Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Snow Day

I'm so excited for this year's Festival in the Clouds! It takes place next to Alma's Town Hall, with plenty of room for vendors and visitors. The playground and the river entertain kids while bands play on stage. I'll be sharing a booth with my friend Priscilla again this year. She makes great handbags that add color and excitement to our space. I hope to have some of Jesse's matted photos, and I think Priscilla's husband Greg will add something as well. We'll set up on Friday afternoon, July 15, and enjoy sunshine and music as people wander around all day Saturday and Sunday. (Fingers crossed for minimal rain!)

To prepare for the festival, I've been making new work. Yesterday I woke up to this:

Mr Puppy singing on the deck, joyful in the snow.
No thank you, snow! It melted quickly, but it was a good incentive for me to stay in my studio all morning. Today I'm firing a special glaze load, including a serving dish for a fellow yogi as a wedding gift for her friends. Tomorrow I'll do a bisque firing.

In the front are squared bowls to replace the ones that sold at Coyote Creek Gallery. For the July festival: mugs, bowls, teapot & cups, and cream & sugar set. The tall vases might go to Petal & Bean in Breckenridge, depending how they turn out. They are fun slab projects, and I like the shapes so far. I'll have better pictures later.

I like this creamer/sugar set.

I'm having fun with this faux wrapped handle theme (top of the tray handle; where the teapot handle meets the spout). What to make next...? Any ideas for more sets? I'm going to start on an idea for square dinner plates this afternoon, or maybe more vases (more "normal" vases).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Form and Intention

In April, my brother-in-law asked me for a new planter for his tiny succulent plant. I have a love affair with plants in general, and this li'l guy inspired me to build a home where he'd be happy to stretch his greenery. The adobe-style house is about 3" tall, with plenty of drainage, per Jesse's instructions.

Thriving in his new home!

See the little steps and the arched entryway?
My husband remarked that this isn't my 'usual' style. Suddenly I remembered my professor in college, chiding me for not 'focusing' on one thing. Do I work on the wheel OR off the wheel? Why can't I stick to one style?

In my ceramics career so far, I've used different techniques to create my forms; I've used terra sig, underglazes, and glazes to decorate; and I've experimented with different firings, including electric, wood, gas, and pit. Sometimes I'm critical of myself, as if my experimentation is a bad thing. However, I'm discovering that 'focus' for me can't mean limiting the shapes I want to form out of clay. My idea of ceramics begins with creating wildly different forms guided by consistent themes:
I rarely smooth a surface completely or otherwise erase my touch on the clay
I try to make my pieces appropriately weighted, to combine the visual and tactile expectation
I am attentive to my choice of detail, adding or deleting marks purposefully

It's only when I pick up a paintbrush that the pieces start to look very different, and that's where I want to work on developing a satisfying but narrow range of finishing options.

As you look through these next pieces, maybe you'll see that they have similarities following the themes I described, and that it's the different decorating styles that make them so different. Maybe not! I'd love to hear feedback--one reason why I have this blog. Also, like a lot of artists, I find it challenging to articulate what I feel about my work, and here I have the opportunity to combine words and clay on a regular basis. Yesterday I was asked to describe my handbuilt work, and I stumbled through a vague answer, because I don't know how to talk about the finished pieces. I do know how I feel when I work; like a consultant or designer, pairing a client's personality or style with a specific product. The planter is an easy example, where my 'client' is the plant. It may seem that the next pieces are not related, but they are to me, for their specific purposes. 

My husband suggested I make espresso cups and saucers. These are tiny, espresso-shot-sized cups with leafy saucers. I didn't set out to make complicated saucers, but they simply had to sprout leaves! I have a set of four that will go to Coyote Creek Gallery this weekend. 

After the espresso set, I threw bowls, mugs, and a casserole dish, then realized I make very few lidded forms. I threw this with a lot of intention in the form, but it almost didn't turn out this way. I had an onset of laziness and wished I had thrown a flatter lid that could be finished quickly. I actually threw a half-hearted knob on top, but finally convinced myself not to ruin the form with banality and just add the iris already! Or rather, I marched into the living room and said something confrontational to my husband like, Should I keep this stupid, ugly knob on the lid or make a really cool iris instead!?

The iris pot is about 12" tall. I'm still considering what glazes I want to use. (See why I need to focus on my glazing and firing?)

Meanwhile, I've made a whole lot of magnets. They lurking in photos in my April-May posts; I only just glued magnets on the back and displayed them on the fridge. There are many more than the ones shown here, and they vary from blue to blue-green. I think they are so much fun! They're about 2.5" tall, 1-3" wide, depending on the letter. Should I put them on etsy or bring them to the gallery? Hmmmm. It feels good to have this sort of dilemma.
My clay magnets are cozying up to this lovely magnet made by my dear friend Katie.

These next two pieces were created a long time ago, and I've finally resolved the 'how do I glaze you?' problem.

These two tiles come from my friend Syma's barrel-fire workshop--I think it was the summer of 2009. There were leftover fresh tiles when the workshop ended, and I took two home, carefully stored in Ziploc baggies. My head was bursting with the excitement I feel by blank canvases, untouched smooth clay, or even an unlined piece of paper, but time passed quickly and the tiles stayed bare. I was feeling sad one day, missing my cat, and retrieved the miraculously still-damp tiles. I sketched a cat figure across them, then shelved the tiles for more than a year. On a particularly gray day this Spring, I revisited the tiles. Bright rectangles of underglaze and low-fire glaze add life to my kitty diptych. Each tile is 4" x 4" and is made to hang on the wall.

Do you see the square of clear glaze on each tile? Click on the photo to see it larger.

This vase is a piece I made in May 2010. It is covered with white terra sig and I pit fired it a year ago. It turned out mostly gray and black, and I could never bring myself to 'finish' it with tile sealer. When I loaded my kitty tiles into the kiln, it was a perfect opportunity to make a decision about the vase, by adding it to the kiln load and intending to glaze it with underglazes as well. All the black and gray carbon from the pit firing burned away, and I've redecorated the surface using underglazes.

The underglazes on the vase have not yet been fired. The very faint lilac will turn into the deeper purple on the kitty tile on the left. Similarly, the pink, yellow, orange, and brown will become more intense. Then I will apply a clear glaze to the entire piece, and Piers will add a handle.
Button closure

I used to work at Breckenridge Blinds & Draperies, where our office was filled with fabric sample books, floor to ceiling. Rich chenilles, airy linens, beautiful silks. Textiles provide a lot of inspiration for me, and I spent a lot of time at Breck Blinds eyeing designer fabrics, searching through sample books for just the right choice for particular projects. (The designers would ask me if I had time to look. You're kidding, right?)  The shape of this vase works well, divided into two fabric-inspired patterns as if I had found fabric in two color ways that I couldn't decide between, and displayed both to the designer.

I'm looking forward to firing the vase. It is decorative (cannot hold water) and will be fired at a low temperature--which means I'd better get to the studio so I can throw more work and fill a bisque load!