The featured image above was thrown as a single piece and then sculptural modifications were added. It is 16 inches in diameter and glazed with multiple layers of Shino glaze. It was fired to cone 10 in reduction.
I just completed a summer class at Coconino Community College exploring adding sculptural modifications to wheel-thrown forms. I have greatly enjoyed working there but I feel that perhaps my projects may be more than is appropriate for a community college. So, this may be my last semester there – time will tell.
I was able to take on an advanced project of using sculptural alterations and marks to create movement and fluidity in my pieces. I had become bored with traditional shapes. I used the work of Chris Gustin to provide direction for this endeavor. This was surprisingly challenging. I had one large sectional collapse because I was rushing it to be able to complete it within the month of the class. A number of pieces cracked due to the added stresses of making sculptural alterations to thrown pieces (all of the pieces started on the wheel). Also, during the learning process of developing this technique, I had a few pieces that were discarded because they were too heavy. Despite these setbacks, I was able to produce a body of work of which I am proud.
A variety of glazing techniques were employed including dipping, pouring, brushing, splattering and spraying. The results that most pleased me were achieved with an initial dip into Shino glaze and then selective spraying using three different additional glazes.
Many of the pieces are medium sized and were done with 5 to 6 pounds of clay. A few larger pieces were done with up to 25 pounds of clay. The mugs, tall vase, and the flared vase with lugs shown in the gallery at the bottom are not altered. I did a number of warm-up pieces without alteration and ended of liking some of them.
This was a very satisfying project for me and I feel that it has opened an area of exploration that is just beginning for me. I intend to work on refining this sculptural style and to bring some new elements to it. I want to use a clay body without grog to emphasize the surface convolutions, and also to explore the use of cone 6 oxidation glazes on these pieces.
I hope to update this at the end of the summer or in early fall.
Here are some additional pieces from the summer semester:
Let me begin by announcing that I now have a space to display my pottery at the Sedona Artist Marketin West Sedona, Arizona beginning June 1st. I hope this works out since it is only one mile from my home. Below are my explorations with Shino Glaze.
We have had a wonderful spring here in Sedona and I have been able to do some hiking. I have included a photo as evidence (this is not fake news).
Playing With Shino
I continue to explore Shino glazes and I continue to be fascinated by them. In my rush to get over 150 pieces glazed, I lost track of what I was doing and ignored the old saying, “Shino first or suffer the curse!” Have you ever wondered why Shino first? I have. I have included here photo documentation of the result.
While I am on the topic of glaze faults, I have found an appreciation of crawling with Shino glazes although I have not achieved much control of the crawling (perhaps an area for more experimentation).
I won second prize at the student art show at Coconino Community College this past spring. I wanted to test out the Shino on porcelain – this pottery piece that won. It has already sold but an image is included in the photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
I also had fun playing around with making mugs. After working my way through 2 dinnerware sets and striving for conformity, I was glad to try different shapes and sizes (from 4 ounces to 16 ounces). All the handles were pulled while attached to the mug (I have moved away from extruded handles and am appreciating the look of the pulled handles). My exploration also yielded a comfort lip on the mugs that I love. In fact, it was so much fun I intend to continue was exploring large mugs. Here are a few mug shots (pun intended). Some of these are available at theSedona Artist Market.
Rehydrating Dried Out Clay
Often people offer me bags of dried out clay. In the past, I have turned down clay that is extremely dried out. I didn’t mind slightly dried out clay which I would cover with wet rags and was able to restore to optimum consistency. However, I could not turn down an offer for 100 pounds of dried out cone 5 porcelain (I love working with porcelain). Previously, I had not been successful with re-constituting large hunks of dried out clay (frustrating experience). I was not willing to break it into small pieces and then soaking it.
I used a 12-inch masonry bit to drill four holes in the clay from the top. It was a challenge to hold the block of clay in place while drilling with my monster half inch drill (it has so much torque it is a challenge to hold on to). I had been told that 1 cup of water added to the clay in the holes and on top would be sufficient. After two days of the clay with the water in a sealed bag sitting in a gallon bucket filled with water, there was minimal hydration of the clay. I added another generous cup of water and waited another two days. Voila! Or as my British friends are prone to say, “Bob’s your uncle!” My friends from Oz are probably saying, “Good onya, mate!” I am excited to have a relatively easy manner of reclaiming dried out bags of clay. Now I will accept offers of dried out clay (yes, bring it on).
Last summer I felt like it was time to explore new avenues with my art. I am pleased with where it has taken me. It is time for some new experimentation and expansion. I am not sure what this means yet, but I am excited to find out – stay tuned for a summer or early fall post.
The banner piece above is a raku piece titled “Linear Exploration”. It won third prize at the Annual Members Exhibition. See my awards page.
The 37th Annual Members Exhibition at the Sedona Arts Center runs from March 3rd to April 3rd from 10 -5 every day. The three pieces I submitted were juried into the show. The awards are announced at the gala opening on Friday, March 3rd from 5 – 8 pm – there will be food and drink.
The Renegades show features art from 10 local artists. I am one of the artists. The show is in the lower gallery of the Sedona Arts Center and runs from Wednesday, March 22nd to April 4th. The hours are 10 – 5 every day.
The Sedona Arts Center
15 Art Barn Road
Sedona, Arizona 86336
The year has been busy so far. I have been focusing on pit-fire and saggar firing with a little raku thrown in. I am also working on a couple of four place dinner sets that will be reduction fired to cone 10 with a Shino glaze – I expect to post pictures in the Spring. Here is a gallery of some of my work from the past month. Stay tuned, I have a couple of shows in March and will do another post in about a week.
I may do product reviews occasionally. Up to this point, the products are ones that I have purchased and used extensively. If you would like me to review a product, please know that I will review it honestly as if I had purchased it myself. Please feel free to contact me with any such requests.
People often ask my advice about pottery wheels. This is a substantial investment and should be given careful consideration. You will probably have your pottery wheel for a long time! I have used numerous different wheels and currently own three wheels from different manufacturers. I hope the information below is helpful.
My Favorite Pottery Wheel
My favorite pottery wheel remains the Skutt “Premier” with the SSX foot control (pictured above). This is perhaps the Cadillac of wheels. It has a huge amount of torque (more than any other 1 hp. wheel I have tried) and the (optional) SSX foot control gives micro precision speed control and holds its speed accurately. You can’t have too much power and sometimes that extra power is helpful – this wheel is as easy to control as wheels with much less horsepower. The ability to reverse the spin direction of the wheel is a nice feature albeit one that I use infrequently. The wheel has an easily removable splash pan which I generally only remove when I have a large amount of trimmings. Otherwise, I remove the easily removable wheel head and sponge out the splash pan. I appreciate the little touches of the wheel design such as the knurled nuts that hold the bat pins since these are easier to work than wingnuts. I have had this wheel for a few years and it has performed flawlessly.
Things I Look for in a Pottery Wheel
I work with pieces that range from tiny to massive and this wheel excels at anything I throw (pun intended) at it. I often throw 20 pounds or more and this wheel has never faltered. Some of my assembled pieces have been over 100 pounds.
It is nice having a huge splash pan where I put my water and throwing tools. However, the large size of the splash pan does provide a challenge for cleaning in the sink. I am able to use up to a 16” bat with the splash pan in place; however, larger bats do require either throwing without the splash pan or using a shaft extender. Unless you have a Skutt wheel with the non-removable splash pan, I would NOT invest in a shaft extender. The non-removable splash pan models are appealing but when I was looking for a wheel these did not have a built in drain – if and when Skutt adds this feature I would consider this model a worthy candidate.
A final note: so many schools have Brent wheels and consequently many students rush out and buy Brents (this often keeps the price of used ones high). These are well-made workhorses but there are many other brands that are just as good or better. So look around. I hope this blog was helpful. Do your research and happy wheel hunting!
Consider Throwing Standing Up
I did invest in the Skutt leg extenders. They work well but in my opinion, a little more height would be nice – with full extension of the legs when standing I still need to bend over more than I would like. I threw for years sitting and this finally caught up with me necessitating a couple of months of chiropractic care followed by a couple of months of physical therapy. Standing seems to relieve much of the stress on my back. It took a couple of months for me to fully master throwing in the standing position. Now I feel I can throw better in this position and I can see my work in progress better. If you are throwing large, standing is not a problem as long as your wheel is secure (does not move when substantial lateral pressure is applied). If you are throwing tall you will probably need a step stool. When standing I suggest bracing your arms on the splash pan as additional support for steadiness.
Used Pottery Wheels
If you are looking for a used pottery wheel, you probably will not find a Skutt/Thomas Stuart wheel. People hold onto these. If you do see a used one, give it serious consideration. I have never encountered a well-maintained wheel that couldn’t do the job for pieces under 15 pounds. If you work with less than 15 pounds of clay, don’t obsess over what wheel to get and don’t fret about the horsepower. Instead, pick something in good shape, that holds a steady speed, and is affordable. However, I have found many wheels (even older 1 horsepower wheels) that would come to a stop when working with large amounts of clay – I usually am able to overcome this by using a softer hand.
If you are looking at used wheels, look for a wheel that is reasonably quiet and does not make any grinding noise. Test the torque on the wheel head ideally by centering a large piece of clay (or you can come up with a creative alternative testing technique). Pedals often fail; so, check it for smooth and consistent operation and that it maintains a consistent speed. If you cannot find replacement parts online for the wheel you are looking at, then stay away from it. Sometimes sellers have wheels without splash pans – factor in the cost of a new splash pan. The amount of work table space for your water and tools should be considered. The power and pedal cords should not be frayed and if it is a reversible wheel make sure the reverse function works.
Pottery Kick Wheels
One of my pottery wheels is a Randall motorized kick wheel. I love it. It was given to me. Parts are impossible to find (but the price was right). There are a number of brands of kick wheels on the market today – the Lockerbie appeals to me. The motor assist in my opinion is worth getting. The kick wheel is a pleasure for decorating. There is something about using a kick wheel that is magical, but I wouldn’t be happy with this as my only wheel. It takes a lot of practice to achieve good speed control while keeping your upper body still and your attention focused on your piece. A standard electric wheel gives you the ability to maintain a fixed speed while moving around or even standing on a stool for extra height. Another limiting factor is the weight and large footprint of a kick wheel. If you like throwing outdoors, many people leave their kick wheels outside (do cover it though).
I have been making raku for both my Cosmic Series and for my Banded Series. Saggar firing has been an area of experimentation lately. On the functional side, I have been producing mugs, tea bowls, tumblers, pitchers, bowls, platters, and baskets. I have also finally started on experimenting with cone 6 glazes – much room for exploration. I will be creating some pit-fire pieces in February. This is a particularly busy time of the year for sales, and I am glad that I have a healthy inventory.
Hyper-Dimensional Polymorphic Exploration (top image) is an out of the box exploration of form and texture. I had a lot of fun with this piece and with pushing its limits. The Stained Glass Image piece from my raku banded series is more exploration of banding on raku pieces. Not shown are a number of raku banded series vessels as well as a couple of stunning raku wall platters in this series. Happiness is a whimsical raku piece from my raku cosmic series that has four smiling faces (one on each side). It has a number of “halo” images. This piece makes me smile. The Porcelain Vase has some interesting use of Tea Dust Tenmoku glaze. The Saggar piece was a fun exploration using many organic and inorganic components for the firing. I am excited to explore using other materials. Color Splash from my raku poly-tonal series represents more playing with color and masking. The featured image (the banner of this post) is the lifeguard station at La Jolla Beach in California at sunset.
The annual Made In Clarkdale show was only four days this year and the format of the show changed dramatically. Some attendees loved the changes and some did not. That being said, this was the financially most successful year for the show. My sales were very good and so I am happy with the show.
My wife and I were able to get away from Sedona for a couple of long weekends. We enjoyed a lazy few days at the beach in La Jolla and visiting friends in the area. We also had a long weekend in Santa Fe staying with friends there. Of course, we spent an afternoon visiting numerous galleries on Canyon Rd and we also visited a glass studio (fascinating and beautiful).
I couldn’t get myself to do a post without a photograph. This teapot has a two cup capacity. Sales have been good in October and I am looking forward to good sales in November. In addition to loose and fluid forms, I have been playing with raku, making porcelain chawans (Japanese tea bowls) and I am planning to do some saggar firing.
Art Lessons show The Verde Valley campus of Yavapai College juried nine student works from all their ceramic students into the student show. One of my raku pieces is in the show. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The show runs through November 10th.
YC Art Gallery 601 Black Hills Dr. F-105
Clarkdale, AZ 86324
The 30th Annual Made In Clarkdale Artists’ Showcase I have again been juried into the annual Made In Clarkdale show. This year the show has a totally revised format and runs for four days. This has traditionally been a very popular show – attendance at the gala opening (Friday, December 2 from 6 pm to 9 pm) has been close to a thousand. The show runs from December 1st to December 4th from 10 am to 7 pm except Sunday when the show closes at 4pm. I will feature lots of new work. If you can, I encourage you to visit the show.
The Clark Memorial Clubhouse Auditorium 19 North 9th Street
Clarkdale, AZ 86324
I have been playing with raku again. This is some of the work I fired during the last month. I visited Oregon a couple of months ago and had an opportunity to visit the studio of John Dodero in Jacksonville (you can see his work online). It is unusual to find a production potter who does exciting raku ceramic art. He makes a piece on the wheel and then uses this piece to create a plaster mold. Slip-casting allows him to do production raku work which he sells wholesale.
I was fascinated to see his studio set-up, work process, and his work. I purchased a beautiful and very unusual Shino piece from him – unfortunately, it did not survive the shipping. The featured piece on this post was inspired by his work. Two of the photos below show different views of the same piece…
New Directions for Raku
Now that I am back in Sedona, Arizona, I have been experimenting with both wax resist and tape masking on raku pieces. with was resist it is difficult to remove all the glaze from the resist, and with the tape, it is a challenge to get fluid lines and the uniform thickness of the lines is less natural looking. I continue to ponder this challenge.
The incorporation of wood and rock into my raku work presents interesting possibilities. I am considering incorporating semi-precious stones and/or crystals. The use of desert dried wood or cactus skeletons also is of interest. The featured piece uses manzanita from our yard.
I like the stable and colorful glazes of raku. They allow me to effectively use the masking technique for glaze application demonstrated on some these pieces. I continue to ponder the possibility to similar results with mid and high fire glazes. This would result in functional and durable pieces.
Shino glaze was first developed in Japan in the latter half of the sixteenth century. A Shino can go white, cream, orange, brown and black (even on a single piece). The use of this glaze is quite tricky. Many factors in the formulation, application, and firing of this glaze affect the final result. Shino glazes can produce very disappointing results and are prone to glaze faults such as crazing and crawling. However, with careful control of numerous variables, stunning results are possible. To further cloud the issue pieces treated in the same manner and fired at the same time in the same kiln can produce remarkably different results.
At Coconino Community College under the tutelage of Don Fethkenher, we did an in-depth exploration of Shino glazes. We lived and breathed Shino for a month. Five of us made hundreds of pieces and tested these with different glaze formulations and different treatments and methods of application. We tried putting different Shino glazes over each other. We tried applying various chemicals over the glaze. We tried different methods of drying the ware once the glaze was applied. The list is much more extensive than mentioned here.
Having spent a semester studying this glaze, I feel I know Shino a lot better. As an analogy: I no longer feel like I am in kindergarten but am far from being an expert.
All the photos in this post are glazed with Shino (other glazes may be overlapped) and were made in June of 2016 (summer semester). As you can see, quite a variety of results are possible from Shino. The pieces shown in this post were selected from about 70 pieces I personally made.
Leopard Spot Shino (so called because of the dark spots) is particularly elusive and those who know its secret guard it carefully! The large image at the beginning of this post illustrates this glase. Carbon trapping (carbon is trapped in the glaze during firing) is essential for this particular result and is what causes the black areas. I am pleased to show an example of Leopard Spot Shino (no, I will not kiss and tell).
In addition to carbon trapping, the Shino glaze can under the proper conditions take on an opalescence that can be quite stunning. I have included a picture of this occurrence; unfortunately, the opalescence does not show well in the photograph. The piece has a beautiful metallic sheen.