Tag Archives: Ceramic Art and Pottery

Open Studio Report, 3/15

Oh, it was a gray and rainy old day today! It’s always a treat to arrive at the studio to spend time with my companions, though, no matter what it’s like outside. It was warm and bright indoors around the big table, although I felt less industrious today than last time. I continued to work on my conical bird house, trimming it a bit to make it perfectly upright. I also cut out a round of clay that I will insert next week after it dries a little. It will become a platform for nesting. Next week, after I place it, I will make horizontal scratches up to the hole I’ll cut and this will be the ‘ladder’ the fledglings will climb when they’re ready to leave the nest. Now, I have to research how big I want the hole to be, then factor in shrinkage rates and cut it. I also want to consider a squirrel-proofing addition. The photo above doesn’t show much yet, as the cone is covered with damp paper and plastic, but it is slowly taking shape. I also made a pattern and cut out the lid, but it will have to dry for a week before I create the low, squat conical shape and stuff it with newspapers to dry. A tile had come out of the kiln and while it has its charms, I am not perfectly satisfied with it. Because the white clay I use turns light gray when fired, I covered the whole thing with bright white underglaze, then Shino. I adore Shino and it was the perfect way to allow the glaze to show its stuff. The tile has a lot of texture, so there’s nice variation. I had some underglaze problems, so will be doing another. Pauline gave me some good ideas about how to prevent them the next time. Then, I checked on some things I have in the damp room. I mentioned I’ve made a mold of an escutcheon tile. Well, it’s drying nicely and soon I’m going to be able to start experimenting with small tiles made from it. You can see the vine and berries clearly through the cornstarch used to prevent the clay from sticking to the tile I molded it from. I want to hang things from the keyhole, as a decorative effect and have one skeleton key so far. Not much, as I don’t want to overdo it. The piece must stand on its own. Next, I checked on my little olive oil lamps, the design of which was inspired by Roman and Parthian lamps. I can’t wait to fire these little guys up to see how they work. I’ll probably make others that will be replicas of actual lamps, but I want to test them first. I already have my wicking at hand. The lamps are leather hard now, so I uncovered them in the damp room and will be able to fire them soon as they’re quite small. I will only glaze the bottom portion…clear glaze over the burgundy and turquoise glaze. These colors should look nice against the dark terra cotta. I made some house numbers with the turquoise and red clay and it’s quite nice together. And, lastly, my sheaf of wheat tile… It has been drying, uncovered, but I want to hurry the process a little because it’s starting to drive me a little nuts. (Patience!) After this tile is fired, I will mold it, too. I have some plans… One thing I’d like to do with one tile is to write around the edge, line-for-line, in cursive style with my new Kemper pen, which I have yet to use. Better start practicing… I won’t be able to do it till I’ve bisqued a tile from the mold I’m to make. So, to hasten things, I set it on a plaster mold and will let the remaining moisture wick from it till I can get to it again. Over the week, till I head back to the studio, I have some ideas I want to start working on at home with the red and white clay I have here. The tile looks a little ratty in this photo, what with mold and paper towelling stuck to it, but the mold is actually a sign that I’m using good clay and it and the paper will burn off just fine. I let it dry very slowly because I didn’t want the small bits to crack and it worked out well; everything’s intact. Phew. All’s well that end’s well.

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Open Studio Report

It felt like I got a lot done at the studio yesterday. I brought home three things:

Navajo Red bowl, bottom left unglazed, inside and rim glazed with Red Chrome. This glaze interacts with the iron in red clay, causing a lovely gray mixed with wine and hints of blue.

Reglaze job worked well on the low box. White clay, Red Chrome glaze. No gray but hints of blue.

Kitchen scrubber holder done. Red clay with Red Chrome…nice gray accents.

I didn’t use my cart yesterday because I didn’t want anything to break on the way home but, next Tuesday, I’ll roll my supplies on down the hill to the studio again. Let’s see…I continued working on my bird house. Forgot to take my camera, so didn’t get pics of it, but it’s coming along well. Next week, I’ll make the top. Because the bottom half was so big, I cut it down. Now it’s not nearly as tall or wide. As David Jason says in the The Darling Buds of May — “Per-fic.”

What else? Oh, yes, I glazed a white clay relief tile for my husband’s Auntie Marj. It was created from mold I made of the ‘Snowfall Tile.‘ Before bisquing, I painted the whole thing with white underglaze and textured it. It’s been bisqued, now, and looks startling white. In the background, leaves of gold, orange and red are falling. Yesterday, I glazed the top surface and sides with Shino…we’ll see how it turns out. I want some fall color action and am hoping the Shino creates a rich gold and dampens the brilliance of the leaves a bit.

Did I do anything else? Oh…I made a mold of the escutcheon tile I’d made, using corn starch to prevent sticking. Also, my Sheaf of Wheat tile has finally dried to the point where I can leave it completely uncovered now till it’s bone dry. Gads it’s taking a long time, but it is well over an inch thick and had very thin parts on top, so I was extra careful.

I had done some Qi Gong exercises before I left home and the clay work itself was very grounding, so I felt doubly good when I got back home! Next Wednesday, I’ll post another Open Studio Report….

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On 1-11-11, a Clay Homage to Small Brown Birds

Today is January 11,  2011 and I’ve reserved it for a humble subject, though one might wonder why I hadn’t focused on something more splashy. The last time these numbers rolled around, in 1911, it was the year of the Great Blue Norther. But I’m foregoing something more dramatic in lieu of spotlighting something closer to home. I love the fact that our land here, along the 49th parallel, is covered with understory and has a forest standing right behind: it affords us a variety of birds, summer and winter. Among the winter birds are small, brown birds that live in the brush and occupy the ground. They don’t use the elevated feeders and rely on pecking the ground to find food. They have become very dear to me. Chickadees might dramatically flit and fly around the tube feeder, but these humble little brown birds hop over the frozen ground and cock an eye, asking me to not forget them. While they have muted tones, nondescript markings or shape, they can be very sweet and personable. One, in particular, has shown itself to be no wallflower. If I haven’t put seed on the ground for it, it’ll stand  on the joists of the new porch and peer at me through the window. It’s so fluffed out, it’s almost round and is what my Mom calls an LBJ, little brown job…a generic little brown bird. I’ve tried keying out these tiny birds, with little success. I can’t see markings clear enough from the window and they dash off when I walk out with an eye toward watching them. Maybe their very homeliness is the reason I’ve noticed their personalities…I see the flashy chickadees all the time and can’t say I’ve been able to tell one from the other this year. Now the LBJs…

London Clay Birds remind me of my little birds and I think these are grand. These sweet renditions are of birds found in the area where the artisan who makes them lives, London, England. “As the clay is unpurified I get a variety of effects when they are fired,” explains DH Painter on her blog site.  She states that the birds are made of local clay, which “is a marine deposit from the Paleogene period – 60/50 million years ago. London was, back then, covered by a warm tropical sea.” Painter’s birds capture the charm of our LBJs.

This stoneware wren is wonderful. There’s an honesty and directness I find appealing and its quiet coloration, design and stylization make it very attractive. Made by Andersen Studio, in Boothbay, Maine, it is the epitome of the little brown bird. This sparrow is quite nice, too….

The Birds are made by California sculptor, Chris Stiles. I like the color and grouping of these pit-fired creations. Fluffed out, they remind me of our LBJs and I can imagine them racing around out front, even though the beak differs from any of those in my yard.

Winter here would be dull without our birds, as it’s generally quite rainy here …a temperate rain forest. I am so happy they grace our presence and always look forward to their return. Our little brown birds like us and I love them.

(Note: If you haven’t taken my Readers Interest Poll, please do…it’s open till Feb. 1st!)

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Digging for Natural Clay Deposits

Looking at the photos of my friend Tom’s class digging natural clay deposits reminded me of how much fun I had when I did that with Mr. Carson’s class in high school. It’s very gratifying to process the clay we found and make something with it, even if it was backbreaking work. It made me think of the clay deposits in this area. A local potter once told me where to find clay here. The location is in the Chineside Park area in Port Moody. To reach it, find Hope Street, between Elgin and Douglas, then,  mid-block, head south into the Chines (see the map above). You’ll be walking up a draw on the east side of a creek. Up a ways, on the left bank, you’ll find a natural clay deposit. You’ll need buckets to haul it out and it’d be best to have several people help haul it out in buckets to make it worth your while. This clay body is tried and true, according to a reliable area potter who lives near this outcrop.

I also became curious and did a little looking into the history of clay deposits in the area and found there were several companies that processed clay in the area. One of them was Pacific Clay Products Ltd., at Pleasantside, on Port Moody’s north shore, and it closed in 1950, according to Clay and Shale Deposits, Bulletin 3o, put out by BC Dept. of Mines in 1952. The document states,”fairly extensive stratified deposits of very fine-grained highly plastic blue clay occur at several places in the area, notably Capilano, and Lynn Valleys, near Port Moody.” It goes on to say that other clay bodies had been “worked…in Port Moody” and that the color of the clay is gray or red. I will see if I can find more current information and follow up on this for us.

If you want to pursue digging your own clay in your area, you’ll need to know a bit more before you begin. I like this article from About.com: “How to Use Locals Clays in Your Pottery,” by Beth Peterson. It’s a good run down of what you’ll have to do once you find your clay deposit. She covers finding the clay, processing it, making test pieces, firing it, and testing maturation. Plus, she refers you to other links along the way. I have not followed Peterson’s instructions with the Port Moody clay I gave you directions to above, but I’m passing it on to you because About.com is a very credible source. It is my ‘go-to’ site for anything I want to look up on the internet. If you do decide to dig in your own area, make sure you are careful. Take care of your back! Wet clay is very heavy….

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