A Week of Handmade Work…

sculptural frog on the rim

Last friday I threw 10 mugs and 5 bowls. 15 pieces. Those pieces took most of that day to make. Over the next 7 days, those 15 pieces were brought to a finished level but only up to a point.

Pottery is a slow process. It is something that I am learning that I need to accept the slowness of the process and be patient. I am getting there but, after being in the corporate world for so long where presses were running at $1000 an hour and you were upstream of those presses, preparing the work so as to not have a mistake stop the presses causing that price to go up for the company or the customer. I have had to slow myself down and have a different set of expectations for how quickly things get made. I don’t have a customer waiting, at least not one that I can see just yet, I also want the work to be the best quality that I can make. There is no point in hurrying if the quality suffers. That is also something that was important in the corporate world. If the press had to wait, it was better to get the work done in the best quality as possible to avoid an additional stoppage or material waste.

My last post was of the trimming process of those items. I wanted to try and show that there are many steps that go into a handmade item. After the trimming was done, the handles were made and with each step the items are packed into a plastic box and wrapped with plastic to avoid them drying out before the next step can be completed. Another reason for the slow drying is to avoid attached pieces from separating from the piece. The moisture content of the handle and the cylinder that it is attached to will even out and putting them into a damp box or under plastic allows the moisture content in the entire piece to become consistent.

The decoration that I have chosen to add to my work is a time consuming process in that I add a white clay body slip over the brown clay and then either draw through that slip or add a stencil that holds the white clay back from the brown clay. Then some color is added and clean up of areas where the clay or color may have bled into an area where I don’t want it. Then I am adding the sculptural frogs and give each one a personality so that each piece is unique.

Handmade items are special. What makes them special is that they aren’t made with a machine, except for the wheel, and are given the attention that sets it apart from a mass produced item. That said, I’m not sure I will ever achieve the production potter status. I can see that I will use the production mindset but I don’t ever see having a set “line of work” and have items that I make for a while and then when I get bored with the pieces that I am making, I will create a new item to make for a while.

So these 15 pieces will then get fired when they reach a dry state. The firing will take about 8-10 hours, then an additional 12 hours to cool. Then each piece will be glazed and fired again, an additional 8-10 hours with the 12 hours to cool. Of those 15 pieces, there will be pieces that I will discard because they won’t be the quality that I want to be representative of my work. Some of those little “blips” will stay in because that is part of the “handmade quality” that I want to achieve.

Eyes glazed over…

Critique time….

I have many many comments.

  • Latex resist is awesome!!! Will definitely continue with that.
  • My clear glaze recipe is too thick and it ran off all the pots and now I get to use the dremel tool, if I decide to even try and salvage them
  • The color fired out of the tumblers with the nice painted plants, so they are basically black tumblers with the occasional design peeking out. Won’t do that again.
  • I like the quilting designs that I carved into the sides of the hexagon cups and there are some nice colors going on a couple but for the most part, ugly!
  • The earrings and pins were a way to use up the leftover colored slip ware I was trying and the pins are pretty cool. The earrings are paper thin and while I think they are pretty, not sure how functional they really will be. They may end up as windchimes instead
  • The lips of the cups are really not as clean as I would’ve liked. Maybe another glaze addition there and let it run where it connects, or a metalic gold rim might be cool.
  • I can see other colors besides black with the underglaze. Blue on Blue, shiny with matte, and trying to get a more delicate shape and pattern.
  • I definitely need to work on the heavy-ness of everything and work on getting a larger size due to the clay’s shrinking.
  • Possibly find a better clear glaze recipe or  put this one on very thinly.

It is a start… with lots more work ahead.

Latex Resist

Clayworks Supply Liquid Latex Resist

I bought a new product to do glaze resist on my pottery. The water based wax that I have  has not really been working out for me so I thought I would try this latex glaze resist. As you can see in the photo it comes in a pint sized jar and is probably a year’s worth of product. I was really skeptical as to how it works on the bisque ware but I am posting to share what I discovered this morning and I am psyched. So far, I am really pleased with how easy it works.

bands of underglaze were put on the tumblers and then bisque fired

The bisque ware was underglazed with bands of underglaze in color families. A blue, an orange, a green and a gray with the intent to do a resist design on the tumbler and then glaze the outside with a glossy black so that the matte finish design will show through with the colors gradating down the side of the pot. The wax resist is applied onto the bands in the viney plant design and let dry. Some  of them I let dry overnight and others I just gave them a few minutes. I couldn’t tell that it really made a difference in the peel off step.

resist is painted onto the side of the tumbler

Then the black glaze was applied in three coats with a large brush. This is allowed to dry and then using a needle tool I pierced the glaze and pricked the latex. I give a bit of a tug and the glaze comes off just as the brush had applied the design, having the same feel of fluency that I had hoped it would have. Very cool!

black glaze applied over the resist

Then you see the overall design with the underglaze showing through on these finished, well almost finished, tumblers. I want to do a white interior and then they will be done.

I will post again after the glaze firing so we can see how this is going to work out.


pulling the latex from the pot

color showing through

up close

First Batch of Pots

As you can see, I have been busy with my new wheel that Herb bought me for Christmas.

I am trying out new shapes and basically, just trying to get used to what my hands are supposed to do.

I have two different colors of clay. They are both stoneware, a white and a chocolate brown. I played with the white clay first and made a slip out of the brown and trailed it on some of the cups and a bowl to see how that will look. The colored bands are just an underglaze.

I need to work on getting my shapes consistent. These cups all started out basically the same size clay ball and as you can see they are nothing alike. I have ordered a scale so that I can weigh the balls before I start so that they are at least all the same weight. That still doesn’t mean they will all turn out the same.

And I had to try a batter bowl. The handle is too big and clunky but it was my first handle after so many years. Practice will help those.

These are the first bowls that I threw. The one in the back is the first thing I threw when I sat down on Christmas Day to try out my rusty skills. The ones in the front are much better. They have an even thickness, aren’t heavy in the bottoms and are a good shape. The one in the back may get crushed…

This is just a group shot of everything I have gotten off the wheel so far.

I tried to make a footed cup. I saw this technique on Lucy Fagella’s how to page and I like the look. The foot is trimmed and then you eyeball the three feet and slice the leather hard clay to form the feet. You make the bottom of the pot heavy on purpose, which is easy for me right now, and then you have enough clay to work with. I like the look. She used a lemon zester to put her pattern in the sides. I had a serrated rib that I used for mine. It gave it a nice texture to grip.

And I have the Glenn Nelson Ceramic books from the old days and browsing through them I came across an interesting salt cellar that is thrown in two parts and assembled. I threw a cone shape for the main body. (I didn’t think this through because the top was so tiny, I had to put it inside another piece to center on the wheel to trim the bottom, that was hard) I made a small lid to fit into the top hole and then threw a small shallow bowl, which I cut the bottom out of for the large opening on the side. The seam was very thin so I decided to reinforce it with a coil around the opening for decoration and to give it some strength.

And a side view of the salt cellar.

And finally, a small pitcher for cream or syrup. I did the three footed bottom on this little guy and had a better success with the handle. It seems to have a tipsy attitude on the handle side. I’m hoping that the liquid inside will counter balance this problem.

So, I feel pretty good about the first attempt. We took a trip to Manassas Clay yesterday and seeing some of the amateur pottery in the shop made me feel like I am doing okay. Of course, now I have to glaze them and that is another round of weeding out the bad and keeping the good. We’ll see who is standing in the end.