Show-n-Tell Ceramics, A New Bowl

This handmade bowl was my attempt at creating a larger piece featuring a carved design that encircles the vessel. Despite scoring, slipping and smoothing the seams, a small crack appeared after glazing. My teacher suggested re-glazing and re-firing. The crack remained though it doesn’t go through to the bottom.

The bowl and its crack are a metaphor for me.

I work hard to seal the seams of doubt, “re-glazing and re-firing,” but the crack remains. Maybe this bowl is a metaphor for all of us, flawed and not like we’d planned, but still interesting.

Hon, just like my manuscripts, some ceramics are practice pieces, some get thrown away, and some will be polished and glazed another time. But, I’m happy with these small vases and bowls. I especially like the carving on the vases and the throwing lines on one of the bowls.

Wishing me–and you–places to go in our minds, practice and work where creativity keeps us in the moment and allows anxiety and self-doubt to disappear into the background.

Ceramics: Two-Year Tea Set

Teaset glazed in nutmeg and slate.
I had no idea that a tea set project would take two years!

Wheel throwing a tea set was a challenging project for many reasons. Who knew that centering and opening a ball of clay that could fit in the palm of your hands would be so hard?! In my attempt to create tea cups, it looks weeks to get six, relatively similar sizes. Some were too thin and some were too lopsided–so many throw-aways!

Then there was the teapot itself. This proved so challenging that almost all of us students needed hands-on help from our instructor (Shout out to Beatrice!) She patiently taught us how to form a vessel and spout, a lid and, much harder than it looks, a handle.

After the tea cups and tea pot were made, what about a tray? My first attempt cracked in the kiln, and that’s where the project stalled. I didn’t want to glaze the pieces until I’d made them all so, discouraged, I put the them away. I waited and waited until I was ready to hand-build another tray. Two years later, this summer, I did.

The tea pot set saga is a metaphor for my writing, though working through the disappointments and successes of pottery feels completely different. In Ceramics, I’m more interested in the process than the product. When working on a manuscript, I enjoy the process, but have a specific goal in mind–to bring my characters and stories to life.

Whereas, the clay ignites my imagination…my imagination ignites the stories.

Hon, happy creating and imagining and working and persevering.

A Week of Positives: Ceramics

1,750 degrees F! That’s the temperature the Raku kiln must reach before Peter removes pottery and then sets them in a bed of sawdust where they burst into flames!

Pottery is therapy!

Wheel throwing, hand building, trimming, carving, sanding and glazing force me to be in the moment. This summer, due to Covid-19, one of my Ceramics teachers offered a limited-spot, mask-wearing class. One of the wonderful things about learning from and working with Peter Syak is ending class with an always-dramatic Raku firing. My favorites pieces from the class are a desk caddy and lamp bases (my first ever lamps!). We used an Extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh tool, to make unique bowls. I carved them and added feet, but won’t know they turn out until I Raku fire them this Fall.

Want to know more about Raku firing? Check out Raku Intensive.

Lamp base, unglazed.

Lamp base, unglazed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unloading the Raku kiln.

Lamp bases, glazed.

Desk caddy.

 

Raku Intensive

As promised in my post Show and Tell:  Doing Dishes–ta da–here are my finished Raku pics. I’m happy with the wiggle wire circular boxes and Japanese lantern boxes. Either shells or stones will be attached to the top of the lantern boxes. Some jewelry dishes turned out bright, but some weren’t as pretty as I’d hoped. Those will get a coat of acrylic paint and varnish.

A shout out goes to Peter Syak, Uber-Instructor, Intensive-Scheduler, Person-With-the-Most-Patience, and Master-of-Fire (it feels like mwahaha should follow Master-of-Fire.) The Raku firing process is so exciting!

Check out the show-stopping, 1750 degree F clay as the kiln top is lifted.

Sawdust burst into flames as soon as the pieces came in contact with it.

At the end of the day, we smelled like chimneys!

Related posts: Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workshop Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Raku Workshop Part 2)

Cool Results from Hot Pots (Raku Workshop Part 3)

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workhop Part 1)

Hake and regular paintbrushes.
Hake and regular paintbrushes.

Clay Maven

You know how I love to “play with clay“?  This summer I learned something new.  I learned Raku!

I just finished a wonderful workshop given by master ceramicist, Peter Syak.  He instructed more and less experienced (umm, that would be me) students how to create vases, plates, boxes and sculptures, and how to fire them in a raku kiln.

According to Wikipedia, Raku originated in Japan and is “thick-walled, rough, lead-glazed earthenware.” Raku means “enjoyment, comfort and ease.”  The workshop was definitely enjoyable, but as for comfort, I smelled like a smokestack at the end of the day.  As for ease, I’m not so sure.  If it weren’t for Peter’s engineering-background and careful attention to detail and safety, we might have glowed orange like our pots after baking in 1800 degrees Fahrenheit!

Over four weeks, we hand-built with raku clay and painted with glaze.  Peter bisque-fired our greenware.

I couldn’t wait to take part in a raku firing.  Hon, hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the process!

Outdoor kiln.
Outdoor kiln.

A propane tank feeds gas into the kiln.  Our pieces are already inside, baking as the Pyrometer tells us when the temperature has reached about 1600 degrees F.

Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.
Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.

Low temperature.
Low temperature.

Extremely hot!
Extremely hot!

 

 

 

 

 

Hor air vent on top of kiln.
Hor air vent on top of kiln.

Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.
Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.

Our pieces glow orange.
Our pieces glow orange.

Red Hot Raku!

 

Mugging for the Camera

wheel thrown ceramic mugs
wheel thrown ceramic mugs

handles and mug bodies are a challenge!
handles and mug bodies are a challenge!

hand built vessels and wheel thrown mug
hand built vessels and wheel thrown mug

wheel thrown cache pot
wheel thrown cache pot

Wheel thrown mugs, a cache pot and hand built vessels are my latest ceramic creations. When using dark brown clay, I leave a portion of the clay unglazed. Throwing matching mug bodies is a challenge (for me, at least) so I create pairs by glazing two mugs the same way. Can you tell I love letter stamps?  The vessels were an experiment that I’ll try again although I have no idea what to use them for.  Any ideas, hon? My favorite of this group is the cache pot. Randy’s red over spearmint glaze on speckled clay creates a metallic, dark bronze color. Great combination!