Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Mug

So I went to class on Monday and I'm very pleased to say that everything survived the firing, including Polo! But instead of being ecstatically happy about this as I should have been I was in a very miserable grumpy mood on Monday, which is why I haven't posted until now. My tutor said to me "Polo came out great didn't he?" and I just mumbled "it's alright". Oh dear! Mind you, I was glazing at the time, which I have absolutely no confidence in, and the plate with all the test glazing on had gone missing, and that had taken me a whole lesson! It was found by the end of the lesson though, thank goodness.

I brought my Mum's mug home this week. The effect of the second glazing was... pretty, but not as planned. I took it to show my Mum anyway.

I'm not sure if it shows in the photo, but the green from the previous glazing shows through in places, and then there are areas where the lilac and green have combined to make a new colour entirely, sort of a bluish purple with a hint of green!?. Around the lino cut design little dots of dark blue have gathered which looks really pretty.

Here you can see where the glaze had run the first time, and the second glazing has not covered it. I was told previously (not by the tutor) that these glazes only need one coat, but apparently they need three! I shall know for next time!

And this is the inside. Just awful. Previously I had glazed the inside with a white that was transparent, so the clay colour showed through and made the inside look yellow. The second time I used an opaque white glaze, but again, I didn't put enough on and the result is streaky.

Even with all it's faults, my Mum really liked it (Mums eh? Don't you just love 'em?). But there is something unusual about this mug - it ticks! I can't figure out why. If anyone has any idea why it does this then please let me know! It has been driving me insane and I desperately wanted to take it into the garden and smash it! Of course, as soon as my Mum heard it she changed her mind about having the mug! When she filled it with water to check it's size it seemed to make it worse!

So, I shall make another Mug for my Mum and this time I shall give it three coats of glaze - an uncontaminated one!

On that subject, my catalogue has finally arrived so I can order some of my own glazes now (including pink for my Mum). There are so many beautiful colours!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Back to Class - the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good
Yes, I went back to class last night and I'm very happy to report that all of my nieces and nephews pieces survived the firing process. I've brought them home so that they can paint them in acrylics if they wish. I also collected the tile that Leanne made when she visited my class, which is now glazed and ready to hang, and it is absolutely beautiful.

Kid's Pieces

Leanne's Tile

I was getting so confused with what needed to be collected, what needed to be fired and what needed to be glazed, that in the end I wrote a list! So let me see... One of the pieces being fired was Reeses, the bunny that Leanne made when she was visiting. I had a bit of an accident with him and his paws broke off. I did the best I could to repair them considering he was already completely dry, but to be honest I didn't expect the repairs to survive the firing... But they did! So now he's all ready to be glazed a lovely chocolate brown colour!

I took in several pieces in need of firing last night including Polo and the Tree Fairy vase. I was relieved that most of the pieces made it to class in one piece, with the exception of the Tree fairy vase, which unfortunately keeps shedding leaves! Well, parts of leaves to be more precise. Hopefully it will still look ok, the leaves will just be... oddly shaped, that's all. Now I must wait until next Monday to see if all of the pieces survive the firing. (Over the weekend a friend of mine was telling me about a program she saw on telly about pottery and the horrific statistics of how many pieces do not survive the firing process. I don't want to know!!) I shall also see for the first time how my coloured slips look after firing.

The Bad
I have discovered that the colour of the crank will be nowhere near the colour I was expecting or hoping for after firing (See above - Mariah's African Tribal mask is made with crank). I saw some pieces made with crank in my previous classes, and they were a lovely woody brown colour - perfect for the Tree Fairy vase, but I unknowingly bought a different brand of crank, and I also suspect that the firing temperature affects the colour. You may recall that my previous tutor always fired at a million degrees, whereas this tutor fires at a much lower temperature. So, I'm not really sure how I will go about getting the colour and finish that I want with glazes.

The Ugly
Talking of glazing, I re-glazed my Mum's mug last night. In fact, it was the only thing I did all evening. I took a large bottle of glaze out of the cupboard and started shaking it vigorously to mix it, but some clown had obviously not put the lid on properly, so it flew off and the glaze went everywhere! So after cleaning up the mess that created, there wasn't much time left for anything else.

After the previous glazing disaster with my Mum's mug, the glaze I used was thoroughly mixed and tested, and it was indeed a completely different colour than what was written on the bottle. So someone had obviously poured a different colour into it.

Other News
I have decided to buy my own glazes, and at least I know that this tutor will allow me to do that (unlike the last tutor). Apart from contamination issues, one of the reasons is that the tutor has ordered many glazes that just haven't arrived, and with the exhibition coming up I just can't wait any longer, as well as the fact that there just isn't the room for all my unglazed pieces to be hanging around at class. It will be much quicker for me to order my own. As long as the supplier I use has the item in stock I could have it delivered the next day, whereas the tutor has to order through the adult learning service - which is hopeless. The last lot of glazes were sent to the wrong class and we didn't receive them until the last class of term!

I continued to work on my second Tree Fairy vase over the weekend. I think I'm nearly there with the hand, but still need to work on the face quite a bit. Here are a couple of update photo's.

I didn't like the eye, so I've filled it in. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Back on a Roll (I hope)

I've accomplished quite a lot during the night. I surprised myself, because apart from those two little dishes, I haven't produced anything in two weeks! Now hopefully I am back in full swing.

I started off by carving a couple of tiles that were hanging around. I don't think I'm likely to go into mass production of these any time soon - they must have taken me about 4 days to make! I rolled out the clay one night and laid it between two sheets of plaster board to keep it flat while it stiffened up a bit, I cut the tiles the next night and sandwiched them again, then I put the slip on the next night, and finally carved them the following night! I dunno, I think things take longer to dry here because we have such damp air. Anyway, here they are:

With the square one I am testing shrinkage. I would like to make some tiles for our bathroom but I think I will have to make a lot of test tiles before I get the right size after they have shrunk. Again, this slip looks pink but it should be brown after firing. I've stuck to the theme of Octo...whatever because Scott said he thinks they are really cool creatures! All these years of marriage and I never knew...

I listened to some music for a while before I started working on my next tree fairy vase, to try to relax me and help me to push aside some of the negative feelings that have been developing about my abilities. I tried to visualise how I was going to tackle the challenge of making a relief of a hand and the side view of a face. The idea is that she will be looking at a butterfly on her finger. I used a photo of Philippa's Rescue piece as a reference, and started with an outline.

Next, I starting building up the face...

... and the hair...

... and the hand. At this point it looks like she is wearing an oven glove!

I find that after concentrating for a while, I can't see the wood for the trees (haha, geddit?) so I decided to work on something for a while that required less concentration, and I carved the tree bark.

Then it was back to the hand for a while, until I realised it was daylight and I should probably get some sleep! I struggled with the hand for ages, and as usual, it's easier for me to see what needs changing from the photo than sitting staring at the actual vase. So hopefully I will get to work on that more soon.

So, all in all I think it was a pretty productive night. Does this mean I am over my confidence crisis? I really can't say. All I know for sure is that I am fighting it.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Just wanted to share...

I totally love this song at the moment. I just had to share it. Alain Clark - Father and Friend. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

I Won! I Won! I Won! - and unfinished pieces

Yeah, I know this is a little bit of a delayed reaction, but I won something for the first time in my life! I won this beautiful scarf made by Queeny - the Queen of Craftiness! Oh... er... I mean crafts! Check out some of her other work as well, including this fabulous guitar painting! Thank you so much Queeny!

There is not a lot new to report here. I go back to class next Monday and I can't wait! I feel like I have so many half finished projects hanging around and it will be nice to get some pieces fired and finished and out of the way before I start on my whale. Also, just to have something to show for all my efforts, y'know? I feel like I haven't accomplished anything because I have no finished pieces.

I have another reason to hurry up and get things moving... As I am a member of the FPAA I have the opportunity to exhibit some of my work at the local exhibition at the beginning of June, so I don't have long! I've never actually exhibited with them before, and Stella is the only other member who regularly exhibits ceramics and other sculptures with them. So it's likely that it will be just us two! (with sculptures I mean - there will be loads of paintings)

One of the pieces I have been wanting to get out of the way for a long time is this plant pot that I made a billion years ago.

Well, ok it wasn't quite a billion years ago, it was December last year! But because it has holes in the bottom for drainage it needed a little dish to sit in. For ages I couldn't decide how I was going to make it - whether to slab build it or coil it, and whether to use lino cuts or slip trailing. In the end I went for slab building and lino cuts, the same as the actual pot.

I made two attempts - the first one came out far too big! I just hope the second one fits ok once it has dried and shrunk. They're different colours because of the different drying stages of each piece. And they're wonky. I love wonky - when it's someone else's work. I'm trying to love wonky with my own stuff too.

So that's really all I have produced since my last post. I'm having a complete confidence crisis again, but I really don't understand why. I have to say that I found the making of my last piece (the Tree Fairy Vase) very enjoyable and relatively easy.

There were no major challenges at all with this piece, so I decided to make another one in a slightly different design, but when it came to making the face I just couldn't do it. It's so silly, because I know I can do it! I've done it already! I feel confident about the whale, but I feel reluctant to move on to that until I have this second vase finished. In the mean time I'm trying to keep the half made vase moist.

Of course, then both of those pieces will need to be fired and glazed. Other pieces that need finishing are my Mum's mug (which I will probably make again, hopefully tomorrow, in case the re-glazing goes wrong) and the ivy vase.

And of course, Swanee and Polo! How many unfinished pieces is that? I've lost count! Have I missed anything out?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Project Management

I haven't really produced much since last Thursday. I started on another Tree Fairy vase, but didn't get any further than just making the actual vase. I was feeling too low and tired over the weekend, and now that I'm feeling brighter my mind has moved on to other things. That is often a problem for me - I have too many ideas and my mind is actually too active for me to settle on one thing, so I end up doing nothing and just spend all my time thinking. Apparently this makes me an artist! :)

I've been absolutely fascinated by Octopuses recently (this is the most common word used for the plural of Octopus - although the correct plural term is actually Octopodes, to use this term would make me pedantic, apparently). I had actually never seen a real photo or video clip of an Octopus before, until I went to this website and my jaw just fell open. I don't know why I never looked them up before. They're amazing!

Things I didn't know:
I didn't know that Octopuses have two rows of suckers on each arm (and they are arms - not legs or tentacles). They use these suckers to grip and also to taste.

Octopuses are very strong. They have no skeleton so they are all muscle. They can squeeze their bodies through incredibly small spaces, since the only hard part of their body is their beak. Yes, beak! I didn't know they had a beak! It's actually underneath, in the centre.

To camouflage themselves from predators, Octopuses can not only change the colour of their skin, but also the texture.

And how they reproduce is... bizarre, and so sad. I saw this clip of a male Octopus trying to grab the attention of a female Octopus and I thought it was so cute and romantic! But the male Octopus literally gives his right arm to mate (well, one of them), since that is where his sperm is, and then he dies within a few months. The female lays up to 200,000 eggs, and spends between one to ten months caring for them and guarding them (depending on the species and the source of information). She doesn't leave them for a second, and she gets so hungry that she has been known to eat her own arms! By the time the eggs hatch she is exhausted and she dies. But she doesn't die from starvation - she secretes something from her eyes. So I suppose you could say she cries herself to death. Maybe because she knows that only 1% of her babies will live to adulthood. Well, they have three hearts so that's a lot of heart break!

Wow, aren't they amazing? So bearing all this in mind I decided for my next project I'd like to make a Whale...

Friday, 3 April 2009

Sgraffito Time!

Wait! Isn't that supposed to be Chico Time? No, there are no goat herders here folks! It's definitely sgraffito time! This is what I did with those tiles I cut yesterday...

First, I just did some ordinary (and very basic) sgraffito on the round one.

This slip looks quite pinkish in colour, but is labelled "Cocoa" so it will be interesting to see how the colour comes out when it is fired. Also, this round piece is one of the pieces that I added green slip to the clay, so I'm curious to see how green those carved parts will look after firing.

Next, I decided to try some inlaying. I carved the image out of the clay first, and then brushed the coloured slip over it to fill in the grooves.

Once it had dried I scraped the slip off the surface, leaving it in the grooves.

Again, this was on clay that has been coloured with the green slip. I'm thinking now that it would probably look better if the clay was slightly blue! Also, the sun will be brown! Hmm... I need to think about getting some more colours!

On the back of the larger tile I decided to see if it was possible to inlay slip with a different colour slip on the surface. This didn't work too well, although I think it could be possible if the surface colour was painted on really thickly and I was extra careful about scraping back the inlaid colour.

Then all that was left was to carve the last tile. My imagination left home some time ago without saying goodbye, so stuck for inspiration I reached for my drink in my new favourite mug and thought "Aha!".

So as you can see I have been having lots of fun! I can't wait to do some more, and yet I have absolutely no ideas at all! Typical - I couldn't wait for my slip to arrive and now I don't know what to do with it!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Last Drawing Class and Some Experimenting

It was the last painting and drawing class last night, until the end of April. I continued to work on my portrait of Scott as a little boy, which I realised I hadn't touched for 5 weeks!

5 weeks ago

last night

reference photo

I still have a lot of adjustments to make. He looks too chubby in my drawing! I still think the mouth needs changing as well. I've really struggled with the mouth.

Today I received some coloured slips that I had ordered. (Fir green and Cocoa)

I have been so excited about trying some sgraffito with these that now they have arrived I'm completely exhausted! Still, I've rolled out some tiles and left them to dry.

I don't know if it is noticeable in the photo, but I actually mixed some of the green slip with the white clay to see how it would come out, so the larger tile is just white (although it obviously looks grey because it's wet) and the other two tiles are slightly green. I'm wondering if I mixed in enough of it now though. I just rolled out clay, painted on the slip, then folded it over and rolled it out again, and repeated the process again and again. Then I wedged it before rolling it out to cut the tiles.

As well as trying some sgraffito, I also want to experiment with inlaying slips and maybe some marbling. Hmmm... maybe I should have made more tiles! Of course I will photo-document each stage to share with you :)