Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great class last night (I thought). Some of you made extaordinary progress. There was a good deal of technical acomplishment and some real skill breakthroughs. There was also some real conceptual advancement for some of you in how you look at your pots and understand the issues involved. I thought everyone learned some important lessons, regardless of how many pots came off the wheel successfully. As is always the case, what you get out of any endeavor is related to what you put in. I am proud of all of you and the hard work that you have done. Making pots isn't easy. It takes patience, focus, commitment, a willingness to experiment, a certain amount of fearlessness, and a great deal of practice. Keep up the good work! We will be starting on bowls next class, but in the mean time you should make as many mugs as you can before then. We will wrap up mugs by discussing any issues you may have encountered, but feel free to raise them as comments on the blog here. Also, have some ideas for what you want your bowl inspiration to be. Bring something in for us to look at if possible. Till then....

6 comments:

  1. Julie Chastain GreeneMarch 24, 2009 at 6:21 PM

    i'm mentally powering up to produce 20 cups. my first big challenge seems to be my inability to remember what the cup looks like without it sitting in front of me. (so as it turns out the 3 "cups" i made last night are really more suited to being bowls..) i'm also fumbling with getting the clay to the ideal dryness for making the handles. too wet and your fingers assault the clay with dents, too dry and it cracks as you bend it. i've just switched from an old bag of 217 (ideal dryness for handles) to a new softer bag of 217 which is much easier to throw but very mushy when trying to form handles. do i let it sit out a bit then rewedge it? or try to shape it first, then let it dry some? which brings to the third obstacle: patience. why is it that i just have to test the dryness of a pot or handle.. even when i know it's still too wet?

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  2. Good questions Julie. Some times if I am trying to explore a particular theme and don't want to stray too far from some specific detail I will position an example/inspiration piece where I can look at it while throwing. Good to keep these references handy when memory plays the inevitable tricks. As far as handles go you are right that patience is of utmost importance. Controlling the stages of drying is often a frustrating gamble when you don't have a facility set up to moderate the moisture. Do you remember the set up Alya had in her space at one point? She sectioned off an area of her shelves enclosing it in plastic. You can keep a certain amount of humidity in the space and let things dry out more evenly than if you just loosly drape some plastic over the top. Some times I even put handles in this set up and come back after a few hours to find them good to go. As far as my own routine goes, I almost never attempt putting handles on the same day I have thrown the body. Don't force it if you don't have to. Getting the pots to the right consistency takes far longer than a handle setting up, so I usually throw a bunch of forms one day, some of which may be mug bodies, cover them over night and return in the morning to pull handles and check on the drying of the bodies. For me this seems to work out best to catch them before they have dried out too much (in which case I can still sometimes remoisten them) or to let them dry out some more if they are still too wet. Your question about the clay consistency for pulling handles is a good one. If the clay truly is too wet you may very well need to dry it out before using. Wedging would be a good strategy as it removes moisture. Interestingly, I know some professional potters who keep a reserve of clay specifically for pulling handles and it is usually a bit moister than the clay they throw with. But this may also reflect that as professionals they are able to achieve the ambitious forms better by throwing with drier clay. My suggestion is that you see if you can learn to pull handles with this wetter clay, say pull a good 20 or so, but if not go ahead and dry it out some. One strategy for pulling softer clay is that you need to protect its structural weekness by only thinning from the bottom up. What I mean by this is that you pull the lowest part first, then a little higher and so on until you get to the top at last. You want to keep the part that is most effected by gravity strong for as long as possible. Good luck and let me know how it is going!

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  3. i stumbled upon a blog entry by emily murphy with a great eulogy to leather hard clay and thought i would share it. check out the great pictures: http://potteryblog.com/2008/04/peace-love-and-leather-hard-pots/

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  4. Juana, thanks for pointing out Emily's post: A great summation of what makes the leatherhard state the most fascinating for clay. This is also an issue that I am wrestling with in my own work at the moment. For me I often feel that anything after leatherhard is a downward spiral to disappointment. A fresh made pot has a certain innocence about it. Form and surface are all there really is at this stage. The sheen of still moist still plastic clay carries the information about how the pot was made in a way that every later stage fails to do. Bone dry and bisqued clay seem relatively lifeless, and glazed ware has a new surface to create a different dialog with the viewer. The form is now also something changed. As we discussed the other day, depending on the glaze application the underlying structure of the pot will be modified by how the glaze sits on the surface. Sharp edges are softened, curves are flattened, etc. Atmospheric kilns seem to have a good chance of avoiding this tendancy for applied glazes to obscure a surface, but how often do we have access to one of these firings? I believe that it is this love of the leatherhard state that has motivated me to find a glaze that can be applied thin enough to preserve the form and surface as close as possible to what it was freshly thrown. Of course this is only one aspect of what makes pottery so interesting. Some artists are quite talented and dedicated to the idea of making their pots statements about decoration. There is no one right way of doing things, so we each have to decide for our selves what we want our work to be about.

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