Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Starworks Clay Factory

On Monday, my friend Ana and I drove down to Starworks Ceramics for their clay factory open house. Starworks is now processing local clay, it is a mix of clay from Candor and Cameron, North Carolina. Takuro Shibata, director of Starworks Ceramics, gave us a tour of the clay factory and discussed how the clay was processed. Takuro wanted to demonstrate the process, but decided it would be too dangerous with a large group of people.
Ten pound clay samples were given out to those attending the open house. Since it was a long drive for me and I was quite confident I would like the clay, I bought 50 pounds. Good idea. I love this clay. I gave it a whirl yesterday and could not stop making pots. It was soft, yet would stand up. I made a few rounded jars and was very pleased with how the clay responded to my shaping. I immediately wanted to go buy more, but thought it best to use up the commercial clay that I have onhand first. Boo.
Much to my surprise, Starworks had a special guest, Phil Rogers. I was quite excited because I had just discussed with Ana on the drive down that I regretted not talking to him at the conference. I was a bit starstruck and my natural response in this type of situation was to be very very quiet. I was thrilled to have a second chance, so I took action this time. I told Ana, "I'm going to ask for a photo with him, come back me up." She did and now I have this lovely photo in front of the clay filter press. We talked for a bit about wood kilns and chicken grit. It was awesome.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NC Potters Conference

I am just now recovering from the NC Potters Conference that was held this past weekend in Asheboro. It was my first time attending the conference and I had an amazing time. It is hard to convey how much I got out of it.
This year's conference featured potters Phil Rogers, Alleghany Meadows and Mark Pharis. I enjoyed all three, but feel like Phil's pots were more influential because their traditional shapes and glazes are closer to what I aspire to make. One key point from his demo was to keep some life in the pot. A lot of Phil's decoration developed from the way glaze reacts to the surface of the pot. He trimmed the pot with a loop tool immediately after throwing it (upright, before cutting the pot off the wheel head). The only work that had to be done after the pot was leather hard was to hollow out the foot, the profile of the pot was already complete.

I bought an ash glazed wood fired yunomi. I felt this piece best represented what I wanted to take away from the conference. It has subtle undulating lines that catch the ash glaze to make the focal point of the pot.

The presentations at the conference were very enlightening. Alleghany Meadows presented "French Fries to Cone 12 in 4 hours. A survey of sustainable and alternative fuels and practices for the studio." I came away with a basic understanding of how a kiln fueled by recycled vegetable oil would work. Also Nancy Utterback's " Green ceramics: The seduction of sustainability" was very informative. She compared the carbon footprints of different firing techniques. Turns out wood firing is not as bad as one might think because wood is a renewable source. Overall wood firing has zero net emissions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oval Platters

I came across a You Tube video of a stretched oval platter by potter Tim See that piqued my interest. You make a thick plate on the wheel, then stretch it out by throwing it onto the ground. My first few attempts at this platter were a bit timid, but I eventually got a feel for swinging the clay onto the ground in each direction. I could not see where Tim's thumbs were in the instructional video, so I tried not to touch the sides as I swung the clay. But after trying it and watching the video again, I think he let his thumbs rest on the inside of the rim. I bet this thumb placement helped construct the oval shape. Since those were experiments, I manipulated them in different ways to see how far I could push the clay. Good to know this for future platters.
I wanted to make a large platter, so I eventually attempted using 10 pounds of clay (bottom one in the photo). I think it looked pretty good, I might cut away the parts where my thumbs were awkwardly placed and add handles. Those edges seem a little messy. The alterations need a swift and intentional motion otherwise they look too fussed over.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More plates

I'm making more plates this week. I need 10 large plates to go into my next firing, which means that I should make 20. There is always potential for some to not make it through the entire process, so I make extra just in case. I really enjoyed making these, it is nice to work on something that actually turns out right. Well, I guess I should save that remark until I have them trimmed, bisqued and fired. Nevertheless they were fun. Not like those pesky lids (I'm up to #38).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Empty Bowls

Steven and I went to Durham's 3rd annual Empty Bowls benefit last night. The turnout was tremendous. I have not heard any totals yet, but I feel like there were twice as many people as last year. Last year they sold about 350 bowls, I can't wait to hear how many went this year. The downside to so many people was that they ran out of soup. What a brilliant way to evoke compassion for the hungry.

The first bowl I chose looked very familiar to me. I knew who made it immediatley and picked it up quickly. It was a large gas fired porcelain bowl with a shino glaze made by Deb Harris. I have admired Deb's work for years and own a few other pots she has made. I've also taken a few pottery classes from her at Claymakers. There was a lot of bowl envy directed at me, many people came up to me at dinner and commented on it's beauty. It's huge too, almost 11 inches across.

This bowl was made by my friend Trish Welsh. I was so excited to find it, Trish sent me a photo of one like after it was fired. I really wanted it when I saw the photo. I'm so lucky! It was fired in a soda kiln and has a black slip design over the glaze Ice Ice Baby.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who needs a silly ipod?

Sometimes I am lucky enough to have a live band playing while I am working in my studio. The space is shared with Steven's band, The Dry Heathens.
During this evening's show I trimmed some tea bowls that I made yesterday . These tea bowls are for the powdered green tea (matcha). They are fairly wide so the matcha can be mixed easily with a bamboo whisk. This is my first batch of tea bowls this cycle. I think I should have left more clay at the bottom to trim away. I felt like the clay at the bottom was distributed wrong.
My favorite finished bowl is the second from the left. I like it because it has a rounder shape that is curved in, where most of the others are flat and open outward.
Freshly thrown tea bowls.
Freshly trimmed feet on tea bowls.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Lid Master

I've had some time to think about it and I have decided that what it takes to master these lids is to make hundreds of them. Since I made 15 lids last week, I thought that it would be fun to keep a running tab of how many I've made. If I make at least 20 a week, I will make approximately 1000 in a year. It is my belief that at this point they will be effortless to make and of much better quality. I made 12 more yesterday, so the total is up to 27. I'll probably make some each day for a while, because I'm kinda obsessed with them right now.
In other news, it snowed yesterday. It was beautiful and almost gone today, but here is a picture from our house.