Foot Problems

As I shared in my last post, I have struggled with getting a great foot on my plates for a long time. I thought I’d share today what I’ve learned through my challenges.

First off, a great foot does way more than most people realize. Sure, it has to add to the aesthetics of a pot, but more than that it comes down to structural integrity. The most beautiful foot in the world is worthless if the piece slumps during firing. I always recommend to students to focus first on good construction before they start to get fancy.

It’s the marriage of the two – structure and aesthetic that is one of the ultimate challenges of clay. The other, for those curious, is non-dripping teapot spouts!

Without further delay, I’d thought I’d share my tips and tricks for a successful plate foot.

Use a Thick, Long CoilWhile there are many ways to create the basic plate foot – slab, tripod feet, etc., the most stable that I’ve found is a rolled coil. The trick is to roll the coil slightly longer and thicker that you think you’ll need for the end result. Length is important to give you options to ensure the foot is big enough to structurally support the curve and width of the plate. Thickness is equally as key since you’ll have more clay to use for attaching the foot well.

Marking Foot PlacementIf I had a dollar for every time I spend time figuring out the right placement for my foot, only to have to repeat the exercise after slipping and scoring I’d be rich! Slipping and scoring of clay is like the glue that holds to pieces together. Once its been done you run the risk of tearing the foot and/or the plate as you try to figure out the right placement. I like to mark the inside of my foot ring lightly with a skewer, but anything not too sharp will work.

Slipping & ScoringAs I mentioned earlier, this is the glue that holds two pieces of clay together – all of the smoothing in the world won’t save you if forget to slip and score. Technically speaking, the amount of slipping and scoring that needs to be done depends greatly on the moisture level of your clay – both the pot as well as the foot. Extremely soft, wet clay for both and you might get away with not doing it at all. Leather hard clay (meaning it holds its shape but can still be dented with a fingernail) and both pieces need to be scored, slipped a couple of times to bring the attachment areas to a moist enough level for attaching.

This is typically where I see a lot of folks go wrong, They don’t take into account the moisture levels of the pieces being attached and don’t slip and score enough. Generally, the plate (or pot) will be firmer and the foot softer resulting in unequal levels of wetness. For some reason people tend to score/slip the softer clay, relying on the extra moisture to hold the attachment when raising the firmer piece’s attachment area to the same moisture level as the softer clay would be more effective.

Scoring the Foot Ring Into the PotI love, love, love this tip I picked up from Amy Sanders’ Ceramics Arts Daily video on textures. Her DVD is full of so many great tips and tricks, but this one is like a good foot – structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. She uses a metal rib with teeth to score her foot ring into the pot. She leaves this texture visible on her work, but I use it for my starting point to smooth the coil into the piece. So much easier to grab just enough, but not too much clay to smooth with this rib than any other tool I’ve tried. Once I’ve done this additional scoring, I smooth the clay in a horizontal motion. I find that this delivers a one-two punch of compressing the clay in multiple directions to prevent cracks.

Flaring Out the RingA subtle, but necessary part of the foot process, if like me many of your plates get hung as wall art, is to flare out the foot ring. In addition to having enough clay to adhere the foot well, that extra thickness in the initial coil also helps here since you lose a small amount of width in the flaring process. I use either a curved rib or my finger to gently push out from the interior while my other hand supports the exterior of the foot ring. This subtle flaring allows a wire to wrapped around the foot ring for hanging – the flare prevents the wire from otherwise slipping off.

Simulating the TableA big part of a good foot is one that will allow your piece to sit correctly on a table, etc. The challenge in hand building plates is that often they are constructed, like mine, upside down. How to solve for a flat foot when you can’t turn over the piece until both the foot and plate can hold their shape? The answer is easy, you simulate the table with a piece of wood or a bat. This trick can be used even before attachment to see if a tripod foot, for example, will sit level. Once the board has been placed on the foot just gently press down to remove any raised areas.

That’s it! A few, hard earned tips to a good plate foot.

You can check out my finished plates online in my Etsy shop!

 

Foot Noir

There’s a great Instagram account called Pots in Action run by a wonderful ceramic artist named Ayumi Horie that runs weekly challenges to post ceramic work on Instagram. It is an example of all that is right in the world of social media and does what often seems impossible to bring together ceramic artists and collectors together across the world.

This week’s challenge is all about the foot. Not the walking around on variety, but the part a pot rests on foot. If there was ever a nemesis to my ceramic process it would be the foot. Constructing just the right foot for a particular pot taking into account the structural soundness of the work as well as the aesthetic aspect has long been something I’ve struggled with over the years.

So, I’m taking on this week’s Pots in Action challenge on as a sort of practice and continued search for a great foot for my pieces. I’ll be posting later this week my attempts and trials, but thought I would share another use of a foot in my work with you first. The best kind of foot, in my opinion, is the one leaving a great impression in clay. Too bad it doesn’t absolve me from tackling the other!

Check out more of my foot and footwear inspired work here.

Reflections

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This plate is one of my favorites. I really like how it looks like a puddle with ripples reflecting over and over. Strangely, its one of my more simple glazing jobs – three different glazes only, yet I really feel like it impacts the senses in a big way.

Learn more about this plate here.

Toast

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Some people aren’t sure what to make of my plates when they first see them. Are they food safe? Would you even want to put food on them? Can they be cleaned? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes!” My goal in creating my plates is to design and send out into the world functional art. Who says that plates have to be boring? \

All of that being said, I do tend to see my smaller plates as more dessert or appetizer plates and my larger ones as serving platters. One day I’ll get around to making an honest to goodness dinner plate sized ones … maybe a whole dinnerware set since that’s my long term goal, but I digress.

My view of my smaller plates changed forever this week when a friend of mine who recently acquired one of my smaller plates told me that it had become her “go-to” toast plate. Apparently, not only is it the perfect size for a small meal, the plate is rectangular so both pieces of toast fit fully on the plate without overlapping. As those of you who are toast lovers have probably experienced, once you put the toppings, be it avocado or jelly, on your toast you can’t overlap them without creating a bit of a mess. The rectangular shape solves that problem for you.

So there you have it – the perfect use for my plates: breakfast! It’s only fitting since that is my favorite meal of the day!

Check out the plate pictured and other perfect toast plates on my Etsy shop!

 

More Bricks

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I shared a little bit about my “Brick Work” plates before, but I couldn’t resist sharing another one that I created using the sidewalk as a starting texture. The plate pictured is actually the fourth one I’ve created! Be sure to check out the whole group online in my Etsy shop!

Wild Horses

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Part of the reason I enjoy collecting shoe prints is the interaction with the folks who donate their prints.

The woman who donated this print told me all about love of horses before actually stepping on the slab of clay. We were both surprised to see that there are tiny little horses on the soles of her shoes! If you look closely, you can still seem them in the pale green section of this plate.

She was so interested in horses and southwestern art that I made sure to include the little bits of turquoise glaze for parts of the texture.

Check it out and other shoe print plates online in my Etsy shop or this coming Sunday, October 23rd at the Downtown Redlands Art Walk.

Sunflower Deja Vu

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We all have a tendency to revisit and return to the comfortable and the designs I create with my found objects and stamps are no exception. I think its interesting sometimes to compare and contrast the use of my texture patterns between pieces.

Take this plate, for instance. At first glance the colorfulness of the glazes most likely first catches your eye, then as you take a closer look you might notice a sunflower up in the top right corner. The same sunflower I talked about using as a repeating pattern for some of my planters in my last blog post.

On my planters, this stamped flower is overbearing and almost seems larger than the pot. Yet, here on this plate, that same sunflower is less prominent and has to compete with the rest of the textures and all those glaze colors. It seems so small in comparison to the ones on my planters despite all of them being the exact same size.

I really enjoy how the same textures can change and shift based on their context – just like most things in life really.

Learn more about this plate and others in my Etsy shop!

Blue Suede Shoes

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There are many reasons why I enjoy texture. I could even go into all of them here, but instead I’ll tell you about the one you probably don’t usually hear from me. A big reason why I enjoy creating texture in my work is that it’s like a little mini walk through the experiences I encounter in my life. The stories behind how each texture pattern came to be a part of my collection are present in every single piece I create.

Sometimes the story is easy. A handmade clay stamp made from a found object. Other times the story is more complex. Each serves as a reminder that nothing is ever really ordinary. Everything has the ability to elevated to the extraordinary.

Take the blue shoe prints along the bottom of this plate. This shoe print is part of my permanent collection of texture makers and no, it’s not from one of my shoes.

I was set-up by the side of the road in front of a gallery in Running Springs collecting shoe prints from folks passing by. One person who I had previously spoken to returned and brought me the soles of two shoes he found by the side of the road. No actual shoe parts except for the rubber sole. They were rather disgusting and full of dirt and who knows what else, but … but the treads were in great shape!

I took them home and scrubbed them several times before cutting them up into pieces. I discarded the less textured parts of the soles and saved the best parts of the pattern. You’ll find pieces of these soles in many of my pieces and every time I use them I get reminded of how they came into my possession.

I love these kinds of stories. The little glimpses I get of people like the thoughtfulness of a stranger who somehow knew the perfect gift for me.

See Blue Suede Shoes and other recent texture platter creations in my online shop!

Brick Work

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You may have read my previous post about the time I spent this summer collecting shoe prints in the wild up in Big Bear to kick start some new texture patterns. This is one of the plates I created except there is not a shoe print in sight! During a slow period in folks walking passed the gallery, I decided to press this clay into the sidewalk bricks.

Sidewalk bricks? Yep! See that thick blue line dividing up the sections of the plate? That is the essentially the grout line between the bricks. Pretty cool, huh? I think so.

I liked this version of plate textures so much that each of the other two times I’ve set up to collect shoe prints I’ve gotten at lease one new brick pattern plate each time. The rest of my brick pattern plates are in various stages of the firing process, but I hope to be able to share them with you soon!

Until then, be sure to check out this plate and those with actual shoe prints incorporated in my online shop!

Well … Sally Jane??

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I get a kick out of naming my pieces. Particularly the plates and tiles I make. Something about them just asks to be named. Maybe it is because they are more like canvases for my texture patterns than the vases and bottles. Or maybe it’s just easier to see and pick up the feeling when the surface is flat.

Most of the time, I look at a piece and immediately know the right name for it. The texture and glaze combination will just reach out and grab me right away – name me this.

Every once in awhile I get a piece back from glaze firing and don’t know what to think. I won’t quite know what the plate is trying to say. Its message is more vague. Or maybe I just don’t like how the piece turned out in the end. Whatever the reason, those are the pieces I struggle to find just the right name.

This plate is one of those I’m struggling with in the naming department. I was sitting in front of my computer, uploading work to my etsy shop and having named all of those other pieces felt the pressure to come up with … something.

And I thought … well … Sally Jane. See this plate and other new work here.