Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seeking the Holy Gra-yish Blue

So much goes on behind the scenes.

Since I spend a lot of time sculpting a piece, I want complete control over the colors--no "glaze surprises" (there is no such thing--too many variables--application, kiln atmosphere, but we can always hope!). As a fellow clay artist said, "When you open the kiln, it's either Christmas... or Halloween."

Now, I am trying to be more spontaneous, and do like surprises. Even get some "happy surprises" when I open the kiln. But sometimes it's Halloween. Happens to everyone in this business.

I also want consistency.

The answer is to use commercial underglazes, after testing them on small slabs of clay--test tiles. Since clay is made of a mixture of of products from the earth, there is some variation in the composition of different batches of clay. For example, the latest batches have talc that is very different from that of earlier batches. In fact, the wet clay is a different color and consistency. It still fires up white and so far works well with my glazes and underglazes. But I'll be running lots of test tiles with this new clay.

And, as when you paint a small area on the wall only to discover a color looks different in context or when the whole wall is painted, so it goes with some of the underglazes. For example, people can have very bright blue eyes. BUT, when I used what I thought would be good colors for blue eyes, I got scary looking people with laser beam eyes. Yikes! They just followed you around the room. Same with skin tones--some people looked quite jaundiced.

In future work, I might want these effects, but that hasn't been the case so far.

Also I have found that the color can change slightly if it was applied before the first firing (on greenware) vs. after (bisque) , or refired. (Some of these pieces get fired three or four times.) That's OK for a shirt, but can be disturbing for skin tones, eye colors, and even animal coat colors. So, I have been seeking blues that have a touch of lavender or grey in them. And I keep a lot of records, including when the underglaze was applied and batch number.

After many test tiles to find good colors for skin tones, blue eyes, and cat colors, I ordered more underglazes yesterday. Unfortunately, the choices are limited. Many of the colors I worked with years ago are no longer made--companies are much more safety conscious and now (a good thing!) and some of the chemicals in glazes and underglazes were not safe. And some promising colors that I recently tested, so thought were available, were not in stock. The supplier thinks they may have recently been discontinued

Needless to say, the quest continues...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Newest work--Shoulder Cats!!!

Not sure where this idea came from--although my work is getting more serious, I can't resist the temptation for a little whimsy or the unexpected. Also, we had a sweet little kitty named Puddles who, at 5 pounds, would climb up my leg, etc. and get to my shoulder. There she would ride around while I continued with daily activities.

Shoulder Cat 1 (soon to be renamed), bone dry.

Shoulder Cat 2 (also soon to be renamed), leather hard.

These have been a long time coming--so much has been going on--all good:

Applying for shows. Getting in to shows. Lots of teaching in the schools. In fact, I am just returning from the Post Office--mailed my application for teaching for two more years. That was a lot of work--included a 10 minute video of me in the classroom. Lots of editing as we recorded parts of three classes. I was glad for that--in one class, someone bumped the camera, so it was moved for much of the time. Don't you hate when that happens???

I use a Macintosh, so got a few lessons in iMovie and iDVD to get the final version of the video. Big, steep learning curve (for me) there.

For the application, we also had to include images of our work and examples of the educational materials we would provide for workshops (one-hour visit with each class) or residencies (multiple visits with each class).

Lots of stuff. But now I've been doing this for a while and am pleased with my portfolio. I've even got a nice slide show of students' work. But it took a while to create all this stuff in the first place. And to get it all together for things like these applications, since I like to add as much new stuff as I can each time.

Anyway, the two new scultpures are now drying. (A third--not a shoulder cat--is on the way.) You will find more more images of these Shoulder Cat pieces on my Facebook Fan Page:

then search Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture. I'll put a link here, but the url seems to change a lot--perhaps someone can enlighten me:

As with so much of my work, a lot of research is involved. I've found many images on the Internet. I even check out Friends of Friends' Facebook pages, and have written to theses folks to add to my collection of Shoulder Cat images.

And, I include this for your viewing pleasure, though I don't think I care to make a sculpture this extensive!

Facebook Fan Page Revisited

I am slowly joining getting a handle on social networking.

As I said in an earlier post, I love Facebook Fan Page--I get swept away navigating all over the place in Facebook, and Twitter is too brief for me (but give me time on that one). Have Linked-in page, but haven't done much with that yet. Gotta spend time in the studio!

If you check out the Facebook Fan Page, you can see photos of my work in one place, rather than having to scroll around, as you do in this blog.

Anyway, since I am still not sure how to list the Fan Page address (the url seems to be different every time I check it), if you go to

and search

Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture

you will find me.

I also have a personal Facebook page--lots of posts from friends about art and animals.