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 !
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!