Trio of Bowls

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Here are the preliminary results of my quest to make symmetrical pedestal bowls using a slump mold.  They progressively grew in size and stature, with the bottom-most being comparatively big, middle bowl being bigger, and top-most being the biggest and tallest.

 

So far, the process has involved cutting large slabs into large circles, and pressing them into a plastic-wrapped mold, and gently beating the clay into submission.  Then, the insides required seemingly endless smoothing, and much effort was required to make the lip even from all angles.  The drying process was arduous, gradually getting the clay to the point where the bowls would maintain their shape so that I could flip them upside down onto a slightly smaller mold.  While the bowls were propped up from the inside, I was able to smooth the outsides and attach a pedestal.

While I left the first bowl with smooth sides, I carved closely-aligned crevices into the outsides of the top 2 bowls.  This was done free-hand with a linoleum cutter — my favorite tool — which was loads of fun and turned out surprisingly well.  Next stop is the kiln for bisque-firing

Legalize Pottery’s 4th Anniversary

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Summer 2016 marks the 4th year of my foray into pottery. Here’s the first picture of my initial effort (June 2012):

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Here’s my most recent project, currently in the drying-out stage:

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Along the way, there have been some disappointing results. I was advised early-on to smash up anything that turned out sub-par — we don’t want future archeologists to dig up 21st Century crap and declare that we were really, really lousy potters. Below is a photo of my latest landfill contribution. It was disappointing to accept that all the hours spent on this piece had resulted in something that was just plain awful, but it feels good to know that I will never have have to look at it again, reminding me of my shortcomings as a ceramicist.

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On a brighter note, the fish dishes that I started in mid-June (1st set of photos) are now completed and I am happy with how they turned out — especially the lipstick red lips (2nd set of photos).

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I also wanted to mention that lately I’ve been adding items to my Legalize Pottery Shop, on Etsy.com.  It would take a miracle to sell anything via that outlet, due to the millions of offerings that I’m competing with.   But I’m proud of my “storefront”, which is starting to look pretty decent.

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Feel the Summer Energy Rising

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This Summer has started out auspiciously — with a rare “Strawberry Moon.”  A full moon shone on Summer Solstice (June 20) — the longest day of the year.  Hasn’t happened since 1967, and we all know what a great year that was!   Won’t happen again until 2062 — pending intervening unknowns.

So, I’m trying to make Summer plans that are equal to this auspicious start, involving heretofore unknown feats involving ceramics.  I was inspired by attending “Open Studios” last month, in particular one artist who recently switched from 2D (painting) to 3D (ceramics) and was cranking out some amazing work.  Since then, I have begun some cranking out of my own:

Fish Dishes — each one unique . . .

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Shallow Serving Bowls — with enough breadth (11”) to accommodate my propensity to carve carve carve.  The first pic reflects my favorite ceramic subject which is fish.  The second pic reflects another of my favorite things, words. The idea of carving words was inspired by an acquaintance who was spouting off about people really liking things (artwork) with sayings on them.  Plus, I was enamored with Ms. Bockle’s words in a recent MoveGirlGO post which I paraphrased . . .

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I’ve got loads more clay on hand to keep me busy for the rest of the Summer, and hopefully I’ll continue to “feel my energy rising.”

Glaze Craziness

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Glazing is my least-favorite part of the ceramics process.  I know I’m not alone in this.  Classmates of mine are always griping about not knowing what glazes/glazing techniques to use and being disappointed with the end results.  Also, googling “Hate Glazing” reveals a bonanza of complaints.

Of course, every step prior to glazing has ‘failure’ possibilities.  But, as a piece survives the gauntlet, your attachment grows. With glazing being the final creative step, and fraught with problems, there’s a good chance that all that hard work will be for naught, destined to be smashed to pieces and tossed in the garbage.

Some recent glazing disappointments include this set of plates to which jade green was applied — came out murky blue:

 

Blue 6" Plates w/ Sgraffito

 

This set of plates was underglazed with black — came out dark silvery blue:

Silvery Dark Blue 6" Plates w/ Sgraffito

This casserole was intended to have stripes of my favorite glazes — but, the colors ran together:striped_container_detail

This urchin bowl & spoon had a wash of green copper carbonate under a coat of clear — came out ochre (more aptly termed baby-poop brown):

Ochre Urchin Compote Bowl

Nevertheless, despite the prospect of more unpleasant surprises, I look forward to opening the kiln after my next glaze firing just as a child looks forward to opening Christmas gifts!

Square Plates Edged with Sgraffito

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I’m continuing to add sgraffito to some of my recent projects, including these two sets of square dessert plates.  On the 1st set of 4 plates, I applied 4 coats of jade underglaze and used sgraffito tools to incise a design of branches around the edge.  On the 2nd set of 4 plates, I applied 4 coats of black underglaze (4 coats) and increased the complexity of the carving.  These pictures were taken before firing (greenware stage).  The plates measure approx. 6″ x 6″, made of cone 10 stoneware.

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Vessel Vase with Sgraffito

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To make a large classically-shaped vase, an ancient technique is to use fat extruded coils, and flatten them out — making “slab coils”.  Two large bowl shapes were made from the slab coils being wound and stacked and smeared together.  After resting a bit, the two bowls were joined rim-to-rim into a roundish vessel.   A foot and neck/rim were added from more slab coils. A band of underglaze was applied to the belly of the vase, and I used “sgraffito” tools and a linoleum cutter to carve an abstract design into the underglaze. After bisque firing, an ivory underglaze was applied above and below the sgraffito area, and inside the vase. VA Clear glaze was used inside and outside, with a thick coat on the rim. The overall effect is pleasantly rustic.

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(Measurements 9-1/2″ tall, approx. 6-1/2″ diameter)

Tall Vase with Leaf Motif

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This recently-completed vase (measurements 9-1/2″ tall, 3-3/4″ diameter) was made from slabs, using a cylindrical form.  A half-dozen interesting autumn leaves were pressed into the damp clay, and 3 coats of black slip were applied.  After the bisque firing, the inside was coated with John’s Black glaze, and the outside was dipped in VA Clear glaze.  The imprinted leaves turned out speckled, and their stems and ‘veins’ show up nicely.  The overall effect on the outside is streaky and bark-like, enhancing the appearance of the leaves.

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Vases Made with Slabs and Coils

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Making bigger pieces by hand is made easier by the use of slabs (made with the slab roller) or building with coils.

Image 1Vase #1 is made from one large slab wrapped around a cylindrical form.  I plucked some interesting leaves from a tree in the courtyard just outside the Studio, and pressed them into the damp clay, and coated the outside with black slip.  The video clip below was made after bisque firing at Cone 08.

ImageVase #2 is made from fat (3/4″) extruded coils made with an extruder which I flattened slightly with a roller, making “slab coils.” Using slab coils sped up the process of building the sides of the forms, and also resulted in thinner (less clunky) walls of the vase.  I built two 7″ diameter bowl-like shapes and pressed them together to make a round shape, and added a neck and base using more slab coils.  I painted 3 coats of black underglaze around the belly of the vase, and let it dry to leather hard.  Then, I used the sgraffito technique to decorate the vase, scratching off the underglaze with a linoleum cutter, creating a contrasting pattern and texture, revealing the clay underneath.  The video clip below was made at the greenware stage.

 

Fish in 3D

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I’ve made loads of Fish Dishes in the past, 22 at last count, and the Legalize Pottery site has a whole page devoted to Fishes.  But so far the fish have been two-dimensional.

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While functional, my Fish Dishes aren’t what fish are all about, so to speak.  Now I’ve started to make some three-dimensional fish — sculptural, decorative, more fish-like, with a whimsical flair.

The basic technique is to start with a pinch pot, close up the top, and use a paddle to beat it into shape (no fish were hurt or injured during this process).  With the time-consuming addition of eyes, lips, tail, fins, scales, the fish is complete.  As a bonus, some evolutionary feet were added so the fish can properly stand for viewing.

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Top fish – before bisque firing

 

 

Bottom fish – after bisque firing

 

 

 

 

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Detail – after bisque firing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, the glazes were applied – underglaze for the eyes (covered with clear glaze and a coat of wax), followed by Raku glazes —  Matte Blue (body) and Shiny Abalone (accents). Raku fired in a gas kiln to 1800+ degrees, and cooled in a bucket with sawdust & crumpled newsprint.  The first completed sculptured fish ended up with unique coloring which varies on either side.

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Review of 2015 Thus Far

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In the 1st part of 2015, while my house was being remodeled, I virtually lived in my ceramics studio. That is, I moved my kitchen table & chairs, refrigerator, microwave, computer, etc. into the Studio, and the Studio is where I did all my cooking, ablutions/make-up, paperwork, etc.  At the end of each day, I went back into my torn-up house to watch TV and sleep. This routine was not very conducive to making ceramics.

However, I did manage to create a Legalize Pottery Shop on Etsy. To visit, please click on the link!
Etsy Shop

I also started a Legalize Pottery Shop page on Facebook. To visit, please click on the link!
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By April, some pieces made it into the kiln and came out fairly decent.

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For a Pop-Up Sale in early June, I got the idea to make a batch of Plant Stakes for Weeds — how appropriate for Legalize Pottery.

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Then, I took a detour into Sculpture — and made a rudimentary human figure.
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Now, it’s back to the classroom — I’m enrolled at Palo Alto Art Center for the rest of the year, with an awesome instructor/ceramicist named Malia Landis.  In the next few months, I’ll be posting the results of that adventure.

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