We finally had the opportunity to fire up the Raku (“Racoon”) kiln this week. After mixing up our raku glazes early last week, we started off the initial firing with the glaze test tiles – all of which came out pretty sweet and baring loads of surface possibilities. I chose to mix the Copper Penny glaze type which, at the time, was a mystery. I was mostly interested in seeing what I felt like would be a copper toned glaze (as opposed to the luster – which is probably why it was called copper penny). It turns out, depending on the level of oxidation, this thing can come out baring some nice crackled pearly surfaces and some unexpected burgundy coloring… Another test came to prove that it would come out full burgundy with some darker details, but I’m sold on over-oxidized tile.
After getting some feedback from Lindsay and Brian I’ll need to test run some new techniques for throwing and working on the thickness of my forms – really I just need to push the limits of the thinness of the walls on these objects if I want them to come out how I imagine them. Beyond that I applied some handles to the finished mugs from last week. I’m pretty attached to the simplicity of these forms and I feel compelled to develop my skills in throwing so I can pump out and expand on this work.
Throwing finally seemed to click this week, especially in terms of making somewhat consistent mugs. I was really trying to dial into my movements when I made the width of the rim, the height of the cylinder, and the thickness of the walls this time around – I also tried to keep up with my body’s movements. Mostly, I was hoping to develop a mental process for repeatedly making the same cylinder type. I think this was a successful run, and I feel pretty good about the mugs that came from it –
The handles for these guys were also something I wanted to offer closer attention to, since I wanted them to be expressive but also consistent and uniform. They came out pretty nice in this first small batch of mugs, but I want to push the idea further in the future, maybe working more fluid organic forms that interact more with the one finger grip I’ve been so interested in. I want to work more on my trimming process next, which will need some major TLC.
I also looked into working from molds as a means of creating a tray for the pieces to be presented on. After the Didem Mert workshop last week I felt pretty inspired to try out some of her simple techniques for building and shaping pieces using slabs and molds. I made some test pieces before I jumped into making anything for the Raku kiln.. and I felt good about everything that was made. It’s a pretty intuitive process and yields some cool results – maybe it’ll be a new avenue to check out in the future.
In terms of having objects to keep for the project, this week was pretty slow and unfruitful. Some small cylinders and bowls made the cut, but I feel like they will most likely be used in one of the future trial firings. I also came out of the week with some pieces that I want to put in the wood kiln – a couple of bowls and a mug. I was looking into exaggerating some handle forms this week as well – only one guy sold me, but I feel like that’s something that could be implemented into the next week of throwing and working.
I also received some gas-fired work from earlier this semester, which is nice. I feel like most of my work this semester hasn’t been fired yet or is still a work in progress – things kind of feel never ending when you constantly want to make changes or don’t have the drive to move forward with certain projects… It’s rewarding to see even small stuff come back looking cool, or at least baring some unexpected surface qualities. I’m definitely looking forward to having more functional pieces by the end of the semester.
This week, after turning in our still life project, and after Brian made some changes to the class schedule, we were introduced to the final project of the semester – the reconstruction and firing of the Raku kiln. Typical Raku firings are done out of trash cans, or other small metal / insulated cylinders, but we happen to have the skeleton of a kiln that was made a few years ago. Really, we need to rework the insulation and make a door for the kiln.
This process will replace an earlier draft of the the class’ schedule where we were to work on a multimedia, memory-based project. I was already looking into some ideas on how to tie multimedia into the still life project so I was curious to see what the results of working mostly in multimedia would be like… but I think now I’m more excited to work in developing pottery and building my throwing skills. It feels more more simple and straight forward, which is pretty refreshing for me at this stage of the semester.
I’ve always loved working on / using mugs so I’m looking to develop a somewhat traditional Southern demitasse set for the project. Demitasses are similar to espresso cups, however they usually have more extravagantly designed surfaces and are seen in a set on a platter. Mostly, I feel like this is a great opportunity to work on consistency in my throwing.
I needed to capitalize on building with the pieces I had coiled out and extruded. Early in the week I trimmed up some thrown forms and attached them, with some coils I had extruded, to the base shape of the lantern. I used some wider coils to create the sort of “grill” that makes up the columns on outside of the object.
The process I had figured out in the previous week really started to take shape the final few days of working. Other coils and thrown shapes were used to make up the base of the lock and key – the lock’s body was the bottom of a thrown cylinder. I also hand built a watch using some slabs I rolled out. The details became really demanding on this small object and I felt that I was crunching to finish it. I hope to remake some of these forms over the next week after critique and really clock in some time fine-tuning their structures – some of the forms really started to fall apart the more I worked on them.
Getting started working on this project had, at first, been kind of a task. I didn’t feel the motivation to start seeking out methods of working on these objects until about midway through the week – which is when I began throwing with the mysterious cone 3 clay. Throwing seemed to jog some ideas for constructing the lantern piece. I’ve never built with thrown objects before so this was quite new. I also didn’t have a physical model to work off of so the process was based partially on images I’d found and on my own ideas as to what the form should look like (roughly).
Beyond this I figured for the smaller, more industrially designed objects like the keys, the hammer, and the nails, should be made with the extruder in order to get accurate, industrial-like forms. I then had to hand-build details onto the forms.. this process felt pretty successful, but I definitely had a hard time creating the accurate details I had in mind – at times I felt like I was hindering the perfect shapes made by the extruder rather than working with them.
As week 6 came to a close we were given some extra time over the weekend to expand on and iron out some of the details for our follow-up project. With it we’re to create a still life full of objects that a person might use in a certain profession – in a trade or craft, like a blacksmith or a doctor. Both my grandfather and my father have worked for the railroad in the past.. My grandfather who passed away a year ago, coming the 21st of this month, maintained the railways in Mississippi for over 40 years.
I toyed with the idea of creating a set of objects that my grandad might have had with him while he worked on the railroad back in the 50’s / 60’s. After talking with my dad he gave me a list of some pretty cool stuff – a pocket-watch, a lock & key, and a lantern. I already had the idea of creating a nail and hammer, so that completed the 5-part still life. I began working with the form of a railway spike, or nail. So far it’s been a challenge creating life-like objects. I’m pretty used to creating natural/organic sculptures that are mostly created within a responsive process, so having to work with industrial, rigid objects is going to be an interesting change in direction. I’ve also transferred over to using a cone 3, red clay-body. When it came in, almost a month ago, Jesse made the suggestion that I use some of it. This week I figured it would look great for the objects. The clay is going to be soda fired so I’m hoping to get a rustic, time-worn look out of the work.
Before week 6 rolled around, this project experienced two push backs – I wasn’t complaining, I felt like there was a lot of ground to cover before I could have presented this thing. One pushback was due to a visiting artist lecture from Elenor Wilson, an artist / writer for The Studio Potter, an acclaimed limited edition ceramics magazine – this was a pretty mind opening experience in terms of being lectured on job experience as an artist beyond working in the field of creating art, and in seeing / hearing about the behind the scenes of magazine editing. I felt like the conversation about altering the medium for which magazines are consumed and distributed to fit the mold of the Web was interesting. I’m in the process of creating a website for a professor, so this jogged up some nice inspiration and thought experiments for the Site. The other push back was earlier in week 5.. mostly because of everyone’s status and openness to having more time to work. Again, I wasn’t complaining.
I finally attached the face sculpture to the body of the work, and began texturing the piece. My initial thoughts were toward developing the texture of a mountainside, but, since this has been such a responsive project, that idea sort of drifted away as I started to sculpt in textures. The product is a somewhat rocky, organic surface, which I think compliments the face’s features and expression – I’m hoping to push the contrast between the two types of textures and create nice, deeply carved features into the form.
Week 5 was pretty solid and productive in Ceramics 2. Monday we loaded the gas kiln, known as Lil Eddy, full of new student work and glaze test-tiles. Brian ran our small kiln loading group through the steps of cranking it up, testing the heat levels, and loading in the pieces. It was my first gas kiln loading, but things went smoothly. My piece has been gaining some ground (and some height) this week as well. The whole process has been a bit of a challenge in terms of building up the structure’s stability while keeping an eye on the balance and proportions of the work. It’s definitely been a responsive process as I didn’t document any plans for the structure or make any initial measurements to work off of. The idea is difficult to communicate to people without sounding weird, but I’m hoping the piece comes out how I imagine it – so far the process has been successful.
I also worked on throwing when I had some spare time after class this week. I had a nice session where I worked on my cylinder forms and practiced pulling. Out of that came my tallest cylinders to date, which is pretty awesome. I hope to gain some major throwing practice-time in the weeks to come – being on the wheel is really rewarding and exciting for me and it’s definitely where I want to be when I’m making with clay.
Our fourth week started out kind of slow, at least for me. I feel like I was lacking the motivation to prepare ideas for the next project… But after reflecting on the Verb project and looking into what that work embodied, which was sort of this inadvertent use of a time-based formula – capturing progression of time, or warping perceived time – I felt confident in revisiting the form that I created for that piece, and the sensation of working with time-based media. I also felt like I needed to avenge the work that was incomplete in the previous project. However, there is a stark difference in the approach we’re supposed to take to the final product for this new project. It’s called Again and we are to use our chosen verb (mine being “emerge”) to make an object that demonstrates the verb’s action – the same concept as the previous project, except this time the clay must be fired in a kiln, rather than worked with in a wet state.
I’ve chosen to create a landscape, or a geographic feature, that my sculpture, similar to the face in the previous project, will be emerging out of. I felt like it was necessary to visually mimic the final stages of the previous project, where the face appeared to be resting on some sort of mountainside or landscape, and create a physical and imposing form that projects the sculpture outward… I also wanted to contrast the previous piece’s black color, so I sought out a white stoneware to build with – I plan to fire the raw clay-body, possibly with some flashing slip around the sculpture of the face for emphasis. I’m using one of Sam Chumley’s recipes for white sandy stoneware – I’m a big fan of Sam’s work so it’s been pretty awesome working with his clay.
The process is still at an early stage, but I’m hoping to wrap up the structural bottom-side today, which is Monday, so I can focus more on texturing and thinking about the piece’s surface throughout the rest of the week.