Saturday, February 21, 2009

Late night, more pots...

I did forget to mention: in my before dinner shift I also spent some time prepping and mixing some new slip. Not horribly interesting, but necessary. Running the last of the slurry in my slop bucket through a screen and then adding colorant. I needed a new batch of brown slip, and decided to try a new one that's supposed to be a "dark purple brown." We'll see how that goes.

I finished up those two vases, and threw another little one also seen below as a test piece for my new batch of brown slip. I'm not sure which one I prefer between the two of them - I went very different directions, keeping one more simple, and really filling all the available space in the other. Here they are:

I certainly do enjoy both approaches to the pottery. While my work carries elements that I will happily attribute to being influenced by various historical and regional pottery traditions, I tend to liken my approach to the sgraffito designs to the work of Jackson Pollack. Pollack's work was about capturing in static work the motion of the work - that the experience of the process is as important as, if not moreso, than the "finished" result. Pollack's paintings weren't about squiggly lines and paint drips, but they were about making squiggly lines and dripping and splattering paint.

Similarly, each of my designs starts with one line. I don't plan the piece out before, but jump in with one stroke into the slip, or a carved line in the piece. I then work around the piece, one stroke at a time. Each stroke is as equally influenced by the line before it as by the shape of the piece itself. Sometimes it works out that the negative space completes the piece - less is more, and fewer lines are needed before I feel it's complete. Other times it's simply not complete until the space is entirely used.

I'm not afraid to let the lines become more suggestive than abstract, either - it has definitely become more suggestive of flora over the years, or reminiscent of rosemaling. I also find it sometimes taking wavelike forms, or suggesting mountains. But as mentioned in previous posts, a majority of this embellishment is done in reverse, so even an intentional representation will have a completely different impression when viewed as a finished work.

Speaking of unintentional results, below is a picture of a bowl that came out of the bisque kiln last week. See that hint of blue slip on the inside? I didn't do that. It's a shadow image of the outside of the bowl that was nesting inside of it. I don't know how it happened, but the sgraffito from the nesting bowl burnt this impression into the bowl. The inside will be glazed, most likely with an opaque, so the result will probably not be visible in the finished product. Even so, it's one small example of the unpredictability of this work, and all of the fun surprises you can happen upon.

Back to tonight's work. I threw a couple of smaller pieces. Here's a little pot which I'll use as a test for the "purple brown" slip. It's about 5 inches tall, 4 inches across, and I'll trim a nice foot onto it. It'll make a lovely little flower pot.

Here's another small "flower pot" sort of pot. 7 inches tall, 5 inches across. It's almost the last of my red clay. Not much more to say about that.

And finally, the evening's piece de triomphe: I threw a decent sized vase. This one started as 14 pounds of clay, and now stands just over 14 inches tall. There's a lot more clay in the bottom to trim out yet, but I'm really pleased with the shape so far.

I'm working on being able to get this size of piece without all the clay in the base (meaning that I could throw the same jar with 8-10 pounds instead of 14). Vertical pieces have never been my strong suit - the bowls are much more natural for me. But I need to keep pushing my limits - and I do really like the big vases. They're just a little tricky.

Tomorrow will be another long day in the studio - I'm thinking a couple large bowls, a couple small bowls, and a section vase. We'll see.

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