Monday, April 29, 2013

Flowerpots and an octopus

            I unloaded the kiln this morning. As always, I'm too excited to pull out the pots to get pictures of the whole kiln full of work. But I've been taking pictures of individual pots, so I do have something to share!
            A flower pot with two sea monsters chasing each other around the rim:

            A flower pot with walnut texture around the rim:

            The two flowerpots above are 8 inches wide and about 6.5 inches tall. I enjoyed making them. The clay is very rough, and that seems to fit well with flowerpots.
            I mentioned yesterday some of my glaze experiments with this firing. A particularly successful experiment is this octopus cup:


            I'm very happy with that octopus. The thing that makes the octopus work so well is that I painted him/her directly on the bare clay, rather than over another glaze. So the edges are sharp and clean, which I think is good for the tentacles. If the tentacles were smudgy, it wouldn't look as good. 
            My light box setup leaves something to be desired, I think. It's hard to get the colors right, and that bothers me a lot. I don't like my white background, but I'm having some success with a pale blue background and a black background. Also my camera is old, and often doesn't respond correctly to lighting conditions. Perhaps when I sell enough pots, I'll get a new camera.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kiln is firing today!

            Today is a firing day. I started the kiln last night, and this morning I'm watching for the end of the firing. I'm looking forward to seeing the pieces from this firing. I am practicing some different glazing techniques than I usually use.
            I originally learned to glaze by dipping pieces in the glaze bucket. This method is pretty great for a lot of glazes, as you can get a very even coat of glaze that way. Throughout my ceramics classes, I worked on dipping techniques. It's not the only way to get glaze on a pot, though. (You can also apply glaze with a sponge, or brush, or by pouring it over the pot/sculpture. You can also spray glaze with an appropriate sprayer. You can use a slip trailing bottle with thick-ish glaze in it. So many choices, so many effects! And each glaze will respond differently to each technique. I love how endless the ceramic palette is.)
            The glazes at Simon's Rock, where I learned to glaze, were not especially formulated for use with a brush. I did make several attempts to brush them on anyway, but I was never pleased with the results. Most of the glazes I'm using now are more cooperative. I've never really learned to use a paintbrush properly (I've always preferred pencils, pens, markers, etc.), so brushing my glazes on has been an adventure from a couple of different angles. It's actually not too difficult to simply cover a smooth pot with glaze - I can put the pot on my wheel or turn table and just spin it slowly while I brush. It's not perfectly even, of course, since the brush leaves behind marks where the glaze will be a tad thicker or thinner. That has an effect on how the glaze looks.
            For example:

            In this case, I used a brush to apply the brown glaze (Mottled Spice, cone 6) while the plate was turning slowly on the wheel. I applied it pretty unevenly, because I know this glaze looks more interesting where it varies in thickness. The thinner areas are more chocolate, and the thicker areas more caramel. Had I dipped the plate instead, it would be all the same shade of brown, since there is no texture to capture the glaze as it melts and create differing thickness that way.
            That red glaze (Deep Firebrick, also cone 6) in the swirl, on the other hand, doesn't look particularly interesting when it is unevenly applied by itself. The pot below was also glazed by brushing glaze onto a pot while it turns on the wheel:

            You can see that on the dragon egg I rely upon the carved texture to add interest to the surface. I've been a little more ambitious with the pots that are currently in the kiln. I like how these two glazes look together, so I decided to see if I could brush one atop the other to actually create some imagery rather than abstract swirly marks.
            I'm hoping for success with an octopus, a bird in the wind, a tree, a dragon, and some mushrooms.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


            Riverdragon Ceramics is now on Pinterest! If you go to the right side of any page of this blog, you'll see a red and grey button saying, "Follow me on Pinterest," right above my Etsy link. If you click that button, you can look at my Pinterest page. It doesn't automatically sign you up for anything, but you can choose to follow me from there if you'd like.
            Please go have a look, even if you don't have/want a Pinterest account. You'll find images from my blog there, as well as images from my Etsy shop. Perhaps even more exciting (since you're already looking at my blog and Etsy shop, right?) are my other pin boards, which are collections of images that I think are exciting or inspiring. You can see what engages my interest as an artist. (You can also see what I'd like to grow in my garden.)
            I like Pinterest a lot. I wasn't sure I would when I signed up for it. But pinning things is so easy! You just look at pretty pictures and click on whatever you want. As a visual artist, I find it easy and satisfying to collect images this way. It's a good way for me to organize pictures that make my gears turn, and a good way to share them with others, artists or not, who may be curious where I get my inspiration.
            So go look at the pretty pictures! I do recommend a high speed internet connection, though.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Come and visit Riverdragon Ceramics this summer!

            I mentioned in a previous post my intent to open the barn-studio to visitors in the summer. I've sort of wanted to do that all along. The current plan, which is still rather vague and general, is to have my Open sign out in the afternoon three or four days a week. I'll have a table or tables set out, either in the barn or just outside, with finished work for sale. During the open hours, I'll be working in the barn as usual, but plan to be available to talk/make sales/etc. 
            I'll be happy to have visitors who just want to look around and not buy anything, as well as those who want to make a purchase. You can get me to give you a tour of the studio, or pull up a chair and watch me work if you want. Why do I want you to come and interrupt my work? Wouldn't it be annoying to have people traipsing in and out of my studio? I love watching other artists work, and talking to them about their craft. I want to be available for that kind of interaction, too. So please come over and see my studio!
            There are a few things I'm doing to prepare for your visit this year. You may have noticed that I write about plants and bumble bees sometimes. I love to grow things, and I have a garden to play in, so I'm sprouting some flower seeds to put out by the barn doors where you will see them when you come over. Do watch for our orange belted bumble bees. We have lots of them, and they're adorable. But they do sting if you poke them, so be respectful.
            I'm going to set up my large fountain display, While Sleeping Dragons Lie, in the barn. This will be its permanent home, so you will see it each time you come to visit. I've exhibited this body of work twice now; once at Simon's Rock, and once at the Meeting House Gallery in New Marlborough, Massachusetts. I found that the longer the fountain was set up, the better it looked. And then I had to take it down again and move it, twice. So I think it will be a great display piece for my studio, where it can remain in perpetuity. (And I can keep fish in it this time, fish that will have a chance to settle in and be happy!)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wednesday Traveling Dragons

            This week, I have pictures of a dragon who is a traveling musician! This dragon plays the viola da gamba, my own favorite instrument to play. You may not be familiar with the viola da gamba. In short, it's a six stringed, fretted instrument that you play with a bow. They come in various sizes. They were popular a long time ago, before the raucous orchestral strings we are accustomed to today took over the scene. 
            This dragon traveled on a train! It looks like they had a little help from their human chaperone, though. It must be hard to read the signs when you're so tiny.

             This is what a treble viola da gamba looks like. Note the dragon, who is sitting in approximately the correct position to play:

             Little did I know what a prodigy this dragon would be when I first carved and fired him/her. In the first few months of life, this dragon has already gone to the Young Players Weekend to meet other promising viola da gamba players. (Incidentally, at that link you can see me in the picture. I'm over on the right side in a blue hoodie with a tenor viol. The picture there is from 2010; I wasn't able to attend this year.)

            It looks like everyone had a good time this year. These pictures were taken by, and belong to, Ben from Connecticut. The featured dragon is his viol buddy. Happy violing, and thanks for the pictures! I love to see how my creations are getting along in their homes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Barn-Studio cleaning

            As the weather warms up, I'm pursuing a number of projects that are best done when it's not freezing outside. First, I'm doing a spring cleaning of the barn-studio to prepare for summer. The studio isn't heated (or remotely heat-able), so I abandon it for the house in the winter. This winter, that meant a bunch of stuff got piled up out there while I wasn't looking! Thus, some cleaning needs to happen before I move my wheel back out.
            Part of the issue is that the barn is actually our household garden shed/trash shed/giant closet/random furniture storage/tool shed. In addition to being my ceramics studio. Before last summer when I barged in and added my things to the mix, it was a perfectly fine place for all those other things to be.
            But this time around as I'm cleaning the barn, I'm trying to actually find new places to put those other things. It's a pretty big space, really, and it does have a loft. I'm hoping to get things shifted around so that I don't have to work around saws and weed whackers and wheelbarrows. My solution last summer was more along the lines of pushing those things to the wall and taking up whatever space I could squeeze in to.
            This year I expect to be a bit different from last year. I'm planning to open the barn-studio to visitors in the summer. It wasn't exactly not open last year; if you had appeared at the door I'd have shown you around. But I wasn't ready to be publicly available at set times during the week, and the studio was, err, a bit crowded with all those things I mentioned above. I don't intend to hide the fact that I'm working in an old barn (I think it's kinda cool!), and I'm not fussed about things like the uneven floor, the "rustic" decor, the lack of any level surface anywhere. That's all fine. In fact, I don't mind having some tools hanging about, especially if we plan to use them for something. This year I draw the line at storing my clay in the wheelbarrow, is all!