Based on the patterns coming out of the kiln, I must have caught spring fever early this year. Leaves, dragonflies, flowers, birds… I can see exactly where my mind was at during the creation process. Here’s a few samples of my latest little gems to show you: A subtle bird that pooled the glaze just right. At first glance, it’s a large brown oval and then when the light hits, the bird indentation catches your eye: Frost blue flowers that would be perfect on a wee cardigan (in itself, a spring concept): This larger triangle dual-tone green button was a glaze tester because really, I’m still in search of a crystallizing green that can also highlight detail. This is a definite success. The little swirl detail reminds me of the seedlings that are on their way: Next up, I present a couple of multicoloured buttons because I just have to share that everything has a purpose. I have a glaze that I want to love. I do. I put it on bowls, mugs, jewelry and it just… hasn’t worked for me. The green isn’t “pretty” enough for food and it has brown flecks that, although interesting, also didn’t appeal to me on foodware or resting against a wearer’s neck. I am overjoyed to find it a home – it definitely was made to be on these buttons, brown and green blooming on the blue. This brown beauty with a lace embossing is on its way special delivery to a very loving button jar on the prairies: Even though the snow is still flying, I can’t wait to get into the studio and continue on my “spring” theme. Cheers; – Cara
The glaze test tiles came out of the kiln today. It was exciting, shocking and exhilirating. Let me introduce you to: Turquoise is very pretty but Gunmetal really captured my imagination. It accents the ridges in the clay just perfectly, highlighting every carving and every fingerprint which is what I’m aiming for. The khaki? Not as much. I think I’ll continue to use a similar, yet more interesting, commercial glaze rather than develop the khaki. Plus, I doomed it from the start by calling it “khaki”. Maybe if it was named “giraffe woods” or “ember golden”, it would have had better potential. I still yearn for the perfect green yet the ones I adore have barium in the recipe and just from toxicity potential of barium when using my wares (as mugs, buttons, what have you), it’s not a recipe I’d use in my studio. That will be my next challenge: the perfect green. Until then; -Cara
Some mornings I wake up and think of all the things on my “Want To Do” list. Every day I see another technique that I’d like to try, item I’d like to make, idea I want to expand on. I think it’s the gift and the curse for every artist – so many possibilities, so little time. With the opening of the studio, that has increased one hundred fold. I have a kiln, wheel, several varieties of clay, handpicked glazes, tools, space. I have inspiration. (oh boy do I have inspiration!) I have been focused on functional wheel-thrown works for as long as I’ve been working with this fabulous medium that is clay. Mugs, bowls, plates, teapots have been my repertoire and, although I didn’t know it, my limitation. Now with the studio ready, I see endless possibility. I’m not limited to one two hour class per week for the next three months doing specific skill building assignments come up in class. I’m no longer limited by the hours of the community studio, travel time, childcare to allow me to create. Suddenly, I can choose my own skill-building activities, my own timeline, my own experiments. As long as I have time (which is a whole other post), I can do what I want. And with that, I’ve been feeling almost overwhelmed. The urge to quit my other (equally loved) job and spend my days rolling, throwing, pulling clay is overwhelming some days. For now, I’m going to try to define my focus to just a few things so that I’m not scattered – walking into the studio these days and deciding what to DO is taking too much time! Next up: glaze testing!
Although most of these have gone through glazing, I had to share this photo that I found last night: (I cannot take credit for the the two coil pots in the foreground. They are from a cousin’s father-son afternoon that were fired with this batch). Bisqued pots are full of promise. These can be any colour and any combination of techniques. I can use stroke n’ coats to paint detailed landscapes or dip them in a rich earthy glaze, coat them in rich red or pale ocean blue. I can wax resist layers of glaze or add strokes of another glaze onto the first. I can honestly say that I am always engaged by the glazing process because, although I only work with a limited number of coloured glazes, the combinations and methods are limitless. Bisque also symbolizes risk for me because glazing has always been my biggest challenge – if I don’t take enough care and wipe the bases, there will be a glaring stroke of glaze staring at me forever, spoiling an otherwise perfect pot. I have learned to slow down but I find it a struggle. I love the adrenaline rush with throwing, fast and furious yet glazing must be slow and studious. Clay isn’t just a hobby. It is my teacher. ’til next time, -Cara
It has been three long months since I’ve posted. An autumn of birthday celebrations and a chilly spell brought us to a near halt on the production side and I’ve neglected to post all the new little things we’re working on. New to us is a fabulous furnace in the studio so the chilly spells will no longer stop us! Instead of hauling supplies into the basement and taking a hiatus for the winter, I can continue on through the winter months. We did a glaze firing on Sunday to do some glaze testing and it was… not quite a disaster, but definitely less than happy. My new brown and red glazes were fabulous however I underfired, not even reaching cone 5 so my blues and greens will need a refire. On top of that, the jewelry setup fell over so many of the pendants kissed each other and there’s a small scrape on the side of a koi mug. It was disappointing but with the jewelry setup nestled among two mugs and three bowls, it could have been so much worse! This beauty is the first thing I saw when I opened the kiln, and it softened any disappointment as I emptied the rest of the kiln: And with that, I can’t wait to get home to photograph the koi pieces that made it through to post and share. Viva la furnace! -Cara
I keep a sketchbook and a black marker pen in my purse. When I see something inspiring or I’m working out an idea (or I’m on hold), I doodle. Sometimes these ideas make their way into reality: Every page is not a gem, that’s for sure. For every bit of notation that carries its way to reality there are more ugly scribbles that seemed like brilliance but, in the light of day, are more meh than aha. Even at its weakest, the sketchbook is an ongoing record of ideas, potential and inspiration and I keep it tucked with me. We were staying in a remote cabin on our vacation and I spent every morning admiring the hodge podge collection of wheel thrown mugs that is only fitting in the kitchen of a summer hideaway. I would throw open the cupboard, choose one and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee. Although many of them were not my particular style, they reminded me that their difference is what held the charm. I sketched up some mug shapes and mug carving ideas on our long drive home, excited with each new shape that I put on the page, inspired by the oddball mugs. I have thrown the same mug shape over and over and over and whether I find success or not, it’s time to try something different. This is my goal next time I’m on the wheel to try to throw a “new” mug.
We’ve been on the road for two weeks, camping from Calgary to Abbotsford, BC then taking the adventurous route up to a cabin on Desolation Sound. My regret is that the ferry timings made it nearly impossible to catch up with Sunshine Coast potters and every “Artisan Potter” sign we sped by nearly broke my heart. I did manage to get in a quick visit to <a href=”Artique in Powell River at the start of our long travel day back to Vancouver and nabbed a fab mug by local potter Darlene Calwell. The two tone celadon/turquoise glaze caught my eye and I love to sip my coffee from inspiring art pieces so this piece is a lovely addition to my kitchen. Today, we continue the journey home after a few wine-soaked days in Kelowna. On our way east, we’ll visit the talented Doug Ganshorn of Cedar Creek Pottery in Salmon Arm, BC. His functional pieces are graceful and meticulous, and we’re looking forward to seeing his latest creations at his studio on Christison Road. Until we get there, it’s the sights along highway 97 to keep me company: Not bad at all! -Cara
Our first Clay Day was a success! 8 kids and 4 adults unleashed their creativity, making coil pots then moving to votive holders, plates and rattles. With bisquing scheduled for July then another Clay Day for glazing shortly after, it’s almost too much to have to wait nearly a month to see these beauties finished. I’m really really hoping they like Midnight Rain glaze.
Tonight I spent some time channeling my inner pointillist, using an untested underglaze mix to dot dot dot in hopes of eventually achieving a pale grey pattern on the white clay body. I realize it’s madness to do all this work for what may be a complete flop… but I have to try. If it works, it will be lovely! I’ve also spent some time in the past few days reading Gary Jackson’s Fire When Ready website. His stamping technique is so inspiring. While the kids finished their coil pots in our first “Neighbourhood Clay Sunday”, I worked on making stamps. I normally prefer to carve patterns out of plaster ala Kristen Keiffer but I don’t have any plaster nearby and my supply of stamps is down to 4! So, I created about 10 double ended stamps and the kids jumped in to help too. I’m eager to try out some stamping, something I’ve never done other than on my mug handles at the bottom join. My back is sore, eyes burning and hands cramping after all that dotting. I am so hopeful for the results – but that will have to wait until our next bisque fire in July. -Cara
I was able to open the kiln completely at 7am the day after glaze firing. The pots were still very warm but I could pick them up with my bare hand without problem. The firing was textbook! All three cones gradually bending. Jay did an amazing job watching this baby. He did have help from the kiln sitter that shut off the kiln as he was on the phone with me, contemplating turning her off. This kiln doesn’t cease to amaze me. I love the Mayco Cinnabar red. It’s absolutely PERFECT: The Midnight Rain? Not so much. I’m going to try to strain out the brown crystals because they do not appeal to me at all: I am now on the hunt for paler blues and greens since, as I look around my home and see my favourite past work, the ones I’ve kept and continue to love tend to fit into this palette. ColourLovers is a continuing inspiration as I try to be true to my aesthetic. I’ll buy the next bit of glaze until I’m comfortable enough, then possibly delve into Ravenscrag mixing of my own glazes. I’ll give that a year – what do you think? Until next time… -Cara
The kiln finished firing to cone 6 at 3:10pm today and it’s 9:15pm – still too hot! I did stick my camera in to take a quick photo. It’s WARM in there for sure – outside temp is 14degrees C and the garage is still at 30! Toasty. Here’s what the camera caught: I can’t wait to see the other three pots underneath! Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have… -Cara
We are grinning from ear to ear – our first bisque firing in the kiln was an overwhelming success! We started at 7:30pm and by 1:20am, had definitely exceeded our goal of cone 05. With 220 power run out to the garage, a fried kiln switch swapped out, bricks assessed and all kiln elements tested and reseated, we loaded her up with just two pieces of greenware. Ceramics Canada graciously gave us a couple of 05 witness cones and with the cone in place and Paragon’s firing schedule in hand, we fired her up. Every hour I went in and turned her up a bit more until we were full on high-high at 11:30pm. We had a bit of a snafu with the kiln sitter but after we realized we’d put the wrong cone in (017 instead of 06. Ooops), we turned her back on and continued monitoring. The witness cone was impossible to locate by 1:00am so after we each took a turn trying to locate it visually through the molten orange peephole, we turned her off. The next morning, I opened the kiln and the witness cone was definitely toast, overfired. Good to know for next time – and now I know, don’t fire by time alone. Tonight we glaze the last pot then Jay will do the glaze firing during the day tomorrow. I have an underglazed test piece that went through the bisque that I’ve coated in clear glaze, plus a few pots in Mayco’s Midnight Rain and one pot in Mayco’s Cinnabar: Pretty, yes? The studio atmosphere is EXCITEMENT. Opening the kiln on Friday will be like Christmas morning. I’ll upload photos of our results. Until next time! -Cara