Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

This is from Barb Johnson at Chrysalis Pottery, forwarded to me by someone else.  I really like it, and wish it to you potters for this new year. And their equivalent to all others who work with our hands.

Hands and hearts seem to me close together. I love working with my hands. So far I have not been able to include housework in the pleasures of working with my hands, but maybe I'll get there too. Hands are our original tools and it pleases me especially when they prove to be the best pottery tool for a task. I do plan pots before and as I make them, but there is always a part of the process that goes through some path other than my intention. From heart to hand, bypassing brain?

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do We Own Pottery?

I'm thinking of violins, and other string instruments.

 If they are not broken or burned, they last for hundreds of years. We own them legally of course, buy them for money, insure them as property. But it doesn't feel like ownership really. We live with our instruments and are responsible for them. They pass through our hands and lives and on to others'. They outlast generations of us, we hand them on through chains of players. Good instruments gain in value, as they are played, or as antiques. They have their own histories and paths through time, far longer than ours. Maybe we belong to them.

So what about pots?

 They are much more "domestic", lower valued except for museum quality pieces. But they can have the same characteristic independence by longevity.  We hand on the family china to our children if they let us. We use these pots, connecting to their history with us. And then the material lasts for thousands of years. Unbroken, pots outlast memories, use, cultures; they become art or archeological artifacts,carrying different information to later people.

What does it mean to own things with "lives" of their own?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Like These!

Here's something new. It's not often a new idea works out this well, first try.

A wonderful glaze for texture, brown when it's thin and streaky tan when thicker. And I love the leafy pattern.

We've used these plates several times and find they are easy to wash, despite the texture.

And, no, the first time is not perfect; they warped in the firing. I made these just from a slab set in a plate as mold. I like thin pots, so these were thin slabs, and sagged.  I'll try again, raising the rim on the wheel, and hope it will have more structural strength. Here's a reminder that there is always more to invent and to learn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Are You the Potter Who is Giving Cups Away?

For a few months I have been making and giving away cups, in response to Ehren Tool's long-term project of making cups for/with veterans. He makes them with images from soldiers' combat memories and gives them away.  He is up to some 14000. I have made maybe 25, carved with a ubiquitous statement of his: peace is the only adequate war memorial.

 Just starting, and beginning to learn how people react to the offer of a cup. Besides giving cups to family and friends, I have offered them at 2 craft sales.

Most people seem to need an explanation, of the cup, or of the offer. They do not stand alone as a cup, a message, or an offer. Usually people want an answer to "why are you offering these?" Perhaps, in the context of selling, the gift is too odd to accept easily.

Some people have felt guilty at accepting something free, and have bought another pot from me, out of guilt rather than liking. I don't get it.

One woman returned later, having gone to her car to bring me a return gift, a lovely small book of Buddhist advice which she kept in the car for her use. I think that's fellow-feeling, not guilt. I appreciate it; I read it.

One man stayed to tell me at length what he does to support veterans. I'm very pleased; it was not at all clear to me that my project would be seen as supportive of anyone. 

So cups lead to conversation, and that seems to me a fine thing. Someone really did come by my booth at a sale, several hours after the cups were taken, to ask if I am the potter who is giving cups away. In some way these cups are an invitation to expand on the offer, to continue with whatever attracts people to them. I am reminded of one of the pleasures and products of these sales, an openness for me and the customers to what comes up, an availability, an invitation. It's not just selling, and not just the "stuff". I started making and offering cups because Tool's message and project spoke to me. Now I am seeing them attract other people in their own ways.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Upcoming Sales and Pots

Ready to think of Christmas presents? Ouch.

I'll be at 3 very different craft/art sales this month.

November 16-17 all day; a sale to raise funds for the ceramics program at ECC (community college branch), at Educational Cultural Complex near 805 and Imperial;
     very variable quality, including flower arrangements and potted succulent gardens, very low prices

November 19, 9-3, at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School near 805 and Balboa;
     a homey, friendly, not fancy craft sale

November 20,  Talmadge Art Show, 10-4, at the Liberty Station Conference Center;
     very classy craft products

Monday, October 17, 2016

And... A Flop

Sometimes it sure doesn't work.

This is by far the best of a batch of new pots. I do like it, form, glaze, weight, feel.

But it cracked, thoroughly. No use.

Now what? I think of  Edward de Bono's recommendation from years ago, to "do a PMI". It means "plus", "minus", "interesting". Mostly it means, don't toss something disappointing without learning from it. First check the plus in it: what's good; the minus: what's bad; the interesting. And, I add, why for each of those.

What's good? The above, also the size is right for handling and use. The glaze came out interestingly variable, and where do those wonderful little red speckles come from? The texture shows. I didn't realize the glaze would look so good on this clay. The iron spots actually add to the interest.

What's bad? The crack, for sure, Why did it crack, anyway? Some stress on the side where the crack starts. I pushed the clay hard into the mold to get it thin everywhere. It's not thinner where it cracked, nor thicker, not patched...but something . Is anything else bad? I sure didn't think to consider that. Well, it could be lighter in weight. Do I dare make the clay slab thinner with this much overhang?

Think I've covered interesting, but I'm also getting interested in the problem. Why did it crack? Think I'll keep the pot awhile, show it around, ask what others think of this. So far, I have no idea.

I'd rather make successful pots, of course, but mistakes in pottery count for very little. No one is hurt, and there are always more pots in clay, glaze, and hands.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Complicated Do Tou Want It To Be?

Ceramics is one of the BIG fields. There seems no end to things to learn, to variants, techniques, forms, designs... . No one gets bored, no one comes to the end.

Here's one technique I am starting to use. You can make a pot from one clay, but why stop there? The world over, people have invented ways to mix clays to produce a patterned clay to pot with. It can be very complicated; you can combine thin, cut slabs of clay of various colors to make pictures that go through a roll of clay, seen when the roll is cut into slices. No way do I want to learn that.

You can stack thin slabs of different colored clays (2 or 3, don't overdo it), throw them hard onto the table to connect and thin them, cut vertically, restack, repeat until done. Then the stacks are sliced and pieces arranged to make patterns, either as a surface over other clay or as the structure of a pot.

It can also be very simple: casually cut slabs of 2 or 3 clays, and wedge (that's knead) them partly together. As you shape a pot on the wheel, the clays combine further and swirl. That's for me.

In English, especially in Britain, this is agate clay, an imitation of agate stone. In Japan, it is nerikome or neriage (the difference between them evidently is the way the pot is made.)

Yes, you have to use clays with similar shrinkage and the same firing temperature, to be sure the pot holds together. Yes, you need a lot of contrast among the colors; two differently colored stonewares will do it, or a clay in sections colored differently by wedging in stains or oxides. Yes, the pot does take a lot of trimming, scraping, sanding to show the clay swirl clearly. And different amounts of wedging the colors together produce quite different results.

This comes from combining the clays less. I think I like it better with a tighter swirl. And without glaze, like the bottom of this vase.

Even the simplest version of this technique involves complications and alternatives. It's all wonderfully endless.