offcntr: (be right back)

This is what I've been doing the last week, instead of posting here. Between the print workshop last weekend and the opening of Saturday Market this one, I only had five days glazing to fill the entire big kiln. I managed, I think--I'll know for sure when we load up on Sunday--but it took some long days on my feet, dipping and painting pots, to get everything ready, and more often than not, I collapsed into bed right after supper.
offcntr: (maggie)
CR and Pooh, colorized and ready for firing.


Mar. 30th, 2019 09:22 pm
offcntr: (live 1)
I used to have the worst trouble getting handles to line up. On anything that had paired handles--casserole, crock, cookie jar--or even a few that didn't, like batter bowls, I just couldn't get the handles lined up across from each other. I'd eye-ball and mark and attach and pull and two times out of four, the handles were closer together from one direction than the other. Drove me nuts.

Then one year, Local Clay, our Eugene potter's group, sponsored a workshop by Ellen Currans. She's a long-time Oregon potter, founding member of the OPA, and made a lot of two-handled platters, servers, baking dishes. And she had a lovely, simple system for positioning the handles.

She'd make a paper template the same diameter as the pot, usually by taping the sheet to her potter's wheel and pencilling in the circle, then cutting away the excess. She'd then fold it in half, mark where fold met edge, then flatten it out and refold a couple of inches off the original fold, mark there. Putting the template over the top of the platter or dish made it easy to determine where to place the handles so they'd be exactly opposite one another. Since she was a production potter too, she had dozens of templates in all different sizes, so she always had on to match the next pot. She even made nifty little handles out of scotch tape, to make it easier to lift off the template when done.

I've adopted the system wholesale, taken it a step further: I have templates on the computer that I can size and print onto card stock with the relevant diameters pre-printed. And since I have box tape in the studio, I do the handles as well.

Here's a few of my handle templates, and a small covered crock about to get marked and handled. Honestly, I'm still amazed I never figured this trick out for myself.

So many

Mar. 28th, 2019 12:06 am
offcntr: (snoozin')
got 'em covered
Yesterday, it was lids: canisters, cookie jars, honey pots. Today? Handles. Sixty of them.
hallelujah! finished the handels
offcntr: (chinatown bear)
I started making crock-style handles on my casseroles and bakers after listening to a public radio story about Minnesota Pottery, and remembering the 25-gallon lard and sauerkraut crocks we had down in the basement, growing up. The technique is simple, but the resulting handles are sturdy and comfortable, easily big enough to grab through hot pads or oven mitts.

I start with an extruded coil, for consistency, cut to 3.5" lengths. (I have the intervals marked on a ware board, so I don't have to measure, just line up and cut. I measure the midpoint of each side, then score and slip a crescent there, along with two coil segments.

The coil is positioned, then pinched in place. I swipe a little off the top and bottom with my thumbnail to smooth the join, then pinch outward to widen and thin the handle. I leave the outer edge fat and rounded.

Once the starter handle is placed and pinched, I dip my fingers in water and stroke the handle back and forth, a horizontal version of the usual pulled handle. This smooths out the pinch marks, thins and forms the handle, refines the edge.

With thumb and forefinger tips, I pinch and press the ends of the handle to the pot, swiping off any excess clay and making nice, tight end points. Finally, I finish with a chamois dipped in water, for a super smooth finish.

Et voila! A handle you can get a grip on.
offcntr: (Default)
I wasn't actually sure how to finish this sculpture. The original notion came from a Murray Leinster SF short story, Exploration Team, that I'd read back in junior high, about an illegal colony on a planet full of dangerous predators. The hero survived with the help of domestic Kodiak bears. I didn't want to follow the story literally, though, as a guy in a jumpsuit with pack and high-powered rifle would have required too much explanation.

I also thought about bear cubs, or nothing but the bear, and neither seemed complete. Ultimately, I settled on a sort of Christoper Robin meets Calvin and Hobbes solution, where the boy is as we remember him, but the bear is as he might have imagined Pooh if not limited by his father's writing.

Because I wanted more flexibility in coloring Chris, I used a lighter clay body, Georgies' G-Mix with grog, the same clay I used last year for Harriet and the year before for Baba Yaga's Apprentice. Since I knew it would shrink a little, I laid a sheet of bubble wrap across the bear's back to compensate. This also had the added benefit of keeping the brown clay from staining the white. As usual, I worked in stages. I also worked hollow, but with much thinner slabs.

The finished boy was allowed to slowly dry in place, though after about a day, I replaced the bubble wrap with paper towel. This allows him to shrink with his mount, wicks away some moisture from between them, and still keeps red stoneware smudges away from his shirt and shorts.

Okay, that's it. I really need to get back to throwing. I still have the rest of the kiln to fill up.

Face off

Mar. 17th, 2019 01:47 pm
offcntr: (rainyday)
Yesterday was a struggle. After building the head, one piece at a time, I couldn't get it right. Cut the front of the face off twice to rebuild, put on the muzzle, then cut the whole head off and shortened the neck an inch. And it still didn't look right.

I finally put on the ears, threw plastic on it, and called it good. But I also wedged up some more clay and rolled out an extra slab, just in case.

Today I came back rested, and with new eyes, and realized that, though the cranium was all right, the face was still too long, and the muzzle way oversized. I cut the whole face off, shortened it by half an inch, paddled new slab into place and sculpted a smaller, correctly tapered muzzle. The last thing I did was trim a half inch off the circumference of the ears, reshape and roll the edge. And I think I've got it right, finally.

Sorry for the dearth of process photos. As I got more and more stressed, I forgot to take pictures, and by the end of the day, I just wasn't happy with what I'd finished. (Hence the radical face-ectomy today.) I'm much happier with today's progress; think I'm gonna clean up the studio and do some simple, repetitive production throwing tomorrow.

The end?
offcntr: (live 2)
Made a lot of progress today, after a fairly rocky start yesterday. I wound up recycling the whole first batch of slabs, because they were too thin to hold their weight. Made legs from thicker slab, then left them and some slab to set up overnight. Today I face the prospect of figuring out how to put them together.

In the past, when I've made quadrupeds (both elephants, as I recall), I've build the torso, let it stiffen, then attached legs and flip it onto its feet. Couldn't do that here, since I'd built the legs first, so I connected the hind legs together with a belly slab, did something similar with the front legs, then linked them together. Afterwards, it was a matter of adding shaped pieces, one at a time, to define the fairly complex curve of back, hips and shoulders. I'm using another roulette for texture, this one a fairly coarse hair pattern that works very well at hiding seams and paddling.

A pretty good day two. Wrapped the neck in a produce bag and threw plastic over the whole thing for the night.

offcntr: (live 1)
Starting a new slab project in the studio this week, a sculpture for Ceramic Showcase next month.

What do you suppose it will be?

Oh, all right. It's another bear.
offcntr: (rocket)
Somebody is getting the stuffing knocked into them.

Maybe it's a turducken?

Inside out

Mar. 12th, 2019 12:02 pm
offcntr: (rocket)
More pictures from my mystery project. Still not sure what to make of it. Seems... twisted?

What do you think?

offcntr: (rocket)
nor mice
This is not a mouse.  Though the cat doesn't believe me. She keeps trying to steal them.

What do you suppose they are?
offcntr: (rocket)

It's a severed head!

(Hint: It's not a severed head.)

The mystery deepens...

Stage two

Mar. 9th, 2019 02:56 pm
offcntr: (rocket)
the pot thickens
Mystery project, stage two. Looks like jammies to me.
offcntr: (rocket)
Working on a new construction. It appears to be... a slab piece? We'll have to see what develops.


Feb. 15th, 2019 12:40 pm
offcntr: (maggie)
I always like the sleek curves on my cookie jars and pitchers.

offcntr: (Default)
It's been a busy week. The kiln has been loaded, fired, unloaded, rejoiced/lamented over, and I'm getting a moment to catch up here before it all begins again. A couple of entries back, I promised to show you my latest tile project, a bathroom back splash. I talked about how to make tiles during a previous project, so consider this a sequel: The Glazening.

We start with a stack of tiles, all bisqued. The difference in color is probably from slight variations in atmosphere in the bisque as organic matter burned out. It won't have any effect on the finished tiles. You'll note the texture on the back, ideal for gripping the mastic. Less ideal for waxing, so I only apply liquid wax resist to the edges. Any glaze that gets onto the back--and it will--will have to come off with sponge and probably a tooth brush. After they're waxed, I lay them out in order and number them on the back with black stain. This will help the tile-setter to lay them in the right order and, preferably, right way up. (Don't laugh, it happened once.)

I've made a tile holder out of the remains of an old wire whisk. I suspend the tile over the glaze bucket while I pour a uniform coat of glaze, then rotate it 180° and pour a second coat. Holding it at an angle allows the last bit of glaze to run off at a corner, and I dab any drips or splashes with a sponge. After it's dry, I can turn it over and clean up any overrun.

Glazing goes much like any of my pottery. I work eight or ten at a time, first drawing the lines with black stain, then coming back to fill in the colors. I have a numbered chart with thumbnail sketches that I consult as I go, to keep everything organized. This client wanted some white spaces in the pattern, so some tiles only have a bit of branch, or leaves, or flowers on them.

Finally, they're all finished. I wish I had a good panorama function on this camera. Since I don't, here's a badly edited-together picture of the entire sequence.


Jan. 23rd, 2019 08:07 pm
offcntr: (rocket)
Now there's some koala-ty artwork, doncha think?

I'll see myself out.
offcntr: (live 2)
I've been in the studio since Saturday, glazing and decorating, and occasionally remembering to take a few photos. Working on rebuilding my inventory from the holidays, as well as glazing a bunch of special orders. I'll go into one of them--a tile backsplash project--in more depth a little later. Meanwhile, in no particular order, pictures from the last few days' work.

Every day starts with waxing the bottoms of whatever's to glaze. To save space in our little backroom glazing area, things gotta stack. To keep from transferring wax to the wrong surfaces, everything stacks face to face, foot to foot. Making the most interesting towers of bisque ware.

Got a maddeningly nonspecific request: a small covered casserole with "evergreens on it." I'm giving her a choice: incense cedar with Stellar's jay, Douglas fir with wolf, or white pine with cardinal. I don't paint just trees. Also, the stellar was so much fun I painted it on a squared baker as well.

More special orders: puffin pilsners to go with a pitcher purchased before Christmas, and a stacking set of three bear bowls, for papa, mama and baby.

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