This week

My regular postings have lagged, yes I know, busy days are whizzing by and the hours within them seem like mere minutes. I tell myself I will write and post in the evening, but by then I’m done and in bed by nine. Currently I’m nursing a knee injury that I hope won’t incapacitate me for too long, but it slowed me down enough to allow me to get my WP post done because I have to sit! Previous to injury I have been getting some work done on the wheel, but I’ve done no writing on any of my stories. Finding that quiet, reflective time has been elusive to me lately but I am consciously moving to reinstate a set block of time each morning for planting myself at my desk and committing three hours to the page as I was doing not so long ago. Songwriting I suppose has been filling the “writing” quotient the last three months, taking the place of my other writing, but even songwriting has dropped out over the last three weeks; again it’s finding that reflective stretch of time. I do however have a song I’ve started working on, began writing two days ago and expect to post on Sunday. (Hmmm, maybe knee nursing is just the thing, I can’t do anything else right now but sit and write, play guitar!)

Last week in the studio I decided to make some large bowls. I had previously made some small bowls; I hadn’t gotten my new wheel or throwing bats yet, and I had some challenges removing my little bowls from the wheel head, but still managed to without causing much damage. Now that I have my new wheel, and removable bats, I knew the first thing I wanted to try out was to see if I could make a larger bowl since I now wouldn’t have to sweat over trying to slide the finished piece off the wheel head, or have to leave the bowl on the wheel to set up until the following day before removing it, tying up my wheel for hours.

So I weighed out and wedged nine balls of clay ( I have 9 Bats) at three pounds each. I would test myself to see if I could actually make something larger than a mug or cereal bowl. I had never thrown anything on the wheel over one pound, and if I may indulge for a brief second, I am happy to say each large bowl came out rather good- well, a true professional potter could likely squeeze out even bigger bowls with three pounds of clay, but mine came out well proportioned, not too thick, not too thin. Usually in a throwing session I’ll have a couple of pieces that go awry and need to be tossed back out on the board. This session however, all nine bowls were brought straight to satisfying completion. I popped out the bat and bowl off the wheel head, set them aside on the table overnight and the following afternoon removed them from their bats easily without warping the bowls. So, I was kinda thrilled. And I am loving my new wheel.

Fresh big bowls still attached to their bats, soon they’ll be removed and bottoms trimmed. I placed my little one pound bowls beside my three pound bowls for comparison.

Next I thought I’d try marbling my red, and buff white clay after watching a youtube video on it. I combined the two clay bodies and wedged out six, one pound balls, and started throwing. Very soon I was having difficulties. I had been careful when wedging the clay because I was attempting to not over blend the clay too much and lose the distinct white/red marble, but it meant I still had air bubbles in my clay, so after I scraped the two failed pieces off the wheel (see, I told you!) and tossed them back on the table I re-wedged the remaining four balls, hoping there will still be enough marbling running through. Not the case. The clay did become more on the homogeneous end of the marbling spectrum after more wedging, and the ones that I scraped off the wheel, after re wedging them they was no marbling at all in them, just a pale shade of red by the time they became mugs. But there was some marbling clearly coming through on two of the mugs which made me happy.

Some marbling came through

The shape and size of the mugs came out nicely I think; I just finished putting the handles on a couple of days ago. I have been pulling handles for all the mugs I’ve been making, but this time I rolled out a slab of buff clay and cut strips for handles. Next step is bisque fire and glaze and I’m debating if I should use underglaze again because I’m concerned as to how they may turn out due to the issues I’ve been having with the final clear glaze with my previous pieces. I do have a new clear glaze to try out that comes premixed, which should eliminate any clouding, or opaqueness problems I’ve been having; but, I’m still hesitant to commit this last body of work to a possibility of it failing again, so maybe I’ll just do some test tiles instead! I do have “regular” glazes I could use too, which are predictable in their outcome, more or less.

Handles on

So, with a hobble and a hitch I’ll see about finishing that song next. Cheers to all ~

In the Studio

I’ve had a productive week. Sixteen mugs, three small bowls, and a vase thrown on the wheel. I ran the risk of not getting handles attached to five of the white mugs and getting their bottoms trimmed up; I had left them to stiffen a day too long on the shelf, so it was a scramble in getting them trimmed, pulling handles and getting them on. As I was working I knew there would be cracks at the joins, and I really thought I’d missed the window, but with a good roughing and lots of slip I hoped for the best. Then I went on to work with red clay.

Sure enough the next day when I checked the white mugs they had indeed formed cracks where the handles joined the mug. I set to work with a paint brush, vinegar and a flat, wood tool and mended the fissures. I had to do this every day until all the pieces were completely dry. Why Vinegar? It moistens the semi dry clay without adding extra water to the clay because it quickly evaporates. So it gives me enough time to manipulate the softened clay to make minor mends.

Luckily I managed to save all the white mugs. The red clay pieces were carefully monitored as they set up. Then I spent a day trimming the bottoms and pulling handles and attaching them. But checking them the next day I spotted a few of them had small cracks, so out with the brush and vinegar.

I have been making a lot of mugs, trying to get them right. When I first started making them they came out of the kiln so small, not taking into account how much shrinkage happens. Then, when I think I have a good size mug and glaze them, I’m unhappy with the end product after the final firing. In the last firing for example the clear glaze applied over top of the underglaze, was too thick and caused some lumpy and cloudy areas in the final fire. So, trial and error, and practice, practice, practice.

I think I’m getting closer to the size I’ve been after, and the thinness. Tomorrow I’ll be under glazing. I’ve stumbled upon some designs I was quite happy with on my last batch and I’m excited to get to work. Fingers crossed this batch is the charm!

Then I made a mini-Apple Pie and Orange-Fennel Ice Cream, because- balance.

Cheers!

Attachments

IMG_2624I have a blue cup that I drink my coffee from each morning. I will not use any other as long at it remains intact, which  even though a long vertical fissure emanating from a big chip on the rim could render its holding properties null and void, still the little mug remains defiant.

I bought the cup in Cowichan Bay what has to be 10 years ago from a woman potter whose studio was down near the water just off the main street. I can’t recall her name, she’s identified only by what I can guess is a letter “J”  scored into the clay bottom. I’ve been back since to see if she was still there when I had thoughts of replacing my blue cup when its crack grew longer, and thinking its life was over, but her studio is gone. I searched another potters wares while I was there, picking up and holding several cups but nothing felt quite like the one I had.

It’s not that I won’t use another cup at home, It’s just when I am at home my blue cup- nick named by my daughter as Old Chippy- is the one I will always prefer to use. Oddly too I will never drink tea from it. Only coffee. Tea can go into any cup. I don’t care.

Allow me wax poetic over Old Chippy-

It’s a mighty little mug. It is well proportioned and exhibits a lovely shape that could almost be called delicate, but not so much that a man would feel awkward drinking from it. I love this mug. No explicable reason can follow such an arcane statement. It could be the color, or the shape, its size that gives me just the right amount of coffee that I need. It’s not too big and it’s not too small, its rim the correct thinness that allows my lips to receive the perfect sip. It could be that the fingers of my right hand are an ideal match for its handle, that its lower contour fits comfortably nestled when it rests in my cupped left hand. It “cups” well, living up to its primary function.

I believe my cup has feelings. Weirdo. I feel that it would think I thought it ugly with its cracks and chips  if I were to begin using a new cup. But this would never be the case. My cups patina only enhances, the chips and crack a testament to duty and purpose and fortitude, proclaiming its brawn and determination to remain engaged in the task that it was made for until it absolutely can no longer.

There is courage displayed there in my cup, and something of The Velveteen Rabbit perhaps.

I am aware that this is an odd attachment but this awareness carries no shame. My cup is made of earthen clay, shaped by a person’s hand, infused with the potters intent and attention, fused by fire and air. I suppose I am remembering what I read in my Findhorn Cookbook given to me by a friend when I was 17, about that community that honoured the spirit not only in the growing things in their gardens, but also in the equipment, machines and tools that they used. So I don’t feel too out-of-place, or left field. Or weird.

 

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