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.

Creativity

The Unexpected Dresser

“… and besides, he had a box of tools and a pair of intelligent hands.”  from the short story “The Sea of Lost Time” by Gabriel García Márquez 

My multi-talented husband is a corporate man by day, working in e-commerce and marketing, but his real talents are in his hands, and his box of tools, and his brilliant imagination. He builds furniture and turns crusty motorcycles into rowdy works of art. These pictures are of his latest creation. I call it the Unexpected Dresser, because it has many hidden surprises.

IMG_3644 IMG_3655 IMG_3664
IMG_3665
IMG_3640
IMG_3670
IMG_3682 IMG_3690

 

 

Ceramics, Glazing Basics

John Britt’s New Glaze Book

I just ordered John Britt’s new glaze book for Cone 4-7, The Complete Guide to Mid-Range GlazesJohn has an extensive YouTube channel of great videos for the self-taught, or really for anyone. I have learned a lot from him over the last couple of years. You can order a signed copy from his website (free shipping!) www.JohnBrittPottery.com.

One reason I love John’s videos is that he usually ends them with some saying like, “Now go make 25 of those and I’ll see you in the morning.” Because he knows that effortlessness requires lots and lots of effort! I am excited to get the book and learn more about glaze-making.JohnBritts book

Ceramics, Creativity, Handbuilding Basics

Calling All Self-Taught Potters …

Linda Fahey has a great formula for the self-taught potter: Have a curious mind, and attend a million workshops! But sometimes workshops are expensive, or too far away. With that in mind, I want to recommend Diana Fayt’s online course, called The Clayer. You can take this class from the comfort of your own home at a GREAT price!Fayt.badge

Diana is a marvelously talented potter who has created a couple of online classes, sharing her knowledge and expertise in surfacing techniques. I have taken both of Diana’s courses, and highly recommend them! She shares so much of herself, and her vast knowledge and experience. PLUS, she’s a great teacher.

I had been wanting to make some plaster molds for awhile, but was too intimidated to do it on my own. In Diana’s course, she walked us through it step by step, and now I’ve made several, and am at ease working with plaster. Sometimes you just need a little push in the right direction! This course also covers the water abrasion surface technique, along with carving and using paper stencils. It’s truly a fabulous bargain for all the techniques you will learn!

Take a look at some of Diana’s work. You can also listen to her interview with Ben Carter on Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, his podcast. Don’t you want to learn from a potter who can make this beautiful work??

dianafaytbowls Fayt.Plates fayt.walltile fayt.triplevase

 

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.

 

 

 

Throwing Basics

Throwing Basics: Wall Consistency

It can be difficult to make good progress in any skill when you are self-taught. Going it alone does not provide opportunity for constructive criticism from other, more experienced potters. DVDs, books, YouTube videos and the occasional class have all been very helpful, but can’t really replace the rigor that exists in a program, or provide the oversight of an apprenticeship. What to do??

My chief concern is that I might be developing some bad habits in throwing that are only getting reinforced by more practice, and with no one present to tell me otherwise, I might actually be getting good a throwing badly. But a colleague of mine who also throws and actually did take ceramics classes at university told me about a practice of his professor that I’ve adopted.

facingforward

Cut everything in half.

It’s a great practice for a new potter for a multitude of reasons. First, you don’t get too attached to work that has emotional significance (look what I made!!) but little design or skill value. Second, it gives you tremendous insight into the part of the process you can’t see while throwing — what’s happening on the inside!

You simply can’t miss the giant chunk of clay that you aren’t moving up the form’s wall. You can’t miss the unevenness of the sides, or the too-narrow neck.claylumpskinny

And third, watching yourself improve with practice is very empowering and inspires more practice. Remember, it takes hours and hours of effort to throw effortlessly.

Potter Hsinchuen Lin has a fabulous YouTube channel with very good instructional videos. I have learned quite a bit from watching them! In this one, he walks you through the process of lifting the clay into the walls of the pot. Watch this video, and then cut some of your pots in half to compare.

Creativity

Samantha Henneke’s Glazes are Divine!

Just look at them!

Beautiful expression!
Samantha Henneke,  Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote previously about Harold Speed’s ideas about hidden rhythms and emotional significance in our creative expressions. Samantha and her husband, Bruce Gholson, work collaboratively concocting these dreamy glazes, and I think their work is a fine example of Speed’s ideas.

Speed believed that the appeal of a work depended upon the artist’s ability to capture truth and naturalness in their work. I believe this is so because universal themes and truths draw us in every art form, whether they are present in literature or the visual arts.

Samantha Henneke
Samantha Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC

With exquisite forms and amazing glazes, Samantha Henneke’s work is certainly arresting (Speed’s term) and appealing. Really, I am a bit awestruck by her colors and layering. Samantha gives equal credit to Bruce for their work in creating amazing glazes. She says their entire studio is a collaboration. WOW, amazing creativity, and a love story as well! You rock, Samantha and Bruce! You can read their Blog and see more of their work. Be sure to check out Samantha’s amazing photos of insects.

Samantha.Henneke.Yellowvase
Samantha Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC
bruce.gholson.jug
Bruce Gholson, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC