This Week

A bunch of pictures from this week

Wind Challenge Matthew
Matthew Borgen

Caught the  Wind Challenge Exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial

Took pictures of the many mushrooms that have popped up in my neighborhood after last week’s rain.

Flowers are beautiful even when they’re dying

Helped kids paint pumpkins at Palumbo Recreation Center

Some Pottery in Progress

Saw some new (to me) Murals

And met some incredible artists and makers at Philadelphia Open Studio Tours at the Bok Building.  This deserves its own post.  Stay tuned,

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Last week, a reader warned about the application of a  toxic herbicide called glyphosate to wheat crops rendering all but organically grown wheat safe to eat.  I decided to read up on glyphosate.  The Food Babe blog  pointed out the dangers posed by this chemical, citing a report by a group called Food Democracy Now.  (Read the report here.) But the Snopes.Com site argues that the report’s information is false.  I am not a chemist and cannot do my own tests.  I will say that the discussion of the scientific methodology used in the report seems vague, (compare the testing done to determine the link between smoking and lung cancer), but I do not know whether this comes from an intent to deceive,  poor writing, or an editorial decision that the reader would not understand a more thorough discussion of the testing procedures used.    I have not come to a conclusion.  I am presenting this information so readers can draw their own conclusions.    

Boris
Boris does not care about any of this apparently, 

Wiggling and Faceting: More DIY Pottery Tools

I’m taking a throwing class at The Clay Studio this summer with a wonderful teacher.    At our last class, we learned how to throw faceted pots.  Read more about faceted pots here.

FacetedPots

Some examples of faceted pots we saw in class

Then the teacher showed us a faceting tool with a wiggle wire instead of a straight wire.  It left interesting patterns when it was dragged across the clay to cut facets, and there are a number of ways you can drag the wiggle wire through the clay to decorate your pot. Take a look at some examples here.

I have always liked the look of mugs that were cut off the wheel with wiggle wires, but I never invested in a tool to do it.  That and the faceting tool got me to thinking.  Why not make myself some wiggle wire tools?  And that’s what I did.

 

I made a cut-off tool first.  I had an old straight wire cut-off tool that was a bit frayed.   I simply coiled the wire around a mandrel and it kept its shape when I removed the mandrel.

 

If you don’t have a spare cut-off tool, you might try coiling stainless steel wire which is more difficult to do and not as flexible, but if you coil a long enough piece, it should work.  I would recommend a 22 gauge or so wire. Crafting and similar type wires are probably too soft and liable to rust.   Attach the ends to washers or dowels and voila!  a wiggle wire cut-off tool.

For the faceting tool you will need a piece of wood about the size of a small pocket comb, say four or five inches long and an inch or so wide.   I cut off part of a paint stirrer that was thick enough to accommodate screws but I would recommend a sturdier wood for a better tool.

I  drilled holes to accommodate two flat-head screws and two holes on each side for the screw eyes.

I coiled some 22 gauge stainless steel wire around a mandrel.  I recommend that you secure the mandrel and wire in a vise before winding.  It will make the job much easier.

 

 

Insert the hardware.  You might want to add a drop of wood or epoxy glue in the screw hole if you are using a soft wood.

Uncoil the wire.  It will be stiff.   Make several wraps around the screw eye and feed a straight section through the slot in the nearest screw. You might have to straighten out a bit of the wire with flat pliers to do this. The picture shows you how you should have your screw angled and why a Phillips head screw won’t work.

Stretch the wire over to the next screw and make sure it fits into the screw slot before winding the rest around the other screw eye.  Be careful when you cut this wire because it is stiff and can go flying.  You can tighten the wire by turning the screw eyes.

 

You can also try pulling out springs you might have around the house and using them to facet pots.  But I think the tool would give you more control.

Two more tools to add to my vast and growing collection!     Here’s a video showing how to put facets on a pot with a wiggle wire.

 

 

 

 

What I’m Working On

I’ve been participating in the #100DayProject on Instagram
trying to create something every day and post a picture. I’ve been working on projects, like making a set of mugs, rings for friends, painting my house, helping Boris write stories for the Step Potato and the Step Banana and numerous other things. I’m mixing batches of colored porcelain in my basement to add to thrown pieces and to make jewelry. I’m still puzzling out hollow polymer beads and strong magnetic closures. And doing some volunteer work with the Color Wheels project at Fleisher Art Memorial. Here are some pictures

BeadsinovenPolymer beads in the oven

BorisandhisMug                        Boris admires his new mug

ClayStudioThrowing porcelain at The Clay Studio

ColoredClayMixing colored clay

IMG_20180711_111409Color Wheels: Gelli prints at the East Passyunk Rec Center 

IMG_20180711_111732MoreBeadsMore polymer beads

PendantColored porcelain pendant with gold embellishment.

Young Artists

I’ve always loved children’s art.  I still have some ceramic pieces from a stint as a camp counselor more than forty years ago.  One of my Stepson’s pieces is on proud display on a bookshelf in the living room and drawings by the Step Potato and Step Banana hang in the kitchen.  So I always look forward to the Annual Young Artists Exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial.  This years’ show, on view until  June 16, showcases the work of 500 kids from ages 5 to 18,  who participate in art programs at Fleisher.  I naturally gravitate toward the pottery but I enjoy it all.

 

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Another great Fleisher-sponsored art program for kids and one for which I volunteer  is Color Wheels.  Read more about Color Wheels here.

There’s Many a Slip ‘Twixt the Mug and the Lip

 

Isn’t that the old artistic dilemma?  You have a vision and you can’t quite realize it.  But for me, the fun is in the exploration.   I experimented with handle shapes and tried mixing Mason Stains into  Amaco Velvet Underglazes to enhance the colors of the surface decoration.

The mugs are glazed with a clear satin glaze on the outside and a white glaze on the inside.  I like the way the colors turned out.  The handles are another matter. Some of them look great but are not comfortable to use.   Other handles look awkward but are extremely comfortable in the hand.  Unless your handle is tried and true, there’s no way of knowing how the mug will feel until it’s fired and filled with its first serving of Java or tea.   But experimenting is all part of the fun.

 

The Wopperjawed Pot

Woppy Jawed,  Wapper Jawed,  Whopperjawed,  Whomperjawed.  What do these words mean?    Something that’s askew.  Crooked.  Not straight.  Uneven, even.  And they all apply to my work.  I come from the measure three times and cut for the rest of the day school of crafting.  I wonder how I ever managed to make two quilts.  I used to fret about my crooked lines and uneven seams.  But as I got older, I got smarter.  Or maybe wiser (in the Equus africanus asinus sense, of course).  I embraced my flaws, including my wopperjawdiddidity. (I made up that word in case you’re wondering.)    Hence the Wopperjawed Pot.    The  Wopperjawed Pot is about 12 inches tall and is hand-built of white earthenware using the tarpaper technique.  I used colored underglazes,  stains, and chalks for the surface decoration.  Everything is covered with a clear matte glaze.  It took third place in ceramics in the Fleisher Art Memorial Student Show (the 120th annual!) and was the inspiration for the menorah.  Which is also wopperjawed.   Here are some pictures.

 

 

 

 

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The Shark Pot

It has been snowing all day.  I didn’t feel like trudging to Herman’s Coffee Shop so I missed my Wednesday afternoon coffee group.  I wasted most of the afternoon struggling with an extremely buggy upgrade to iWatermark Pro.    But I digress.

The Shark Pot got its name from my studio mates who thought it resembled a shark.  Indeed.  Is it the mouth of the pot?  Is it the flipper-like attachments?   The Shark Pot brings other disturbing images to my mind which I will not share here.  Suffice it to say that a visiting neighbor was so taken with its novelty and potential for horror (as a vessel for a Venus Fly Trap or maybe even sinister flora à la  Little Shop of Horrors), that I felt compelled to send it home with him before Boris could break it.

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Embrace the Handle

Many people, including yours truly, are daunted by the thought of pulling a handle for a mug. So rather than face the task with fear, I decided to pay special attention to my mug handles to see whether I could come up with handles that are fun to make. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1.IMG_20180209_113045But I will not be making mugs this week because Clayathon starts today!  And I’ve been looking forward to it for some time.  To read about past Clayathons, press here.

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.

The Picasso Vase

I made a Picasso vase.  Or rather, the other people in the studio started calling the vase The Picasso Vase before I ever thought of it.  Probably because of the shape which would have been impossible to achieve without the tar paper technique (which I also used to make the menorah.)
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You can from the picture above see how difficult it would have been to support the vase in its wet state without the tar paper to support it.  It was three wet slabs with beveled edges, scored and pinched together.

 

    Paper covered vase on left (upside down).  Bone dry vase before bisque firing on the right.

If the vase was to be an homage to Picasso, I needed to decorate it with Picasso-style images.  I decided on a cat, a mouse, and a fish.   Here are some preliminary sketches I made for the mouse.  I started with realistic drawings and got more abstract as I went.

 

I had no problem deciding on the cat portion and the fish came to me all at once.

 

Here are the designs for the mouse and fish,  drawn on the bisque-fired vase with an underglaze pencil.

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The cat in progress.  I used underglaze chalks and liquid underglazes for color.

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        Right out of the kiln.

 

 

The finished vase.