Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Coil Sculpture Pots

Coil Pot 1

For the past several years I have been mostly doing slab work. The Edgy bowls are rolled slabs first, the cups, plates and plaques also start out as slabs. But when I squeezed a new bag of red clay as I was cleaning the studio, it said to me, "coil."

I wanted to make sculpture to enter into the upcoming Ellarslie Open, and that's why I'd bought the red clay. It is beautiful without glaze. When I felt the plasticity of the clay through that bag, I stopped in my tracks and began to work immediately.

Coil pot 1 - other side

What I had in mind was a pot that would have creatures, perhaps mythical, flying out of the surface of the pot. It would be more sculpture than pot, the pot being more a base for the figures.

I am an eager builder. Like a beaver I want to keep working on my construction until exhaustion sets in. On each pot, the ballooning sides began to sag as I added coils before the lower layers were firm enough. I was going too fast. What I found speeded up the process was to build the pot while the kiln was firing or cooling. That way I didn't have to wait hours in between coils  The clay set up quickly and I had the warmth of a beach resort in the middle of February, right in my backyard.

Coil Pot 2

I built three coil pots in quick succession and added to each sculpted animals. They are predators and prey, and are an expression of the perilousness and fragility of life. We are both predator and prey at different times in our lives, just like other animals. I think of the cat as Donald Trump, and I and my artistic, gentle friends are the fleeing birds. You can see all kinds of metaphors in the relationship of prey and predator, so universal is the meaning.

I can only enter two sculptures in the Ellarslie show. The decision about which two to enter was made for me when I found on opening the kiln that one pot was cracked.

Coil Pot 3 with its gaping crack

I had subjected the owl and mouse pot to a second firing to put clear glaze on the eyes and some white on the owl's wings. 

Did it crack when I opened the kiln at 400 degrees and propped it open 2 inches? It was down on the bottom with shelves and ware above it. The chill couldn't have gotten down there to do damage, I don't think. Could it be because I forgot to turn on the vent for the entire firing? Or was it going to cone 5 that stressed it out, when the other pots were fired at cone 4 to keep that terracotta color?

I don't know, and perhaps never will, but I have some epoxy I'm going to fill the crack with. It will be fine.

I, however, am suffering the consequences of so much clay squeezing and coiling. My left hand has a bad case of carpal tunnel just like my right hand. The right hand was getting better, but I spared it by  giving the left hand more work. A lesson learned. Don't take your body for granted by asking it to do marathons of one activity. Now I am on forced break, thinking what to do with 50 pounds of brown hazelnut clay.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sweetart Market

A frenzy of making cups and plates was followed by an equally frenzied glazing of the pieces I intend for the Valentine Pop-Up.

Why so frenzied when I have plenty of time?

I think, once I start a project, when I have a goal, I don't want to stop. I want to see the finished work. Will it be wonderful? I always hope so.

Some of the cups pictured are still being worked on. I plan to continue to layer on glazes to enrich the surfaces. The plates will stay as they are in their candy hues.

I made these pieces by stamping into the wet clay slabs before building. I used stamps of many kinds: alphabet stamps of different sizes and styles, Indian wood textile stamps, rubber stamps, and also plaster stamps and bisqued stamps that I made myself.

A fun project for the depths of winter. I'm enjoying the the pastel colors of the celadon glazes, and the warmth of the kiln. I'm so lucky to have this studio and the time to work there. It is truly my saving grace.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Valentines for Clay Lovers

So this is what I've been up to:

Plates, cups, votives, and tumblers made from porcelain clay have been my January projects. The picture above is of unfired ware - work in progress.

Each piece has a word or a message stamped into the clay with a variety of rubber stamp alphabets. Other decorative stamps and carvings add to the designs, and each one is different. Is it possible for me to make two pieces alike, ever? I don't think so.

They are intended as valentine gifts and will be offered for sale at the pop up organized by the Arts Council for Valentine's Day. The Valentine's market will be at the Princeton shopping center on February 9 and February 11.

More information to follow. And decisions to make on glazing. What will the finished ware look like? I'm eager to experiment. Wish me luck.