Sunday, August 31, 2008

More pottery pots

Catching up on more pictures of my finished stuff from pottery. For this post, box pots! Box pots, in my definition, are hand-built pieces I've made from slabs of clay. At Space Studios, they have 2 slab rollers, and those machines work very nicely... when I see the poor blokes on that TV show "Crafters Coast to Coast" (on HGTV and also DIY) rolling out their clay with rolling pins, I think to myself how much I appreciate the Space Studios slab rollers.

This first box is made with red clay, and it's another one with a little drawer... that fits perfectly fine, thank goodness. It stands about 5 or 6 inches tall.

I painted on the exterior design and the interior bright yellow using underglazes. Underglazes are like colored clay and can go onto the piece before the bisque firing, which is what I did with this pot. Once the bisque firing was done, I just painted on clear glaze. Unfortunately, I tend to get a little heavy-handed with the clear... and it got a little milky in places.

This next box pot is only about 3 inches square. I used a sprig mold at the studio, also known as a press mold, to create the floral design for each side of the pot. I used white clay, and once it was bisque fired, I painted on brown underglaze and then sponged off most of it, followed with a couple of coats of clear.

One of the sides blew off during the bisque firing, because by the time I finished this box pot, it had gotten a bit too dry. This was way before last Christmas... so I finished the piece that broke off (thankfully in just one piece) just like the rest of the pot and put it through the glaze firing too... and then I glued it on. It's noticeable, but the glazing technique I used is to make it look "old"... so what's a few cracks?...

I painted the inside with a deep green glossy glaze, and it turned out a real pretty color. When I was making this pot, my sister, Kathy, suggested how to finish it, and she liked it when it was all done... so I gave it to her.

This next box pot is also about 3 inches square, and the little penguin stands about 2 inches high. All painted with underglazes. For the sides, I painted them all black and then took a tool and scribbled all over it, to show the white clay underneath. Once it dried well, I smoothed it out. The thing about little bits of clay, once it's bisque fired, it's sharp. And glaze firing only makes it more sharp.

Had to make the inside blue, like the icebergs the penquins live on. Then just followed with clear glaze, this time, thankfully, not to heavy-handed, and the black stayed nice and crisp.

This box pot is about 3 x 4 inches and about 2 inches tall. I free-formed the goldfish (like the penquin), and I also used underglazes on the greenware.

Followed by a clear glaze coat. On the sides, I used a fan-shaped paint brush and 2 shades of blue.

I still have a few more pieces to post pictures of, and right now in my shelf at the Studio, I have 5 bisqued fired pieces... a round dish and 4 critter shaker balls. In addition, I have 4 or 5 critter shaker balls waiting for bisque firing... so that means I have a bunch of glazing in my future. Also, I just brought home a finished bowl and another finished box pot.

For these critter balls, my goal was to make a critter that I can glaze mostly just one color, like this red guy with white eyes, who was inspired by photos I found on the web of North Carolina face jugs. A couple critter shakers that I just finished are weird looking like the face jugs.

When I make the balls, I used to just wad up newspaper and than start grabbing clumps of clay and forming it over the ball of newspaper... but recently I did 3 of them, and didn't get to finishing them all in time. The last one got a bit too hard to work with, so I tried to wet it again by putting damp papertowels over it and letting it set overnight. White clay isn't very cooperative that way. When I unwrapped it, the ball had collapsed. I was able to retrieve the shakers inside of it and put them back into my stockpile of shakers, and I took the too-hard clay and put it into a bag and wet it so I could the clay over. I noticed that some of the pieces were really too thick, and some were pretty thin.

I was more concerned about the too thick pieces... it's not good to have the clay too thick. That increases the chances of explosion in the kiln, and also, it's a waste of clay. So this time, I slabbed out a bunch of clay and made the balls by just cutting out pieces of the slab and fitting them over the ball of newspaper. It worked very, very well. Too well. I made 6 balls. I really had trouble getting them all finished into critters before they got too hard to work with. The last 3 were more like a chore than a fun time at the studio. Won't make the mistake of mass production of balls again. Will use slabbed clay for the balls from now on though. Very handy.

Also, since I am now a Clay Club Member at Space Studios, I love the freedom of going when I can, even if it's just for an hour. Some days, that's all the time &/or energy I have. But... I did the one-year membership, and I zipped through my 50 pounds of clay already. Had to buy a bag, and it's not very cheap. Well, when you think that all the firings and glazes come with it, it's likely pretty cheap. But I think I use a lot of clay... so making sure the shaker balls don't have portions that are way too thick is probably more important to me now. Not that it wasn't important before... truly I'm more concerned with pieces blowing up than cost of clay. Not only because my piece would be ruined, but my fear is that I'll be careless and my piece will blow up in the kiln and take out someone else's piece near it. That would make me feel worse than my own piece being destroyed.

One of the first things I like to do when I get to the studio is go through and look at all the pieces in progress and fnished pieces that are setting in the other shelves and in the kiln room. There are some very unusual, very beautiful, some very lame, and yes, also very ugly creations that come out of the studio. Some pieces are very simple and plain, but the glazing technique the person used is super creative. Some pieces are super creative and unusual. Those are my favorites, usually. Sometimes I will notice a glaze technique and I'll try to track down the person to find out how they did it. I've also had people ask me about my stuff setting on my shelf. Writing about this is making me wish the studio was open today! But it's close to 1pm here and we have a family picnic at 2pm, so I'd better go cook some peas up! (Yes, peas.) Adios.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Seeking Balance

We humans are, by our innateness, self-centered beings. It is truly about the me of each of us. Has to be. I would give my life for my kids, but you can sure as heck bet I'm gonna do my best to save myself, too. Of course. For one thing, my kids need me. It's like on airplanes... put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then your child. You can't help anyone if you're dead, y'know...

When you hear about something new or an experience by someone else, you automatically relate that information to your own self. At least, that's what I think... after 48 years of being myself and being around other humans.

Like, for example, (an example I've mentioned before, I'm sure) have you ever gotten a new vehicle and then suddenly notice how many vehicles just like yours are on the road? There are many, many 2002 Light Bronzemist Metallic Buick LeSabres out there. Tons of 'em. And me in one of them. But until I got in mine, I never truly took notice of all the others.

Lately, I am obsessed with balance. This vertigo I have is still kicking my sorry ass, and thus my obsession with balance. And now, everywhere I turn, I am hearing the word "balance" or I see it written somewhere. Balance, balance, balance. It's driving me nuts. (As my Momma would say, as far as I have to drive, I might as well walk!... especially with gas prices nowadays, huh?!!!)

All I want is balance.

Dear Universe, enough with the constant reminders already.
Very truly yours,

I took yesterday on vacation (officially, but managed to work 6 hours from home before my "day" started), and Sammy and I went shopping for him for new socks and boxers and shoes. School starts on Tuesday.

The poor boy. It should have been a fun day, and it eventually was, but the morning was trashed. I was Very Ornery & Moody. Sammy felt the brunt of it in Wal-Mart in the aisle where all the Hanes and Fruits of the Looms hang out. Oh, very fun for him, I assure you.

But we managed to fill up the cart and get out of the store still together and not constantly growling. As we exited the store, I noticed it was very busy. Many people, many cars. An older, kinda crappy red Camero that was stopped waiting for pedestrians suddenly screeched into a too-fast hard left and zoomed down the parking lot lane. Scared the crap out of a bunch of people, a dad with 3 little kids and an old guy right behind them, he with a cane & who just about lost his balance... he had to grab the trunk of a car he was next to. The Camero did a right turn and came up the lane toward where Sammy & I had parked. She parked further down, though, and so was walking towards us as we were unloading our cart contents into our trunk... well, actually, only Sammy was doing that activity. So this hard-looking, dark-haired young woman walks toward me... I'm staring at her intently, & not kindly. As she comes even with me, I say, quite venomously, "Nice driving." She looks at me, and I glare at her and continue, "You're either an idiot or an asshole. Or both." Sammy tries to shrink into the trunk. She keeps walking, and I suppose, she's trying to think of something to say back. The skank finally replies, throwing both her arms up wide and shrugging her shoulders, voice and gestures both loud, "Well, hey, I guess some of us just have to drive that way." Whoa, now that retort really showed me, huh. I said, "Oh, then you're both. You're both an idiot AND an asshole!" By that time, she was at least 20 feet away, so I'm hollering it at her back. Loudly. I'm pretty sure I unnerved her; she didn't turn around and her pace increased. I'm also sure I could have taken her skinny ass easily. Especially as a tag team with Sammy.

That. Felt. So. Good.

I looked around and people everywhere were looking at us; with many grins toward me. I smiled with satisfaction and put our empty cart properly and carefully into the cart corral.

On another day, I might have wondered what was wrong in her life to make her drive with such anger and disregard for the other human lives around her, and maybe even would have felt a little sorry for her... but really, sometimes, people are truly just idiots and assholes. I was ready for it yesterday morning. Bring it on, baby.

Turned my whole day around, really.

Then Sammy and I went to Damon's for lunch, and it was smooth sailing and happy times the rest of the afternoon. (Hey, do yourself a HUGE favor and try Damon's Grilled Caesar Salad... so good! They grill the romaine. Yes, grill it. It is so, so good.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spread your wings, baby

I was trying to photograph the goldfinch pair, and got this photo...

I have a kazillion and one bird photos to sort through. You'll probably see some of them.

My nephew, Michael, moves into his freshman dorm room tomorrow. Very exciting! Michael is the one who was Valedictorian of his class & who got the wonderful scholarship at CMU. He told me I could post his Valedictorian speech on YouTube, so as soon as I figure out how to do that, I shall share it with you. Along with photos.

Sammy and Kevin just got home from Sammy's football practice. My poor boy could hardly walk. Two things happened tonight during practice, the result being both his ankles are very sore. He limped into the house, and watching him almost made me cry. So I got him soaking in the spa tub right now, with lavender Epsom salts, a vanilla laced hot chocolate and a ice water chaser.

I love it that Sammy loves playing football, and he's one of the bigger sized boys who does really well... but I hate it when he hurts. And that, most definitely, is part of football. Oy.

Speaking of hating... damn it all, but my vertigo is back. With a vengeance. It suckith mightily.

Speaking of loving... my Momma had hip replacement surgery 11 days ago, and she is doing so great! The surgeon said she needed it badly... she even had shards of bone pieces floating around that joint, with no cartilage left... bone on bone. And that's one painful thing. I sure hope I'm as tough as my Mom is when I'm her age. What a woman.

I saw two bumper stickers the other day that made me chuckle and then go, huh?... and hmmm... One said "Ask Me About My Grandcats" and the other said "I Love (heart) My Donkey".

Then I saw yet another personalized license plate (they are everywhere now, have you noticed???... you will now...), and this one I liked. It was "B QUIET". I really liked it. It was on a big SUV in the left lane, right in front of me, while beside me was some crappy car with a crappy teenager driving it with his crappy radio playing crappy music at a very LOUD volume. B QUIET indeed.

Our family loves TV. Big fans of TV. I found 2 shows recently on the USA channel. One is "Burn Notice" and the other is "In Plain Sight" and they're both great. Still enjoying "Saving Grace" (that Holly Hunter is ripped!) and "The Closer" immensely as well. We never seem to watch live TV now, though, and it's nice because it cuts down on the TV time... most of my screen time lately seems to be in front of my company laptop screen... *sigh* Oddly enough, I haven't been watching much of the Summer Olympics. (And I am not liking at all the stupid animal atheletes thing Google has going... must change my home page.) We usually do get into the Olympics a lot... just not this year. Don't know why. We're are watching TV... Kev has the Tigers on right now, recorded so he didn't miss the start of the game & zipping through commercials (and boring parts).

We have a DVR with Dish Network, and I just did the thing where I hooked up an external hard drive to transfer shows over to it from the DVR, so I can record and store to my heart's content... And make it worth the one-time activation fee of about forty bucks. I've been doing a lot of research on the 'net, hoping there was a way to use that hard drive on my computer to burn some things to DVD, but alas, no. Oh, well. Though I have read of some problems retrieving the recorded events (getting back to the DVR from the hard drive), but I've experienced no problems. I am recording a LOT of stuff... hoping that one day in the not too distant future I will be able to watch all these episodes and movies I'm recording. Sammy and I have a saying going... "Things'll be fine in '09!"

Here's hoping, baby. Fly away vertigo, fly away.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

August 16, 2008

How to make a year that's been really kinda awful turn into a wonderful year?... Learn that the young man you heartily approve of and adore has asked your daughter to marry him.

Here's our happy, happy young couple. Joyce and Mike both were positively glowing yesterday evening when they got home and told me. We had to wait until Kev got home at midnight to tell him, and he was very happy through his tiredness (he worked a 16-hour shift yesterday). It was kind of like a surreal evening.

Mike and Joycie went to the Renaissance Fair yesterday, and somehow while Joycie was in line to buy them each a turkey leg, Mike got himself over to a silversmith jewelry shop there at the fair and bought Joycie a lovely, one-of-kind ring...

It truly is a lovely ring. Mike popped the question later in the day, while they were at the park across from his Grampa's house.

The whole thing is just too sweet and wonderful for words. I'm happy for them. They will have a long engagement, because there'll be no wedding until the college degrees are completed, as is their plan (and ours, too!). So they will have at least 4 years to plan and get ready for their big wedding. It'll have to be big for all of Mike's family!

I'm so glad my daughter has found a wonderful young man worthy of her love, and who loves and adores her. They each have a good head on their shoulders, and they have fine goals for their future. I'm proud of them. And so very, very happy! And not at all surprised. I knew these 2 were planning to marry. Back when Joycie was in the hospital at Bay Med, hooked up to an IV with antibiotics in it, Joycie told me that she would be with Mike for always. I believe her. We love Mike, and he's part of our family... now it's official.

Pottery pots

I've finished a lot of pieces since the end of 2007 that I haven't posted about, so here's a start.

This orange bowl is one I made by using a slab of clay over a plaster mold. I painted it using underglazes before the bisque firing. Once it was bisque fired, I sponged on a couple of coats of clear glaze. Unfortunately, in the glaze firing, a couple of small spots "shivered"... the underglazing and the clear glaze came off the pot. So I repaired it as best I could and then put a nice coat of a crackle glaze on it all over, again with a sponge, not a brush. After the 2nd glaze firing it came out quite nice. I don't know why the crackle glaze is called "crackle" because there is no crackle effect... it's just glossy clear. You can still see the spots, but it's got a nice coat of clear on, so we can use it for serving food.

I have been wanting to make bowls to use for serving food, and since I still cannot start to learn how to throw pots on the wheel (because of my neck), using the plaster molds is a nice alternative. It feels kinda like cheating, so I try to get creative with the handles and the design. To get the colors for the orange pot, I mixed different underglazes together, so the orange is a nice darkish pumpkin orange, and the outside is a pretty cream color. I did the same for this pot, on which I used the same plaster mold and I have named... meet "Lucy"...

You can't tell as well in the photos, but the deep rose pink on the inside is not all a solid color, it has varying shades in it, and the outside is a much lighter shade of the same rose pink. Unfortunately, as is my MO, I got a little too heavy-handed with the clear glaze, so it got a bit "milky" on the black. Oh, well. Can't be helped now.

I have another pot in the works for serving food, and this one is made from a round plaster mold. Again, I painted it before the bisque firing with underglazes, and it also looks like it shivered in 2 spots... but actually, it kinda looks like it may have been bumped or scraped against another piece during kiln loading or something. I hate to "blame" the person who loaded the kiln for mistakes to pieces, because I prefer to think they are taking the utmost care... but the spots look more like the underglazing was rubbed off, not shivered off. When the piece has not yet been bisque fired, it's called greenware. It's just dried clay. The underglaze is like colored clay. So if one dried clay piece is rubbed against another dried clay piece, or the side of the kiln, the underglazing will most definitely be affected. But anyway, the color I used turned out to be really ugly... so I'm just going to use an opaque glaze over it, so the 2 spots won't matter.

And here is a piece that I call the song pot. It looks like I made it from leftover pieces, but I didn't... I actually planned it out like this. Well, sorta. The whole pot did not turn out like I envisioned, and it also drooped a little in the bisque firing. I carved onto it some lyrics of bits of songs that our family always used to sing together in the car when I was a kid or around campfires, to this day. After bisque firing I coated it with red underglaze and then sponged it off, leaving the red in the lettering and other depressions. I then sponged on lightly a coat of this glaze called "Ginger Blue" which looks mostly like a brownish orangeish rock color. Really pretty glaze. Then I sponged on a light coat of clear. I tried not to glaze over the red underglaze on the outside because I wanted that to be the matte red color, with the rest of the pot to be glossy. I was envisioning colors of autumn. But this is what I got...

I made it for my Dad and Mom, so I was deeply disappointed when it came out of the glaze firing. The red is not dark enough (though I think it is darker than it looks in these photos), so I didn't like that either. I wanted to use red because my Dad likes the color red. I contemplated a 2nd glaze firing, but that makes the pot more susceptible to breakage, and this pot was already drooping (I must have made some pieces heavier than others). So I took it home as it, and my sister, Kathy, saw it and liked it. She said the glossy glazed parts look pearly, and once she mentioned that, I could see it. Some of the "blue" from the Ginger Blue turned lightly grayish-blue under the clear coat and it does have a pearl effect. I guess if you didn't know what I had in mind, you wouldn't expect it to look drastically different than it does.

So I gave this song pot to my folks afterall, and they both really liked it. They liked reading the pieces of songs, knowing the importance of them to me, my childhood, our family. It was fun to give it to them, and I'm glad they thought it was pretty, even though it did not turn out at all as I had originally planned.

That's pottery! You never know what's going to come out of the kiln, and truly, that is the fun part. Even disappointments are ok, they become achievements or challenges. I'm so glad I'm back to doing pottery now, even though it's not as often as I would wish. It's definitely a stress-reliever for me, so I am making some time for it each week. I have a lot of other finished pieces yet to post photos of... so more pottery posts coming up. I do not promise when.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I didn't mean to leaf you for so long...

My, oh my, how time does fly.

Since I started back to working full-time in the office July 21st, I have been busy.

And that, my friends, is the understatement of my year.

So much to blog about, so little time.

Bob, Janet, Derek & Sara made it back safe and sound from Namibia, and they had a trip of a lifetime... they all loved, loved, LOVED the trip. Bob and Derek had very successful hunts, and Janet and Sara took about 800 photos between them. Awesome!

Before they left, I gave Janet this tiny little tin that I've had for more than 25 years... before I gave it to her, I filled it with a bit of dirt from under one of their big oaks in their yard. I told her to take it to Africa with her, empty it there to leave a little bit of Michigan homeland in Africa and then fill it with Africa to bring home. And she did.

It was pretty cool to see that little bit of Africa in her hand and to know they enjoyed their time there so very, very much.

So... sometime soon, many more posts to follow, covering important and unimportant events in our lives from... oh, about May through now...

Don't forget, I've set up my blog to show only one post at a time, so look over on the left side at the archives to see if there's another you've missed (hi Sandy!), ya never know... I might do more than one post per day! (ha ha ha ha ha ha...)