Archive for July, 2009

And You Thought We Just Made Pots…
July 29, 2009

Actually, we are quite multi-faceted here at Red Star Studios! Occasionally we contact Turkish men and have them pretty up our street with hand made rugs. At least that’s what Stephanie Kantor, current resident artist did recently. I hung out, took pictures, and learned a few things.

Stephanie found our new friend, Mehmet, on Craig’s List. He pulled up to the studio in his yellow cargo van full of absolutely wonderful Turkish rugs on a warm Kansas City afternoon.

So many sizes, so many colors! First I learned that a kilim is a woven rug. Pile rugs are either single (Persian) or double (Turkish) knotted. Single for organic patterns and double for geometric patterns. The dyes are natural; pomegranate, almond, eggplant, indigo, and sage, for example.

A young woman would weave a rug such as this for her dowry. The middle medallion might be an “eagle eye” symbol for family protection. Another common theme has to do with harvest (pictured below). The warp threads are either cotton or wool. This is indicative of geography and availability. A family who lives in a high altitude (where sheep thrive) would use wool warp. A family who lives in a low altitude would use the common crop of cotton for the warp.

Let the haggling begin!

Two beautiful antique rugs did not go back in the van! Stephanie now has them and a lasting memory. Madison Avenue carpeted…imagine that.
If you are in the market for a rug and would like to deal with a gentleman who we found to be pleasant and knowledgeable …Stephanie can hook you up with Mehmet.

Hospital Cups? Huh?
July 24, 2009

Awhile back I…well, I uh…had a little coma. Months later, back in my studio, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be making fifty pound platters until I got some meat back on my bones. Happily I began to move the only amount of clay that I could… one half pound. I was still in a state of “overwhelmed” by my experience. Part of this was due to the tremendous amount of support I received from the people in my life. It was actually difficult to”get a grip” on the fact that so many people did so much for me. Two things solved the predicament, one being…I sat my little self down and did the one thing I could do… I made cups…dozens and dozens of little one half pound cups. Destined to end up in the hands of nurses, therapists, and doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital, plus a few other folks, these lil’ cups helped express a huge gratitude for being alive.

The next year, I took a bit of time from my summer schedule (which included 25 pound platters…hey, I’m gettin’ there) and did a repeat.

This year I changed up the form and am making a shorter, wider cup. They are porcelain and very, very thin.

These are the kinds of tools I mostly use to throw. Half of a sponge (as a teacher I highly recommend taking the scissors to those sponges). The wee Mud Tool rib…mmmmsoft. The infamous Lil’ Chizler from Bracker’s. The omnipresent half pound of clay. I don’t know why the needle tool is there…I don’t use it for these cups. Hanging up to the left, you can see the green handle of my “Dirty Girl” wire cutoff tool and the top of my torch. Aw, the torch…yes. Love fire.

I weigh out 2 pounds of clay, wedge then divide into 1/2 pound lumps, then smack them into a wee ball. See that yellow patch on the left side of my scale? That’s my Osceola Cheese Factory refrigerator magnet. A must stop on your way to the Ozarks. Got cheese? My scale, sadly does not double as a tiny refrigerator. That would be my dream studio equipment, a Scale/Frig that would keep my chocolate cool. I shall move the magnet to that green circle thing on the wall so that it can be in all my pictures!

The small ball of clay is centered.

There are many ways to open a centered ball of clay. I tend to use the sponge in my right hand to push down on my left thumb.

pull up
The wall is pulled up.

pull up 2
Up again and…

pull up 3
yet again.

After addressing the cup with the Mud rib, I torch the top 1/2 inch. Careful…torching porcelain is extra tricky! I do this so that I can…

Grab the top, push down and turn the wheel just a bit to alter. Here is a good time to mention the “Joy of the Kickwheel”. A motorized Lockerbie kickwheel…the wheel of choice among fine potters everywhere. We should start a club…(they know what I am talking about).

hospital cups
Here is a pile just out of the bisque kiln. Time to glaze and wad for the soda. Hope you enjoyed. I’ll add on a couple of more photos as they get through the process…

wadded cups
Here are a few cups with the liner glaze in and little wads glued on…ready to go into the soda kiln. Wads are made of materials that don’t melt…keeps the cup up off the shelf so that when the soda solution is sprayed into the kiln, the cups won’t fuse to the shelves.

Fired Hosp. Cups
The first batch was fired in the soda kiln. I put in several different liners and left the outsides bare porcelain. The grey color on the outside is from the soda solution that is sprayed in the kiln, the spots of blue are from the copper that is present in the glazes on other pots in the kiln. Back to work…I want to have them all finished in October!

July 20, 2009

I don’t know about you but for me, coffee is simply a vehicle to get cream and sugar into my mouth. Here are a few steps in the process of making a cream and sugar set. Most steps are missing…you’d need to take a workshop from me to get a “full cup”.

A one pound cylinder is thrown. The middle is pushed out against a rib to create the sharp “waist”. Couldn’t resist a lil’ poke.

cream 2
A beaky slab spout is laid into a “u” shape cut out of the cylinder. A handle is added and tiny balls of clay are popped on…just for fun. Dark slip is brushed on.

cream 3
A porcelain slip is brushed over the dark slip.

A shorter, wider cylinder is thrown for the sugar bowl. I push down the rim to make a seat for the lid. Also a waist line and a “poke”.

A wee lid is thrown upside down.

sugar 2
The knob is made to relate to the vessel’s form. (I just love to give clay a little poke.) I could never get a spoon slot to look right until I took a close look at my sugar bowl at home made by Debbie Wald. Thanks, Deb.

sugar 3
Once again, the slips are layered and the detail is tended to.

This is a great way to make a damp box. Any ol’ shelf unit, some rigid plastic, duct tape… of course, some flexible plastic and those wonderful strips of velcro that I love to hate because…

sometimes you just gotta go put some kabobs on the grill.

Good use of a kiln shelf, aye Canada?

2 sets
When the pots are still leather hard but the top layer of slip is dryish, I carve the narrative. Add a little bit of heat and…

Voila! …

Destined for some lucky coffee table…

Miss Julie
July 19, 2009

Loaded up Miss Julie this week. This is a perfect firing: Turn on the burners at midnight. Let the computer take the kiln to 1650 at 200 degrees per hour. Come in the next morning at 8am and change the computer to “manual”, up the gas to 75% and adjust the damper so the temperature stays about level. The 012 cone is down on top now and soft on bottom so the top is a little hotter. mmmmm…smell the reduction. I can never decide to reduce for 1 1/2 or 2 hours so I always settle on 1 3/4. During the body reduction, the top and bottom temperatures will even out and the bottom will pass the top a bit and be a little hotter. Then pull out the damper to about 1 inch and up the gas to 85%. It is now almost 10am. Tweak the gas percentage and damper to go faaaaaaaast. You can do this because the bottom is hotter than the top. If the top is hotter, you’ll need to fire a little slower. Make little cups while you wait for the cones to drop. Cross your fingers because you are now reducing lighter than you usually do in hopes of pampering a persnickity glaze. At 11:30 make lunch plans with Connie because the firing is going so well. At 12:45am, cone 10 is bent on the bottom and soft on the top so turn off the gas, flip off the computer, and don’t forget to push in the damper. On the way to pick up your lunch buddy, think of a place you can eat outside because it is a beautiful day… Yes, a perfect firing…for that particular kiln, loaded in that particular way, on that particular day…because every firing has its own personality and your job it just to help it be the best that it can be.

ready to fire
Almost ready to fire. Waiting for Stephanie to glaze a couple of cups and a tray (see the two empty spots?) Oops, haven’t made the cone packs yet.

All done. Looks good. No casualties. Paula, see the cream pitcher for the set you ordered? I made two sets so you can choose. Sheila, your cup is way in the back. You’ll get two to choose from, also. The four brown, carved tumblers in the back will be shipped to a customer in Baltimore (wish that was a hand delivery…I like Baltimore)

Favorites Du Jour
July 15, 2009

Enjoy with me two items from my kitchen cupboard, my current “favorite” tumbler and a bowl that happens to look great alongside. The tumbler was made by Josh DeWeese, professor at Montana State in Bozeman. Given to me by Kalika Bowlby, Canadian potter on the loose, it has quickly become the drinking vessel that I most reach for. Very light weight and a thin, thin rim. The bowl was made by Kansas City’s own, sculptor/painter, Angela Lopez. Produced for Red Star Studio’s benefit for Harvestors, I snatched up this bowl for my soup and have been enjoying it ever since. Just lately, I discovered how well it goes with Josh’s tumbler.


Josh must love melty glazes. Angela’s bowl is a perfect size…check out her cool signature below.