Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Raku with Merle

After weeks of unusually wet San Diego weather, I was finally able to take the Raku kiln out yesterday. I could not wait to try out some new Raku glazes from Fired Up with Raku by australian artist Irene Poulton. So much so that my test tiles were ready last Thursday ! I was practically on standby, waiting for a perfect alignment of weather and schedule. Here comes Monday!
My friend Merle joined me at the last minute. She did such a good job at glazing her pieces that I am making this post just for her. The simple use of a basic white crackle glaze can be very powerful. Notice how the cracking pattern complements the shape and gives the object an instant personality. Her pieces have rather thin walls, which promotes more cracks to appear from thermal shock. The lids came out of the kiln first, followed by the pendants, then the three vessels. Because the latter were exposed to cool air much longer than their lids, they developped big fat cracks all over the thin walls. The insides are covered with smaller, finer cracks (inside cools slower than the outside).

Raku Box
White Crackle, Glossy Copper Sand

Raku Box
White Crackle, Glossy Copper Sand

Raku Vessel
White Crackle, Green Crackle (buttons)

Face Pendants
White Crackle, Green Crackle
And yes, my test tiles turned out pretty good overall. Some glazes are keepers, soon to decorate some new pots I have waiting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jim Romberg: Clay is his Canvas

For our first Raku workshop on March 13th, I introduced Paul Soldner's "halo" technique, utilizing Jim Romberg's white engobe recipe he demonstrated at the Phoenix workshop last month. I even showed the results on some bottles I fired in Phoenix. The technique strikingly highlights brush marks or other designs with a soft halo on a black background. I particularly love the effect, it is subtle but effective.

Jim is using the technique implicitly in his own artwork. Never at the forefront, it is however present in many of his designs as another effect in his layering of glazes, engobes, and oxides. I had the amazing opportunity to see him demonstrate his design technique on a plate.

Tall vase by Jim Romberg

Signature Plate

To aid in his work, Jim has accumulated over the years a huge collection of brushes, both commercial and handmade. The latter is a whole tale in itself (and Jim likes to talk !), so let's just say that skunks and other furry animals gave a few of their tails for Jim's cause. I have to admit they hold the engobes and oxides quite well and they slide on the clay very well. Gonna have to look in the canyon in the backyard one of these days...

A true collection of brushes

Jim always starts with a white foundation using his "dry engobe" recipe. The layer is thin but enough to cover imperfections in the clay. Though white, the unglazed engobe will absorb the smoke during postfiring reduction and turn black. The engobe quickly dries, thus setting up a clay canvas for Jim to work on. Watching him create patterns is fascinating. It is quite obvious that he is seeing the final product as he is laying down masking tape, oxide layers and brush marks. For us it looked raw and intriguing. I wish I had a picture of the final plate, post firing. Everything showed off quite nicely, and he refused to sell the piece.

50/50 iron/copper oxides application
Lungs of steel !
Knowing when to stop !

Decorating a plate was only a small part of what Jim demonstrated at the workshop. But it had a huge impact on my approach to Raku design. There is definitely more to Raku than just glazes, and it takes a true artist like Jim to combine the basic ceramic building blocks and create abstract works of art. It was an extraordinary lesson, thank you Jim !

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our March Raku Workshop: a Fun-Filled Sunny Day at the Studio

The dust is finally settling at Gets Centered Studio. It was a long day, filled with lots of glazing and multiple Raku frings. Our attendees left exhausted, cluching their lovely pots with a big grin on their faces. Lee and I are proud of our class ! They were all troopers, so eager and willing to try new techniques. Everyone was having fun, and that really made our day. Good job and thank you everyone for making today so special ! That includes you, Elly, our wonderful host at Gets Centered Studio.
Now, I'll let pictures speak and share our day.

The graduating class
L. to R.: Ruth, Rose, Yanna, Alice, Myra 

So many choices !

Caught in a creative act

Kiln loaded

Lee demonstrating the horsehair technique 

Myra dancing around her pot

Yanna is doing a great job !

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A big Thank You to the Spanish Village Art Center !

This morning was their semi-annual jurying to become of a member of the Spanish Village Art Center. It is quite the affair. Application with photos of work, proof of residency, character references, art background, etc...On the day of the jurying, submission of 5 pieces to be judged on presentation, originality, design, consistency, and technique. One hour to set up, then leave and come back 4 hours later to find out the jurors' marks and your acceptance/rejection letter in an envelope.

Yes, I got in ! What a relief ! I wasn't particularly stressing over it, but I did spend a fair amount of time figuring out the right pieces to display, arranging them in different patterns, adding small decoration elements,...The fear of rejection is always present, no matter how cool you are. So yes, I was a bit nervous.
But, the best part of this ordeal was reading the comments of the jurors. It is incredibly useful to get feedback from professionals and veterans. So I am really grateful the jurors we had this morning took the time to fill out the comments section along with their marks. Yes, it is priceless.

Now that the jurying is done, and passed, here come the real responsabilities of being a SVAC artist. I am looking forward to them though, this is a new and exciting experience. Yes, the destination is still undefined, but I am totally enjoying the ride.

Display for the jurying