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
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.

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics, Creativity

Linda Fahey on Being Self-Taught

Potter Ben Carter produces a wonderful podcast series titled “Tales of a Red Clay Rambler,” where he produces thoughtful and interesting interviews with potters and other RedClayRambler.LindaFaheyartists. This past week, he interviewed Linda Fahey, whose work is wonderful and imaginative. Linda is a self-taught potter living and working in the Bay Area, where she also runs a a fabulous shop called Yonder. The shop is located in Pacifica, about 15 minutes south of San Francisco (find it online at Yondershop.com).

YonderShop.com

In the interview, Linda talks about her journey of becoming a potter and full-time artist–and her new role now as shop-owner of Yonder. (The tag line of her store is “discover beautiful things every day.” Indeed!) The whole interview is great, but I was particularly struck by her words about being self-taught. I am also on a self-taught journey, so I find her words (and work) very inspiring:

34: 54  I’m not confident enough to think I’ve arrived, ever. it is what fuels me to get better. We talked earlier on going through an academic program and what that entails, versus someone like myself, who is essentially self-taught, worked under people, but self-taught. There are gaps there that you have to find and then you have to figure out how to make it better. The academic environment is designed for you to not have a lot of blank spots. You are going to come out of that program and be pretty tight, right?… So this over here, me, working in the dark sort of, I mean I’ve gone to a million workshops and I have a very curious mind so I’m out there trying to find the information, but I don’t know what I don’t know. I still have a long way to go. 

Though Linda may feel that to be true (that she still has a long way to go), it’s clear by her body of work that she is quite accomplished at making the world a more beautiful place:

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

In Ben Carter’s podcast, she also talks about what she’s learned from working with Anthropologie, being a store owner, incorporating her environment into her work, and her future goals. Play her interview while you are in the studio–it’s wonderful inspiration. You can read her blog and see her new work here.

 

 

 

A Potter's Journey, Creativity

A Potter’s Journey

I have decided to chronicle my journey of fear and insecurity as a developing artist in the hope that it will encourage and inspire someone else–maybe you. It’s scary! But, you might be scared, too. So … I figured we’d just go along together!

For starters, here are my fear-based confessions: When I come across a potter whose style impresses me (and there are many!), I will often think, “Well, that’s it. This person has created the pottery I would have created had I been good enough. It’s now time to throw in the towel.” As if they’ve used up all the potter talent in the world, and there’s a possibility there isn’t any left for me to find. Or that I’ve started to late in life (about halfway, if I live to 100). Or that if I can’t make something jaw-droppingly stellar in my first few attempts, I never will.

A Scary Blank Canvas
A Scary Blank Canvas

When I watch the wonderful DVDs that Ceramic Arts Daily produces, or the YouTube videos so many share, or read various potter’s blogs, I am so impressed with their vision for creativity … but mostly what I see right now when I look at my lovely rolled out slab of clay is a scary blank canvas that I likely don’t have the wherewithal to transform.

I’ve been obsessed with clay for about 3 years now (today is July 19, 2014.) But in real time — between family, job, other interests, life’s drama, and what-have-you, the total number of hours spent/clay worked is more like 6 months/a handful of boxes of clay from Trinity Ceramic Supply. Any studio potter would tell me to get over myself and throw a few hundred more pots before whining. That is one reason I love John Britt’s fabulous YouTube videos! He always ends them with something like, “Now go make 25 of those and we’ll see you in the morning.” A great reminder that effortlessness requires hours upon hours of effort. 

 

A Potter's Journey, Creativity, Life

Endless Curiosity

I have inherited the investigative gene in my family, and while mostly just useful, it can sometimes get out of hand. Basically it means that when I find myself interested in a subject, I am like a dog with a bone, and can’t let it go until I am satisfied that I understand it. Right now, I have an endless curiosity about the natural world and its ability to provide for and sustain humanity—specifically, in two areas–with fiber spun into yarn and made into fabrics, and clay formed into vessels for use.

Cups and a water jug
Cups and a water jug still wet from the wheel

So I thought I’d just take you along with me as I try to satisfy this curiosity in my clay journey, just in case you were wondering about it, too.

This all started with my own increasing amazement of our natural resources. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I deeply appreciate clean water, available food, antibiotics and other advances that have freed us—at least some of us, looking at the world in its entirety—from ills that have plagued humanity through the ages. But, I am fascinated by the dual nature of the natural world. I say “the dual nature” because the natural world is both beautiful in its simplicity to provide, and amazingly complex within that provision.

Take fibers, for example. Linen, flax, wool, cotton, silk—all of these various fibers grow and reproduce, and did so and would do so without any intervention from us. Because of their natural properties—the way a fiber is constructed so that when it is spun, because of its natural design, the fibers interlock, become stronger, and can be made into the myriads of articles we need.

Clay is much the same—abundant in nature, and of such a specific construction in its nature that it is the perfect material for creating vessels—pots, dishes, water jugs, insulators, and even panels on the space shuttle. Clay is another natural material with astonishing properties.