offcntr: (bella)
The Maude Kerns Art Center's annual members show, Art for All Seasons, is up! As usual, Club Mud has our own pottery-only display in a side gallery, but this year I managed to get my act together and enter a sculpture in the main show.

She's called The Bookseller's Apprentice, and, like The Cape at Clay Fest, she's an older piece that I think deserves more exposure. If only for the excellent, faux-oriental carpeting fabric I found at Econo-Sales... And the cat.
offcntr: (Default)
Former potter and ongoing photographer Don Prey stopped by Clay Fest on Saturday, and sent me this pic.

He got a running start and bless his heart, he's headed for the ground.
offcntr: (Default)
Clay Fest is usually a lovely low-ish impact show for us. To begin with, it's right here in Eugene: no overnights, cat-sitters, long drives. In addition, they provide pipe-and-drape, and the set-up period runs from noon on Thursday 'til the doors open at 5 pm Friday. We generally unload the van, lay out the carpet and set up the shelves Thursday, take time to vacuum the rug, repaint the dings on the shelves, then go home again, come back Friday to actually unpack the pots and put the extra boxes in the back.

Friday's also the day to check in an entry for the gallery. I usually try to have a new (or newish) sculpture, but as I've sold the last three I've made, went into deep storage to retrieve this one. It's called The Cape, based on a Guy Clark (and Susanna Clark and Jim Janosky) song that I've loved for years, and shows the protagonist in the first verse: Eight years old with a flour sack cape tied all around his neck...

Did a demo for my Saturday work shift, making paintbrushes and decorating bowls for a small but appreciative (and constantly shifting) audience, followed by lunch and some time in the booth talking with folks and restocking. Clay Fest is never a great show for us, sales-wise, too many folks just looking who'll eventually get back to us at Holiday Market (or not), but it's nice to catch up with potter friends, see all the new artists and new work.

 Unfortunately, around mid-afternoon, my back began spasming, so I left Denise in charge of the booth while I went home and crashed on the bed with a heating pad. (Clay Fest has centralized check-out, so she didn't have to actually sell pots, just talk to customers and restock the booth. Still a lot of work.)

Sunday morning I felt a bit better, so did my sales shift at the credit line. Three hours on a stool crashed my back again, so it was home for Tylenol and more heating pad, to get me recovered enough to help pack up. Fortunately for both of us, my very helpful choir director from church lives nearby, and was willing to come over at 5:30 and help haul boxes and shelves out to the van and especially hoist them in. I managed to help until about the last fifteen minutes, at which point my back froze up again and I ended up standing by the van and pointing for the last few bits.

So all told, less low-impact than usual. But still successful: my not-at-all-new sculpture still earned me second prize in the gallery competition, making it two years in a row.

offcntr: (bunbear)
You remember Harriet? Hamster heroine, riding into adventure on her bold battle quail, Mumfrey? The sculpture I exploded, rebuilt, and completed just in time for Ceramic Showcase?

Here she is on her way to her new home. That's Dan Chen, by the way. Multi-talented painter, sculptor, pastel and printmaker. He's kinda famous around here, and I've admired his work for years.

In fact, when we bought our house back in 2000, one of the first things we got for ourselves, a housewarming present if you will, was an enormous pastel of a ringneck pheasant, to hang above the fireplace. It's still there, one of our prize possessions.

So selling him one of my pieces feels a little like selling a rough sketch to, oh, Picasso.

But I guess it's a fair trade. I got the pheasant; he gets the quail.
offcntr: (Default)
Had a great time at the OPA meeting Friday night, demonstrating my slab sculpting techniques to about three dozen potters. Talked about texturing tools, rather than construction techniques, as this seemed to have most interest to the crowd. Rambled a little, answered a lot of questions, made a bamboo pattern roller right there in front of everyone. (It's in the bisque right now; we'll see how it works later.)

I wish I'd been better organized. I brought a laptop slide show, but forgot to ask whether they had a projector. (Answer: yes, but not right there at the meeting.) And although Denise and I were both there, neither of us thought to take pictures. Have to do that better this coming Friday.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my construction debris. I really need to do something with that fieldstone-texture roller.
offcntr: (window bear)
When I first started in ceramics, in grad school and afterwards, at the Craft Center, I shot my own pictures. On film, no less, color slides, using photo floods and fabric back drops and having to clean the studio to make space for my jury-rigged set up. Fairly early in the process, somewhere between when I stopped looking for teaching jobs and started jurying for art fairs, I decided I needed to hire a professional. My home-brew slides weren't cutting it, and if I was planning to take myself seriously as an artist, I needed to be willing to invest in my career.

My first photographer was a friend from the music world, a part-time professional in the process of going full-time. He took some nice pictures for me, but, as neither of us had a really good idea how we wanted them lit or composed, it took forever. Fortunately, he was also giving me a friendly rate, so it worked out.

My second photographer was another potter, who'd spent some time and money on a much more professional set-up, and was amortizing the cost by shooting slides for the rest of us. Because he was used to lighting and shooting pottery, he did a much faster job of it. However, because he shot a lot of pots, he obsessed about things like highlights and reflections, to the point where I'd have to wash off three layers of spray dulling media when I got the pottery home again.

I started working with my current photographer, Jon Meyers, on a personal recommendation. His mother and I sang in the church choir together--still do--and she told me he was just out of college and starting a photography business. We hit it off right away. He was efficient, professional, and did consistent work. I've been using his services ever since; I think we transitioned from film to digital together. He's not cheap, but for an hour's paid time I generally get about a dozen high quality images. To me, it's worth the investment.

Took Harriet and a couple of new pots down to my Jon this morning. Here's a couple of samples.

offcntr: (rocket)
Princess Harriet Hamsterbone and her valiant battle quail, Mumfrey?
beware, ogrecats!
Omigosh, guys, isn't she beautiful?
offcntr: (rocket)
Mumfrey gets color. These are all oxides and stains, so will fire dry and flat. The unglazed areas, i.e. most of him, will be grayish brown.
every now and then I get a little bit... total eclipse of the art
I'm really liking this project.

Good news

Apr. 2nd, 2018 08:02 am
offcntr: (live 2)
one, glorious piece
When I opened the kiln this morning, this is what I saw.

Mumfrey, all in one piece.  
offcntr: (maggie)
Sculpture status report: after an afternoon in the sunshine, three days in front of a fan on low, and an overnight sitting on top of a very hot kiln, I'm judging Mumfrey dry enough to risk loading into a slow-firing bisque kiln. We'll see how things turn out around Tuesday morning. Say your prayers, everyone. If this version breaks, so may I.

Meanwhile, I brought brushes and stains home from Club Mud, and spent a quiet Easter afternoon decorating the legs and base section of the piece (easy) and Harriet herself (rather more complicated). Here's our hamster heroine...
offcntr: (chinatown bear)
Working on the saddle today; made it a little bigger, in hopes that with shrinkage it'll still accommodate my hamster heroine. Since I had to built up the back (cantle? Is that right?) to keep the rider level, I had a big boring surface to deal with, so I added a saddle bag. Which then led to a canteen, which meant I needed something on the other side for balance. Finally decided on a loop of climbing rope, though I briefly considered a rock-climber's axe. Cliff diving, y'know.

And here's our Harriet mounted and ready for battle.

offcntr: (rainyday)

My favorite angle on Mumfrey the second.
offcntr: (live 2)
So, I rolled out two big slabs of clay Saturday morning and left them on drywall to firm up. Jury-rigged a thin cardboard cap to the bisque leg assembly, wrapped strips of clay around it, trimmed to size with a cheese cutter.

...and left everything for two days. I'd planned on starting in earnest Saturday night, but then discovered that my favorite bookstore and music venue was hosting TREK Theatre's live performance of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Working from the original radio scripts. They were marvelous, by the way; did episodes 1, 2 and 5, and totally nailed it.

Then on Sunday we priced, inventoried and packed up ten boxes of pottery and brought them home from the studio. Which left me barely enough energy to go get groceries and trim soup and serving bowls before falling exhausted into bed.

I had Showcase emails waiting for me Monday morning, so I finally got back into the studio around 9:30 am. Pulled the plastic off the slabs, discovered they were the perfect consistency, and started work.

It was actually kind of fun, redoing the piece. I'd made some bad decisions the first time, had some weird proportional issues (head too small, for instance) that I really should have fixed. Starting again from scratch gave me the opportunity to address this.

This is what the piece looked like around 11 am.
cruising right along
The tail and wings were built hollow from the start, and better integrated. I'm just starting to slab up the transition from breast to neck. By lunch-time I'd enclosed the whole body, and roughed out a cylinder for the next and lower half of the head. The only problem is, I was having so much fun--and had built up so much momentum--that I forgot to take pictures. The next time I remembered, it was 2 pm, and it looked like this.
ah, yeah, that's pretty much done
Yeah, that's pretty much done. I still need to scrape and smooth a few spots, once the clay is firm enough to take that treatment, and I'll have to fabricate and attach the saddle, but I've basically finished Mumfrey II in one working day.

Now I just have to get him dry enough to fire in two weeks.
offcntr: (Default)
Once upon a time, I was a math major. Well, art and math double major, I took the math classes for fun. And one of the things I remember from math is this: conical forms are self-similar.

What this means is, if you take a regular cone that's, say, six inches high, and slice off the base an inch from and parallel to the bottom, the second, truncated cone is proportional to the original.

Or, to reverse the process, if you continue a cone several inches, following the same angle, the new, bigger cone is also proportional.
should i be reminded of ford prefect's ebony bath?
This is the surviving, base section of my quail sculpture. You'll note the top of the piece. It's conical.

Well, conoidal, actually, a teardrop in cross-section. but the angle is consistent, so if I could extend it by the correct amount--about a quarter inch, by my calculations--I should have a base proportional to the original, wet-clay version of this one. That I can build a complete replacement quail body on. I'm thinking thin, flexible cardboard; Denise always has a stash with her bookbinding supplies.

Watch this space...
offcntr: (window bear)
You'd have thought a month of drying time for a sculpture would have been enough.

You'd have been wrong.
well, crapspare parts
When I unloaded the kiln Friday, this is what I found. Despite over a month in the studio, despite a slow warmup and a hold at 180° F. for two extra hours, there was still moisture in Mumfrey the battle quail's left flank. Moisture that turned to steam in the kiln, blowing off chunks of skin and breaking his tail in two.

Oh, crap.

So as I see it, I have three choices:

1. Fire it as is and try and put the pieces together later. With lots of Bondo and paint to hide the fractures.

2. Try to rebuild from scratch, possibly fitting over the existing legs and base structure. Difficult, as clay shrinks as it dries, about 6.25% from wet to bisque. 

3. Ditch the piece entirely, possibly making something different for the Ceramic Showcase gallery.

Or, I suppose:

4. Not have a gallery piece at all.

Think I need to sleep on this. Right now I'm just too depressed.
offcntr: (snoozin')
Catching up with the last couple of days of the sculpture project: Harriet the Invincible herself.

I wasted a day (well, used it to work on my taxes. Ick.) while the white clay, grogged G-mix from Georgies, firmed up to sculpt able consistency--I always forget how sticky porcellanous clays get.

Once I had clay I could actually work with, I started with pinch pots: a long cylindrical one and a shallow bowl end-cap that combined to make an enclosed, potato-like shape. Once it held pressure, I could paddle and reshape it into the tubby body of a hamster in a breastplate. A second pinch pot became the head. A third pinch pot also became the head, as the second one, while adorable, was too damn big. I modeled some short hind legs and attached them next, then tested the fit in the saddle I'd score-and-slipped onto Mumfrey. And I made a sword. Not a magical sword, mind you, just a big heavy hunk of steel suitable for thumping things. Harriet Hamsterbone is not long on subtlety.

Everything was still a little soft, so I draped everything loosely, including the rest of my clay, and called it a night.

The next morning, it was time to arm my warrior. Note the puffy sleeves? She is a princess. I also made a little tiara and set it aside to dry. I'd trim it to shape when it was black-hard (about the consistency of a chocolate bar). And I trimmed and shaped the neck and collar, and installed her head.

Back to the tax software until late afternoon, when it was time to put everything together. Here she is, back in the saddle.

offcntr: (Default)
Not a lot of visible progress today, just a lot of fiddly bits. I slabbed the belly to the internal cone last night, then assembled top and bottom and scraped and smoothed to match curves. Then had to leave it over night, as I couldn't pull them apart again without messing up the work I'd just done.

I also rolled out a base slab, and textured it with a brick roller I built last year. I'd been experimenting with brick, cobbles, other architectural textures, and this one seemed to be the best-defined. Today I need to pose the legs, attach them, trim the tops to match the curve of the belly, attach it, check the fit, disassemble, put on the saddle. Like I said, fiddly bits, but the result is pretty amazing.

I'm really psyched to start on Harriet herself, but the white clay I want to use is way wet, so I slice out some bits and set it out on drywall to firm up, then bag it up for tomorrow before I go to bed.


Feb. 24th, 2018 10:04 pm
offcntr: (Default)
Made a lot of progress, yesterday. I'm working half days on the sculpture, afternoons, as a reward for doing taxes in the morning. I've got all the Schedule C's, 1099's (INT, DIV, R, B) and even the form 1041 for Denise's late mother's trust pretty much done, so I get to go back to Mumfrey.

First, I slab over the back, fill in the sides and up over the shoulders. Once that's all reinforced inside, scraped and smoothed outside, it's time to add the head.

I decide that the tail looks a little short, so make that the wing tips instead, and prepare an extension to go underneath. I use the narrow bits of scrap slab with my trusty scale-making roller to build a sturdy pair of legs.

I firm up the tail a little more by leaning it on the space heater, then attach and smooth it, matching planes and edges. Since the tail is hollow, I make a vent into the body to permit air circulation and evaporation. I'd hate to blow the tail off in the firing. Lastly, I get out some red stoneware to fashion a hamster-appropriate saddle. It's currently separated by a little plastic. I'll wrap the quail and leave the saddle uncovered overnight. By the next day it should be about the same stiffness, so safe to attach. (If I'd put it on wet, it would shrink and crack away in drying.

I sorta feel like the head may be a little undersized for the body, but in the story, Mumfrey is a specially-bred riding quail, too heavy to fly, so I assume his body is more turkey-sized than quail sized. Or so I rationalize not cutting it off and starting over...

Take 2

Feb. 23rd, 2018 09:40 pm
offcntr: (Default)
So I'm a big fan of author/artist/podcaster Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher). I've reblogged one of her essays here, and my Best-of-Show-winning sculpture from last year's Ceramic Showcase was based in part on her novel, Summer in Orcus. So this year, as I'm thinking of a new sculpture for Showcase--my last two both sold--I keep coming back to Ursula's writing. Specifically to Harriet Hamsterbone.

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone, if you please. Cursed at christening by an evil fairy, doomed to prick her finger on a hamster wheel at age 12 and fall into an enchanted sleep, she realizes that this means, up until her 12th birthday, that she's invincible. So she takes up cliff diving. Mountain climbing. Fighting ogres and saving dragons from ravening princesses and generally going on adventures with the help of her trusty riding quail, Mumfrey.

You see where I'm going, here?

Here is the beginning of Mumfrey. I decided to make him in two pieces, rather like the house in Baba Yaga, but instead of a flat slab with feet attached, I'm doing a hollow, domed form. The bottom curve will be Mumfrey's belly, the upper, more conical surface will match a reinforced, angled gallery on the bottom of his body. They'll be fired separately, assembled later. Not decided yet whether Harriet will be attached or not. I'm still quailing.

The head is a pinch pot, not unlike the animal masks I've made before. The body is going to be slab work. Here you can see the inner dome, wrapped in tissue paper to aid in separation later, with the ring of slap around it and the beginnings of the breast and tail. Already, the tail is sharper and better shaped, from using stiffened slabs. Only I've run out of ready clay slab, so the whole thing is going under plastic until tomorrow.
offcntr: (rainyday)
Starting a new sculpture this week, and as always, got a little eager. When you're working with hollow-built slab sculpture you can't start too early. If the slabs aren't firm enough, they'll slump, and no amount of paddling and pressure will put them back into the right shape again. Better to let everything firm up over night, start fresh in the morning.

Sigh. I'll throw this in the bucket tomorrow, start over.

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