Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting Ready for a Vacation

Strong Frost Needles
Race Dave and I are heading off on vacation for about 10 days on Monday, with a friend giving us a ride to the Cassidy airport and the dogs off to the Kennel. The cat and house are being babysat and I have stopped throwing pots that would need to be trimmed or turned around while I am gone. I am always a little nervous before we go away and I struggle to decide whether I should take my knitting with me as carry-on and risk having it taken away as a potential weapon or pack it as checked baggage and make sure it gets there.

We are going away to ride a lot of bike! Training Dave is in need of a lot of hours of riding in the last two months of useful building up in overall prep for ir0nman st george (the place without coffee!!!!) My job while away is to run all the maps and figure out where bike dave is going and how he can get there, where he is with a flat tire and an empty stomach, or soaked without a jacket. I also have to find good lunch and snack foods that we can eat in the forest or volcano or wherever we find ourselves. He has also found another person that wants to ride some big miles so I will support them both. I also am taking the camera and sketch book, the knitting, the swimsuit and beach towels and a few books that I have yet to read.

This last week in the studio has been again tearing as the last day to throw before the trip already passed and the gallery and glaze room were both FULL of bisqued pots that needed glaze but I didn't have the cobalt carbonate that I needed to finish the 10,000 gram that I had made last week. So, I did what any desperate person would do, I glazed enough pots for a glaze load (by eye) and wiped them and set them to dry overnight so that this morning I could (hopefully, by some magic) the cobalt came in the mail then I could add it, sieve the whole batch, dip a few test pots and then put them into the top of the kiln so the glaze could be tested without having to ruin a lot of pots if the glaze needs tweaking.

The reason I don't know what will happen with this glaze is because it is the fix I was working on to try to fix the really uneven storm blue. I built a 10kg batch of the last blue that worked for me into the blue that wasn't working and then by crazy inspiration, I added a packet of an old mason type stain to the double batch to see what happens. Usually I am very careful to follow my recipes exactly so this is a huge (small, really) departure from things for me and it means that I will have to test this new glaze once it is fired for dishwasher and food-safety before unleashing it on the public, assuming it turns out visually appealing.

I also made the decision today to glaze some pots that have been sitting around in the studio for over a year. They were made by a student who took a few lessons and then bought a wheel right away and then found it difficult to sustain. It is my strong opinion that a person must be completely infected with the clay bug before you will shift all your priorities to accommodate pottery. I tell all my students that it is best to start slowly and once they are centering well and pulling up walls with confidence I offer them studio time at a reduced rate to practice. The really fun part for me is that I am forced outside to work in the garden for that hour, which I spent two and a half hours doing yesterday!! There is still a large patch of grass in the garden and I would really like to get more dirt a bit later in the spring, the garden mix here has a lot of sand in it and that works beautifully with my clay based soil.

Well, I'm off to a knitting night as a friend's house with another friend and when I get home the kiln should be almost done the slow glaze cycle and if I leave the downdraft fan on I could open the kiln and check out the new glaze sometime tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

crap wholesale show screws artists

click on the link to read about a wholesale show that has gone out of it's way screw ALL the crafters and artists in the eastern part of this country!! (canada, that is)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Long Ride and a Warm Lunch

I am working today on fixing the blue glaze that has been aggravating me for the last few months. It doesn't cover evenly and is incredibly sensitive to the moisture in the bisque from the first dip. I am going to make a X100 Factor batch into the glaze tub of blue with the recipe that worked very well for the last few years. I am going to start with a little less water and make some small pieces up in the glaze to see how it is working.

I went out to Franziska's for lunch, it was around 19kms out there on the bike and took around an hour 10, I left early not knowing how long it would take so I got there a little early and enjoyed some time working on the fire in the wood stove. We talked and laughed for a few hours over a wonderful soup and roasted veggie quesadillas and then over the wheel. I tried to help out by showing her my system to center "through" the clay and then had to leave to ride home while there was still light out. She lives way out of town and without any lights the gravel and seal-coated road was a little scary. The light on my bike is quite useless for showing the way but makes it easier to see me on the road.

The sunset was the most silly colour of rosy fuscia pink and spilled over the mountain I was riding around. I made it home in under an hour as her description of the way to her house as 'up hill all the way' was bang on and therefore, downhill all the way home.

I ended the day by trimming and handling a little group of tea bowls after a really hot shower and then slept like a dog.

Well, back to the glaze room and finally today I am going to glaze all 109 bisque pots that are all carefully waxed and organized taking up all the room in my gallery and glaze room, photos to follow!! talk soon. H

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

turn over a new photo

I am thinking of having a very talented photographer take some photos of my work. I have taken some shots myself, with varying degrees of success and have posted them on my bcpg profile. I have thought about it before but it is really hard to nail down which pots would best represent the wide diversity of my work.

But, that is just half the battle, the other half is to find a great photographer that can really see my work, it's shape and colours and make it look like it actually looks when it is in your house! I can't stand all those shots that make the pot look like it is floating in outerspace, presumably just having arrived. I want the pots to look like they should be embraced, cuddled almost, like a close stone friend.
Above is a shot Kurt Knock ( ) took (with careful dave driving) of me with my trailer loaded for the Market. I need to think about costs per photo and which pots would represent me and my pots over the long term. There is a recipe book of the food prepared at Whitewater and those photos are the ones that I really love!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Plaster Batts with one pailful of clay

This photo is of the two batts that I made using a very plain slump mold made of clay covered with a sheet of plastic and some clay sides. The mold only lasted a few minutes but two batches of plaster were just right to make the batts I needed. The most important aspect of the batts is that they are concave so any really runny clay doesn't end up running all over while you are spreading it.

One pailful of the settled old throwing water (skimmed of clean water a few times) with the dry trimmings mixed in and let to soak, is the perfect amount for these two batts. I leave the clay out overnight in the rainy season as the plaster can only absorb water to a maximum and then lift the clay off the next morning. It sits in the damp cupboard overnight with the day's thrown pots. During the summer it is very dry here and a really dry plaster batt can pull the water out of the reclaim in about half an hour.

Just make sure the those plaster batts are NOT TOUCHING anything organic like wood, canvas, or any surface that could absorb water because this underside is a great way to rot things quickly. I pressed little clay feet into the wet plaster and it worked really well. Also, a nice place to dry the batts is around (but not on top of ) your kiln while it fires, or at the mouth of the exhaust fan if you are using one.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The 3 Pail~No Sink Studio

I will try to explain the three pail studio system that is very neat, tidy and efficient, without a sink and the clogs that go along.

First, I'll start with a few reasons why anyone would want to have a studio without a sink.

{1} Most studios have a sink which gets plugged regularly.

{2} If a studio has a sink that isn't getting clogged with lots of clay it probably has a nifty clay trap that smells like a few rats have died inside it that requires emptying

{3} I once spent an entire day in the concrete pit that was used to settle the clay from the pottery water in the Mt. Royal College pottery room (it was like being thigh deep in decomposing skin mixed with the slimiest clay on earth.....actually that was exactly what it was like plus a scratch and sniff bonus)

{4} If there is a working clay trap in your sink, the builder of that trap is probably the only one who is willing or able to deconstruct it (despite the rancid STANK), clean and rebuild it.

{5} Say the sink doesn't seem to clog at all, it just gets a little slow now and then, so you use a little drain cleaner and it goes away..........away is actually not a place, it is going to settle out somewhere and the public sewer system doesn't need ANY of the clay that you just paid 25$-35$ a box for....for some very far away people to dig out of the ground, process, blend, wet, mix, pug, bag, box, ship, and store (warm) until you fork over the cash for it!

Another way to look at it is that the three pail system keeps all of the dry trimmings in play while making use of the thick throwing water that shows up at the end of a very satisfying day at the wheel. It also means a very small amount of wedging to do on any given day (at the most a pailful).

Pail 1 is the clean water.

Pail 2 is the throwing water.

Pail 3 is the settling pail.

Each morning I use a sponge to skim the clean water off yesterday's throwing water pail and the settling pail and put it back into the clean water pail. The throwing sludge is then added to the settling pail and left to sit for a day or two. As you trim pots regularly all of those trimmings will be added to the settling pail damp (leather or cheese hard) or dried out on a batt for a day and then added to the settling pail. This mixture of thick 'slippy' water and trimmings are left to sit.

The next morning you start the same way, sponging the water off both the throwing pail and the settling pail (with the trimmings) and then the settled gooey clay mass is turned out onto a plaster batt to dry. The two or three day process time of this system makes for a non-horrid sludge pail smell. Once the mucky clay is dry enough to handle, simply wedge up (or pug) and use as any other clay. For anyone interested in the microscopic details; the slip has very small particles of clay (too fine for solid throwing clay body alone) and when you mix all the trimmings back into it the combination is closer to the original composition and throws and fires just fine.

The other benefit of this three pail system is that there is a LOT less water wasted as the clean water you used for cleaning up (wheel/tools/canvas) yesterday is used to throw tomorrow by putting the settled and skimmed water from throwing into the settling pail that you emptied of gooey clay earlier.

This system works beautifully even if you have a few pails of throwing water from a really busy day or a few friends making a mess of the water, simply leave the throwing water in the pails it is in and sponge off the water in a few days when it has separated and put it in the settling pail. If you find that you have a little more water to reclaim than trimmings, simply allow your trimmings to dry out completely (by a heat source or in the sun) and then add them to the settling pail dry.

Also, trying to have a low spot in the settling pail where you push the trimmings down a bit will tend to collect the water more quickly and it is easier too sponge off. This also works well for the casual studio user as longer drying and settling time (while you are away) tends to remove more water.

I have added a photo of my three pail system but my camera skills are quite limited! Try this system out for yourself, it is brilliant with no piles of scraps and no horrid stinking sludge pails or the dreaded waste of clay that you are paying over a dollar a kilo for!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

a september photo of the computer showing 2999 kms

I have no idea who reads my blog other than my sister and father-in-law (which is kinda funny calling him that because he was actually with law enforcement for about 40 years) but for any others I wonder if you are married. I think about being married a lot, what it means to me and how it effects my life as an artist (small 'a' artist, but i digress). I wonder what it would be like to be married to an artist (not another potter of course because we'd starve to death) and then one day nurse dave and I are getting a new bike computer because mine broke (don't worry I had recorded that i was at 3482 kms before it died) and then we are across the parking lot in the music store, ironically called that because you can't actually buy recorded music there, and regular dave is at the piano playing 'Fur Elise'. The music store guy yells over that no one is allowed to play that particular song unless they can play the whole thing so he continues.

And that was it, all at once I was indeed married to an artist. My parents had called us about a zillion years ago when we lived in Calgary and had asked if we could drive up to Prince George to help them out with some light renovations on the house they had shared buying with my sister and her tiny son eons before that. We thought it would be fun and who doesn't love a full day of driving in a two seater MR2, in mid winter, up to norther BC, with almost no heat (the motor is in the back) and a 53lb border collie on your lap.

We did the 'timmies trip', just stopping for coffee at every timmies so we could to make it as short as possible, while one of us was in getting the coffees and snacks the other was letting the dog walk around. Of course, Pep the 53lb border collie, would only stand up--at attention with face pressed to the windshield, never sitting or resting or lying on the floor (!) for the entire ~12hour drive! My in-laws can vouch for this situation as we asked them to take care of the old dog while we worked at the YMCA for the summer and he quite literally took over their whole motor home even kicking someone off their seat for a better cockpit!

Anyways, Dad was recovering from a radical prostatectomy and needed a little help with some renovation finishing touches like stippling the ceiling downstairs, painting the stairs and railing to the top floor, tiling the kitchen, replacing the sink and plumbing in the kitchen, making the bathroom stop leaking and painting the upstairs bedrooms.

We were there for a three or four days and worked as much as we could. Handy dave and I went to a pub to watch the 'flames game' and when he jumped up cheering as they scored everyone around us in the BC pub just looked shocked as the flames were playing the canucks! Whoops! We thought we might get beat up or asked to leave, but all ended well.

The point of my historical family story is that a few months back Mom and Dad sold the old house and decided to give a little money to all the kids who had helped them look after the house for all those years. I decided to split the money with piano dave right there in the music store, that doesn't sell music, and we brought home the digital piano. It has nice balance (which i think means that the keys are hard to press down?!?!?) and the sound is 'nice for a digital'.

Now, after all these years, husband dave is sitting at the piano trying to learn new music that looks like some alien language to me and is swallowing huge clumps of time totally focused on just one thing, that is not the tv. This must be what it's like to live with someone who can sit downstairs and trim tiny bowls for three hours and then come up to tell you that their but has fallen asleep and they can't understand why!

Once again our marriage has turned a corner and changed completely. I have absolutely no idea what he sees when he reads the music, no idea how he can possibly hit the notes without looking at his fingers, how it is possible to try the same thing over and over again, how he can focus solely on one group of notes for such a long time and how he could have gone so long without a piano if he is THIS good at playing one!

Well, there it is a short story of my regular life, possibly more interesting than the pottery goings on which only entails throwing three wonderfully light teapot bodies and lids yesterday, installing a new door knob downstairs and saying that I will get started on my year end books (which had not yet occurred) Oh, and a dear friend of ours came over this morning and did a photo shoot of my pottery hauling bicycle and trailer. We did a bunch of action shots where he was (?) seat belted in and all doors and windows were closed and arms inside the vehicle at all times. I will put up a picture of two when I get them. He has sold some of his photos from the walls of Coffee on the Moon who graciously allows artists and "A"rtists to hang art there free of charge.....even if they sell a few items. Thanks, Dan, although I am sure he doesn't read my blog, happy artist love out into the world to you anyway!! Thank you.