Thursday, April 28, 2011

Failure! And trying again...


I misread my glaze notes, and applied too much glaze to...... eight, ten, twelve pieces?  Large platters, bowls, tea cups.... I don't want to remember.  Total waste of time and effort and I ruined shelves.  Frustrating! The pile of failures is banished to Piers's woodworking area of the garage.  Maybe I'll smash them, maybe I'll ignore them some more.  Grrrr.

I'm extraordinarily thankful to my sweet partner for being calm and supportive.  Yes, I feel like I was careless and destroyed my work unnecessarily.  I also simply love working in clay, and that's where my passion and drive stem from.

So I've taken a deep breath (many deep breaths) and wedged some new clay.  Here's some work fresh out of the kiln:

More work is being glazed, and I have greenware drying slowly in my studio.  I'll post new pictures after the next glaze load (gulp!) .....Keep your chin up, girl!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where Mugs Come From

We all know where babies come from.  But what about mugs?  And why does it take me so darn long to make the ones for the Corral?  My husband and his brother documented some of the process for my most labor-intensive mugs.

Step One: Make clay
Since I've switched clays, I don't buy any more of this gray clay (and I can't use my new red clay to make these mugs because the glaze color doesn't turn out the same), so I reconstitute it from my bucket of slop. Here I've scooped out as much wet clay as the plaster bat can handle.  I let this dry for a day and a half in my studio.  The top air-dries, and the bottom has moisture sucked up by the plaster, so I'm left with a crunchy cookie that's still mushy on the inside.

Step Two: Prep clay for throwing
Now it's time to wedge the clay cookie, mixing together the drier and wetter parts until it reaches an even consistency.  I let it dry for several more hours until it's stiffer and ready to be thrown on the wheel, then weigh out the clay into 1 1/4 lb balls.

Step Three: Throw mugs; Step Four, Trim the bottom

Here I've thrown six mug forms, and allowed them to dry enough for me to trim the bottom.  To keep the clay bodies from mixing, I've flipped the bat on my wheelhead (from the red clay side to the gray clay side), and set out a large plastic bag to catch my gray clay trimmings.  I guess I've been keeping a lot of trimmings--that pile should really go back into my slop bucket.

I center the mug form, and secure it with wet clay (above), then trim away excess clay and shape the bottom with a trimming tool (below).

Step Four continued, since Steps Five through Seven are missing...
Okay, so there aren't any photos of me making handles, letting the handles dry, stamping each mug body, and attaching the handles.  You'll have to use your imagination for those steps.
Step Eight: Bisque; Step Nine: Underglaze
Once the mugs are fully assembled, I let them dry completely, then bisque them to around 1950 degrees.  After the kiln cools overnight, I apply three coats of black underglaze to the stamped logo area, using my small brush.  Then the mugs go back in the kiln for a second bisque.  The underglaze becomes shiny and permanent, and I can keep it separate from the brown glaze that goes over the entire mug.

By the way, I want to point out the plant in the background, above.  It's either a lemon, grapefruit, or orange plant; my husband can't remember what he was eating when he planted the seed, since he never expected it to sprout.  At this rate, we'll have a full-fledged tree gracing our living room in, say, ten years.  How exciting!

Step Ten: Second bisque, Step Eleven: Detailed glaze area
For the glazing, I apply three coats with my small brush, around all the detail of the logo.  I enjoy this sort of work; when I have to paint a room, I prefer the edging and trim work instead of the roller application.  After the detailed areas are done, I grab a large brush and apply three coats inside and out.  Whew!  Back in the kiln for a glaze firing, around 2230 degrees.

My pottery is microwave- and dishwasher-safe.  I think everything tastes better when it's served in a ceramic or glass container.  Especially when it's handmade!  I love the special moment you feel when you pour your drink into a handmade cup, enjoying touch, taste, smell, sight; a lovely indulgence in Life.

The next morning, I open the kiln to see how the glazing turned out.  These are for Barbara and Geoffrey...  Thanks for your patience and I hope you enjoy your mugs!