Little corked jugs are curious forms. They nestle into any space and seem perfectly willing to take up permanent residence there. A case in point: some of these little guys have been on display for sale at SATO Salon Organics for a while and recently we figured out that they look so comfortable in their spot on the shelf that they avoid moving day. So, they’ll soon be placed in a new location at the salon, but my guess is that they’ll settle in comfortably once again.
I hadn’t thrown any mugs in over a year, because there were bins-full in the kiln shed. My niece had gone through the bins a few months ago to bring with her to Sato Salon Organics, an all-organic salon where she works, and where my pottery and mixed media pieces are displayed and offered for sale. Some of the mugs she left with that day were for use in the salon, for customers to enjoy a cup of coffee while they waited, while other mugs (and various pottery) were designated specifically for sale. Last week my niece called to say someone liked one of the coffee-designated mugs, and wanted to know if I would throw a new set for her. So yesterday,for the first time in over a year, I was throwing mugs.
I threw a dozen stoneware mugs, half in white and the rest in speckled brown. After trimming and attaching the handles to the white stoneware mugs, I trimmed the speckled brown ones and wedged up some clay for more handles. Now, I’ll go out to my studio and finish the rest today. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed throwing and ‘handle-ing’ mugs.
Constructing a large slab-built milk-can requires a bit of planning and plenty of work space. Using bristol board sheets to construct a mock-up of the overall form and I then took it apart to use the pieces for templates. The large slab roller in work made quick work of rolling the largest template shape, which was roughly 30″ by 17″ – for the barrel of the milk can. For transport, I rolled the 15 lb. slab within heavy canvas and plastic sheeting, then placed it inside a rolling suitcase to bring it to my home studio. Once in the studio, I unrolled the soft slab to allow it to set up a bit.
Once the slab was no longer soft, I draped it over a 5 gallon bucket and a wheel bat placed at either end, with heavy canvas between the clay and the supporting structure to allow the clay to set up in a large arc without sticking to the bucket and bats.
The slab sat like this for several hours, checked on from time to time, to determine when it was strong enough to hold its own weight. Once it was strong enough, I stood it up and began to form the cylinder for the barrel of the can. While the large slab had been setting up, I had rolled a smaller slab for the base of the can and let it firm up on a plaster bat, so when the barrel of the can was ready, I attached it to the base and positioned the form on a masonite board.
After wrapping the form in plastic sheeting so it wouldn’t get too dry, I began to roll and cut the slabs for the upper sections of the milk can using the bristol board templates.
After forming the upper sections of the can I placed each part on a plaster bat to set up. Getting these sections leather hard didn’t take too long, because the warm sun and gentle breeze on the back patio provided the perfect drying environment.
After the upper sections were firm enough, I attached them to the barrel, and added a coil to the joint of each upper section, then a handle on either side.
Wrapping the lower portion of the can in plastic allowed the upper section to dry a bit more so some fine tuning of the form’s surface could be dealt with at a later time. Lastly, I took some measurements to record the amount of shrinkage at leather hard -and later at bisque and glaze- since I’d never made this form before.
Setting up the photo booth was easy once I saw that post about using PVC pipe to create the structure.
Using my chop saw made quick work of cutting the pipe to the dimensions I needed; the 3-way fittings and elbows worked great to not only build the box but to make it stable. I draped a few yards of muslin over the top and sides, then stood a piece of matt board at the back. I ran a roll of tracing paper across the ‘floor’ of the booth and up and over the matt board – folded the paper over the top of the board to hold it securely in place, then left the paper uncut on the roll in the front of the booth so it could easily be replaced as needed. With a lamp placed outside the muslin ‘wall’ I was ready to shoot some pottery images. The whole task took about 20 minutes from start to finish. An added benefit is that the PVC is very lightweight which will make it easy to move and quick to disassemble and reassemble should I ever need to do so.
All my life I couldn’t wait to get old, but I figured that living in a culture that worships youth, my anticipation of being a senior citizen wouldn’t be a very popular perspective to share with others. So, I kept my joy of aging to myself.
Two women in my life provided me with that positive perspective on aging; looking forward to my sixties, seventies, and beyond was a gift from my grandmothers. Throughout my childhood, I saw these two women living their golden years with contentment. Both journeyed through their days in a manner that, to my young eyes, seemed the essence of quiet peaceful living. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, yet had eluded me for most of my life, until now. These days, for the most part, I do what I can to live in quiet peaceful living and contentment.
In the past, living in contentment has been much easier to do during the summer months when I wasn’t teaching, however, I’ve found with each passing year, that an inner peace has been steadily growing, whether I was at work or not. What I discovered was that weeks of summer contentment practice was washing into those working months, as every year there was a greater ease in letting go. Holding-on had been working against my sense of contentment, because it had put conditions on happiness. Removing the need for conditional happiness, enabled me to be content with what is.
So, yesterday, when my grandsons accidentally let the dogs go, I felt my grandmothers looking on and smiling that I still had some adjusting to do.
Currently, I’m using jars of commercial glazes, despite Steve Hunter’s recommendation that I start using my own glazes. Steve has been a potter for over 40 years, his work is top shelf, so I listen when he makes suggestions. However, I’ve been working methodically toward this goal; entering the territory of home-made glazes requires some research to get it right.
Easy recipes abound across the internet and I’ve collected my share of them, so when it comes to that part of my methodical process, I’m in good shape. Using home-made glazes is not just about collecting recipes, it’s about understanding the chemical components of a formula: how each chemical acts in the formula, how it interacts, etc. I found a great shopping list of chemicals to get started.
Next it’s setting up and stocking a mixing area; figuring out where/ how I’ll store glaze chemical powders and buckets of mixed glaze. I’ve purchased a good balance scale but now to purchase: sieves, scoops, a designated glaze drill with mixing bit, a respirator, mixing paddles, dipping tongs, a hydrometer, and chemical storage bins.
When I’ve settled on a recipe or two along with their variations, it’ll be time for making and glazing a bunch of test tiles; then revising recipes accordingly.
In the meantime, I’m using jars of commercial glaze, experimenting with how these various glazes interact with each other and with different clay bodies.
The process continues…