Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Second Garden Pottery Class

Last class, I threw a whole bag of Plainsman H550 grey clay, creating 7 items, and finishing 5 of them.  This class, I again threw a whole bag of H550 clay, creating another 7 items, finishing 4 of those, as well as finishing the 2 from last class.

This time, I played mostly with sodium silicate, to create a crackled effect, and the interactions with some stamps and small shape cutters.  I was very happy with the results.

Here's a glance at a few of the new pieces, and the two I finished off from last time (back right corner) :

I like how that carved vase turned out.  It was a vase I threw toward the end of last session, and the neck didn't turn out too well.  But rather than cutting it off even, it inspired me to carve this flowing pattern into it.  Here it is from another angle :

I've thrown with sodium silicate before, but this is the first time I've introduced the stamps/cutters, inspired by a ceramic artist, Rob Haenszel ( on Instagram.

This is the first pot I threw :
I love how the plum blossoms pop, and the crackles emanate from the flowers, like electricity.

I left a good amount of clay above the part I treated with sodium silicate, so I could add a proper neck to the vase, making it almost bottle shaped.   I am so pleased with this piece in so many ways :

The second vessel also features the plum blossoms, but I applied turquoise slip before the sodium silicate :

Then I tried simple circles also, made with my hole cutter tools (the smaller of which I made in my Pottery Tools course last year) :

For fun, I tried one of my clay stamps, which wouldn't cut through the sodium silicate, but press and weaken that spot :

When pushed out, it also had a different, but pleasing result :
This one seemed to beg for a bit more, so I added another line near the rim, and then I toyed with pushing out that section with sodium silicate also.  I debated, and then decided to give it a go.  Although I don't know that I like the result better, it was interesting to observe and feel the effect at my fingertips.  It was interesting to me that the cracks travelled toward the rim.  Perhaps if I had re-moistened that part, it would not have cracked as it did.  I'll need to try that another time :

Then I decided to try white slip, and return to the plum blossoms again.  It may be fun to underglaze/glaze the flowers on this one, in a bright colour like red :

And finally, I tried alternating panels of regular clay, with clay coated with sodium silicate and stamped.  Here is the "before" photo :
...and the "after" photo :
It's interesting how the seams look like they are completely split, yet the clay didn't crack through, it is just the outside surface which split like this.  But I ended up needing to go easy on the pushing (so I didn't get as much cracking as I had hoped) since I didn't want to break through those seams.

I also had one pot which went badly off center, so I ended up making it completely wonky ("wabi sabi"), and will take another look at how to finish it next week.  If it has good potential, I will trim it, but if not, I may just recycle the clay.  It is a rare moment when I do that, but I need to learn how to allow myself that option sometimes.

I decided to force the pieces with the dryer, and try trimming some of them this week.  Partly because I'm an impatient person, and I don't know what I may have moved onto next week, and partly because I figured this may give me good control over the dryness of the pieces.  I dried the tops enough to flip them into a chuck, but left the bottoms quite wet.  Even then, it was quite difficult to trim through the sodium silicate, which runs down and pools at the bottom of the vessel, no matter how much you try to apply only a light amount with the brush.  I ended up pretty much cutting off the stiff outer layer with a pin tool before using my trimming tools to do the actual trimming.

Here is one of the pieces, after trimmed, with my signature double foot :
I think that turned out quite well.

And another one, this one with a blurry photo :

And finally for tonight, here are the 4 finished pieces, left on the shelf in the drying cellar, where they should dry fairly slowly, considering the heavy rain we've been having these past few days :

Oh, and I try not to post photos of other student's work unless it is on exhibit, but I can't resist to post this beauty that I spotted in the drying cellar also.  Wow.  I love working in a place which is so full of inspiration - and great people, too.
I can't wait to see what I get my hands into next week.  And in the back of my head, I know I need to switch over to sculptural (groggy) clay and make a few pieces for the raku workshop coming up in early March.  But I am waiting to see where inspiration takes me.  So far none of the pieces in the last 2 weeks have been particularly suited to raku firing.  The totem pieces could work, but I don't want to "waste" the raku firing on an outdoor piece.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Back in the Studio Again

Yesterday was my first day back in the pottery studio, and I came home sore and tired in all the right ways, and so very happy.  It seems it has been a long time waiting to get back to it, so I am so glad to be back, even if I can still only spend one day a week doing pottery.

I had to be a bit patient with myself, since I am still a beginner at the wheel, and I needed to get my confidence back.  So I'm glad our instructor, Jay, had us starting with some totem pieces.  I'm happy to throw more pieces, since I have some finished from last year, but not enough to add a third totem to the garden yet.  And any pieces, no matter what shape, can be a totem piece, with the addition of holes at two ends.

I ended up throwing 7 pieces, and then drying them a bit with the hairdryer so I could trim and finish 5 of them already.  I ended up finishing the whole bag of Plainsman 550 grey clay.
Here are the first 4 pieces, just after throwing them :
Pottery by Lily L, in progress.

The one on the right, I threw with holes on both ends already, to be a totem piece, and altered it while still in the wheel, to have a bit of a pattern.  I hope to pick a glaze which will accentuate rather than hide the rings.

The one at the front, was meant as a garden ornament (upside down) or totem topper.  I intentionally created a few ridges in the shape, so I could alter it with a stick, to get something like this:
Pottery garden ornament by Lily L, in progress.
Not quite what I had in mind, but I still like the outcome.  Good enough for the garden, anyhow.

The shape at the back was originally going to be an acorn, thrown with the pointy side down, and the cap at the top.  But half way through throwing it, I managed to push the piece right off the bat.  So after that, it was too wonky to finish as an acorn.  It looked more like it wanted to be a swirl of soft ice cream.  So I helped it along a bit :
Pottery garden totem pieces by Lily L, in progress.
It has a hole in the base, so it can become a totem topper.  But then what is an ice cream without a cone to sit it in?  So I threw a cone, also with a hole in the bottom, to sit on a totem :
Pottery ice cream cone for a garden totem, by Lily L, in progress.
Then I added a bit of texture to the cone, so it didn't look like a flower pot :
Pottery ice cream cone totem pieces by Lily L, in progress.

The donut was a challenge to my throwing abilities.  I have made a donut in the past.  And then I've made a few pieces which were supposed to be donuts, but ended up not closing up, so becoming succulent pots, etc.  So I was pleased when I was able to make this donut close up.  And again I forced it to dry enough so I could trim and finish it :
Pottery donut by Lily L, in progress.
I've already added holes in it (not shown in the photo) to mount on the totem also.  Instead of centering the holes, so the rebar pole will show through, I added holes to one side.  So then it needed another totem piece which would sit at an angle to it (perpendicular to the donut), and threw another circular piece (not shown).  And also a vase / jug, to practice bringing in the neck, which is still a challenge for me at times.

The vase turned out a bit wonky at the top also, so if I'm up to it, I'll play a bit with it next week, and alter it.  But then again, I have some ideas in my head for some sodium silicate crackly pots, and Jay is talking about showing us that next week, so I suspect that will keep me busy instead.  We'll see.  I also want to make something bowl-like with a large ceramic mold he has available.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Triangle Platter on Display

When I stopped in at Shadbolt Center before the holidays, to see if my final platter was ready for pick up, I discovered it in the display case outside Mathers House (the pottery studios).  At the time, the windows were foggy, so I wasn't able to get a good photo.  So when I passed by there recently, I snapped a few :

It is fun that it shares the shelf with that complicated two-piece sculpture created by that encouraging young man I mentioned in a prior post :

I seem to remember it was meant to represent a water tower.  And he was unsure whether the pieces would fit together well.  But it seems it turned out okay, and his many hours were rewarded not only with a nice piece to take home, but some public display time also.

My Pottery Finding A Good Home

It is a great feeling to know that your work has found a home where it is loved.  This Christmas, I had the joy of sharing two of my pieces with my friends Holly and Melanie.  They captured these beautiful photos of them "in action".

The table is set, candles lit, and the little dragon hatchling looks in anticipation to the dragon scale platter, wondering what will come next ...

Then the platter is filled with delicious Korean BBQ chicken and roasted garlic...

For a moment, there is a stillness, as the diners wait politely, savouring the delicious scents...

And then they dive in, and there is no time to take more photos.

Thanks Holly and Melanie, I hope this platter enjoys many more feasts in your home.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Finished Dragon and Other Items from the Fall Session

Continuing on from my other finished ceramics from this Fall session, here are my dragon related items.

Beautiful ceramic dragon mask by Lily L.
7) I'll post more photos of my second dragon mask once I glue on the missing horn.  It came off before the piece was bisque, but I have finished it along with the mask, so I just need to buy some epoxy, and she'll be done.  Then I hope to hang her on the wall beside my first dragon mask, in my "dragon" corner of the family room.  This one I intentionally made a bit darker, finishing the Little John clay with Kingsmill wash, and then a touch of Black under/overglaze on the cheeks and eyelids.  The eyes are finished with Reeves Green underglaze, Black under/overglaze, and Clear glaze.

Ceramic / stoneware dragon hatching from an egg, by Lily L.
8) I think this is my favourite of the three dragon hatchlings - so far.  See this post for the making of this dragon hatchling.  The dragon part is Little John clay, and the egg is WSO sculptural clay.  The eyes are Reeves Green and Black coated in Clear glaze, and the body (and inside and edge of the egg) was sprayed with Celadon (this latest formulation called "Pumice Celadon").  I like the shiny lizard like skin contrasting with the matte egg.

Here are a few more views of this piece :
Ceramic / stoneware dragon hatching from an egg, by Lily L.

Ceramic / stoneware dragon hatching from an egg, by Lily L.
9) This is the smallest and first attempt at a dragon hatchling.  Both the egg and the dragon are made from Little John Clay, which is a bit too dark for the egg, in my opinion.  The eye is Reeves Green and Black coated in Clear glaze.  The remainder of the dragon is unglazed, highlighted only with some Black under/overglaze.

Ceramic / stoneware dragon hatching from an egg, by Lily L.
10) This little hatchling turned out to be pretty sweet.  She looks like she can barely fit in the egg that she's busting out of.  Here, the egg and dragon are both Little John, but I like the contrast between the unglazed egg and the Celadon glazed dragon (with accents in Black underglaze prior to glazing).  As before, the eyes are Reeves Green and Black coated in Clear Glaze.

And finally, a few more items which I threw some while ago, and finally glazed and finished them now :

Amber Celadon ceramic vessel with gecko, by Lily L.
11) You'll see that I made this pot with gecko back in April 2016.  I held off glazing a few pieces, since I thought I might use them in the soda firing, but didn't.  This one was thrown from 3000 g of grey clay, and the gecko hand built and attached.  I highlighted the texture on the lizard with Black underglaze, and then glazed it in Amber Celadon, which is a bit dark, but picks up the texture fairly well.  I like the double ringed foot.

Blue and Celadon ceramic vase by Lily L.
12) This vase was thrown from 2500 g of P570 white clay, with a bit of yellow clay marbled in.  It was just too "ordinary" for me, so I created a pattern in pinstriping tape, dipped it in Deep Blue, and then sprayed it with Celadon.  It bears my "signature" triple foot.  I really like that foot.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Finished Items from the Fall (and Prior) Session

I was pretty pleased with the finished items I was able to pick up on Wednesday, hot out of the gas kiln.  There were 4 platters (1 of them broken), 2 African men, 2 other vessels, 1 mother dragon mask, and 3 dragon hatchlings.  All bear my signature stamp.

I finally had enough daylight to photograph these, so here goes with some photos, and notes (mostly for myself, so I can remember clay and glaze combinations).  The hands are my son's, I borrowed them since these pieces are too big  for me to hold and photograph at the same time :

Dragon scale textured ceramic platter by Lily L.
1) I like to think of this as a dragon scale platter.  It came together very nicely, and is a practical size and weight for serving food of some sort.  It is created from a textured slab of B-Mix clay, formed over my 1" deep oval handmade styrofoam hump mould (see this post for more information).  I highlighted the texture with black overglaze (works the same as black underglaze), and sprayed it with Celadon glaze.

Oak leaf hydrangea textured ceramic platter by Lily L.
2) This beauty was also created in a similar manner, formed over my 2" deep octagonal handmade styrofoam hump mould (see this post for more information).  I highlighted the texture with black overglaze (underglaze), and a Reeves Green stain/overglaze on the leaves (although the resulting green tinge is very subtle), and then again it was sprayed with Celadon glaze.  It has a very smart looking foot, and has a nice feel, some weight to it, but light enough to be practical for filling and carrying.

Colourful textured ceramic platter by Lily L.
3) This was again created in a similar manner, also formed over my 2" octagonal styrofoam hump mould (see this post for more information).  It features a glaze combination I discovered a long while ago, and I was happy to try it again. It was a dip in Deep Blue glaze, then a dip in Amber Celadon, to overlap.  I like the visual texture on the Amber Celadon side, which doesn't come through as clearly through the Deep Blue.  So future platters may feature more of the Amber Celadon.

Here's another look at it, from a few different angles :
Colourful textured ceramic platter by Lily L.

4) This one was formed from my 3" deep hexagonal styrofoam hump mould.  When I was forming it, I could already feel that the clay was resisting being stretched so aggressively from a flat slab into this deep shape.  But it seemed successful, until it came back from the bisque firing with a small crack.  I decided to continue with it anyhow, if nothing else, to have more chances to experiment with different glazes.  The crack has deepened, so the platter will be unusable for anything other than perhaps a garden decoration (I'll figure something out, I'm sure).  It is glazed with a few dips of Deep Blue glaze.

One remaining platter is still awaiting final gas firing.  It is the triangular one.  I hope to have it soon.

Okay, on to my two African men.  These are fun pieces.  I really like how they turned out, with the rich brown colour of the Little John clay.

African man in colourful boubou, ceramic sculpture by Lily L.
5) I am pleased with the result of this first African man, with his multi-coloured boubou, and his missing finger (but he doesn't seem bothered by it, so nor will I).  Although I wish the colours were more vibrant and cheery.  But this is what I can achieve with a Cone 10 gas firing.  The glazes were Deep Blue, Tam's Green, Amber Celadon, Celadon and Copper Red.  His eyes were glazed with Amber Celadon, I believe, with a dot of Black Overglaze for the pupil.  I also touched up the unglazed parts (e.g. on the eyebrows and lips) with a stain.  I don't seem to have it in my notes, but it was either the Kingsmill wash or the Red Iron Oxide wash.  I think it was the Kingsmill wash.

"Why Lord?" African man in colourful boubou, ceramic sculpture by Lily L.
6) I think I enjoy this character even more.  He is looking up to Heaven with a "Why, Lord?" expression.  It is also the same set of glazes (but in different combinations) and the Kingsmill wash on the skin parts.

Another time, I will have enough courage to risk one of these pieces in the raku firing, and then I think I can achieve some brighter colours.  Although it has the backdrop of the dark iron oxide rich Little John clay to compete with, so it's hard to know.

I think I'll save photos of the dragon pieces to post another day.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dragon Hatching

I had a funny feeling yesterday when I brought the ceramic egg home, that it may not take too long for something to hatch.  Tonight I found this wee dragon hatching already :
Hatching dragon pottery egg by Lily L, in progress.
Hatching dragon pottery egg by Lily L, in progress.
Hatching dragon pottery egg by Lily L, in progress.
Hatching dragon pottery egg by Lily L, in progress.
What do you think?  Should I keep him?