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These “Fossil Pavers” are so named because you are inlaying the lighter clay into the larger Terra Cotta paver body. This is a fun and useful project for all ages and can be a lasting decoration for your garden or house (provided you have access to a kiln!)
I taught this class a few years ago at Lill Street and again recently at the Northern Clay Center.
At Lill we did it as a family workshop and what is great about this project is children as young as 3 or 4 can help lay out the design. You’ll need something round to trace- about 12″ across.
We used 2 kinds of clay. Continental Clay’s Terra Cotta will fire nicely to Cone 1 which is what we did so that the pavers would be essentially non-porous for wintering outside and also extremely dense for the strength needed to be able to step on the pavers.
Start with your light colored clay (porcelain, light stoneware or raku clay) and make your design. Make it as fine as possible as it will spread out when you flatten the terra cotta over it. When rolling coils, if they are drying and consequently cracking, roll them on a little patch of dampened table- a canvas covered table is ideal. If you are cutting out leaf shapes, make the clay as thin as you reasonably can- that means less than 3/16th of an inch! More like an 8th of an inch or less. The reason for this is so that your paver won’t be lumpy and the white clay not fully integrated into the surface of the paver. These leaves are a little too thick and caused a bit of trouble getting them to fully integrate.
Lay out your design on a piece of board or paper! We found it helpful to draw the pattern on a piece of paper and to trace our circles so that we knew the boundaries of the paver and could lay out the design well within it.
***IMPORTANT NOTE!*** Words must be laid out in mirror writing. This may seem really hard but you can lay out the word and then simply flip it over. You can see we have the world “Welcome” backwards here.
Also important to keep your white clay pattern moist- spritz it before you set it aside and again before you put the terra cotta over it. Make sure it does NOT sit in water! That will make it too soft and it will smear.
And before you throw a slab and shake the table, MOVE your layout! Several layouts were shaken to bits before we caught on!
Next, throw a thick terra cotta slab and then roll it to about a ½ inch thickness. You can do this using two half-inch thick boards on either side of your slab. You will need a long rolling pin though! We needed about 7-8 lbs of clay to make a 12 “ circle.
Before your lay your finished and smoothed terra cotta slab over your design, wipe the surface with a sponge and spritz your design.
Then starting at one edge, lay your slab carefully down over your design and using the flat of your hand pat/smack it down firmly over your design. You can also go over it gently, firmly and evenly with the rolling pin. It’s okay if it gets thinner than ½ an inch- but not too much!
It is important to lay the slab over the design instead of vice versa to give you a very uniform flat surface where the clay pushes down to the level of the light clay’s design.
Now you can flip it over by sandwiching it between 2 boards or simply picking it up and flipping it over.
If your design is still sticking up, you can gently go over it from the front with a rolling pin too.
After that, lay your circle pattern over the slab, covering your design and cut around it. Go over the edge with an dampened sponge to soften the corner and get rid of sharp chip-able edges.
Let dry thoroughly and fire to Cone 1!Here is my fired fern paver example from Lill. I was working very fast to make the example as I had young kids waiting to work! I’ve had it for years now, left outside in the winter many times and it’s still intact!
Posted 3 weeks, 2 days ago at 11:22 am. 4 comments
This is just a quick tutorial on how to make a “Faux Bois” (fake wood) texture on a slab.
It is my impression that Faux Bois is all the rage and if Martha Stewart has Faux Bois wrapping paper, clearly, to be able to make a dish or box using it, it’s a GOOD THING™
It is also a good thing to do all the steps and do them in the right order.
Start with a slab that is about 1 inch thick.
Paint some slip on there or even underglaze in a fairly thick coat. I’m using chartreuse to make it particularly hard to see in my photos.
Take sheets of newspaper to “dry” the slip. Just lay the newspaper on there and watch as the moisture begins to show through the paper. When you pull up the first sheet, you may end up pulling off some of the slip-
just set that piece aside and keep drying with successive pieces of newspaper until there is no moisture being absorbed by the paper.
Here, I’m rubbing the paper down to aid in the moisture absorption.
At this point, if you wish, you can try to re-apply the peeled up slip. If you can get it to stick down to your now dryish surface, you may have to dry off the new bits with one more sheet of newspaper.
You are wondering why we need to “dry” the slip? We are going to stretch the slab under it. If the slip is wet, it will just stretch nicely with the slab and we won’t get any of the cool effects we’re trying for.
When your surface is not tacky or shiny, take a sharp tool like a needle tool and draw in the wood pattern. Basically you draw a few knotholes and then draw vertical lines that bend around them when they encounter the curve of the knothole. Take a look at some wood grains or Faux Bois wrapping paper for reference.
Don’t go too deep! You only want to pierce that dried slip layer. Also, draw it smaller and closer together because this pattern is going to
e x p a n d .
Next, begin to throw out a slab. This is a little tricky as you shouldn’t hold the slab on top and you can’t flip it over, you have to throw it with the slip side facing up the whole time.- my action shot of this did not turn out.
As it stretches, the faux bois pattern will become spread out and more proportionate.
I’ve found that if it has really sharp edges, once it is all the way thrown out, you can go over it gently with a rolling pin but I would avoid that if you can.
Then you can let it harden to leather hard and build something with it like a box, or you can drop it into a mold and make a dish.
Obviously you are going to need a transparent type glaze on it like clear or a celadone or even a shino depending on how dark your slip or underglaze is.
Posted 2 months, 1 week ago at 11:10 am. 7 comments
It is really wonderful to be part of a strong pottery community here.
Everyone is so supportive of each other and I like being with all of them; so when I noticed that our farm cats here were leaving squirrel tails lying around their feeding area (yes, our cats are better at actually catching squirrels than our enthusiastic but clueless dog), I asked Barbara Zaveruha if she would teach a brush-making workshop. My favorite liner brush is starting to wear out and I suspect it is made of squirrel hair or something similar.
Brushes Barbara has made.
My local women potter friends were invited and we convened in my studio one morning bearing various roadside finds and fur bits
to be converted into brushes for slip and wax.
I have a list of what you will need at the bottom of this post.
Step one is laying out the hair/fur. Set out a straight-edge of some sort and line your hairs up against it in a pretty thin layer.
Then begin at the end and pretend that the hairs are like a mat and roll them up. The first hairs in line will end up at the center of your brush. Those will be the tip.
Once you get a good shape, hold your bundle firmly and have someone (another good reason to make this a communal activity) wrap and then tie some dental floss around it where you want your brush to end. This may be the middle of the bundle or closer to one end. Don’t worry how long the excess is, it will be trimmed later. Try to wrap a bit of a band.
What we discovered: coarse hairs should not be tied super-tight. Finer hairs like fox and squirrel hairs can be tied tightly, this does not deform the tip of the brush- but deer hair is much coarser and -my suspicions confirmed from some cursory research on the web– hollow. Which means the tighter we tied the wrap around it, the more it compressed and splayed outward giving us these frustrating multiple-tips results.
It suddenly came to me that we should try to tie it looser and Barbara assured us that later gluing would keep the hairs in place. A gently tightened but not tightly pulled wrapping yielded the first decent deer hair tip.
Notes on what hair to use from where: Barbara was using deer tail. Colleen had some deer fur also; possibly from the belly or hindquarters? Not sure.**
I took the longest hair I could find on our poor fox carcass and it was in the area behind the head, between the shoulders. This will work too, even if your only hair source is your (living) dog – apparently the Japanese prefer Akita hair for their best brushes so go ahead and call Fido over.
The fur/hair should have some kink or wave to it to hold the slip/wax/underglaze.
I don’t think curly coated dog’s hair will work nor the super-straight hair of say, a lab or pit bull (not long enough anyhow). I used the tip of a squirrel tail first and then the side hairs of the tail too- it all seemed to make a nice liner tip. Also, the finer hairs are probably best for smaller brushes and those larger thicker hairs better for big brushes.
Eventually we ran out of time, went in to eat soup and home-made bread (made by my talented husband) and scheduled a second workshop to finish the brushes. We all went off to boil our brush tips so they would be dry enough to clip and glue. This is a VERY IMPORTANT STEP because you don’t want your brush to reek after it has sat in water or worse, rot.
We reconvened on a snowy morning with boiled tips in hand and proceeded to finish the brushes.
The boiling loosened the wrappings a bit so I ended up re-wrapping all the the ends and what I found worked best was about a ½ inch of wrapping to make the base of the brush a solid cylinder.
Barbara showed me a terrific type of knot. Before you start wrapping, you run a loop up that lays along the area you are going to wrap and just past it. Then you proceed to wrap over the loop. When you get to the end of where you are wrapping, poke the string (or floss in our case) through the loop leaving a bit of looseness and pull on the other end of the loop- the end that is sticking out of the bottom of the wrapping where you started-pulling on it will pull the loop and other end of string under the wrapping; pull until it is about halfway down the wrapping and then cut off both ends.
Next we trimmed non-tip end of the fur to a very blunt end and then dabbed that end straight down onto a blob of glue and worked the glue up into the hairs. Sometimes we needed a second blob depending on how absorbent the hairs were. To compress the sides in- prevent flaring, we wrapped the end in tape but I did not tape 2 of the ends and that seemed to work too. You will have to judge which ends need the tape.
I had scrounged some bamboo pieces from our shed- formerly used to hold up plants. You can buy bamboo in varying thicknesses at garden supply stores . The narrow (usually green) I will use for my tiny liner tips and my two Fox brushes will go in thicker shafts.
Next you will have to drill out the right diameter in the bamboo. Look at the diameter of the bottom end of your brush tip and judge what thickness bit you need for your drill. It’s better to err on the side of too-small. As Barbara said, “you can always make it bigger.”
Where I chose to cut the bamboo shafts had to do with the “joint”. I wanted to have a good ¾ of an inch above the bamboo “joint” which provides a “floor” for the glue and brush tip to rest on.
The inside of the bamboo is soft and the joint floor is harder so your drill should sort of stop at the floor and if you don’t push really hard, you won’t go through it.
Barbara is holding the bamboo just below the “joint”.
Next try out your brush tip in the hole before you put glue in there! You may want to drill it out larger. Note: if your wrapping is nice and flat and not lumpy, you should be able to fit it inside the opening in the bamboo shaft. That’s why, when you are wrapping it, you want it to be tight and flat and very cylinder-like.
Note how different the end looks from when we first tied the bundles.
Once you can just squeeze the tip in, with possible help from the fettling knife to tuck a few stray hairs in remove it and put a decent sized drop of glue in there.
Re-insert your brush tip. Let dry and VOILA! You have a nice brush!
What you will need to make brushes:
- Fur with some waviness or kink to it but not curly hair. Squirrel, raccoon, deer or canine fur (fox, dog) is ideal.
- A straight edge of some sort.
- Dental floss or waxed string
- Water resistant glue- we used Duco, 5-minute epoxy would work too.
- Hair clippers are very helpful
- Fine saw
- Bamboo (from the garden store)
- A vice is very helpful
- Drill and variety of sized bits
- Paper plate for the glue (our glue started to dissolve a styrofoam tray I had)
- Fine scissors
- Tweezers can be helpful
- Fettling knife
- Needle tool
- Toothpicks for the glue
** The best information I found on hair were fly-tying sites and blogs! I wish we’d read this excerpt before we started!:
“For example, the body of a deer has hollow hair, the tail is solid hair. The body hair of a calf is solid. Tails of all animals, like squirrel, woodchuck, calf, are typically solid. Solid hair typically is used for wings and tails. It stays compact and does not flare and is relatively hard to stabilize on the hook because it is slippery. Hollow hair is typically body hair and is used for wings or for spinning where you want it to flare. It is used for tails as well, but there you want to control the flare by thread technique. If you look at the typical hollow hair, i.e. deer, elk, caribou, antelope, it looks like a carrot, thick tapering to thin, with the thick part being hollow and the thinner part getting less hollow until it is actually solid at the tip. It is actually honeycomb hollow if you look at it under a microscope.”
Posted 6 months ago at 9:31 am. 3 comments
First Time Hand Building
Class 1 Double Pinch Pots
I may have written about double pinch pots in the past- but this is for a first time hand-building class.
I did not know what level students would be at so I decided to start with the most basic skill. Yet double pinch pots can take you just about anywhere as evinced by the work my wonderful class made that day.
It is a pretty straight forward process; you start with two balls of clay of roughly equal size and make them both into pinch pots.
A really good tip here is to keep the rim thick by not squeezing it directly. It works quite well to squeeze below it.
After the pots are as evenly thin as you are able to make them, try them out “mouth to mouth” and see if they are the shape and size you need.
You can add a coil or two to one or both of them to make a larger hollow form. Eventually you will need to join them to each other.
Or not. Matthew decided not to join his two pots together and so he has a terrific lidded jar.
If you find it is collapsing, you can stuff newspaper inside. The paper will burn out in the kiln.
Once it is completely sealed and the air is trapped inside, you can roll it on the table almost as if it were a solid piece of clay to smooth it and shape it. Then parts may be added
The shape doesn’t even have to be round. Nan made a turtle!
But if you decide to make a little sculpture like that or like Randy’s Owl here-
make sure you put a discreet hole in it somewhere so the air and moisture can escape and not blow up your piece!
If you decide to make a piggy bank like Kathryn’s
(this pig is clearly worried by the economic situation!)
or a chicken bank like Pam’s
or a Monkey jug like mine,
then the openings are built into the form and no little hole is needed.
The possibilities are endless- here are two pieces I’ve made in the past: a jar and a teapot.
What is good about this form is that it is inherently strong, the form lends itself to so many possibilities and beginners are able to make something that has quite a bit of volume.
Posted 2 years, 2 months ago at 4:20 pm. 3 comments
It’s been a great class with really wonderful students. I’m always so thrilled to see what they are working on each week. Since this was the last week, I reall packed in the demonstrations.
I started off by throwing a bowl with about 3 pounds of clay. People wanted a refresher in how to throw a larger bowl. This was a good item to demonstrate banding with slip while it was still on the wheel. One of the most common and annoying problems with banding is that the slip doesn’t just glide on there in a steady stream leaving a perfect highway of color on your pot. Especially if you are applying it to a leather surface, the clay can suck up the moisture from a thicker slip and give you a very uneven, often kind-of pitted surface. If you are applying to leather hard it helps to spritz it with a bit of water ; wait a few seconds for the water to sink in a little, otherwise you lay your slip down onto a thin layer of water and it can drip and not stick well.
If you are applying to a freshly thrown pots (which is ideal for bonding for porcelain slip bonding to stoneware) you still have to dip the brush more frequently than you’d think. Just keep the wheel going steadily and hold your hand steady too. You can always clean up the edges with a metal rib or stick tool. Here I used my rib to put a little wavy edge on my band.
Next I threw a low terra cotta bowl so we could do some stencils using leaves. I also showed how you can take something like a fork and with an even motion while the wheel is going slowly, make another kind of border around the rim- this time on the inside.
I had some problem getting the leaves to really lay flat but Kristina solved that problem by using some newsprint to really presss her leaves down flat.
Here is the plate after she pulled the leaves off
Beautiful. She will go back in when the slip is leather hard and clean up any places the slip snuck under the leaves.
Jennifer put some on the outside of her mugs which also turned out great. It’s important to think about how the leaves will fill the space. I think all these examples (except mine) are excellent.
Another thing you can do with two or more colors of slip is to marbelize- like the fancy paper you often see. I think for this you need a fairly flat, contained surface. I had a small stoneware plate which I poured some blue slip into and then dotted and trailed green on top of that in a fairly random pattern. then I dragged a very pointy brush (you could use a feather or pointy stick too) through the dots. I was inspired by plant forms.
When I trim the plate, I’ll go in and clean up the edge of the inside too.
The one thing to be careful of when marbelizing is that it adds a LOT of moisture to your pot. Make sure your form is supported or dry enough to absorb that moisture and keep its shape.
Then I did my surprise demo. This was “etched” clay. Really, I would only recommend this technique for porcelain as you will soon see why. I threw a tumbler and set it to dry. When it was hard leather dry, I painted a pattern on it in wax. After the wax was completely dry (and you can do this technique with varnish was well) I began wiping at the surface with a wet sponge. The wax protects the surface beneath it but the surrounding surface is removed. If this was stoneware, it would just be horribly gritty.
After a few wipes, I decided to scratch into my wax a little to get a more detailed resist area.
This will look great with a breaking glaze like Shino, Celadon or even Josh Green.
Kelly took this idea and ran with it – here is her process: and she got the brilliant idea of inlaying black slip into the wiped away areas. She painted it on and the wax resisted it over the raised areas. She sponged away all non-adhering slip and here is the resultDoesn’t that look cool?
Another variation on this idea is to paint your entire surface with slip, then a pattern over it in wax and then when you wipe away, you leave the color where the wax protects it and the color is removed everywhere else. Kristina suggested this and I can’t wait to try it!
Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 5:31 am. 1 comment
I have to say, Garden Gnomes could easily fall into the “too cute” category but we had a blast in my Garden Gnome workshop.
My class was wonderful- I had at least two people who had never really done anything in clay before and they all came out great!
We had a very short discussion on what your standard gnome looks like and we did look at this book which may have had undue influence; but I stressed to everyone that the gnomes could look like anything, be any gender and wear any type of clothes. That said, I think we all liked the way the book (and example) looked. Perhaps because these are supposed to be Garden Gnomes, we wanted them to be recognized as such.
I started with the body being a double-pinchpot construction which turned out to be ideal for him. To make double pinch pots- you take two balls of clay roughly the same size make a sturdy pinch pot of each one- pinching below the rim so the rim stays thick and attaching them to each other, making sure to seal them completely so the air trapped inside keeps them from caving in when you roll them to smooth them and get the shape you want- I rolled mine along the table to get a “waist” . Then set him up on two sturdy legs that were hollowed-out cones.
the tips were bent over to make his feet. I put a flange on the top of the cones for ease and security of attachement. Here is the body on the legs
IMPORTANT: any trapped air needs a small hole to let it 0ut, we pierced all our sealed air traps after we were done.
I have a little neck knob there but it turned out I didn’t need it- we made the heads as a single pinch pot with maybe a coil or two added to get the height right. here is Shawna’s head with the beard on it- the beards were made using a garlic press. you just have to remember to press all the little hairs against the body so they don’t break off.
I foolishly put the head on next and the beard before painting slip on his jacket.
After that my students did it the right way, painting the coat before adding the head. We added a little skirt around most of them to make it look like a long coat, blending the top edege into the body .
To make the “stitches” I had brought a notched wheely tool that is often used in sewing. Note also that Shauna’s Gnome is wearing clogs.
Above, you can see Jennifer’s body and legs awaiting belt, head and arms. In the background, Rich’s body rests atop curly-toed boots and already has the belt.
Next we attached the heads- Krissy’s guy looks a little like the muppet version of Uncle Fester but later he got hair. He is also sporting a super-fashionable spotted belt.
The arms were pretty simple and most people chose to copy the pose in the book where he has them clasped behind his back. Here is one of my arms:Veronica put her Gnome’s arm to good use, bearing arms!check out his great ears too!
Belts were also added after painting the coat- we used slip for the colors since we will be high-firing these so they can be outside all year ‘round. What I’m missing are photos of how to make the hat. We just made thin slabs, rolled them up with a point at one end and cut away the rest- they are only one layer thick- we attached the edges to seal the hat and tried them on the gnomes- cutting off clay around the opening and shortening them until they fit.As soon as he’s fired, he’ll be ready to move into my garden!
Here are some more finished but unfired Gnomes:
Finally, here are some photos of the finished gnomes!
the hat color comes from Cohen’s Red glaze and the body is covered in clear. I left the face just raw, unglazed clay. The gnome on the right, above has no glaze on it anywhere.
And here’s my little guy
Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 10:10 am. 5 comments
This week we first learned about trimming since we started with bowls last week.
It’s always a toss-up; bowls are easier to throw but you really should trim the bottoms. Cylinders are harder to throw but you can make them so that you don’t have to trim them.
The first step in trimming is often forgotten. You should take a really good look at the inside of your pot- I’m going to say bowl here because that’s what we’re trimming. Take a look at the shape of it, try to feel the thickness of the walls and bottom and then turn it over. The reason you are memorizing the shape as best you can is that you will be trying to make that same shape on the outside so that your bowl eventually has even walls and the foot should be like a little ring of clay sitting on the bottom of your bowl.
Next, center your upside down pot on the wheel head. Many potters can “tap” their bowl into the center- this is a huge mystery to me. I have never mastered this amazing skill.
Instead, I hold a pencil steady and where it makes a line, I slightly push until it’s even all the way around. Then I press clay down around the bowl taking great care not to deform the rim- press against the wheel head, not the rim.
Now tap on the bottom gently, Eventually you will be able to “read” the resonance as to how thick the bottom is.
Now look at the curve of your bowl. You want to continue that curve. you don’t want your foot to be so wide that the curve doesn’t have a chance to get started. You also don’t want your foot so narrow that you have a super-tippy bowl. There is a lot of wiggle room here- it ranges from mixing bowls that have nice wide sturdy feet, like sensible shoes all the way to little rice bowls which have delicate feet like party pumps that you can dance in.
Draw the circle that will be your foot on the bottom and then
choose a loop tool you are comfortable with and begin to carve away the rest – do not touch inside the lines that delineate the future foot! Remember you are trying to mimic the curve that is going on inside your bowl. this picture is a little confusing because I am holding two tools but only using the big loop tool at that moment. Sometimes I alternate between the two so often that I am holding them both while I trim. I am not using them both at once!
Once you have the shape you can use a wider loop tool or even a metal rib to smooth it and also use your fingers or back of your nail to smooth any rough edges on the foot- you don’t want to scratch your mother’s coffee table!
Cathryn did a great foot right away!
Adrienne did too- and it’s one of those delicate feet.
The two most common mistakes are not trimming enough and
trimming too much as one of the students found out to her chagrin:
Steve needed a foot thrown on so I demonstrated that- I did a post about that some time back….
Then we tackled cylinders. I started by making a pitcher with a curved floor (as opposed to a flat floor).
You start this like a bowl but then bring the walls straight up.
After you collar it in, use a tool handle to make a simple spout.
Cylinders, because of centrifugal force, inevitably want to get wider. it is helpful to collar in at the top after every pull as well as compressing the lip to keep it strong.
Next I did a vase with a flat bottom inside- The trick to vases is to get them as tall as you can and then instead of just choking it in at the top, you must coax it inwards, keeping the wall arched for good support- just like a cathedral!
the finished vase shapeLater, I will trim the bottom a little but I will trim it while it is right-side-up on the wheel so that I don’t have to use a chuck.
Lastly, the simplest and most realistic cylinder for beginners to make is a mug. A mug takes about 1lb to 1.25lbs of clay and is a great way to practice vertical pulls and later, attaching handles!
Special thanks to Melissa for taking the photos and also being pretty darned funny!
Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 9:32 am. Add a comment
Slip ‘N’ Surfaces, Week 2
It was a very quiet class this week with just 3 of us but we had a pretty fun time with stencilling.
I did my popular “Birch Platter” demonstration.
I have posted this before but in case you haven’t seen it and don’t want to endlessly scroll backwards through this blog, I will post a quickie verion and also a photo of the ugliest “birch platter” I have ever seen.
The birch platter has the virtue of of having three layers of color with only two layers of slip.
I make a drop platter of stoneware (with iron) and immediately cover it with white slip so that the surfaces have plenty of time to bond. When that slip is not sticky to the touch, I tear newspaper into narrowish strips. You want to tear the strips, not cut them- they stick down better.These I spritz down with water and also the surface of the tray so that the newspaper adheres.
Next, paint another darker color over it- blue for example. Remember to paint in the same direction that the strips run or you will peel up the strips with your brush.
After the (blue) slip is no longer runny, you can pull up the strips.
Now you have a cool striped plate. You could stop there but I like to go in and make birch markings.
Here is a photo of real trees just to remind everyone.
I had a lot of fun this time because I decided the “devil’s hoofprints” (as one student told me) look like eyes and I put lots of faces in my trees for people to find.
My students seemed to really like this stencil idea and each went with it in their own direction and did a great job:
Jennifer went vertical- on mugs:
Richard did a bowl- and stenciled over slipped circles:
Kelly went non-representational with this pattern:
I also tried another thing- something I haven’t done before.
Because I suck at slip-trailing, I thought if I did it onto a plaster mold I might have more control- so I drizzled and painted on a vine. and then laid a slab over it and pressed it down with a brayer. when I pulled it off, the vine was inlaid into the clay but the leaves decided to stay on the plaster mold.
and here is the dish:
I would not call it a success but I think that anything that was a bit raised- that had any thickness to it, successfully inlaid. Possibly next time, I would spritz it before laying the slab on to facilitate bonding.
Lastly, I promised you a photo of the ugliest birch platter ever. A friend has this- I think it looks like a tree that maybe could be related to a birch caught smallpox or maybe just the victim of a tree surgery gone horribly awry.
So I hope to see you all next week!
Posted 3 years ago at 5:39 pm. 2 comments
Once again I have the pleasure of teaching First Time Potter and it is always exciting to see people introduced to the joys and frustrations of throwing.
First of all let me say, my class ROCKS! Take a look at these pots from the first class! I am so proud!Aren’t they awesome?
Then, because I’ve posted before for FTP, I thought I’d do something slightly different – as I try to tell my students everything they need to know to make pottery, I realize there is simply too much information to absorb in the time allotted. And not only do they have to learn about the properties of clay, and the steps involved in throwing but also have to learn the systems at the studio. When to put what where! Each stage has a different location and system.
Since it is easy to become overwhelmed, I thought I would write up a list of
The Top Ten Things to Remember When Throwing
(for beginning students)
something like the Cliff Notes™ you would read when cramming for a test
If the test was making a pot that didn’t careen wildly around, laugh at you and collapse.
Really, I should have had the class vote on these but we don’t have the time! Maybe later they can tell me what was the most helpful.
So as a teaching tool and reminder, here is my ultra-subjective
Top Ten Things to Remember When Throwing
- 1. When centering, brace your arms- preferably your elbow against your hip; make your left forearm an “immovable force” (kind of like I’d hoped to parent my teen but failed.)
- 2 .Don’t forget that whenever the clay feels “sticky” to use a little more water! You can end up ripping half your clay off the hump and wondering what you did wrong.
- 3. Remove all the lumpy clay that is at the bottom against the wheel head. You won’t be able to center if your hand is bumping over that. BUT keep the bare wheel-head clean or you will sand off your skin. And. Bleed.
- 4 . After you open the clay, slow down! You will be unable to control the clay when it’s going too fast. (again the teen analogy springs to mind)
- 5. When you open, you set up your future pot- wide base or narrow base, flat floor inside for a cylinder or curved bottom for a bowl. DECIDE NOW.
- 6. Always always always triangulate! Brace your arms, connect your hands! If they are just floating out there you can knock your pot off center.
- 7. When you do a pull, make sure your fingers are directly across from each other. The entire pot should pass through that little space between your fingertips. It’s a zen thing. And try to throw from your wrists, not your shoulders (I know, this should be a separate tip- just count it as a bonus and be grateful, okay?)
- 8. Go on and off the clay in slooow motion. If you remove your hands abruptly, it will throw the pot off. You are Isadora Duncan but without the scarf- because you know what happens with scarves and wheels.
- 9. You can use a rib to compress the sides and remove some moisture. This could extend your throwing time. (If you use a metal rib, it could extend your time in the ER getting stitches. Remember, the clay wants to take your tools from you and hurt you with them.)
- 10. When wiring off the pot, stretch the wire very tightly and push down against the wheel head. The wire’s inclination is to rise up as it encounters resistance; (TEEN!) if it does this, it can cut a hole in the bottom of your pot. Then you have a flower pot. Every Time.
Okay ! So I hope these are helpful and I look forward to my next class!
Posted 3 years ago at 6:38 pm. 6 comments
I am teaching a 4 week class this June called Slip ‘n’ Surfaces.
I have a lovely group of students and I’m really excited about teaching surface decorating techniques.
This first class we started out discussing slips. What is slip exactly?
The slip at Lill and in many places is simply liquid porcelain with pigment in it. Here we use Mason stains which are very dependable. The key to using slip well is to understand its properties. Because it is clay, it will not run or flux as glaze does and so you get great sharp details and precision but it does shrink as it dries. So you must apply it in time for it to bond to the surface of your clay and for them to shrink together. You have a a much bigger window of opportunity when applying slip to porcelain than to stoneware because porcelain and stoneware have different rates of shrinkage.
I gave a demo of my favorite texture and color technique- what I call the Eric Jensen technique- I’ve posted about it before so I will be very brief in this description:
Start with a thick pad of clay- at least an inch thick, spread slip on it and then “dry out” the slip with sheets of newspaper.
Once the slip is “dry” (you can touch it without it sticking to your hand- it’s a kind of a leather feel to it) then you can add a second slip or stamp it or even draw in it. If you add more slip, you must dry it out again and then you can begin to throw the slab out.You can put two colors down with out drying in between but they lose their definition and blend as above.
The key to this stage is that you must keep the slip side up while you are throwing the slab. Because you’ve dried the slip, it will break up instead of stretching with the clay and you get a great texture. If you’ve incised lines in it, the surface tends to break along those lines.the line around the perimeter of this slab was made with a spiky wheel normally used for patterns in sewing.
Then I took that piece and put it in a mold or “drop mold” so named because to settle the clay into it, you drop it once or more.
This is a different slab and you can see it tore where the clay was uneven or had air bubbles.
To adapt to the shape of the slab, I took some extra clay and built up part of the mold. Next week I’ll put little legs on this tray.
Next I demonstrated painting and sponging on slip by doing some of these summer trees. A sponge with a rough surface is excellent to get the slip applied so it emulates the transparency and distribution of leaves.
I then go in and clean up the trees with a stick and loop tools as I have more control with those than the brush or sponge.
This is almost the finished product.
Lastly, I did a brief demonstration of what I do the most, cover the surface with black slip, draw an image with a nice wooden stylus (you can see some of my sticks in the upper left)
and then carve away negative spaces with a fine loop tool.(and here you can see some of my fine loop tools)
Today I went back to my leather hard pieces and used a sure form to finish the edges. This is a tool often used for plaster and can be found in most hardware stores.It’s a very handy tool!
Posted 3 years ago at 6:23 pm. 5 comments