When Old Feels New

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Last weekend I ditched my studio “to do” list.  I have wanted to just play around, explore some new ideas and forms.When I am not in my studio lots of ideas come in and out of my head. Sometimes I am able to write them down, but more often than not I don’t and by the time I get into the studio it’s just easier to do what’s already on the list!  Besides, time and energy are often lacking, especially when you accidentally drift off to sleep during story time.

So, I set a morning aside to forget the list, and just make what I wanted to make. I didn’t think too much about it. Five hours later I found myself surrounded by a lot of familiar forms, including some delightful flared bowls I’ve wanted more of for over a year! What surprised me is that I didn’t actually throw anything new – these tall, altered and naked forms was what inspired these buttons almost three years ago! I remember debating the buttons – should there be any? if so, what stamp should be used, and how many?! I agonized over every button -sprigging buttons on, taking them off, putting them back on. How funny! These new “old” forms got dressed as soon as they dried to the touch – I knew exactly what to do and couldn’t wait to start adding buttons.

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Although it was not what I expected, it was something I obviously needed to do. While forcing myself to ignore the list, I realized something very important. I need more time to play and make what I want to make. It’s what I want my kids to do. It’s the foundation of how I teach. Five hours isn’t enough. What do I want to make?  I have no idea, but I know I like to make buttons. : )

Next month, there will not be a list. Just one question.

 

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Studio Makeover

Sometimes all you need is a little something to get you motivated. Last week, Adam and I were discussing how we could improve the studios. I said, I would really like to get a work table. One I could sit at. How had I gone working this long without one? Makeshift boards on storage totes surrounded the wheel. I either sat hunched over at the wheel to carve, attach handles and sprig buttons or stood alongside a cart and high table that was too wobbly to even wedge on. The idea of a table was exhilarating – and just what I needed to get up and start cleaning. Especially since the very next day I found the most perfectly priced, sturdiest table at the second consignment store I walked into. Thanks to the arrival of the blizzard the day after that, I had a productive weekend of spring cleaning in February!

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Isn’t it great???

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Before this beautiful table could travel to the basement, things needed to happen. The studio was essentially dismantled. I had to work fast, since I had a lot of work in process sitting under plastic – this could not be a long drawn out process. Every tool, surface, piece of furniture had to be cleaned and cleared away. All of a sudden this corner of the basement I had slowly taken over the past few years finally felt mine and I could now arrange it how I saw fit. I wasn’t just getting a new table anymore – it was a new studio.

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A chair with a back is next on the list!

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Tool storage! The girls had fun helping with this part. Organizing the tools and filling the shelves. I really wish I had taken more pictures before hand – but I didn’t realize! Before, I had tools all over the place. It drove me a little crazy sometimes. Some for when I was throwing, some where I was standing and everyplace in between. Now here they are, in their new home. This will help cut down on the clay dust – since the shelves cannot be reached while I am working on the wheel, slurry covered hands cannot contaminate! (see more about clay dust here.)  Cleaner storage, cleaner studio, healthier me.

There’s still work to be done, but I am motivated!

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30 mugs by December 30: it’s a mug frenzy!

Well, it was supposed to be a mug frenzy. I decided at the open house that I would focus on replenishing this much requested item. I am not a mug maker. What I mean is I am not a production potter, and I do not work in my studio full time. (Some day!) I make mugs on occasion, when I feel inspired, or have a specific request, but the two part process stifles me so I only make a handful at a time. So I gave myself a challenge to produce as many mugs as I could before the end of the month. My goal was to have fun, explore new forms and ideas, and ideally, attach a handle to a variety of mug forms. I started out slow, then I lost a little momentum and motivation, and my anticipated mug frenzy of reaching 60 mugs (3mugs per 5 studio days over 4 weeks) had to be cut in half. It has been a busy, emotionally charged month. The last few nights I forced myself to push forward and attached handles to about a dozen forms that were waiting under plastic and threw some straight cylindrical forms. I feel better! I am still a little behind, but I am sure now I will reach my goal of 30. I’ll save the real frenzy for January 2013.

 

Pedestal…soap dish???

I was taking photographs for the open house Alyssa and I are planning for December 7th. I grabbed some soap, a button vase, and oh, there are some cupcake stands. I have yet to sell any, but I enjoy looking at them and stacking them is fun. I popped the soap on them and there it was. A soap dish on a pedestal. See it in the background? Yes, I like it too.

So, here is the problem I gave some of my intrigued ceramic students  today.  I throw the cupcake stands upside down. I throw my soap dishes right side up to get that deep spiral groove that keeps the soap dry. How do I put these two ideas together without making them separately?

J said I needed to leave the top part thicker and carve the soap grooves in. Makes sense!  Most likely they will warp once they get fired to cone 10, but it’s certainly worth a try. And fortunately I have been waiting to make some more stands…they are not only fun to look at and stack, they are fun to make.

And as an added bonus, half of my students wanted to see me throw it. So I did! I ended up with three to take home and try it out. Here’s my process once I got into the studio this evening: 

“Trimming” right side up. This is where I smoothed and then began to carve the spiral with the turning of the wheel.

There’s one. Two more to go. Leaving the floor (top) thick is important. I think two of the three were thinner than they should have been. This spiral was my first and least  favorite. (They get better.) It didn’t take long, but it was odd making the grooves with a tool other than my fingers.

Then comes some scoring and slipping…getting ready for the buttons!

I roll a bunch of little clay balls…

attach them…

and press my stamp into them. That’s called a sprigging. : )

 

This is my attempt to minimize warping – seems a bit silly but they’re having fun. It’s like a sleepover.  I”ll wrap them up in plastic and let them hibernate for a few days.

Longest post I’ve ever done! I hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

 

I’ve been doing a bit of hiding…

Despite everyday life and finishing the sequel to the Discovery of  Witches, I have managed to get some work done! We’ve been busy carving pumpkins, making spooky graveyards, casting Batman’s helmet (?), carving more pumpkins, and I’ve managed to get a lot of glazing done in preparation for the Groton Home Tour and the Artspace Maynard Holiday sale, as well as doing some of my own carving! In clay of course. I have been making lots of little tiles and poking holes in them. Then I either carve  right into the clay or into a colored slip or underglaze. I am not sure if any of them will come out but they are getting all of my attention lately. Ornaments maybe? Trying not to worry too much about the end result – thinking of them as test tiles to experiment with new colors and technique. First test glazes went in this week! Happy Halloween! Time to affix the batman logo to Batman’s belt…

Second to last step: Applying the wax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For as long as I have been making functional pottery I have loved using wax as a resist method. There is something about the contrast of the raw, fired clay and the glaze that I just love. I also enjoy the process – which is something I don’t have to do in the basement! I can do this anywhere, and my favorite place is the screened porch in the morning. Once the clay has been bisqued, I apply a design with the wax using a small brush. I may also wax parts of or the entire button embellishments depending on the piece. This takes time and patience! Wherever the wax is, glaze will resist so being careful and neat is important. Once the wax has dried, it is ready to be glazed and fired one last time.

Studio Thoughts: Art is Life

As I was able to escape into the studio today for the first time in what feels like months, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment. The summer has been amazing, the girls are awesome, and we are having a great time. But when I don’t make things it starts to eat at me, like something is missing. Being a mother, ceramic artist and teacher is a balancing act. The first thing that falls off is of course the art making. It’s seen as the least important, and well, really, it’s the easiest to let go. While I have been trying to make this life work over the last few years, I have joked about my making pottery is how I hide from the real world. I go down to the basement and I forget everything and get lost in the clay. Would I rather be doing that than cleaning, folding the laundry or doing the bills? Of course! But I am not hiding from real life, I am trying to live mine to the fullest possible. I wouldn’t be myself without it.

When I first started teaching, I hung a very large quote on the wall in the back of the cafeteria where I taught most of the art classes. I spent hours cutting out painted letters and  I stapled each and every letter to the wall high above my desk. This is what I wanted them to know – this is what I wanted them to learn. It said:  “Art is art. Art is about art. Art is about making. But most of all art is about what it means to be human.”

Peter London, No More Secondhand Art; Awakening the Artist Within

Happy Summer!

Very happy with how these little bowls turned out! I love the way the color of clay contrasts with the yellow…I do this by waxing the bisqued clay before it gets dipped into the glaze. Now on to some bigger bowls, to continue to fill a few orders and to play with more wax resist designs. While the girls are at camp, I get a few bonus (daytime)  hours of studio time to do this! My goal is to get through 50 lbs of clay just throwing the same size bowl. Got a good start this morning before I had to get up and stretch!