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 the 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 ~

Catch Up

Summer is winding down on the pacific north west, the temperature is cooling, the rains are upon us. I have to confess that while I love the summer heat- and we did have record breaking heat this summer- the warm clear early mornings, and warm sultry nights, I do embrace the transition into Fall. The air becomes richer, especially the petrichor, the rich mineral, earthy smells that come after a rain. I love the cool breezes that coax the leaves from their branches, the changeable weather, the big dramatic clouds, the slanting afternoon light.

I was born in California where the season’s transitions went unheralded, traditional celebration dates like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter were indistinct, weather wise. The sky was blue, the air warm. Well, maybe a little cooler in December, but leaves stayed on the trees, and flowers continued to bloom. I remember going with my parents to buy our Christmas tree. It was always in the evening and lights were strung around the fenced concrete lot that was filled with fresh cut trees. Walking into it was like entering a forest, and the smell was absolute heaven. This is the only time I had actually smelled a tree, and it was intoxicating. When I moved with my family to Canada at age fifteen into rural Mill Bay on Vancouver Island I had no trouble adjusting from big city Huntington Beach to life in the woods. I fell in love with the new surroundings, the variety of flora and fauna, the deep lushness of green, the smell of soil, of sea and stone, and especially the changing of the seasons. I experienced my first actual Autumn, then a real winter with snow. Instead of buying a Christmas tree in a parking lot, I trudged through acres covered in snow with a boyfriend to cut the perfect tree down. I ice skated on a flooded field under a full moon and brilliant stars with my new schoolmates. It was off the charts exhilaration to me. But I digress.

I did thoroughly enjoy our heat wave this summer- brought back California days for me- and I set up a spot outside to work under the dappled shade of a sumac tree next to my studio door. I brought my pottery and underglazes out to a low wooden table, put on a straw hat, some great music and immersed into hours of painting mugs and bowls. Then I packed them all up and dropped them at my neighbour K’s studio for their first firing. Yesterday I went to her studio to help unload the four shelves my pieces took up in her kiln. While unloading, K said she is listing her house of twenty years and moving off the island in a couple of months. Funny thing is I had a premonition she might when I bought my new wheel. I remember thinking at the time how I’m making a commitment to ceramics by acquiring this new wheel and then thinking, this would be the time my potting neighbour moves away, taking her kiln with her. What would I do then? I’m in no position to purchase that piece of equipment at this time.

Fortunately there is a ceramic studio, just opened three years ago, downtown -across the water for me- that welcomes drop-in’s, and also work done from private home studios to be brought in and fired for a reasonable fee that includes the use of their glazes. So instead of packing up my pottery in the wheel barrow to take down the road to my neighbours kiln, I’ll be packing it in the wheel barrow and then down to my boat, and then across the water, then pack it up to the car to drive to the studio. Ah, such is the paradise of island life. I have already signed up for an under glazing workshop there in November, so I’ll get a better idea and more information then, but I think it can work out just fine.

Also this summer I celebrated a thirty year anniversary of married life with Bob. Our big date for this milestone was to check out the newly built Malahat Skywalk. It didn’t disappoint, the view was great, just that it’s a view we see every time we drive to and from Victoria from other lookouts on the Malahat. But it’s the construction of the tower that’s an architectural marvel. Next visit I will go down the slide. On the way back up island we stopped in Duncan for a pint and a plate of Calamari. Generally it was a relaxed and simple acknowledgment of years together that shaped into an easy perfect day for us.

My vegetable garden became a garden of volunteers this summer. I planted nine tomato starts, but had many, many other tomato plants spring up all over my garden, seeds from our compost we dug in to the soil in early spring. I decided to allow them to grow where they sprung, which was a crazy, chaotic way to grow a garden. They came up in the bean row, in with the chards and kale, the snow peas. They came up among the several squashes that also were volunteers. Namely pumpkins. The funny thing is I planted pumpkin last year and nothing came of them- this year four beauties, along with little golden pumpkins. The unexpected bonus volunteer that popped up this summer was an avocado. Two in fact! I spied a vaguely familiar stem with long leaves growing near the pumpkins. I dug down and bingo, a split avocado at the root. I have tried countless times with a seed, and the cup of water, and the toothpicks, to start an avocado in the kitchen window. Never successful. So I dug them out and put them in black pots to baby inside over the winter. Look at that two toned squash, beautiful !

Enjoy the seasonal change, get cozy, make cocoa. Cheers to you ~

Volunteers!
The tube slide goes from top to bottom

and Cheers to us !

This Week

I suppose the title should read The Last Two Weeks since I didn’t post last Thursday. As I had mentioned on my Sunday Songwriting post (that was posted a week late)- things got busy with putting the vegetable gardens in, errands into town to get stuff for the gardens etc. We also managed to get out for a sail one beautiful sunny day, our first of the season, and Squillie’s first sail ever. We picked a calm day with light winds so she wouldn’t feel threatened when the boat leaned when under sail. She did great! Nervous, but she held her composure like a champ for our four hour cruise in the Strait of Georgia

Sequoia’s first sail

I’ve been getting some writing done in the mornings. It’s funny that I am retired, my schedule is of my own making, and yet to lock myself down in the chair for three hours in the morning is harder than it sounds. Especially this time of year. I’d already been out for my two mile walk at six thirty, I make breakfast, wash up and now, I say to myself, sit down to work. But the sun is up and the day outside beckons me like a cheerleader with a bullhorn. So I think, maybe I should do the outside work first, then come in and write. And many times I do that, because I feel guilty for being in the house at my desk until noon when the day is gorgeous. That arrangement doesn’t help my writing, I know my best time for doing anything creative is at the start of the day, when my energy is winding up and I really need to honour that. By the afternoon I really lack any creative focus other than making dinner.

I spent three hours today putting the final clear glaze on my clay work- at last! That was a long wait for the first firing. I was excited to see my mugs, it’s been a couple of months, and I was concerned about how much they may have shrunk in the firing, as has been the case with my past pieces. When I saw them today I was really happy to see their size was just what I wanted, and really happy with my designs and underglaze colours. K usually has the clear glaze already mixed up, but not this time, so I made up a big bowl of clear glaze and set to work dipping the mugs. Now the wait for the final firing and keeping my fingers crossed the clear glaze doesn’t come out milky and too thick this time. This last firing phase has been the frustrating part for me, the time and effort spent in making the pieces, and then the end product is less than satisfactory. But here’s hoping for a stunning reveal this time!

This is how the pieces look before I coat them with clear glaze, which doesn’t look clear at all when its applied just white and chalky. Now they wait for the glaze firing – the final fire- and oh I hope they emerge like little jewels!

Cheers!

THis week

Completed under-glazing my mugs. Each one different; seems I can’t repeat myself. Well, I have a couple of fruit motifs, but It would certainly be a faster process if I had set pattern or motif for all my mugs. But no. Too boring. Every piece is pondered over, held, and stared at for many, many (ahem, many) minutes before I make a mark. But, I am still exploring the process too, so I want to try different things. I’m playing with rubbing off some of the colour, and using sgraffito, and loving the process. I use a limited palette; Red, Blue, Yellow, Black, white, and for fun, turquoise. I can mix pretty much all the colours I need with Primary colours, and it’s cost effective too.

Underglazes are similar to working with water colour or acrylics, and so versatile in expression. The only tricky part is the applied colours change somewhat in the final firing so I’m never positive how the end product will look. It’s a surprise when the kiln is opened. Fingers crossed the final firing comes out well, a lot of head scratching went into each piece!

In Process- Doing sgraffito exposes the red clay that I can use as a colour element
This red clay body was first covered in white underglaze, then the red. Sgraffito exposes the layers.