offcntr: (rainyday)

Weather continues weird and unpredictable. Friday became surprisingly sunny by mid-day, though occasional grey, cold fronts blew through. Saturday,  predicted sunny, was overcast all day, and turned to rain for several hours around supper. Today looks to be grey most of the day, though chance of actual rain is supposedly small.

And that's the other problem. The forecast changes from hour to hour, and from forecaster to forecaster. Everyone has a favorite source, sites or app, and none of them agree. Worse, the weather changes drastically in the five miles between our motel and the fair. Microclimates.

We have a lovely bunch of neighbors this year, unlike last time, when we had to listen to a pair of vendors complaining through the back of the booth all weekend. Only problem is that all of them--with the exception of the porcelain jewelry lady to our right--are art objects. Paintings, mural landscape photography, silk scarves, high-end fused glass. Harder to sell than painted pottery, especially when the potter has a head start--120 postcards and e-cards sent to previous customers before the fair started. I've said before how much I rely on repeat custom, and that was really evident on Friday, when I had a very good day while everyone else was dragging. Saturday picked up for them, thankfully, and while I had fewer customers, individual sales were slightly larger, so I ended up within $30 of Friday's total.

It's tricky having a good sale while your neighbors aren't. You want to feel good, celebrate it, but you don't want to be that guy, the one who brags about his success when everyone else is failing. So you go all Midwestern. Oh, we're doing okay. Not bad, y'know. Can't complain.

Hopefully, Sunday will bring sale to everybody. Us included...
offcntr: (rainyday) a lot like getting dressed inside a sleeping bag. You keep shifting stuff around until you find the next thing to put on.

Up at Edmonds, setting up in a drizzle. The show takes place on a baseball field, with one way in and one way out, so setup is incredibly organized. Regimented, even.

To begin with, it's divided into two-hour blocks. First in are the over-sized folks, people with trailers and so forth. Next come the south-facing booths, then north-facing booths, then all the corner booths along the main concourse. Last shift is a pick-up period for anyone who missed their time, and God help anyone who shows up with a trailer. You've got forty-five minutes, tops, to get everything unloaded and your vehicle offsite. We managed it in under thirty.

Even within this structure, there's fine-tuning. We figured there wouldn't be that many over-size, so arrived fifteen minutes before our time, got in line behind three other vendors and gave them our booth number. When they radioed ahead to volunteers on the field, they found room at our space, so pulled us out of line and sent us ahead. They do something similar at load out, necessary because the queue runs six or eight blocks at that point.

In any event, we parked in front of our spot around ten of ten, immediately set up the canopy, then I hustled in boxes of pots while Denise shifted shelves and stands. At 10:23, I was backing and filling to turn around and cut across a neighboring space to move out and make room for the next vehicle.

Setting up... well, on a dry day, we'd have put stacks of pots out front, or in the empty north-facing booths behind us while we assembled shelves. Today, everything had to stay indoors, so it was a lot like those sliding tile puzzles, or, as I said, like dressing in your sleeping bag during winter camping.

Still, aside from rain blowing on the edges, we managed to keep everything reasonably dry, and got things out and organized to the point where we could leave the rest for morning by a little after one pm, including a lunch break. Ran a few errands, gassed up the van, and had a leisurely afternoon in our hotel room, listening to someone's lonely doggie crying, down the hall.
offcntr: (bunbear)
Luke and Miriam, of the wedding registry experiment, stopped by the other evening to pick up their wedding presents. They're in the process of moving, and he wanted to wait until they were done; she wanted to see everything right away.

I'd say they look happy with the results, wouldn't you?
offcntr: (Default)

...from my last firing. Everything is fired and out, most packed up in the van for my show in Edmonds next weekend, though I did pack and ship nine boxes of special orders between Friday and yesterday.
offcntr: (maggie)
I really put way to much effort into decorating $15 cat food dishes. What can I say? I enjoy my work.
offcntr: (rainyday)
Quiet day at Market. No, let me correct that. Empty day. This is the view down my side of the block. Only three booths around the corner, big gaps in the middle of the block as well.

The weather prediction was for rain, possibly thunderstorms. A lot of people stayed home.

I thought about it. I could really use an extra day, sorting and pricing pots for my show next weekend in Edmonds. And after the marathon glazing, firing, packing and shipping run of the past two weeks, I could also use a rest.

But I have a bunch of special orders to deliver, and Market is a good place to meet. And between Edmonds and other travel plans, I won't be back here until mid-July.

So there I was, setting up extra-early at 7 am, because I didn't want post-pneumonia Denise out in the cold and--potentially--wet.

Lucked out on set-up: only about a 15-minute shower in the two hours it took me to finish, and most everything was under cover by then. Dry morning, even sunny, and though my first sale wasn't until 11:30, they were steady after that. Tourists in town for the NCAA meet, regulars adding to their collection (and at least one couple who were both).

By the time the predicted thunderstorm blew through, I was up over $400 for the day, and now at 3:30 it's sunny again. And it's not just me. Everyone I've talked to seems to be having a pretty good day.

My philosophy of Market is, If you can load in and load out dry, anything else can be borne. 

Selling things as well? Even better.

Still waiting for my special order folks to show up, though.
offcntr: (rainyday)
So busy glazing this week, I hardly even had time to take pictures. Here's one, though, of Northwest animals on baking dishes, bound for my show in Edmonds, WA later this month.
offcntr: (maggie)
 Been way too busy to write this week, going straight from slack, working on the sculpture and staying up way too late reading to crunch time glazing.

I could have taken the pressure off a little, gone in last Friday instead of staying home doing office work. Would have made today much easier. Eighty-two pots, boys and girls: two big servers, 25 dinner plates, 42 dessert plates (yes, I know, the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything), a dozen cat food bowls, and a very last-minute order for a gravy tureen from the Wedding Registry this afternoon at 5 pm. 

The wedding is tomorrow. We won't be there--though they were sweet enough to invite us--mainly because Saturday is the one day a week my storefront is open, at Saturday Market.

The Registry has actually worked out really well. I went ahead and made everything on the list, kept it in bisque state until I had an order, then glazed in the requested pattern. As orders came in, I'd cross off that item on the list, so people could know what was left. In the end, everything was chosen except tumblers, dessert plates, and a couple of mugs. I'll load it all into the kiln on Sunday, and they'll be ready when the happy couple come back from their honeymoon. In the meantime, I made up some gift cards printed with the item(s) and the givers, so they'll know who to thank for what.

It was a good experiment. Definitely going to keep it up on the website for future use.


May. 29th, 2017 07:56 am
offcntr: (Default)
Reluctantly started glazing for my next firing yesterday. I've gotten spoiled by my unplanned week off, want to play in the studio or lie around reading. Unfortunately, deadlines wait for no one. The back room is still full of Sookjae's pots until this morning, so I do the easy stuff--elephant banks, one dip in clear glaze--and fussy stuff--dragons, multiple layers, lots of wax resist. Afterwards, I wax a bunch of teapots and casseroles for the morning, and look for other work to do.

The chimney looks a little loose, gaps between the bricks. During a firing, the bricks get hot enough to actually expand a few millimeters, push each other apart. As they cool, they don't move back, so each firing finds them a little further apart. Gaps between the bricks allow air to be pulled into the chimney, diluting the pressure drawing gasses from the kiln itself. Less draft means a less efficient, less controllable firing. More reduction when I don't want it, more fuel burned, more time wasted.

The solution? As the Hitchhiker's Guide once said, the secret is to bang the rocks together. Or in this case, bricks. All you need is a hammer and a scrap of 2x4--and a dust mask--to bang in from the corners. Back to back, side to side. Can't push back from the front, sadly, chimney's too close to the kiln wall, but I can still make the kiln visibly tighter by the time I'm through.

Before and after.
offcntr: (vendor)
This is actually a sight not usually seen: The Saturday Market booth set up, boxes waiting patiently to disgorge their contents onto the shelves. On a normal day, Denise would be busy unpacking while I moved the van to public parking. I'd join her when I got back, and between the two of us, we'd have everything in its place in about half an hour.

Denise is still recovering from her bout with pneumonia. She plans to bus down this afternoon to join me, help me load out, but this morning, I'm still on my own. It'll take me at least an hour from this point to get everything set up, the boxes stashed out of sight. Once again I'm reminded how much I rely on her help, how thankful I am we caught this thing in time for her to recover.

Ta dah!

May. 25th, 2017 05:00 pm
offcntr: (Default)
The finished piece, ready for drying. I'm kind of amazed that I knocked this out in only four days. Of course there's still drying, firing, surface glazing--mostly oxides and stains, like I used on Baba Yaga. There's a part of me that wants to see if the little bottle of gold luster I bought years ago for a church project is useable for the text on the spine, but on the other hand, that might be too fancy for a late sixties kid's book.

It occurs to me that I've documented this entire process without once mentioning the title, which inspired the whole thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Clever Girl.
offcntr: (maggie)
Was going to put together the book part of the sculpture last night, but got distracted by television. Denise and I have been watching season 3 of Leverage on DVD, and got to the final two episodes. So we binged them both, then went back and watched 'em again with the commentary on. So I wrapped up the slabs tight, and left them for this afternoon.

I decided to use a lighter clay for the pages, a porcelaneous stoneware called G-Mix, which is available with a little grog for sculpting. My original plan was to use my standard stoneware, DSW, for the covers, but I wasn't sure whether the rates of shrinkage were the same, so opted for the safer solution, using one clay for the whole piece. I'll have to wipe some stain on the cover to darken it down, but that's not too much trouble.

Denise is a book binder, so I know quite a bit about the structure of books from watching her at work. This helped with details like the shape of the cover boards, the curve of the pages when open, the headband on the inside of the spine. I had such good luck pre-texturing my slabs on the dinosaur that I did it again, using the canvas texture from my slab roller to simulate book cloth. I've got several rubber-stamp alphabets, so chose a funky, slightly old-fashioned font to impress the title.

The title? Okay, I admit, Jurassic Park would have been the obvious choice, but I didn't want to be that obvious. I decided to make it a kid's picture book, and "Big Book of Dinosaurs" was just the right length. I wanted it to be kind of old and dated, the sort of book I read in third grade, with an embossed brontosaur (dated, right?) on the front cover, and volcanos on the back.

Once I'd trimmed and rounded the edges, using a scrap of canvas to re-texture, I built the pages. I've got a fluted butter paddle that, dragged along the slab, made a tolerable text-block edge, so I laid down top, bottom and sides, plus a rib in the middle to keep the page from collapsing, then scored, slipped, and laid the smooth page-slab over the top. Repeat for the other side, making sure the curve of the page block is a little different. Don't want the book to be too symmetrical.

Once the two halves were finished, I joined them together along the gutter, with a little coil reinforcement both inside and out. Since each half had two hollow chambers, I drilled holes venting them to the spine. I ran five bits of slab perpendicular across the back of the spine, for added support, then trimmed it flat and attached the cover to the spine, finessing the seams with the canvas scrap. Two curved coils simulated the headbands on the top and bottom, and left a gap where I could run a bamboo skewer down the inside of the spine, venting all the trapped air spaces.

I'll wait until after the bisque firing to decide what goes on the pages. Big pictures, I think, readable headlines but Greek text (it's a term from my printing days. In this case, I'll either do nonsense squiggles or just grey stripes) for the body copy. I'm thinking Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus...
offcntr: (live 2)
Great day to work in the studio, sunny but not hot--I have skylights, so the temp climbs rapidly on hot days, even with one of them covered. It's also very breezy outside, so I can make arm parts, then firm them up rapidly in the shade just outside the studio. (The breeze carries away moisture quickly and evenly, but doesn't over-dry bits the way direct sunlight would.) I also roll out slabs for the book and lay them out, but that'll take longer. I'm using a different clay body that I didn't pre-dry, and paying for it now.

Legs and tail have hardened up nicely overnight, so I can stand the beast upright and do a few tweaks on the undercarriage to make it sit level. I also cap the open end of the chest and trim and position the head and neck. Looks good, so I go ahead, score and slip and attach it.

The arm parts are ready surprisingly early, so I piece them together, positioning the upper arm while posing the forearms, then removing and assembling everything. Left arm goes first, then I notice one leg is cracking again, so I flip him over onto the foam pad, repair it, then add the right arm. As it turns out, upside down is a better position for the arms--less stress on joints--so I'll leave it that way uncovered until tonight, then drape with plastic for a day or two before drying in earnest.

The last thing I do is make a vent through to the inside in an inconspicuous place--the roof of the mouth, as it happens--so that moisture can escape the inside as it dries.

Tomorrow, book-making!
offcntr: (live 1)
Only a semi-productive day; Denise had doctor's appointments in the morning, and isn't up to driving herself yet, (Pneumonia takes a lot out of you) so I missed the cool part of the studio day. Didn't make many new bits, just neck and tail. Then worked at assembling the old ones. Everything I've built so far is hollow, down to the feet, so I pierce the side before adding the thigh. Don't want any trapped air spaces, as they don't dry properly, will blow out in firing.

This is a very tricky point to work. The clay is firm enough to handle easily, but if I put too much weight on it, it'll break. I wound up patching one of the legs, plus a dew claw that got pushed out of place. After dealing with the body, I built a longer neck and attached it to the head. Not sure yet how I'll pose it when I add it to the body. Think I'll need to make the arms and the book first, see how they interact. Guess I'd better wrap it up tight.

After all the bits are assembled, I propped things into position with sponges and lumps of clay, then wrapped the unfinished part of the torso tightly in plastic (dry-cleaner's bags are best). Then I just walked away, left it uncovered 'til evening to let the whole thing get dryer and stronger. Hoping the legs and tail line up well enough to stand up, because I can't test it until morning at the earliest.

Tomorrow I've got a full day, and it's supposed to be cooler, so I'm hoping to get a good bit further.


May. 22nd, 2017 09:44 pm
offcntr: (chinatown bear)
So I pick the hottest day of the spring to begin my sculpture project, which means it's difficult to work by afternoon, but the bits I did finish stiffened up nicely. I'll try to assemble a bit more in the morning, when it's cool, but here's today's progress. Pretty good, for a start, I think.

In the past, I've rolled out the clay slabs wet, then had to wait for them to firm up before I could begin. This time, I took a page from my pottery experiences. I cut two bags of clay into quarters lengthwise last night, spread them out like teepee poles and left them uncovered until morning. Wedged them up this morning, rolled my slabs and was pretty much ready to start. I'll have to remember that trick.

I pre-textured the slabs with my new roller tools, then formed a torso and set it on end to stiffen up. Once it did, I laid it on its side and attached the first tail segment.
flat dino skinthe initial torso of the crittertorso gets first part of tail
I made the head from a smaller bit of slab, added a lower jaw, some texture and detailing, and finished with colored porcelain eyes, tongue and teeth. Wicked!

Legs were made in sections: first the thighs, then the drumsticks, then the legs and feet. I left these to dry until evening before I assembled them.

Even then, I left them off of the body until tomorrow, though I did line up the right leg against the torso to see how it looked.

Tomorrow's gonna be pretty wild...

offcntr: (vendor)
Had a customer come in today with a "Good, you're still here." He'd bought some soup bowls from us three years ago, and his four-and-a-half year-old daughter loves them.

When someone comes back after a long stretch, I assume an out-of-towner. Sure enough, he's a philosophy professor from Boston, in town to give a guest lecture on Emerson and Thoreau for the latter's bicentenary.

Fortunately for me, he doesn't subscribe to Henry D.'s philosophy. He takes seven soup bowls home with him.

There are advantages to keeping the same reserved booth for twenty years. ..
offcntr: (bella)

a new set of roller texture tools
I realized yesterday that, since Baba Yaga sold at Showcase, if I want a new sculpture for Clay Fest this fall, I'm gonna have to make one. I've got a couple of ideas bouncing around in my head, but I'm not sure yet which is going to win out. One of them is inspired by another Ursula Vernon story, Castle Hangnail; the other, an odd image stuck in my head of a velociraptor reading a book. Yeah, I know, very odd.

As it happens, though, both of them could benefit from the same texture-roulette technology I used on Baba Yaga, so it may come down to which set of tools make the better texture.

Castle walls:

field stone texture roller and sampletexture roller for random stone blocks, with sample

One with fieldstone, one with random blocks and bricks. I like the fieldstone all right, but the bricks? Not a success. I threw that one in the recycle bucket.

Dinosaur or dragon skin:

two textured rollers and a sample for dinosaur skinclose up of dinosaur skin slab

I'd also be using the chicken-leg texture from Baba, but also wanted a tool for creases and crinkles, and one that's just a generalized knobbly texture.

Right now it looks like the dino's have it. Stay tuned.

Al fresco

May. 17th, 2017 08:40 am
offcntr: (chinatown bear)

Crossposted from Off Center Ceramics

Lots of things are better out of doors: Picnic lunches. Live music. Softball games. Small, noisy children.

Even art! Strolling the shady lanes of an outdoor summer art festival is a supremely rewarding experience, especially when you discover the Off Center Ceramics booth.

Okay, it's rewarding, regardless. We're just a bonus.

As has been previously mentioned, we're cutting back on summer shows this year, due to family commitments elsewhere, but we've got confirmed acceptances from all three that I did apply to: the Edmonds Arts Festival in June, and the Anacortes Arts Festival and Silverton Fine Arts Festival in August. Note again that I'm not able to attend the Umpqua Summer Arts Festival in Roseburg this year, nor will I be in Salem (or Corvallis, this fall).

But we hope to see you wherever we do appear this summer.

We'll be looking for your sunny faces.

offcntr: (spacebear)
I grew up around nuns. Heck, my aunt was a nun. My parish church didn't have a parochial school, but they'd bring a group of Franciscans every year to teach summer school. (Vacation Bible School, in my wife's Lutheran tradition.) Nuns wore black and white habits, veils, sometimes a full wimple. Their first name was always "Mary," last name was a saint's. You didn't talk to them about normal things. They weren't humorless, exactly, but their humor had a restrained, reverent air.

Then I went away to college at Viterbo.

I didn't meet Sister Carlene on my first visit to campus. She was in Guatemala, studying native hand-weaving. When I did meet her, I was surprised by this lively, friendly woman, in every-day clothes (including jeans and a denim vest), who everyone just called "Carlene."

I didn't have her for many classes--she taught fibers and art education, neither of which was my field, though I did enjoy her in art appreciation. She was always enthusiastic and encouraging of my work, though, and I think it was probably her idea to offer me a chance to teach art history after I graduated and Tim Crane went on sabbatical.

She was a devoted teacher, and a dedicated artist, producing beautiful weavings, functional and artistic. Later in life she took up icon writing (not painting. Icons are an instructional medium, and as such are written.) After I moved to Oregon for grad school, I always enjoyed catching up with her on my visits back to La Crosse. After Denise and I were married, we were both welcome in her little apartment on Mississippi Street. She was proud that I'd become a full-time artist, and always enjoyed seeing pictures of my latest work.

We haven't been to La Crosse for quite a while now; family commitments took us to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, up to Willard. So I missed her last few years at Villa St. Joseph, and I missed her funeral at St. Rose Chapel.

I miss her now. I suspect, wherever she is now, she's learning some new technique, and eagerly teaching it to anyone who's listening.
offcntr: (spacebear)

Not birthday… Just seems like birds of a lot of different feathers are flocking my Saturday Market booth today.

June 2017

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