Saturday, March 28, 2009

Journey Mar 29 - Apr 7 The Decorated Pot

After my last session I realized that I wasn't always putting form first - I was getting carried away with the decorating, the handles and all the other "gimmicks" that I like - in fact thinking up new "gimmicks" is something that I really have fun with. Fortunately they don't all get used on my pots.

So looking back over the decades I think that almost every single pot that I have ever made has always been decorated in some way before it is glazed - and in a few others I have used the glazes to make a decorative design. Yet I love pots that are simple, undecorated and have a well designed form. Why can't I make those?

We did our March gas firing on Tuesday. We tried some Malcolm Davis Shino in this last firing - but again did not get any carbon trapping. Just could not get the kiln into heavy reduction at 012.

However did get a orange and light grey on some test bottles - orange for the waxed areas - so that might be a start in the right direction. The bottom half of the bottles is a temmoku.

My porcelain plates with the stony yellows - did not turn out that great - one slumped though it is hard to see in the pic. I trimmed it too thin on one side - I guess it just dried unevenly beofre I got around to trimming it. I rather like the diagonal lines, though both areas should have had the lines going in the same direction. I may do more of them on plates.

The other I had glazed too thickly with the stony yellow so the water blue underneath is not vivid enough.

I think also I could have had more layering of other glazes - such as Hannah ochre and Blue as the yellow area is rather boring. They still all look sprayed - somehow I will have to develop more transition areas when I switch from one color to another.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Journey Mar 20 - 27 Form, Form, Form - Sixth consult

Well it's getting down to the home stretch - just a few months of consults left! I was starting to panic as the end-of-the-journey get together and show in July was coming up fast. However Steven just told me it was postponed to Oct. Whew!! Now I can relax a bit.

I always feel energized after talking with Steven! Lots of suggestions to mull over. I still need more control in my spraying - pots still look sprayed as well. Need more subtly. I still had not ordered the sprayers that Steven recommended from Harbour Freight. He also suggested that I try an airbrush on some of my appliques to get more detail. Will have to buy one - they are not expensive but will need a smaller connector to our air hose. Some of the small fish would stand out more if there was some contrasting colour.

The children with a balloon - in order to guide the viewer to look at the back of the pot I put a balloon showing up on the back rim - Steven suggested that if I had made the back balloon sticking up more than the front one it would have guided the viewer even more. In this pot I had used a wire for the balloon string. I epoxied on silver wire. Steven thought that the kanthal wire would have been better - especially if I could have incorporated it into the pot and fired it part as part of the pot. A close up of the pot shows that shiny silver wire really does not fit with the earthy colours of the pot. Will try again incorporating those suggestions.

The parade pot - I have not made any for quite a while and was wondering if I should continue. Steven thought that it had great possibilities, but somehow the tree and people separately were OK but together did not really mean anything - my other pots all had some sort of message. Will think about this and see what I can come up with. The Parade pots actually do mean something to me - as I remember growing up in Montreal and having to go downtown to see the parade. I used to always envy the people who lived along the parade route and could watch the parade out of their apartment windows. However this is not communicated to the viewer.

The teapot - I was asked to critique it first - I mentioned the handle - no quite fluid where it attaches, the knob - the wire loops do not really go with the more U shaped wire additions on the handle. I also did not really like the way the throwing rings got erased by the spout attachment and perhaps the spout could taper just a tad more. (That flaring spout creeps in again!).

Steven mentioned that I had seen all sorts of valid stuff but not the thing that had struck him right away and that was the belly - it was just too flat and this made the spout attachment look a bit strange (and perhaps the spout could have been a little bit longer). Now that I look at it through his eyes - it really is rather obvious. I guess I was so concerned with all the details - the wires, the spout and the handle that I had not really considered the basic form. Another lesson that need to be hammered into my brain - I really have to consider first of all the basic form - I always get carried away by the decorative details and I love thinking up gimmicks for my pots - so have to remember - form, form, form.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Journey Workshop Mar 16 to - 20 The foot fits the pot

I have been thinking about Alex Solla's comment to my Jan 20 - Feb 20 blog. It was about a show years ago that Steven Hill had juried in California. Alex had a pot in it, and he still remembers Steven's comment about it - that the foot related (or not) to the pot and lid. I have been mulling over that comment and have been looking at my pots trying to analyze the feet in relationship to the rest of the pot. I have trouble with feet. It finally hit me when I was polishing the bottom foot of my large stamped fish platter. The rim was nice and thick. The foot was also quite deep, and set off the platter nicely but in cross section was not very wide - so it really did not look like it went with that pot. You would think that it would be obvious - but not to me.

Well after the disappointment of not making it into the Masterworks East Show hosted by the Ontario Craft Council, I decided to enter 4 pots (maximum entries)into the Ottawa Guild of Potters - I had joined them last summer as I wanted to get exposure to other potters. All 4 were accepted - which was fantastic, including the piece pictured called "Our Fragile Earth" (homeage to James Lovelock's 1970's theory of Gaia) and the platter with the weak foot. I guess Steven was not the juror! As 3 of the 4 pieces that I entered were very different in style I wonder if the juror thought they were picking three different people?

While in Ottawa I visited Octopus books - to see if they had any pottery books but quickly learned what a wonderful store it was - it labels itself as a different book store specializing in books that encourage analytical thinking on politics, the environment and society. I ended up buying two books - both of which I will find inspirational for my pottery work. The first was a short picture book "Revolution" - pictures done in red, black and white and simple figures done with paper - cut out and torn. The other book I have just started reading and found that I am having a hard time putting it down. It is called Dark Ages America. Very depressing - and perhaps sensationalist and extremely anti American - but lots of good points being made about the future of our society.

We had another pot session at the Guild - this time looking at cups and how they functioned. Definitely no consensus about what handle works best! However handles must feel smooth and several handles had rough edges - definitely would not make it into the favorite category. Same with the lip - some just lacked that slight indent at the lip to make sipping a little more comfortable. Almost all the cups had flat bottoms - no holding pools of water in the dishwasher that way!

To see a slide show of the Masterworks Show -

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Journey Workshop Mar 7 to15

I am having difficulty getting the fishing lady design to fit the curved rim of bowl/plate. The last one I also made the fish bigger - to simplify the design - less fish. I also textured the background on some parts to make areas stand out a bit. I plan to use the water blue under the stony yellow in these areas as that seems to highlight the texture.

Somehow the my applique designs are beginning to loose their appeal to me - they seem now rather old fashioned - sort of 1950's 60's look. The shellac versions also don't seem that successful either. So tried some freer designs - but hard to do for me successfully. Hard to use applique on plates and platter. The one pictured was just an experiment that I did not keep. Instead of applique perhaps I should try a similar design in shellac.

Well we had a functional teapot session at the Guild - members brought in teapots - either commercial or handmade - by themselves or others and we had a testing session to see how they handled and poured (did not get into critiquing form). We had about 30 teapots and could see huge differences among them, mostly in how easy they were to pick up when full. All poured not too badly, though ones with the flaring spouts tended to gurgle or splash when pouring. A few had tea coming out of the lid as well as the spout when first pouring if the teapot was full, even though the spout end was quite high.

I can see Steven's point when he suggested that I make non-flaring spouts. The trouble is I like the look of flared spouts, though I am slowly getting to like the tapered ones. Several Japanese and Xixing teapots poured just beautifully - so smoothly and quiet - these had very small spout openings, and as the teapot was small they fit the form. I never thought that a smooth pour was such a big deal, but after seeing the two types of pours side by side - smooth and gurgling - it is amazing how much better and classy a smooth pour is.

We decided if the teapot held more than 2 cups, a side handle should also have a small lug above the spout to help in lifting the pot, or else an overhead handle should be used. Side handles also needed thumb stops to help with the lifting.
The flat bottomed teapots seemed too heavy for a side handle and so an overhead handle would have been better.

On my teapots I do not like the steam hole in the lid as it detracts from the lid form unless it can be hidden by a knob. So I have been putting the hole in the rim of the pot at the side opposite from the spout. However when there is a side handle, a finger might be placed over the hole when lifting the pot - and this could cause an uncomfortable hot spot on the finger so will have to be careful in placing the steam hole in relation to side handles.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Journey Workshop Feb 23 - Mar 6

Well I did not make it into the Masterworks East Show. There were about 140 entries with 80 crafts people entering. Evidently ceramics was the largest group - so that makes me feel a bit better. Anyway have been a bit slow to do any work in the last week - seem to be running out to ideas and steam.

I did work on several vases again - but ended up refraining from putting on any appliques - will try just to do the decorating with the glazes.

I also worked on another teapot with wire additions - adding a double loop for the knob to give it more presence. I also made the handle wider as with the last ones the wire created some cracks near the edges. I have tried to make the spout non flaring - maybe finally I have succeeded, but it seems a bit small for the teapot. The others had spouts a tad big. I wanted to get a handle that has some movement - but this handle again looks rather static. Will have to work on that.

I have long been trying to make some plates and bowls and tie them into my other applique work, without using appliques. I feel that the applique does not work well on plates and bowls. So have been trying out similar designs - fish/hair/ladies but using shellac resist and some carving.

I carve around the shellac design after rubbing with a wet sponge, as that gives the design a bit more depth. Also if you rub too much the shellac comes off. A bit is okay as that softens the design. The best way to use this techniques is to use hot paraffin wax as I used to 40 years ago, but that is messy, plus hard to work with when using a brush - though I have used a brass batik pipe(?) (not sure what they are called) to make lines.
On the deeper bowl I first painted on coloured slip - metallic rust and Titanium white mixed 1:1 and then used the shellac resist. Will see how that reacts with the stony yellow.

I also did another plate with stamps and carving and will redo the same glaze - stony yellow/Hannah ochre and try to get a better result with less Water blue on the hannah blue ash.