Friday, December 17, 2010

Pitfiring, Interrupted

Foiled by the weather ! I was all ready for a pit-firing today in Alpine. I had to work hard and fast to have 8 pieces ready for bisquing on Tuesday. Fired the kiln on Wednesday. Took the pots out on Thursday. And...big storm is moving in all over California. In fact, rain started as I am typing. Blahhhh !
It was going to be my first pit-firing, I was so looking forward to it ! Now I have to wait until after the end of year festivities...
Well, I have my pieces ready, at least. I followed instructions by Linda Keleigh in Watkins and Wandless's book "Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques". They were intriguing, but guaranteed a smooth finish. Basically, I quickly sanded the pieces, then applied baby oil all over, let them dry a few minutes and wipe them with a humid sponge. I used a river stone to burnish the pieces. That took forever ! Once burnished I applied a layer of terra sigillata and buffed the pots. They were shiny and pretty ! Even after the bisque at cone 08 they maintained their shine, though they don't feel as smooth.
Now the wait...
Burnished, Bisqued and Ready !

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sunday Raku Firing

I finally had a chance to take some good pictures of my last Raku firing. I am so happy I can fire so often, weather has been good to me. Cold enough that the neighbors keep their windows shut, yet sunny for an enjoyable day. Even though I am using a portable Raku kiln, it is still a lot of work to set up. Moving refractory bricks to a good spot, carrying all the reduction materials, bringing out the 30-lbs gas tank...I don't set up unless I have enough pieces to do at least three firings.
I had seven pieces to fire on Sunday. Four were a variant on the Euclidian series that I prefer to Raku. They are wheel-thrown then altered by folding parts of the vessel unto itself. It breaks the symmetry of the circle to provide an interesting shape for further design. In the four pieces below, I tried to take away the vision of a ceramic vessel by imparting a more metallic quality, especially copper, or a leathery finish. Finish is what appeals to the eye, it is important to spend time on it until you are satisfied with your design. Those four pieces turned out great !   

Copper and Black Leather Vessel

Copper and Mother of Pearl

Brown and Black Leather Vessel

Buttoned Up !

Three other pieces were more Naked Raku experiments. I wanted to try out terra sigillata on a piece before applying the resist slip. At this point I only had bisqued pots (cone 08) available, so I took three and lathered them with terra sig, buffed them a bit then applied the slip resist, followed by the glaze, all in several days to allow proper drying between applications. To make it more interesting, I even spent an extra hour or two carving bamboos on one. And on into the kiln ! Well, let's just say my sophomore debut wasn't as successful as the first try. Call it beginner's luck I guess. This time around the eggshell did not fall off as expected. At all in fact ! I ran the kiln a bit hotter than I should have, trying to get a handle on that "orange peel" texture that indicates the pot is ready. I suspect I did not apply a thick enough coat of slip resist, as well. Scraping off the eggshell was a huge ordeal ! I vowed countless times not to repeat the same mistakes, among other expletives ! I mustered enough courage to unveil the bamboo vessel, but I stopped short at the second vessel after injuring myself with the metal rib/scrapper. Oddly enough I like that second pot. The picture is almost indecent, as if we were peeking at an intimate moment of undressing. Here I thought I failed miserably and wasted a nice pot. But I guess failure may just be a matter of perspective. There is beauty and art in that second piece, because it elicited a response, an emotion in me. Beside anger at myself, of course :)  

Bamboos Unveiled

Caught in the Act of Undressing

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shows, shows, shows !

Another sign of the Christmas holidays approaching: crafts and arts shows and ceramics studio sales are keeping the holiday shoppers busy every weekends.

On Friday night, I was at Clay Associates' opening night for their December studio sale. A nice crowd of people showed up to get first pick on the Associates new work. All senses were pleased, with complimentary food, beverages, and live music. A great way to spend the evening ! I went back on Monday to have a quiet tour and check out the work by students. Oh and I picked up a bowl by Eric Wood, I had my eye on it since the opening. Lucky me, it was still there!
Some of my work is for sale at Clay Associates until Dec 19th. Porcelain teapots, big platters, decorative vases. Some Dry Earth orchid pots. Some new Raku pieces (bottles, folded vessels, jars). The Raku work is selling quick, half of it was gone by Monday ! I have more at home though. My door is always open for a private tour !

On saturday, I got up early to go to a small but incredibly well attended art show, the 47th Annual Winter Carmel Valley Artists Show and Sale, at Karl Strauss Brewery Gardens in Sorrento Valley. Was it the myriad of fine craft offerings, or the complimentary finger food and mimosas that drew the crowd ? Likely both. It was packed and people were pleased, shopping and sampling to their heart's content. Two of my fellow potters were there with their collection. I managed to say hello and snap a few pictures between customers. Great job, Cindy and Karen !

Cindy Teyro's whimsical ceramics

Karen Fidel's display
I love her fishes !