Sunday, January 17, 2010

They say patience is a virtue...

I say patience is a pain if it's forced upon you.

I have none when I've made a piece of pottery and I want it to be finished. I chafe at having to wait for a piece to dry so I can fire it. I sometimes rush a bit to finish up a few pieces just so I can fill the kiln.

Then comes the wait for the kiln to complete its cycle and cool down. Tick, tock, tick, tock... watch the clock... Well, not exactly as I took the clock out of the studio. I watch the kiln.

After it's finished and reaches a certain temperature, I find myself walking by the kiln to touch the top and gauge coolness. Or, if I'm working across the room I can't help but glance at the temp every so often hoping it's dropped low enough to open... (yes, it's well vented)

It's worse when I've made something new, something that I really love, or something that stretched my abilities.

The joy of opening a kiln is usually worth the wait though. I've said it before: it's like Christmas, only better 'cause it's stuff I made. It's a big hot container of presents, waiting to cool...

After I finally get to open the kiln (yes, sometimes a little before you're really supposed to open it), I then have to wait until I've glazed enough pieces to fill it again.

Impatient soul that I am, sometimes I can't wait and I'll use my baby kiln to fire a piece if it'll fit.

Experimenting with glazes makes the second round of firing even more tortuous at times. I can't wait to see if the new glazes or combination of glazes will turn out like I wanted.

I bet most of you who use an electric kiln are familiar with the extremely looooonnnnngggg wait for the last 20 - 50 degree drop? It'll go from whatever astronomical temp you reach down to "almost there" while you sleep... but those last few degrees from "almost there" to "OK, time to open the kiln" take forever!

Tell the truth... how many of you have cheated and opened the kiln, let in a little air, then closed it again hoping to rush that last little bit of time? How many of you have done it more than once because it didn't work the first time? I've never done anything like that, oh no. I know better. I really, really do, I promise. (Want to know how long my nose grew as I typed??? can't type ayn morrae, it's droopnng onaato th key bard...)

Yeah, yeah, I'm guilty. Often guilty. Knock on wood I haven't lost a piece yet due to my inability to wait, but I know it's just a matter of time so I've been working on it for, ummm, how many years? hmmm... impatient potters anonymous anyone?)

Seriously, over the years I've gotten better at being patient.

A little.

OK, not really. I've just learned to schedule the kiln firing, whenever possible, for the times when I know I can't get out to the studio for a couple of days.

As I type I'm looking out my window toward the studio wondering if that last piece is bone dry yet so I can fire up the kiln. Tomorrow morning I guarantee I'll be out the door first thing to check.

Patience is something I doubt I'll ever have in the realm of my clay world. Impatient Potters Anonymous indeed! Where do I sign up?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recycled bowl...

Have you ever had an idea, followed it through, then been unhappy with the results? I had that one happen today.

I spent half the afternoon working on this really cool square bottom, round top with two necks. It was OK. It wasn't quite right so I started working with it. I added this and that, then took off that...

Still not right.

Kept at it until I finished, but I really, really just didn't like the finished piece.

Not only did it not look like I'd envisioned, it was just... I don't know... just not right.

I put it on a turn-table and spun it around. I looked at it from a variety of angles. I stepped back and again looked at it from different angles. I got close, eye-level, and turned it around.

I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it felt confused, junky... not right.

So, I grabbed a huge bowl, sprayed it so the clay wouldn't stick and I tore that sucker up.

It was so much fun! I made a bowl that grew out of the bowl shape I'd chosen.

It's not the first time I've recycled a piece I've made, but in the past it has generally been because the first piece fell apart or flopped.

I guess in a way this one flopped... at least for me. Then it flopped for real when I lit into it to tear it up.

Guess when I write about these things I should take some photos so you'll have an idea of the before and after. Of course, you're all artists so I'm sure you're good at picturing something in your mind.

I will take a photo of the bowl tomorrow and add it to this post, then you can see how close your imagination came to at least part two, the recycled bowl.

p.s. "junky" (used above) is not in the spell check dictionary on here. Hmph.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Waking the brain matter up, thinking about selling pottery...

Last night I wrote a blog that dithered around a number of subjects, one being having a "staple" piece of art to sell. I've always just blindly accepted the philosophy, or maybe it's more of an accepted business model, that you need to have low end priced items at shows. The thought process being that those are the ones that most will buy and those are the ones that will be your bread and butter.

It makes some sense for the standard show, although I think you do need to know the type buyers that come through a show also. If you're at a high end show and you have under $50 pieces you may find that you sell nothing...

However, for most artists who're doing an arts/craft type shows a large portion of those attending do so to hear the music, to have a family day out, to check out the taste of whatever city you're in, to hook up with friends, etc. They buy on impulse and aren't necessarily looking for a nice piece to take home.

I do a number of those crafty type shows. I enjoy getting out and meeting new people, hearing comments, talking with other artists, etc.

But in a blind flash of the obvious, it struck me this morning as I walked though my home, that I had quite a few pieces of pottery and art that I'd bought at shows from other artists. I usually bought the pieces because I craved one of their nicer pieces and couldn't afford to bring it to my home (where it obviously belonged). So, I bought a smaller pieces.

The sad thing is that I have a lot of those smaller pieces and I couldn't tell you the name of most of the artists. I can't attach the small "production" type piece I bought to a picture in my mind of their nicer work. I know the names of the artists whose work I still crave, or those I saved to buy...

As I reflected on that, I started thinking about how I view my own work. I started thinking about what a chore it is to me to do something over and over. I never, ever like to make two of a kind of anything and when I make myself do it just to make a dollar or two, then it's almost like I'm selling myself out.

I'm being someone that isn't me.

I'm compromising just to make a few dollars.

Money is nice, but it's never been my motivator. I could easily be one of those stereotypical starving artists (but am very happy I'm not ;-).

Continuing to think more about it as I sipped (OK, guzzled) my second cup of hot tea, it struck me that I usually don't sell the smaller pieces anyway. I may see a number of people walk into my booth and pick up a piece to see the price before someone buys, but I sell enough to be happy when I pack up most shows.

So, I've decided to say to heck with the business model. It's always been one of those little guilty twinge-types that stayed with me as I prepared for a show... knowing I need to stop doing what I really want to do so I can make some smaller stuff.

Picture me going to the studio and in my mind I'm stomping my feet throwing a tantrum because I have an idea or muse I want to follow but I hafta be good, I hafta do those stupid money-making-fillers.

Making pottery is a joyful experience most days. It's the high that runners talk about (and I used to have when I ran regularly). It clears the mind of clutter. It's better than yoga.

I needed to write that blog yesterday and I needed to clear my mind of the "hafta" clutter.

Refreshing. Freeing. Seriously. It is.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


New word for the dictionary . I have been flitting from one thing to the next this week in the studio.

I was on hearts for a bit, then made some vase type pots, then saw a magazine at my Mom's house with a cool quilt ad which inspired a whole other day of heart making... then had a midnight wakeful moment that sparked a wall hanging... then saw one of my old pots that I really liked which had me remembering the pitchers I made a while back and I made this nice large pitcher... then another heart or two just to balance my pot karma.

Potzophrenic for sure.

I'm excited about the pitcher. I think I'm going to spend a week doing some more. Then I have to get serious and do some glazing.

I have a few shows on the horizon so need to settle in and think "sales" for a few days a week if I can. I'm finding that my higher end pieces aren't selling as quickly as they have in the past at shows, but as always, people will buy the lower end just to satisfy that "hafta have my art" fix... so I must, I must, try to focus on paying the electric bills.

Most in the art business have their quickly made staple that gets them through most shows. The $10 - $40 piece that they pop out without breaking a sweat. It's uniquely theirs, but it's easy to make, easy to glaze and easy to sell.

Being the kind of person who can't stay on any one thing for long I haven't found the discipline to make those little pieces that fill in the gaps between the big sales. Even when I find something that's fairly quick & easy it has to be perfect... and so sometimes I'll fire a $15 item 2 or 3 times just to get the glaze right. Of course, then the $15 item becomes worth three times the cost and I'm losing money when I sell it, defeating the purpose.

Or I am so entranced with making something new, following an idea, that I never quite get around to making those business card holders or the thing-a-majig to hand on the wall. Boring. Work. Yuk. No fun when ideas are bubbling.

So, I make my hearts, then my vases, then my wall hanging... A

h well, someday some huge famous gallery is going to just hafta carry my art and Ceramics mag will feature me on the front page and my work will be in huge demand throughout the world and... and... Ya know, that'd all be nice, but I don't spend my time dreaming about things like that, I spend my dreaming moments thinking about what I'm going to do with that pile of clay waiting for me in the studio.

I think any artist will tell you creating is all that really matters. Appreciation is wonderful. Recognition feels very, very good. But taking your ideas and turning it into something concrete is an addiction, a compulsion and all the rest of it is just super nice icing on our home-made cake.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Question re: Cobalt Carbonate in glaze

I have a bowl that I brushed with cobalt carbonate (or is it carbonate cobalt... time for my 'up too late on New Years Eve nap ;-) that I'd mixed with some water. I wiped it off, leaving a decent amount in crevices. I'm going to put a clear glaze, or maybe a white or light blue glaze over it and fire. At least that's the plan. However, it seems that I read somewhere that the cobalt would run easily? I don't want a mess, don't want to ruin the bowl either.

Anyone familiar with the properties? Should I wipe a LOT of it off? Should I wash it all off? What's gonna happen you think if I do what I said? Need a photo to see how much I have on there?

I did an Internet search, no luck. I'll probably take a look through some of my pottery books.

Heading back out to the studio, it's New Years Day and I can't start the year without clay under my fingernails .

Hope you're all having the best ever beginning to a new year!