How-to

Salavaging Pottery

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Creativity, Surface Decoration | 1 comment

I messed up.  I over-fired a bisque load. It was careless and I still can’t figure out how it happened.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time that I’ve done this…it is the second. The first time it happened, our kiln was full of small bowls.  Although they didn’t take a lot of time to make, there were so many of them that we decided to try to salvage them.  When bisque pots are fired to maturity, they are no longer porous and therefore do not absorb glaze.  So the challenge to saving them is to get glaze to adhere to the pot during the re-firing.  Vertical surfaces are especially difficult as the glaze often succumbs to gravity and falls off the pot.    We averted this particular difficulty by applying iron-oxide to the outside of the bowls.  In order to glaze the inside of the bowls, we heated them and applied several coats.  The results were mixed.  The iron-oxide was successful; but, there was a lot of glaze crawling inside the bowls.  So we re-applied glaze to them again and re-fired for a third time – and several were saved. They say necessity is the mother of invention – or in our case, the mother of creativity.  Since my debacle, we began incorporating iron-oxide into our surface treatment options when using runny glazes. Unfortunately, this most recent kiln load had an assortment of of pots.  The larger the pot, the more prone it is to cracking when re-fired.  We spent a day trying to salvage the pots that resulted in little success and a lot of ugly or broken pots.  In fact, the only success was the mugs that Julie thought looked like ancient maps.  The lesson learned from this most recent episode is sometimes we need to cut our...

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Throwing large

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in How-to, Teaching | 2 comments

Making large pots seems is a challenge that all potters attempt.  In one sense, throwing a large pot is evidence of accomplished skill because it shows that a potter can maneuver the technical challenges to handling a lot of clay. After I had been throwing for a few years, I got obsessed with making a ‘grapefruit bowl’, i.e. a bowl large enough to contain a week’s worth of grapefruit and worthy enough to occupy the place of honor on my kitchen table.  It took quite a while and resulted in several bad bowls. Now, I am able to make larger pots but they aren’t gigantic like some potters make.  In fact, most of the things I make on a regular basis are less than 5 lbs.  However, I like large platters and big bowls (8-10 lbs) and I do make them occasionally.  As I learned to throw larger pots, I realized there are two main obstacles to making bigger pots: Sufficiency:  This is the easier of the two problems to solve.  Add more clay.  As beginners, we usually start with 1-2 lbs to learn centering and pulling.  But, you can’t make huge bowls with 2 lbs of clay so we need to start with a larger amount.  This can be scary because it challenges the kinesthetic muscle memory that we have been developing.  And, it can be frustrating because it makes us feel like beginners as we re-face challenges of centering and pulling a larger amount of clay.  The best advice I was given was increase the amount of clay incrementally by 1/4 – 1/2 lb.  Keep practicing and increasing the clay until you make the size that you are satisfied with. Efficiency:  This is the more difficult challenge.  When I started throwing 3lb bowls, they weren’t much larger than my 2lb bowls.  This was because I didn’t use the clay efficiently   I lost a lot trying to center; too much clay was left in the bottom of the pot; and, I threw the pot off center which prevented me from get any more out of the clay.  The truth is, there is really no victory in throwing a 2 lb bowl with 3 lbs of clay.  The resolution to the efficiency challenge is practice (and more practice).  Don’t add clay until you throw a lesser amount well; after-all, the challenges that you face making a small bowl become harder to manage with increased clay. Here are some great exercises that helped me increase the size of my pots. Triple Pots:  Weigh three balls of equal amounts of clay within your throwing range (ex. three 2 lb. balls).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  It is likely that your third pot will be your largest.  You should be moving a lot of clay into the body of your pot in the initial pulls. Incremental Pots:  Weigh three balls of clay adding a 1/2 lb to each ball (ex. 1 lb, 1.5 lb, and 2 lb).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  If you don’t see a variation in size, practice again and pay attention to where you are leaving the clay. Salvage Pots:  After you have gained mastery over a volume of clay and you increase the amount, it is likely that your first attempt will result in a wonkey pot.  If you are reluctant to collapse the pot and re-wedge the clay, use this to cultivate a creative solution – carve it, alter the rim, make a chip and dip, oval/square the bowl, add embellishments,  etc.  By attempting to salvage the wonkey pot, you may stumble on an idea that will...

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The List

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Creativity, How-to, Inspiration | 0 comments

February is in full swing.  Last month, I was focused on closing out 2012 and preparing for 2013.  But now, I am back in the studio and I have been enjoying the time working on various pot forms.   But Julie wanted a little more structure and one of the things that she asked for was a list of pots to make on a monthly basis.  So based on last year’s work, we each have a list of things to make; I hope this will help keep things balanced during the busier times of the year. Although I like lists (well, that is an understatement), I recognize that I need to use the list to help me develop new ideas rather than re-create old ones because I could get sucked into finishing the list rather than creating new and soulful pottery. Last year, I corralled all my clippings and notes for pottery ideas and put them in a box – mostly to get them in one place.  If I make some time to flip through the box, and pick an idea to try while I work on the list, it could help keep the list from being just a checklist.  I just need to remember to make time for the...

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New Year’s Goals for Creatives

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Creativity, Inspiration | 0 comments

One of the benefits of working in clay is that I get to meet lots of creative people – and not just potters.  I have met musicians  painters, book binders, knitters, weavers, jewelry makers and many other craftspersons.  The world is filled with interesting people who are actively pursuing a passion.  So regardless of what your medium of choice is, perhaps you are like me and desire to increase your creativity.   But if I am to make distinctive and soulful pots, then I need to pursue it because I know it won’t ‘just happen on its own’.  So here are some things I intend to do this year in order to cultivate creativity. Take a monthly inspirational outing – I read this suggestion in a book on creativity, and, I implemented it last year.  The outings included concerts, walks, museums, historical sites, etc.  It wasn’t really about what I did but more about the attitude with which I did it.  I approached each outing with anticipation and attentiveness.  Although I didn’t have a plethora of new ideas after every outing, I was always revived. Turn off the noise – This is a challenge for me and causes me a lot of discomfort because I tend to work and listen to audio books/podcasts/TV/music (you get the picture).  But, whenever I turn off the noise, I think of new things I want to try.   So I am going to try to incorporate more quiet in my work time. Make an idea box – Gather all the clippings, quotes, writing, notes, pictures, recipes, or whatever you tend to accumulate.  Put them in a box and shuffle through them when you feel like you need a new idea.  I made the box last year; but this year I plan you select ideas and try to work them out in clay. Take a workshop/class – This is always a great way to cultivate creativity.  Last year, I took a class in paper marbeling and one in book binding.  Sometimes it is fun to just dabble.  Even if you can’t go to a class, perhaps you can find some instructional courses on  You-tube. Whatever your craft, I hope you find more ways to be inspired this year so you can fill this world with lovely expressions of yourself – and, if you have any suggestions that have been helpful to you, please share them!...

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Christmas Countdown

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in How-to | 0 comments

There are just a few days before Christmas.  My house is thoroughly decorated.  I baked gingerbread houses.  I am done purchasing and wrapping gifts.  And, although I am done throwing and firing, I know many potters are still pushing to finish those last few gifts. Pottery is a different sort of challenge to plan.  In order to have pots ready for a specific time, you must account for the time to make and glaze the pots (actual hands-on time); but, you must also account for drying, firing, and cooling time.  This is a big challenge for anyone who is prone to procrastination or over commitment.  The best approach is to strive to have any pot that is destined to be a gift thrown a month in advance.  That will allow ample time to finish (trim, add handles, etc.), dry, fire, glaze, and...

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How to Have a Good Show – Part 1

Posted by on Oct 6, 2012 in Craft Show, How-to, Selling Pottery, Shows | 2 comments

This is my busy season – between September and mid-December, I have 4 available Saturdays.  I say available but what I mean is I have four Saturdays that are available for studio work.  The rest of the weekends are obligated to visitors, trips, and craft shows.   I have been thinking about craft shows because I was recently asked to evaluate some local shows.  Also, I saw an advertisement for an indoor craft show that claimed weather would not be a factor.  The truth is, weather is always a factor.  Even if the show is hosted indoors, when the weather is bad, people don’t come. Shows are good for many reasons – so it really depends on what your goals are.  If you need exposure or recognition, there are shows that are good for that.  If you want to support a charity, then there are shows that provide that opportunity.  If you need to make money, then some shows can help you do that better than others. There are services that evaluate shows for artists.  For a small fee, they provide show history, average attendance, event description, average sales for various price ranges, show fees, and application information.  All of this information can help artists select shows they think will be successful shows for them.  However, in my opinion (which is what you get if you read this blog), there are things that I can do to contribute to a successful show and there are things that I can’t control that will make or break a show. Elements of a successful craft show that are out of my control but should be considered before deciding to participate are: Advertisement – I believe it is the show sponsor’s responsibility to advertise the show dates and times.  All shows expect the artists to promote the show by letting people know that the artist will be there.  Although this is a reasonable expectation, if it is the only means of advertisement, then the show is usually poorly attended.  A few ways for you know this in advance of the show is to research how long the show has been held and how many artists return each year.  Also, go to the show the year before to evaluate the crowd size and feel for the event to see if your craft would be well received there. Weather – Unfortunately, weather is a factor that you won’t know how it will affect the show until after the show.  (But I guess you could consult the Farmer’s Alamanac before committing to a show.)  This year, we participated in two craft shows that set attendance records because the weather was beautiful.  Craft shows are a numbers game – the larger the attendance, the greater opportunity to make sales.  And, people come if the weather is nice.  But if it is cold and rainy, fewer people come even if the show is indoors.  Some shows are ‘rain or shine’ which means there are no refunds for fees because the ‘show will go on’.  Consider the time of year and level of risk you are willing to take.  Remember, if you do enough craft shows, eventually there will be wash-outs. Distractions – Shows that offer various forms of entertainment are a mixed bag.  Although bands, amusement park rides, chicken-plate dinners, and children’s activities may get people to come to the show, it doesn’t mean they are purchasing handmade items.  But, it can provide a lot of exposure. Entry fees – Some shows charge an entrance fee.  It seems most of these shows are indoors and the fees off-set some of the show costs.  The theory is that any customer...

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