Seaweed pinch pot

Seaweed pinch pot

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Conclusion of 2013 - farewell to Mudcolony the blog!

I've been fishing up loose ends in the studio for the conclusion of 2013. Here are a few bits and pieces.
some little salt bowls with a new favourite glaze on interior
A jug and two beakers - part of a small batch of thrown pieces I used to further experiment with iron-stained wax resist. Next time I'll apply the resist more thickly (and maybe the glaze more thinly). I'm enjoying the spontaneous brush marks even though the method still needs refinement.

My blogging has been a bit sporadic recently but tonight I'm motivated by my desire to contribute a final blog entry to Mudcolony (the wonderful blog that draws a bunch of ceramics bloggers together in the one place). I want to say a big thank you to Adrianna Christianson (inventor and administrator) and the other bloggers there - I'm very much a newby in the Mudcolony community but I've been made to feel very welcome and it's been so great gaining a sense of access and connection to people who work in clay! With the mudcolony blog now finishing I'm hoping to engage more with this wonderful community via the facebook group!

Happy festive season everyone!
(Dried slices of blood-orange are giving my kitchen window a festive feel this summer).

Sunday, 24 November 2013

reflections on vessels - in print

I'm trying to coax myself back out of my blogging hiatus, because I do actually believe blogging is helpful for creative focus. The problem is, when I'm going through a little soul searching period, trying to figure out where I want to go with my making, why I'm making, how I can make it possible to keep doing it, I'm naturally introverted - and blog wary!
Anyway, I thought it could be a good time share some of my exploration of vessels in printmaking from a few years ago (these were done in my first year printmaking class at University of Tasmania). They help to remind me of the vessel-love that got me to this point of making in clay. Without searching too hard for the words to articulate this... it has something to do with the held space, interiors and exteriors, reflections (from held liquid) and shadows/held darkness. Sorry the image quality is pretty bad (so don't bother trying to view them larger). How are you supposed to photograph 2D work so that you don't get a fish-eye effect I wonder?
**UPDATE: in my haste to get a post up and linked into mudcolony during its final weeks I forgot to provide the link to it - sorry fellow mudcolonists! For anyone who isn't already on board - have a look while it's still here in this form - soon it will be a facebook group only: MUDCOLONY
Vessel - etching and drypoint

bowl reflections - screen print

holding - monoprint

bowl of apples

holding - woodcut

Thursday, 24 October 2013

stencilled ware and some other recent pieces

In clean-up and take-stock mode right now, with last week's market now behind me. It was a great market evening - lovely to receive affirming feedback from the friendly Made 'n Thornbury market goers (as well as several dear friends who visited - thanks guys). 

Had a good (much needed!) studio clean-up this week and recycled some clay, so nearly ready to start making again. It feels good - out with the old, make space for the new!

Seeing as I had a big photo-taking session before market day I thought this was also the perfect time to get a few more images up here of finished works  (some of which have now found new homes). 
coil built vase with stencilled iron slip

iron slip stencilled beakers

iron slip stencilled little beakers/sake cups?

more slip stencilling ... experimenting with green stained slip and handles
little bowls for salt or whatever... they also serve as glaze experiments
more surface experimentation on a pinched vessel

little pinched and carved vase

coil built vessels with carved designs and iron oxide rubbed surfaces - both these have some little cracks that opened up between coils in the bisque firing... past posts have shown these in progress
That's it from me for this week! I've been a bit out of sync with Mud Colony the past couple of weeks but will link in with other clay folks there this week - will be good to see what others have been doing! (The Mud Colony facebook page will soon be the place for this blog-sharing, so check that out too)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

pinch pots - series 2 (mostly shoreline inspired)

Some images of my latest series of finished pinch pots!

A friend generously lent me her good camera and gave me a bit of a photography lesson - hence the vast improvement in images from my usual iphone snaps! 

I have a market stall at the Made 'n Thornbury craft market this Friday evening, so have been pretty focussed on getting work glazed and finished in recent weeks. It's my second market stall, and I still feel a bit mixed about the selling process - especially with the pinch pots, which I get really attached to, but one good thing that must be said for committing to having a stall is that at least I get some work finished! Otherwise my bisque shelf gets overloaded and glazing becomes really daunting! Also on the plus side, it's really nice to get feedback on what I'm doing. This stall will be such a mixed bag of experimental works that it'll be really interesting to see what people like. 

Speaking of glazing, I did a glazing workshop last weekend with Phil Elson at Northcote Pottery. It was so great to see how a really slick glazer with a very refined, precise aesthetic (no rustic dribbles and surface imperfections there!) goes about his glazing. I also picked up some great tips on base glazes and testing, and resolved to start to approach glazing in a much more organised way. Really. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

the web, my great teacher

A couple of steps forward in expanding my ceramic surface repertoire! Thanks to the internet and the generous ceramic folk who share their wisdom here.

Firstly, I am feeling very grateful to NZ potter Peter Gregory for sharing his high fired glaze recipes. I was especially excited to find Peter's glaze page because many (most) of the glazes he details are fired in his electric kiln with good results. Until now pretty much all the glaze recipes I'd found on-line were for reduction firings, and I rely on a firing service with only electric kilns. I have made up a couple of Peter's recipes - his 'buttermilk' and also 'black tenmoku'.  The above examples show buttermilk on the outside and the inside has the two glazes layered (buttermilk on top of tenmoku).

I'm enjoying the dappled and streaked effect of this glaze combination but not sure about this on the inside of a tea/coffee cup ... maybe a bit too close to looking mouldy or like curdled milk in your tea? (thoughts, anyone?) On the outside of a cup might be better, but I'm hesitating because it looks like it has run down the inside quite a bit (I dread the shame going to the 'work to pick up' shelf and finding mine is the work still fused to the kiln shelf!). A small test to the upper part of the outside surface... yes, that'll be the next of my seemingly endless experiments. (Oh and I did also try the Tenmoku on it's own but wasn't so keen on it - a bit too glossy and not as black as I'd hoped... maybe I need to have it thicker to get a better result).

Speaking of experiments and on-line learning resources, another recipe I tried out recently was for a coloured wax resist. I get the Ceramics Arts Daily email updates and I reckon I pick up a couple of good snippets of information each week from looking at these. A couple of weeks back they had something on resists including a coloured resist recipe involving iron oxide, cold wax resist and Gerstley Borate. You can see the results of my experiment with this on the three pieces shown below (also featuring above-mentioned glazes). I'm really taken with this. The only problem I'm having is getting some sense of control of the brushwork - it's quite tacky and I can't seem to get a nice smooth brush line, even a thick one. I had hoped to be able to use it for finer detailed work. I think I'll try some different brushes, and thinning down the resist. It wrecks the brushes though.

Be sure so check out all the other clay action on Mud Colony this week!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Busy pinching

Tiny pinch pots were my thing this week. Seeing these mini pinch pots together reminds me of lichen spore bodies (as shown - not very well -  in this earlier post). Starting to get some glazing done too... so hopefully will have some images of finished works some time soon.
A collection of mini pinch pots. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Skepsi exhibition at Montsalvat

I just managed to make it to "Expressions of Self" ceramics exhibition out at Montsalvat. It was the final day today. So glad to have managed to see it - heaps of inspiration here.
Peter Rushforth jars from the exhibition

You can read a review of it from The Age here. And Adriana Christianson made a great post a week or so ago with images of many of the works.
Today it also happened to be an open day at Montsalvat, which I was oblivious to until I arrived there. It's been years since I've visited this facinating and hugely atmospheric artist colony/art centre and I really wish I had more time available today to enjoy the arty festivities that were going on in the glorious spring sunshine. As it was, I had left my other family memebers at a nearby park saying I'd be 'back soon', so I kept my focus on the ceramics exhibition. The open day did flavour my exhibition experience though. Not only was the place totally buzzing with people but myself and the maybe 40 others in the exhibition space/entrance way while I was there were treated to a seemingly spontanous operatic performace. Without any introduction a performer started playing the piano on the stage area, then a man near the stage who I thought was just milling around like everyone else joined in with his powerful voice. The two were then joined by a woman (again, who I though was just part of the crowd ... although my eyes were on the pots throughout this, so I'm not really a trustworthy witness!). Wow - what a way to see a ceramics show - it sure did add a different element to the experience. In a good way. And I'm not normally one to appreciate opera!
Exhibition highlights for me were works by Dean Smith (fragility and beautiful detail to edges and seams in his large work) and Simone Fraser (organic texture and graceful form in harmony).
I wonder if there are any more posts about the show over at Mud Colony!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

More stencilling... and a big pot on the way

A very quick post just to prove to myself I'm still at it. I have a shortage of photos of finished works of late because I'm still messing around with inefficient and mostly unsuccessful glaze tests (aargh!) and letting bisqued work build up on the shelf. 
I do have fun with slip from time to time though. And I'm making a big coiled vase - really enjoying this scale actually. Just need a bit more time!

Some slip/stencil decorated mugs in progress (have put handles on by didn't take a photo yet)

Large coiled vase under construction... nearly finished actually. (Just sitting on the wheel because it's a easy height to work on it from, not wheel thrown at all as you can see).
Hello to the friendly ceramics folk at Mud Colony - you inspire me to keep focused and keep blogging, thank you!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

raw treasure trove

A few weeks ago I responded to a Gumtree classifieds add for some ceramic stains and tools and bits and pieces - so glad I did! The seller was moving overseas and clearing out her studio, and when I went to pick up the stains etc she threw in a bunch of other glaze materials she had. I felt like I came home with a bit of a treasure trove, yet it's only now that I'm getting around to testing a few things and looking up glaze recipes that will allow me to use some of it.

I'm doing a bit of experimentation with coloured slip now, and slowly testing out some of the stains, which is fun. There is a yellow ochre that I absolutely love the colour of raw, so I couldn't help but doing a few experiments on cups with that... I really hope it doesn't turn out to have a low burn-out temperature! (most of these stains don't have labels with burn-out info on them). There are the unfired experiments.

Plugging away slowly at the wheel this past fortnight - just trying to put in the hours to build my skills up really. Clay time has been a bit compromised for other reasons too, but I'm resisting the slight temptation to blog about parenting.

In good news, I did manage to get out and look at at a couple of open-studios as part of the Craft Cubed Festival on Saturday. Although I'm in and out of Northcote Pottery often because I use their firing service, their Open Day on Saturday was the first time I'd had a peek into the studio spaces. I really liked getting this little insight. Seeing Tara Reid at work in her clean white studio space was a bit of a highlight. Her meticulous way of working and her clean minimalist aesthetic is starkly different to my own approach but all the more fascinating for the difference I think. She was making tiny little balls of coloured slip which she then fires and incorporates into a clear glaze to crease a random speckled effect which is really striking (I didn't think to take a picture and I now can't find a good example to link to on the web - the photo under her name on the NP site here gives you a little hint of what I'm talking about - you can see the black specs on the inside of the bowl).

Other than NP, I managed a brief visit to the studio of Sophie Moran (brief because I left my run too late). She's tucked away in a very industrial pocket of North Fitzroy and makes elegant functional wares, mostly in soft colours sometimes with a subtle decorative motif. I was especially taken with her gorgeous batter bowls/jugs which had a lovely creamy satin glaze. Also loved her tall vases which melded a heavily grogged raku clay bottom half with a porcelain upper in a tall, elegant cylinder form - as a group they were very sculptural.

Hi to fellow bloggers on Mud Colony - I look forward to checking out what you've all been up to.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

pots in progress...

feathery seaweed pinch pot

pinch pot with forked seaweed design

Once again loving the making process with pinch pots and a few coils. Returned from our winter beach trip with seaweed strewn beaches imprinted on my mind so am having fun with seaweed inspired carved designs on these pinch pots. Some are more direct interpretations than others!

I'm hoping to join in with mud colony this week for the first time - what an exciting thing to be part of, a whole lot of ceramicists sharing blog posts in one spot - have a look!
pinch pot with abstract algae/basket design
pinch pot with tangled seaweed with air bladder

Vase (pinched and coiled) with a design inspired mainly by my 2 year old's spiderweb drawings, but also reminiscent of single cell algae (!!)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

musings about pots

Why make pots? Even ones that aren't really designed to have anything put in them?
From time to time I love to ponder this. What is it about pots that keeps me so enthralled? They can be just so wonderfully satisfying to make and to behold. Their essence and meaning sometimes seems crystal clear to me -  and other times it is entirely illusive. It seems there are many deep-thinkers in the ceramics world on what draws us to pots, and I've come across a few lovely pearls of insight from some rather awesome artists (not in-person, just to be clear, these are gleaned from the books and on the web).

Steven Heinemann (Canada)

"I'm interested in the character of contained space, and see the interiors of these vessels [bowls and open vessel forms] as a kind of terrain over which one can roam. It's also protected space in which your attention is concentrated, perhaps held for a time. So the bowls reflect my renewed interest in a more intimate framework, the power of which lies precisely in its limitation, its familiarity, its universality." (this quote is taken from The Ceramic Surface by Matthias Ostermann (2002))

David Roberts (UK)

"For me the vessel represents a touchstone, a constant, a point of reference and an expression of timelessness in a world of flux and accelerating change." (from his page here)

"Circularity and roundness are potent symbols of resolution in a world of complexity and fragmentation"(quote taken from the book Naked Clay - ceramics without glaze by Jane Perryman (2004))
Elspeth Owen (UK)

"The pots, I think, emerge more from my memories of holding and of being held than from any study of art or nature." (from her website here)

I really love that last quote. Wish I'd thought of that one myself.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

and beginning again

My market debut came and went a week ago and was a really positive experience - lots of great feedback and I sold enough to encourage me to begin the next cycle of making. Having spent most of the last week down the coast with my family on a winter beach holiday I now feel revived and raring to go  - many ideas already forming in my head, both for forms and for surface designs. (As usual, finding time around parenting my preschool age children is the tricky bit ... the making goes at a rather slower pace than the imagining). Stay tuned...

seaweed on a windswept winter beach 

Lichen - it makes pots! (with brown lining, you need to look closely)

new group of pinch pots on the kitchen table

Saturday, 13 July 2013

preparing for market

I recently did a course run by the Thornbury Women's Neighbourhood House called "Make Craft Your Business". I figured that if I keep up the making (which I intend to do!) I will eventually need to start selling. Of course this would also help with replenishing my materials fund, which is pretty much empty. The course was great - very supportive and lots of practical advice for how and where to start selling, including photographing work and setting up a facebook page and blog (yes indeed it was this course that gave me the nudge to get this blog going). The same neighboorhood house holds a craft market about every second month, and the course participants are very much encouraged to have a stall there - the encouragement worked and I will be among them, in ONLY ONE WEEK!! The market is called Made 'n Thornbury, and it'll be be on in the hall at 99 Leinster Grove Thornbury next Sat (20th July) from 10am - 2pm. You can find out more about it on the market blog, or their facebook page.

Whilst I'm excited and looking forward to this new experience of bringing my work to a market, it's been a big pressure hanging over my clay time in the past two weeks - will I have enough work finished? will I manage to get my latest stuff successfully glazed? This has been a whole new game for me. I've had a fear of market stalls since my highly entrepreneurial sister used to drag me along as a co-stall-holder to sell all sorts of strange craft creations when I was about 9 years old. This is my big chance to overcome that fear!

So, I've been a bit all-a-fluster with finishing off this and that and even trying to get some new work through the two firings in time for market (not sure if they'll make it yet... more trips to firing service this week...). The glaze quest continues and I've decided to shift my goalposts a bit in the hope of getting some of my stencilled work to market day. For now, I would be very happy with just a clear glaze on the stencilled work (eventually something more complex will evolve, but not in the next week). Good news though - my self-made clear glaze achieved a great clear result!! Credit goes to this Australian website, where I found the recipe.  I mixed up another batch today so that I had a good quantity for dipping, and also mixed up some more of an adapted version of the recipe - I was aiming for white but I got cream, which I was happy enough with. Here's a picture of the glaze ingredients all measured out ready for mixing.

Although I've been a reluctant glazer (often seeing it as a distraction from my making time) I must admit that mixing my own has started to draw me in - it feels like alchemy when you put in the simple raw mineral ingredients and create something totally new.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

the glaze quest

So, as mentioned in my last post, my current mission is to find a glaze that works on my stencilled iron oxide slip surfaces. I suspect I'm still in the early days of this mission. A few insights I've gained from my tests so far:
a) clear statin isn't really all that clear when put over iron oxide slip ... it's kind of milky and dulls the surface a lot
b) when a little iron oxide is mixed into a clear satin base there is sometimes an interesting opaque rusty sort of effect, but otherwise the colour is fairly dull semi transparent beige
c) weirdly, iron oxide mixed into white satin glaze changes it from opaque to transparent and from satin finish to high gloss! oh, the joys and mysteries of chemistry...
Actually, what I did probably doesn't count as a true glaze tests because I didn't even record percentage of iron oxide (would you even believe I'm trained in science!!). So findings b and c are pretty vague - just random experimentation really. 

Before I even gained the above revelations, impatient to get some finished pieces on my shelf,  I gambled on a few pots. I went with what I thought were safe glazing options. I got some ok results - like these two, which have a yellowish transparent glaze.

Sadly my gamble didn't pay off with some other works though - I think I ruined a few. I know. I should test. Evidently it is with good reason that those who actually know about glazing always go on about testing. 

Speaking of testing - I tried mixing a couple of glazes from raw ingredients for the first time this week. I'm motivated partly by budget and partly because I want to understand glaze better. Truth is I find glazing daunting and my lack of experience in this area has meant quite a few disappointments when picking up my fired work. Can't yet tell you how my debut glaze making went as my test aren't back from firing. Bit nervous....

Looking forward to getting back to making in my clay time next week. Thought I'd finish with an image of lovely winter oak branches I was hanging out under with the kids last week, as I just love these. One day I'll do a huge pot with winter branches stretching over it's surface.

Friday, 28 June 2013

excited about paper stencils and coloured slip....

A few weeks ago I came across FetishGost's Secret Studio, a ceramics blog by US artist Zygote Blum. I was really excited and intrigued by his surfaces - fantastic patterns that were both bold and yet appealingly complex (a sort of layering going on - very reminiscent of some printmaking methods). I had to find out more, and I was lucky because Zygote has generously shared details of his process,  including some videos of it, on his website (here-go!). It involves paper stencils, coloured slip and then various glaze effects for the final layer that add to the surface but still reveal the stencil work.
I got straight to it, taking a few shortcuts with my stencil-cutting methods and level of complexity of design and quickly mixing up a coloured slip with Black Iron Oxide, because that was what I happened to have on hand (and it's cheap). Here's my very first attempt, still wet. Leaf shapes inspired by Tasmanian wet forest trees. This vessel is hand-built (pinched and coiled) and I've scraped the sides to give a slightly facetted surface.

And here's an after-bisque-firing shot. Same iron oxide slip and same technique, different pots though. These ones are wheel thrown. I've still scraped the sides on the taller vessels because I've become rather fond of this facetted look. It adds texture and interest and has the added bonus of disguising flaws! (I'm still learning on the wheel.)
Next step - glaze testing. (Eek! I'm on the bottom of a very steep learning curve when it comes to glazing... Beginners luck please!) 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Pinch pots

By the end of summer this year I was settling into a nice pattern of making pinch pots. I was enjoying the methodical process of pinching out a little family of pots - spending a little time with them each day over several days. I started engraving patterns on these as they reached leather-hard stage. Others I burnished or scraped. I stockpiled quite a few before taking them in for firing - I really became quite attached to them just as they were! After having them sitting on my shelf for quite some time I finally found a surface treatment I was happy with - I've been painting on black iron oxide and then rubbing it back to bring out the relief design (or the burnishing marks in the case of the pot on the left in the above shot). I've used stain and clear or white satin glaze mixtures to glaze the interiors.