Archive for January, 2009

Hope and Virtue

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I was putting handles on mugs while listening to NPR’s coverage of the inaguration. As the new president finished his speech I shifted gears and began making 15 lb platters. I had an idea I wanted to act on. I wanted to do something to commemorate his words and my feelings on this day.
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When I throw wide platters I like to place a ball of clay in the bottom after opening it to the desired width. I pound the clay while turning it to make sure it is stuck there. Then I smooth it into place with water and make it part of the bottom. This insures that the bottom is compressed and eliminates the possibility of “S” cracks in the bottom.
I pull the platter to the desired hight and leave a fairly thick rim from which to form an outer flange.
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The flange is formed by pulling the clay out rather than laying the clay down. Phil Rogers in his exellent book “Throwing Pots” illustrates and explains it like this.
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After the platter has set up a while but not too much I use rubber stamps to impress words into the flange. I made six of these today expressing things I felt about the inaguration.

Listening to: Windward Passage by Neil Young and the Ducks

The Body: Intimacy and Intuition

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

The Studio Potter piece is out in print. I highly recommend a subscription to this journal. Their issues are always packed with thoughtful articles and great images. Besides they are nonprofit and need your subscription. Please check out their web site.

MLK: A National Day of Service

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I went to usaservice.org like the email from Mrs. Obama said to but the only organized service events I could find were a couple of blood drives an hour away. I am needle phobic to the max and a cancer boy so I guess that wasn’t happening. I called Zina and we decided to have our own private day of service. I took Gabriel and she took his older sister Juniper for the day. Their single mom didn’t get the day off but had to take a bunch of mentally ill folks on a field trip to Provo so we took her kids and spent the day playing with them. Zina and Jun went out to Zina’s place to clean house and make stuff like cookies and cross stitch. Gaabriel and I went to the museum to see the mammoth bones there. It was a blast. After the museum we dropped by Jock Jones place and watched him work on chairs. After a bit Jock finished the chair he was working on and made a small baseball bat on the lathe for Gabe. He was like to be the grandest tiger in the jungle. Jock’s wife Bonnie came in with fresh hot bread, butter and local honey. We about popped because we ate so much.
After that we went sledding on the flat road going up to Canal Canyon. It was a great MLK day.
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Listening to: MLK’s “I Have a Dream ” speach on NPR.

The wimp’s way to make it big.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

When I was learning how to build pottery on the wheel a few decades back there was a really large guy in the studio who made big pots. He always made them from one big lump of clay and was a gas to watch. He made the most amazing shapes with his mouth while he was throwing. My cousin Scott (who got me into ceramics) remarked that he must be one heck of a kisser. One time a cute little girl named Nora asked him to throw her a bathtub. He said he would if she would use it to bathe in the studio. Not having his physical endowment I didn’t try stuff like that. Then came along Shirley Ray, this relatively small and skinny girl, who made pots big enough to hide in using some Korean methods.
I have not made a lot of big pot because I have to stick with what I can move through my inventory. I suppose that may sound mercenary but it is a fact of life for one who makes his living with clay. If I am selling pots I get to make more. I love making pots a lot. It is a real kick. Nothing turns me off in terms of wanting to get muddy as much as looking at a full showroom. I now have a couple of interior designer clients who want big stuff so I dusted off Shirley’s methods and am using them with my middle aged arthritic hands to make, what are for me, big pots. So with the help of ibuprofen and some cheater moves I am making big bowls this week. Too bad Nora isn’t around.
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I am starting with a fairly hefty 30 lb platter thrown with a slightly concave rim. I let it sit in a breeze free studio or with the electric wheel turning slowly to prevent uneven drying.
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When the platter is leather hard but not too dry I score the rim with a serrated rib and wet it down pretty well.
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I use an old Brent extruder to make a 1.5″ coil. Ten lbs of clay makes a coil that will fit this 20″ platter.
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I lay the coil down on the scored and dampened rim and make a lap joint.
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If the rim has been dampened enough I can knit the outside edge as shown above. The inside is no problem as it is still plastic clay. The knitting is done with a wiping not pinching motion using a dry digit. (Usually my thumb.)
Note: If you let the bowl dry too much this knitting is harder to do and you run the risk of a dry joint that will crack somewhere between now and the final firing.
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When I am satisfied that the knitting is complete I wet down the coil and carefully throw it to the desired hight. At this point the newly thrown section is allowed to dry to the same leather hard state as the platter was. If I am in a hurry I’ll use a weed burner to push things along. This method is OK but must be done carefully so as not to over dry the bowl, and for hecksake don’t burn down the shop.
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When the new rim is stiff enough (but not too dry) I add another coil like the last one. and throw it to the desired hight and thickness. If the rim is too thin a 1/2″ coil can be added after the required drying has been allowed.
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I like to texture some of these especially if I am thinkig of applying a glaze that is sensitive to thick and thin variations. The stamps are bisqued clay. The bread knife is from a flea market in Missouri where my mother lives. I have a hard time passing up a flea market, thrift store or kitchen shop. They have so many good potter’s tools.

Listening this morning to the Rick n’Roll Show on Gulch Radio this morning.

Winter work.

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

When it is really cold or snotty out side I work at the wheel. It is nice in here with the heater going and a can of warm water to put my hands into. Squeezing the clay and leaning into it, feeling the soft primordial resistance is one of the great pleasures of my life. I still get a little excited when I think about amorphous earth forming into vessels in my hands. It is kind of heady stuff.
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I am currently working on pots for a show Lee and I have booked with a commercial gallery in Scottsdale, AZ for April. The opening will be on the first Thursday and will coincide with the annual conference of the Nation Council for Education and the Ceramic Arts. I am hoping to get two firings off to select pots from for that event. Lee is also painting up a storm. Her new studio is not quite finished so she is painting in Ella Peacock’s old studio just across the street from my shop.
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Lee’s new studio inside and outside views. Lee and her pallet at Ella’s studio.
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Almost very day Aaron stops by the pottery to visit. Aaron was involved in an ATV accident many years ago and is a lot less concerned with temporal things than you or me. We talk about a lot of things but mostly Jesus. Sometimes we go to the Spring City Cafe and get some sandwiches. Aaron’s favorite is the grilled chicken. He is a very gentle soul.
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On days that are warm (above freezing) I go out to Lee’s new studio and prepare rock. When I have enough of it ready I will start laying it up with mortar. I looks like I’ll be breaking rocks for the next few days. It is starting to get sort of nice out there.