Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Glaze kiln results

I got some glazed pieces out of the kiln. I'm not 100% happy with the results, but I've got some interesting directions to go in from here. I definitely have to do something with that construction orange glaze! I hate it. I have to find a way to tone it down. I think I'd like it better if it was more of a sherbet color. It's a commercial glaze, so I'm not sure whether I should just try layering it with other glazes, or mixing something else into it. I guess I've got yet another use for the latest batch of porcelain test tiles I made.
Wax resist cups
Wax resist bowl. Definitely not digging the bits of glaze I couldn't wipe away.
The owl rattle
Slip trailed black underglaze over faux celadon
It turned brown and ran. Definitely not something I want when I'm trying to get precise lines, but it's a cool effect! I definitely want to play with this a bit more. They kinda look like spooky ghost cats.
Celadon dripping into Floating Blue Woo glaze
Pinch pot cup
Detail shots
I'm becoming more and more disatisfied with these flat glossy glazes. They're really kind of lifeless, aren't they? I love bright colors, but I think I need some more depth, or translucency, or variegation, or something. So much to do! I just wish I had unlimited time and resources so I could spend more time on glaze testing for myself. One of these days I'm gonna have to put together a Kickstarter or something.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clay houses

Yesterday's slab demo. I really wanted to give the little cottage chicken legs, like Baba Yaga's hut. Maybe I'll add some today, or make another one.
I made a little modular house. Looks like something out of Dwell or Readymade, doesn't it?
I'm definitely not a precise slab builder, but I did alright for just winging it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back in the studio

The entire weekend nearly passed before I was able to get into the studio. I allotted myself three hours, but it really wasn't enough time. How I long for a good 6 hour chunk of studio time! Maybe once Maddy is weaned.

I got a glaze kiln loaded with all the tests and experiments my classes and I did this week. I'm excited to see the results of this firing on Tuesday. I'm hoping my owl rattle and underglaze bowl turn out.

I tested some of those free underglazes on a little bird sculpture from a class demo. It has like 20 different colors on it! I'm really pleased with the range of colors in that set, though. I was worried that they were too old and dried out, but a little water and stirring and they were just fine.

I don't know what I'm doing with that little closed form house. It has more copper stain on it, but I haven't fired it yet. Debating whether to paint it now with underglazes, or wait and just glaze it. Hmmm. I think I was daydreaming of having a house of our own some day when I doodled on it. What I wouldn't give for a little cottage home and corner of space to work in!

Thinking I'm doing slab building this week, but I haven't quite made up my mind on what to make. I'm always partial to boxes, but something more sculptural and less functional would be a nice change.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Never Bored

I've been working bit by bit on getting together all the materials needed for my new website - images, biographical info, resume, etc. As I was digging through the file folders on my computer, I found an essay/thesis I wrote my senior year of college. Usually I cringe a bit when I find old writing of mine, but I enjoyed reading this again. It still holds true to my feelings about my work and the world of art in general, and it's not a bad piece of writing (if I do say so myself.) It's been ages since I put so much effort into putting together something written. I kinda miss that about college, sometimes.

It's very long, but I thought I'd share it here. If you read it, I'd love to hear your two cents. (If you don't, I won't hold it against you.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blogs I Love

I wanted to share some blogs with you that have had a particular impact on me in one way or another. Either a singular blog post, or the blog as a whole (or sometimes both). Just as a little thank you to some of the blogs that have really inspired me. Thank you guys for sharing your lives and your art!

Sofia's Dad's Pots
If you're a potter, maybe I don't have to tell you about this blog. He's been featured in Ceramic Arts Daily, and his blog is probably on everyone's blog roll. It's for good reason. Not only are the wax resist decorated pots he makes absolutely stunning, but his blog is such a pleasure to read. In case the title of the blog didn't tip you off, he writes a lot about his daughter, who he calls "The Bug", and his daily experiences with her as well. I don't know how long I've been following him, but when I first found him I was delighted to read about his awesome little girl, her Christmas super hero outfit, her own forays into clay, and her pink ukelele. It was encouraging to me to see a parent that was still an amazing artist. I guess I had this irrational fear that I'd have kids and completely lose myself to motherhood, becoming this Stepford Wife that drives a minivan and goes to PTA meetings. I continue to read his blog both for inspiration in ceramics and to see what I have to look forward to with Maddy.

Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
Gary's thrown forms are just beautiful, and oh, all that lovely texture! His blog has given me inspiration for class lessons again and again. I especially appreciated this post about throwing "bowls on purpose". Anyone who's ever jumped on a potter's wheel knows how everything tends to turn into a bowl when you're starting out. I really love all those different bowls!

Jenny Mendes
Oh, her work is so lovely! The colors she uses! I love all the faces and decorative patterns on her stuff, and I like that she moves so easily between functional pottery and sculpture, something I really struggle with. I really have a soft spot for illustrative surfaces on pots:)

Peter's Pottery
I've just recently started following this blog, but I've already saved three of his blog posts to my favorites list. Considering my struggles with glaze testing recently, I found this blog post particularly helpful. Those are some lovely glaze colors!

We Swim with the Fishes
Linda Fahey is another ceramic artist I've followed for a while now. Her surfaces are gorgeous, and I love the seams and lines of those thin slabs she works with. One day, I'm going to own one of her beautiful tumblers. It's not often that you see such precision and skill in both the building and the surface, but her drawings look painstakingly precise and labor intensive, and her pieces are so well formed. Love love love her work! And I love all her whales!

A Plate a Day
I look forward to Mignon Khargie's daily plate posts with relish. She has such a great eye. Many many many of her posts end up on my Pinterest boards! It's because of this post  that I've discovered and fallen head over heels for the work of Natalie Choux and Lili Scratchy.

Pink Cheeks Studios
Finally, this last blog is not a ceramic artist, but a fabric artist. She lives here in Indiana, and I've been lucky enough to see her work in person at several craft shows, though I've always been too shy to actually introduce myself. Nichol Brinkman recently curated a plushy/stuffie artist show and gave a talk about her own work, and she published her talk in installments on her blog. It's a very personal and inspiring series of essays that I'd recommend to anyone. I especially enjoyed her post here about her time in Prague learning about puppet making, and her realization that "art doesn't have to be heavy, you can and should make things just because you can.  Joy and whimsy are important." That was something I've really needed to hear of late. You are sure to enjoy reading these essays, and you will certainly fall in love with Nichols awesome dolls. They have so much personality!

I really hope you'll check out all of these blogs. They are some of my favorites, and I think everyone should see and enjoy them. I enjoyed sharing them with you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To all you clay bloggers: Thank you.

I hadn't really realized it, but I've had this blog for quite a while now. 3 years, more or less. I haven't looked at the exact date, but I was kind of surprised it's been that long. This blog has gotten me through a lot, both professionally and personally. When I graduated from college, I went from being surrounded by a community of artists every day, to being alone in an apartment, jobless, with no studio space. Those first few months were deeply depressing, and I spend a lot of time sitting in my bathrobe, listlessly surfing the internet. Slowly, I started looking at posts on Ceramic Arts Daily, then other pottery blogs. I got inspired. I set up a wheel and a workspace in my living room, and I started making pots. And I started blogging about it.

When I felt lonely and disconnected from everyone, I found a wonderful community of ceramic artists and their blogs. I've been lurking around many of them for longer than I've had this blog, but I never had the nerve to comment. I felt a little star struck, in awe of all the beautiful work I saw that seemed so far out of my reach. I never thought I could be as good as the potters whose work I drooled over, but I kept looking and reading. I got a twitter account, and found many of them there. Some of them were even kind enough to talk to me. Now potters seem to be on every social media platform, and it's just wonderful. I have access to a studio now, and I get to spend time with other potters in real life, but I always come back to the internet, and the artists I so admire and look up to. I think I've learned more from bloggers and youtube videos than I did in all my undergraduate classes combined. I've certainly grown a lot, and learned some amazing things! And I learn new techniques every day. It's like a dream come true for a girl who lived at the library as a child, endlessly reading. I have a lifetime of learning right here at my fingertips. And for a girl who is shy in real life, I have a community of people I can talk to, and ask questions of, who share this passion with me.

With this new year starting, I made a resolve to blog more regularly, and to keep up with my blog reader list. It takes some effort, and I don't always post every day, but it's been really great so far. Now that I know how much I appreciate that people out there occasionally read this thing, I've been going out of my way to leave comments on blogs that particularly stood out to me. I want to be sure that you guys know how much you inspire me every day. I want to be better about letting you know I appreciate you, your work, and what you choose to share on the internet with people like me who are starting out. You keep us going. Some of you have even stopped by and given me words of encouragement. That means a lot to me, you just have no idea!

So, for all you muddy bloggers out there, thank you for sharing your lives with me! Keep up the good work, and maybe one day we'll get to meet face to face.

I'm out of time for today, but tomorrow I'd like to share some of my favorite blogs and blog post with you. I hope you'll all appreciate them as much as I have.

Bloggy blog pt. 1

 My lesson on glazing went pretty well this week, I think. I felt a little awkward teaching from a real planned out set of notes. People are going to start thinking I'm a real teacher! I thought sure my students would be bored to tears with this stuff, or would feel like they knew it all already, but many of them asked lots of questions and seemed to find the info helpful, so that's good.

I did majorly screw up this week with the bisque firing. It always seems like I can't make a mistake without destroying something I've worked hard on. Once again, I placed a thick beginner piece right next to my piece, and it exploded. I thought sure I fired the kiln slow enough for the thicker stuff to be safe, but I guess the 3 hr hold at 180 wasn't quite long enough. And I did change it from 6 hours, because I didn't want to wait! My impatience is going to be the death of me. 
I tried to fix my girl, but the pieces didn't quite fit, and the bisque fix isn't sticky, so they wouldn't hold together. I'm wondering if I can make a new piece to fix it using paper clay. Does anyone know of a clever way to fix broken bisque? I'm not ready to give up on her!
Bisque fix fail:(
Layers of wax resist and glaze
I demoed a lot of wax resist decoration, which I've never tried before. No idea how it's all going to turn out. I've been playing with black copper oxide wash too, to bring out some depth in my flat glazes. Hoping to fire it all today, and have new pretties to post by the weekend. 

Glazes over black copper oxide wash
 Going to do a second post later today, to make up for my slackerness!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Glazing 101

I'm going over glazing with my students this week, and rather than just winging it and trying to remember everything I want to say, I decided to write out a handout for them to refer to. If anyone else is teaching beginner ceramics and finds this useful, feel free to copy it or alter it in any way that's helpful to you and your students.

I'm hoping that a more thorough understanding of glazing procedure will result in less disappointments for new students because of glazing mistakes. Although the disc grinder can be kinda fun to use;)

I tried using wax resist on one of my pots to get a clean line of separation between my two glazes. Unfortunately, I dried the blue glaze with a heat gun before wiping it off the resist areas, and the wax melted, so those beads of blue glaze are there to stay. Oh well, we'll see what it looks like after firing. Maybe I'll like it and start doing it on purpose!
Drawing over glaze with black underglaze. This underglaze is Duncan's Concepts brand, so I think it has a little flux in it. It gets a bit shiny at cone 04, but I know it survives midfire. I've never put it over a glaze before, so I'm curious to see what happens.

Here's the handout, hope someone else finds it useful!

Glazing 101

Greenware vs. Bisqueware
  •             Greenware is work before it has been fired in the kiln.
  •             Bisqueware is work that has been fired once to a lower temperature than glaze firing, and       is ready to be glazed and fired. We only glaze fire work that has been bisqued.

Underglaze vs. Glaze
  •             Underglazes are ceramic paint colors that can be used for surface decoration on either   greenware or bisqueware. They generally do not get glossy when fired in the kiln.             Underglazes may be coated with a clear glaze to seal them onto your work, and make a piece food safe and water tight. Underglaze colors may change dramatically under a clear glaze. Read all labels before use.
  •             Glazes are suspensions of glass, flux, and clay that melt in the kiln  to become a glassy coating for your work. They are used on bisqueware only in this studio. Glazes can be purely decorative, or they can make your work safe to eat and drink out of. What you see is not what you get! For example, a glaze that looks red before firing may turn deep blue afterwards. We use cone 5-6 glazes in this studio, not cone 05. There is a huge difference in that zero!

Glazes available at BGCW - AMACO and studio mixes
  •             AMACO glazes - commercially prepared glazes from AMACO ceramic supply             company. Beech Grove Clay Works offers several of these free for student use, and carries additional glazes available for student purchase.
  •             Studio glazes are custom created and mixed here in the studio by the artist in residence.        These need to be thoroughly mixed before each use, as the contents tend to settle.

Glazing your work
  •             Use fine grade sandpaper to remove rough spots and sharp edges.
  •             Always wipe your piece with a damp cloth or sponge before glazing to remove dust and      oils that may act as a resist and cause your glaze to not adhere well to your pot.
  •             Use wax resist to keep glaze off the bottom of your pot. Glaze can and will stick to the       kiln shelf, damaging the shelf and your pot. Use a sponge brush and wax resist in the jar, or use the hotplate to dip your foot in wax. If you get wax on your pot where it is not wanted, bisque fire the piece again to remove the wax. Wax resist cannot be washed off.
  •             Dipping/pouring glazes - large buckets of glaze - Always mix glazes well before each use. Use a wire whisk or the hand drill with a mixer attachment. Be sure all contents on the bottom of the bucket have been thoroughly mixed into the glaze before using. Dip your piece for 3 seconds, then remove for good glaze coverage. Wipe the bottom of your pot with a damp cloth or sponge after dipping to remove residual glaze. Remove unwanted glaze with a sharp tool first, then wipe the remaining glaze with a damp sponge.
  •             Brushing glazes - small jars of glaze - always read instructions on commercial glazes.             Most AMACO glazes require 2-3 brush coats for good coverage. Allow each coat to dry       thoroughly before adding another. Gum solution may be added to improve brushability,   but be careful. Adding too much may cause your glaze to dry slowly.

Glaze testing and experimentation
  •             Clay body - glazes may look different on different types of clay
  •             Layering - Different effects can be achieved by layering  2 or more glazes on your pot.      Take notes! You will not remember what you did to get that effect, so write down what glazes your put on your pots. Do not apply brushing glazes over a layer of dipped glaze, as the top layer tends to flake and crack off.
  •             Thickness of application - how thick the glaze is applied will affect your results. Very thin coverage may give a completely different color than you expect. Be careful of  applying your glaze too thick, as glaze can drip or run off the pot onto the kiln shelf. If your glaze has cracks in it after it dries, it is probably too thick. These cracks may result   in bare spots after firing.
  •             Textured glazes - glazes that break or change color over a textured surface. Look best on            work that has been stamped, carved, or textured in some way. Keep this in mind when making work. Textured effects can often be achieved by layering glazes.

Monday, February 20, 2012


If you guys have never heard of Freecycle, you are missing out. Freecycle is an online bulletin board that works a lot like Craigslist, only instead of posting items for sale, you post items you want to give away. You never know what people will post on there. Once, my husband got a huge box of books on philosophy. I've seen whole projects on Apartment Therapy made entirely from Freecycle finds. It's like dumpster diving made much more efficient, and less smelly! It's also a great way to post things you no longer have a use for, but might be great for someone else who has a need for them, or the time and energy to fix them up. Not only that, but you can just put your item out on the front porch or the curb, and someone will come and take them for you. It's a lot better than waiting for heavy trash day to get rid of that old couch, and you get to help someone out to boot. I'm thinking I might post some of Maddy's old baby items and save myself a trip to the thrift store.

I hadn't been on the Indianapolis Freecycle page in a year or two, but a friend of mine happened to see a post offering a ton of ceramic underglazes and thought of me. I contacted the poster, who lived 10 minutes away from me, and picked up two huge bags full of underglazes the next day. How awesome is that? I'm sure I'll have to test a lot of them to be sure they're ok for cone 6, but there's definitely a lot in there I know I can use. I decided to donate them to the studio and share them with our members so we can all use them. Now I know I'm gonna be checking Freecycle on a regular basis. You never know, someone might have an old wheel to part with! I can certainly dream, can't I?

Have any of you ever gotten something awesome for free on Freecycle or Craigslist? Picked up an old broken kiln, or a piece of furniture that you fixed up? If you've got good freebie stories, I wanna hear them!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sicky baby

I seem to be losing some steam on the blog posting front. Maddy has been sick with a cough and runny nose, which has kept me pretty busy making sure she stays fed and hydrated. Poor girl, she takes having a cold so much better than I do! I cooked some beef stew for the both of us to get our strength up, since I was sure I'd be sick next. I've been feeling kind of crappy, but Maddy is just running around cheerfully talking to herself as though nothing is wrong. If it wasn't for the runny nose and adorable sneezes, you'd never know she was sick.
I haven't felt much inclined to do any drawing, and I haven't made it into the studio at all. This morning I just feel dizzy and totally off. I'm ready to go back to bed.

I found a couple of recipes (here) for tomato red iron glazes that I plan to try in the studio this week. Now that I know more about controlled cooling, and programming the kiln to slow the cooling cycle down, I feel a little more confident about testing some these. I haven't punched them into my glazing software yet to see what they look like, and how stable they might be. They sure look pretty, though!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hooray test tiles!

I got my test tiles out of the kiln this week, and I am really pleased with the results so far. This is the first time I've ever mixed a chrome tin glaze. How cool that such a vibrant green powder can make such a lovely wine color after firing! I definitely want to do more research on chrome tin glazes, since I understand they can be difficult to get right. I feel a bit like I cheated by skipping all the testing and using the tried and true recipe provided in my book. I did learn that you only need a tiny amount of chrome to get the best color - .1% provided the richest raspberry color.

Raspberry glaze from Mastering Cone 6 Glaze.
 I just found a very helpful article about trying to get a pink glaze using mason stains, and it breaks down the different elements that are needed to get color, and which ones will bleach out the desired pink or red (magnesia apparently is not compatible with getting pink to work, apparently). I assume that the same guidelines provided in this article are true for mixing glazes from oxides rather than stains, but I guess I'll have to test to find out.
Two mixes of Floating Blue Woo

A blue green copper glaze. We call it Maggie Moo, because our instructor Cathy's daughter, Maggie, mixed up the original recipe for a science fair project. How cool is that?

I hope I can learn from these base recipes and eventually be able to formulate my own glazes based on the results I desire. There certainly is a lot to learn! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Work in progress

I'm juggling so many different things in the studio, I'm just chomping at the bit to get them all finished!

My paper clay vase came out of the kiln yesterday. I'm really pleased with the thinness and translucency of it. It was made with Laguna's Frost cone 6 porcelain and toilet paper. I should have a picture for you tomorrow with it all lit up. It glows:)

Hoping I can make a better form next time, but at least now I know that this stuff works.