I’ve been fascinated with hand-built clay sculptures for a long time. Tried to create a few with some success but more disappointments. I think it’s because I’ve always built over a form, not trusting myself to build it from scratch. I’d even tried a sculpture class or two but didn’t really understand the process; so, it was back to my partial success with forms.
When Creative Arts Center of Dallas offered an animal sculpture workshop, I signed up … a couple of times. But, each time, it was cancelled until last month. Frankly, I was surprised that the workshop was a GO! because class size was limited and we were required to wear masks.
Well, this was the best workshop ever! Susan Giller helped me understand the process of building a solid figure, refining it, hollowing it out and finishing it. Here are some “work in progress” photos.
In the beginning there was clay. Took a while to shape and refine.
Red iron oxide wash added before cat was bisque fired
After first glaze firing. Didn’t add enough glaze to cover the red iron oxide
Yes! Cat after second glaze firing.
Back of cat after second glaze firing
Finished cat with decals.
This is Charlie. He’s a rescue dog who was running the streets for quite a while. He had absolutely no manners when we got him and, though he’s improved a lot, he still has a street dog attitude, especially when it comes to food.
If it’s on a plate or napkin or the floor, it’s food and it’s edible. If you’re dumb enough to go off and leave it within his reach, consider it his.
Today he discovered that not everything I eat is delicious … or even tolerable. I was enjoying(?) a gluten-free chocolate muffin. It was semi-frozen so I was just taking small nibbles off it. Then, I had to leave it on the end table and go in the other room.
Muffin Thief just had to have it. And, to top it off, he brought it into the other room so I could see him enjoy it. Except that he didn’t enjoy it. But he wasn’t about to let it go. He carried it around in his mouth, following me from room to room. He growled at me when I tried to retrieve it (not that I was going to eat it).
Finally resolved the situation when I offered him a large piece of a cooked hamburger. He dropped the muffin in favor of real food.
Lesson learned: don’t leave even awful food within his reach.
For quite a while, I’ve had a problem with certain foods … garlic, onions, black pepper, milk and milk products, gluten. The worst offender is milk and milk products because my body lacks the enzyme to digest them. I can sometimes “cheat the system” by taking lactaid pills but I haven’t always been faithful about taking them.
The other day at lunch, I ordered nachos: yummy, gooey, cheese-covered nachos with guacamole and sour cream. And I love them until my body rebelled in a terrible way the next morning. I don’t want to gross you out. It’s enough to say that I couldn’t get very far away from a bathroom. I took lactaid pills (belatedly), kaopectate, tea with turmeric. Nothing helped.
Later that afternoon, I was feeling semi-human and my Significant Other offered to get me something at the store. I asked for crackers. He came back with this package.
Just looking at the front of the package, everything was fine. Potato crackers, no gluten. The ingredients label on the back was in teeny tiny print; couldn’t read it. So, I had a few.
This morning, my gut was in trouble again and I didn’t understand why until I got my reading glasses and checked out the label on the crackers.
Oh my gosh!! They have Parmesan Cheese Powder and Garlic Powder. No wonder I was still in trouble.
So … from now on, I’m going to read the label before it goes in my mouth.
Footnote: feeling much better and ready for dinner!
Seriously … what do you do with all that pottery? You can’t keep everything and you can only “gift” a few pieces to relatives and friends before they start running the other way. Unless you have a gallery or a storefront or are willing to spend hours taking photographs and posting on Etsy (then wrapping, packing and shipping), it’s hard to find homes for all the good, perfect or nearly perfect pieces.
Then there are the pieces that didn’t turn out quite as expected. Perhaps they cracked while being fired or the glaze turned out really ugly or … whatever. Some of these can be put in a box and be donated to a charity. Some can end up in the trash can. But there are those pieces that you’re still fond of.
Well … if you have a house (I do) and a yard (oh, yes), there’s a solution: yard art!! I have pieces in the garden, under downspouts, hiding under leaves of plants (pictures, below).
I’ve avoided posting about this little mishap for over a month now because I don’t want to admit that I’m actually that clumsy.
Backstory: We were on a cruise to Hawaii and, on the third day of the cruise, I was innocently reading in the cabin. When I stood up to go get some water (or something), I barely noticed that my foot was asleep. And, when I took a step, my foot/ankle sorta “rolled”. Before I could correct it, I heard a loud “POP” and instant pain. Turns out that my fibula broke, right at the ankle.
Ship’s doctor was great … x-rays, pain pills and a cumbersome “moon” boot. Ship’s customer service was too: finding us an “accessible” cabin so I could take a shower instead of crawling over the edge of the tub. Needless to say, I spent most of the cruise in the cabin … watching movies, reading books, watching others go on shore excursions.
After nearly two weeks, we finally arrived back home and I went to see an orthopedic doctor here. He took more x-rays and fitted me with this walking boot which is a lot more comfortable than the “moon” boot. That was three weeks ago. Expecting to stay in the boot for two more weeks and then, possibly, rehab.
Let me say something about the swelling … I never expected it to last so long. In fact, my ankle, leg, foot are still slightly swollen. And bruising? There was the requisite purple, blue, greenish yellow and the bruising is still evident.
Lesson learned? Don’t walk (or try to walk) on a leg/foot that are asleep.
Lately, I’ve been looking at different ways to add a “something extra” to some of my pieces … so, I’ve been playing with decals and learned that there is definitely a learning curve in working with them. There are several types of decals: those you apply before the bisque fire and those you apply after a piece is glazed and fired.
The piece to the left has a decal that was applied before the pot was bisque fired. It’s an underglaze design that’s been printed on a thin piece of rice paper. Directions say to wet the decal and apply it to the piece. I found it easier to brush water on the piece and then lay the decal over it and smooth with a dry brush. It’s easy to smear the decal; so, it’s best to handle it as little as possible and leave it alone to dry. This piece was glazed with a zinc-free clear and fired to cone 5.
Decals applied after a piece is glazed present other challenges. The decals have to be soaked until they come loose from their backing paper before applying to the glazed piece. The decal is fragile and can wrinkle or tear. And after the decal is applied, it has to be gently brushed to remove all air bubbles; then, left alone for 24 hours. Finally, the piece with the decal is fired to cone 017.
I didn’t realize how much he glaze color can affect the decal. The moon & stars decals (below left) were put onto pieces with a dark blue glaze. Mistake! The moon & stars look green because the decal was yellow; blue & yellow = green.
Mistake 2: the middle picture shows decals that get lost with all the fru-fru around the edge.
The cats & dogs turned out pretty well. Hooray!! One out of three isn’t bad.
… and call it done. Pictures after final firing of Sculpture 1.
The first firing was just too dark and “toasty” looking for what I had in mind. The second firing, with additional glazes, was even worse. So bad, in fact, that I didn’t even take pictures of it.
Instead, I ran to my computer and looked for some glazes that might work. And for the most part, they did. Colors are much better, brighter and more even.
I’ve loved every step of the learning process and will definitely be trying more sculptures.
Last week, I decided to move one of the ceramic totem poles into a bare spot at the front of the house. So, I carefully took it apart; carried the individual pieces to the front and finally carried the pole to the front and reassembled it.
About 10 minutes later, S.O. and I went to look at it. OUCH!! The totem pole had tumbled over and at least half the pieces were broken. Nothing to do but toss those into the trash and start over.
Next day, I pulled the pole & concrete base out of the plastic pot and “planted” the concrete in the ground. Then it was time to reassemble the totem. Fortunately, there were enough pieces of “totems in progress” to rebuild. It’s not quite the same but I still kinda like it.
In my mind’s eye, a wildflower garden has always had a certain charm. So, a couple years ago, I bought about 1/2 pound of wildflower seeds (1/4 pound for sun gardens and 1/4 pound for shade gardens). Last year, the plants were meager; they struggled because of all the rain and then the heat of summer shriveled them. Fortunately, we didn’t have a harsh winter and most of them survived.
I threw out more seeds in February and they prospered. Boy … did they prosper!! Now I have this wild wildflower garden. Time to thin them out and/or redo this whole plot because we can’t even walk through it.
Part of the fun of working with clay is experimenting with various textures and procedures.
This tile is a semi-successful experiment. I had some cardboard with a waffle texture and wondered what would happen if I added it to a flat tile. Naturally, the cardboard would burn out in the bisque firing but, if the waffle pattern was coated with with slip before firing it, what would happen??
Well, the waffle pattern was saved but it’s very delicate in the bisque state. So, I quickly added some glaze on top of the waffle pieces and then sprayed glaze on the tile. In fact, the glaze helped the waffle pieces adhere to the tile. This is what it looks like after being fired to cone 5.