Svelte

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.


Quality

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.

offcntr: (chinatown bear)
There's something mesmerizing about a kiln as it loads, especially a bisque, where pots are stacked on other pots, or inside, or interlocking. It's really a puzzle in three dimensions, balancing the fragility of the the dry clay against the need to pack in as much as possible. Here's the four stages of my last kiln.

The bottom layer is pie plates, filled with dessert plates; they fill the shelves pretty tightly, leaving only room for one inverted toddler bowl at the center. (I think I have another pic for the Mandala tag.) Second layer is a little more random: batter bowls filled with soups topped with toddlers and cat foods, Small colanders inverted in the middle, mixing crocks, also inverted (to fit under the curve of the batters), and a few tumblers just to take up space.

At this point, I start tall-stacking: casserole stacks two and three high, with plates in between to take some of the pressure off the casserole lids. Tall mugs on painted mugs, pilsners on tumblers, tiles leaning, on edge, in the gap between stacks. Lastly, a half shelf--there's about 3-1/2 inches of unused space, enough for stacks of three plates, or another toddler bowl.

Then close it up, start it firing, and lay out pots to dry on the soon-to-be-hot lid.
offcntr: (Default)
A long time ago, I wrote, "Making handles is the penance I pay for the ease of throwing cups." And it's kinda true.

Throwing mugs is easy, especially tall mugs. The sides are straight, the only real fussy bits are the base, made with a profile rib, and the lip. In between, they mostly just need the throwing rings smoothed out with a rib. (Although I need to replace my rib; it's wearing into a curve, and I need it straight, dammit!)

Handles are fussier, especially if you're pulling them directly onto the cup. I'm not, so I have a little leeway. If I mess one up in the pulling, I don't have to clean off the mug and smooth out the scoring; I just set it aside and start another. It's a technique I learned years ago from Dennis Parks at Tuscarora Pottery School, and I use it for everything but pitchers.

First, you wedge up your clay, then pinch off a bit. Roll it into a coil on a smooth surface (this is a piece of drywall. My table is canvas-covered, which leaves an extra texture to get rid of.), then taper into a carrot. Thump both sides on your drywall to flatten it out.

Now comes the fun part. Hold the thick end in your non-dominant hand, pointy side down over a container of (preferably warm) water. Using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, with water as lubricant, pull and shape your handle, tapering edges, grooving front and back. Once it's the proper shape, rotate it so it's butt side down, handle curving up and over 'til the tip touches down again.



Repeat forty times.

Then go do something else for a while. Smooth and stamp the mugs, turn them over so the bottom dries a little. Throw a bag of plates, have lunch, do dishes. Let them sit four or five hours (less in summer), so they're slightly firmer, and no longer sticky.

Now it's time to put it all together. Start with the mug: score and slip the handle attachment points. Take a handle in one hand and a wire cheese slicer (roller removed) in the other. Cut away the butt end of the handle, curving to match the cup, angled slightly so the handle springs up and outward.

Holding the handle between thumb and forefinger (thumb on top, finger supporting), press the handle into the cup. Your thumb will make a little dimple in the top for the user's thumb to grip, and the handle will spread a little wider at the top, which is visually and structurally stronger. Press the bottom into place, smooth and align the outer edges of the top, and clean up any extra slip or score marks. Adjust the curve of the handle from underneath with your finger. Go to the next one.


offcntr: (rainyday)
I frequently say Off Center Ceramics is a one-man shop. Oh, Denise helps with the selling, with show set-up and take-down, even (especially) with loading and unloading kilns. But as for making the pots, trimming the pots, glazing and decorating the pots, that's all me.

Except.

When I first started Off Center Ceramics, I did a lot less decorating, a lot more dipping. I had odd, labor-intensive things like cow-handled mugs, 24 different styles of animal bank, incense dragons. I've trimmed that down since, lost the cow mugs, only eight types of bank, and I only make incense dragons once or twice a year. But back in the day, Denise learned how to glaze them: dip wax the base and top, paint wax on the bits where top meets bottom. Dip the head in clear glaze, then wax resist the eyes. Dip the whole body in another glaze, then just the head in a third, snapping it to make interesting drip patterns as it comes out of the bucket. Carefully cleaning up with a sponge where glaze beads remained on any of the wax.

It's finicky, careful work, not excessively artistic, and she excels at it. So yesterday, while I was glazing painted mugs, cat food dishes and stew mugs, she glazed dragons for me. All fifteen of them.

She's so good to me.
offcntr: (Default)
More work bound for next week's firing: dessert plates.


They've been surprisingly popular all year. I even bumped the price up a little, and they're still selling. Good thing I enjoy making them.
offcntr: (snoozin')
Yeah, right.

After our first weekend at Holiday Market, I'm down at the studio glazing again. I've got five days to get everything ready for next week's firing (could possibly stretch to six, if Denise would watch the booth Saturday. Sunday, though, she's going to Portland for a paper making workshop).

Should be manageable; I have fewer pots than usual because so many were left over from the last firing, and I'll have Denise's help glazing incense dragons Thursday. Yesterday I got the biggest items out of the way, pasta bowls and platter, servers and batter bowls. Today I blew through the creamers, stew mugs and tall mugs, and did a couple of special orders. 

One was rather lovely--a covered crock with vented lid for keeping sourdough starter. I'd already done one for the customer, decorated with cardinals; this one's for her mom, with Carolina Wrens.

The other is rather silly, though I suppose deeply sentimental to the owner: a picture of his old VW Camper/Van, Buster, painted on a set of three mugs.

Tomorrow, it's flat stuff: dinner, dessert and pie plates, plus a few covered crocks and butter dishes.
offcntr: (Default)

Everybody's huddling on top of the kiln for warmth!

It's a perennial problem in the fall and winter: getting things dry enough to fire. Even the rare sunny day isn't warm enough to do much good, and leaving the heat on and the fan turning overnight isn't a good option if there's work in progress that needs to stay moist. (Once the sun goes down, my studio makes a surprisingly good damp room. Even uncovered, pots will dry down to leather-hard and then stay that way.)

So the trick is to get enough dry for one firing. Once that happens, there's more than enough residual heat to toast the next kilnload, and the next.

Here's last night's dragons, on their way to their first encounter with fire.

And there's always that one guy... Doesn't it look like the one in the lower right is photo-bombing the rest?
offcntr: (live 2)

Jon found a dragonfly on his car grill, and brought it in for comparison.

New brush!

Oct. 27th, 2018 08:32 pm
offcntr: (maggie)
I have a new brush for the black line drawings; made it in my demo at Clay Fest. The other one still worked, but the tips of the bristles had worn down, so I didn't come to as sharp a point anymore. This one starts super fine, but flexes and broadens with turns beautifully. Check out these dessert plates, pre-coloring.

Isn't the line quality gorgeous? Here's another view, two large oval platters, before and after coloring. (Alternatively, the raven on the left suffers from leucism...)

Apologies for image quality. Low light and a phone camera that doesn't know where to focus.
offcntr: (live 1)
Listening to podcasts in the studio this afternoon, while glazing banks; the new 99% Invisible was particularly appropriate.

The episode title? Jurassic Art.
offcntr: (bunbear)
Check out the chihuahua in a bowtie!

I love my customers, really I do. Sometimes, though, I just gotta wonder.
offcntr: (live 1)
Sunday was a little slower than Saturday; I managed to glaze serving bowls, colanders and cat foods, but not much else. Did get some nice patterns, for example, these servers.

Monday was much more ambitious. To get back on track to load Thursday, I glazed 65 mugs, tumblers and glasses, and another 16 dinner plates. This was just the first twenty.
offcntr: (maggie)

Realized this morning I hadn't posted the finished pictures of the divided grandkids' plates. Here they are. Yes, that's the same pony in two different poses. And I really need to do more with that chicken...

offcntr: (bella)
As the specter of my August shows looms ever nearer, I'm back in the studio again, glazing pots. We have bakers:


I'm also experimenting with a new pattern or two, getting ready for a coastal show in Washington. Pelicans, anyone?

A marvelous bird is the pelican:
Its beak holds more than its belly-can.


Also working through a big list of special orders, including a set of dinner plates:

(She sent me a list of 26 different birds; wants eight each, bowls, plates and--I think--mugs, with no duplicate patterns. I'm being very careful to check each one off after I've used it.)

And something you'd think would be a one-of-a-kind item, a manatee butter dish.

You'd be wrong. I just took an order for a second one, this afternoon.




offcntr: (Default)
I don't know what it is about kids not wanting their food to touch. I know a lot of people's kids who have that flavor of fussy eating, and one of my customers seems to be encouraging the behavior in her grandkids.

Yep, divided, cafeteria-style plates, thrown and handbuilt from stoneware. They'll each get three pictures, too, one in each compartment.

They're incredibly tricky to make, as I have to catch them at just the right level of moisture to attach the dividers. Clay shrinks as it drys, and if the plate is too firm and the dividers moist, a crack will develop as they dry and pull apart. In the current hot spell, I threw them first thing in the morning. By just after lunch, they were firm enough to smooth in the dividers, and slow drying seems to have kept them from cracking so far. They're in the bisque kiln right now. Some time tomorrow evening I'll find out how many I have to work with for glazing.

These are not gonna become generally available. Way too much risk, way too much work.
offcntr: (be right back)
I have been remiss.

Well, actually, I've been horribly busy, but the upshot is, I haven't had time, energy, or brain cells left to post here at the end of the day for, like, ever. I've been making and glazing pots for the past few weeks, leading workshops, doing demos, updating my website (the Find Us link is now accurate all the way to September) and booking lodging for our summer shows. (Remind me to tell you about our Portland experience sometime...)

But the upshot is, I haven't had the spoons to do more than post a few pictures here. 

So here's a few more.



The good news is, the kiln is loaded and candling, and my next show isn't for a couple of weeks, so I hope to have some time to catch up here as well. (On the other hand, maybe I should be preparing cat pictures.)

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.

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