Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wow, it has been so long since I posted it is hard to know where to begin.  In June I received a large tableware commission (290 pieces).  This was exciting and terrifying at the same time.  I have never tried to complete an order this large before.  So far I have completely finished 96 pieces, and cast 41 more.

These have all been glaze fired now, the firing came out quite well.
This was terrifying not only because of the scale, but because 1 week before I received the commission we had decided to buy our first house.  We have always rented, because we move around so much, but we seem to be staying here, so it seemed time to own.  This way we have no landlords to deal with and can modify our house to our tastes.  Our lease was up at the end of August, so we decided to compress a process, which takes most people many months into 2.  It all worked out and we managed to find an acceptable house.

The new house.
As anyone who has purchased a house before knows, it can take a long time to get settled in.  The house was in excellent condition, but we have different decorating tastes from the previous owners, so there has been a lot of wallpaper stripping and painting.  We may even manage to get unpacked by December.

This is where I was at the beginning of September (this is the same space as above)

While putting all my artwork in storage I took the time to tape photographs of the contents on all the boxes.  This should save me many headaches in the future.
I now have 2 studio spaces, a work area and a kiln room/ glaze room.  This is fantastic because I can now fire a kiln and still work.  I also now have air conditioning and heating in my studio for the first time in years.  I am still getting used to these new spaces and working while not completely unpacked yet. 

My new slip casting area/ work table
 In addition to redecorating I took this opportunity to build myself some studio furniture.  I now have two new tables custom built for me.  It is fantastic to have all the new storage space underneath, and have them be just the right height as well.  I will have even more storage space when I get around to installing the rest of my shelves as well.  In general everything is looking good, but it has all been very tiring.  Trying to move into a new house and keep on working on the commission which needs to be completed soon, while teaching full time has been a little overwhelming.  I will never overlap so many major projects again if I can help it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lobster salad for birthday supper on new work (there was chocolate cake with raspberries as well)
I haven't posted for quite awhile.  I think maybe I read too much Victorian literature as a child and feel uncomfortable talking about myself so much.  Being a professor I get very involved in my teaching and my students and tend to forget about myself.  This time of year is always bittersweet, seeing students one has worked with for several years, graduating and moving out into the world to continue on their own.  It is very exciting to see former students succeeding in their artistic endeavors, it makes it feel like all the hard work is worth it.
 That being said, I have been continuing to work on my own work.  We had some great visiting artists at SCAD this last year.  I always find their visits inspiring.  The surfaces on the work above were inspired by A.J. Argentina, when he came to visit this Winter.  It wasn't a particular technique he showed, or specific advice he gave, it was simply the time to sit a listen to someone else talk about how they approach form and surface.
A.J.'s work
We also had a visit from Heather Mae Erickson this Spring.  It was great to get to share some of the insights she gave me last summer with our students.  It was great to see Heather again, and as always inspiring to listen to another artist talk about their working process.  I'll be jumping right back into making this summer (as soon as I take a brief siesta).

Also in the plans for this summer is to do something about my photo set up situation.  After 15 years of heavy use, my super cheap photo floods are starting to die.  I really need to get some new lights and figure out a better easier way to diffuse the light.  Now that I am making all of this small scale functional work I am seriously considering making myself a light box.   I really wish I had documented my set up last time I took images, but suffice to say it involved a step ladder, two by four, and my dining room shelves, as well as some old plastic shower curtain and a lot of careful movement to keep from knocking anything down and breaking the dining room chandelier.  I'll be sure to document the new set up if it works well.  Hopefully now that summer is here I will be posting more often.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How I mix my slip.

I spent the weekend house cleaning, making up for the last three months of frenzied sculpting.  It was amazing how much of the contents of my studio had become scattered throughout my house.  Everything is back in place now, which feels freeing.  On top of all the cleaning I managed to make time to mix myself a double batch of casting slip to get ready for another round of slip casting tableware.  I got another check in the mail yesterday from one of my galleries and it made me realize that I really need to get some more work out.  (I like that extra money coming in.)

Since I mixed the slip I thought I would let you know how I make my casting slip.  I got the recipe several years ago from Ceramics Monthly (November 2008, p.57).

In case you can't read this it says:


Nepheline Syenite ............................23%
Grolleg (English Kaolin) .................55%
Flint (silica) ......................................22%
Add Bentonite or Macaloid ..............1%

For cone 10 use Custer Feldspar instead of nepheline syenite.

Mixing a Batch of Casting Slip from UArts Clay Body
 The water should be no more than 50% of the total weight of the dry materials.  Darvan should be 0.4% of the total weight.  Bentonite should be 0.5% of the total weight - up to 1% if desired.  A batch of 10,000 grams of dry material, when mixed with water, makes about 5 gallons of slip.

Step 1
Blunge water and Darvan with a heavy-duty drill and a squirrel cage or jiffy mixer.  Add the Bentonite and continue blunging until thoroughly mixed.

Water ..................................... 5000g
Darvan 7.....................................40g
Bentonite ....................................50g 
Step 2
Add dry materials while continuing to mix:

Grolleg (English Kaolin)...............................5500g
Nepheline Syenite..........................................2300g
Flint (silica)...................................................2200g

After mixing thoroughly add up to 18g (0.2%) more Darvan (no more than 0.6% total) as needed.  Small amounts of water may also be added to improve viscosity (use drops of water at a time and go slow).

Step 3
Check the specific gravity of the slip.  Specific gravity is the measure of the density of a substance.  For liquids, we compare the density to water.  Weigh a specific volume of slip and divide that weight by the weight of the same volume of water.  The ideal result should be 1.7-1.8.  This means that the slip  is 1.7-1.8 times as dense as water.  Most good slips are in the 1.75-1.78 range.

Step 4
Let the slip stand overnight (or continue mixing overnight if you have the equipment to do so).  Mix once again the next day and recheck specific gravity before using.  It is possible to use the slip right away, but waiting helps to insure all particles are thoroughly wet.  As you mix, try to avoid causing a multitude of air bubbles by going too fast - the bubbles can get trapped in your slip and reappear in your castings.

I was very excited when I found this recipe, because most of the previous information I had found was either not so specific or designed for people using industrial scale equipment.  I have since also found Andrew Martin's The Essential Guide to Mold Making and Slip Casting to be extremely helpful with trouble shooting.

So the first step is to weigh the water. I've tried to shortcut around this by figuring out the volume, but it really does work out better if you take the time to weigh the water.

The next step is to add the Darvan 7 and Bentonite.  I like to leave the Bentonite to absorb water for at least an  hour.  Bentonite swells as it absorbs water, and I find that I end up with chunks of Bentonite throughout my slip if I do not do this.

Bentonite added
ready for blunging

 After this you are ready to add the dry materials.  I had been discouraged from the idea of trying to mix casting slip for quite awhile because I was under the impression that you needed a special slip mixer.  While it would be nice, it is quite possible to do all of this with a standard drill and a paint mixing bit.  It just takes a little more time.

don't forget to wear a good dust mask when using any dry ceramic materials

While the recipe doesn't call for it I find that I like my slip a lot better if I sieve it after I mix it.  I run mine through an 80 mesh sieve twice.

When you are done the slip should look like this, the webbing formed between your fingers is a very important indicator that you have successfully made good slip.

Checking the specific gravity sounds scary and overly scientific, but it really is quite easy, and then you know you have a good batch of slip.  I have a plastic container that I weighed 100g of water in and marked a line where that water reached on the container.  I can now just add slip to that line and weigh it, then divide by 100 to get the specific gravity.  A graduated cylinder would be a more exact way to do it, but this seems to work fine for me.

Slip mixing 101 concluded.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Transplants is finally installed as of around 6 pm last night.  It is right inside the door of Winter Street Studios.
It is fun to see this piece finally done and in a gallery.
Mitzi's new bowl looks fabulous, her work just keeps getting better and better.
And Yves' piece, while it took all day yesterday to hang, looks fantastic.

There are around 12 or more shows at the Winter Street Studios.  This show is right next to ours.  I walked through yesterday and took these shot's.  There is a lot more work than I show here, so you should definitely go and check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally Finished!!!!

 And just in time, the show goes up next week.  If you happen to be in Houston for NCECA come on by and see it as well as the wonderful work of Yves Paquette and Mitzi Davis.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I've been slacking with getting my posts up on the blog.  The image above is of work I did the weekend before last, and the image below is the work I did last weekend.  This sewing figure has turned me into a seamstress, and I've actually been pleasantly surprised at how well the sewing has gone.  The quilt pictured here in progress is now finished, as is the figure.  I'm just doing some finishing touches and then I will photograph the finished product.  I was worried that I wouldn't finish everything in time to take this to NCECA next week, but I'm feeling better about it now.  All need to do now is somehow manage to get all my grading for school done without going mad.  Wish me luck, and hopefully I will have an update soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm getting ready for the bisque firing of this figure, I'll turn it on in a couple of hours.  I never fire a half full kiln, so there are also a fair number of pots in here as well.  My kiln has rarely felt small to me, but loading this work made it seem smaller than it has in a long time.  I really had no idea how large the figure I was making was, until I measured it to put in here.  I had some idea that I could fit a tall shelf under the figure, but when I went to load I realized that she is only a couple of inches shorter than the kiln.  I going to keep my fingers crossed for this firing.  This kiln has been unreliable in the past for bisque firings (the kiln sitter likes to stick).  Some day I'm going to get a computer controller for the kiln, although they have their problems too.  Still it would give me finer control for glaze firings.  Anyhow, fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Work in progress for Transplants a show of recent work from the faculty and staff of the SCAD ceramics department. (Yves Paquette, Mitzi Davis, and me)  The show will be one of the concurrent exhibitions for NCECA in Houston.  It will be one of several exhibitions at the Winter Street Studios.  

This means I have less than five weeks to finish this piece and get everything else together.  Aaaaagh!  This piece will have a stool to sit on,and a large piece of hand printed fabric to be sewing covered in slip cast forms.  Fingers crossed that it all works out.  So on that note, time to stop writing and get out into the studio.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Exciting news!!  ShopSCAD is now carrying my work.  After all the hard work I put in this summer making all of these pieces it is very exciting to know that they have found such a good venue.  The store is a perfect fit for the style of work I have been making recently. I am hopeful that this will be a continuing relationship, that will allow me to continue exploring these functional forms.

I had been considering starting an Etsy page to sell the work that I had left over from the holiday sales I did this winter, but now I have no stock.  This is great news, and means I need to get out to my studio ASAP and start making more.  I'm still considering the Etsy page, but for right now selling directly to a retail outlet fits my life better.

On another note, which also has me going out to my studio ASAP, I have work in a show at NCECA in Houston this year.  The show is titled Transplants and will have the work of Yves Paquette and Mitzi Davis (my colleagues at SCAD) as well as my work.  I have 2 pieces ready, but I have big plans for a third, and 10 weeks of full time teaching to get it done.  So speaking of which, I should stop writing and go get my hands dirty!!