Make Your Own Pottery Tools: DIY Spinner Disk

You really don’t need a lot of tools to make pottery, although having the right tools make it easier and more fun. Something every potter struggles with, especially when they’re starting out, is centering the clay on the wheel. But even after the clay’s centered and the pot thrown, it has to be trimmed. That means centering it again, and trimming it without distorting it.

One tool that makes trimming pots a little easier is a spinner disk. It helps to hold the pot steady while you’re trimming and distributes the weight guarding against pot distortion. Although you can trim without this tool, once I saw spinner disks like this one and this one, I wondered whether one would make trimming my pottery a little easier. While there is no substitute for a well-designed, well-made tool. I try to make my own tools if I can get away with it, especially if it’s a new gadget that looks interesting, but might not really help me too much.

Here’s what I came up with

I had a double sided cap that came with a prescription. One side is child proof and the other side is not. But you could use any dual purpose cap you might have lying around, like this one, or any cap where the center spins and the threaded outside part remains stationary.

Center your pot to be trimmed on the wheel and place the cap, top down, in the center.

Then put something inside the lid so you can hold onto it while you’re trimming. I used a smaller cap that fit into the lid.

Some other items you might try that are lying around the house are fidget spinners, small massage roller balls, or anything else that will spin freely while you hold it on the top of a pot and trim. If you have an old water bottle with a closure like this one, that might work too. All you need is something that spins with the wheel and a top that remains stationary that you can hold onto while you’re trimming. Raid the junk drawer!

You Can Do a Lot With Lines and Dots

Wondering how to decorate your pottery with slip? Make a ton of bowls and experiment! I’ve been decorating small terra cotta bowls with slip and commercial underglaze. I have a lot of bowls to screw up, but my hand is getting steadier and steadier. That’s what practice will do.

I got the needle-tipped squeeze bottles from Amazon. I used to store them with straight pins in the tip. I don’t recommend it. The tips clog and the pins rust. Instead, remove and clean the tips when you are finished and store the bottles with the sealing caps that come with the set. I can’t believe how much easier this makes them to use.

I used some donuts I cut with my Silhouette Portrait 3 in this bowl. Dots and lines followed.

I used a Mayco Designer Liner for the black outline in the above bowl. I will cover these bowls with clear glaze after they come out of the bisque fire. It’s low fire pottery, so they will be fired at Cone 04. Now I just have to come up with ideas for the rest of the bowls!

Flag Day in Philadelphia

I volunteered for another Color Wheels last weekend and the theme was Flag Day. We parked the Color Wheels van outside the Museum of the American Revolution, and set up tables with art supplies and blank flags to decorate.

Now you might wonder what Flag Day is and why we celebrate it in the United States. Even though we didn’t have an official flag when the Revolutionary War, started, the Continental Congress soon got around to designing one in 1775. Legend has it that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag, right here in Philadelphia. Some say that this story originated with some tall tales perpetrated by her relatives in the 1870’s. There is a paper trail showing that she was contracted to sew flags for the US government in 1777. More information here. The Betsy Ross house, where Ross purportedly lived when she sewed the flag, is only a few blocks from the Museum of the American Revolution.

Most of the people who dropped by to make flags were from out of town. And interestingly, I didn’t see many kids try to reproduce the American Flag. A couple of flags I recognized were the flag of Suriname, and the flag of Israel.

Do you see a flag in the pictures that you recognize?

To learn more about Fleisher Art Memorial, who sends the Color Wheels van all over Philadelphia, press here.

Women in Art: Emma Amos

I am going to start this post about Emma Amos in the middle. Last October, I saw the retrospective exhibit, Emma Amos: Color Odyssey, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We are all familiar with Paul Gauguin’s topless portraits of Tahitian women. Growing up, I was given to understand that those women walked around that way all the time. Only it wasn’t true. By the time Gauguin got to Tahiti in 1891, “[i]t had been thoroughly Christianized and colonized. The women were not walking around half-naked. … They tended to be wearing … Christian missionary gowns.”

That made Amos’ painting, Tightrope, pictured below, really resonate with me. It’s is Amos’s depiction of the difficult balance she had to maintain as a Black woman, artist, wife, and mother. The t-shirt she holds is a reference to Gaughan’s painting of his 13-year-old Tahitian wife. For more information on Tightrope, and her other paintings, I recommend Arianna Richetti’s excellent article, Emma Amos: The Story of the Postmodernist African-American Artist.

Tightrope

The vulnerability Amos displays in tightrope brought to mind a passage from a novel by Lorene Carey that I read a few years ago. The protagonist of The Price of a Child is not an artist, but other aspects of her life are uncomfortably similar.

"Mercer pulled her arm tighter over Mattie's shoulders. She thought      of Pryor's long fingers and how she hated him to touch her breasts. Why her breasts? They had always been hard, just getting past that part. Especially when she was pregnant or, worse yet, nursing. She could wall off from the waist down and not make herself mind so much. Maybe her breasts were too close to her head. She couldn't wall off from the neck down which is what she tried to do." Lorene Carey, The Price of a Child: A Novel, 1995.
My Work Suit

How a Black female artist must present herself to be recognized as a painter working. Note that the suit is a pseudo transformation of Amos into a white man. Beading Yoda, who knew Amos, told me that she was a member of the Guerrilla Girls.

All I know of Wonder

Amos often used fabric to frame her work, as she did in the above painting which contains a bathing scene, a female figure with multi-colored skin tones and a black male bather that evokes classical Greek imagery. Amos said, “Every time I think about color, it’s a political statement.”

X-Flag

Before you pass this off as derivative of Jasper Johns, take a closer look. Amos has depicted an American flag backed by a Confederate flag. There’s also fabric, and photographs of children playing and Malcolm X.

Flying Circus is a triptych that is part of Amos’s Falling Series, that is partly a commentary on Ronald Reagan’s social spending cuts in the 1980’s. Amos saw falling through space as both frightening and liberating.

There are some enlightening and instructive videos on the Color Odyssey exhibit from the Georgia Museum of Art. To view them, press here and here.

Bob’s Garden. Again!

While I am busy playing with my Silhouette Portrait 3, and finding ways to use it with polymer clay and in the pottery studio, my neighbor Bob has made some changes to his urban garden, and more flowers are blooming! How do you identify flowers if you don’t know anything? Try a Google image search. You can upload pictures right from your phone, tablet or computer.

The Allium flowers have opened!

Touch Me Nots

Canna Lilly

The turtle might live in a cage, but his spirit runs free.