After the Deluge

Been busy in the studio the last while, the push is on to get one last batch of stuff made and into the kiln before K closes up her studio and moves it into town, which will be the 30th of November. I’m still a little distracted as to how I’ll manage with taking my green ware into Nanaimo for firing now; which translates to : loading delicate greenware (cushioned with copious amounts of bubble wrap) into bins, then into a wheel barrow, push it a quarter mile down the bumpy gravel- heaven forbid it’s raining– road to the dock, load into the boat, go carefully across the water, dock the boat, walk the quarter mile to parkade to get car and drive back down to the marina, park, walk back to the boat, carry bin up the dock to car, then to the ceramic studio and their kiln. It feels like a daunting process. But I have no alternative at the moment, I can’t afford a kiln at this time, and I don’t want this hiccup to dissuade me from continuing with this work. I’m fully enjoying working with clay and feel I’m improving as time goes on.

Squilly is good company

I picked up some alphabet stamps so I can incorporate words with the under glaze, and pretty happy with the outcome. They are all lower case letters and a little tricky to dip in underglaze just enough without blurring out the entire letter. Also the letter “r” can look like a “p”, and the “s” can look like an “f”; so for instance when I printed “sun and rain” around the rim of a cup a friend asked me what I meant exactly by “fun and pain.” I don’t want to have to explain. So I’ll keep my eye out for a capital letter set and also a larger lower case alphabet set.

“small cup big heart”
“sun rain”

I had a surprising request from a neighbour too. She had recently lost her mother and asked if I would make an urn for her. I told her I was honoured she’d ask, but that I’d have to give it some thought. In reality I had to jump on the wheel to see if I could even make one. It must have a lid that fits securely, it must big much bigger than what I’ve been throwing, and it must have a nice shape. I went on You tube and searched out some videos by potters as to the shape of the average vessel and amount of clay I’d need to work with. One potter used three and a half pounds, so I went with that for the first attempt. Looking at it when I finished I thought it seemed on the small size, but then that was likely my inability to utilize all the clay properly when doing my “pulls.” I scaled three more out at four pounds and jumped back on the wheel. When finished these looked more the right size- gosh I hope so – next I scaled out clay for lids. I threw them as I would a small bowl but with an inner rim that would sit down inside the vessel’s opening.

At this stage the deluge descended upon us, the Atmospheric River weather forecasters call it. British Columbia became awash in rain, as did our basement -my studio – 5 inches in fact, while in other parts of BC certainly had much worse. I wrapped the vessels and lids up in plastic to keep them from drying out before I would be able to get back to them to finish, and manned the pumps!

Here it comes! It will fill the entire floor in 5 inches of water

Took a couple of days for the water to go down with three pumps running full time, and luckily we had one day of sun to dry the ground out a bit. As soon as I could get to my wheel I finished off the vessels and lids, did some under glazing on two, let them dry then carted everything over to K’s. Now I wait.

Each lid has a different detail to it. I under glazed the leaves on this one, but I think I’ll leave the body of the vessel with only a clear finishing glaze because I like the grain in the clay that came out when I ran my metal rib around it. And as usual I have my fingers crossed everything comes out nicely in the final firing!

And guess what? There’s a forecast of another “Atmospheric River” headed our way again, but hopefully we’ll stay ahead of the river filling my studio again!

Cheers ~

This Week

I picked up my batch of pottery from K’s studio last week and, happy to say, they came out not too badly- for the novice I am at least. The mugs I was hoping would shine through did in fact. Finally the clear glaze over the under glazing worked! The Antique Blue and Pippen Green glazes I used on many pieces look all right. The Blue on some of them though took on an interesting bubbling kind of behaviour, which sort of looks intentional I suppose, ( but wasn’t). It works in its own particular way and I’ll leave it at that. Funny though, the Pippen Green, when I went to K’s to pick up she had met me in the yard. She said everything came out fine, but then she winced and said, the green came out an odd colour, maybe you’ll like it, but it looks like pea soup to me. When I saw the pieces I laughed and said, I do like it, in fact I love it ! We both shrugged. Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder. I loaded up the bin with all my pieces and put it in the wheelbarrow, and headed the quarter mile home.

Common use of transport on Protection Island.

I lay everything out on my kitchen table for a good look and decide I’m getting a little closer to what I see in my mind translate into clay and glaze. A little closer, in that I don’t feel the discouragement I felt with previous firings. A friend/ neighbour asked if I will sell, she had bought two mugs from a previous firing, I tell her I don’t know yet, she says to keep her in the loop if I do. I’m tempted, because I feel a little pressure to refinance my material costs. And this batch of work looks all right. I give it some thought, but decide instead to work towards creating inventory, to stock pile. The bit of work I have now may be marketable to some but my work will progress over the following winter. There will be more choices, my studio will be full. This decision comes on the heels of our Island’s annual Art Walk that takes place at the end of November. The craft folks here open their doors to their Christmas shopping neighbours, and it’s always a great success. But. I’m not ready yet. Currently on my shelves are lots of less than mediocre pieces; trials and many errors, then I have this small batch of not too bad stuff. So, I’ll wait and work towards having more of the “pretty good” pieces to offer for sale.

Really happy with the mugs- my gosh I was working on those in the middle of summer- finally finished! And how about that little vase in Pippen Green? Pea soup, or do you see what I see, a lovely autumnal golden green? I have a chance to get one more firing in before K sells her house and moves her studio (and kiln!) to town, so I spent an afternoon in my studio throwing bowls with the intention of consistency. I chose out a couple of bowls from this recent firing that appealed to me size, shape wise and wanted to replicate them. To make a set of bowls. At my work table I weighed out a bunch of one pound balls of clay and began throwing. First one was pretty good, although not like the one I was wanting to replicate, but a better one, so I’d use that as my model for the rest of the set. I used my callipers and measured the width and depth of that “perfect” bowl, and, because the same amount of clay, should be easy to throw the rest the same. (insert maniacal laughter here).

So, I have nine distinct unto themselves bowls. Salving my thwarted intentions with the cry, I am not a machine! It IS hard to be consistent. (um, story of my life in fact) It was like, if I held my fingers differently while throwing one bowl to the next it mattered the outcome.

The other four bowls look nothing like these ~

Practice, practice, work, work.

*Apologies for the text on the photos not being aligned correctly when viewed on a phone device. Not sure how to correct that.

Cheers ~

Wheel Time

I made some small dishes this week with fitted lids. This was a first attempt at lids, and I have to say, I came pretty close to not bad. The dishes are sized to hold a small wheel of Brie cheese, so it was good practice making a series of pieces to a certain size. I threw the lids “off the hump” as potters say, which meant I could pull three lids from a one pound ball of clay. Below is one lid in the making. I slice that off, then begin another one from the remaining clay on the wheel. (I haven’t figured out how to make and post my images smaller, so please forgive me the massive photos!)

When it was time to trim the lids I had some difficulty in how to secure it to the wheel and centre it; because I had the knob to consider I couldn’t just flip it over and trim. I wound up making a “chuck” using a small cup. I padded the rim of the cup with a ring of clay, and then centred and secured the chuck on the wheel. Then I placed the lid upside down on top of the chuck, centred the lid, and then was able to trim it. That seemed to work, but it was somewhat finicky, and I thought there must be another way so I watched a you tube video on how to trim lids. This is so me. It would have been a good idea to do that first, because I saw there was an easier way to make/trim lids. And yet the lids, when finally done, do actually fit very well on their little pots, so I got off lucky this time. I’m wiser now when I make another set.

The white dish is a plastic Brie container I used for reference. The dish in the back right with the fluted edge was my way to salvage that particular lid. I had trimmed it too thin at the edges, and was about to scrap it, then thought to turn the edges in decorative way- saved!

What I’ve learned about how to make a lid is to throw it upside down, like a little dish, this way the inside rim is already done. It’s sliced off the wheel or hump and the top knob is made the next day by placing and centring the lid right side up on the wheel and with the surplus clay left when the lid/dish was removed is trimmed into the knob. Genius. No mucking about with a chuck. Wait, I don’t want to speak too soon, not until I actually try the other method, and see how they come out. That is my focus the next couple of days; Dish With Lid Project! These little dishes, when finished, are intended to be sent to my daughter in Sorrento. She has a business called The fridge Light, (on instagram @thefridgelight /www.thefridgelight.net) and she’s asked if I could make her little brie pots for her Charcuterie boxes, how could I refuse her and the practice I need?

My songwriting I think has taken a vacation. I have been working on a song off and on but nothing seems to be jelling, so I won’t push it. The previous ones I have written and posted came together each week- many times on the challenge’s cut off day- almost of their own accord. But I did spend a lot of time letting themes and lyrics stew in my mind over the challenge week, then would cram an entire day or two with the guitar in finding chords and a melody, then hours rewriting, well, you get the idea. I was like a college student cramming for finals with pin point focus. I loved/ love the process, but these days my energy is on other things I guess, so I’ll just go with it for now.

Today I received my second vaccination of Pfizer, and hoping I won’t wake tomorrow with a reaction of covid symptoms. Bob had none with his a few weeks ago, nor my son or daughter. But I know friends who were hit hard after their second, so fingers crossed.

Cheers~

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 ~

This Week

I picked up my mugs from K’s yesterday and, sigh, the clear glaze, again, didn’t quite do what it was supposed to do. I have to admit though that most of the mugs, although they didn’t come out as I had expected, are still acceptable. One in particular though- the photo top left, came out particularly heinous, but K said I could re-fire it to correct the “holes”. As you can see, the clear glaze fired whiteish and a little thick in places and clouded the detail I had painted, but on some of the pieces it also kind of “works” as part of the overall glaze effect. So, feeling somewhat ok about this batch of ceramics, (looking for perfection in imperfection!) But, we do have another clear glaze we are going to try out. It comes already mixed in a four quart container, and if that doesn’t work I will put aside underglazes for the time being until we get it figured out- I mean how hard can it be?! ( well, apparently….)

In the meantime I will revert to the usual glazes we normally see on pottery.

Got out for a sail yesterday, and although the winds were iffy to none (still indoctrinating Squilly -aka Sequoia- to sailing, so picking gentle weather days) we were entertained by a small pod of five Orcas for two hours! They were too far off for my iPhone camera, but close enough to see their details with the binoculars. There was a lot of full body breaching and tail lobs (slapping) the entire time! That much action is a rare occurrence to witness so maybe there were two happy groups meeting up and communicating, or they might have been hunting salmon, and communicating about the school of fish they found, who knows, but it was spectacular. After the first hour people heard the news of the pod and three Whale Watching boats showed up and then a few private power boats arrived to have look. All keeping a respectable distance from the pod.

The garden is growing, I have three support structures I need to build for the pole beans that are now four inches high- better get on that, like Jack and the beanstalk they grow fast from this point on. The pollinators are out in full force. This one bush in particular in my backyard, a Grevillea type- Canberra Gem, really attracts the bees, hummingbirds and butterfly’s and I managed to sneak a photo of this Western Tiger Swallowtail beauty.

Cheers!