Archive for June, 2013

Startled, Once Again
June 19, 2013

Shrinkage never fails to horrify me. This is the paper pattern for this porcelain cup!

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A Lesson In Ceramics
June 12, 2013

I have been working on a new form for a few weeks and it has encouraged me to think about process. Not “The Process” of making work, rather, my process. It happens like this sometimes:

A thought occurs to me… “Gee, I haven’t developed a shaker for my new body of work. Here are examples of shakers that I used to make…

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Sometimes I would put them on a tray…

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They went quite well with my previous body of work. Remember?…

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But that style of shaker certainly wouldn’t fit with my current body of work, now would it?

For me, “The Big Picture” can come first. Easily. I knew what I wanted it to look like. How it would feel in the hand. I had an idea and began my process to get there.

Throwing on the wheel comes rather naturally to me. Hand building is more challenging. More work.

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So I chose to hand build. That process intrigues me, challenges me. They are rather handsome I think…

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Wait! Did I say “they”? Turns out this proved to be a very challenging form. Would you think it? Such a simple looking form. The sizing is tricky. And I want the details “just so”. There is a bevel on the top edge of the roof. There is a “raised floor” at the bottom…

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Over a short time I worked those things out. But I was blind sided by the seeming simplicity of the form. Five out of six cracked. Not at a seam, the seams held. But right down the front. The thing about clay is that when two parts are put together, they need to be together to make it. It’s not hard, all they have to do is sit still and dry slowly. Porcelain is very particular about that. Knowing this, I dried them very, very slowly. It never surprises me when something dries unevenly and cracks. One part gets ahead of another and tension is created. But this? I thought I had set it up for success.

Super thin slabs. Precise cutting and beveling. Exemplary joining. Slow, even drying. And still, a crack that is inherent to the process. Something else is going on!

There comes a time when a potter gives up on a form. I considered that. Briefly. I have a general belief that success comes to those who don’t quit. As a ceramic artist, what I want most is to create something that is the best it can be. I find my perfection in perfecting. Once in awhile I pull a piece out of the kiln that is “perfect.” Doesn’t happen often and is always a treat. That fact doesn’t curb my enjoyment of what I do.

So I ended up with only one shaker. I decided to use it to practice my most recent surface technique. I apply a pattern with a small brush dipped in acrylic medium. This acts as a resist and when it drys I sponge away the exposed clay at the surface. That creates a raised pattern surface that catches transparent glazes well. Like this…

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When decorating the form I quickly realized that it had been designed in a way that was perfect for the patterning. That technique is tedious yet this task was so easy. Imagine that.

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This captured my imagination and encouraged me not to give up on the shaker form. Still, the cracking issue loomed.

While making some cups last week, something happened. My handles have a “plugged on” look. Not blended in.
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I could go on an hour about a cup handle. If you are one of many who has seen my handle demo, you know this. But you do not know this! I have a new trick! A handle trick that I have never seen done before! Can you believe that?

Plugged on handles have a tendency to separate from the cup. Like this…(You might need to hit your < "back page" after clicking on…)

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Well, kinda like that. That is a cartoon. Geez.

I pay close attention to the wall and handle thickness and dry the cup slowly. An acceptable success rate but I do experience occasional losses. Now after I make the handle I add one extra little step that seems to have resolved that issue for me.

Thinking about that shaker while making cups…something clicked. So I’m going to stick with it, the shaker. Work, finding pleasure in the process. With a little luck the shaker will go along for the ride.

www.rafterestudio.com

How To Make a Vase
June 11, 2013

It’s easy. But it’s very important to start off right.
Mmmm, coffee…
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Throw a cylinder. Make it kinda tall…
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But don’t put a bottom in it! Geez…IMG_1995

Stick a fancy shmancy one on it instead…
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Cut the bottom to match the vase then bevel the edge…
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Did you know that if you use porcelain you don’t have to score the clay where pieces will attach? Porcelain fuses to itself during the firing. Scoring is unnecessary…
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Score it if you are a chicken.

Adjust the bottom edge of the cylinder to match the beveled floor…
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Uh…fix that place where you bumped it while reaching for your coffee.
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Cut a chunk out some where just for a giggle…
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And this is easy, just stick some stuff on. It’ll be alright…
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Get some wires ready to poke in later. (This part is a distraction. To ease the tension because you have been concentrating so hard)…
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Did you know that if you work a little Dawn dish detergent into a brush that will be used for waxing that the brush will clean up much, much easier? Just Dawn. Only Dawn. (I was not paid to say that) Really, only Dawn works. Any of the amazing variations of Dawn Dish Detergent will make your life easier. (Tell Procter and Gamble I said that.)
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Waxing little pieces can help during the drying process. Maybe this little diamond won’t crack off while the clay shrinks…
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This is easy. Put on a layer of engobe. Why is it that spell check doesn’t like this word, engobe? It isn’t in the Merriam Dictionary, either. Google knows this word. Anyway, brush it on…
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Step away, go for a ride, run an errand. The engobe needs to dry a bit.
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(This pic of my truck is so good, it looks like an ad doesn’t it? Took it with my iPhone.)

Well that was fun. Now back to work. Put on that last layer of engobe and poke in those wires or sumthun…
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Now comes the easy and quick part. Make a bunch more!
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Make them all a little different and…
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Maybe one of them will look like this. Well, yours won’t look like this. But it will be lovely, too.

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You may see this vase and more at Rafter E Studio. 4501 Fairmount, in the West Plaza area. We are open on Saturday afternoons, now!

www.taradawley.com