Try Something New

Autumn is upon us (although we keep regressing back to Summer in Philadelphia).  Time to try something new!  I sold my beloved kiln and controller that I used for bead annealing, fusing glass and, most recently, metal clay.  I want to upgrade to a kiln that can handle cone 6 firing so I can work with porcelain on a regular basis.  Here are some new baubles I’m currently working on.  Cone 6 white porcelain and Mason stains, unglazed.

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The same, with a cold finish
Five Star Bronze Clay Torch Fired

I wrote a  review of Prometheus Clay while back.  This time I tried Five Star Bronze Clay which is also torch fireable.  And I can say that Prometheus clay wins hands down, at least for torch firing.  I find Prometheus easier to condition, easier to work with and I got more consistent results with the torch.  I have not tried kiln firing with 5 Star Bronze yet.  I’ll let you know the results when I do.   But the BIG story is that I am now making my own bronze clay.  I saw Alan Wiggens’ YouTube videos on the subject and decided to give it a try.  I read about metallurgy to get an understanding of the sintering process so I could find the best deal on a powdered bronze that would work.  Preliminary torch fire tests have been successful!  Not in making a finished product, but in making metal that I can pound out with a hammer.    I am eager to test my homemade clay in a kiln which is how Alan Wiggens recommends firing it.    Stay tuned.

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Bronze clay ready for my future kiln.  The lighter clay is my homemade clay.  The darker clay is Five Star Bronze.

My mother made bread every week when I was growing up so the process is no mystery to me.   I generally throw flour into a bowl,  add yeast and some honey and sugar to feed the yeast and park it under the kitchen tap and turn on the water.  No measuring, no recipe.  And no salt.

I have a friend who says that the flour and bread we buy in the United States is stale and a bit moldy and that is the reason most (not all) people have a problem with gluten.  (I have another friend who gets sick every time she eats pasta in the U.S. but can eat all the bread an pasta she wants when she goes to Italy).   So I decided to grind my own flour.  I got a grinding mill and 40 lbs of wheat berries.  Grinding your own flour is not cheaper than buying it, although there are wheat berry bargains to be had.  And the process is labor intensive.  First, you have to drag the 40 lb bucket into the house.  Then you have an argument with your husband about where to set up the mill.   Then you and your husband have to watch an [expletive deleted] video to figure out how to get the [expletive deleted]  lid off of the [expletive deleted] bucket of [expletive deleted] wheat berries.

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Next comes the grinding.  After hand cranking the wheat berries,  we learned why we refer to arduous tasks as a “grind.” (Or maybe he knew already.  He has a Ph.D. in English Literature).

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Here is the flour.  What you don’t see is all the[expletive deleted] flour around my kitchen.

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Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven,. Well, almost nothing.

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And in the spirit of trying something new,  let me introduce you to our new motor for the grain mill.  It makes a sound like squealing pigs on steroids, but it does the job.  And the towel is to keep down the flour dust.

Now, on to trying the autolyze process.

On a final note, even Boris is trying something new.  He is off the Prescription Diet and is now eating a new, almost as expensive Hills Science cat food.  And he likes it!

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Happy Spring Everyone!

 

 

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Pottery, Cats, and Clayathon

I’ll start with the bad news.  Boris broke the Picasso Vase!  He was flinging himself to the top of his cat tree to claim a treat and everything between him and the treat was, shall we say, fodder for collateral damage.  He got the treat and the vase hit the floor.   I repaired the vase today with some 23k gold leaf and epoxy (Kintsugi) and might still put it in the Fleisher Art Memorial’s 2018 Student Show.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I have been working on soliciting auction and goody bag donations for Clayathon 2018. There are going to be some wonderful items this year and one-third of the auction proceeds go to  The Center for Pediatric Therapies and Ron Lehockey’s heart pin project.

I donated some pottery last year and it was pretty popular so I decided to contribute two lidded vessels to this years’ auction.

 

The vessel on top is screen printed with underglazes and the lower one is painted with underglazes.    The vessels are hand built using the tarpaper technique.

Here’s a  picture of the vessels before they were painted and a picture of the finished vessel I showed you in the tarpaper technique post.    I call it the Sassy Box and plan to make some mug handles with the same design as the handle on the Sassy Box lid.

Happy New Year

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Sleeping in the Workshop

Sometimes Boris comes down to the workshop to “help” me but usually he ends up jumping into his Sleepy Box and napping.  I have two rock tumblers going at present and they don’t seem to bother him.  Nor does the soldering, sawing, hammering, banging and other assorted sounds I make.

I pulled out boxes of metal and polymer scraps and am trying my hand at making metal boxes with lids.  I am also tumbling a summer’s worth of porcelain beads and pendants that I made at The Clay Studio.  I am rooting through my tools and hardware for items to use in the mixed media sculpture class I am taking at Fleisher.  I found some 6 gauge copper wire at a house sale and I am making huge jump rings with it.  I am finishing some old projects little by little and trying a few new things.  I am not the one sleeping in the workshop!

 

Sculpting a Cat Figurine

Boris was not the inspiration for this figurine although I have been taking a figure drawing class and drawing Boris for practice. No, he does not pose for me. What cat would? But he is good for ten nanosecond poses and gesture drawing.  Sculpting a cat figurine sounded like a a fun idea.  I have sculpted two cats before, but  both were in polymer.  Now that I have access to a pottery studio, I decided to try my hand at making a terra cotta cat which is a horse of a totally different hue.

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Here are the preliminary stages of the figurine.   You have to be careful not to leave any air bubbles in the clay.  Small ones will probably dry closed but big ones can explode in the kiln.  And unless all the clay is thoroughly dry inside and out, there is a danger of explosion in the kiln.

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Here is where I started adding character.  You will note that the cat looks well fed.  In fact, I had to make his tummy hollow to insure that the clay would dry and that the figurine would not weigh a ton.  I made an air hole  underneath the figurine, wrapped it in plastic, and when the clay was hard enough, I put the puss on two sticks so air would reach the hole and dry inside.  I put the figurine aside and forgot about it for a few weeks as it dried out slowly-the best way to prevent cracking.  I did some painting with underglaze before putting the cat in the kiln.  When he came out in one piece, the hard part was over,

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I glazed the cat with matte clear glaze for the final firing.  the white, orange, blue and other colors you see are the underglaze.

And here is the finished cat!  His I.D tag, which is hard to see, says “Tiny.”

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The resident art critic seems to approve.