Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Holidays !

white lichen glaze on dark clay

Now that the San Diego Pottery Tour is behind me, things are slowing down to a crawl at the studio. I managed to make several simple pieces for a barrel firing in January. They will be drying while I vacation away from home for the holidays. I am leaving the heavy burnishing for later. It's such a chore, but it's so worth it that I drag myself to do a good job of it. No short cuts. The feel of the soft, velvety texture of terra sigilatta on a well burnished pot is to me simply priceless. My customers are always amazed how smooth the vessels are. Hours of elbow grease, that's the secret !
So before I dive back into burnishing pots, Raku-ing new creations, or concocting new glazes, I will enjoy a well deserved me-time under the hawaiian sun. Any potters out there from Hawaii who would like to show me their studios ? Truly I can never hang my potter hat :)

Happy safe holidays to all ! Joyeux Noel et bonnes fetes de fin d'annee ! Best wishes for 2012 ! NCECA Seattle in March !!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Annual San Diego Pottery Tour

Pierre, Merle, and Danae in front of Danae's studio
It was a big success ! One of my best shows this year. I am so thankful to be a part of this show. And everyone coming by the studio absolutely loved the idea of the pottery tour. Eleven locations spread around San Diego with 20+ potters. People had the leisure to plan their tour in two days. Some customers said they were starting on the East side and moving westward in a methodical fashion. Some were hopping around in a given area. Others had planned their trips based off the pictures on the gorgeous brochure designed by Richard Burkett or the related website, wwwsdpotterytour.com.

It was an incredible opportunity to reach out to new people and promote our local ceramics community. I enjoy talking to my customers and explain my craft, tell them how I make my pieces, what inspires me, the troubles I run into and how I solve them. Danae told me I am very animated when I talk about pottery. All I can say is that pottery is a passion and it shows. My only wish is that I can pass it along.

So I am looking forward to next year. And maybe we'll have a special Mother's Day tour. It's always a popular time of year for art shows. Stay tuned !  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Brushmaking workshop with Glenn Grishkoff

The brushmaking workshop was a two-day event. The hands-on activities were preceded by a lecture and demonstration. Capturing Glenn in the "moment" was precious. No inhibitions, simply a flowing stroke.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tis the Season....of workshops !

October was a busy month, and I am not talking shopping for a Halloween costume ! San diego saw a myriad of ceramics-oriented activities across the county and beyond, including several exhibit openings, like the San Diego's Craft Revolution at the Mingei Museum, or the COVA Invitational Exhibition at the San Diego Art Institute. So many things to see but so little time. I finally made my way to both exhibits today, and I was blown away by the quality and originality of the work. Some of the artists at COVA are friends and seeing their pieces on display, under bright light, made me appreciate the details and craftsmanship they put into it even more. The Mingei, as always, did a wonderful work at rendering the vibe and feel of the Craft era that swept Southern California in the 50s through the 70s. I was amazed by the wonderful woodwork on display, notably some very curvy furniture and a huge pendulum clock. The ceramics were interesting, in a very much earthy kind of way. More focus on forms and details than on the glazes.

But October was also a month of workshops. I focused my attention on three.
1) Moldmaking at Palomar College with Peter Pinkus.
Making mold is unkown territory for me, so this was perfect. In 3 hour time, Peter demonstrated the use of a mold by making his trademark colorful designs on slipcast pieces, as well as preparing plaster and casting a mold. That was very nice of Palomar College ceramics department to open this free workshop to locals. From what I heard, the visit was paid by the sales of the student's work. Awesome !

2) Salt and soda firing at Francis Parker High School (CASD sponsored).
CASD sponsored another salt and soda firing at Steve Cook's ceramics studio. Much more hands-on than the workshop at Idyllwild. I got to spray soda ! What a rush !

3) Brushmaking workshop at Clay Associates Studio with Glenn Grishkoff (CASD-sponsored).
 "The brush both as function and art" was a titillating title for a CASD workshop, I had to check it out. Glenn came down from Palm Desert to teach us how to make our own brushes from scratch, mainly bamboo sticks, animal hair (as well as feathers and straw), and strings. It was fun, intense (hardly stopped for lunch), and greatly rewarding. I went home with 9 original brushes, with skunk tail, squirrel tail, moose hair, deer tail, horse mane, hackle feather, among other things. Now we need Glenn for another workshop, so we can use them !

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 San Diego Mudfest

First Saturday of October was San Diego's Mud Olympics ! No wrestling in the mud, no running in the mud, though quite a few faces and feet got covered in clay. It was a fun day for the young and old to play with clay, with absolute abandon. And it was quite the turnout.
Clay Artists of San Diego (CASD) organized the event in the courtyard of the Spanish Village in Balboa Park. Many of its members volunteered throughout the day, guiding, cheering and supporting the curious and the brave in handling and experimenting with clay, whether it was a one-on-one lesson on the wheel, a clay monster making class, a tile painting experience, or a clay competition, such as wheel throwing blindfolded or in tandem, wheel throwing the tallest piece, wheel throwing without hands, or the pinched teapot competition. Clay medals and small prizes were passed around. The event drew a big crowd, many local high school students with their teachers, local residents, and out of state onlookers strolling through Balboa Park. It was a real pleasure to see people's faces light up as they created their little clay monsters, or having an absolute blast throwing clay on the wheel for the first time (and getting clay everywhere in the process !).
CASD's mission is to promote clay activities in an educational and fun way, to make arts and crafts accessible to everyone. In that respect Mudfest was a total success. Good job CASD !!!

Blind-throwing competition

Kid lesson

One-on-one lesson with Anne

Clay monsters: not so scary !

Playing with clay is fun

"no hand" throwing competition

Pinched teapot tandem competition

Tallest thrown piece competition

Finding serenity with tile painting

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Exciting Raku Workshop !

September Class
Ron, Elly, Mark, and Linda
What a day yesterday ! This was our third Raku workshop at Gets Centered Studio for Lee and I, and it is turning into a well-oiled machine. All was set up in 30 minutes or so, while the students trickled in, giving an hand here and there. Many thanks to Mark for helping Lee with taking her big horse trough kiln out of her truck!
This time, our host Elly decided to join in the fun, donning her student hat. Though she knew what she was doing, with her glazing already planned, and she had no qualms taking her pieces out of the kiln.
It was very gratifying to have the September class willing to try out more than the standard Raku glazes. Ron committed himself entirely to Naked Raku, experimenting with white bodies and colored slip bodies. Mark touched a bit of everything. His horsehair vessel turned out a real beauty ! Linda was fascinated with the choice of metallic glazes and made them her focus.
Our class picture tells it all. Look a their big grins ! So happy to take home quality pieces. Or maybe it was the Gin and Tonic Ron brought along for our end-of-day happy hour ???!!!!

Next and final workshop for 2011 will take place on November 13th. A special alternative firing workshop: horsehair and naked Raku only ! For more info go to Gets Centered Studio website: http://www.getcenteredclay.com/.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

4th Annual San Diego Pottery Tour scheduled !

I am very excited to announce that the 4th annual San Diego Pottery Tour is now officially scheduled for December 3rd and 4th, 9am to 4pm on both days.

Originally organized by a few studios, SDPT expanded this year to 11 locations and over 20 ceramic artists. Established professional potters like the Cuzicks, Richard Burkett, Nan Coffin, and Eric Rempe are opening their home studios to the public. This is a unique opportunity to meet them and see where they work their magic. It is also a great opportunity to discover other local, and emerging artists, like myself!

So please mark your calendar for December 3rd and 4th. It is a self-guided tour of the wonderful world of local ceramics. It is free, and some of us potters are also excellent cooks and bakers. In case you need that extra incentive :)   

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Firing

Some of our work, cleaned up and waxed
Once again our dear friend Rose opened her home and her studio for a barrel firing. For our third firing, our little group welcomed Lee, another alternative firing enthusiast (and my regular Raku partner!). Lee was a well of information, gladly sharing her prepping tips, notably her recipe for her "no fuss terra sigillata". Under her direction, Rose, Myra, and Nancy chose the "baked potato" technique where pots are treated with copper sulfate and ferric chloride and wrapped up in aluminum foil with organic materials. The results are typically variations of light pink to orange to reds. I opted for newspaper wrapping, salt, copper sulfate/carbonate, and iron oxide treatment.
Watching us on that warm saturday afternoon, you'd think we were all old pros. Wood was separated in neat piles by sizes, along with pine needles and chemicals. Wares were all prepped in two hours. Loading barely took 30 minutes, alternating between kindling, pine needles, wares, and chemicals (iron oxide, copper carbonate, and salt). Firing was textbook, feeding it for an hour and a half, reaching 1500F at the top of the firing. We even managed to squeeze a refreshing swim in Rose's swimming pool.
Getting hypnotized by the dancing flames, while sipping wine or beer under the stars, was the highlight of my day. Orange, blue, green. The chemicals were working their magic. Until the fire died and hot coals covered our pots. Once the coals were a bit cooler, wet pine needles were poured on top followed by sawdust for a heavy reduction and slow cooling overnight. Probably the secret for some of the deep reds we get on our wares. Or was it the cheetos offerings Lee left for the kiln gods ???

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Show page has been updated !

Fall is turning into a busy season, just as I like it !

Starting with September, there are several events of note. First is an exhibit at the Serra Mesa library on Aero Dr. The library is brand new, with lots of place to sit and enjoy a book, a magazine, or the internet. There is a nice air-conditioned meeting room where Clay Artists of San Diego meets periodically. And the main library roon has two big cubic display cases reserved for local artists. I was honored to be on exhibit for September and October. It's my first solo exhibit, I am very excited about it !

Mid-month, I'll be celebrating my birthday at the Coronado Artwalk set at the Ferry Landing. My first time there as well. I was told it is a good show. They have been certainly nice to me, one of my pieces made it into the postcard. Here it is.

This Fall, I should teach 2 more Raku workshops. One is already scheduled for Sunday September 25. I think we have a spot for one more person. The second workshop should be in November. Lee and I decided to make it a special Naked Raku and Horsehair workshop. It is still at the preparation stage, so stay tuned for a date.

Finally, this last item is what I am most excited about. On December 3 and 4, several studios around San Diego will be orchestrating a special pottery studio tour, with a little over 20 artists displaying and selling their art directly to you. It is your chance to meet and talk to the artist, see where he or she works. Maybe you can even get an insider tour ! For this event, I will be teamed with Merle Lambeth and Danae Fasano Dehne, who is hosting at her house in La Mesa, a few blocks away from Gets Centered Clay Studio. Merle, Danae, and I are all excellent cooks and bakers, so expect good food to go with the ceramics :) Stay tuned for more as we get closer to the date.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First load in the electric kiln

Very, very pleased with it ! After several rounds of glaze testing, it was time to jump the shark and apply my favorites on real pieces. I have had my electric kiln for a while now, mostly bisquing for Raku projects. Now that I think of it, August is its one year anniversary !
I started out with some old porcelain pieces I had around, made with Hagi porcelain. It's a nice porcelain to handle. The test tiles I did with it all came out better than with the cone 5/6 stoneware, for some reasons.
One of my favorite glazes so far is this red yellow speckle glaze I picked up in Book of Glazes from Emmanuel Cooper. Absolutely stunning, with reddish/brown crystals on a light yellow satin background.
Another glaze I was excited to use was a manganese crystal glaze that I adapted from a cone 10 glaze, using Digitalfire Insight software. I made two variations and they both turned out like the cone 10 glaze we use in reduction gas firing at Clay Associates studio. The tiny crystals create a deep shiny surface with a dark chocolate hue.  Definitely a keeper !
The top and inside of the floral arrangement vase consist of a layer of a clear red/black glaze followed by a layer of a rutile glaze called broken pearl to give an opalescent tint to the piece. You can see that the glaze picked up a bit of iron by the blue breaks on the inside.
The clear red/black glaze is more of a clear honey color, as seen in the bowl set. Very consistent glaze. When thick it becomes a darker brown with light gold specks. Here the bowls were sprayed with a medium application. I added a medium spray of the spearmint glaze from Roy's Mastering Cone 6 Glazes book, mostly concentrated around the rim. The effect is more muted than I envisioned. I can try dipping the rim next time.

7" high porcelain bud vase;
electric, cone 6;
red speckle yellow glaze

6" high porcelain wide rim vase;
electric, cone 6;
red speckle yellow glaze

4.5" high x 7" wide porcelain floral vase;
electric, cone 6;
clear red/black glaze, broken pearl glaze,
 manganese crystal glaze

4.5" high x 7.5" wide porcelain bowl set;
electric, cone 6;
clear red/black glaze, spearmint glaze

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Some pieces from the Soda workshop

With a brand new Flotone graduated background, I am having all kinds of fun taking pictures ! I used some of my best pieces from the Soda firing workshop as a practice run. So now you finally get to see the end results of that amazing workshop (see post http://potterybypierre.blogspot.com/2011/07/back-from-idyllwild.html) !
The first two pieces were made at home, from cone 10 half and half stoneware. Both were glazed with a combination of flashing slips and cone 6 glazes. Interestingly, most of the cone 6 glazes at the studio were able to withstand cone 10 firing, with some great colors. The oxblood was amazing. By the way, that glaze is normally used in electric firings at cone 6-7. The 0.5% silicon carbide ingredient maintains a local reduction environment for copper in the glaze.

14" high vase; soda fired;
Celadon glaze, Avery flashing slip

11.5" wide bowl; soda fired;
Oxblood glaze, Yellow Mustard slip

The next two pieces were made during the workshop. Richard Burkett is a mug expert, I suspect he makes them in his sleep, his collection is endless. I usually don't make mugs, I quickly run out of patience when it comes time to make and attach the handles. So I was a bit apprehensive the first two days when most of the demos centered around mug making and decoration. I never made so many mugs in one day before ! Mug this, mug that, in all kind of shapes and forms. It was quite fun actually ! And Richard and Joe shared their techniques for quick fun shapes and no trimming. Suddenly, my fear was gone and I was enjoying myself. I think I see more mugs in my future.
Another element I discovered and embraced was the use of slabs and extrusion elements for sculptural pieces. I never used an extruder before. What was I thinking ? Pop in the clay, and here it comes out in multiple forms and shapes. So easy, so simple. It opened the door to another world of creativity. Now my studio must-have list is growing longer: extruder, slab-roller, more shelf space...That's a lot of mugs to sell, better get started now !

5" high mug; soda fired;
Matt Long's yellow flashing slip; Tenmoku glaze (inside)

16" high sculpture; soda fired;
Avery flashing slip; Mustard Yellow slip; Tiger Ash glaze;
frog: Green Soda slip 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back from Idyllwild

Hardly dropped my bags, I rushed in the studio and cleaned it all up! It took me the week-end, but dust is gone, extra stuff have been put away, chemicals and clay bags are now stowed away in brand new cabinets. Even got extra shelving with a plastic cover to store my greenware and bisqueware on the deck. All that to make room for more ! Crazy, isn't it ?

2011 class with Joe Molinaro and Richard Burkett
A week-long class of clay at Idyllwild will do that to you, believe me. I never worked so much in a studio in my life before. Sunday thru Friday, in at 8:30am, out by 11pm, with 30 min break for lunch, and 2hr for dinner. Forget Hot Clay, I've got a new name for the class, All Clay All Day ! Yeah !
First day was tough though. I had to get my bearings in unfamiliar territories. Get used to the wheel, the studio, the clay body in use for the class, the people around me. I am not used to the noise while I work, it was probably the toughest adjustment. But the next day I was relaxed and back into a creative mode.

Mugs mugs mugs !

Danae at the wheel

Merle burning the midnight oil

Ron rocking handles

Joe demoing slanting mugs

Richard explaining Soda firing
I have to credit our two instructors for that. Richard Burkett and Joe Molinaro are wonderful teachers, eager to share their knowledge, their techniques, their vision. Watching them demo-ing cups, handles, slabs, vases, teapots, double-walled vessels, among others, my brain went into overdrive. I had to try everything, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I was throwing and darting in my sleep ! And let's not forget slicing, stamping, extruding, rolling slabs. I learned so much about surface decoration and shape alteration, just that made the trip worth it.

Kiln loaded
David praying soda solution
Danae and Merle checking out the results

Pretty colors !
But it was a soda firing class after all. And we did manage to cram 5 firings in. Ah yes, soda, not salt. Salt kiln was not set up, booo. Joe, who fires only salt in Kentucky, was bummed too. Plenty to learn though. Several flashing slips to use. Glazes to discover. And on top of that the soda effect, unpredictable and capricious.
It sure was unpredictable. Firings were uneven in temperatures, with accidents (cone pack explosion, shelf breaking). Kiln was newly built, with little mileage. Its behavior was pretty much unknown. Consequently, I "lost" a fair number of pieces, close to 50% of them. Some got broken (bad shelf), underfired, overfired, overexposed with soda. But some turned out great ! So yes, I'll try soda again. The colors are warm, with a deep shine that makes the pieces pop. I undestand the attraction, it can become addictive.

Midweek potluck fun
(LtoR: Harriet, Eileen, Ron, Nancy, Deirdre, Merle, Danae)
Part of what made this class so fun was the people. Coming up with Merle, Danae, and Ron from Clay Associates, and sharing a house with them was a total hoot ! Starting with the house. Each bedroom had a theme, each one more outrageous than the other. Ron's Safari room topped them all, complete with a huge white tiger that shared the bed with Ron. Me, I slept with the fishes :) Two fish pillows on the bed, fishing gear on the walls, small bear in a corner, stuffed critter on the bed chest.  But the company was priceless. All cooks, we never went hungry. Or thirsty. Great wine selection from Danae, and a mean gin tonic from Ron. Both welcome after a hard day of clay.

Ron and his white tiger
The class had interesting people. Never a dull moment. My fave was Nancy, an 80-yo firecracker who had plenty of stories to share. Our two techs, David and Steven, were very nice and always ready to help, under the command of Terry, the department head. The week was capped at Terry's house for a potluck with all the students from the three ceramics classes. That was a great way to toast the end the week and say goodbye to some new friends we've made.
In summary, I am hooked. And I am eager to discover next Summer's program!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Getting ready for Idyllwild !!!

I am all giddy ! I cannot contain my excitment ! Every year the Idyllwild Arts department has a very busy Summer program, open to anyone. Ceramics is one of the subject, aptly called Hot Clay. I signed up back in February for a week long class on Salt and Soda Firing with Richard Burkett and Joe Molinaro. I kinda forgot about it until late May when I realized I had to bring a few bisqued pieces. One bisque load next week and I'll be ready !
Oh yeah, did I mention it is an entire week ?!!! Throwing, handbuilding, altering, stamping, firing...you name it. All clay, all day. And in an absolutely gorgeous setting too ! In the mountains overlooking Palm Springs, surrounded by conifers and pure air...I am ready to get dirty !
You know what, they may have some spots left. Go check it their website, you never know: http://www.idyllwildarts.org/summer.aspx

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Perfect time for another barrel firing - Part 3

...or two days later !!!

It actually took 24h for the embers to turn completely cold. Which means a very slow cooling period, allowing plenty of time for the colors to evolve before the final colors settle. For a 50-gal drum that's considerable. It must have been the wood. Go oak !
Of course, waiting for two days was excrutiating. One day is hard enough, but two raise the anxiety level a few notches."Are my pots intact?" "Did I get good colors?" "Did I get ANY colors?" After spending countless hours making, trimming, burnishing, prepping the pots, they become a piece of you, and the separation anxiety is simply killing you. You just want to be reunited so that you can spoil them with even more care and attention.
And so, on day 3, Nancy and I drove back to Rose's with mounting anticipation. Once there I practically dove into the barrels, picking out the pots gingerly for any signs of flaws. What a fool ! It was a perfect firing. I could already tell, under the layers of ashes, that the pots had wonderful colors. A quick rinse with water and a soft brush confirmed it. After drying the pots in the sun for an hour, we proceeded with a final waxing session, with a big smile on our faces. For a job well done.

Surprises in barrel #1

Surprises in barrel #2

Ashes all washed away

Final touch with love from Rose

Nancy loved her pieces

 And here my pieces, waxed up and ready for their close-up.

11"x6" Vase
copper sulfate, copper carbonate, red iron oxide,
salt, miracle gro

11"x6" Vase
copper sulfate, copper carbonate, red iron oxide
salt, seaweed

11"x3" Squared Vase
copper sulfate, copper carbonate, red iron oxide,
salt, copper mesh

7"x6" Vase
aluminum saggar, copper sulfate, ferric chloride, salt,
sugar, corn grits, wild rice, raffia