Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Commercial Break

I did want to let people know about a couple of events in the Chapel Hill/Burlington, NC areas.  One is the library show in Carrboro--sorry about the short notice, but if you get a chance to see it before it comes down tomorrow afternoon (June 10), it's at the Carrboro Branch Library on Fayetteville Rd.  

For directions see

Curator Alex O'Connor's website is

Also, this Thursday, June 11, Emily Weinstein has a reception and book signing.  It will be at the Alamance County Arts Council, on Main St. in Graham, NC.  Emily is a wonderful painter.  She is also a friend of animals and works tirelessly on their behalf.  At this show, she is offering her book, "Saving Magic Places," and 20% of proceeds will go to the Piedmont Land Trust.  So she's working on fauna, flora, and Mother Earth, too.

Emily's website is

In addition, and also at the Arts Council, clay sculptor Tinka Jordy will present her new work  She creates wonderful large figurative sculpture.  I've met her briefly and hope to talk with her at the reception.

For more information, directions, etc. see the Alamance County Arts Council website:

As you can tell, I love the work of all of these artists!  And many others.  

Fungus-y Fungi

Just opened the kiln and was pleased with the results.  I think Suzanne and Tom will be happy with their mushrooms.  Those are some fungus-y fungi!  Tom is a microbiologist, so this is most appropriate! They haven't seen them yet, so that's all I'll say for now.

I threw in several test tiles and got some good results, as well as some serious Halloween.  I have a love-hate relationship with test tiles.  They just seem to take so much time. 

Other ceramists may disagree with me on that, but (1) I'm pretty impatient in some areas of my life, and this is one of them, (2) I usually do them late at night, "Since I'm running the kiln, I might as well throw in some test tiles." (I'm always glad I did), (3)  "Hmmm, wonder what happens if I try this combination," and one thing leads to another, so I end up being in the studio much later than anticipated.  

Still, since a fair amount of work goes into each sculpture, I'm highly motivated to make test tiles--little slabs or pillars of clay that are usually fired before applying the glaze, to mimic conditions the artwork will go through.  Every type of clay (clay body) will have a different reaction, and different kilns will give you different results.   It's like trying to bake using  someone else's cake recipe and wondering why yours doesn't rise as much.  The test tiles give you an idea of what you might get--gravity can cause the glaze to flow as it melts down over the piece, and give some beautiful surprises (or not).  You can get very interesting effects where two glazes meet.  And there are slight temperature variations in different areas of the kiln, enough to make a difference.  Glaze experts, who know the chemistry behind the all this stuff, have spent decades testing and analyzing.  There are even computer programs to predict what you will get or how you might change a given recipe to get something else .  Still, even the experts will still tell you, "But go ahead and run a test tile."

Even after all that, the test tile gives you only an idea--like those little color swatches at the paint store.  You look at dozens of colors, chose the "perfect" one and, when you paint the whole room, it's not what you expected.

Despite knowing this, I continue to have a preconception of what I'll find when I open the kiln.  If I get a "glaze surprise," even if it's a happy one, I'm often just a little put off, at first.  But then, I almost always decide I really like the result.  (Maybe it's a control thing!)   And, more often than not, it inspires a new sculpture, much like what a fiber artist, for example, might experience upon discovering a new fabric.