A Little Bit of Experimentation

Just sharing a little bit of my behind the scenes process (or lack of it in this case!) with some experimenting I did on a planter yesterday.

I’m using for this process Amazon Velvet Underglazes. I don’t really explain this in my talk, but underglazes are essentially commercially produced colored clay. However, what differentiates them from a colored clay or colored slip you may make yourself is the range of versatility of when you can apply them. Unlike colored clay/slip which can only be applied to moist clay, underglazes can be applied to moist clay, bone dry clay or even after bisque fire. This technique I’m showing here takes full advantage of this flexibility to be used at the bisqueware stage when sponging your piece is safer. Enjoy!

All of my designs came about through similar times in the past when I was trying new ideas. Check out the ones that made the final cut here!

Coordination

A few months ago I had a conversation on the subject of matching dinnerware with another potter. She told me that her mother had always told her that once she got to a point where she had her own set of matching white dinner plates that she would know that her life was together.

My life has never been together.

The closest I’ve ever come to matching white dinner plates was a cheap big box store bought set of dinnerware I got when I was in college – it had some white, but also lots and lots of green. I’ve never been the most careful of folks, the unkind might even call me a klutz, so my closest to white dinner plates sets didn’t last very long.

Since that time I’ve had any number of randomly collected plates, many of them being seconds or demo plates from classes I’ve taught. My dinnerware today is a wonderfully mismatched collection that makes no sense whatsoever.

When I set out to create what a JillyBean Pottery dinnerware collection looked like I was not inclined, given my history, to strive for matching plates. In fact I absolutely LOVE that this collection can match if someone chooses that route, but also opens up numerous possibilities for mixing it up. All of the colors I’ve chosen beautifully coordinate with each other, so blend in various shades of the same family of colors while others offer the chance to create a contrasting pop of interest.

I hope you find this collection as fun as I do! Start your own collection today by visiting my online shop – you can buy a set or even just a single plate to get going.

Euphorbia Mammillaris Variegata

The lovely folks at California Cactus Center in Pasadena feature a wide range of rare succulents from all over. In addition to being a great resource of knowledge on the care and maintenance of this drought tolerant plants, their nursery features a range of staged plants in both commercial and handmade pots.

Aaree was kind enough to feature one of my planters in her video about how to achieve different looks using the same plant, but different planters and top dressing. Definitely a must watch for some great tips on successfully re-potting your succulents as well!

Inspired to try it yourself? Stop by California Cactus Center to take a look through their selection of pots (including some of my latest designs) or visit my Etsy shop!

The Space Between

I struggled for a long time with adding negative space to my work. My approach was the more texture the better, but after awhile I realized that more texture isn’t necessarily better.

Strangely, it was my planters that really got be started on using more negative space. Since these pots tend to have simpler patterns and less complexity in glazing I really got to explore the idea of leaving a place for people’s eye to rest. Then as I started enjoying more and more that quiet space, I began looking for stamps I had made that created interesting spaces that when repeated almost became the focus vs the textured impression.

The best part of including this little bit of space between my textures is that oftentimes those spaces create their own conversation like with this little planter. I love, love this fish scale texture and had no idea how provocative it might become once formed.

Stop by the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix this weekend to check this one and all of my most recent planters in person!

Low Riders

I thought I’d share a peak into my newest planter designs leading up to this weekend’s Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society’s Annual Show.

I love these kind of designs with a zipper-esque approach with all of the texture falling in between two lines. I spend way more time than you probably imagine working out the exact flow of the line before I add any other textures. I especially like how on this particular planter the line reminds me of pants worn low on the hips – the lack of glaze above only emphasizes that impression for me.

My favorite pieces are all, in some way, like this planter. They evoke an unexpected image or two with my texture and glaze choices.

I’m Not A Very Symmetrical Person

Doing art shows is a lot of work. Packing all of your work up, loading the car, unloading the car, setting up the booth, re-packing any unsold work, loading the car and finally unloading the car. The thing that makes it all worth it … beyond the art sales although those are important too … is getting to talk about your work with complete strangers.

Strangers have no compulsions whatsoever to be nice. In fact, oftentimes they can be quite rude when they think you can’t hear them talking to their friend. Its one of the best ways to get unfiltered feedback and commentary on what you’re creating.

If there was a theme to the discussions I had about my work this past Sunday at the Downtown Redlands Art Walk it was symmetry. I can’t quite remember when I’ve talked so much about the fact that my work isn’t symmetrical before in a single afternoon. It’s true though, it is not symmetrical … intentionally not symmetrical.

Most people who talked about it with me expressed that that was what they liked best about my work. It wasn’t perfection, it wasn’t round – it “had attitude,” as one woman said talking about my mugs.

All art is essentially a self portrait on some level, so my standard answer to the symmetry questions goes something like, “Well I’m not a very symmetrical person.” This is both true and not true. I have a tiny bit of OCD when it comes to certain things, don’t we all, and they have to absolutely be that particular way.

I think my art is my way of challenging that more controlled side of me. The more wonky or expressive I can make my work while still retaining functionality is my way of saying, “Up yours!” to my inner control freak. I like to think it’s a healthy practice for me as long as I don’t go too far with it and start walking asymmetrically. I’m enough of a klutz already!

Creativity Block?

Blocks are not just for writers anymore – all of us can find ourselves struggling to think up new ideas and fresh perspectives. The trick is not to avoid those times when creativity blocks happen because let’s be honest, you can’t escape, but instead to look upon it as an opportunity.

I find that I go through cycles with the texture patterns I create in my work with the same patterns emerging over and over until I’m stuck in my comfort zone. Since what else is a creativity block except getting nice and comfy, all curled up in the same old thought processes?

I have some tried and true methods for helping me break out.

For an easy fix, I set-up out in the “wild” – somewhere that will bring me into contact with lots of people. I’ve always found engaging others as part creators of my work forces me to solve for the unexpected. I never quite know what someone will do when I give them free reign to place an imprint on a piece of clay. Viewing this unknown as a problem that has to be solved (I’m not allowed to simply scrap it out of the gate) usually introduces fresh ideas into my work.

Sometimes though I’m stuck just a little bit more than one of my quick fixes will help.

I find in those situations that I need to completely leave behind my main medium, clay, and explore other mediums. Whether it’s through research into these other mediums or actually creating non-clay works, it puts me in back in the realm of a complete newbie. I can’t fall back on any past experience. I might explore outside of the world of clay for a day or a few weeks before feeling that I can return recharged for my work.

What do you do to help get yourself out of your comfort zone?

 

Oh, That Drip

Glazing … it tends to be the bane of most ceramic artist’s existence.

Why? Well, where to start?

I suppose I could begin with sharing that the glazing process is a chemical reaction activated by the heat of the kiln. Before firing glazes all tend to look kind of pinkish, brownish, white-ish, red-ish or sometimes grey-ish, but certainly never the color they will be after firing. Its enough to drive a person batty imagining the “correct” color.

Catch those quotes in my last statement? Chemical reactions also mean that glazes don’t necessarily combine based on the color wheel or logic. My favorite example of this is a beautiful turquoise matte glaze that turns maroon when a clear is applied over it instead of a shiny turquoise color.

I could go on about glaze application thickness and application methods, but I fear I’m digressing from that drip I mentioned. All of that activating heat also means that glaze doesn’t like to stay where you put it. Instead glaze tends to run and pool. This can be extremely helpful as well as frustrating.

You see, glaze that runs can run right off of the pot onto the kiln shelf fusing your pot to the shelf. So, that intriguing little drip when it happens is something that gets ceramic artists very excited. This is especially true when that lovely drip stops just before disaster and instead leaves behind a focal point on your piece.

You can find this bottle and more of my work at Artisans Etc. in Big Bear. See more of my glaze experiments – and seem to be always experiments! – online in my shop!

Feathers

I love crazy coil pots. Really and truly – to me they are the easiest way to be completely free in my creative process. I love using them as both a coil construction project, but also a creativity project with my students. That’s where this little bird came from – a class demo with my beginning students this past session. I had no idea I would end up with such a definitive subject matter for this pot when I started, but that’s what I love most about them!

Check the usual type of planters I create for my online shop here while I contemplate figuring out how to spend more time playing with coil designs!

Is It Bathing Suit Weather Yet?

As you may remember from my tree bark mug post last week, I recently moved to the San Bernardino Mountains. Even if you don’t live in California, you may have heard that this has been the wettest winter in like a decade and has almost wiped out our drought. Although I’m thrilled that California’s water situation has drastically improved – I’ve been a little less thrilled with my part in it – namely, my newly developed arm muscles from shoveling all of that snow!!

So, in the interest of thinking warm weather thoughts, I thought I’d share one of my newer vases inspired by sewing patterns for corsets. This one, in particular, has always made me think of one of those bottom ruffled bathing suits. Now if we can just find some warmer weather to go with it – we’d be set!

Check out this vase and others from my corset-inspired forms online in my Etsy shop!