Smooth Your Bottom

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to smooth the bottom of bisque fired pottery. Simply take a square of 80 grit wet-dry sandpaper and affix it to your wheel head with a glue stick. Hold your pot bottom to the sandpaper and spin. This will kick up dust, so you might not want to do it in a shared space. You should also wear a mask. You can sponge a little water onto the sandpaper to unclog it and to cut down on dust. When you’re done, just wipe off the wheel with a towel and it’s clean again.

Here’s a video I just came across on YouTube with some great pointers for sanding safely. Try dipping the bottom of your pot in water before using the wheel. I think this would be more effective than wetting the sandpaper on the wheel.

Not Your Mother’s Majolica

Majolica glaze is a white tin or zinc-based glaze that provides a smooth coating on terracotta clay and acts as a perfect foil for underglaze decorations which are painted on top of the Majolica glaze.  The beauty of the Majolica is that it doesn’t move,  so anything you paint on top of it stays put.   For an explanation of the process, press here and here.

Here are some classic examples: tiles from Portugal.


So I probably should not have been delighted when I took this out of the kiln.


And yet, I was.   To be fair,  I didn’t start off conventionally.  I took a terracotta bud vase, dipped it in a cone 04 dipping glaze called Ice Blue (you can get the recipe in a free booklet on the Ceramic Arts Network site here. ) 

The glaze has chunks in it and it’s supposed to run and collect in crevices.  It can look interesting when you use it on white earthenware (see right) and beyond boring over terracotta (middle). 

We have a bucket of Majolica glaze in the studio and I decided to experiment.  I had to dip the vase three times to get a good coat, letting the glaze dry completely between coats.  You can see the crackling and crazing from the Ice Blue glaze in the right hand picture below that might have looked interesting had it been on the right kind of clay.


I let the glaze dry overnight before adding the underglaze decoration.


And here’s what I got!  This was fired at cone 06.  I surmise that the Majolica and the underglaze shifted because the Ice Blue glaze beneath it moved.  I am not sure what I expected.  Not everyone will like this, but for me it was a pleasant surprise.

Pericles, A Prince in Clark Park

I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s plays, but I wasn’t familiar with Pericles, Prince of Tyre categorized as a “romance,” until I was treated to a wonderful production in West Philadelphia by the Shakespeare in Clark Park Theater Company.  From what I understand, Shakespeare probably didn’t write Pericles, Prince of Tyre in its entirety.   (There are those who claim that Shakespeare didn’t write any of his plays. But there will always be people like that who think they need to argue about something. Like those people who claim the Monkees of didn’t play their own instruments.) But he wrote enough of it  that it has that imitable  Shakespearean flavor:  shipwrecks, tragically missed opportunities, secret identities,  separated lovers, evil kings,  cruel twists of fate and a smattering of comedy that keeps the action from devolving into melodrama.  

The plot goes something like this: Evil King Antiochus of Antioch wants to keep his comely, marriageable daughter for himself. To this end, the nefarious king gives all her would-be suitors a riddle to solve that insures she will never marry any of them. Our hero, Prince Pericles, wants to marry the daughter, so he’s eager to try solving the riddle. King Antiochus tries to dissuade him, because there’s a law that whoever fails to solve the riddle, will be killed.  What our hero doesn’t know is that if he solves the riddle, his goose is also cooked because the solution will reveal a sordid family secret.  As Pericles guesses the meaning of the riddle, he realizes that he’s in a major pickle. He wisely resists blurting out the answer. King  Antiochus realizes, however, that Pericles knows the ugly truth. He suspends the sentence, however and gives Pericles forty days before he is killed. Our hero takes this opportunity to get out of Dodge. King Antiochus hires an assassin to follow and dispatch him before he spills the beans. The play goes on from there. It’s a bit disjointed, and not all the loose ends are tied up neatly, but it was the perfect vehicle for a summer’s evening outdoors in Clark Park.

The part of King Antiochus of Antioch was performed by a giant puppet, to great effect.

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Our hero realizes his mistake

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A perfect representation of a sailing ship.

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Acrobats comprised a big part of the performance.

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The audience could scan QR codes with their phones for cues so they could participate in the performance.

The supporting players added to the overall enjoyment

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The King Pericles as an old man. I am not going to tell you the play’s ending, but you can be sure it’s a happy one.

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This audience member had a good time!

To see the program for the play, press here. To learn more about the Company, press here. For a review of the production, press here.