Friday, December 18, 2009

'Love Pots'

Two weeks ago, when I was heading up to Kingston for supplies at Baileys Ceramics, I originally planned on crossing the river and driving north on scenic 9A past West Point Military Academy. The drive is like parts of Route 1 along the California coast; tight, winding, beautiful, distracting, with no margin for error. Determined as I was on my mission, there was a greater one taking place at the same time. Across the river, President Obama was speaking to the West Point cadets about their impending future in Afghanistan. I couldn't help but feel sad and utterly helpless while a helicopter hovered above. Knowing full well that these are things way beyond my control; the war will go on whether I like it or not. The fact that a significant portion of West Point families attend my kids’ high school makes the pain more palpable as not a dinner conversation goes by without the heart breaking news involving the deployment of a classmate’s parent.

So I changed course, stayed on the east side of the river and continued on my little mission to do what I set out to do; make something positive and beautiful; a new line of pieces aptly named 'Love Pots'. Created from molds of the last surviving Morning Glories before November's hard frost.
the bowl was formed from a wooden salad bowl (which I have since slump mold cast) and then slip applied five leaves spaced evenly around the bowl. The high fire brown stoneware clay suits the organic heart shaped leaves, but now I'm inspired to make more in different color schemes. And of course, what would I do without the Berkely & Jensen peanut butter filled pretzels to fuel my creativity...mmmm. The porcelain cup was done with the same process but I thought it would be fun to use a seltzer bottle form. There is a large porcelain platter I'm decorating now which is part of this theme and hope to Cone 6 this weekend if we're not snowed in that is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Japanese Maple Leaf Platter

So I took a break from porcelain and decided to try stoneware for a change. Much as I love working with porcelain, it's so annoyingly fragile and demanding, requiring the patience of Job; like a high maintenance relative whom you have to tip toe around their moods, but you love them nonetheless, because they're family...if that's a good analogy. Stoneware, well it's malleable and obedient and respectful of your time; like dogs, thrilled to be in your presence. None of this unpredictable cracking and warping porcelain which I'm utterly and hopelessly addicted to...because the end result is worth the challenge.
This white stoneware hand formed slab platter is 15" in diameter and imprinted with leaves picked from my neighbor's blazing red maple tree. The leaves were painted with Aamco semi-moist watercolors and restrainly splattered (al la Jackson Pollack style) with orange and red underglaze, then finished with a satin matte overglaze. I photographed outside the other day during the first snowfall of the season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I hate when that happens....

Oye… If it isn’t a crack in a pot, it’s the dreaded blue screen of death that all Windows users know and hate. Then the black warning screen after your computer reboots itself to inform you that something is wrong with your disk and please pray to the computer gods that your hard drive is not toast. But, first things first - Fresh out of the kiln, I noticed a 1.5" hairline crack on the rim of my bisqued bowl. I just wish that glaze would fill it in like glue but it only makes things worse so I patched the crack with some porcelain slip mixed with damp shredded toilet paper. I read somewhere on some blog that TP concoction works well on green ware and has done the trick for me in the past. I haven’t tried it on bisque ware so this will be a first. Although there is something very beautiful and spare about this shell like bowl in its raw porcelain pre-glazed state, I'm tempted to leave it this way and just cone 6 it plain but am itching to try some new glazes.

AND if the crack defies my patch, there’s always another pot to be made BUT when it comes to computers, one cannot play Russian roulette with your precious photos and documents and neglect to back up everything. ‘Back up, back up, and don’t forget to back up’ is the mantra I say to my clients and I of all people should honor what I preach. Having just loaded my computer yesterday with photos of my daughter’s college portfolio for her admissions interview, I had a prompting to run my weekly back up. Too busy with my kid’s home from a snow day, I just shrugged it off. Wouldn’t you know, first thing this morning my computer was acting flakey and just when I was about to plug in my back-up hard drive, the blue screen appeared. I had some unsaved documents open - and as much as I curse Microsoft, the best thing since sliced bread is the Microsoft Office auto save and recovery function. Fortunately, my computer recovered with all files intact. As a reminder to all you fellow bloggers who, like me, push the envelope and neglect to back up - time is precious and external USB hard drives are cheap. Without delay, I must go and back up everything - NOW.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The much anticipated apple green fired bowl

Amazing what one can do with a limited palette of glazes. Anxious to emulate the Granny smith apple green color, but not wanting to take the one hour plus trek to Baileys in Kingston, I decided to work with my meager collection of glazes. Relying mostly on a few underglazes, topped with thin coat of Seaweed green overglaze, I was very happy with the results. Now I’m inspired to make a series of iterations of these bowls and plan to explore the world of glazes with a limited palette and focus on the color wheel mixing primary colors to produce bold pots with secondary and complimentary colors.

I must travel to Baileys this week and pick up a few glaze colors to work with and am excited for the challenge. To proceed with this series, the looming need of a kiln of my own is ever present. I’m conflicted because there are economical needs that take precedence and this just seems so indulgent and unnecessary. But what is a driven one to do? Last Saturday, Joe and I drove the long and windy road up a mountain in Cold Spring to participate in the much anticipated wood firing opening in which I had two small bowls and a plate. Looking forward to commune with fellow potters we all behaved like children on Christmas morning. The unveiling of hundreds of pots in the huge kiln was amazing; shiny pieces with the unpredictable but spectacular glow that only be achieved through reduction firing. With camera in hand, I was planning to document the whole event and show the process of a collaborative effort which typically takes a good eight hours to get through. To my dismay, I spied my three unfired pieces perched forlornly along with a few others in the kiln masters studio. My heart sank, much like being stood up on a date. Tears welled up and the only way I could contain my disappointment was to leave. I wanted so much to be a big person, suck it up, and experience the day. But I left and Joe understood. Why such a reaction to a small thing when I have larger than life challenges to wrestle with right now? I guess that in life when there are things beyond ones control, it is the little pleasures we look forward to - as a coping mechanism. And when they disappoint, our already fragile self falls apart. I emailed the kiln master and he apologized for the error and promised to prioritize my pieces in the next March’s firing. And that I will do. I will also make a piece so unique, so beautiful, and suitable for reduction that it will not be excluded. And I will also take that plunge and order myself a small kiln this week. Then I have only myself to blame for my mistakes. A new kiln, something to look forward to!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

There must be ravens in the air

Seeking a new direction with clay, I’ve been observing the many ravens sneaking on my porch for leftover dog food and feeling a particular kinship with them. Ravens, you either love them or hate them - and I never understand the detractors other than they see them as scavengers rather nature’s housekeepers, doing the dirty job of cleaning up road kill. Or maybe it is the misinterpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s supernatural poem, “The Raven’, where he symbolized the bird as "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance “; a natural human conflict for wanting to remember and wanting forget:

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.' Edgar Allen Poe 1994

Like blue jays, ravens are corvids and the most intelligent of the bird species; tough, scrappy, curious; traits that I identify with which explains my lifelong fascination with this mysterious bird. Seeking inspiration to paint a raven plate as a Christmas present for my beau, Joe, a biologist and birder (but not a fanatical birder), I want to emulate the ravens from this series of casein paintings I did long ago. I’m thinking of using colored clay slip (which I haven’t tried yet), or experimenting with a cool set of glaze water colors I picked up from Bailey’s clay supply. Is it possible to combine both techniques without disappointment? There must be something in the air because I’ve spotted quite a few clay bloggers talking about ravens too. Great minds think alike. Off to the studio before the day gets away from me…

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grannie apple green glaze and pie

After a long day mixed with work, parent teacher conferences for my two teens, and making my bi -monthly batch of homemade dog food, I wanted to glaze the interior of this new bowl with a color I have yet to achieve, apple green. As a painter, I like to work with under glazes with paint brushes and and am itching to achieve a Mark Rothko effect with color. It’s all in my head right now, as are many new creations swirling around in my thoughts waiting for me to carve out the time to do it in what feels like my ADD life. My boyfriend Joe drove up from Maryland last night, so I skipped the glazing plans and surrendered to the kitchen for the evening to make some filet mignon, risotto, spinach and feta cheese salad with walnuts complemented by a nice bottle of Cote de Rhone. Subconsciously, the apple green glaze was weighing on my mind so what did I do, make an apple pie. Kneading the dough felt much like porcelain while peeling the Grannie Smith apples helped me formulate the palette of glazes I need for my apple green bowl. I’m just building up my glaze collection and must to take a trip to Kingston (an hour and half drive north) and pick up some cool new glazes from Baileys Pottery supply. The problem is that place is too tempting and I always want more than I can afford. Lacking the time, I could just order what I need and wait the delivery but impatience is getting the best of me. I may just glaze this bowl with combination of orange glazes on hand and just be done with it. There’s always the next pot to make….

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday in the city

End of a busy weekend. Got up early this morning to take my daughter, Audrey, into the city for her weekly pre-college art class at FIT. The fog was floating in horizontal strips across the deep yellow and grey mountains signaling the end of Fall - except that it was too warm to wear the suede jacket as I drove. Once over the GW Bridge, the city driver kicked in and left the country girl behind as I re acclimated to maneuvering between the lanes dodging the yellow taxis along the way. Made it to her class in time with plenty to spare. Then downtown for a quick three hour visit with my sister's family - and off to meet Audrey at a lower east side art supply store. Every time I go to the city, I realize how much I miss zipping around, people watching and feeling the energy - but the traffic is so crazy! Forgot how nonchalant and oblivious New Yorkers are, daring for anyone to hit them. And finding a parking spot on the street - forgeddaboutit! Tried enjoying a mother/daughter Italian lunch in the East Village while angsting about my car parked in a tow zone. Even meter maids need a Sunday off so all went well including the nice drive home. Dealing with a few computer problems tonite got me cranky and I really wanted to pound some clay and make a pot or two to relax - but too much to do this evening. Maybe tomorrow …..

Friday, November 13, 2009

Psycho purple....Qu'est-ce que c'est? Fa fa fa fa fa...

There's an oft used word in my vocabulary which basically plays it safe when expressing a non commital unobjective opinion about a piece of art - that word is 'Interesting' - pronounced, "inn-ter-estttinggg". Essentially meaning, 'eck', 'ick', or 'ugh'. What an 'interesting' psychedelic purple surprise! Unhappy with my glazing from the first try on these little echinacea bowls (Oct. 19th post), I researched and found that applying hairspray to the piece, reglazing, and refiring would do the trick. I applied Coyote Pansy purple high fire glaze, channeled my pop art upbringing, and wow - these look straight from the 60's! I prefer these in the bisque white state and think I'll make another more subdued not so interesting set glazed matte white.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Achieving a pit fire affect with high fire

Imagine recreating a raku or pit fire affect with a Cone 6 porcelain firing with just a glaze. Like this Raku pot I made 30 years ago, back in the days when I actually spent time throwing on the wheel and making conceptual pieces. Due to the fragility of raku, I abandoned it after losing all of my work moving cross country from California to DC. I always loved the earthy smokey look and never thought it could be achieved in porcelain. The Georgie's kalamata black on the outside of this Oak leaf bowl has me thinking of an entire new direction in glazing. The bright red orange inside is a nice contrast but in the future, I'll paint an underglaze to give it more depth and saturation.

Warped plate(s) of the day

So much has happened in the past week, I don't know where to begin. I participated in my first wood fire kiln event last Saturday and it was an amazing learning experience. I only did two small bowls and a plate so we’ll see what Thanks giving unloading ceremony brings. I unloaded a kiln full of cone 6 porcelain pieces on Tuesday and am mixed about the results. Although satisfied with the glazing, lots of warping on my poor morning glory plates. After much research, I know what to do next time and much depends on the porcelain drying process; the longer the better (not good for impatient people like me). Though not functional for everyday use, they will make good serving platters. More pics of other pots later today.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A scattered week

Like these milkweed seeds and fallen oak leaves, my week flew by and scattered it was. Two teenagers, two dogs, three cats, the eternal job hunt, IT consulting, a house to maintain, and squeezing in time to make pots, well that keeps me occupied. One minute I’m installing a wireless network or cracking open an Apple iMac to replace a DVD drive, the next minute I’m transporting pots to glaze at the Philipstown rec, or racing to my friend’s pottery studio dropping off a few leather hard pots for tomorrow’s big wood fire kiln event. Meanwhile…. my son calls me 5x in 10 minutes that he missed the bus and can I drive across the river to pick him up. Cell phone ringing and a text message arrives; my daughter needs help with her college applications. Oye. And what do I really want to do? Sink my hands into the luscious Highwater Helios porcelain clay lost in the moment and make something, anything to get away from it all. Just a few stolen blissful minutes. But really, the IT stuff sharpens my left brain, while the clay keeps my right brain from atrophying, and the kids and pet menagerie, well they give me a reason to keep going. And today brings more surprises - yesterday I carefully packed a kiln full of porcelain plates and bowls for a cone 6 firing. Am anxious for the results because I experimented with glazes on the plates and it’s a crapshoot on how they will look. They’ll either make it on the ‘Plate a day’ blog or the dogs will end up with a new set of pet food dishes to lap up their home made food. Hope they like them. Will posts pics later today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wood burning event - Something new to try

I'm so excited because I'm participating in a local wood fire kiln event of like minded potters on Saturday. My friend, Nancy of White Forest Pottery (her work is beautiful!) gave me some cone 10 white porcelain clay and brown clay for the event because any clay lower than Cone 10 will melt with the high wood burning temperatures. I'm hoping these pieces will be bone dry for bisque firing tomorrow. You can't rush the drying process, so let's hope for no cracks in the edges. The vinca leaves will burn off and leave a faint impression on the bowls.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fall Back - An extra hour added to our day

Monday morning, DST, and everyone is tired including Riley basking in the sun and blending in with the leaves. It's brisk outside but he doesn't seem to mind. I picked some milk weed while taking my dogs for a walk last week. Put them in a vase in my kitchen and the pods are bursting all over the place - releasing seeds anchored to these very fine puffs ....very beautiful and 'other worldly' looking. They are known for attracting Monarch butterflies. Not sure if I can capture the essence of these in clay.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bisque fired oak leaf bowl

Fresh out of the kiln, this rather large bowl with fallen oak leaves is about to be glazed. It's hard to see the many textures and finger prints from this cell phone picture. I tried some new glazes of kalamata black on the outside and red orange inside. Will post the final product next week.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn at its peak

Rainy today, I can't concentrate on anything without the distraction of my favorite magnolia tree outside my glass door. It's the tree that keeps on giving, and changes constantly throughout the year. I plan to capture the essence of the tree and imprint the leaves in my next clay project. Last night was my weekly pottery class and I always feel energized by the group of feisty and talented women who are the Tuesday night regulars. It was very productive; I made a large plate decorated with Japanese maple leaves in white stoneware clay but prefer working with the creamy buttery texture of porcelain and the ability to make it almost paper thin. It's always good to get outside your comfort zone, though. I also made a set of four Morning glory saucers to match the set of plates I have yet to fire.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amazing Japanese Maple Tree

Seeking inspiration and items for my pots, I walked my dogs, Riley (shiba inu) & Braxton (chihuahua) yesterday on a different route and stumbled upon the most amazing blazing red Japanese Maple. I have never seen a color so saturated and plan to duplicate the brilliant red/orange/burgundy hues in a glaze for my piece. No way can my camera attempt the capture the breathtaking fiery red of this tree but I have made a large plate embedded with these leaves. I'll post the final result once the piece is completed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shell bowl

One of my first porcelain bowls made with shells collected years ago in Captiva Island. I glazed a set of plates yesterday and am yearning to have my own kiln to fire at whim. It's Friday, time to make something new out of clay and hike in the woods for inspiration.


Yesterday was a banner Autumn day and I was out taking pictures of my daughter, Audrey for her high school yearbook while one of my cats, Milo watched.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I want to make pots like these sculptures

Enough of my work, this was an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama in Chelsea last Spring with my son, Skyler (pictured). When I'm finished with my nature phase, I'm going to go pop like this artist.

Porcelain platter

A platter made from leaves, wildflowers, and cone flowers collected from a trip to New Hampshire last month. This was decorated with underglazes and the painter in me wants to treat it like a canvas no can do with with the unpredictable and surprising results of glazing.

Porcelain Pasta Bowl

A departure from my garden and into my kitchen, this large and robust bowl was made from casts of my favorite pasta - bows at the base of the bowl and decorated on the outside with squiggly noodles begging for a name. The overall affect is almost baroque in appearance and completely unexpected of my style.

Morning Glory bowl

This rather large porcelain bowl is imprinted with morning glory leaves; they climb my fence and choke any plant crossing it's path. If it weren't for the beauty of the flowers and the heart shaped leaves, I yank them all out. The leaf at the base of this bowl is gigantic - 7" wide. I made a set of plates to match which haven't been loaded in the kiln yet.

An unidentified weed ..trumpet vine ?

I had my morning hazelnut decaf cup of coffee with this porcelain mug which brought memories of some kind of weed I yanked out of my garden a thousand times this past summer. The botanical name escapes me now and so does the generic name for that matter. Another cup of coffee and I'll get remember...hopefully. Okay, so now my boyfriend, Joe, tells me that this is a trumpet vine. As a biologist, he's probably right but I just don't associate this with the vine without the trumpet shaped flowers. Better than calling it a weed.
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