Upcycled Cuff Bracelet

The Fire Mountain Gems website describes upcycling as taking something that is destined for the trash bin and transforming it into something of value and beauty. … This can be as simple as taking a piece of waste paper and transforming it into beads or other useful jewelry-making components.

This is a project from a while back that I made while I was waiting for hand surgery and couldn’t do any projects that involved a lot of banging or prolonged fine work.

First, I ironed some screen printed fabric onto fusible interfacing and sewed it into a tube,

I cut up an aluminum can to the proper size for a cuff bracelet, wrapped it with masking tape, and slipped the fabric tube over it. Then I trimmed the fabric and tucked in the ends.

I sewed the ends shut and attached another piece of screen printed fabric for contrast.

I wrapped the bracelet with some gorgeous vintage rayon embroidery floss and searched my stash of scrap metal and glass for additional embellishments.

And here’s the finished product. That’s a fabric necklace in the background, also made from upcycled materials.

Looking for Inspiration

I must confess that I am feeling particularly uninspired as of late. I’ve been making ceramic mugs in the pottery studio and decorating them with underglaze, but even this seems forced.

The Penn Archeology and Anthropology Museum has been a great source of inspiration for me in the past. Flea Markets are a great source of inspiration, too. If those don’t work for you, the Huffington Post offers a few suggestions to stoke your creativity. I find that the best thing for me is to take a long walk and to try to look at things differently.

So last week, I revisited a Philadelphia neighborhood I lived in years ago which happened to be hosting a vintage flea market on a beautiful fall day. Even if the walk didn’t open the inspiration floodgates, I figured that at least I would get some exercise since I walked to Powelton Village and back from my South Philadelphia neighborhood. And got to look at Center City Philadelphia architecture from the west rather than my usual eastern view. Architecture can be another source of inspiration.

I’m not feeling inspired yet, but when I do, you’ll be the first to know.

Fleisher’s 122nd Annual Faculty Show

Some selected works from Fleisher’s 122nd annual Faculty Show. The works this year range from oils and photography to collage, prints, mosaic, mixed media, sewing and ceramics,

Robert Reinhardt The Circle Game
Kayoko Paw Bowls
Marie Elcin Touch
Inga Kimberly Brown Captivating Ron
Fran Gallun Flight of Fancy
Daisy Diamond Vessel of Sewn Memory
Dianne Koppish-Hricko Cycle
Claire Brill Loss
Carol Stirton-Broad Perceptions (#1 Red Sky)

The show closes on September 24, so you still have time to check it out in person. Fleisher is located at 719 Catharine St, Philadelphia, PA 19147. For more information, press here.

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.

More Teapots

More teapots even though I don’t drink much tea. I’m not sure where these are going to end up. Some of my little teapots have found new homes.

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.

MajolicaTilesPortugal

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

8-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.

7-underglaze-decoration

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

7-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.

Bob’s Garden Summer 2021

It’s been a long month this week. Lots of stuff going on-I was thinking that not all of it is good, but who am I to say what’s good or not? Only time and perspective can make sense of some things. Maybe. In the meantime, all you can do is tend your own garden. And if you are lucky like me, you live next door to someone like my neighbor Bob who tends a lovely garden and shares it with the neighborhood. Here are some pictures.

Drawing Bridges at Cherry Street Pier

I went to Cherry Street Pier with the Color Wheels gang last week. It was the first Color Wheels outing I’ve been on for more than a year,

The Color Wheels Van

The art project was drawing the Ben Franklin Bridge which is right next to Cherry Street Pier.

It’s not an easy task to draw a suspension bridge, even with an army of erasers and rulers. But lead artist Maureen Duffy helped a lot of people tackle the project and walk away with drawings. Here are some I got to photograph.

A Walk to the Navy Yard

Mary Schneider draws and paints on pottery, but what she depicts is not always the usual fruit, flowers and leaves you might expect to see. The inspiration for her latest creation came from walks to the Philadelphia Navy Yard that she took with a friend during the winter days of the pandemic lockdown. She plans to trade the plate, with the image of the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy for a pen and ink drawing of the same vessel by her walking companion.

Little Teapots

I don’t drink much tea, but have become intrigued with making wheel-thrown teapots. Teapots are considered one of the most challenging items a potter can make. Mostly, I suppose because so many elements have to work together at the same time. The handle has to fit ascetically and physically. The spout has to pour efficiently and be placed so you can fill the teapot up. And when you do fill the teapot up, it can’t weigh a bloody ton. It has to be east to handle. And the lid needs to fit properly. You need to be able to get it on and off easily and it has to fit whichever way you put it on. And it has to stay on while you pour the tea, either by itself or be capable of being held in place while the tea is being poured.

And that’s just the physical attributes of the teapot. It also has to look good or at least not suck. I heard someone describe a teapot as a jar with a handle and a spout. Why not a mug with a spout and a lid, I thought? A little teapot to hold a nice cup of tea. I started small and here’s what I came up with.

Here’s what I started out with. Two mug-sized pots, lids, and three spouts each. You’re always supposed to make more spouts than what you need because you are sure to screw one up. Good advice.

Here’s one of the first teapots I put together. You might think it looks OK, but it’s all wrong. The lid is clunky and what about that knob? It’s really not good for much. And who could get two fingers through that handle? The body and spout are OK. I decided to trim the top of the lid which had plenty of clay to spare, and replace the handle.

Here’s the teapot with a trimmed lid and a new handle. I trimmed the lid of the other teapot flat too. I didn’t think a knob would work for either teapot.

My solution? A birdy knob for one teapot and a circle for the other. One third of the circle makes the knob and two thirds of the circle makes a nice handle. And they look like they belong on the same teapot.

I’m usually do underglaze decoration for my pottery. I thought I’d fool around with stains this time.

And here are the finished teapots. The handle on the birdy teapot is not optimal, but it is a vast improvement over how I started. More teapots to come!