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!

Long Live Sloils!

Excuse me while I geek out for a moment, but the other day I got the opportunity to meet one of my all time favorite ceramic artists – Fred Yokel.

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Fred’s work is mainly figurative. What really stands out and separates his work from others is the expressions and movement incorporated into each piece. Fred draws his inspiration from cartoon characters he doodles – typically in action. I love the absolutely love of life and humor that comes through with each piece. They say that all art is a self portrait and after meeting Fred, I can absolutely see his personality shining through his work.

I first encountered Fred’s work several months ago on my never ending quest to find new inspirations and projects for my adult hand building classes I teach at AMOCA. I immediately felt drawn to Fred’s work, but what sealed the deal, so to speak, about including him as an inspiration artist for my class was his construction technique.

Fred uses a coiling technique to create his work that he refers to as sloils – that is a flattened (like a slab) coil. Slab plus coil equals sloil in Fred’s book and it is a term that my students have since adopted as their own. In fact the other day they debated the merits of constructing with coils vs sloils. It made my day!

Fred’s sculptures, which he appropriately calls “Jestures,” have resonated with my students as well. A few of them were there the weekend Fred was at AMOCA for a workshop and they were as thrilled as me to meet him in person! I think we embarrassed him a little bit.

Be sure to check out his website and work for yourself! It is not to be missed!!

How to Make a Turtle

Just a week ago from today, I was up and about absurdly early in the morning to teach a mini-lesson on clay to some 5th graders in Texas. As I logged into my computer, I gave thanks to the benefits of the virtual world. Not only does the virtual world connect kids learning about clay to folks who work in that world, but the session can be conducted wearing pajamas. I will have you know that I did brush my hair.

In addition to sharing some fun facts about clay, including those I’ve found are most relevant to kids, I offered to make an animal on demand to demonstrate some of the clay construction techniques I had talked about with them.

I thought I’d share a time-lapse video here of one way to make a great turtle!

Custom Clay Ribs

If you’ve been working in clay for any length of time you’ve probably got a favorite rib. In fact, you probably have a couple of favorites depending on what you need to do with them. For me, I love my metal rib with teeth for scoring, my flexible red rib for smoothing and my rounded wooden rib for shaping … that is until I lost my favorite wooden rib. Even though I found a similar one, it didn’t have quite the right curve and size of the one I lost.

That’s when I learned that I could make my own rib out of clay. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out. What I found was that I was able to create the exact curved, shaped and sized ribs I had been wanting after losing my favorite one.

I thought I’d share what I learned about making several ribs out of clay for myself.

Tools Needed: Pin Tool, Rolling Pin (or slab roller), Paring Knife, Slab Bevel Tool

Clay: Typically a quarter to half pound of clay depending on size

First, start by rolling out your clay into a slab slightly bigger than the size you want your rib to be. Slab should be rolled out thick – ideally 1/2 inch in thickness.

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Cut the slab into the shape, size and curve you want for your rib. I’m partial to this rounded almond shape for my ribs because I find it gives a nice supporting curve for when I shape my pots. However, you should cut the curve and shape you think would be best for your purposes. That’s part of the beauty of making your own ribs you can experiment with all sorts of shapes and sizes.

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After creating your shape, the next step is to bevel all of the edges. I used a slab bevel tool (pictured) for my rib, but you can use a pin tool or paring knife to cut the beveled edge – a 45 degree angle works best for this project.

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After beveling the first side, flip over the slab and bevel the edges on the opposite side as well. This creates a tapered edge for your slab that is perfect for use in your clay projects while the thickness keeps the rib from being fragile.

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The timing of the next step will depend on your clay’s firmness. Wait until it is relatively firm (like a soft leather hard) and then spend a few minutes softening the sharp edges created in the beveling process.

Next, pick up the rib and press your thumb and forefinger together in the middle of the slab to create an indent for you to hold on to the rib comfortably. You have probably noticed holes and/or curved areas in ribs you’ve purchased for the same reason it gives you a great place to hold on to the tool. Be sure to think about how you would hold your particular rib before placing the indents.

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The last step before firing is to dry your rib flat. I like to sandwich mine between two plaster bats, but you can use anything flat with some weight to it. It is also possible to weigh it down with a heavy object placed on top of a light weight bat or board sandwich.

A lot of times tools made out of clay are only fired to bisque temperature, but for this project it is actually best to fire your rib to the full cone temperature of the clay. This will depend on what type of clay you’re using, but you should take the rib to the highest temperature the clay is meant for – typically the same as your glaze firing cone.

The reason for this is you don’t want the clay to be porous like it would be after a bisque firing. If the rib is still porous then it will stick to your pots (particularly wheel thrown ones) when you use it for shaping. Once the clay is fired and vitrified, it will glide easily like any other rib.

And that’s it! They are so easy to make that you may soon have a whole collection!

 

 

Pulled From A Pocket

When I first started creating my textured bottles, I created the designs free-hand from whatever struck my fancy that day.  Given my tendency to pull from nature inspired themes, its no surprise that they tended to be oriented in that direction featuring lots of floral and leafy images.

As I’ve been creating them, its like my mind has been given permission to run rampant in the texture department.  I’ve always created my own stamps in addition to hoarding interesting found objects for texture designs, but now I’m using my collection more and more than ever before with my bottles.

Enter a friend who is a huge wrist watch and pocket watch collector.

I’ll admit to never giving watches – wrist or otherwise – much thought.  There was certainly a time in my life when I wore one before the popularity of cell phones for the purest of functional reasons.  So, my recent exposure to a myriad of vintage time pieces has been eye opening.  The inner workings are beautifully crafted and could be works of art in their own right standing still … wound, they rival any intricate dance with their movements.

My original thought, before I knew much about watches at all, was to maybe find a broken one to use the parts inside as texture tools.  As I learned more about watches, particularly the ones that look like those pictured above, I changed directions and decided instead to use the watch images as jumping off points to guide some of my texture designs.

I’m actually really enjoying this new direction.  I feel like it gives me the ability to put my own, more organic, spin on what is a rather precise mechanism.  I’ve even started looking for other sources to use as jumping off points to inspire my texture designs.