Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Studio Renovation Builds Biceps

Right now in the basement, a  man is installing French doors. They are going between my studio and my gallery space. Someone standing in the gallery will be able to look through the glass panes and see the workshop area. When I work in the studio, I can close the doors to keep the dust from entering the gallery, while retaining light from the gallery area.

If I do not have bulging biceps, it is not from lack of trying. Pottery materials and tools are heavy! It's been a big job pulling this together the last two days, but I am at least 75% there.

Yesterday, I moved my wheel from its old spot to a new one, My trusty Lockerbie wheel, which I've had since 1985,  has a 90 lb. flywheel at the bottom, and its frame is made of cast iron. I found it helped to use old bits of vinyl floor tile below the 3 feet of the frame, to get it started moving. I had washed the floor (needed it- sloppy buckets of glaze used to live here) and I managed to slide it into place along the damp floor. Oof.
First thing in place is my kickwheel!
The big blue pail is half full of stoneware, about 250 lbs worth, from  my student days in the 80s. It slid across the studio floor pretty well. It is very well aged clay, nice and soft. It matures at a higher temperature (over 3200 degrees F) than I fire my kiln to now (about 2800 degrees F), so I am going to make a lot of unglazed garden pots out of it. It's OK if they are a bit porous, which happens when a clay is underfired- it's better for freezing and thawing, in fact. The plastic container with light blue lid is full of my clay tools. I want to hang a couple of shelves on the wall to the right, and put them there. The mirror standing against the wall, reflecting the shelves across the way, will get hung on the wall angled near my wheel (not visible in the photo). It will help me see the profile of whatever pot I am making on the wheel, without having to crane my neck around. You'd be amazed how that constant craning takes a toll on the  nerves and disks in a potter's neck over time.

Clay boxes were everywhere. My husband helped me move the slab roller to its new spot this morning, and then stowed 500 lbs of clay under it. There is room for 900 lbs of clay:
2nd thing in place is clay and slab roller!

This is my craft cabinet, full of beads and epoxy resin supplies and more. It stood (up until now) sort of nowhere, in the midst of the basement, with other junk:
Son of a gun was full of supplies and way heavy, but I stuck a couple of putty knife blades under the front edge as slides, and pushed it bit by bit out of what will be my gallery space, and into its new place. The crafts cabinet now lives between the glaze-colorants cabinet (white), and the wall of buckets and bags containing my more basic glaze ingredients.

Supply cabinets make friends

Oxides and colorants:
Cobalt carbonate, Red iron oxide, Mason stains and much more
Non-pottery craft supplies:
Beads, wire, findings, glues, epoxy resin supplies, tools and more

Too bad I didn't take a photo of the glaze bucket mess before I moved it. It lived under a table  made of an old door, which sat on two filing cabinets and stood where the slab roller now lives. I first had to shlep out the wet glazes, get rid of those that don't work for me any more, and wash out still-useful buckets. It was a sloppy job, but done now. Here is the mid-stage of cleanup:
And here are the glaze buckets and glazing tools where they belong, now stored under a 7' long table placed in that same area:

On the side wall you can see more buckets. They are dry ingredients, powders used to make pottery glazes from recipes. They used to live on a pallet, three rows deep, making them hard to get at. They contain 25 lbs. of powder each, so it was heavy lifting to get to the ones at the back and at the bottom when needed. Now they are in a single row. No need to move the buckets in front to get the the ones I need. This makes me surprisingly happy:
Ball clay, flint, kaolin, tin oxide, nepheline syenite, and more.
 This is the before-the-door-is-installed view, from the doorway space:
The new LED lighting is super
The studio that used to be two smaller rooms is now one long room that you can see from one end to the other when you enter. I love how light it is now. You enter the clay area first- those are buckets of re-hydrating clay under the table, which I will recycle and re-use. Further in, where I have a shop sink in the far right corner, is the glazing area. Way up against the far wall I have an old farmhouse table my mother got secondhand for me thirty years ago. It will have to find a new purpose. Right now it is just a catchall for mess.

I am banishing mess and creating an orderly workspace. There is still plenty to do, but the end is coming into focus.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Glimpse of Warren Mackenzie

I am happily distracted with the birth of twin grandchildren this week, but in my "down" time I have been watching some pottery videos. I am looking at a wonderful set of DVD's of Tom Turner teaching a workshop. It's good to "go to class" sometimes.  I looked for short videos of Turner's to post for you, but there is just one, not really aimed at perpetual pottery students like me.

I came across this one of Warren Mackenzie (born 1924) made sometime around 2007.  (Posted on YouTube by Paudoo1 in 2009, but Mackenzie's website states that he closed his studio in 2007.) I've been a fan of his beautifully fluid, warm, almost primal work for a long time. Mackenzie's studio is in Stillwater, Minnesota. He made his "everyday pots" (and perhaps still does) with a dancing spirit of fun for many years. This video shows him in his studio working on a Leach treadle wheel. When he mentions "Bernard," he means Bernard Leach, the early Master of folk pottery himself, with whom I believe he studied at one time. The video is not quite 7 minutes long and is a truly enjoyable treasure:

Here are two images of Mackenzie's work that I found by searching the Web.  His forms, surfaces and
(found on a nice blog, by the way)

(found on
faceting are wonderful. There are literally hundreds of images of his work. It is widely collected and has been for years. I love the warm earth colors of these. As I always say, I can only aspire.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Last Days in Maine, Microcosm-Gazing

We are leaving Maine tomorrow. Today will be a day on the lake, then grilling dinner. Relaxing.

Away from my studio, other creative outlets just have to pop up. It's how I function.

Looking at birds, writing and drawing... always observing.

What kind of stone is this (below)? Click on it for a bigger image! (You do know you can always click on any blog photo for a bigger image, right??) I know those are quartz inclusions, but what's the rusty colored stone? Seriously. I want to know. I fell in love with it on a hike two days ago and lugged it the rest of the way in my daypack. Fortunately we were already going back downhill after a savage uphill hike. I think it weighed six pounds.
Crazy Quartz Rock
The quartz inclusion and crystals are testament to the turbulent, heated core of the earth. The heat of my electric kiln in the studio is much more serene and steady. I wish I had the capacity to fire my pots in a fluctuating, flickering, oxygen-sucking environment that makes randomly beautiful things happen, but "I got what I got."
So many textures and contrasts in birch and bush! Lines, curls, flaking, feathering, lights and darks, warms and cools. What an interesting visual world we live in.

Kayak Landing Spot
A little notch in the bank of the lake serves as the spot we pull in our kayaks, one by one. A soft, sandy spot, it is easy on the feet and, once I got deep into microcosm-gazing, I found the picture extremely engaging. Such is the effect of quiet, lazy days of observing and writing. Brain gets very attuned to nuance. It's like looking into a crystalline glaze.

Back home, I should get some edge back next week, lose this particular focus, and gain some further insights in clay- such is life. See you then.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lake, Tree, Glazing

How is the mood of a lake expressed? The ruffles of the waves are colors. The dark of the underside, purple and slate, the push of the top, gray-blue and near-white. Laced in the movement, white and bright peach, elusive. Sitting at the picnic table in the yard of the house in Maine this morning, colored pencils flicking in time to the breeze ruffling the water, broad strokes and small, I try to capture the mood of the lake. Trying, that is, because I won't capture the lake actually, as it moves and moves; and as it moves, changes too quickly to pin down with the naked eye.

As night fell last evening it would perhaps have been simpler to draw. The darks are broader and fill the canvas better as sunset dwindles. But the lake is never really simple to capture, not while experiencing the moment. It takes a photograph to lock it down:

And what of the circle, circle, turn and circle of the water bugs as they skate rapidly over the reflected afternoon sky in the water? How do I catch that complex circular movement? Can I?

Yesterday on a hike, I took a photo of a tree trunk. Why? In the same way that I look at the lake and see the colors and textures of the water, I see lines and colors in the bark of a tree. The green in the trunk was unusual, and the lines went up and down instead of across. What's a potter to do? I immediately thought of wax resist effects in glazes. (To Be Explained at some later date.) This may or may not be applicable in some way to my glazing ideas (which always need work), but who knows? Inspiration. As my kids have known for years about their mom, the word is "texture."

Whatever "beautiful" means (and it varies), if the surfaces of my pieces invite hand and eye, I will be glad. I have lots of work ahead of me with glazes and surface treatments. Twenty-seven years a potter, I still have so much to learn.

Motto for life: Never stop noticing!