Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sea monster vase

            This is a vase I've been working on. It's for a show in May at the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery. The show is being held alongside the Deer Isle birding celebration, "Wings, Waves, and Woods." I know, sea monsters aren't birds. But they swim in the waves! That counts as habitat-related, right? Especially since Deer Isle is, well, surrounded by water.
            I'm having a lot of fun thinking of subjects to carve on vases based on this theme. I've got a vase with pine trees and a big serpent-dragon, and a vase with fiddlehead ferns and tiny dragons - woods and wings! - in addition to the sea monster vase in this post. I'm considering actually carving a bird vase (gasp! a real animal that actually exists?!), but I don't have a design in mind. 
            Back to the vase above: The boat on the sea monster's back is the Leucothea. Leucothea was a Greek goddess of the sea, who was known for rescuing sailors. Here she has tamed the sea monster, which story is my own invention as far as I know.

Icy ledges

            The part of coastal Maine where Riverdragon Ceramics is located is a place where the bones of the earth stick out. Gardening here is an adventure, in large part because if you want to dig a hole big enough for a small bush, there's a good chance you'll encounter rocks in all the places you thought you wanted that bush to go. Rock ledges push out of the ground just about everywhere - in fact, the barn here rests directly on a ledge. (This is why the barn is, and likely always will be, a summertime studio.)
            I love the ledges. It might seem like big rocks would be static and dead, but this isn't at all the case. All sorts of neat things grow on the ledges. Here trees live with their roots embedded directly in the rock.

            There are lichens, too. They are like sponges when it rains, fluffy and green, but crispy and seemingly dead when it is dry. There are different lichens - I don't know how many kinds - but there are two very noticeable ones here: mint green stringy lichen that grows on sunny ledges, and dark green floppy lichens that hang from shaded rocks like weird mushrooms. These floppy lichens catch the water that runs down the ledge from above, and in the winter this means they catch the icicles, too.

            The ledge looks very different in the winter, poking dark edges out of the bright white snow. The rocks here are grey, and I think in the summer I'd call them light grey. But when everything is snowy, they are the darkest thing around.
            Where in the summer there are little trickles of water, now there are little frozen waterfalls. In places the rocks seem to sparkle - like clay covered with glaze, the glossy ice catches the light and lends the rock beneath a different character.

            Then there are the icicles. I grew up in Virginia, where it's too warm to get racks of icicles like this most of the time. The college I attended is in Massachusetts, where I saw icicles taller than myself throughout the winter. This winter, we have periodically had days so warm that the icicles all melt away. So there aren't enormous sparkling columns that I became accustomed to during college, despite being another 500 miles or so northward. Nonetheless, these caught my eye as they spilled down the rock.

            Spring is a long way off. It will be another month before I start the tomato and cucumber seeds I'm planning to grow this year, because if I start them now they'll reach the limits of their pots before I can put them outside. For now, I'm enjoying the quiet and the changes in the landscape, and idly wondering what seeds to sow next to the ledge and below the windows when the ice recedes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thoughts on teapots

            I've been in the Teapot Zone this week. I have been making lids and spouts and pots, and trying to stick them all together before the smallest parts dry. I've concluded that it's best to make teapots one at a time, since there are so many pieces to chase around.
            In fact, I've been thinking about teapots a lot lately, since I'm working on the orders from the Kickstarter project. I was reluctant to start work on the teapots, but why? I like teapots. They're an interesting kind of pot to play with. Yet, I kept not wanting to get to work on them.
            It goes back to all those little pieces. I counted how many steps it takes for me to make a teapot: eight. It takes eight separate steps to make a teapot with carved decoration before I can dry and fire it. I have to: throw the body of the pot; trim it; throw lid(s); trim lid(s) (sometimes it takes more than one lid to make one that fits); throw spout(s); attach spout; make/attach a handle; then carve the decoration on after all previous steps. Wow! No wonder I can't work on more than one of those at a time without stressing out.
            This is also one of the reasons teapots are expensive for their size. It does take more time to make them than other pots. The maker also needs skill in a variety of areas: throwing and trimming a variety of shapes, hand building for making the handle and attaching the parts together. Only once I've accomplished all these smaller tasks do I get to the fun part - the decorating. (Others have enough fun just making the pot... I make the pot in anticipation of the carvings and colors I add.)
            With bowls, for example, I often spend more time carving an elaborate design into them than I spend throwing and trimming them. Carved bowls only take three steps: throw, trim, carve.With vases, I don't usually need to trim, so I can get right to the surface decoration. Two steps: throw, carve. But teapots take about as long to make as I spend decorating them, or possibly longer!
            Oh, but I do look forward to decorating these teapots. They will be beautiful. I get to carve unicorns and dragons on them! And I'm even going to be working on something new - insects. Yes, that's right - I'm going to put creepy-crawlies on a teapot. It's going to be great. Not any cute little butterflies and ladybugs, either. I'm going to find some awesome insect that doesn't get featured in art as much as it deserves. I'm excited for this custom order! I've gotta get back to work to make the teapot first, though.