Tag Archives: Tools and Equipment

Clay & Self-Sufficiency

I  was at a garden centre yesterday, one that I particularly enjoy: Brian Minter‘s Country Garden. You can find ordinary and rare or unusual plants there. I saw saffron crocuses being grown for the first time… He also sells about 15-20 different kinds of seed potatoes. I finally decided on Norland, an early red. I trust his quality and selection and have listened to his shows and read his articles for years. I have his videos and really rely on them. In addition, he has a beautiful botanical garden, Minter Gardens, which rivals Butchart Gardens. Brian Minter is always willing to answer any question you might have and he is very approachable. Yesterday, I noticed that he’s getting ‘up there’ but he still has loads of get up and go. The centre also has beautiful gift items and curiosities. My friend Minoo and I slowly worked our way through the aisles and displays, clucking over this and that. As I was weaving my way around, I was, once again, struck by the fact that there were quite a few things on display that I could make. Knowing this affords me a sense of self-sufficiency. Yet, it’s one thing to know how and another to act on it. If I am truly interested, I’d better jot down some notes and make a few sketches before I forget. The fact remains: clay folk can make just about anything they want. Growing up with brothers and a father who were handy helped me immensely. That atmosphere informed me and I became conversant with electric and hand tools. By my teenage years, I was very comfortable making things on my Dad’s workbench. My mother’s father was also very handy and I spent enough time around him to bolster all these parts of myself. And my mother taught me everything I needed to know about cooking and sewing. It feels good to be able to do these things, but I am not talking about pride. I don’t like the word ‘pride’ or ‘deserve’ and I steer clear of them and what they represent. I don’t mind ‘gratified,’ though. Yesterday, it felt good recognizing that I could make some of the things I saw as we roved around Minter’s garden centre. I am eons away from ceramic mastery, but I’ve reached a point where I’m confident in ability. Technically, I can put something together according to plan. And ideas come to me. I have also worked in clay for so long now that I am so comfortable with the stuff it almost feels like an extension of myself. I identify with it. I’m happy to be where I’m at and happy to be doing what I’m doing. It feels good to become inspired and to know things are within reach if I want to travel a certain path. I’ve lived many places and moved many times, originally as a result of my father’s career and, later, out of habit and because of schooling. During those periods of my life, I was more interested in working with sculpture and abstraction. Now that I’ve ‘settled down,’ I am seeing myself making functional things I’d have never dreamt of making in the past and it’s sort of ironic. I recognize that my values, priorities, and tastes have changed or shifted. Some not all that much, but my needs certainly have. I ordered a greenhouse yesterday, my mother’s Christmas gift to us. As I was ordering it, I thought, gee, I could make some nice ceramic finials to run across the top of it after it’s up. Yes, I’m enjoying a sense of place and an inherited can-do mentality.

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Video: How to use a rectangular drape mold for clay

Yesterday, I talked about draping clay and listed a few mold sources. After that, I became more curious about how to use the molds because I am going to be using molds for an upcoming project. I found a video that shows how to use a rectangular mold. The artist, Dale Baucum of Baucum Pottery in Tennessee, appears to also be advertising clay tools, but the ad plug isn’t intrusive and it is an excellent how-to video.

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Simon Leach Video: Ceramic Tools

I have always had a fondness for hardware stores. For some reason, nail bins, hasps, and hammers have always thrilled. Probably because I was a bit of a tomboy… growing up with three brothers and having a Dad who always had a big workbench full of hand and power tools. Somewhere, there’s a photo of me with my leg up on a sawhorse sawing away…while I’m wearing my Easter suit! My grandfather had an enormous shop that I would walk through with reverence when we visited, careful not to touch anything. So,  along the way, the importance of having and caring for tools became ingrained in me. Later, I went on to use tools professionally while working in technical theater, building sets and working as a light/sound technician. By that time, tools were friends that helped you get the work done and I knew how to use them well. I guess I was always handy and working with ceramic tools came easy. To me, a tool isn’t just an inanimate object with which I have no relationship. A tool becomes a friend through long use. I remember how upset I was once when I reached for my large pipe wrench and it wasn’t there. It literally winded me. I was attached to that wrench, had used it a good long while, and was stunned when someone told me it had been stolen. Then there was this Kemper tool I had gotten years ago…I lost it somehow and was never able to find again. Maybe they stopped making them, but I’ve never stopped looking for it because it was one of my favorites. I bought one that sort of looked like it last year, but it just doesn’t have the same feel. So, when I saw this video of Simon Leach sifting through a toolbox to show us which clay tools he liked best or to show how he uses them, well, no doubt about it: I was in hog heaven! So, without further adieu….

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