Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Traveling Dragons

            All the rain this fall has resulted in the blooming of many mushrooms. There seem to be a lot of different kinds here: brown ones, white ones, red ones, puffy ones, skinny ones.... and big ones.

            So naturally, the dragons had to go see for themselves.

Hurricane Sandy

            All is well here after the storm. We did lose power for a few hours, but there was no major damage. I hope all you readers are safe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

            Hi there! We've battened down the hatches here at Riverdragon Ceramics in preparation for the hurricane. We expect to be just fine, although it looks like we'll be out of power shortly, and possibly for several days. Will update when the storm is over and we have access to the internet again! Stay safe all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Etsy! And a note about custom work

            The Kickstarter project was a good way for me to jump in to using the internet to get my work out into the world a little more. I have really enjoyed the whole project. One of the conclusions I have drawn from the past three months is that the internet is a good place to offer my work for sale. Many more people can find me this way, and I find myself enjoying setting up my online spaces to present my work in a way that reflects myself and my interests.
            So I have opened an online shop with Etsy! This is the link to my shop: My shelves are rather bare so far. I'm planning to add more work when the kiln gets wired up and firing. Each time I have a glaze firing, I'll put up a post about it here, and you can expect new items to show up in the Etsy shop around that time.
            I'd like to mention pricing, because my pricing for the items on Etsy will be slightly different (higher) than the pricing for similar items from the Kickstarter project. My goal for the Kickstarter was, well, to reach the goal. My goal now is to make a living, so the prices you will see in the future reflect that.
            Some things that you can expect to see in my online store in the near future are: mugs, cups, swirl bowls, small dragon sculptures like the ones I'm making for Kickstarter. Some things I'm planning to offer in the next few months are: forcing vases for bulbs, mushroom bowls/mugs, serving dishes, and whatever other interesting things come to mind. If you have suggestions for types of items you'd like to see in my Etsy shop in the next year or so, I'd love to hear them!
            While I'm on the subject of suggestions, this is where I stand currently with custom work: I will not be able to take on any more commissions for custom work this winter, as I'm rather swamped with the Kickstarter rewards. I definitely will offer custom work in the future, however! I will make an announcement here sometime in the next several months about when I will be able to offer custom work again. So if you have ideas, sit tight until spring 2013!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Small dragon sculptures

            The first three of the small dragons are drying. These are the porcelain ones, and most of the others will be a much darker color, but just as cute.

            The one that is a brighter white is bone dry, and the darker ones are leather hard (still a little wet). They will all be very white when they are fired. I'm planning to gently sand them after the bisque firing so that they will be extremely smooth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More kiln pictures!

            This morning I got up and went into the barn to put my kiln back together. It was pretty easy to do. Here are before and after pictures:

            Also, since I didn't take any pictures of the giant box yesterday, and it was irresistible to play with it, here is a picture of me and Dandy with the box the kiln came in.

            Did you ever make box forts when you were little? I did, and I was always wishing for a bigger box. Well, this box would make the best box fort ever; it's huge. I wish I could pack it up and send it back in time to when I was six.

Wednesday Traveling Dragons

            This week the dragons have something new to explore! They have to check the new device all over to make sure they can allow the next dragons I'm making to be put in there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The kiln has arrived...

            And it is beautiful! It's so shiny I could use it as a mirror:

            Yes, that is a picture of the side of the kiln. I was a little amazed at just how shiny it is. The kiln came in a really big truck. The truck driver pulled up to me running out the door and jumping up and down waving at him. I'm sure that made it obvious he'd found the right house. He backed the truck into the driveway to get it closer to the barn door:

            The truck driver declined to be on camera, but that's all right. He was very friendly and helpful. That great big truck only had a couple of boxes in it, and one of them was my kiln! The truck had a lift gate to lower the kiln to the ground, and then the truck driver rolled it across the lawn on a dolly. Thankfully the rain had stopped minutes earlier, so we weren't getting wet, and neither was the precious box. (We had a tarp ready to go just in case.)
            My wedging table, which is actually an old door set on top of two cinder blocks, was used as a ramp from the lawn into the barn-studio. It got kinda muddy, but that's not unusual for a wedging table! I'll have to clean off the grass before I use it again.
            The kiln was set down right in front of its final location. I was going to take a picture of the giant box, but we got excited and tore all the packaging off of it before I remembered I had my camera with me. Sorry!
            This is the kiln, still sitting on the pallet mere minutes after it arrived:

            What's that contraption on the backside of the kiln? That's the fancy "one-finger" lid lifting device that Cone Art makes. Here is Mr. Riverdragon demonstrating:

            His verdict? "It gave my finger a work-out, but it's not that hard." My verdict? It's much nicer on my back than the kilns I'm used to. I didn't choose the kiln based on the lid lifter, but I'm happy to have it. My back has enough problems on its own!
            Here's the inside of the kiln. Aren't those nice, clean, undamaged bricks lovely? I'll have to take good care of them.

            One thing that makes me very happy to have a new kiln rather than an old kiln is this blue box:

            Kiln sitters are ok, they work fine when they work, which is most of the time really, but.... it's just super nice to be able to program the kiln. I'm not planning to leave it unattended, but this way I don't have to worry about minding it so much.
            So that is how the kiln arrived. The next step is to get it to the right spot. The kiln weighs something like 300 pounds, so two small people aren't really able to just pick it up and put it down where we want it. Instead, I sat down with my handy dandy instruction booklets to figure out how to take it apart.

            Cone Art actually makes it pretty simple to take the kiln apart. It's mostly a matter of unscrewing a bunch of screws and unplugging some wires inside the control box. It took me maybe a half hour, but I bet it would take me ten minutes now that I know how to do it.

            This is the inside of the control box after I removed it from the side of the kiln. I'm pleased that it's easy to look at it and understand which wires are for what (with a little help from the diagram in the manual). I didn't feel at all worried about tinkering around with it when I was taking it off:

             The bottom half of the kiln was still kinda heavy, but entirely lift-able for the two of us. It has handles on the sides that made it easy to move onto the stand. We leveled the stand before putting the kiln on it. This is the bottom half of the kiln on the stand in its final position. You can see some wires where the control box goes:

            And then our fingers got cold. You can see in the above picture that it was dark out by this time, and the barn-studio gets pretty chilly at night these days. We decided that hot cocoa was in order and called it a day. Tomorrow morning I'll be putting the kiln back together, and then we'll have a picture of the whole thing set up and ready for the electrician! The kiln came with a cord but no plug due to Canadian regulations (Cone Art is located in Canada), so the electrician will have to either put on an appropriate plug or hard-wire the kiln. Either way it'll have its own circuit breaker that is easy to get to in case of trouble.
            Hooray! Thank you, all of you who took part in making this possible! This kiln is going to be a great improvement to my ability to make my work and share it with the world. Thank you for taking a leap and supporting a young artist starting a wild adventure!

Friday, October 12, 2012

News from the kiln front!

           The kiln is almost here! It will arrive at my studio on Tuesday, most likely in the afternoon. Wow! The past month or so has been strange for me. While I've known the kiln was going to arrive at some point, I've had a hard time believing that one of these days soon, I'll be able to wake up in the morning to a cooling kiln with all sorts of exciting things inside. This has made it surprisingly difficult for me to get up every morning and make work. I don't mean nothing is happening, but that it's happening at odd times. Sometimes I work in the morning, sometimes I don't get started until 1 pm, sometimes I work in the middle of the night.
            Having the flexibility to do that is nice, but maybe now that I know when the kiln will actually arrive I'll have a better motivation to 'go to work' in the morning. You see, the morning is my best time of day. It doesn't seem like it before I've had something to eat, but once I engage my brain I do my best work right away.
            I'm very excited that the kiln will be getting here so soon. I will take pictures when it arrives so that you can see. Here's hoping it won't rain on Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Barn doors

            Remember how I keep complaining about the leaky doors in my studio? Well, not only do they allow the water to rain right in, they seem to be coming alive after the last few rainy days.

            This little shelf fungus is very cute, but it really ought not to be growing on the door. Thankfully, while the old doors were sprouting, Mr. Riverdragon was working inside:

            There are actually two new doors here, one on top of the other. You can see in the background that there is light shining in through the old doors. Yep, time for the replacements to go up!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Small dragon sculptures

            I've started working on the small dragon sculptures for the Kickstarter project. (Wondering what I'm talking about? Look here.) One of the wonderful things about this project is that I'm gathering a lot of data on what people ask for if they have the option to make requests. In this case, the options were red stoneware, or porcelain.
            I had hypothesized that either there would be approximately an even distribution between the two, or that more people would select porcelain. Why porcelain? Well, historically porcelain has a lot going for it. It's bright white, and there aren't many kinds of clay that are. It is very very smooth, which means that it takes texture and detail particularly well. Some porcelain is even translucent when it is thin enough, which is truly a remarkable quality in clay.
            However, my hypotheses were both wrong. For these small sculptures, 80% of you chose red stoneware. Wow! I was really mistaken! Isn't that cool?
            What's going on here? Well, I don't know for sure; this isn't a study, after all, and I didn't ask people why they made the choice they did. But I have some thoughts.
            The first thing that occurs to me is that porcelain no longer has one major attribute that was very important for a long time: rarity. Now we all have access to it; go look in your cupboards. See any white dishes in there? Probably, unless you made a special effort to avoid it. Your bathroom sink is probably porcelain. So are the tiles in your shower if your shower is tiled. Some of the things that make porcelain desirable for me to use also make it desirable for industrial uses - durability, color, availability, etc. Maybe people choose red stoneware because it is different. When stoneware was the most common material for dishes and sculptures to be made of, porcelain was special. Perhaps now that effect is reversed.
            Another thought I have is this: the fact that porcelain is so white may be a factor in the decision against it. White is beautiful in its way, but it is essentially an absence of color. I would not be surprised if many people would select a color rather than an absence of color. In addition, the red stoneware I use is a very handsome color itself, so it's not as though I'm asking whether people want white or neon orange. (Not that I have anything against neon orange... in small quantities, that is!)
            For those of you who are waiting for the pictures, here they are! This is what your dragons start out as, a line drawing of each of its parts on a slab of clay:

            These dragons are porcelain, so each will go to one of the four people who selected porcelain. Next, I cut out the parts. I don't want these dragons to be flat, so I made some rough adjustments to the shape of the body and wings.

            I also flattened out the wings some so that they are nice and thin, rather than chunky. The legs I will leave to stiffen without cutting just yet. Such small things are easier to work with when they are stiff, and I don't want to bend them by accident. This is what the wings look like before and after flattening, including the stone I used to flatten them:

            And this is the original sketch I'm working from:

            Each of these dragons will be unique. I draw each one freehand on the clay before cutting them out, and they are each positioned differently. They look rough now, but when they are stiffer I will be able to touch them without changing the shape. At that point I will smooth away the sharp edges and messy marks, and then put the parts together.