Posts made in April, 2011

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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Fortune Cookie Advice

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 in Philosophy, Studio, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In 2008, my husband, father, and friends built me a studio. My dad has built several storage buildings so my studio is exceptional.  I love it.  It is 12×14 which doesn’t allow me the luxury of being messy.  But, it is a wonderful place to work. Until I had a home studio, I worked at a public art center.  It was a good arrangement because it provided a lot of space and tools.  But, as I advanced, I realized two things.  In order to get better, I needed to (1) throw more often and (2) control the drying time. Here is the thing: I managed well within the limitations of the art center.  I wasn’t incapacitated by their hours.  I made good pots because I worked around the limitations. It is easy to say, “I would make better pottery if I had a home studio”.  And, that may be true.  But, instead of focusing on the limitation, I was better served by pursuing my passion within the context of what was available. In other words – “don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can” (fortune...

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A Potter’s Most Valuable Skill

Posted by on Apr 22, 2011 in Carving, Creamer and Sugar Set, Critique, Glazes, How-to, Plates, Slip Trailing, Surface Decoration | 0 comments

The most beneficial thing that I have gained by attending workshops is participating in critiques.  And, although subjecting my pots to open opinion was uncomfortable, I have had really positive experiences and gained a lot of insight. Self-critiquing is a powerful skill that is worth incorporating.  Since I have been conducting self-critiques and critiques with Julie, I am more cognizant and focused about what I want to make.  I have begun to balance awareness of my weaknesses with recognition of my strengths.  And, I know what I want to do and what I want to try which makes me feel more confident. For me, there are two main categories – technical (throwing questions) and aesthetic (design questions).  One of the most important aspects of a self-critique is the ‘why’.  Asking ‘why’ makes the initial and emotional responses to the pot tangible.  It also keeps me from being lazy and casually dismissing a pot. Here are a few things that I think about when I critique my pots: Technical Is it proficiently thrown?  (functionality, weight, rim/foot thickness, handle width) What is the first part of the pot that I notice and why? How does it feel (sharp, heavy, smooth)?  Is that what I intended?  Does it work? What do I need to be mindful of the next time I make this shape (more clay, throw thinner, leave rim thicker, clean up better, stronger attachment)? Aesthetic Does this pot ‘work’?  Why/why not? Is it balanced?  Should it be? Does the surface embellishment enhance/hide the pot shape? Does the glaze hide/enhance the surface embellishment? Does the glaze enhance/hide the pot shape?  Is that good?  Why/why not? Does the transition from one glaze to another work?  Why/why not? Is there an opportunity to enhance contrast (use a satin/matte with a gloss glaze; add complementary color glaze; incorporate more texture) What will I change the next time I make this form (glaze, texture, shape)? What questions do you ask yourself about your pots? Creamer – Swirl designs make the creamer feel fun. The raspberry glaze breaks wonderfully over the raised slip – more successful harmony between glaze and texture. Bowl Set – The rim is a good choice for carving because it gives a defined space for texture. However, some of the carving is lost in the raspberry...

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Considerations and Logistics: Brush Strokes

Posted by on Apr 19, 2011 in Bowls, Brush Strokes, How-to, Mugs, Plates, Red and White, Resist, Spring Snow, Tools | 0 comments

In this series of entries, I am sharing some of the discoveries I am making as I try to add texture and interest to my pots. Some techniques I have been experimenting with are: Slip trailing Carving Brush strokes Tape and wax resist Technical – Technical logistics include types of glazes and brushes.  Although this has been the easiest of the logistics to resolve, it eluded us for a while.  We kept trying to paint fine lines with thick brushes – that doesn’t work.  Fine lines require very fine brushes. Method – The preferred method is to paint underglaze on greenware  because it can be wiped it off if I make a mistake.  After the bisque-fire, it won’t smudge when I dip the pot in another glaze.   I have also used underglaze on top of glaze which is good for lines but not as good for designs. Glaze response – Understanding the properties each glaze exhibits has been key (this is a prevalent truth).  Translucent and clear glazes allow the underglaze to show.  In order to use opaque glazes, brush strokes need to be applied on top of the opaques. Design – All that the factors I identified with slip, carving, and resist are true with brush strokes – what patterns, how do the patterns relate to the rest of the pot, how to designate a space on the pot.  However, this application demands a bit more representative drawing...

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Considerations and Logistics: Tape Resist

Posted by on Apr 16, 2011 in Casserole, How-to, Lime Fiesta, Taping, Uncategorized | 1 comment

In this series of entries, I am sharing some of the discoveries I am making as I try to add texture to my pots. Some techniques I have been experimenting with are: Slip trailing Carving Brush strokes Tape and wax resist Technical – Again, this has been the easiest of the logistics to resolve.  We have use tape resist on greenware and bisqueware.  Masking tape sticks great to bisqueware.  But for greenware, it is easier to use strips of newspaper.  Wet the newspaper, then apply like tape and underglaze exposed areas.  (This is how the small casserole was glazed.) Method – There are so many methods… If I apply underglaze on greenware, I can wipe it off if I make a mistake.  After the bisque-fire, the underglaze won’t smudge if I dip the pot in glaze.  But if I want to use 2 glazes to make a stripe pattern, I apply masking tape to the bisqueware, paint the exposed areas with a glaze, remove the tape, paint the remaining areas with a second glaze. Glaze response – Understanding the properties each glaze exhibits has been key (this is a prevalent truth).  Some of the glazes look great if they overlap so making ‘clean’ stripes isn’t necessary.  (I am avoiding glaze combinations that need a ‘clean’ stripe because they are too unforgiving for hand application.)   Also, if I underglaze a portion of the pot in black underglaze and bisque-fire it, I can paint lines using clear glaze.  The contrast between the raw matte underglaze and glossy clear makes a subtle stripe pattern. Design – All that the factors I identified with slip and carving are true with tape-resist – what patterns, how do the patterns relate to the rest of the pot, how to designate a space on the pot.  In addition, applying tape or newspaper is restricted by pot curves – the curvier a pot, the more gaps there will be in the tape and newspaper.  Gaps permit glazes to be applied in areas you don’t intend for them to be. Design continues to be the most challenging...

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