Earlier in the week I wrote, "The new hump form is out of the kiln and begging to be used. I'm going to give it a first run this week and if we're lucky...maybe a second attempt" and I was extremely happy with the TWO pieces I made this week...so far! why do I say "so far?" Well, I also said "it should take a couple of days before I can safely remove a piece from the form" and I was wrong. The pieces come off the form the second day and that is great news. We'll still need to wait a week or so to get these pieces dried and into the kiln and that is going to be a challenge. You getting the drift that this is a good cop/bad cop story? The bad bit is that I really REALLY want to see these pieces glaze and on the wall and a week...well a week of waiting will seem like a lifetime.
The slab roller stretches clay as the clay moves through the rollers. When I make the smaller pieces (like the shawl pins), stretching is not a problem and doesn't have a negative impact on the pieces...but on the larger pieces the stretching thing can traslate in warping. With larger pieces I jump through hoops to overcome the stretches.
What do I do? I start with the roller set at 3/4 of an inch thick and then after rolling the clay through the roller I reset the roller to 5/8 inch, turn the slab over and roll it again. The another reset to 1/2 inch and roll it again. Then I turn it over again, turn is 90 degrees before rolling it to the final thickness of 3/8th of an inch. No warping. It takes longer but the product is much better.
All this and prepping for an obvara and carbon painted firing over the weekend...Sunday is most likely. I've been watching the weather and it's going to nice and warm. When I get done with the firing and the pieces are washed, they'll dry really quickly, as in overnight quickly. I'm so tired of waiting for days for the pieces to dry in the cold an ddamp of Winter. Did quite realize that I was tired of Winter until the forecast told me it was going to be warmer. Warmer weather is a really welcomed event.
Don’t you hate it when your puppy is smarter than you are? I do. She is. Definitely.
Most of our learning exercises are now focuses on basic life skills in preparation for our trip(s) to Montana. Basic needs…like not wrapping me up in a calf roping maneuver when “walking” on a leash. I’m not worried about left side heeling stuff…I just need her to be able to “go” on a leash so we can make stops between here and MT. She has just over 2 months to train me. Wish her luck.
The new hump form is out of the kiln and begging to be used. I’m going to give it a first run this week and if we’re lucky…maybe a second attempt. It should take a couple of days before I can safely remove a piece from the form. Because it’s a curved form and pieces will be made using the convex side, as the piece shrinks there is a chance that the piece will pinch on the form and crack as it does. Taking the piece off as soon as possible is important…but too soon and it will warp (badly) and not soon enough and the risk of cracking goes up. The steeper the angles of the sides of the form are, the more of a problem that can be created. Finding the “sweet spot” on the curve of the mold is important. We’ll know in a week or so just how well I guessed on the form.
Just one week to go to have fully developed the vaccine’s effectiveness. Brenda and I are not looking to do any Nekked Mask travels for a while, but at least I can go to the lumber yard...I'm beginning to dream about all the nuts and bolts.
Well we got to the CVS pharmacy and picked up that second dose of the vaccine. The aftermath wasn’t as bad as I was planning for. A bit achy on Wednesday but really not too bad. Okay…honestly, when I woke up my body thought it had been through an auto accident…that lasted until about noon. The sleepy-head syndrome lasted all day. It was hard to put a complete sentence together all day. The upside is so much greater than the downside of not being vaccinated. In a couple of weeks I will be able to go to the hardware store...with a mask of course.
I’ve been focused on running pots through their glaze firing cycle for the last few days. The kiln is too small for the job. Not that I’m making more pots lately, but there is more variety, to the point that the pots do not pack efficiently. That means there is a lot of wasted space…fewer pots per cubic foot. More firings to get the same number of pots. PG&E took the pressure off of firing on Wednesday by turning off the power. We can run the kilns on the generator, but why. The switching on and off of the power leaves an opening for a leprechaun to play games…and after all, it was St. Patrick’s Day.
The good news is that with the pots getting through the glaze cycle, there is room in the mudroom to make new pieces. One of the new pieces is a second large domed form to make pieces against. I made one and will bisque fire that one over the weekend, but I really need a second one. The form is the basis of three different projects so having more than one form to build on is important.
The little jar project came out much better than I could have imagined, especially for the first pieces. I usually only expect fair/good on the first samples. To run into very good/excellent samples right out of the gate is a great omen…it’s a sign of some sort. Best part? Brenda likes them.
The ramen bowls turned out well also. I still need to tweak them a bit, but a fine start on that project. Because it’s a piece that will be held while eating, the size and the shape is extremely important. I enjoy trying to marry form and function.
All good news this week. If there was bad, I didn’t see it. It’s St. Patrick’s week . Lucky me.
Been watching the weather more than normal lately. Tuesday we both are doin’ numero dos. Forecast showed snow on Monday and if it were last week, we’d be missing the appointment. BUT…the snow is ending early in the afternoon so we should be good…better after the vaccine.
Spent last week and the weekend prepping work for firing. I wanted to get enough work finished that I could load the kiln at least three times. That way I can bridge the lost day from any possible reaction from the vaccination. We hear that it’s a bit of a kick for some people. So we’re planning around that possibility, remote that it might be. As it turned out, I might have four loads of work ready. The best result of multiple kiln loads will be clearing the studio so that I can work on some new pieces. New stuff…that will be fun.
The big day of the Irish Year is Wednesday. It’s a day when millions of Irish and wanna-be Irish (or temporarily Irish for the day) celebrate one of the many Saints of Ireland, St. Patrick. We generally have a good time on that day sometimes forgetting that it’s a serious celebration with a religious twist. Of course, for traditional Irish musicians, it is the biggest day of the year. I can remember back a few years ago when I played 21 gigs in 23 days…”who’s on first” comes to mind when I think back on that month.
Of course it’s also the day we shoot “Shenanigans of a Studio Potter” (LIVE on Facebook, 5-6 PM Pacific). We do that open video time each Wednesday, rain or shine, vaccine reaction or not. And…because it’s St. Paddy’s Day…I’ll be opening the time with some traditional jigs and reels (also LIVE) on my B/C Button Box (an accordion). Should be fun.
But don’t expect to see any green pots covered with shamrocks and filled with gold coins.
Snowed in? To be honest it doesn’t take much because of the slope of the driveway and the incline at the bottom of our little private road…but yep, snowed in. An inch of snow could make trying to get down the hill interesting, but by 8 in the AM it was at 4 inches and forecasted to continue until about 10 last night. Oh Covid not even you can get me any more isolated than yesterday.
I keep checking the forecast for next Tuesday. It’s the day we are scheduled for our second vaccination. We’ve cleared the calendar that afternoon and, hearing that the Moderna vaccine has a bit of a kick the next day. We cleared almost everything on Wednesday too. I’m keeping Shenanigan’s of a Studio Pottery on the calendar on Wednesday (LIVE 5-6 PM Pacific on FB)…cuz I’m no whimp. We’ll see if my Ironman attitude holds up or if I’m curled up on the couch with a tub of ice cream.
Bisque loads of pottery are going in and out of the kiln nearly everyday as I prepare for a series of glaze loads. Typically, a bisque load will generate two kiln loads of glazed pieces. I’m hoping the first glazed pieces can come from the kiln on Sunday, then Monday and Tuesday…skipping Wednesday and Thursday because of the vaccination. Planning helps.
News of Puppy Madison. It’s hard to think of her as a puppy. Although she is 5 ½ months old, she is just short of 50#...the vet is predicting between 70 and 90 when she reaches “adult stature.” That’s about 20 lbs more than everyone originally thought. She has puppy skills, a teenage attitude and is longer, taller and heavier than her sister by another mother, Montana (our 15 yo Brittany Spaniel)…and she found that she has a big dog bark. She shocked herself with her own bark. Luckily she uses that voice sparingly.
Maybe if the vaccine kicks me a tad more than I would like, I'll get that ice cream and maybe...maybe not...share it with Madison.
When the Fiberworld March Madness Game began we were asked to send four photographs of product on our website. We knew that the photos would be used, but didn't really get direction on how, probably because the game was still being thought through. We're into the second bracket (down to 32 from 60ish) and I'll bet that some folks are wanting to change their photos about now...it's extremely competitive this round.
Last week a couple of absolutely great fiber folks did not move forward. I was saddened by the departures. The differences between moving forward and not was very small.
If you've read many of my BLOG posts and rambling crud on Facebook you know I analyze just about everything. It should therefore come as no surprise that I needed to develop thoughts about why some moved forward and some did not.
Normally this thinking would end up in the mental "round file"...go nowhere except in my dust bin of a cranial cavity. But with the reveal of the second round photos, there may actually be something here to think about.
Why did some win? Luck did play some role perhaps, but staging the photos was a key element. Perhaps the key element in "winning" verses not. Well duh. It's a blind pick your favorite based on two photos side by side contest. I could have/should have thought of the photo quality aspect a few weeks ago...some are probably thinking that same thing about now.
Some have obviously done a great job with their photos and some have (and had) a ways to go. The clarity of captures was suspect at times...the lighting was weak here and there and some product was shown too far away to have an impact...and little details like twisting the skeins neatly and tucking in loose bits...it could be the little things...and of course color choices...some colors really pop through a lens and some...well...don't.
What this revealed to me was the absolute importance of photos in our new paradigm. The product needs to speak to the viewer on it's own. The whole story...all of the qualities...all of the "squishy" needs to be felt through that photo. End of story.
My "gift of gab" is not going to help folks understand my work...they have a photo or two. Those photos need to be a conversation for me.
Now how that story is told could be in a number of ways as evidenced by the winning choices from Week One...but the winners all had good photos. Many of the not winners had photos which did not help their cause.
Some of this lack of attention to the details of the photos could go back to the days when the website backed up the face to face events...website were an addition to a brick and mortar...folks would squish fiber on the weekend and find it on line later in the week. But now, the customer might see and feel the product for the first time when they open the box in their home. Many times the photo needs to take the lead in the sale process.
You might be sitting and thinking, "Jim, it's just a silly fun contest." Yes, it is. But these are photos from the websites of the participants...their sales tools, their story, it's the whole conversation. Tool that did not work for some.
The post is not a lecture for me as much as a reminder for myself. I can see where I need to step up my game in the photo department.
Two more shows cancelled…another retail shop announced its closing…and another sales rep left the industry. Brenda and I get our second vaccinations in a week. Angst is high. My mind is running pretty fast…in circles at times. Stay calm. “Calm” is so easy to type and so not easy to execute.
On top of the normal (whatever that has become) events around the studio, we're participating in March Madness with The Fiberworld Show...voting continues. We're hoping we make it to the second round.
Last Friday I fired fresh feather painted pieces as well as new obvara bits. Yarn Bowls! for one…and Extra Large Buttons. Then came the washing of same. Then the attention was all on finishing all those pieces with an acrylic which means breaking down the studio and wearing a mask during the eight spray sessions. So while I was breaking down the studio in preparation for spray, I was also firing some raku works and when those were out, I washed those and set them aside to dry.
One of the crazy things that we get to do this time of year is to juggle the weather forecast (good luck with that), prepping the obvara mixture (it takes several days to get “perfect”) and the drying schedule of pots. Flexibility. I try hard…but…but…what do you mean 40 degrees? Rain…yes? No? The only stable part of the process is that I keep the obvara mixture in the bathroom in the workshop with a heater set at the right temperature for yeast to make magic. The workshop has a yeasty smell in the air for those several days. Yeasty in the workshop…acrylic in the mudroom.
Weird TMI bit…when I’m doing obvara I am usually doing several hundred pieces during a session. The pieces range from 1 inch in diameter to about 8 inches. I’m also doing them in fairly rapid succession…open the kiln…dip…check…toss in water…open the kiln and so forth. I use two “zones” in the kiln so that one filled with pieces warming and one is ready to go…use the ready to go side and then fill it will more pieces…use the now ready to go pieces and on and on. I’m very organized and plan each move. I even know where my feet are placed and never ever cross one foot over the other. The organized process helps to eliminate mistakes. Mistakes can hurt. Remember those pots and bits come out of the kiln at 1200-1350 F. But, that efficient and rapid work pattern means that very hot pots are going into the obvara goo and warming it, nay my friend, cooking it! As in cooking porridge. It becomes a steaming flour soup by the time I’m finished for the day. I’ve had to stop firing when the mixture turns to paste. When I have an extraordinary number of larger pieces, I make up two buckets of the goo. Sticking the pots into paste just does not work. The water bath I use to cool the pieces gets so hot that I cannot stick my bare hand into it, so I use the water hose to cool the cooling bath.
I finished a custom set of plates for a customer back East. They were done in obvara and went out the door a week ago. I was a bit sad to watch those go. They were seriously gorgeous. It was hard not to just sit and stare at them.
…and of course, I did get photographs and the video before the pieces shipped. Once a piece is out the door, I lose the opportunity to capture it.
Is it so bad to find calm in making hot steaming flour porridge? Works for me.
Fine tuning the website is such a fun-not-fun task for me. I prefer to do macro things. That’s a polite way of saying I’m not a finisher and while I lot details, I like them better when someone else makes that happen. I start things and then sometime of someplace along the line I get an idea for the BLOG or I see a flower…or a butterfly…a shiny object…I get distracted. Fine tuning the website is just not my thing.
The editing is never completely finished. Lucky for me, a website is more like horseshoes and less like golf…getting close in horseshoes scores points, not so much in golf.
But, the better I am at keeping webby things as tidy as possible, the longer I can go between those insane overhauls that take way more work than say, chopping a season of firewood or weeding the four acres we live on. Well now that I think about it…I’d prefer the wood or the weeding.
Who knew that a website would become such an important part of our studio. I’ve had my own URLs since the early 80s…yes I did think ahead. What a journey the web work has been…and who would have thunk that photo editing and video editing would play such a significant role…and then there is…
…USB, Ethernet and HDMI…I had no idea they were that different from each other...and hubs? I got those now…for USB…for Ethernet…and for combinations of same…and there is audio and latency…DSL, Fiber, Cell…and speeds of all that crud…yep. It’s a weird world we now live in.