Adopt An Earthling

Away from this blog so long I hardly remembered how to get into it.  Today my best excuses for not posting hold no weight.  You see, I started a marketing campaign I call Adopt An Earthling. I’ll give you all the details in just a little bit.

A problem I seem to be having with creating in clay is that I own more ceramics then I have room for. The obvious solution is to get rid of some. Parting with creations is difficult on many levels. For one there is just letting go of something you’ve labored on, call it separation anxiety if you will. Then there’s the problem of marketing; that’s an art in itself. Other grounds for keeping work is that your best work a sold/gone and you have nothing to show.

My idea here is to select one series of work and send it forth into the universe. Rather than via  craft shows, galleries and retail shops I shall market them myself on the Internet. To start An Adopt An Earthling Program I’ll initiate The Earthling of the Day. I really should find names for them but I’ll leave that to their future guardians.  Who knows someday they may write home.

Tying the above paragraphs together I can work on my blog and my creativity at the same time.  Looking at all the energy it took to write up a description of my work and translated to webpage code,  I can and will just duplicate what I’m doing for the postings in my web store and auction sites to use it here.  It’s all part of clay, right? So here goes, the first of many to come.

Earthling Sculpture

The face is modeled in clay from numerous facial photographs I keep in the studio for just this purpose. Every Earthling is created to be an individual, however it is designed to be no one in particular. Any similarity between this sculpture and anyone you know is purely coincidence. Surface textures on the vestments of this series of sculptures entitled The Earthlings is just one of numerous design elements defining them. Another distinguishing feature of the Earthlings are the skirt and bodice. They range in size from 5 inches to 5 feet for now, that could change anytime I deem it necessary.
The above photo-montage attempts to show this sculpture from all angles. It gives one some idea for the intricacies of my work. However the photographs does the work no justice. It was photographed in normal daylight under a shade tree against a shiny black paper foil background. Every effort to help you visualize work as if it were in your hands is made here. If there’s something further I can do just let me know and I’ll give it a try if possible.

This sculpture has been pit fired; that is a method of firing that gives distinct markings and a variety of hues, most of which are irreproducible. It makes it looks like a relic, that was my intention by using this primitive firing technique; perhaps it was just an excuse to build a fire but i do enjoy it so. I will describe more on this technique later.

The bodice is embellished with a botanical relief along with some slip trailed accents, note the ribbing on the side. Detailed image shows the branching pattern of a anise herb type plant; if examined closely you can even see the texture of the fabric I rolled the clay out on.

The luster on the glass eyes has almost a mirror surface; brings vitality to our relic, don’t you think? I employ the glass eyes in many of my works.

Looking at the base reveals the piece is quite hollow. The bottom has been sanded smooth so it won’t scratch the furniture. I imagine these pieces are picked up and examined quite closely from time to time.

This particular Earthling is just under 10 inches in height making it near the smallest that I make. A dollar bill is always exactly 6 inches long, so for scale is your Earthling been posed next to a crisp greenback and a few of its cousins. Next to the buck one has a better perception of size, detail and color of this work, even though I think the comparison is a little trite. The Earthlings in the background displays diversity of individuals within this series.

This earthling up for auction.

Pit Firing

For many years I pit-fired in a 3-foot hole I had dug in the backyard.  Using organic fuels such as wood chips/shavings, leaves, paper shredding, well-dried horse apples… this fuel would be lit from the top and allowed to smolder under a covering of sheet metal for some 48 plus hours.  The carbon from the fuel impregnated the clay to form distinct shading effects as you view here.  Even though I still call it pit firing, nowadays because of the encroachment of subdivisions, I no longer fire in a pit but use a 55-gallon drum or my fireplace. I plan to put a video of this up on my blog come this fall.

To be certain of the durability and quality of the artwork I initially fire it to 1800°F/1000°C, in a conventional kiln before pit firing


Tin Feathers

It may surprise you to know how much entertainment one can get from a pair of tinner snips and a tin can. For two days now have been put in on cutting and bending feathers like this one to form the headdress of a raku fired mask. Magic! Making them until my hand felt sore, I have. I’m liking the way they turning out, I just wish for some lustrous colors. While I’m wishing, I wish I could have shown the process to that bored teenager I was in the summer of 1967; she would have turned a boat load of these out. It is exciting just thinking about these on the mask. Fun, fun, fun.

An Introduction to Colored Clays

Patties of dark brown stoneware and b-mix clay,8-inch dia.

The simplest application in the  use of colored clays is marbleizing or agateware.  Dark and light clay patties  were stacked to make this mask, then slightly wedged then rolled out into a slab.  A turquoise slip was applied here, it was bisque fired and glazed fired with a clear cone 6 glaze.

The slab of colored clays was pressed into a bisque form.   I will instruct a workshop in press molding in the fall with Arizona Clay, more on that later.  Colored clay slabs work very well in press forms; one could use this slab to build with directly too.

Pinch pots  and wheel thrown pots can also be made this way.   Of course a wheel thrown must be scraped of the throwing slurry to reveal crisp lines.  Agateware is the easiest technique to do with colored clays; it  is a wonderful place to start your experimentation with colored clays.

Practical Pinch Pots

front view of pinch pot canning funnel

pinch pot greenware

bottom side of funnel

greenware-- pinch pot

Turning our attention to functional ware, the most immediate need right now is for a small canning funnel.  Winter is citrus season here in Phoenix area, and therefore we’ve been making marmalade from the harvest of our tangerine tree.  We recycle most of the smaller food jars we used around here; however, the commercial canning funnels are only made for the standard manufactured canning jars; they are too large for most smaller jars.  So, we pinched out a smaller funnel that will work with these small jars.  There is something very satisfying about making your own utensils with your own hands, can’t wait to use it.

Our pinched funnel is merely a bowl with a hole in the bottom of it.  A collar is pinched from the bottom of this bowl form so that it will rest easy when seated on top of the small jars. A handle is needed to facilitate placing hot liquids into this funnel; a coil of clay is rolled out and pinched into the pot forming the handle.

It doesn’t look like much in the photo here. In truth the raw clay looks rather crude.  It will look way more impressive with the coat of glaze on it.  It will be fired to cone six, because it is the mid-range stoneware clay this is made from. Hopefully we’ll have it glaze before the New Frontiers workshop February 10.

Living Legend of Les Laurent

Thanksgiving weekend, a group of artists over in Cave Creek, Arizona open their studios to  the public.  Really too many artists to see in one day so we paced ourselves and limited it to mostly potters.  The weekend is cleverly titled Hidden in the Hills and it actually runs for two weekends every year, ending with Thanksgiving weekend.  It was on this tour we met Les Lawrence in his home.

Les Lawrence

Les Lawrence

When trying to remember a time in ceramics when I didn’t know who Les Lawrence was I kept coming up blank; that’s because he’s been a “bigcheese” potter forever.  Browsing through my very first ceramic textbook,  a 40 year-old book, and there he was.  Outside of the ceramic world he may not be a household name.  But within the realm of ceramic art he’s the master of image transfer, a legend in his own times.  He’s even made the jump to the technological age by figuring out how to transfer computer printer images to ceramics.  The neatest thing about the man is his willingness to share his knowledge  with all who ask.

It’s not surprising that Sandy made it acquisition or two for her extensive ceramic collection.  What shocked me is I found something I could afford and use.  Acquired a dipper I did;  a stoneware ladle that I put to immediate use at the Arizona Clay meeting on Saturday; it dipped up a gallon and a half of hot spiced cider and performed marvelously.  “Aren’t you afraid someone might break it?”  I was asked.  My response was that I’d rather it break, while being used then for me to break it, while dusting it when it had never been used; I’ve done that, I can assure you it’s much more painful.  For certain there is a lot more chili con carne and stew in my dipper’s future.

Plugging My Own Pinch Pots

majolica type glaze, pinch pot

majolica type glaze, pinch pot

This  pinch pots made from B-mix clay, a the white clay body that behaves almost like porcelain without the shortness, is glazed white.  Metal oxides were applied on a white glaze something like the technique of majolica.  This particular vessel is an electric firing, cone six.

raku fired pinch pot

raku fired pinch pot

Just playing with a bit of raku clay, the above pinch pot was pierced around the rim with a drinking straw in order to run a bit of raffia around the edge of the pot. Charms, coins, beads and other embellishments to hang from this pot maybe in the works; I’m just waiting for the pot to “speak” to me.   High fucntional, it can go in the dishwasher or the microwave.

pinch pot with added rim

pinch pot with added rim

This vessel was formed by pinching with a coil of clay to the rim.  The body of the pot was left unglazed; a clear crackle glaze was applied to the inside and the lip.  It was fired to 1800° Fahrenheit and post reduced with sawdust, this is sometimes called raku firing, but that’s not entirely accurate.  It is non-functional; it is strictly decorative for it is too porous for liquids.

Another Facet on Pinch Pots

After she viewed my blog, my friend, mentor and fellow artist, Shirlee Aho Daulton, tells me:

“I liked the video. You did a good job.  One difference in my handle is that I leave a portion of clay for the handle as I pinch the pot.  I feel it’s more a part of it ……instead of adding on.”

This is a capital idea!  I have convince Shirley to let me video her pinch pot making for an entry on my blog.  Should everything go according to plan that will be posted  mid-December.  Being that the Arizona CLAY meeting is at my studio, December 5th I will be working full steam on making the studio presentable for the meeting; therefore,  it will be the second week of December by the time I get started on video tape.  I just wanted to give you that to look forward to.

Quite certainly, you know, I had no intentions of implying that I was the first and last word on pinch pots; “there is more than one way to skin a cat” as the proverbial saying goes.  Pinch pots of been around for thousands of years and every artist has their own way of making them.  Shirlee’s technique is exceptional as is her whole approach to art.  I’m excited to have the chance to share this with you.  In the mean time, just to whet your appetite.  I’ll show you one of Shirlee’s pinch pots

pinch pot mug created by Shirlee Aho Daulton

pinch pot mug created by Shirlee Aho Daulton

from my collection.

From a ball of clay Shirlee formed this vessel with the handle, the ornamental elements on either side of the handle were appliquéd on.  It was dipped in multiple glazes then fired to cone six.  This white stoneware mug was fired in an electric kiln for both the bisque and glaze firings.  I’m rather fond of Shirlee’s mug; it’s a pleasure to use.

Pinch Pot: how-to

Here is a video on forming a basic pinch pot mug of clay starting with 350 grams/12 ounces  of clay.  It took much longer than we’d anticipated to edit the video and post it to my blog.  The video shows the basics of pinching out a pot.  I voiced over and speeded up the video to try to keep it under five minutes, but it still ended up being some six minutes long. Do enjoy my little pinch pot tutorial.   Let me know what you think.

Hello world!

Always knew I’d have a blog someday even before there was such a thing as a blog.   Owning personal newsletter where I could tell the universe, what was happening in my archaic sector of the galaxy was the idea.  Indeed, many exciting things came and left without me writing a single word about it to you.   For Instance:

  • there is getting my work into a major motion picture, a number years ago.
  • placing sculptures in some rather prominent collections.
  • having my studio profiled on Modern Masters on HDTV.
  • translating my clay work into bronze.

Well, there will be more on this later.  You see when rather exciting things are happening around here it is just too difficult to stop and write about it.  Then when the event is completed, and I have some down time to write, it is yesterday’s news.  However, you can bet your last buck I will write more about these events later, if heaven is willing to grant me the time.  For now, let’s talk about the mundane task of today!

Just a few weeks ago at the Empty Bowls event here at Red Mountain Community College, I got to flapping my lips about when the first Empty Bowl Project was held in Mesa.  All those years ago, that had to of been in 1991 right after Arizona hosted their first NCECA conference.  One potter, Doug Stevens by name, took the empty bowl project seriously enough to get a few of us potters together to make and to donate their bowls.  We got the whole thing together in just a few short weeks. Doug was working for a restaurant called House of Tricks who donated the soup and Mesa Arts Center donated the space to host the event.  We charged five dollars donation a bowl and raised close to $5000 that day, world food Day, I think it was, October 17.   We were ecstatic!  The following year Arizona CLAY, the Clay Guild/club, got involved and adopted it as part of their charter.  However, as the event grew so did the egos, the squabbling came to an apex breaking off into several splinter groups.  There are quite a few Empty Bowl Events around the Valley of the Sun now; I wonder if any of them are affiliated with the national anymore.  While I still attend the affairs from time to time I’ve backed off doing as much work as before.  It has become a few major charities raising some $50,000 a year each, but the thrill is gone!

I digress, what I’d was trying to convey here is that I met Sheila from New Frontiers at the Empty Bowls Luncheon while lamenting the voluntarism I used to do with the schools on empty Bowls project; the opportunity presented itself to teach workshops for the New Frontiers.  This is appealing to me because

  1. I love to teach,
  2. I can do it from my own home studio,
  3. I may converse to a captive audience about one of my favorite subjects, clay,
  4. we’ll be meeting a lot of really nice folks,
  5. it will force me to keep the gallery and studio in a presentable state of organization,
  6. I’m volunteering to do something worthwhile
  7. and lastly,  I have something to blog about.

The subject of my first post is… drumroll please… pinch pots!  That’s right, pinch pots.  Those little humble things we did back in kindergarten, if we were lucky.  My workshop coming up in February of 2010, with the new frontiers group titled ” Clay: QuickStart“.   My  spouse and I worked half the day putting together a tutorial on pinch pots for this workshop.  So, without further fanfare here is a video for you, world, on how to pinch out of clay a rather frumpy looking mug.