Glynnis Lessing

An Artist’s Blog

Riverfront Fine Arts Festival – Sept. 8 & 9

I am excited about participating very locally in the Riverfront Fine Arts Festival In Northfield, Minnesota during

The Defeat of Jesse James Days; a really fun weekend of carnival rides, fried food, reenactments of Jesse James downfall complete with guns, dusters and real horses all put on using the original bank building and everything!

Please come see me and my pottery in booth 27 on the East side of the river in the parking lot behind the Northfield Arts Guild.

 

Posted 5 years, 9 months ago at 9:09 am.

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The Bucktown Art Fair

I will be participating in Chicago’s Bucktown Art Fair

in Booth # 72

on the Near North Side of Chicago

Sat., Aug. 25th & Sun, Aug 26th

11am to 7pm

at:    Senior Citizens Memorial Park,
2300 North Oakley/2300 West Lyndale
Chicago, Illinois

I have LOTS of great stuff!

Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 5:28 pm.

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On Disappointment

Disappointments in life are inevitable and very much so in the pottery making business.
I was resisting writing this post because I want to appear as if my life is going perfectly smoothly
But I know everyone out there has suffered some sort of disappointment.
When I’m teaching, I always give a little speech to my adult students on the first day of class about losing a piece they’ve worked on.  I tell them children don’t seem to mind if what they make falls apart. They value the process over the product. They are much better at staying in the moment, having fun  and not worrying about “wasting their time.” I tell the adults, Please remember that you had fun while you were making it”.
I joke that the only reason I sell pots is so I can have an excuse to make some more. I love the act of making.
As many of you know, I recently moved to Minnesota. I have been warmly and generously welcomed into the pottery community here and almost immediately found ways to fire my work  -which was the chief problem I had to surmount because I do not  (yet) have my own gas kiln.
Once I knew I could fire, I began making work and mixing glaze and, over  a recent past weekend, glazed, loaded and helped to fire all my work (85 pieces) in a cone 10 gas reduction fire. Everything I’d made to date went into that kiln. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket! 
I will admit I was utterly spoiled at Lill. They fire off a glaze kiln as often as once or even twice a week. My work went through as I made it and if there was a bad firing (um… never?) I would have lost, at most, 15 pieces. Glaze tests could be run through whenever; this is the beauty of a really large group sharing  kilns.
So there I was with my Shaner Clear (which had been sort of tested in a soda kiln and in it, had formed crystals due, we thought, to the way the kiln cooled) and another (untested!!) clear; the recipe for which had been given to me by a new potter friend here.
I glazed about 2/3rds in the Shaner which was my old dependable from Lill and the rest in the new clear of which I had a smaller volume.
Fast forward to the  morning after the firing when even a look through the peep set off alarm bells in my head. Sure enough, after we unbricked the door, it became clear that the Shaner’s had formed crystals again, obliterating  my carefully carved designs on about a third of the work. 
I did not give vent to my feelings. I was with other potters and I was damned if I’d make them uncomfortable by indulging myself. The extent of my emotional reaction was some choice swearwords were muttered into the back of the kiln.
As I unloaded, I told myself the things that I’ve thought of to help with pottery disappointments. But I wasn’t really paying attention to that mantra which goes something like this:
You had fun making these things. This is a learning experience.  Thank goodness a third is in the other clear which looks great! It’s not a pot until it’s safely out of the glaze kiln. Think how much you learned today. You had fun making these things….
I felt heavy, I felt sad. I had so much hope for certain pieces. I had gotten a bit attached to several promising things. It was hard to see them ruined. 
Once home I took the time to sort and assess exactly the extent of the damage. I felt a huge gratitude to this friend who had pushed the other recipe on me. Those pieces has come out absolutely pristine.   I plan to use that glaze in the future. Goodbye Shaner’s clear. Good riddance.
I sorted things and found it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought.
Comparison between the Shaners (below) and the new Clear (above)
Later, in my studio again and carving another piece, I was suddenly struck with tremendous joy.
I love carving. I am  usually in “flow” * when I am carving or working in my studio. I don’t feel tired when I am working with clay.
The whole “you were happy when you were making these pieces” part of my mantra suddenly became vividly real at that moment to me.
I am happy. I am so lucky to be able to do this.
I guess my life is perfect after all.

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 5:24 pm.

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Krasl on the Bluff Art Fair in St. Joseph, Michigan

I am in booth number 145 at the Krasl on the Bluff Art Fair.

This has to be one of my very favorite events. What’s not to like? Beautiful views of the lake in lovely St. Joseph Michigan with nice people and great amenities as well as inspiring fellow artists. I hope to see you there!

Hours are Saturday, 10-6 and Sunday 10-5

Click here for more information, maps, etc.

Posted 5 years, 12 months ago at 6:35 pm.

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Milkhouse Studio

As many of you who have read my blog in the past know, I recently moved from the city of Chicago to the countryside in Minnesota.

The first practical consideration of moving to become a “country” potter was: Where would I make pottery? And the place I thought of  right away was my grandfather’s old milkhouse on the family farm where my mother is living. I asked my mother if that would be okay and, as it was not in use, and had last been used as a chicken coop, she thought it was a fine idea.

It had what we needed: electricity and [cold] running water. It also had a lot of good memories for me. I feel so lucky to have known my grandfather for almost 40 years. He was a dairy farmer. I always took for granted that what he did was a natural outgrowth of living. Now I know that is life on a farm. He worked outside; he worked with living things.

Let me take you to a place I love, the milkhouse 40 years ago. Imagine for a moment these sounds and smells: the radio is playing, you can hear it over the rhythmic chugging of the milking machine and occasional lowing of the cows. Floury dust from the grain chutes floats in the path of sunbeams. You can hear the cows chewing and blowing into their grain. My grandpa is here. He’s here twice a day; moving purposefully, efficiently even lovingly around the milk house, milking his cows.

Patiently, he teaches me how to wash the cow’s udder and how to milk, filling up a little pan with warm frothy milk which I always drink. He lets me pull the line to send a portion of grain down to the waiting cow. I marvel at the fascinating system of ropes and pulleys, and weights he uses to open and close doors, gates, troughs and I am thrilled to be able to see the milk flow through the clear pipes which turn and weave through the ropes and rails and cows until they disappear through the wall and reappear in an even more fantastic tangle of floating balls and glass jars in the next room.

It was a wonderful magical place. I loved spending time there with grandpa. I can always find him here, whether it is the end of a long summer’s day when the buzzing of flies and the swishing of cows’ tails adds to the mélange of sounds or it is predawn on a cold winter’s morn, the waiting cows’ breath rising up, visible as I run past them into the steamy warmth and noise and light of the milk house…

There it is in the background (left) of me with my happy family carrying milk!

So you can imagine that I would love to spend my day there filled with warm memories, surrounded by greenery and the farm my grandfather created. A wonderful place to make things.

Last year, before we moved, I brought up my kiln and wheel and a few supplies on a spring trip to Minnesota so they would be out of the way and ready for me when we arrived.

2 months ago, as soon as we got settled in, my husband and I began to make the milkhouse usable for me. We moved out all the old bits left over from when it was a chicken coop, nesting boxes, etc. Machinery stored there was taken away and then we began to clean, scrubbing the walls, and floor. I removed chicken wire from over the windows and washed the grime from them to let in light. There was a temporary enclosure of paneling that had been put up to protect something and when we removed that we were delighted to find 2 sinks and a lot of the original machinery my grandfather had installed in his super-modern milkhouse. My favorite are the glass pipes in which, you could see the milk flowing. I love having that on the wall and using the sink he used.

We also worked to clear a huge amount of brush from around the building. Many brambles had grown up around it and wild grape had begun to take over the upper reaches.Quite a few volunteer weed trees were also taken down. Here is how the milkhouse looked on  previous visits:And here it is after we cleared around it.  

You can see the huge pile of brush and grapevine that we cleared in the bottom right of the photo. And it looks even better now!

I could feel the light and energy begin to flow much better in and around the building. I had planned to make a list of all the areas I needed (I am heavily influenced by Emily Murphy and her post about her wonderful studio) but I have less space and since I really don’t want to change anything about the building or permanently install anything because it is still, at its heart, my grandfather’s milkhouse, I am more constrained. Things evolved a bit more organically.

As things were made and moved in; the table went in the middle, the wheel went by the east window since I usually like to throw in the morning with the light coming in.Yes, that’s an old swallow’s nest in the upper left of the photo and the chair is salvaged from a shed.

My carving area is often outside but for rainy (or mosquito-y days) we found an old wooden ironing board in the garbage and made it into a counter by the west window for carving in the afternoon light. Shelves were fit in where we could . My grandfather’s area where he kept track of his cows and which ones he was breeding with what prize-winning bull is my area to track my calendar and production. His cupboard where he kept iodine and bovine medicines is where I have my slip and wax and colorants. I do not really have enough room to have a separate  packing area or a photo area or a glaze-mixing area- as much as I would love to have those but they can all be done in the general studio area.

My husband built me a beautiful table and we covered it with canvas. The clay is stored under the table in a built in area. Until I could get my box of studio supplies that the movers buried in the middle of our storage unit, I went to the junk store in search of a few supplies: a plastic lazy susan to use as a makeshift banding wheel when I carve as well as a rolling pin, some molds etc.

Another day was spent trying to refurbish a huge kickwheel friends had lent/given us. That resulted in a much better understanding of kickwheels, how ridiculously heavy they are and why we wouldn’t be able to really get this one working very well.

A friend of my mother’s generously donated a dresser, some shelves and a comfy arm chair;a quick trip up to Minneapolis to Continental Clay where they were wonderfully helpful and I was ready to go!

Further work has been done- the area where the cows used to get milkednow has juvenile chicks in it. I chose all black and white chickens for inspiration!

The small interior area is more than made up for by having a lot of area outside to develop!

On one side of the milkhouse is a slab where the cows used to wait to come in. The fence around it is all rotted and gone but we shoveled the dirt off it and pulled out the small bushes that had grown up in it and made a little patio area. To the north I’ve put in a couple of flower beds and much of the dead wood was set aside for firewood in the winter.

My mother gave me her old wood stove for this coming fall and winter. We will need to put in a good stove pipe (there is one but I don’t trust it). I really look forward to going out there and building a fire in the morning and making it cozy. I’ll let you know how I feel about that when it’s 20 below zero!

In the course of this journey found out my kiln needs much more power than the little milkhouse is wired for. We had an electrician out I learned a little bit about amps and panels and mostly that we can’t afford to upgrade the power to the milkhouse. Instead, I feel very lucky to have the Arts Guild in town which will allows members to bisk their work for a small fee and also that several potters in the area do a group firing of cone 10 reduction kiln! So my current firing needs can be met until we decide how we want to tackle the “kiln problem” which is as much a creative choice as it is a financial and technical one. By creative I mean, what kind of firing do I want to do? Electric oxidation? Wood, soda or gas?

So here I am, 2 months into our big change-of-life, I’ve got about 50 pots made and often, as I stride across the farm yard, I flash on my youth, my many crossings and journeys across this particular space in time; my path only dictated by buildings now missing or inhabited by my grandfather and his cows in that time instead of me and my pots now. The milkhouse seems so happy to have purpose or perhaps to contain purpose again; to be used and inhabited by a human and animals (the chickens) certainly it is now my place of work, of creating. I hope my clay dust will not obliterate the slightly milky smell it still has.

Since she passed away, I have often thought of my grandmother, I always carry her with me, as she was the embodiment of home life, kitchen doings and indoor games. She is portable and home tasks and crockery evoke her. But grandpa is of this place; of these fields of driving a tractor under this huge sky and the crops and the pastures. It is he who I envision walking across the space out back, carrying 2 bales of hay, strong and patient. I love being here. I love honoring both of my grandparents with hard work, patience, with just the sheer joy of the beauty of this place and the pleasure of existence that comes from purpose and gratitude.

Posted 6 years ago at 7:55 pm.

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57th Street Art Fair

The 57th Street Art Fair is a wonderful long-running fair in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Illinois.

I will be in booth 510

for further information go to their website: http://www.57thstreetartfair.org/ 

Posted 6 years, 1 month ago at 12:40 pm.

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Pottery Adventures in Nepal

I am back from our 4 week trip to Nepal and 1 week in India. I will post about India shortly.

The reason for taking this trip was chiefly influenced by my mother and my deceased Uncle.     Uncle Mike first went to Nepal in 1962 when he joined the Peace Corps.   He really loved it there and spent the rest of his life going back and figuring out ways to live there and to help many of the people he met and worked with. He did a second two year stint with the Peace Corps and then  worked with US Aid in Nepal for 2 years returning to  live in the U.S. for ten years and then returned as a program officer for the  Peace Corp. After that he got a Nepali partner and started a restaurant, Mike’s Breakfast in 1988. For many years it was known as the only place to serve decent coffee and affordable authentic American food in Katmandu (and perhaps Nepal for that matter!).

In 1996 he leased and fixed up Hotel Fewa on the shores of Lake Fewa in Pokhara. The hotel also housed Mike’s restaurant.Both are still going strong.

My mother visited him and traveled all over Nepal with him and alone; sometimes on errands for the restaurant (to get equipment or train people) many times for pleasure. She had been to Nepal 9 times. This, she said, would be her 10th and last visit; I wanted to go with her and to see what my uncle had created as well as experience Nepal.

In 2001 he was diagnosed with Myeloma  which he fought for 7 years and passed away in 2008.

My Uncle wrote two books about his experiences there, the first is a cook-book, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes, the second, more of a memoir about his time in Nepal which he wrote just before he died. My mother edited it and it has just been published. It is available from Larchill Press.

So, although this was a pilgrimage and mostly devoted to general travel and visits to many friends there, it was heavily infused with my Uncle’s creations and experience in Nepal. Nevertheless, I was on the lookout for clay and potters wherever we went.

My first  delighted discovery was on a walk through the neighborhood of Asan (Asan tole) which was medieval madness overlaid with a thin sheen of modern technology. I was delighted with the winding streets and narrow alleyways opening onto quiet courtyards filled with laundry or some home industry or most often, a temple or two. Every low door and passagewa or narrow alley beckoned me. Imagine my delight to walk through one low passageway to pop out into this courtyard  overflowing with all things clay! There seemed to be a temple under that stack and there were things that were most likely press molded  but most of it was hand thrown-  now THIS is production pottery! Naturally, I was dying to find the source of all this ware.

Potters also have guaranteed they won’t become obsolete by making a lot of disposable items. Chief among them, these little incense holders

and also larger offerings holders, dishes and saucers.

 

Let me digress a moment to talk about garbage. We did notice the Nepali don’t seem to deal with it well. It’s everywhere and although there is a specific caste meant to handle garbage, a lot of it seems to end up in the rivers (my mother pointed out that in rainy season, the rivers swell and wash it all away – ugh). I hypothesized that NON-biodegradable garbage is probably relatively new (the last 20 years or less) and that before that, garbage was mostly vegetal. Look here at these lovely disposable leaf plates that were for sale and that we saw everywhere. Who cares if you leave these lying around your picnic area? (everyone seemed to have some stored at their house)

And the same for the low fire pottery, it just turns back into rubble and eventually, powder. Plastic, in so many ways, is the bane of our existence.

The next clay-related sight was a few days later on a day trip to Changu Narayan; a 5th century temple complex high up in the hills but to get there, our taxi took us through fairly verdant (but rapidly filling with urban sprawl) lowlands strewn with brick factories in the Katmandu Valley. I am used to thinking of clay as deposits from lakes (Chicago especially) or inland seas (the American SouthWest) but of course rivers are continuously depositing clay in many places and Katmandu, surrounded by mountains, is also laced with seasonal rivers. So it was not really surprising to see swaths of grey carved out of the  grass and filled with carefully stacked drying brick(Those aren’t gray stone walls, they are stacks of unfired drying brick.)

nor to see beyond this, huge chimneys belching out grey smoke as they fired the huge subterranean kilns below them, filled with bricks. (okay this one is not firing right now)

  We drove past many brickyards filled with chalky, soft-looking orange brick, each stamped with a special mark denoting its maker.

 

 

Eventually, we went to Bahktapur. Unfortunately, we were distracted by the beautiful traditional architecture and lovely temple complex.The building on the right is a temple.These beautiful wooden carved windows were everywhere.

By the time we wended our way to the pottery square, most everyone was packing up for the day.  Even so,  I was so excited. Oh what joy!

A square full of potters, wheels, piles of clay and a huge pit firing just starting up! But several potters I approached to talk to, kept saying “tomorrow, tomorrow” thinking I wanted them to demonstrate throwing and they were done for the day.

Here, I was so frustrated by my inability to communicate that I was a potter too. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed because the kind of potters these guys are is pretty intimidating to someone like me. These guys throw off the hump on these huge hand-turned wooden wheels.This is propped up for the night. Next to it are a couple of baskets of drying money banks. This seemed to be the main form they were throwing here. I found this woman trimming them.movie woman trims banks by hand

trimmed and drying green banks. I wish I could have seen them throwing them! They are super light!

 

Then I saw  a man loading his truck with BAGS of the banks. next to where they were prepping a firing. He spoke English and was able to give me some information about the firing.

They were just beginning to fire about a month’s worth of pots- Three  potters were cooperating. They don’t use a kiln to fire them! The pots are under tin, which is under straw 

and they covered the whole thing with straw ash. Fired pots hold up the tin.

 

They will fire for FOUR days. They don’t use any temperature-measuring devices- only experience. This is under a shed, right in the middle of the town. Did I mention how much wood is in the buildings?! I wonder if they ever have any problem with fires? Probably not because I suspect that they attend the fires closely and keep them banked down. The potter I spoke with told me they fire the pots once OR twice. The second firing turns them black (must be reduction!) Not all pots are fired twice.

My husband and cousin found a courtyard with a super-friendly potter. He was done for the day too but totally understood my desire for connection  –he spoke enough English and set me up on his huge wooden wheel in the ground.

The potter told me the brick makers are using up all the clay and it’s great clay!  Here it is just piled up dry.The firing shed is directly behind this shed that was shared by many potters.

The clay is black and super plastic, very easy to throw except that I was hunched over a huge wheel. My son and husband both filmed me but no one took a photo! I first threw a bowl and then a really bad vase. He was SO nice.

To turn the wheel, one inserts a stick into a hole near the edge of the wheel and turns it. He really got it going. It could tip easily and did at first, but the faster it goes, the more the centrifugal force keeps it level like a gyroscope.

I think the best part for me was simply connecting about pottery with this man. Eventually his wife and daughter arrived and the daughter spoke better English; although his was good enough for us to communicate. I bought 2 banks from him and 2 candlesticks and a little hand-built  elephant incense burner .

I feel so sad we got there so late in the day. I had really hoped to be able to witness potters throwing off the hump on those huge wooden wheels.They are first and foremost production potters. I have no idea if they ever give a second thought to the beauty of the traditional forms they throw. I would love to be able to ask.

It was just about dark when we left our affable friend after exchanging addresses. He was just so wonderfully kind and generous!

We returned past the firing just being lit and  through almost dark streets- there are no street lights and additionally I think that “load sharing” was happening (another way of saying “no power”). The medieval feeling was stronger than ever. People were hurrying home or putting away their wares in the lowering darkness and I was feeling tremendously content. I only regret not asking for a fistful of wet clay.

 

Throughout the rest of our trip I saw pottery in many places but that was my last contact with a Nepali potter.

Also, this is what a pottery shop looks like:

I’m so curious what uses each of these shapes are put to. The pottery is chiefly functional. All the clay I’ve seen seems to be terra cotta.

We saw clay used in so many places in so many ways. I saw countless raised clay ovens on the highway way to Narayangot. The stove is built on wood and the only thing that keeps it from burning its own supports is the clay coating.

 

This is a local variation on the most common clay “stove” which is on the floor in most houses. 

Another use was as a stucco or wall covering. Outside and in. My uncle used it over the brick walls in his cabins in his hotel .

And also in the Tharu vernacular architecture in the Terrai area which is south of the Himalayas but still in Nepal. You can see that the clay here is much more tan than the strong orange clay in the Himalayas. I love the way they decorate these with handprints although they very well could have some significance, I was unable to find out.

So that is all things clay from my experience in Nepal. I will post my experience in India next!

Posted 6 years, 2 months ago at 1:39 pm.

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A Big Change

Announcement

In 1971 and I was a tween, my mother started a commune with her best friend. This was a rural “Intentional Community” in northern Wisconsin.

Instantly there were a lot of people in our lives. We were living with 2 other families with children. Suddenly I was the oldest of 7. Many college students would come and stay for the summer, other people for a year or two. We became acquainted with other people living in the area who were also trying out alternative ways of living.

Throwing in the barn at 17

As a result of these connections and my interest in pottery (which is a whole other blog entry) when I was 16, my first job was working part time for a potter. I sifted straw ash, pugged clay, sat up during wood firings, washed his dishes (I loved doing that because all his dishes were handmade pots- many by Warren MacKenzie, his teacher, mentor and friend) I also met and spent time with a few of his potter friends.

Somewhere in there, I think I assumed I would become what I now call a “country potter”.

I didn’t think about it consciously. I didn’t even realize at the time that there were “city potters” I just loved the people I knew who lived out in the country in these funky cool houses and made pots for a living (sort of – there were auxiliary sources of income like teaching and employed wives and insurance settlements).

I went off to college at the U (Minneapolis) took ceramics, met my husband there and eventually moved to Chicago. After about 5 years living here in Chicago (and not making pottery), I met a potter at an art fair who told me of Lill street. I called there that afternoon and was signed up for a class that week, teaching there within months.

That was in 1989 and I’ve been there ever since.

I met so many “city potters” and saw the great benefits of belonging to a large community of potters where we could see each other’s work every day and in process and grab anyone to discuss technical or aesthetic problems as they arose. Resources could be pooled, glazes shared, firings happened 2-3 times a week, test tiles came back immediately. I learned a huge amount.

Most of all at Lill, I learned I was a teacher. That I loved teaching, loved imparting information, loved the challenge of finding the best way to help someone understand how to do something. Teaching is an ever-changing, ongoing endeavor as you adapt to your students and their age and the environment in which they are learning. At Lill I came to realize I truly had something to offer people.

And now, I’m choosing to leave.

It’s not that I actually want to leave Lill it’s more that I have never completely let go of my dream, my image of myself as a country potter. Of my children growing up in the country. Of open sky and forests and the freedom of space you get when you live in the country and so we are moving back to Minnesota. Most likely to Northfield where my family is from so we can be near aging mothers and other family.

I will be tackling such challenges as setting up a studio and, most worrisome for me, figuring out how to continue firing my pots to cone 10 reduction. I don’t know if I will build a kiln or buy one or share an existing kiln. I hope to connect with a small community of potters in that area and perhaps find a place to teach again. I have some friends and connections left over from my college days and also some transplants from Lill who have inspired me. I will be excited to see them again.

I look forward to sharing this whole journey with the readers of my blog.

 

 

Lastly, in between selling our house and moving to Minnesota, we will be traveling to Nepal!!! I am sure I will want to post about the potters there because I have always wanted to see in person, those potters who throw off a massive hump on a hand-turned wheel set in the ground; the fruits of their labors spread around them drying in a sunny courtyard.

Posted 6 years, 5 months ago at 10:16 pm.

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Tumblers

[note! the Casserole from the previous post is done- I am adding photos to the previous post]

Tumblers- harder to make than you’d think!

I had a request for tumblers at the last Art Fair and I thought, “Yeah, those are great! No trimming, no handle, I’ll just knock some out!”

Well, I thought wrong.  The problem always with porcelain is getting it tall and keeping it narrow. Then, after that, getting the shape I wanted.

I wanted shapes that were slender but not tippy, graceful and elegant yet would still feel comfortable and balanced in one’s hand. Usually, if you make something that is right for the hand it also appeals to the eye. I thought they should look like they were meant to be tumblers, not mugs missing their handles. Lastly, I had to throw it larger to compensate for shrinkage and have it look right once it came out of the cone 10 firing.

I started with 1 pound of clay which absolutely should have been enough but I had a lot of trouble getting the base walls thin enough to get them big enough; taking Grolleg’s shrinkage rate of near 15% into a account.

But actually it really is okay to have a slightly thicker wall at the base for porcelain as it warps so darned easily.  I learned this from Xiao Xiang Bi.

I also realized after much puzzlement, that one of the reasons my mugs and tumblers were warping when I wired them off was that the bottoms were so darned thin that the wire was compressing the base- there was not enough clay to resist that compression.

So annoying until I figured it out! Now I leave enough clay down there.

I have a few tumblers that  I love and take inspiration from:

This one by Lester is just so beautifully slim and the painted on decoration is so perfectly suited to the shape.

Then I have this hand-built and stamped Tumbler by Chuck Aydlett This, amazingly, is a cone 6 glaze fired in an electric kiln. He even took the time to detail the interior.

 

Then I have this gorgeous piece by Ryan Greenheck; I have theories about how he got this surface- something to do with slip and a metal rib- but it’s not completely clear. 

I have a very simple shino glazed piece by Rita and it may be the one I use the most. I was feeling lousy one day long ago at Lill and she brought me tea in it and said to keep it and I think it’s just perfect the way it curves ever so slightly in at the top. 

This last tumbler was made by me and you can see how the others influenced me. I made several but I loved this one so much I couldn’t sell it.

Since then, I have made a couple more “birds on a wire” tumblers and because the wire is so hard to get straight and thin, I actually incised a line while I was throwing it and then when it was almost dry, inlaid slip into it. *  Then I added the little dabs that I touched up into birds. I thought I took photos before they sold but I did not. I will just have to make more!

*This is done by painting slip into the line and then scraping off the surface with a metal rib leaving a very clean line

Here are a few more that I did.

 

 

Posted 6 years, 8 months ago at 6:21 pm.

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Re-wetting and repairing an already carved Oval Casserole

Recently, I constructed 4 oval casseroles that I was quite pleased with. I was inspired by some casseroles that Nate Pidduck had made that I  really liked.

The construction is fairly straightforward: I first threw some ridged (not rigid) discs about 3/4 of an inch thick on a plastic bat. I set those aside while I threw 4 almost vertical—they tilted inward– walls with a gallery at the top but no floor; also on plastic bats.

By this time, the discs were set up enough for me to wire them off and throw them out on the canvas covered table, stretching them into ovals.

At this point, I also threw out several slabs for what would eventually be the lids. You want all the clay involved to be about the same dryness so that it is all shrinking at about the same rate.

The timing on this altering of pots is crucial.

Too wet, the walls tend to cave in or flop around and the oval is at best, overly controlled by your hand, at worst, a total asymmetrical failure.

Too dry, and the rim cracks as you try to force it beyond what it was once willing to do. If you get it right, the clay chooses its own curve; a delicious, aesthetically pleasing curve that the clay knows so well how to do. You see this curve most often in handles.

 

Back to the walls which had I wired off and, making sure they slid easily on the slippery plastic surface of the bats, gently –squeezed is not quite the right word–“encouraged” them to be oval as well.

Once this oval sets up, you can set it on the (now)oval disc base and trace around the inside.  Score outside that line, then turn it over using a second bat and score the underside of the base of the wall, wet it (I used magic water) and then set that on top of the scored disc base to join wall to it, trimming off any excess on the outside and sealing it by going over it with a soft rib- you can also use the soft rib to give a curve to the edge of the base.

Once this is sufficiently set up- wet-leather hard, you can turn it upside down on top of your slab and again trace the oval (the outside this time) to cut a lid. Add handles to the sides of this casserole if you like and drape the now oval slab inside the opening of the top- separated by a piece of plastic.

Once the lid is medium leather hard- holding its curved shape, you can refine the edge so it fits precisely inside the gallery and then add a handle to it.

At this point, before it is any drier, I coat the entire thing in black slip. When the slip is also leather dry, I carve.

These had a lot of surface area and the carving took a considerable amount of time. Of the 4 I did, 2 came out beautifully, the lid of the smallest one warped in the glaze firing  but it’s the 4th casserole I want to tell you about.

The last was quite nice but as it dried (and I dry them slowly under a loose cover of dry-cleaning plastic) the walls were proportionally too thick compared to the floor and they pulled away leaving the floor cracked on the sides. I discovered this when the pot was pretty much bone dry.

There was really no way to realistically repair it- especially since the entire outside surface had been delicately carved. I certainly could not spray it down- the slip design would have run and been destroyed. I was pretty upset about this until Dave Trost, a fellow teacher at Lill, told me about his method of re-wetting.

He told me to take one of the slabs of plaster –they have many at Lill for drying slurry and clay scraps- they are about and inch and a half thick; and to soak it in water until no more bubbles rose off its surface. Then to take my pot and set it on the plaster and wrap the whole thing tightly and let it sit.

Well, I had nothing to lose –I had already invested at least 4 hours in the pot-so I did just as Dave suggested and then double wrapped it in plastic and let it sit on the shelf for at least two weeks maybe more.

When I finally got back to it, the clay was back to a pliable leather hard consistency!! I was able to push the walls back in, reinforce the bottom and repair it.

Then to slow down the drying of the floor this time- to keep it a little more pliable should the walls pull on it as they were drying- I waxed the entire bottom inside and out and then waxed all the handle joins just to be on the safe side and set the piece to dry lightly covered in plastic again. This time the piece made it to the bone-dry stage and is being bisked as I write this. I will keep you posted.

Sadly, I did not take photos during construction. If I make more (and these were popular) I will post them.

Addendum: Okay, the casserole made it safely through the bisk, I glazed it and waited on pins and needles to see if it would split apart in the glaze firing and it did NOT! It came through intact with a few cosmetic cracks but is fully functional! Here are some photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verso

 

 

 

 

Interior: there are reflections that look like cracks but really, the whole thing held together perfectly! 

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 1:36 pm.

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