Julia’s Creatures

I’m not sure how Julia Durand ended up in Philadelphia but she hails from France where she enjoyed a cartoon called Les Shadoks as a child. Les Shadoks inspired Julia to make a whole menagerie of creatures that I’d hardly call whimsical, but they certainly full of personality and each one has a different expression. It makes me wonder that they would say if they could talk. And if they did talk, it would probably be in French.

If you’re interested in checking out Les Shadoks yourself, they’re on YouTube with English subtitles.

Official Portrait

More from the mind of Marjorie Waxman.

Make a Pottery Throwing Gauge

One way to make similar-sized pottery plates, bowls and mugs is to start out with a given weight of clay for each item. Here’s a handy chart of recommended amounts of clay needed for certain items. But I have a hard time throwing consistently-sized items even if I do start out with equal weights of clay. It would be nice to make a set of four mugs that are nearly the same size on purpose and not by accident. A pottery throwing gauge is a tool that is supposed to help you do just that. You set the gauges to the height and width you want your piece to be and, if you don’t knock it over, you might end up with an evenly-matched set of bowls or mugs.

I’d never even heard of a pottery throwing gauge until I saw this video by Florian Gadsby on YouTube. I was intrigued needless to say. I love tools but I’m not the kind of person who buys tools willy nilly thinking they can make me a better artist. But I will buy a tool if I think it will be helpful. (I just snagged a KitchenAid mixer on Craigslist and it sure makes kneading bread easier.) And if I think I can make a tool that will be helpful, even better.

So I decided to make a pottery throwing gauge. I gathered up my nut and bolt collection, and my scrap wood. Aside from some wood screws, the only other material I used was a broken set of pottery calipers from the pottery studio. I sawed these in two, to make two positionable gauges which can be used in tandem to measure the height and width of the pot. They fold up out of the way if they’re not needed. I fastened the gauge parts with bolts, wing nuts and rubber washers like these because they make it easy to tighten the wing nuts and position the gauges. I used bigger bolts, washers and wing nuts to attach the gauges to the center post.

My tool list was short: a drill and bits, an electric screwdriver, a metal saw, a wood saw, a ruler, and a clamp to hold the wood during sawing.

The gauges cover a pretty wide range of sizes. I drilled holes in the main post about four inches apart so the gauges could be taken out and repositioned as needed.

I screwed the main post into a crosspiece which seems steady, but I might have to weight it down with a brick when I am throwing pots on an active wheel. I also drew lines at one-inch intervals let me know how to set the gauges. The center post is about 15 inches high.

Procrastination

When I was in the first grade, my father promised to build me a desk. He finally started building it my senior year in high school. He completed it and painted it in my room while I was in bed, violently ill with the flu. I didn’t dare ask him to finish the desk when I felt better because it might have become one of my wedding presents.

My mother painted our whole house except she stopped in the upstairs hallway and never did finish. You could see where the paint just stopped. And we never get the house fully furnished because she had a hard time making up her mind.

My brother had a hole in his dining room wall for months. During one visit, my father asked him when he was going to fix it. My brother didn’t answer. I remembered the desk and felt smug enough for the both of us.

My niece gave birth to a little boy a few months back. My brother let me know she was expecting a few months before she was due. I found out she had a little boy after the fact. Better late than never.

By now, you have probably realized that I come from a family of procrastinators. The trait runs sluggishly through my blood. Nothing to get upset about once you accept it. It’s there like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Which brings me to the baby dishes. I made them after my great nephew made his entrance in October. Or was it September? Anyway, the pottery studio closed because of the pandemic and they went unglazed until 2021. Then I packed a box with the baby dishes and some other items I thought my niece might like, and found her address. Next stop, post office. Here are some pictures.

Pottery in Progress

Clayathon starts this Friday, so I haven’t had much time to go to the studio lately. Today, I decided to decorate a set of nesting bowls with underglaze.

I think I’ll be better able to concentrate when Clayathon is over, although it should be lots of fun. If you’re curious about the polymer side of clay, check us out at Clayathon.org.

Glad to be Back

I’m back in the pottery studio this week decorating and glazing all the bowls I threw last year. The studio has limited access, we observe social distancing, and we all wear masks which is generally a good idea in a pottery studio. I’m glad to have a little brightness and color to add to these dark winter days. Spring is just ahead! Here are some pictures.

Waiting This Thing Out

The pandemic is raging again and I joined my family on Zoom for Thanksgiving dinner. I was surprised at how well it turned out. We all just fired up our computers, parked in front of them with our dinner, and had a meal together even though we were in different locations. Much safer than traveling but we did miss the human contact.

The pottery studio is closed
My shelf as I left it.

The pottery studio is closed but I was working on decorating some bowls I had thrown when the closing announcement came down. I’m hoping to get back to them after the first of the year. In the meantime, here are some pictures. Stay safe and wear your mask!

Look! I Made a Mug

Actually, I made two, and snatched them out of the studio before the Fleisher Art Memorial open Ceramics studio closed in response to the latest Coronavirus surge. We had been working in the studio since September with added precautions, masks, a limited number of people, and social distancing. But safety is more important.

I decided to try making a hand-built mug where the handle and walls of the mug were all one piece, and I would add a bottom. In pottery as in jewelry designing, making paper models saves a lot of time and materials. So I made a paper template for the mug.

Mug template with bottom
Mug in the making.
Underglaze painting on greenware.
Mugs after bisque fire. I covered them with a clear satin glaze.

And the scraps from the foot rings inspired me to make a covered jar with a fancy lid. I’ll do some cold finishing on this one.

In Her Memory

Thrown platter, white earthenware, black underglaze painting

Marjorie Waxman created this platter in the pottery and ceramics studio at Fleisher Art Memorial.

Evolution of a Decorated Bowl

One of the things I miss most is not being able to go to the pottery studio because of the pandemic. Fleisher Art Memorial is reopening its open pottery studio program in the fall (with safety precautions). I am looking forward to returning.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of a bowl that I threw on the wheel and then decorated with slips and underglazes. It’s white earthenware, low fire pottery.