, but it comes out pretty good.  And at $1.50 per package I think it is a bit cheaper than store bought stuff.  And then there is always the satisfaction in knowing that (most of) it came out of your own land.

As far as the studio goes, the glaze firing last week turned out pretty good with a couple minor-ish guffaws.  I was especially happy with how the underglaze pencil experiments turned out.

They fired slightly lighter than when they were first drawn on, but not too much.  The drawings retained the vast majority of their detail, which I was not sure they would do.  I'm not super keen on the drawings on the plain white clay, but they look pretty tasty over the colored slips that I normally use.

The layering thing is pretty cool, and I can get more information on each piece to tell more of a story and such.  I plan on utilizing this a lot more in the next few loads.  Eventually I would like to add even more layers of information with decals and perhaps lusters.

The only real let down in the kiln also happened to be a special order that is over due.

This is not the piece in question, however it was decorated with the same slip.  What was supposed to be a deep red/maroon turned out as a very pale pink.  Not exactly what I had in mind.

The new blue slip I used this time around turned out much better than the red.  It is a bit brighter than the old one, but it works well.

This is a skunk...because I like skunks.
A cartoon owl on a starry night...

Here is another piece that I have been working on for a while now that will hopefully work out better.

Air whales...
...the scourge of the seven skies.
I started with the carvings of the clouds and zeppelins, but then got stuck.  I knew it needed something else and I wanted to use whales, but I wasn't real sure how to get them on there.  When I got the underglaze pencil I took another crack at it.  I like the direction it is going, but I am not sure it is completely there yet.

I guess that is all for now.  Up next...how not to burn yourself while putting a pizza in the oven.  Wait, scratch that.  I was unsuccessful in that endeavor.

Up next...the planet Clarion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bats, bags and seeing red...


I told my wife that 2013 was going to be the year of the beard.  She scoffed at the idea, citing the fact that thus far in my 30 years of life the extent of my facial hair growth has stopped at scraggly chin hairs.  We shall see...

Ok, I have a shit ton of pictures to put up, so words will be minimal.  First up, making a new bast system.  I never seem to have enough bats when making jars and such so I worked up this rig.  Now I will have a copious amount of cheap bats that will store easily and such.
Tools of the trade: 6.5 inch square cut out of one sheet of masonite, glued to a second sheet of masonite, 6.5 inch squares cut for bats.

Holes drilled for bat pins and notch cut for easy removal of bats.

Edges of bat trimmed down to fit inside splash pan.

New bat system on the wheel with bat in place.

In use.

Jar and lid successfully thrown on new bats and taking up very little space.

I think I may need to put a couple coats of shellac on everything to keep it from warping, but all in all I think it will work quite well.

Last week I went up to Krueger Pottery to grab some supplies I desperately needed to finish up some custom orders and such.  I got a bunch of glaze/slip materials, mostly in 50lb bags as they are much cheaper that way.  The only problem now is that I am not sure where I am going to store everything.  Oh well, small problems.

I also got a Talisman hand sieve to work up my slips and glazes.  I had been having a slight problem with clumps and bits of muck in some of the slips. 
The sieve works fine, but it is a bit smaller than I expected.  The description said it would fit on a "normal size" bucket, which I naturally assume means a 5 gallon bucket, but not so...falls right in.  I guess I will have to make an adapter ring so the sieve can sit on the buckets without having to muck about with it.

I also got a couple bags of plaster so I can finally finish up my reclaim bin.  Now I can recycle the many many pounds of slop clay that have been sitting around the studio.
It does, however, weight just slightly less than an elephant, so I will have to find a good, mostly permanent place for it in the studio.

Yesterday I loaded and fired a glaze load, which is currently cooling.  It is probably cool enough to take a peek now, but I am going to wait a little while yet.  Pictures of finished work next post.  For now here are some pictures pre-firing.
Bisque-ware pre-glazing.
Figures for surprise mugs.  Freaking great and much fun to make.
At ye olde pottery shop I also picked up a underglaze pencil to play around with.  I have tried underglaze sticks before with not very good results.  They were difficult to sharpen and almost impossible to get any detail with.  This new one, though, is cased in wood making it very easy to sharpen.  It also seems to be a bit harder than the last ones I tried, so it holds a tip longer and gets better detail.  My only complaint so far is that they smudge a bit, so I have to be pretty careful while working on pieces.  This, of course, is a pretty minor problem and should be an easy fix.
Underglaze pencil experiments.
I really enjoyed drawing on the pots and was very happy with how the illustrations came out.  We will see how they look after being glazed and fired.

And last but not least, a chance to Philbeck it up.
I got a bucket of terra cotta clay from who knows where and it has been sitting around for quite a while.  The other day I finally wedged it up and ended up with about 35 pounds or so of nice red clay.  Not enough to do much with, but plenty to play around with.

Up next...yoga?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ferocious felines, a portmanteau and how to make the change...


 They are quite possibly the greatest dreams ever.  Enough said.

Now, on to the good stuff. 

There is a serious lack of craft breweries, and breweries in general in southern IL/southeast MO.  Oh, there are a couple in the area.  There is Big Muddy in Murphysboro, Buckner in Cape Girardeau and a couple wineries that have jumped on the band wagon.  I am also eagerly awaiting the opening of Scratch Brewing in Ava.  When you compare it to say, Chicago though, this area really doesn't have much.  Certainly not enough to do a proper brewery trail (although there is talk of organizing one).  As a lover of craft beer, I would like to see this changed.  Somebody get on that.
Actually, if there was anything I could do aside from being a potter it would probably be working in a small brewery/brew pub.  I would be fine with doing little stuff, but it would be wicked cool to help create the brews.  So if there are any breweries in the Carbondale, IL area that have a few extra bucks to throw around (HA!) and need some part time help, give me a shout.

Say hello to Maggie.
  Maggie is the new cat my wife and I decided to get recently.  I am not entirely sure why my wife wanted to get a cat.  I think it has something to do with thinking it would be cute watching Noah playing with one.  It is kind of cute, but only for us.  Maggie seems terrified.  Of course that may be because Noah's idea of playing with Maggie is getting 2 inches from her face and laughing hysterically. 
I am hoping Maggie grows up to be a ferocious beast and hunts down all the moles that have been tearing up our back yard.  In the mean time she has been running around the studio pestering the dogs and such.  She seems quite interested in whatever I am doing, trying to jump in my lap and get on the wheel whenever I am throwing or trimming, attacking my elbow when I am decorating, etc.  It is not too bad having her around the studio most of the time.  She has only broken a few pieces...so far.

Luckily these were not among them.
I made these beer steins recently featuring people with sheep heads, or "sheeple" if you prefer.  Now, there are some particular associations with the word "sheeple."  Although this is where these pieces started, once I got working on these they became more about the visuals and less about the meaning.  I was really just having fun with the images, seeing how different sheep heads would look on different bodies and such.  They start a story in my mind.  I am hoping they do the same for other.  I think I may continue this line of decoration and do a little run people with various animal heads.  Swine-dividuals?  Cow-mans?

  Last post I was rankling about the oppressive heat.  As luck would have it two days after that post my wife's grandpa brought over this little gem! 
Sweet, sweet conditioned air!
He has owned numerous rental properties and now has quite a collection of things that were left behind, this being among them.  I thought it was going to be a bit too small at first, but not so.  I usually only run it at about 20 - 25% power and it cools the garage-io plenty for comfortable working conditions.  Freaking great.

And finally, I have been seriously thinking about making a major style change with my pots lately.  Currently my work is sgraffito decorated stuff fired to cone 5/6 in an electric kiln.  I enjoy the pieces I make, but came on this style more as a result of circumstances rather than choice. 
 Originally I wanted to get some sort of graphics on my pots.  The more I work on pots and in my sketchbook, though, the more I want to see the illustrations on paper instead of on pots.  That idea has been floating around in my head in a sort of insubstantial way the past few months or so, but was really solidified in the past two weeks.  I have been working on building up inventory and have found myself putting off the decorating part of the work in favor of throwing more.  A pretty fair sign that it may be time to move in another direction.

In addition to graphic pots (and probably before those, actually) I have always been extremely interested in wood, salt and soda firing.  The pots that come out of those kilns are just plain beautiful.  There is definitely something to the interaction of the clay and the flame.  Those pots seem to have a different, more natural life than pots that I have been making.

So now the question is how to transition from what I am doing to what I want to do.  Whenever I figure out what I want/need to do I want to get to it right away.  I have plans to go to a wood firing workshop next year, but that is an awful long ways away.  I have looked for other potter wood firing in this area to sit in on or help with firings, but to no avail.  I know SIU (the college 'round these parts) has a wood kiln, but I am not sure how often it gets used.  I am thinking about contacting the ceramics professor there to see if I can help with anything there or maybe even audit a class or something.  If I can get in on something like that I may even try to stretch it into getting into the graduate program.  I am sure my work would benefit from some serious critiques, especially if I am going to try my hand at wood firing.

Ok, that was a lot of eff-ing writing, so enough of this.  Next time...beards!