Creativity, Life

Grateful for Small Encouragements

I am discovering that the Texas Hill Country is rife with amazing artistic talent. And those talented artists like to get together! In the last few days, I have attended a local lecture on Old Masters and egg tempera paint at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. I also learned that they have a full studio of wheels, kilns and eager and talented potters who gather there–even those who have their own studios at home often work there for the community. So of course I joined right away. I am taking my own lumps of clay up there tomorrow for the first time.

I also attended a fabulous presentation at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, another arts center that hosts events and has gallery space for all manner of exhibits. The Guadalupe Water Color Group held its bimonthly meeting, and Austin-based watercolorist Jan Heaton gave a demonstration of some of her personal techniques. Jan’s work is stunningly gorgeous in its simplicity, with a focus on form and color. You can see her work at an upcoming show “The Market,” held in San Antonio at the Hunt Gallery September 29 through October 22, 2016. These images are from Jan’s website, and I cannot wait to see them in person.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-12-47-46-pm
Newest work from Austin-based watercolorist Jan Heaton

The artistic ambience in Kerrville, Texas is simply wonderful. And I have yet to explore nearby Fredericksburg, which has at least 13 galleries and many amazing artists as well.

I was greatly encouraged during Jan’s presentation when she told us that she became a full-time artist (and is amazingly well-represented across the entire country) after a 25-year career in Advertising. Ahhh! Reinvention! This is my path, and it was wonderful to hear her story.

Do you have a reinvention story to tell?

 

Creativity, Life, Studio Space

The Time that Passes

Everyone should keep a blog just to be hit over the head with TIME and its refusal to slow down, much less stop and wait for us to catch up. Since my last post, my universe has dramatically changed. I know that’s a true statement for many people … after all, it’s been 18 months. Many things can change in the time it takes a baby elephant to be knit in the womb.

The culmination of nearly all of my changes have been wonderful, though the end was definitely not in sight most of that time. In that 18 months, I closed up my very small, one quarter of a garage pottery studio and put it all in storage as we moved into a small apartment to weather a layoff and a long job search. Among other (and more pressing) questions concerning our future, I wondered whether I would have another place to call “studio.” Uncertainty is taxing.

StudioFrame
The studio framework

It’s during these seasons–the difficult seasons–that I have been grateful for the stubbornness of time. It moves at its own inflexible pace, single-mindedly advancing minute by minute. During that relentless progress it takes me along, depositing me somewhere else further down the path whether I want to go or not. That’s the part I am most grateful for. I am moved along.

So I find myself here, 18 months passing since my last post, in the bend of this particular path as it turns to a new direction. Only a couple of weeks away (if the rain will stop)  from being reunited with wheel, kiln and magnificent clay, as Angus finishes the gorgeous studio he’s building me out back. A new job, a new town, a new season.

MoonOverStudio
Lying on the studio floor watching the moon

And new questions, too. Actually, maybe just the most basic question of all … who am I, now? Now that the kids are grown, now that my dear husband has given me the most precious gift of time (as in no 9-5 desk job), now that I can pursue artistic work freely? And, close on top of that one, What if …. I am no good?

But I fiercely believe and hold onto the benevolence and providence of God, and His active work in my small, daily life. So I take my steps forward …

Uncategorized

Knowledge is Necessary!

In any artistic endeavor, two things are necessary: knowledge and practice! Working with porcelain is very challenging, as it requires different handling and different techniques than working with stoneware. I am learning these things in Antoinette’s Badenhorst’s online porcelain classes, and her instruction is making a huge difference in my porcelain throwing.

After her last lessons, I was able to throw a larger piece on the wheel than I have ever thrown before — because of understanding some vital basics about working with porcelain. (Her class is actually called “Understanding Porcelain”!)

able to throw after good instruction about porcelain!
able to throw this pitcher form after good instruction about porcelain!

Practice without knowledge just makes me better at doing something badly! Here is the same pitcher with a cup after cleaning up, carving and adding a handle:

carved pitcher and cup
carved pitcher and cup
from the top
from the top

 

Her class is only half over, and I am very excited about what I might be able to accomplish with more and more practice!

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics, Creativity

Gaining Courage

What is it about pushing our own boundaries that is so scary? I mean, who really cares whether the next pot I throw flops or works? Who cares if that next drawing I make is awful? Nobody but me will even see it. But … somehow … it feels as if the world depends upon me doing something perfectly, expertly, beautifully … what??

Too often I let fear inhibit, or even stop me, from doing something creative. What is that really about? I don’t even know. But I have found that joining with others in some sort of collective helps. I have taken a few online classes for pottery and drawing that have been of great benefit in helping me “just do it.”

Right now I am in an online porcelain class, offered by the extremely talented Antoinette Badenhorst, whose work in porcelain is absolutely stunning. Like this:

Gorgeous vase by Antoinette
Gorgeous vase by Antoinette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 10.38.57 AM

Seriously, this woman is talented! And she’s a great instructor, too — providing excellent guidance as well as personal encouragement in her classes. This is my second class with her, and frankly, I’ll sign up for ANYTHING she offers, because I have learned so much about porcelain and how to handle it from her. I highly recommend her classes! You can find them here: Porcelain By Antoinette, and her Facebook page is also amazing!

One more:

one more!
one more!
A Potter's Journey, Ceramics, Studio Space

Creating a Porcelain Environment

Working with porcelain in the studio presents a handful of challenges — especially if you work with other clays as well in the same small space, like I do! I have to thoroughly clean my wheel and workspace when moving from my red stoneware to pure, pristine porcelain. In fact, some would say trying to work with both a red stoneware and porcelain in the same space is ridiculous because of the likelihood of contaminating the porcelain.

But I accidentally found a GREAT solution while at Lowe’s looking for a wooden board to lay across my table that I could use only when working with porcelain. I found this instead:

Using a kitchen counter segment from Lowe's
Using a kitchen counter segment from Lowe’s

And it works amazingly well! It’s a laminated kitchen counter segment, and it fits perfectly on top of my 6′ folding table that I use as a workspace. When I am ready to go back to red stoneware, I will box up all these porcelain tools and store the counter against the wall. I have duplicate tools for red stoneware, so there is no cross-contamination. I love discovering simple solutions!

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics, Creativity

We Are Explorers

It seems that many potters I come across have developed their work around one specific clay body. I’m not sure this approach is for me!! I am just so drawn to different types of clays and what can be achieved with each.

I heard great another podcast by potter Ben Carter, this one featuring Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson (Podcast No. 86), and Sandi expressed for herself the way I feel about clay and ceramic expression: she defined herself as an “explorer.” This is a paraphrase of what she said: there are just so many things to try! As long as she feels engaged in the process, she has learned to be okay with not settling on just one thing. 

Sandi Pierontozzi, sandiandneil.com
Sandi Pierantozzi, sandiandneil.com

 

It was helpful to hear such a successful and truly gifted potter express what I had been feeling … validation can be encouraging when one is venturing out into the unknown!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is more of Sandi’s gorgeous work!

Sandi Pierontozzi, sandiandneil.com
Sandi Pierantozzi, sandiandneil.com
Sandi Pierontozzi, sandiandneil.com
Sandi Pierantozzi, sandiandneil.com
Studio Space, Throwing Basics

The Porcelain Environment

I love working in several different types of clay bodies. I adore the friendly and pliable Cinco Rojo red stoneware clay. BUT, I also am completely enthralled with gorgeous porcelain and its stunning translucency and purity. This approach, however, does present some practical problems!! Switching over from red clay to porcelain requires a heavy-duty studio cleaning. I think of it like a manufacturing “switch-over” — everything has to cleaned and “sanitized” so that the porcelain environment isn’t contaminated by one speck of red clay.

All traces of red clay removed for throwing porcelain
All traces of red clay removed for throwing porcelain

But the switch-over has to include the table workspace as well as the wheel. While at Lowe’s looking for a new board of some kind to lay across my work table, I found this kitchen counter segment (below), which works perfectly as a secure porcelain workspace. When I am ready to go back to red clay, I’ll simply move the countertop, and box up all my porcelain tools, keeping everything clean and un-contaminated. Switching out the entire workspace, and keeping two sets of tools will prevent frustration down the line. Though a bit cumbersome, it’s a great solution for my tiny studio space.

porcelainworkspace

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics

Unfired Clay vs. Fired Clay

This picture shows the comparison of the same pot — unfired Cinco Rojo clay dipped in porcelain slip, and then glazed with a clear glaze and fired at cone 6 (which is 2269 degrees F). There is quite a difference in the color of the clay from unfired to fired–rich, deep red to a chocolate brown. The clear glaze actually seems to accentuate the speckling in the stoneware.

comparisonbowls

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next time I fire this clay, I think I will take it only up to cone 5 (which is 2205 degrees F — a difference of only 64 degrees.) BigCeramicStore.com has this very useful chart that shows the correlation of temperature to cone number, and also which type of clay “matures” at what temperature. According to this chart, firing this red clay that additional 64 degrees took it beyond its melting point, which could account for the change in color. Not that it isn’t lovely as a chocolate speckled stoneware. It’s just not what I wanted to see.

Creativity, Life

Home Sweet Home!

It’s not very glamorous, but I am very thankful for my 1/4th of the garage, all my own, which I call my studio. Small, yes, but it has everything I need: work space, wheel, kiln. I look forward to the day I have a larger room and windows, but for now, we just throw open the garage door, turn on the heater (or sometimes the kiln, depending on how cold it is!) and get to work.

Angus also has part of the garage for his motorcycle transformations and furniture building. This is where we spend our weekends and evenings after work! TrimmingwBat

Cycle

Ceramics, Creativity

Red Clay Dipped in Porcelain Slip

Armadillo Cinco Rojo, dipped in Laguna Frost Porcelain; here ready to fire. I love working with Cinco Rojo–it is friendly and easy, and is a beautiful color while in the making stages. I am anxious to see how it turns out after the firing! I am also learning to work with porcelain, and am curious to see how my experiment of combining the two turns out.

The porcelain slip used here has been collected from my throwing water and then blended with a hand mixer. I dipped the pieces into the slip, and wiped off the bottoms. Into the kiln they go, fired to cone 06 for bisque.

slipcoveredbowl

porcelainslipmug