Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Throwing, Decorating, and New Clay.

Some studio updates - several days' worth, and some weekend, but I've been a little under the weather, so this is me trying to catch up all at once.

I've been able to get some solid throwing time in the last few days which has been nice - throwing, trimming, recycling of clay, etc. All-around studio time that has been very helpful in catching up on some things. Here's a whole table of progress:

So, you can see I've got some decently sized bowls in the works, and some large plates/platters(chargers?), and a couple test plates to try out some different glazing options for plates. We'll just have to wait and see what happens there.

I also spent plenty of time trimming, slipping, and sgraffito-ing these cups. A sample is above.

And then there are of course the plates:

They just keep getting bigger...

...and bigger...

...and biggest. It's been nice to be working on some larger pieces of the variety that I don't do all that often. They do however also continue in causing me glazing anxiety. Just cause you never really know what's going to happen. So my goal is to not screw these up in the glazing stage (as always).

They've actually been a fun project, and I will probably be throwing more, once I've trimmed these big ones and recycled some more clay (which I did some this weekend). It seems that the Guild has once again run out of my clay of choice (Laguna ^5 Speckled Buff), which I recall also happened last year about six weeks before the fall sale. It's actually kind of a frustrating situation because now is about the time that I would naturally want to start cranking out things like cups and small bowls and fun big pieces to meet the studio's firing schedule/deadlines.  As it stands, I'm down to the (about) 35 pounds of Spec Buff on my shelf, plus whatever I have yet to trim off and recycle and/or what's in my slop bucket. So I now get to prioritize which projects get clay-body preference - for example, I'd like to have another dozen of my little cups. Or more. They don't use up that much clay - under a pound each, once you figure trimming and slurry, but to produce a dozen of them adds up to a third of my remaining supply of Spec Buff. Should I keep making the little cups? Are they worth it? Or should I prioritize that clay for bowls? Vases? Large platters? Because 35 pounds will only, if I'm lucky, produce three large platters.

But enough complaining, and we'll move on to what I did last night, which was try out a new clay. Very adventurous of me, I know.

I decided that rather than explore a clay with similar qualities to Spec Buff, I should break away and use something completely different. Completely different clay means I'm less likely to keep producing the same pieces. Which is kind of what I'm looking for right now - something that's still me, but with a different style. So this is me exploring a white-body clay (Laguna ^5 B-Mix).

So, here's what I threw last night, after trimming plates and recycling clay. After you factor in clean-up time, and that I was only in the studio for 3 hours total, this is actually quite productive for me, especially looking at the vases.

I must say that I'm a fan. It's got a slightly different throwing consistency - Guilder Dave Ellis called it "more slippy," which I suppose is to say that in the throwing and centering it sheds a fine layer of slip between your fingers, on your sponge, etc. But I didn't find it to be any more challenging to throw. In fact, it seemed to resist soaking in too much water. By that I mean that unlike most clays I've thrown with, where getting it too saturated leads to over-saturation and collapse, this clay needed more surface moisture to keep from getting too sticky or drying out prematurely.

This made the biggest difference in my approach after throwing the piece. Rather than having to wait for it to dry out before removing it from the bat, all these pieces were cut off the bat and moved elsewhere immediately following the throwing. This saves time (cleaning bats, moving bats, finding more bats to throw on after I've used all mine up) and space (four vases on a piece of wood take up incredibly less space than four vases each on its own 12-inch bat). Not only were they all easily moved after throwing, but they were moved without losing shape at all. I often throw cups this way, and I have thrown bowls as such, but it's such a pain tweaking them back into the right shape after removing from the bat that it's almost worth the time and space to keep them on individual bats, at least until they've firmed up for a while. In any event, this aspect of the clay was a very pleasant surprise.

Oh, and did I mention that it seems to throw vases/jars/vertical forms easier than my other clay? I mean, this piece is obviously not horribly tall or impressively large, but it is pretty evenly thrown all the way through, and not particularly heavy.

And yes, I did do the abstract brushwork intentionally. As the slip is made from a different clay body (albeit in the same firing range), there will probably be some shrinkage differential, which will effect the level of control between decoration and firing (unless I make up some slip from this clay, which will probably happen). But I'm thinking that going even more abstract than my decoration already is will free me up to be a little looser in glazing these pieces.

Needless to say, I'm a little excited about this clay and am actually kind of anxious to get back in the studio and throw some more pots. Which doesn't happen every day.

Well, maybe a little.

But I'm excited. To make more little vases. And some big vases. And some bowls. And all pieces that I will be glazing. With real color. And exploring. And hopefully they'll turn out well.

***As an endnote, I realize that I may have gotten convoluted in either my complaining about clay, or describing the new clay, or anything else that I write about on a regular basis anyway. If anything didn't make sense, or it inspired more questions than answers, or thoughts, or comments of any sort, please let me know. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post, or I'm always happy to receive an e-mail (address located at the right-hand side of the page).

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