Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Magnolia

Sometimes in life, when the going gets tough, the best way to cope is through distraction. Like the magnolia tree outside my window that captivates and pulls me into the moment; the tree that keeps on giving – never static and always beautiful throughout the year especially when it flowers in early Spring. Back from a nice weekend away in Maryland, I noticed that in just 3 days, the magnolia had fully bloomed and started dropping its flowers. Usually they last at least 2-3 weeks but the erratic temperature and late spring frost damaged the buds. Chalk that up to global warming. There I said it. On my drive down to MD, I heard an excellent interview with Johann Hari on NPR who just wrote an article that subject for ‘The Nation’, “The Wrong Kind of Green’ . An engaging speaker, Johann takes mainstream environmental groups to task for selling out their principles, often in exchange for money from the worst polluters. And he doesn’t mince words advising us Prius driving green bag toting recyclers that we are better off directing our conservation energies by joining a Green activist group. One more worthy cause to add to my ‘to do list.’

Back to my magnolia – I did manage to salvage some flowers, put them in a vase and plaster cast a few firm ones as part of my ‘favorite garden plant’ memory series. Tomorrow I’ll cast some yellow forsythia and purple vinca flowers to complete the set of porcelain plates I’ve been working on. Oh wait, there's that lilac tree in my yard set to flower in June and the wisteria vines loaded with buds, and the wild violets popping out from the ground, and the dandelions... well they might be difficult to cast. It's been awhile since I've had my hands in clay and this magnolia slab plate was a good way to get reacquainted with the slab roller. The plaster mold is still slightly soft but I couldn't wait any longer. Making plates with ultra thin slabs of porcelain is always a challenge in the drying and firing process, so I’m trying Matt & Dave’s new Cone 6 porcelain clay which promises to defy the cracking and warping traits I loathe about porcelain. Will post the results after the bisque firing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

'Wilson' porcelain bowl

Inspired by everyday objects around my house, this is a cast of my son’s basketball made in porcelain and glazed in his favorite color. For fun and memories, I made molds of some of his discarded balls that were lying under bushes and in the woods in my backyard. Actually, this basketball is the template and inspiration for many of the bowls I've made. So, I've decided to name this series of porcelain bowls, "Wilson". Does anyone remember that from the movie 'Castaway' with Tom Hanks?

I'm heading to Maryland for Easter weekend and will be posting more on this series next week.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The ambidextrous brain

Oh, how I wish this was a blog post with a picture of new work in progress. Rather than my dog Riley relaxing near two ailing Macs splayed open on the floor. Prepped and ready for a few hours of clay making earlier this week; remnants of dried clay and glaze wiped from the workspace, clean tools, a bag of new porcelain ready to be used - all was right in the world. Until my trusty five year old Mac laptop which streamed hours of endless music from Pandora failed me. Fortunately, it wasn’t the hard drive, but the internal AC port (the thingy that powers and charges the laptop) that was shot. Ever since I dropped it at an airport last year, it’s been a dance of jiggling the power cord just so – to keep it powered.

It was clear; no music, no art. The day of reckoning had come to fix it for good. Shifting from right brain to left was not in the plans. Nor was the delicate task of performing microsurgery on a laptop. Especially one that requires an entire toolkit to remove a hundred or so miniature screws of varying sizes known to mankind. The logical solution was to perform a transplant: remove the hard drive and install in a spare (problematic but fixable) laptop. Normally, in situations like this I’ll advise my clients, mostly artists, to just buy a new laptop and be done with it. In the long run it will save everyone much time and expense to start fresh. But, personally I hate to spend extra money on stuff that can be fixed by my hands… besides it was a challenge. As it turned out, the spare had the wrong blood type (hard drive connector) and I’m left to put everything back together and figure out which screws fit in which holes. Maybe I’ll just transfer the data from a backup and be done with it. And listen to an audio book or NPR in the meantime. Recently a client asked me, “How do you manage to be creative and technical at the same time - and what do people do without someone like you to fix their computer problems?” The first part of question was easy; most artists are problem solvers requiring the analytical left brain. The second part of the question left me thinking what you blogging artists do when technology fails. I wonder…..

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Glazing time!

The pets have been fed....
My daughter had breakfast and my son is still sleeping (he is a teen after all)
A quiet Sunday and it's glazing time!
Choose a color palette from the test tiles
Gather the pots
Start sanding
Prepare to mix the glazes
lather, rinse, repeat

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seeking Inspiration

I’ve been hit by Spring Fever of the worst kind. The past few weeks I’ve been staring blankly at shelves full of bisque ware begging to be glazed. It could be the buds blossoming on my favorite magnolia tree or the crocuses pushing up through the last remnants of melted snow. Or a bit too much left brain technology problem solving + a few warm sunny days = a serious case of 'glazers' block. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with glazes but my painterly technique and a heavy reliance on test tiles is very time consuming. I am envious of all the prolific ceramic artists/production potters whose blogs display shelves upon shelves brimming with pots of all sizes. Somehow they magically end up on Etsy perfectly finished.

So I asked myself, what is a blocked artist/procrastinator to do? Seek out inspiration! Looking for fresh ideas, I attended almost back to back exhibits at the New York’s Annual Armory Art Show (international contemporary art) the first week of March and the Architectural Digest Annual Show (Designer/Artisan home trade show) last weekend. Both were located in football field size loft like spaces at Piers 92 & 94 on 12th Ave in New York. Each show was unique and packed full of creativity, enough to get me motivated and...start glazing.

The top picture is a collage of selected pics from the Design Show I attended with Joe. He doesn’t like me taking pictures of him so I managed to grab a behind snapshot of him viewing the delicately carved wooden torsos. The bottom set is from the Armory show that I attended with my artistic daughter, Audrey (shown taking a picture of us in an artwork of mirrors). I was fortunate to run into my artist friend, Marilyn Dintenfass (Babcock Gallery) presenting her new collection of beautiful color saturated abstract prints. Passing one of my favorite actresses, Glenn Close, appreciating the art was quite thrilling as well. Wish I had the nerve to tell her much I love her role in 'Damages'.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring can't come soon enough

As predicted, the torrential rains slammed the NYC metropolitan area last weekend (roughly the equivalent of 4 ft. of snowfall). I was relieved to see the final clumps of snow melting away the memory of the massive snowstorm that hit the East coast a few weeks back and took out the power of some 250K families in the Hudson Valley. ­ Three days of no power, water, and heat in freezing weather was an eternity. Had I been alone perhaps I’d have managed but with two sullen teenagers in a house without Internet/TV, conjured scenes from the 'Shining' with 'REDRUM' scrawled across the walls. The barely used backup generator in my backyard failed me because the mice took over and ate through the gas line. My lazy cats looked at me like 'what did we do wrong and where's my food BTW?' A much planned and anticipated weekend away at the Philadelphia Flower with Joe got cancelled as he drove up to my rescue. Wading through 2 ft. of snow, my kids and I shoveled feverishly but got nowhere. We finally gave in to the futility of it all, tossed aside our shovels, and fell flat on our backs laughing that exhausted uncontrollable giddy laugh. You had to be there. Or not. In the end, we all survived.

I did learn a few things:

  • Did you know that 5 gallons of snow equals 1/2 gallon of water when melted?
  • That snow makes your hair nice and shiny in a gummy kind of way?
  • You can crush coffee beans quite efficiently with a meat mallet
  • Prevent freezer food from thawing by packing in plastic storage containers under two feet of snow
  • Snow is the pefect backdrop for photographing pottery

Most importantly extended periods of no power can test your mental reserves and the only ones who will save this planet are blue collar workers because they know how to effortlessly handle a chain saw and get the job done without complaint...

And speaking of blue, that indescribable color inside a pile of shoveled snow is otherworldly. But I’m looking forward to the pale green color or newly formed leaf buds.

Spring can¹t come soon enough....

Friday, March 12, 2010


Sooo I figured if I waited until after St. Patrick’s Day, it would be exactly 3 whole months since I’ve updated my blog. My, how time flies when you’re busy. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading the many interesting pottery blogs in wonderment and slight guilt that I’ve neglected my writing. A few standout blogs come to mind: ‘The Traveling Potter’ Linda Starr’s musings about life and clay on the road in her RV, Heather Knight’s move to a co-op studio packing her lovely botanical and seashell inspired porcelain pieces, Kitty Shepherd’s stories of life in Spain and England while cranking out museum quality ceramic art, Whitney Smith’s lessons on the business of Art, and so many more potters writing about life as an artist and making really beautiful work. How do they balance their art making and blogging I wonder. On a personal level, so much has happened that I needed time to go offline, retrench, shift gears and prepare for some changes ahead; many of which I’ve been dragging my heels along the way as time marches on. There have been ups and there have been downs. But it has triggered a fast and furious creative spell pushing me forward in my clay making venture. Biding time as I prepare to move residence this summer, I decided to make the most of the situation, clean up my basement and convert it into a studio. Then I purchased about 300 lbs of Helios porcelain from Highwater Clays in North Carolina (which in itself is a story), then my very supportive beau, Joe, bought me a used portable AIM test kiln for experimenting with glazes.

Tired of bartering for the use of a kiln, I set out to purchase a larger used kiln but couldn’t find anything within a 100 mile radius through Craigslist and turned my efforts into researching the perfect digital kiln. I got a real sweet brand new 4.4 cubic feet L&L E28S-3 Easy fire kiln 22-3/8" Diameter by 18" high in January. Nervous about the expense, a potter friend told me, “you have to spend money to make money’. As luck would have it, an IT consulting gig covered the cost while Bailey’s Ceramics had special pricing on the kiln with free delivery. Meaning that FED EX dropped it off the bottom of my driveway the eve of a rainstorm and my kind electrician, Tony saved the day by towing all 500 lbs of it up a few hundred feet into my garage where he ultimately wired and installed it just right. Through trial and error and adjusting the thermocouples, it’s been working great as I’ve finally overcome the fear of firing my own kiln. I’m busy working on a few lines of functional ceramic art pottery and plan to set up an Etsy shop by the end of this month – if all goes well that is. As all potters know, there are disappointments and successes in the whole firing process and the pictures I’m posting are some of my favorites. With less than 100 lbs. of the creamy Helios left, I am itching to try out a 30 lb sample of 'The Coup' Cone 6 porcelain I ordered from Matt & Dave Clays which promises to be gentler and less temperamental than most. Told ya I've been busy. More pictures in the next post.

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.
Related Posts with Thumbnails