Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Leaf Imprint Vessels

Last week I was decorating with scented geranium leaves, which I have since learned is referred to as a "mosquito geranium" (Pelargonium citrosu).  This week there are many more options, as there are many perennials and shrubs and trees leafing out now.  I decided on a Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis), since it had very distinctive veining in the leaves :

Here it is, in progress :
This was a bottle I threw a week or so ago, and today I covered it in "No. 6 soda slip", which is a slip which Jay formulated, so that it already has properties of a flashing slip for the soda firing.  So I think with this one, I will stain to show the details of the veins and texturing, and then leave it unglazed (except inside).  I want to try various different approaches and see which one I like the best.  Hopefully all of them.

This class, I threw 2 spherical shaped closed vessels, and accelerated their drying in the wind (and bit of sun) outside, so that I could trim and finish them today also.  For both, I decided to cut an opening off-center, so that they could be used as a funky vase.  Funny, but my instructor Jay passed by, and commented that the hole was off center.  My other instructor, Fredi, commented that she liked how the hole was off center, and the "movement" that it created.  It's fun to see different reactions and perspectives.  But most people respond positively to my work.

Here is the first one, also with the anemone leaves pressed into the No. 6 soda slip, and then black slip painted around them :

Here it is, in progress :
With the help of the heat gun, I was able to dry the slip enough to be able to handle it.

By the time I got to the final vase, I had run out of the anemone leaves, so I went for a short walk and picked some flowers and leaves of Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).  The flowers didn't turn out so well, but I like how the leaves worked out :
(Sorry I'm too lazy to crop those photos.)

I also threw another vase with a bulbous shape, and decorated with a texture slip (I think it was the one labelled as "Arlynn's soda slip", but I don't know if it has any flashing slip qualities to it, so I may add a flashing slip on top).

The other exercise was to combine those two big pieces we threw last week, and then add a coil and throw a third piece on top.  First I had to cut off the rim of each piece, as they were a bit too thin at the edge.  Then I needed to push one out a bit, as it was no longer the same size.  
Finally I managed to get my pieces combined, but it was a long and painful process to make sure they were really connected well.
I ended up adding a coil (with clay that was perhaps a bit too dry) to the outside of the seam, but then spent a lot of time trying to smooth done the bump that it created.
Then I moistened and pulled the top, which was otherwise a bit heavy.  And added a coil, but never managed to get it centered well, so the whole thing became a mess, and I ended up cutting off at least as much as I had added, and then I rolled out the rim to make it even again.  The result was a bit too off center and uneven for my liking.  But with a bit of texture, I think I managed to recover and end up with a piece that could be quite a statement :
It was a fairly difficult process, but I'm sure I will try it again, as it makes for an impressively size piece.  Although normally we wouldn't be allowed anything over 18", as that is the constraint of the electric kilns.  It sounds like Jay will make an exception for our class, and fire them in the gas kiln.  If I didn't have so much fun with my leaf textures, I would have been tempted to throw two (or even three) more pieces, and create a shape (and size!) which I wouldn't otherwise be able to achieve.

I'm happy that I have a half dozen pieces now, which are suited for the soda firing.  With a number of others which could be used in the soda firing, or regular gas firing, depending on how I feel.  I am still waiting to receive my bag of No. 6 clay, for the soda firing.  I missed the distribution on Sunday, so will get some from the next batch this coming Sunday.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Throwing Big and Other Challenges

Too bad I will be missing Fredi's class this weekend, due to the Sun Run.  So I'm so glad I have Jay's class to keep me going...  This past week I trimmed and decorated a few pieces from the prior week, and then threw 4 more pieces.

After decorating that sphere last week with the scented geranium leaves, I had the great idea to make a geranium decorated vase for my friend Beth, who gave me that beautiful scented geranium, which I have been enjoying all winter on my windowsill.  She is a wonderful and creative person, and I think she will really enjoy this surprise.

I got to talking with a classmate about double-walled vessels again.  I had that one from last week, which was sort of plain, and didn't suit itself well to carving the outside wall, so I shaped the rim into a floral shape.  I'm really pleased with the result (top vessel, photo below).
I decided to throw another one (bottom vessel, photo above), this time trying to make the outside wall rounder, and the inside straighter, so I could carve the outer wall.  Funny, but I ended up with almost the same shape again.  Not suitable for carving, and too ordinary on its own.  So I shaped that rim also :

The challenge Jay gave us in class was to throw a vessel bigger than we have ever thrown before, and then throw a second similar one with no bottom, which will be combined with the first one, and then we'll throw a coil on top.  So we'll end up with something roughly 2.5 or 3 times as tall as we can throw.

I was pretty impressed that I was able to throw a pretty nice pot from 3200 g (7 lb) of clay.  I don't remember that I've thrown more than 5 lbs previously.  And this one is certainly larger, as I am throwing much thinner now.  The rim was a diameter of 8".  Here are the two pots :
I was trying for a rounder shape, not so cylindrical, but I'm still pleased, and can't wait to see the monster vessel I will get when I combine them and throw a neck on top.  Of course, Jay threw probably 15 lbs for each pot, but that's just something for me to marvel at, and to aspire to one day, but I am really pleased with my pots, and the possibilities this method provides.

Before I packed it in, I ended up throwing a beautifully shaped egg, which I suspect will hatch one of these days.  More photos to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Continuing in Jay's Course

I haven't quite settled into pottery two days per week, with missing last Wednesday's class due to work, and missing this Sunday's class due to the Easter holiday.  But when I do, I will surely be very productive, as I was again today.

I started first by finishing off the 5 pieces which I threw on the weekend.

The twisted piece (at the back), I just tweaked and cleaned up the bottom and stamped.  The other three pieces which were too "ordinary" looking vases, I finished with the thick white slip, just like the 2 pieces from last class.

For the final one, a pretty little sphere, I wanted to try another leaf imprint vessel, so I went into the garden yesterday evening, looking for leaves with lots of texture.  Most of the trees and a lot of perennials are only starting to bud out now, but there were a few promising ones.  Strawberry leaves, and hardy geranium leaves among the most promising.  But then this morning it was miserably rainy, so I decided to pick leaves from the scented geranium (a gift from my friend Beth) on my kitchen window sill.

The first step was to press the leaves into the sphere.  The leaves were quite resilient, and it took a bit of coaxing and rolling to get them settled into the clay, but I knew that the strength and thickness of the leaves were a good indicator of the impressions they would make.

In the past, I've textured around the leaf imprints, but this time I decided to try something new (and faster), so I painted black slip all around the leaves.

Then I let the slip dry a bit, and peeled the leaves out.  After the bisque firing, I will likely highlight the leaf textures with black (or perhaps another colour) stain.  But even now, the result is looking very promising.

I created quite a stir in the class, and a distraction to Jay as he was trying to demonstrate throwing of pitchers and other larger vessels.  I can't say I don't enjoy the attention.

After that, I decided to connect into the class activities, and participated in one which I had missed the previous week.  The challenge was for someone to sketch an idea for a ceramic vessel, and then try to throw it according to the drawing.  Then for another person to take that same sketch, and also try to throw from it.  So I picked a sketch, and this was my attempt :
I think it turned out pretty good, except that my base was a bit wider, and the belly of it was a bit lower than in the drawing.  I need to work on lifting up that belly, in future.

Anyhow, the thing ended up being far too ordinary looking for my liking, and I really didn't want to pull a spout and attach a handle, and make a pitcher, as much of the class was working on, as a ceramic pitcher just doesn't interest me at this point.  So I decided to decorate as follows :
That will make a fine vase, I think.

My next piece was also inspired by Jay's demos.  He had made a pot which was cylindrical, except it was drawn in at the center.  His was quite nice, actually.  Mine didn't turn out so beautiful, but I decided that with a bit of embellishing and a flattened shape, it could also be a pretty attractive vase.  Funny thing is that I don't seem to have any photos of it now, even though I was sure I had snapped some.  Nor do I have photos of the large double-walled vessel I threw, nor the two near-spherical shapes which I finished with a short neck, nor the smaller pieces I threw off the hump, which will be components of little goblets (or stemmed ice cream cups).

So I guess that's it for now.  I will be at it next Wednesday again.  I came close to throwing a large sphere which would have lent itself well to being carved (perhaps over the holiday), but now I'm so glad I didn't manage, since I have lots going on in my life, and I have a feeling the two days of playing with clay will be all I can manage for now.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Continuing in Fredi's Course

I am learning so much in Fredi's course, and today I had a very productive second class.  I finished off the 8 items I threw in last class, and threw another 5 more.  Not to mention, I mixed and revived a number of partial bags of clay.


The vessel with the hearts, I finished off the sides with the surform tool, which exposed the rich brown clay, and also added an interesting texture.  The vase beside it, I played with adding thick white slip, with my fingers.  I'm very pleased with the result.


The one on the left, I also added white slip with my fingers, and played with a wavy pattern.  The vase on the right, I was so tempted to decorate it more, but it was such a beautiful shape, and so light (I'm so pleased with my progress in throwing!), that I decided not to muck with it.  Maybe it will give me some beautiful variations in the soda firing.


The one on the left, I also resisted playing with it.  I could always try some creative glazing.  The one on the right, I messed around with scraping it, so that the rich brown clay showed through more clearly.  If I need to, I could also sand it a bit after the bisque firing.


This sweet spherical shaped "topper" for my totems, I decided to decorate with bees and honeycomb.  I'm really happy with the effect.  I may even send it through a soda firing.


Finally, I decided to play a bit with the more runny slips.  This one I added turquoise slip, and then while it was still wet, loaded black slip on the rim until it ran down the outside and also inside of the vessel.  I'm pretty happy with the drips, and will probably try something like this again.  That was the first 4 hours (almost 1 hour of which was settling in and watching a demo from Fredi).


In the final 3 hours, I threw these 5 pieces, which I will trim or just smooth out the bottoms and maybe decorate, next session, which will be either 2 weeks from now (due to the Easter holiday) or during one of my Wednesday classes.  We'll see.


Here they are, in closeup :
The one on left is another attempt to make a pleasantly shaped vase, which I could either decorate, or let the soda firing do some magic for me.  The one on right is something I had a bit of fun with.  It started like this :
...then I pushed out the shape.  Since one part of the rim split, I decided to split it in 3 more spots, and make it look intentional.


I played a bit more with spherical shapes.  If I can make them big enough, I would like to carve one into a candleholder.  The one on the left is a near-perfect sphere.  I love that shape.  The one on right, is almost spherical also, but finished as a vase.  Mostly for decorate purposes, with that little opening.


I would love to have decorated these will pressed leaves, but the leaves are only budding out at the moment.  I'll have to wait a few more weeks before I can make more of those.


Finally, this fairly large spherical vase.  It was thrown from 2kg of porcelain clay, quite a bit more than the 1300 g used in the previous two spherical shapes.  So I was disappointed that I couldn't make it bigger than I did.  But I think being the last one in a very long and busy day, I was getting tired.


I am so pleased by all the progress so far.  A few of the pieces I picked up today to finish, I could hardly believe they were mine.  They were so light, in comparison to what I've done in the past.  I hope I have compressed the bottoms enough that I won't get any cracks, as all of these pieces are quite dear to me.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

More Finished Items : Nearly All Now

Continuing with my finished pieces from the Spring Ahead course, I have nearly all of them now.  These are some of the latest pieces.


36) This little piece was thrown from P570 white clay, and when trimming, I ended up chattering the sides.  So I decided to glaze with Amber Celadon, to show the texture.  The glaze behaved beyond my expectation.  The result is smooth to the touch, but with a beautiful visual texture.  I'm very pleased with this result.


 37) This big open bowl was thrown from a mix of P600 porcelain and WSO sculptural clay.  It is glazed in Khaki (reformulated to be brighter than before, I'm not sure I like the new colour yet), and then Copper Red.  It is an interesting result, with quite a bit of crazing and variation in colours.  I like the visible rings from throwing, and the double/triple foot.  All around a pretty good result.


38) This little bottle was thrown from a reclaimed mix of P570 white, H550 grey, and various other clays mixed in, including the Willamette Yellow.  There is some nice marbling of the clay, but the Celadon glaze (sprayed on) dulls the impact.  Still not a bad result.


39) Last but not least, this sweet hatching dragon may be may favourite so far.  He is formed from Big White sculptural clay, which is quite gritty.  His features are highlighted in Red, Black, and Forest Green underglazes, and then he is sprayed with Celadon glaze, and the egg sprayed White.  He has a really nice weight to him, the egg texture is beautiful, I couldn't be more pleased.


What I'm missing is a photo of the big obelisk shaped piece which I brought home and immediately took outside, to become the base of one of my garden totems.  So I don't remember if I even took photos of it.  I'll need to get out there one day when it's not raining (that's so April in Vancouver!) and take some photos.


If my notes are correct, I seem to have 2 remaining pieces which I never did find on the pick up shelves, and then one little sodium silicate vessel on student display. So hopefully they will all come home with me soon.  In the meantime, I'll be back at pottery again tomorrow, creating more in my Soda course with Fredi.  I've got so many ideas of things I'd like to try, I don't know what to start first.  But at some point, I will need to settle down and create some pieces which are worthy of and suited to the soda firing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Great Start to the New Season

This Spring season, I will be doing pottery twice a week.  Wow.  Life is wonderful.  Except for today, I got called into work, so missed my first class with Jay.  But on Sunday, I had my first class with Fredi, and was really excited.  I made so much progress in improving my throwing, from Fredi's instruction.  I experimented with vessels which should not need to be trimmed at the bottom, and with pulling up as much clay as I can from the bottom corner (which is where I usually have so much weight).  The result was pots which were larger and lighter than I've ever thrown before.

These were my first two.  1500g and 900 g.  About 50% larger than I think I've thrown previously, with that same amount of clay.

I was being so disciplined the first 3 hours, reworking and blending some old clays I had in the garage for too long, and focusing on my centering and throwing, that on the third pot, I finally had to break down and "play".  I'm by nature a decorator, and I couldn't hold it back any longer.

I have been intrigued by the techniques of Cory Brown, which involve overlaying sheets with inlaid design over pots, and then using special handmade rollers to press in the inlay while throwing the form.  I was intrigued to try this, so created a sheet with a pattern of hearts, punched out of Plainsman H440 brown clay.

Too bad I was being too lazy, so didn't check the dimensions of the thin slab I was preparing.  So it didn't quite fit on the cylinder I had thrown :
Being lazy, I decided just to use a pastry roller (I don't have nice smaller rollers like Cory), to try to press this sheet (which is still quite thick) into the cylinder, ignoring that I had some gaps where the sheet didn't meet.  It worked to some degree.


Here is the final product :

I learned enough from this, that I think I could attempt a more interesting form and design one day, using a thinner inlaid sheet (Fredi suggested I could roll it out onto a plastic sheet, so I could use the plastic to lift it into place).  I could also try to "throw" the piece from the inside, to get the interesting twist on the design which Cory Brown achieves.  But for now, I was at least happy to get the two clay parts to adhere - or at least they seemed to.

After that experiment, I went back to working on improving my throwing.  I have always loved spherical forms, so I played a bit, and got this one, which has a hole in the bottom and top, so it will become a garden totem piece:

I played with a couple more spherical pieces, one with a very narrow neck at top (but not as tall as I was hoping to achieve - I forgot to take a photo of it), then the complete sphere below (left).  The one in the middle, I inset a couple of pieces of H440 brown clay before throwing, but the brown clay was too stiff, so it was hard to control, and I ended up with a wonky top.  So I made it even more wonky, to make it look intentional.  Finally, the one on the left is another cylindrical piece, thrown with a relatively light bottom and sides.
I don't think any of them are suitable for the soda firing (which is the intent of the course), but since I throw so many pieces (8 this time, which are almost done, since most won't need trimming), I will not have any problem throwing enough to fill my 2 cubic foot allotment.  Especially since I'll be doing pottery twice a week now (when work or other plans don't interfere!).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

More Finished Pieces : Sodium Silicate Vessels, Dragons and Marbled Items

Continuing on from my previous posts one, two, three and four of the finished items I've picked up from my Spring Ahead garden pottery course, here are some more pieces I was able to pick up yesterday :

The batch includes a few pieces finished in Shino, a hatching dragon, and a number of sodium silicate vessels.  I'll start with the sodium silicate ones, starting from small to large...

23) This little fella was thrown from WSO/sculptural clay, and then a mixture of black slip, texture slip, and sodium silicate was applied.  It is glazed inside and on the rim with Amber Celadon.  Then it was sprayed with Clear (after I waxed the Amber Celadon part, so it would stay that strong brown color).  It is interesting that the black slip ended up a very dark turquoise blue.  Quite pleasant, in my opinion.  The foot is trimmed in my signature double/triple rings.  I really like that foot.  The texture is very rough, but the glaze seals the piece, so it doesn't feel like the decoration will crumble off.  Quite pleasant all around.

24) This one was prepared in a similar manner, but stamped with stars before pushing it out.  It is glazed in White inside and on the rim and the bottom and on the stars, then sprayed Clear on the sides.

25) I just went and looked at this one again, since my notes indicate that is was sprayed Celadon all around (including inside).  Sure enough, there is a slight hint of a blue colour, but it almost looks like a Clear glaze.  Again, the black slip changed to a very pleasant dark turquoise.  This one features star stamps also, but it is more subtle, since I didn't highlight them.

26) This is the piece that started to slump as I was pushing it out, so I needed to hang it upside down to revive it.  So it is all the sweeter to see this piece completed successfully.  It was also sprayed in Celadon all around, very lightly.  I experimented with another multi-ring foot on this one, which I also enjoy very much.

27) This is a fun little piece.  It has alternating panels of bright Red (underglaze), and bright Red spots on a crackly background.  I highlighted the cracks with what was Forest Green, but it has since turned to a tan brown tone.  It is finished inside, on the rim, and on the foot (isn't that foot gorgeous?) with Amber Celadon, and then the glaze was waxed over, and I sprayed the sides Clear.  I really like the bright and light-hearted color combinations.

28) This one was thrown from H550 grey clay, covered in Turquoise slip, and stamped with my handmade spiral stamp.  It is glazed Amber Celadon inside, on the rim, and on the foot (again, isn't that a gorgeous effect?).  I then waxed over the Amber Celadon, and sprayed the sides with Celadon.  Very pretty color combination, in my opinion.

29) This is my largest sodium silicate piece, and probably my favorite.  It was thrown from 2600 g of H550 grey clay, and features the plum blossom stamps, and lots of crackle, which I highlighted with Forest Green stain.  I glazed the blossoms and rim and bottom edge with White glaze, and sprayed the sides Clear.  The only plain thing about it is the foot.  I don't remember why I just trimmed a plain foot.  It would look so much cooler with a multi-ringed one.

It is so beautiful, I think it deserves another photo:

I have in my notes that there are two more sodium silicate pieces out there.  One was the piece which is currently on student display, and the other must still be in the kiln, as I haven't seen it back yet.  Anyhow, continuing on with my other pieces.  These next few were thrown from recycled bits of P570 white, H550 grey, Williamette Yellow, and even some brownish clay (not sure what that was, maybe some slip mixed in).

30) This one is mostly the grey and white clays, with a bit of the brown near the top.  It cracked during bisque firing, radiating out from where the stamp was applied.  I glazed it anyhow, with Carbon Trap Shino, and the crack deepened, but didn't break all the way through.  So it is just a decorative accent.

31) This one is a mix of the grey, white, and lots of yellow clay.  It is sprayed Carbon Trap Shino.  I really like the rich color, the subtle but noticeable marbling, and that handsome foot.

32) This wonky bowl is also a mix of grey, white, and yellow clays.  It cracked slightly (not all the way through) in the bisque firing, and I sprayed it with Carbon Trap Shino.  Very nice.

33) This one was a mixture of the grey and white and a few spots of the brown clay (near the top).  It is glazed with Amber Celadon inside and on the rim, and then sprayed Clear on the outside.  The marbling is there, but a bit too subtle for me.  I do like the two smears of what appears to be a deep blue color, which seems to be the black or brown slip reacting to the Clear glaze.  That is a nice effect.

And finally, for now, a few little dragons :
34) This little dragon is formed from Little John clay, and is hatching from a P570 white clay egg.  I love the smooth feel of the white clay, so I left it unglazed.  He is accented with Forest Green eyes covered in Clear glaze, and touched up with Kingsmill stain.  He is wearing a little piece of eggshell on his head.  I'm so impressed that it stayed on.  This is a cute little piece.

35) This little dragon and his egg are both formed from Big White sculptural clay.  He is touched up with Red Iron Oxide, and his clays and spikes are glazed in Amber Celadon.  The cracks in the egg are highlighted with Black stain/underglaze.  He lost two toes while moving him to the greenware shelf, but I just stained and glazed those, and put them on a bit of clay wadding, and they are fine.  I'll just need to glue them back.

That's all for now.  My notes tell me that I still have that one piece on student display, and 7 more to pick up.  We'll see.  Stay tuned.