Friday, March 18, 2011

Ceramics and Glazing

I signed up for advanced ceramics this semester, having taken my first ceramics class well over a decade ago. I realized, very quickly into my class, that my previous class meant that we had been mostly just baby-sat by someone who knew how to work the kiln. When it came to glazes, we had "The Wall of Mystery". Meaning there were a -whole-lot- of commercial glazes... and not a one of them labeled-- no idea what color they were going to be; no idea what temperature they were meant to be glazed at.

So I'm learning an infinitely larger amount about ceramics than I ever have before. To include mixing our own glazes!

Our first assignment was to create 6 bowls, of which half would be donated to "Empty Bowls"

Event raises funds for food bank

Published 9:10pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Empty Bowls can feed the hungry.

That’s an odd thing.

But that’s exactly how the Empty Bowls project works.

Kim May, director of the Pike County Salvation Army, said the purchase of an “Empty Bowl” will help feed the hungry in the Pike County area. Then, that bowl may be filled with a choice of several soups to be enjoyed in the fellowship of friends and neighbors.

The Empty Bowls luncheon will be from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Friday at the Colley Senior Complex annex on Elm Street. Tickets are $20 and include a handmade ceramic bowl of one’s choice and the soup lunch with beverage and dessert.

“This is the second year for the Empty Bowls luncheon and we expect it to be as successful as last year’s event,” May said. “All of the bowls are handmade and are worth more than $20 apiece. The bowls were crafted by artists who have participated in the Alabama Clay Conference, by Larry Percy and several of his pottery students at Troy University and by the pottery classes at the Colley Senior Complex.”

There will also be bowls handcrafted by local celebrities and those bowls will be offered as silent auction items.

“We have several celebrity bowls that have been completed and expect several more by Friday,” May said. “Celebrity bowls have been made and donated by Jerrel Jernigan, former record breaking wide receiver for the Troy University Trojans, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, popular radio personality Ralph Black and Bear Woods of the Atlanta Falcons. Troy University Chancellor and Mrs. Jack Hawkins, Jr. designed a special bowl for the event and it will also be a silent auction item.

May said the funds raised by the Empty Bowl luncheon will be used to stock the Pike County Salvation Army food bank.

“All of the money that is raised will stay here in Pike County to help feed those in need,” she said. “So, we invite everyone to join us Friday for the Empty Bowl luncheon. Come, pick out a handmade pottery bowl to take home and enjoy lunch with us. The weather should be nice so we plan to have tables set up outside for those who would like to enjoy the sunshine, as well as tables inside.”

The “fillings” for the Empty Bowls will include camp stew, chili, chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, potato soup and professional chef Ron Case’s tortellini soup.

May said there will be about 100 Empty Bowls to fill and the belief is that this year’s effort to feed the hungry will reflect the generosity that has long been a trademark of Pike County.


The event happened today-- and we were pulling the bowls out of the kiln up to 10 minutes before. We were going to pull them on Thursday, but they hadn't fired completely and we wanted to be absolutely certain that they were going to be food safe. So we immediately fired them again, and it was a success! I decorated 4 of my own bowls, and 2 from previous students that had donated their bowls for the event, and all 6 of the bowls fired properly and got to go to the fund raiser!

That said, the reason this blog is called "Ceramics and Glazing" and not "Empty Bowls" is because I want to share the process from making the bowls through glazing them. Because if you're like me, you never would have known that the colors applied to the bowl don't often look -anything- like the finished colors-- and that because glazes are glass, the high temperatures make them flow like a liquid-- so no matter what you -think- you're going to get, you don't really know until after the pieces come out of the fire.

...which is why I'm semi-obsessive about taking process photos (lol).

Bowl #1

This, right here, is the first bowl I've every successfully thrown on the wheel (: When I took ceramics the first time, the baby sitter tried to teach me to throw with my fingers-- and I couldn't do it because I was triple jointed. This semester, I've been learning to throw with my palms-- and boy does THAT make a world of difference!

These are the images of the glazes I put on it. I have to admit, I absolutely LOVED the way it looked copper on top of blue grey before I fired them.

And if you want a very dramatic example of what I mean when I say you don't know what's going to happen until the firing is all done, then look at the next images....

See the mottled brown and yellow bowl in the center? That's it after the first firing.

And this is what the bowl looked like after the final firing. My time consuming, lovely design simply flowed away and vanished.

Bowl #2

We were also required to make a thown bowl with straight sides and a handle. I made this one (:

Then I decided I wanted to glaze it in burgundy (which is the green below) with a black spiral (which is the brown) and make it a pinker burgundy (called 'Raspberry') on the outside.

I was quite pleased with the way it turned out after I painted it. But then we fired it...

and I learned that even though it looks like you might have covered all the surfaces when you painted the glaze on-- that's not necessarily true-- and if the ceramic body is exposed, then the bowl is NOT food safe. So instead of trying to repaint the burgundy, I covered the entire bowl in a clear glaze.

This is what the finished piece looked like. Yes, the colored glazes are not as thick on the piece as I would have liked, but the clear glaze over it assured that it is completely food safe.

Bowl #3

I decided to get more creative with the glaze on this one (:

Have to admit, I LOVE the designs! The colors are supposed to be white and black after firing.

and they are (: But after the first firing, it was still chalky, so it wouldn't have been guaranteed to be food safe.

This is what the piece looks like after the final firing. And it was also ready to go to the fund raiser (:

Bowl #4

Admittedly, this one is -almost- like a plate. I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the painted/not fired glaze but what I did was a yellow butterscotch spiral from the center, then dipped the entire bowl in a green color called celadon that is -supposed- to be translucent...

...Yeah....I don't see any yellow or butterscotch either (;

And below are the donated bowls of other people, that I glazed.

This is actually the first bowl that I glazed. My husband loves the thumb hold that was put in this bowl, so I'll probably throw a bowl and try to reproduce this one. I swirled 3 different shades of blue from the center and painted the outsides a different shade of blue from any of them.

I -really- liked the way it looked at the first firing, but it hadn't flowed and wasn't food safe, so like all the other bowls, I glazed it in clear and hoped for the best.

The finish piece is smooth, shiny, and the swirl is -much- more subtle.

Working in black and white again (:

After the first firing, but with some of the clay body exposed, so I clear glazed it.

And the finished bowl was much, much more subtle, but still very pretty. And I learned that the black shows up on the white much better than the white shows up on the black.

That last sentence is actually pretty important, because the entire process was a learning experience-- I still have 6 bowls of my own left to glaze and decorate. But now, I'm not going in completely blind to that process and have a better idea of what works and what doesn't.

After I get those taken care of, there'll be another post just for them, and we'll see how well I payed attention to this week's lessons (;

The Owl and The Grasshopper

Our third assignment in Conceptual Drawing was a long rectangular piece of paper (a non-traditional shape) and learning how to use acetone (or in my case, paint stripper) transfers. While doing random online research 2 months ago, I came across a -beautiful- photograph of an owl and I decided then and there that I would be using it as a model for one of my assignments.

I've also been using Aesop's Fables as my inspiration for this class, which meant I needed to find a tale with an owl in it. As soon as I came across this tale, I knew it was the one that I wanted to use. And literally, as soon as he gave us the assignment, I began envisioning it in my head and knew how I wanted it to look.

So I share with you Aesop's Fable "The Owl and The Grasshopper".

An owl,

accustomed to feed at night and to sleep during the day, was greatly disturbed by the noise of a Grasshopper

and earnestly besought her to stop chirping.
The Grasshopper refused to desist, and chirped louder and louder
the more the Owl entreated. When she saw that she could get no redress and that her words were despised, the
Owl attacked the chatterer by a stratagem.
"Since I cannot sleep," she said, "on account of your song which, believe me, is sweet as the lyre of Apollo,

I shall indulge myself in drinking some nectar which Pallas lately gave me.
If you do not dislike it, come to me
and we will drink it together."
The Grasshopper, who was thirsty, and pleased with the praise of her voice, eagerly flew up.  The Owl came
forth from her hollow,
seized her, and put her to death.

And below is the finished piece, "The Owl and The Grasshopper". It's done with musical note collage, watercolors, transfers, ink and crayola crayon (one of my favorite mediums (: ).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fables of Frogs

Our second assignment in Conceptual Drawing was to triptych (three panels that are all related to each other) where we had to 'fight' with the paper; to experiment with it and our tools and media-- start out by scribbling all over it, make it dirty, and go from there.

The day Mr. Skaggs gave the assignment, he and the guys in the class got into a discussion that included him saying, "Like boys who throw frogs against the wall for fun", and it reminded me of the Aesop's Fable about The Boys and The Frogs, and so I decided that my triptych was going to be about the three most popular Aesop Fables about Frogs.

Below, I have each of the Aesop's fables that inspired the panels, as well as detail images of each panel.

The Frog and the Ox
  "Oh Father," said a little Frog to the big one sitting by the side of a pool, "I have seen such a terrible monster!
It was as big as a mountain, with horns on its head, and a long tail, and it had hoofs divided in two."
  "Tush, child, tush," said the old Frog, "that was only Farmer White's Ox.  It isn't so big either; he may be a little
bit taller than I, but I could easily make myself quite as broad; just you see." So he blew himself out, and blew
himself out, and blew himself out. "Was he as big as that?" asked he.
   "Oh, much bigger than that," said the young Frog.
   Again the old one blew himself out, and asked the young one if the Ox was as big as that.
   "Bigger, father, bigger," was the reply.
   So the Frog took a deep breath, and blew and blew and blew, and swelled and swelled and swelled.  And
then he said: "I'm sure the Ox is not as big as But at this moment he burst.

A close up on the left panel, titled, "The Frog and The Oxen", done completely with graphite.
The Boys and the Frogs

  Some boys, playing near a pond, saw a number of Frogs in the water and began to pelt them with stones.  They
killed several of them, when one of the Frogs, lifting his head out of the water, cried out: "Pray stop, my boys:
what is sport to you, is death to us."

The middle panel, "The Boys and The Frogs" done in graphite and collage.

The Scorpion and the Frog
  A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its
back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."
  The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of
paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"
 Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."

The third panel "The Scorpion and The Frog", done with graphite.

And here are all 3, side by side.


Today, I was walking across campus when I came across these dandelions growing out a crack in front of the stairs to the library and had to stop and take a couple pictures of them (:

I literally stopped, set my bag down, pulled out my cellphone, and smiled as I took these pictures.

A classmate of mine was passing by and even stopped to ask me what I was doing.

"Taking pictures of these dandelions" was the response I gave, with a smile.

See, when I was a senior in high school, and it came time for placing votes for 'class flower' I wanted dandelions. It didn't pass. They went with roses. No originality, I'm telling you.

And in college, my friend Cat and I got into a discussion of favorite flowers and I said that dandelions are one of my favorite wild flowers.

And she did something that most people don't. She asked -why-.

I told her about the high school flower vote and said, "The reason I wanted the dandelion to represent us is that no matter how hard dandelions are squashed, they never fail to thrive and come back."

And she made me a lovely wood burned plaque that I keep in my room that has this sentiment and lovely dandelion flowers on it (:

So today, as I was busily walking on my way and had almost passed them by, when I saw this one set of dandelions

pushing their way up through this tiny crack in the side walk, thriving while surrounded by concrete, it reminded me of their strength of character, and made me smile.

Besides, who doesn't love blowing their seed pods and making wishes?