Archive for April, 2008

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Trial by Fire

April 15, 2008

The jars are out of the kiln.  This is probably one of the greatest things about making pottery; opening the kiln.  There are few  other materials that go through such a transformation from start to finish as clay.  About 30 years ago I had the opportunity to build a kiln for the Lorenzens who were potters here in Nova Scotia for 30+ years.  I was definately the young kid on the block and was very flattered to have been asked to do the job.  (I had just returned from a kiln building workshop at the Banff Centre where we built the kilns for the then brand new Ceramics Studio)  In conversations after supper with Alma and  Ernst, I discovered the anticipation never leaves.  Now that I have been potting for 30 years, I know that statement to be true.

I will now show the jars in the same order as my previous post, so that you can see the changes.

There is a black and green slip coming up from the bottom, with black, dark blue and pale blue slip under the transparent glaze coming down from the top.  In the next jar, I wanted to loosen up the slip application.

You can now see the runniness of the dark blue slip into the white space.  I like this kind of vegetation feeling that is happening, sort of remenisent of Tiffany’s stained glass wisteria panels.

Here is jar # 3 with the addition of a bit of yellow slip.

I like how the slip is fitting better on the form.  The jar was divided into 5 “panels”, which seems to be a more active number than 4.

Here is the last jar with the addition of the “trellis” underneath the slip.  It is kind of hard to see the framework but it adds a nice structure/order for the looser slip overtop.

I think I would like to explore, in the next series of jars, having the green slip on the bottom, extend up into the white space hopefully giving a sense of distance.  This may or may not work but that is the nature of the creative process.  I like the idea of playing with that open white space which falls on the fattest part of the form.  Making that area recede with the runny green slip could be an interesting effect.

You can now see the need for the ability to see into the future.  A painting would have aspects of that future vision while you are thinking about the image, but once you are into the act of laying on paint, the image will change before your eyes and you see what you are going to get.  Clay requires that “trial by fire”.  It is fascinating that each material has very specific differences but there are similarities as well.  I’m interested in how other people, regardless of material, conceive their ideas.

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What you see isn’t what you get.

April 10, 2008

The process in ceramics is really interesting compared to many other materials. There is this necessity to be able to see into the future as ceramic pigments are generally never the same colour finished as when applied. I am working for an upcoming show at the Burlington Art Gallery in Burlington Ontario. It has been several years since I have made pieces specifically for a show as my daily activities are directed to supplying my own shop. I have the standard items I make for the shop but I have continually experimented with different ideas over the years to keep myself interested, challenged, surprized and sometimes disappointed, but that’s the nature of the game.

I have included some pictures of some jars I am working on to give you an idea of this process and the fabulous things that happen when an idea is developing. These pieces are decorated with coloured clays that have been sponged (with a piece of sea sponge) on top of the pot. They haven’t been fired in the kiln yet. Here is the first in a series of four.

Now here is the next jar, loosening up the slip application around that “window” on the belly of the jar. The dark blue slip will run when the glaze goes over the top so this whole surface treatment will be kind of runny.

Bear with me, I know this may be a bit of a leap for some to imagine just what is going on but that is the fascinating, frustrating, rewarding thing about making pottery. I will post these same pictures in their glazed state so that you can see the transformation.

Here is number 3. I have sponged the clay more into the “window” hoping to utilize the runnyness of the slip. Underline, hope. I have also substituted a yellow slip for the white slip. Now this is where I wish I had 50 more jars to decorate so that I could go through all the permutations that start to spring to mind.

However, as I stood back and looked at the three decorated jars, I had the idea to carve through the initial white clay, that covers the brown clay the jar is made from, to create a kind of trellis/fence for these viney, flowery things to hang on.

Here is the last jar. At this point I am not sure how much of the trellis will show as I have sponged the clay over the top of the carving. I am hoping it will be more subtle than strong.

Well there is the progression of an idea which challenges the old adage, ‘What you see is what you get”.

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I can always make another one.

April 3, 2008

This simple phrase has taken me many years to finally embrace fully. I really think this notion has coloured my whole approach to life as well. In making pots, if you truly believe you can always make another one, then this takes the pressure off. It allows you to be freer and try things you might not attempt if you maintain the “precious” frame of mind. I think the very nature of production pottery lends itself to this approach as you are making multiples of things as opposed to spending weeks on a single piece. Just a different approach I guess, but very metaphoric for life.