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?

 

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

Handbuilding Basics, Throwing Basics

Reclaiming Clay to Use Again

Though clay is a very inexpensive material compared to many other art supplies, it can still add up as a material cost. The good news is that the clay bits, leftovers and other odds and ends that you don’t use can be completely recycled very easily in just a few steps with some basic tools. The first panel below shows the Steps 1-4.

Step 1: Keep a bucket with a lid near your workspace. Whenever you have scraps and bits, toss them in the bucket. You can also add objects you’ve thrown on the wheel or handbuilt that you don’t like, or didn’t turn out the way you imagined. But don’t include any pieces on which you’ve already added underglaze or stains, unless you don’t mind it contaminating the clay. Keeping a lid on the bucket is really important to make sure the clay stays clean of bugs, dust, dirt, etc.This will ensure your reclaimed clay is easily workable and you won’t have foreign objects to remove! ReclaimClayPanels1_4

Step 2: When the bucket is full, and all of the bits and pieces have dried thoroughly (also called bone dry), cover the clay pieces in water, and watch the magic!

Step 3: All the dried clay needs is water to cause it to disintegrate (also called slake).

Step 4: Once the bits are returned to mud and fully disintegrated, it can be remixed.

Step 5: Use a blender of some sort to thoroughly mix the clay. You could do this by hand, but these blenders are cheap (I got this one for under $30 on Amazon), and it does the job quickly and thoroughly.

Step 6: Now you have a bucket of clean and lovely mud! Obviously, it is too wet to use. So we have to dry it out enough so we can handle it again. The best surface to use for this step is plaster. I just recently learned how to make plaster forms, and it is very easy, so don’t let this step intimidate you! Big Ceramic Store has a great tutorial on the subject, and there are videos on YouTube as well that teach you how to mix up plaster. ReclaimClaySteps5_8

Step 7: I made these two forms by mixing the plaster and pouring it into the bottoms of two large plastic bins. Once the plaster cured, I set these two forms on a small table, and with both hands, “spooned” the wet clay onto the surface and smoothed it out like icing. The temperature in your area is the thing that determines how quickly the clay dries — we are having an unusual cool spell here in Texas. It would normally take only a few hours for the clay to dry, but this week it has taken 2 days!

Step 8: When the clay is dry enough to work, it will easily peel off the plaster forms. Then you simply wedge it up into a workable ball, and you are ready to start again!

 

 

Spinning

The Free and the Strange…

Spin-Off magazine and website is, of course, the authoritative site for all things spinning. If you haven’t been there–GO!  However, be prepared.  I have found the sheer volume of information on the site can be…well…really overwhelming for someone who still has everything to learn. So today I wanted to point out two very interesting areas within the website that you can get to straight from this blog, and avoid the frustration of wandering around lost!

Lovely illustrations

The first area is a marvelous resource for information parceled out in manageable chunks–and it’s all FREE! The Spinning How-To page is a listing of short downloadable pdf’s on basic topics such as Introduction to Spinning, and Finding Balance.


The illustrations in a few of these little brochures are simply lovely, and satisfy my need to see the topic rather than read about it. Susan Strawn Bailey is credited for these elegant line drawings.

Plus, I love Spin-Off’s philosophy behind providing these simple and beautiful brochures–small print on the back cover reads, “For the general advancement of the spinning community.”

The second area I want to show you is in the Forum.  It’s an ongoing discussion of What’s the most adventurous fiber you’ve ever spun? Dryer lint?  The cotton from inside a pill bottle? Long locks of someone else’s grungy hair to be spun and made into a belt for his girlfriend?  EWWWW……

Now I don’t want to get snobby here, because I have definitely been bitten by the spinning bug, and one day if I run out of wool to spin, I just might find myself behind the camel shed at the zoo digging around for fiber…though I think I can safely say I’ll stay away from the human hair belt.