Inspired by the Creativity of Children

Last week I went back to the ceramics studio after a break of a couple of months or so. Over the summer the art center runs a large number of classes for children and the place is very busy. I was finding it a bit hard to get started again and then I looked through some of the ceramics that the kids had created over the last few weeks.

I think they have done a fantastic job. One of the best things about the children’s work is that many of them (especially the younger ones) have no real constraints in their minds. They are free to just take an idea or prompt from the teacher and run with it.

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After seeing these great works, I am reinvigorated for the fall ceramic season…!

~Richard

Pottery Perils Persist

Several days back I wrote of my recent kiln disasters with my holey bowls and the addition of the concepts of shivering and dunting to my ever-expanding vocabulary of ceramics. Well, lo and behold I turned up to the art studio a few days later only to be confronted by yet more disappointment.

This time it was not hand made art bowls, but two simpler wheel-thrown bowls that had succumbed to a similar fate. Again, luckily no other art work was impacted (literally) so it was only my work that was ruined.

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So, as it doesn’t seem to be the design of the works that is causing the issue, we are left with the conclusion that it’s the choice of clay I have been using. I have recently switched to Hugo gray clay, one that is very suited for sculpting and handbuilding, since we had over 50 lbs of it left over from other sculpting activities. This clay is said to throw well and be adaptable to all craft glazes up to cone 7 for vitrification, so I didn’t think there would be any problems and I cannot understand why I am having so much trouble with it.

Not surprisingly, the Studio Director no longer wants to fire this to high fire, for fear of damaging the kiln,  so we have agreed that we will bisque fire what I have and I will then use low fire stroking coats to do a second low fire (cone 06) to get some color onto the pieces.

If anyone has any ideas as to why this may be happening, please feel free to add a comment.

~Richard

Pottering about with bowls

I mentioned previously that I was going back to the wheel after having spent many weeks hand building in clay. Well, after a few false starts and watching several videos on youTube I spent about an hour at the art center yesterday and managed to create a couple of bowls that I’m quite happy with. Clearly I have a long way to go, but it’s a great experience, even when it goes wrong, and the great thing about clay is that it’s totally reusable up until it’s fired. And, as I found out in my reading, even after the initial bisque firing it can still be ground up, sieved and then used as ‘grog’ in other pottery.

My most important tips so far for using the wheel are that it is essential to wedge the clay well to get the clay particles aligned and secondly, always be gentle when removing hands from the spinning pot. All simple stuff to the experienced potter, but often they forget to tell the obvious things to us learners.

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~Richard

Holey Bowls

Way back in April (although it seems a lot longer ago than that!) I mentioned that I was taking a pottery class in hand building at Chester County Arts Association. I managed to complete the course and to also get a few tries on the potter’s wheel.

Fast forward through a busy summer and I am back at the arts center again for the past few weeks and have been making a lot of items that buzz around as ideas in my head.

I have found hand building to be very creative and a great way to relax from the stress of the working week. One of the themes I have been developing is that of my “holey bowls,” a sample of which I show below:

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These were made by rolling out clay and then using an existing bowl as a mold. From this I then cut holes and added a foot before firing to bisque and then experimenting with the glazes. I love the form and the use of “negative space” and seem to have a bit of an obsession with these at the moment.

Of course, as with many art pieces they are also a triumph in form over function, as a bowl with holes in it isn’t really a lot of use!

I hadn’t gone back to the wheel at all until yesterday when, after talking to several other artists in the center I realized that most had only been throwing for a year or so, so this gave me a confidence boost. I will add a few more images from these experiments once I have something decent to show, so stay tuned.

~Richard

I’ll have a P please, Bob

Any British followers may know that today’s post title refers to a long running quiz show, Blockbusters, that was hosted by the late Bob Holness, the veteran radio and TV presenter and erstwhile James Bond (at least on radio). During the show contestants would have to pick their way across a lighted board by choosing letters and it became almost a rite of passage to use a variant of the phrase  “I’d like a P please, Bob”, in order to elicit a giggle from the young audience through the use of the great British double entendre.

Anyhow, for totally unrelated reasons, and more for the use of corny alliteration, my blog description centers around words beginning with the letter p, and yesterday I added another one –Pottery!

In my continuing quest to seek out new activities, expand my skills and broaden my mind’s artistic capabilities I have started a pottery course at Chester County Arts Association.  I think it has been over 4 decades since I played around with clay and last night was great fun. We were given a basic introduction to different art pieces and “practical” pieces being made in clay and I proceeded to make a couple of hand made pots and a few stamps for use in the future. Then the highlight of the evening – I was shown how to use the potter’s wheel.

Again, for those British readers, “The potter’s wheel” was an oft shown piece of film in the bygone days when the TV was not being broadcast 24/7/365. This black and white short film used to be shown on the BBC during the program “interludes” from February 1953 and throughout the 60’s and showed the work of Georges Aubertin. Although it predates my TV viewing by a decade or so this iconic short was occasionally shown during the 1970s and it stuck in the back of my mind.

So, with the visions of great pots and bowls being made I embarked on my training from my instructor, Meghan, and following an initial failure, I was pleased to have produced this as my first ever pot from a wheel!  

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The strange thing is that, basic as this is, I felt so pleased at having been able to do this – almost like a young schoolchild again, coming home with a barely functional pinch-pot ashtray that I had made and glazed all those years ago. I think I am really going to enjoy the next few weeks of pottering about in pottery!

~Richard

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