Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, it seems it's time to be getting back to pottery.  I've been in the studio for brief periods over the last couple weeks, dabbling in this and that.  Nothing horribly exciting, or interesting, and for my part, nothing too much fun.

I've been putting together a few mugs recently (several, but not many).  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but I don't care much for mugs on account of the handles.  Handles involve making one piece of clay stick to another, and matching disagreeable consistencies of clay, and pulling handles.

Now, there are many ways to make handles for a mug - extruding (think Play-Doh Fun Factory) is quick to do, but involves quite a bit of clean-up on the tail end.  Think again of the Fun Factory: not much fun to clean, and if you don't, the Play-Doh gets stuck in the press and in the molds and dries and is messy and horrible and the Fun Factory is broken.  Except that ceramic studio-quality extruders cost significantly more than the Fun Factory.  So there's one way.  You could also of course roll your own coils, or press out a flat piece of clay and cut your handle to shape.  This is good if you're not interested in a uniform strength and durability.

All this to say that the way I make handles is the way I was taught to make handles, and as such, I consider it to be the best way to make handles - by pulling.  Which has little to do with the pulling involved in throwing.  But it makes sense.  You begin with a stalactite shaped bit of clay (stalactites hang from the ceiling of a cave, because they must be fixed tight to said ceiling.  Stalagmites are mighty because they're on the floor, and regularly are bigger.  I think.  That's the way I was taught to remember).

So you take this stalactite and with wetted hands pull downward on the clay, tightening and pulling and lengthening the clay.  It's like milking a cow, supposedly, except the clay rarely knocks you down and spills its handles all over the floor.  But sometimes it feels that way.  After a number of pulls you get an ever-lengthening tail which you may pinch off and set aside to firm up for later use as a bonafide handle.


Sounds easy, right?  So why to I detest handles so much?  Well, it never really goes that easily for me.  See, sometimes, if you squeeze too tightly at the beginning of a pull you end up with a weak spot in your handle.  You can either continue, with the aim of (willfully) installing a weak/flawed handle on your mug, or pinch off what was almost a perfect handle and start over again.  Assuming you find yourself with functional handles, you must then attach them to your mug.  Which won't work if the mug is too dry, but if it is too soft you will most certainly warp it in manhandling and installing said handle.  Which of course can't be too dry or it won't stick and will also crack/brack before you can bend it to shape, nor can it be too wet or it won't hold said shape, all the while leaving your fingers covered in sticky wet clay which you may transfer to your otherwise beautifully thrown mugs.  Angst. 

In short, I find that pulling handles is a chore with rewards not worth the costs and an effective means of wasting time and defacing otherwise beautifully thrown pottery.  I myself don't care much for handles.  If a beverage is too hot to hold, it is too hot to drink.  I am more than happy to throw oriental-style teacups (I have several available for sale, if you're interested), tumblers, and other handle-less vessels suitable for enjoying liquid merriment.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That said, I generally only do handles when somebody is paying me, specifically, for handled mugs.  So I've been doing that these couple weeks, as I'm having difficulty finding cause to create anything that isn't commissioned.  So here are some mugs:
Two mugs with handles.

On left, see a lovely cup without a handle.  Wouldn't you like one for yourself?  E-mail me for purchase information.  Here ends the commercial.

I have found time for other things, such as glazing a slough of vases that needed glazing, if you can believe that.  In fact, in the time since I've posted I glazed these vases and got them out of the kiln, finished.  They're all for sale, too, if you're interested.
Glazing - after handles, my favorite thing to do in the studio.

These little vases stand 5-7" tall, and run $15-24, for the record.
This one will cost you a little more.  Contact me for pricing.

So, there you have it.  Glazing.  Buckets of fun.  Some other throwing has also been happening, so here are some pictures. 
Some commissioned pots.
"For Fun" throwing - this clay was lumpy and not cooperative.  I'm not sure if I want to decorate this one, glaze it in pretty colors, or just throw it across the room.
Another attempt at a commission for someone.  The first one wasn't big enough, and this one probably won't be either.  But I like this shape, so I'll keep it for myself if I have to.
And, of course, there are always more things to be glazed.

So that's been the studio as of late.  Krystal and I have been enjoying a more "relaxed" season of life this midwinter, with lots of reading, Scrabble, snowshoeing.  We started a big puzzle on Monday night, but I'm not sure how relaxing that is going to be for us.  We also somehow managed to kill an entire season of Angel (are we dorks, yes?) in less than a week, and are steadily plugging away at our Neflix queue.  On second thought, it's possible that we may need to shift into a less relaxed season of life shortly.

There was a memorial service for Ben Larson held last Friday at Luther College.  We weren't able to make the drive for it, but the service was broadcast online (video and radio) and so it was a very healing experience to celebrate his life with that community, if only by proxy.  It was a very moving service full of word and song and sharing stories of Ben's vibrant person and passions.  My brief thoughts on Ben and the disaster in Haiti were the topic of my last post, here.  More can be read about Ben at the links below.


Amanda Jane said...

I haven't commented in a long time...but I still think you have amazing skills.
I honestly didn't see a whole lot of creative expression in pottery before I started looking at your work. Keep rockin it Luke :)

Luke said...

Thanks Amanda! Hope you're well!

Amanda Jane said...

I am indeed doing very well :) thank You! :)