When Opening the Kiln is a Delight!
( The following is a posting I started writing last week, the idea was to share a visual process of one of my creative endeavors… before I took a picture of the finished product someone scooped it up at our annual Winter Sale last weekend! Sadly – you don’t get to see it but I got a sale & a very happy customer! Yah us! But I thought I’d share what I had with you anyway. :} )
Some things are really worth the wait!
A year ago Kerry’s wonderful sister E., indicated she was interested in a larger version of a vessel I had done ages ago. OK I say, all perky with optimism, that shouldn’t be all the difficult. Yeah right.
First I had to find a mold to use & that meant endless dollar stores to troll. Months late I finally found one that would work.
Then creating the thing… this is what it looks like before the first firing:
Then I got to go through 3 more versions after each blew up in the bisque kiln. #%&^^*%^&^& as you can well imagine. ( we still really don’t know why either)
Finally one survives the bisque kiln & glazing. In it went & all I could do was send up a prayer to the kiln Goddess & wait. One week before I got out to Kerry’s to open the kiln.
( This is where the picture would have gone if I hadn’t sold it! Note to self: Take the freaking pictures before putting the item in a sale! )
It’s as if I just looked down for a minute & WAM! Two months have passed since my last posting… I have been so focused on clay, mostly working towards making some cool stuff for our annual winter sale (Nov.19th & 20th).
I also finished the latest Phoenix called Motherhood. Some pieces end up far from those first images that flash in my head and yet are exactly what they are supposed to be. Others, rarely, come out of the kiln a physical manifestation of those first visions. Motherhood is the latter. When she came out of the kiln I had to catch my breath it was so eerie, like the clay & glaze had a direct link to my mind without the usual noise & clutter, not to mention the foibles of air pressure, time & kiln moods.
Please understand that this is my concept of Motherhood and since I am without child it will be from that perspective. She has such an intense vulnerability and yet, with her heart nestled between her breasts, intensely protective and nurturing.
The concept stage of the creative process is sexy. It is an adrenalin rush that is addictive & illusive in equal parts. The pulling together of ideas & solutions needed to make that flash of an image manifest is inspiring. I am a whirling dervish in my head & am surprised that I don’t walk into a pole more often than I do. Even the laying of hands onto the clay – working out the engineering challenges to cleave with the design aesthetic is exhilarating and absorbing.
But then comes the drudgery which generally starts after the first firing. The ironing of the kinks. Some projects are worse than others but all have to be tested & challenged, especially if it is meant to be functional. A vase that won’t hold water has to either be redefined or dumpstered. With sculptural pieces they can blow up in the bisque kiln or the glaze runs so bad that it is fused to the kiln shelf in the last firing. Or it can come out of the glaze firing just wrong and no amount of “just sit with it for a while” will change the wrongness. The only solution is the dumpster and start again, all the while resolutely refusing to dwell on all the time and money that it represented. To start again with new knowledge and no bitterness, well there in lies the challenge.
Some projects take time to test and I have been known to get bored and the idea gets stalled, sometimes forever, other times months. Take for example my bird feeder. I’ve done 2 tests. One will be relegated to being stuck in the dirt as a slug bar & the other is swinging from a stand ignored by all winged creatures and the wind chimes hang quiet even during gale force winds. So I stand & glare and ponder the reasons. Is the stand in the wrong place? Do I put an ad out letting the birds know where it is? They were all hanging around the week before I put it up, where are they now? Is it the colour? Is it too shiny? Exhausted, I do nothing. To the observer I did nothing to deserve to be exhausted. Little do they know. Sometimes birds need to get used to a new thing, right? Fucking birds, they were the ones that ordered this thing, if they had design requests they should have said something. Am I right?
The other current project that is challenging my patience is a large vessel that my wonderful muse E inspired. She had wanted a large piece to put on the mantle, similar to one I made ages ago. After quite some time (as in years!) I found a suitable mould. I did one & WOW was it amazing! E loved it too.. months later she is still pondering her glaze choice and I have made 4 more. The problem is that 1/2 are coming out of the bisque kiln with their bottoms blown out! Baffled, I am stuck, especially since they are rather large & represent a fair investment of clay & time. I will figure it out & continue but, again, it will take time. *yawn*
So I guess the point ( & I hadn’t realized I was making one till just now ) is that when you pick up a piece of pottery at a studio or sale & look at the price take a moment to think about all that might have gone into creating it. If it is a wheel-thrown bowl, it may have only taken minutes for an experienced potter to make it but it in fact took years of many hours of practice to reach that level of ability. Amortize the price over 5 years and it is looking ridiculously cheap! Just know that each piece a potter makes has a lot of sweat and soul built into it.
Andrew Tarant opened his kiln to this! ARGHHHH Click on the image to read his take on it.
Any disasters you want to share? Leave a comment & we can commiserate together.
Like I Made it for Kerry’s New Living Room!
My dear friend Kerry just re-did her living room, from wonderful to sleek and stylish. Nice work K! What a delightful surprise when I arrived to find one of my carafe/vases fitting in perfect with her new colour scheme, as if I had done it one purpose. So I just had to share the pic with you…
Damn Nagging Birds!
Once upon a time I created this monstrosity of a bird feeder, it truly was an engineering obsessive disaster. I wish I could tell you that all my creations are amazing but… well not so much. But I put it out onto the balcony off my bedroom, the one with no door (to the balcony, not the bedroom). Don’t ask me why there’s no door – it was the 60’s & the builder was doubtlessly imbibing some of B.C.’s bud.
I had decided since I had a cat, she could have the big balcony and the birds the small one since it was unlikely they would need a door. They were very kind and didn’t hold the ugliness that held their seeds against me and would gorge with abandon. The problem was I needed a door to get out and clean up their mess as well as refill the feeder. This meant climbing over my worktable and out the window. Needless to say this got old quick, especially in the winter with gale force winds trying to suck me off the balcony.
I just realized this has developed into quite a long story, sorry. But there is a reason, which is that even though there has only been seed out there intermittently over the last 10 years those damn birds have generational memory and sit out there chirping their wee little hearts out causing much guilt for me and distraction for the cats. Normally I could tune them out especially if it was sunny and warm and there would be a kajillion things that needed doing outside and away from clay. Sadly there is to be no sun this summer and really instead of bird feeders I should be building an ark but that’s not going happen, so the birds win. I am now thinking, dreaming, and fussing about the feeder designs – again. This time I am going as simple as humanly possible, really. Ok maybe a little somethin/somethin goin’ on, like wind chimes? Do birds like wind chimes? Colour, what colours do they like… hmmmm google time!
Do you have a fav bird feeder? Share pics and stories…
You can just see the door-less balcony in the background, so you can see how daunting that would be!
Is It a Kiln or a Lawn Ornament?
I was delivering parcels over in East Van, along that gorgeous section of Wall St., looking towards the North Shore Mountains and the Vancouver Harbour. There was an area of heritage homes where I had to literally crawl up freaking mini-mountains but I didn’t mind (mostly) cause when I got up there WOW! Stunning. So I’m almost on my hands and knees through this garden at a 90 degree slant distracted by all the evidence that an artist obviously lived there because of all those darn artsy art-i-facts we are so well known for littered up this goat trail when I came upon a kiln, the like I have never seen before, in life or in print. Using it as an excuse to stop for a breather it did look like it could be a weird ass bird house and that may well be what it is now. I continued climbing hoping that the owner would be home so I could drill him/her. No such luck. I have been left to ponder its story. Thought I would share with you and see if we can’t dig something up about it. Yes I know I could just go back but what fun would that be when we can look at it like a treasure hunt! (And I’m not sure I could find it again.)
So pass this link onto all your potty friends and see what happens. I am also interested in theories, those are always good for a giggle.
You can see, kind of, how freaking steep this property is. Wish I could have watched them get this puppy up there. Or maybe they built it there?
My name is Donnae and I am addicted to writing Haiku. I feel such a release by disciplining my whirling dervish mind into choosing the exact right 5/7/5 syllables to express a thought/feeling/scene. It can take a min. (rarely), days or even months. I often do it riding my bike to work, sometimes forced to stop suddenly to scribble a line or word down so I don’t forget it.
Now I prefer square plates, love how they fit into the square cupboards all tidy like and since I needed more I decided to start producing some. In a flash of inspiration I saw my Haiku along the edge of the plates. WooHoo! It might not be a world shifting as winning the Stanley but I’m pretty proud of how they turned out. So last spring at the Maple Ridge Open Studio Tour I introduced them and they were a huge success. This was good and bad. The good because, well it is always good when public demand meets creative endeavour – the sweet spot, if you will. The bad because I had created them me. So having sold out I decided to make more but I still don’t have any plates for me. Guess I need to make more, eh?
I’d love to know what you think of them…
I Admit It, I Hate Glazing!
I just spent 5 hours toiling with glaze – on a beautiful sunny (mostly) day instead of, well just about anything else. Helping Kerry weed would have been way more fun. At least I got to set up under the overhang so I was sort of outside and I got to chat to Kerry as she beetled around trying to make up for lost time in the garden.
Glazing is such an issue with potters, the traditionalist say that any serious potter should make their own glazes. I have resisted such blatant intimidation techniques and insist on using commercial glazes and I am so
a serious potter except when I am giggling about something. Lord I feel like I’m at an AA meeting. “My name is Donnae and I use commercial glazes” It’s just that I realized quite early on that I love to make things in my head and then in clay and that any time I spent learning to and mixing glazes would be time away from what I love.
When I discovered commercial glazes I was delighted. Of course they cost the world but worth it if I didn’t have to make them. One of the problems is that there are so many choices and often I can resemble a kid in a candy store. The result is I have a fortune in a multitude of colours.
While I have the making of it taken care of I still have to get the stuff on my pieces and it is pure drudgery since it means at least 2 coats of brushing on the glaze, letting each dry before proceeding. For some reason I can’t sit to do it sitting so that is 5 hours straight on my feet on concrete. Bah!
So on my list of what I would do when I win the lottery is hire someone to do my glazing for me, right behind hiring a housekeeper. I need to remember to buy that lottery ticket.
I found an interesting post about another potter’s reaction to commercial glazes: http://potteryclasstoday.com/http:/potteryclasstoday.com/pottery-how-to/the-cost-of-convenience-pre-mixed-glaze/
Motherhood – the bisque stage
Time for Motherhood and I to take a road trip (never thought I’d see “motherhood’ and “I” in a sentence) I very carefully bundled her up like a mummy :} and gently propped her up in Bella and off we went to Maple Ridge to visit Auntie Kerry. She arrived in one piece (Yay!) and into the kiln she (torso, not Kerry) went for the first of at least 2 firings. This one is the easy one, the glaze firing is where I will need the blessings of the kiln Goddess and any other deity that is listening in.
Then, of course, we had to start in on glaze choices, the first of many I’m sure. What fun! Glaze chips flying around the kitchen, back and forth on what feeling am I aiming for. Colour is so freaking important but not just colour but textures and tones as well. Also there is the absence of colour that creates its own voice. So what does her voice have to say? I find myself several times a day poking around that question, she is never very far away. The basic question comes down to light or dark, one invokes vulnerability and the other nurturing/safe. Of course both are applicable but which is the one I want to focus on with this piece? I think I may have just answered my question! Yippee!
I love love love getting pictures from customers showing me my pieces in action. Being used and enjoyed in someone’s home makes pottery come alive. Since the lilacs are starting to bloom I thought these pics would be fun.
If you happen to have pictures of my work at play please send them to me, I’d love to feature them in my blog.
Well the dilemma today was form vs concept. Do I go with something that looks good as opposed to manifesting an idea? Since my work is mostly concept driven it is a tightrope that I often find myself on. The challenge is to find away to honour both and not get lazy and just cave to one side. Balance in all things. Yah Buddha!
Well Ms.Thang is done and I’m not comfortable calling her Torso 8 (especially since she is torso 7, apparently counting is not my strong suit)… so her name, at least thus far, is Motherhood.
I am chanting the potter’s matra “it is only mud until it comes out of the glaze kiln whole it is only mud until it comes out of the glaze kiln whole it is only mud until it comes out of the glaze kiln whole”. Buddha again, attachment = grief (my paraphrasing). sigh. But I’ve already named her… so please pray with me to what ever deity sings to you and hope my girl comes through the upcoming trials whole.
Artist’s Little Helper
From the 1st day that Duma, the resident Siamese, was able to jump up onto my work table she has been enthralled with it. She loves to stretch out, roll back and forth and wiggle around on it, though it is rarely ever clear enough for her to do that. If I am working on something she will be there supervising & putting her 2 cents in. (I just realized there is no symbol on my key board for cents… when did they drop that?) While there have been casualties not as many as you might think, considering all the face rubbing that goes on. I continue to work with her participation for as long as I can and then I need to boot her out and close the door. And then put up with the whining and scratching outside. Bugger.
So I was thinking that it might be fun to actually write some posts about what creative endeavours I am up to and kind of keep a record of my processes. We’ll see how it goes.
After a long drought with the Torso Series I am in the middle of doing a new one. I actually thought that I had run out of concepts. Then I wondered if I had actually run out of physical space for them which triggered a drying up of my torso juices. Which actually led to a year of not touching clay at all. Any one who knows me will not be surprised at the amount of analysis and angsting I put my poor brain through. That’s the way I roll and am learning not to give myself a hard time about it.. but then I start to analyze that… whatever.
So the new torso…
It was born from a quote I heard about being a mother that has haunted me for years, sitting in my brain fermenting till a few weeks ago it was made physical in the form of a torso. I often create like that and always get such a rush from it when it happens. Of course I can’t tell you the quote otherwise it will give it away, maybe. It could also be so obscure that only I get it, not like that hasn’t happened before. But here is a pic of where I am now.
The carving of the Phoenix is the most time consuming and trickiest of the whole thing, especially with paper clay. The paper in it makes it hard to carve, tends to be flaky. But I like using it since it is soooo flexible and forgiving, allowing me to really push the boundaries of what clay can do. Compromises, always compromises.
Welcome to Donnae’s gallery of clay work!