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Keeping Pots Moist

Posted by on Aug 15, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I worked at a community art center for several years and I know how frustrating it can be to have a pot become too dry to finish.  It is such a waste of effort.  I encourage anyone whose studio is remote to transport pots in order to monitor drying time.  You will never make the best pot you can if you always have to accomodate for a dry pot. Drying time is difficult to quantify.  There are so many variables that will affect how quickly a pot will dry: weather, humidity, A/C, drafts, pot shape, type of clay, etc. I contend it is better to have a pot be too wet to work on than too dry to save.  So here are a few tips to keeping a pot moist. Wrap in good plastic – dry cleaner bags are great; grocery store bags are not.  In general, the more noise a bag makes, the less desirable it is for wrapping pots. Once the pot is dry enough to avoid having the plastic stick to it, wrap the plastic around it so that the plastic is in contact with pot. Tuck the plastic underneath the batt; do not drape if you want to delay drying. Use multiple layers of plastic. Undercut the pot, but leave it on the batt.  It will stay moist longer. If you move the pot to a wareboard, lay plastic on a wareboard and then wrap up the pot. Do not wrap multiple pots in plastic if they are different heights because the shorter pots will dry...

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Let the Shows Begin!

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Shows, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I love making pots but a consequence of prolific work is what to do with it – which is why we began attending craft shows in 2008.  We have been busy in the ‘off-season’ making pots, trying new ideas, and applying for shows.  A Bit Off Center is pleased to announce that we will be attending the following shows in the upcoming...

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Mumfest 2011

Posted by on Oct 8, 2011 in Craft Show, Shows, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Highlights from Mumfest: Beautiful weather Lots of attendees New booth layout Free mug huggies Carnie food Friendly neighboring...

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Know Thy Glazes

Posted by on Jun 1, 2011 in Glazes, How-to, Philosophy, Surface Decoration, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The focus of 2010 was to work out some glaze combinations that would enhance the functional pottery that we love to make.  In order to accomplish that, we made hundreds of small bowls.  (I had been making test tiles but after I had accumulated 2 buckets of unusable tiles, I reconsidered and began testing glazes on small bowls and plates – I am too pragmatic for that sort of waste.) I used singular glazes and glazes in combinations.  I alternated layering glazes under and over one another.  At first, I tried to keep track of the glazes by writing down the glazes with a description of the pot.  That method worked well until I tested a several glazes in a kiln-full of pots; then it became confusing.  So I began using an under-glaze pencil to number the pots.  (Note: If you use an under-glaze pencil, write on the pot before waxing the bottom.) After testing a glaze, I spent time considering it – what did it do; did it break; was it responsive to another glaze; is it translucent; what else would look good with it; etc.  One glaze test did not answer all the questions.  But, asking questions inspired more glaze testing – and the next round of testing was focused and purposed. Now, here’s the thing, I had to resist getting sucked into the vortex of testing and trying new glazes.  At some point, I knew I needed to select a few combinations that I liked and begin using them on the pots that I regularly make.  This forced me to refine the glaze combinations and applications. All of this helped me learn the character of the glazes and continues to help me use the glaze more effectively.  The wrong glaze can ruin a great pot.  So all this to say: select a few glazes that really appeal to you, test them a few times, take notes, ask lots of questions, learn their behavior, and commit to a palette for your...

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Potter’s Book Club: Throwing Pots by Phil Rogers

Posted by on May 12, 2011 in About Me, Books, Philosophy, Uncategorized | 2 comments

“Throwing has a language all of its own; a pot can be read like a book and the story that it tells should be about the materials from which it is made and the character of the potter that made it.”   – Phil Rogers I love pottery books – they offer instruction, inspiration, and information.  I often consult them for shape ideas, glazing options, alternative throwing techniques, and vocabulary for class demonstrations.  I found a copy of Throwing Pots in a used bookstore; and, I have since read it several times.  It would certainly be a great read for a potter’s book club. The author, Phil Rogers, is a Welsh potter who has had no formal pottery training.  He values simple, traditional pots; and, he believes that in order to understand and answer the questions of form and function, a potter must look at and handle handmade pots. Throwing Pots is a practical handbook that provides concise instruction on technical topics (centering, opening, pulling, trimming, etc.) and ceramic forms (bowls, cylinders, plates, teapots, pitchers, etc.).   Crisp black and white photos accompany the step-by-step directions.  At the end of each topic is an “In Summary” section where Rogers offers hints and warnings that can help improve the quality of pots a potter makes.  He believes that “the only difference between a good and bad pot is nothing more than a professional attitude in the making”. Some of the instruction is very basic (such as working with clean hands/ware boards and throwing with linked hands) and would help a beginner overcome some of the initial throwing challenges and establish good work habits.  But, Rogers also offers instruction on more advanced issues like collaring in, pulling handles, and faceting that intermediate potters would find valuable.  When we began making the dinnerware sets, I consulted Throwing Pots for advice about challenges specific to plates.  There is an excellent diagram for throwing plate rims that I followed and it seemed to reduce rim rebound. Not only does Throwing Pots offer practical considerations, it also provides aesthetic guidelines.  Rogers believes that “the ability to throw a piece of clay into a tall cylinder is only half the battle, knowing what to make and the ‘right’ shape is the other half”.  Therefore, he offers tangible aesthetic instruction on topics such as handle placement (closer to tall pot bodies) and proportions for a pitcher (2/3 pot is belly and 1/3 for neck – avoid too small top).   There are several colored photographs of pots made by Rogers and other potters with commentary and critiques that help the reader understand strengths of the pot design. I found so many beneficial things in this book.  It is quite easy to read; it would be a good reference resource for any potter.  And, Rogers’ philosophical approach to pottery and pottery making encourages introspective and expansive consideration from even an advanced potter. In the next Potter’s Book Club, I will be reviewing The Creative Habit by Twyla...

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Potter’s Tool Kit – Scale

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in Multiples, Philosophy, Review, Scale, Tools, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I am often asked about what tools I recommend.  And, I have been intending to write several entries highlighting the tools that I find most helpful.  Tools are very personal and every potter’s kit is different.  There are no perfect tools; and, acquiring tools will not make better pots – but practicing with the tools will. Yesterday, my new scale came in the mail.  So I am completely inspired to share this wonderful and essential tool. The best way to improve throwing skills is to practice – and practicing with the same amount of clay will help increase efficiency.  By throwing one-pound balls of clay in succession, a potter can focus on uniform wall thickness and pot shape without constantly adjusting to variable amounts of clay; and, pots will get larger because the clay is being used rather than left in the bottom. A good scale is an essential tool for beginning potters and potters who want to throw consistent pots or sets of pots.  I use the Escali Prim0 Digital Scale because it does all the things that I need. Here are some things to consider when purchasing a scale: Capacity – What size pots do you throw? If you make large pots, then you need a scale that will accommodate your upper limit.  Some kitchen scales have a 5 lb. limit (a bit low for me) and some have an 11 lb. limit. Precision – Digital scales are more precise than analog.  This is more important with smaller scale pots (ex.  4 ounces of additional clay in a 1 lb. pot is an increase of 25%; but 4 ounces of additional clay in a 5 lb. pot is a mere 5% increase) Units of Measure – Get a scale with a unit of measure that makes sense to you.  Some kitchen scales measure pounds in decimals – ex. a read out of 1.5 lbs. is 1 lb. and 8 oz.  This is not an intuitive way of thinking for me.  I prefer a scale that has a read-out in lbs. and ounces (1 lb. 8 oz.).  Some digital scales offer multiple options: grams/total ounces/lbs. Batteries – I like scales that use ordinary batteries and have an automatic shut-off feature to preserve the batteries. Portability – I carry my scale to studios so a compact scale is key. Platform size – The area needs to be large enough to accommodate for the clay that is being...

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