This past weekend I took a two day clay sculpture workshop with my former professor from OCAD, Susan Low-beer. This was the second time I attended her monthly class and it has made a big difference in my own studio practice.
When making a production line full time in the studio there is a danger of getting bored and the work gets stale. I believe that making functional work and making a living selling my line of functional table ware doesn’t define me and who I am as an artist. I enjoy what I do day to day, but these workshops have taught me that I need to give myself some creative time as well. I need to be able to relax and play with clay once again. It is at this time that the best ideas come to me, and I haven’t allowed myself to have fun with clay since my thesis year at OCAD.
The first class that I took was in March this year. I was only able to do one day of the two day class, but it was still well worth it.
Its a simple piece and I was limited in what I could do because I only had one day to work on it, nevertheless I am proud of it. Not only did I come out of the class with a new texture to possibly add to my collection but I also realized that I really like working with Raku clay! This will come as a shock to those of you who know me because I love porcelain and make all my work in porcelain. As it turns out, it is nice to branch out a little and work with a clay that is pretty much the opposite of what I am used to. I realize now why so many people like working with stoneware, its so easy to work with!
This is the piece that came out of the workshop this past weekend. Structurally it is very different from the first piece and it is functional.
At the beginning of the first class Susan takes us through a series of exercises to loosen up our minds and creativity. We make a series of small maquettes and after the exercise is done we can choose to work from one of them or start a piece that is completely different. In the past two workshops I have worked from one of the maquettes that I created.
The piece above is two slightly curved rectangles that have sea urchin inspired spikes coming out of the bottom and top. The rectangles are hollow and I plan on throwing two porcelain cylinders that will sit in the holes on the top. The cylinders will be removable and big enough to fit a small bunch of flowers, making this piece a vase!
I am very excited to experiment with different glazes on these pieces. I will keep you posted on the development of these pieces and hopefully I’ll be posting some images of them finished soon!
I just recently took the plunge and had my work professionally photographed by the lovely Jessica Lin. I won’t lie, the weeks leading up to the shoot were stressful. I didn’t have several pieces of my collection in stock so there was a mini rush to make sure everything was made for the big day.
Needless to say, the car was packed to the brim when I pulled up to the photography studio. It took some time to get five large boxes, four small boxes and several large pieces unloaded from the car.
Once in the studio, everything ran so smoothly that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made this decision sooner.
In the past, photographing my own work was a long agonizing experience that resulted in passable images. I am not a photographer and have had very little professional training on how to photograph ceramics properly; so a photo shoot on my own usually involved being more concerned about lighting and camera settings than about my work.
Working with a professional photographer however changed the experience from a dreadful one to a pleasant and enjoyable time. I was able to focus on the composition and grouping of my work rather than focusing on the technical end of things. Jessica took care of the lighting, background and camera as well as giving me some much welcome suggestions and opinions on composition and the angle of certain shots. We had previously discussed what kind of photos I wanted and how I wanted to portray my work and business; so I found her input invaluable to me through this whole process.
I am so happy with the results, I am actually looking forward to the next time I have to shoot new work instead of dreading it.
Reclaiming scraps of clay that accumulate in the studio is always a long and tedious battle. I seem to constantly have two large 5 liter buckets full of scrap porcelain clay no matter how many times I reclaim clay throughout the year.
Its especially difficult at the moment because I am finishing up a dinner set order and plates are one of the worst pieces for creating scrap clay.
How to Reclaim clay:
The way I reclaim porcelain is to let the scraps dry out fully in a bucket and then I pour hot water over the dry clay until it is fully covered. I usually let the excess water evaporate over several days while periodically mixing the clay slurry.
Once the clay is the consistency of yogurt I put it on a plaster batt to draw out the remaining water. Usually one or two days will get the clay soft and plastic once again, and after about an hour of wedging ( I usually do large batches at a time) the clay is ready to use once again.
There are other ways that clay can be reclaimed, this is just the way it works best for me in my current studio.
The whole process of reclaiming clay is not a very exciting part of day to day studio life; but it is a necessary one. On the bright side the lifting and wedging large amounts of clay is a good chest and arm workout!
Once again its crunch time for the One of a Kind Christmas Show. This year I am in a 5 x 10 ft corner booth; which will be a completely different experience than last year in the Rising Stars area. Not only do I have to think about making enough work to fill my booth, but I also have to consider booth design and setup. Its all a little overwhelming but I am up for the challenge!
In the studio, I am currently working on making moulds of some of my smaller thrown pieces. It has become necessary for me to use slip casting to facilitate producing my three lines of work. The decision did not come easily I have been going back and forth with the idea for almost a year but I realized that slip casting will give me more time to work on larger more intricate pieces.
I haven’t made moulds for almost four years now, needless to say that the first couple of moulds I made this week are a little rough around the edges.
At the same time I am throwing all the larger and more complex pieces. Throwing is still my passion and I always look forward to this part of my process. I am also extending the Petal Collection to make it more complete. Up until now this collection has only been the bowls and jars, but for the One of a Kind show I will be adding cups, platters and perhaps even mugs to the collection.
Time is ticking away and I should get back to my wheel, that’s all for now!