Invite the birds… at your own risk!


Did I mention we have lots of birds visiting our patio?

Last year, I started making small bird houses in hopes to offer them housing. They tend to stuff themselves into the eaves, overhang near the doors, gutters…you know what I mean.

Dove nesting
Dove Nesting

This little Dove and her mate decided to nest in the overhang right outside our patio door. They hooted, brought twigs of all sizes and dropped them at our steps, not to mention the poop. Well, it didn’t last long, they must have decided that we disturb their peace by enjoying our patio.

Bird House-Portland
Bird House-Portland

This little birdhouse is hanging out in Portland, in the backyard of Uncle Jim. While it looks nice, I haven’t received any reports of birds moving in. Even the one at my patio is only home to occasional spiders who hope to trap bugs.

Moving on to bird feeders.

BirdFeeder_Green2  BirdFeeders_1

While the teapots dry, I move on to hand built forms…one of which becomes bird feeders. Above are a few finished ones using found textures in my treasure box: a woven placemat, leaves, pine needles, a meat tenderizer. Anything goes. Each feeder is made up of 3 slab pieces and a coil for the hanging loop. Using a round biscuit/cookie cutter cut a half circle for the feeding opening. I’ve been having fun using an oxide wash to add depth to the naked clay. It’s another option to surface texture and color without having to glaze every exposed surface.

OxideSample1 OxideSample2 OxideSample3

Simple to complex design, it all works. You can also over glaze like the last photo. So many possibilities, it’s almost too easy to go overboard.

So, bird feeders. It works really well. Too well. What I expected were song birds, that’s what the bird food package said. Variety of Song Birds. We definitely get a variety, small ones and sometimes even the doves try to land on the little ledge. I’ve even seen a squirrel and a crow try to assess an approach to the feeder. It’s small on purpose!

BirdFeeder_WhiteGreen2BirdFeeder_inUse1

Remember when I mentioned that the doves trying to nest made a mess with twigs? We now have bird seed on the patio floor…apparently the feed is a mix of seeds and some birds like some and not the other. So, what we are noticing is that they are digging and spilling out the ones they don’t want. So we have birds—up to 3 on the feeder, and then a few more on the floor.

We definitely have a flurry of excitement now.
Lots of busy birds, and yes, they make lots of noise.

Very early in the morning.

Back to Teapots


Image

This was the last teapot completed successfully in my studio. Sadly, I’ve made at least 8 while in SF, and this is the only one that survived—thanks to a pre-mixed Cone 6 glaze from a bottle, brushed on. Inner liner glaze is my own.

Let’s rewind the clock to Fall of 2012.

September. I finally set up my little studio in the garage of our Redwood Shores townhouse rental, I was excited to continue my teapot making…I was starting to really enjoy the process. Got my little Skutt kiln hooked up after paying the electrician $300 for a special outlet—this we negotiated down from $500! Bought the necessary glazing materials and equipment…this was not cheap either since I couldn’t bring all of my wet glaze materials.

So, fast forward a few weeks… many bisqued teapots, cups and bird houses and other little experiments I was ready to glaze. Mixed up my usual batches of tried and true glazes in test quantities and fired up my kiln to cone 6. They seems to look fine… but it wasn’t. My second glaze firings included those new teapots and every pot came out with blisters! I mentioned this in my previous post, but didn’t get into what happened to my teapot making. Well, I was distraught, so I stopped making teapots…it was too heart breaking. I started hand-building and reformulating glazes and testing, testing, testing—glaze mixtures, clay bodies, temperatures, ramp/hold/cooling schedules. Turns out it was a bisque temperature and kiln load density issue…yes 5 months of testing! At least now, I have several new glazes that work beautifully (also found in previous post).

Fast forward again to this weekend.

I took a hands-on Ultimate Teapot Workshop with George Dymesich offered by OVCAG at Higher Fire in San Jose. Well, I think my groove is coming back. George was a very patient and thorough teacher, showing each step with explanation of why certain techniques are used, both functional and aesthetic concepts. All this time, I didn’t understand why there is a hole in the lid! It’s to allow liquid to flow without gurgling. AHA! There were many other Aha! moments throughout the day. Not only from George’s instructions, but from working with 10 other fellow potters learning, encouraging and inspiring from each other. Seeing little home made tools and shortcuts like: a little painter’s sponge bought at HomeDepot stuck at the end of a stick works so much better than ones you buy from the clay store! And I learned how to use a throwing stick on the inside of a pot to give volume…and I successfully threw a 5 pound clay pot!

Now I should have some photos of my hard work…nope. Packed it up in the trunk at the end of the day, got home and while unloading my pieces, dropped it on my garage floor. FLOP!

IMG_3673

Two things learned by dropping my teapots on the floor:
1. Got over my “precious pot” syndrome. It’s the “don’t cry over spilled milk” for potters. Kind of.
2. My throwing is getting better, even walls, mostly. Still need to work on not thinning out at the rim.

Back to the wheel.

Built some bird houses, made some molds.


I’ve been asked about my pottery work…”so, what have you been up to now that you have some time to yourself?” My usual answer was, “I’ve been taking some time off to hang out with my boys for the summer”…more for the sake of not having to go through a myriad of excuses for the lack of ceramic work that I have not produced. Well, finally I have something to talk about.

I’ve been taking pottery class in San Mateo, hooked up my wheel in the garage and started throwing some forms and registered for a mold making workshop in San Jose!

Adventures in Plaster Mold Making!

Presented by OVCAG (Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild), I participated a hands-on mold making workshop with Jamie Meador, hosted by Jeannine Meidinger in her beautiful home in in the hills of San Jose. Jamie started with a demonstration followed by a detailed, independent hands-on work session where we were expected to make molds, compute water to plaster ratio using calculators to find the volume, pour plaster into forms, textures and bowls. In the photo above, the fruits of my labor–except for the small round bowl and square bowl forms that I purchased. I did have a failure of the bigger bowl…the bottom fell out…too thin. The stamps in the lower left hand side is showing brown…that’s because I haven’t cleaned the clay off of the plaster yet. Once I give it a good sponge rub, it will be nice and white like the others. Great experience…can’t wait to make more molds!

It’s for the Birds!

As I mentioned, I have started working at the San Mateo Park District Clay Studio. With the end of the summer session, I will be participating in a sandy beach pit firing. Our instructor recommended a closed form for best success and so I decided to make bird houses. As part of the process, the pots are made and before going into the bisque firing, we burnished the surface once at the leather hard stage and also at bone dry stage. The two on the right have been burnished twice while the one on the left is still unpolished…can you tell the difference? You can see a slight reflection on the surface. It feels like marble!

So what happens now?

These will be cooked once in the kiln to cone 04, to bisque. We will be going to a beach, digging a pit, placing the pots inside with firewood and sawdust, lighting it on fire. Once the bonfire has burned itself out and pots cooled enough to handle, we will wipe it clean for the surprises that the fire and ash left us.   I will post after effects photos to show the results.

For more reading on Pit Fired Pottery and Potters, check out these potters…a very short list of many.
Robert Compton Pottery
Matt Hoogland
Alex Mandli

If you are interested in the bird houses, let me know…I will be offering the finished pieces on my Etsy shop at $40 each. After theses three pit fired pots, I will be making traditional kiln fired ones with underglaze or glaze colors. I will also take custom orders too: colors and sizes.

2Frogs at Winter Art Collective in Chicago


Need something to do this weekend?
How about early shopping for Valentines Day?

What ever the motivation, six hand-craft artist will be showing and selling their works at the Winter Art Collective this Saturday, February 4th, Noon – 4 pm at the Healing Foundations located at 2112 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618.

Hope you can stop by to visit.

2Frogs Ceramic Arts at the Fall French Market at the Lycée Français Chicago-Oct. 14-16, 2011


Fall French Market Poster for Lycée Français 2011 by Yann Legendre

A short post today to update this weekend’s show at the Fall French Market at Lycée Français Chicago this weekend.

Fall French Market 2011
Lycée Français de Chicago
613 West Bittersweet
Chicago, IL 60613

Look for Miki Shim-Rutter at 2Frogs Ceramic Arts and Legendre+Rutter booth in the Gym!

Fri. Oct 14, 2011 7pm-10pm (tix $40/p, adult only)
Sat. Oct 15, 2011  10am – 5pm (tix: $5/adult)
Sun. Oct 16, 2011  11am – 4pm (tix: $5/adult)

The Lycée Français de Chicago Fall French Market.
Shop and dine with over 50 vendors, including Figaro Parisian Antiques, Bijoux Fantasia, Careful Peach and Provenance Food & Wine. Watch notable Chicago chefs prepare local specialties. A pavilion for children ages 3-10 will provide supervised activities while you shop.

MARKET E CARD 2011

Ravenswood ArtWalk, October 1&2


If you are out and about town in Chicago this weekend, Come out to the Ravenswood ArtWalk.
Look for me at 4611 Ravenswood Ave., 2nd floor. Sat. 11 am – 7 pm, Sun. 11 am – 7 pm

For more information, www.ravenswoodartwalk.org

Save the Date: Ravenswood ArtWalk Oct. 1 & 2, 11am-5pm


2Frogs Ceramic Arts will be one of over 300 artists showing works at the 9th Annual Ravenswood ArtWalk along the Ravenswood Corridor in the North Center and Ravenswood Neighborhoods.

This show will feature the Carved Series (more photos to come), Pebbles and the yet to be named series of pots featured below (naming suggestions welcome!).

The ArtWalk is free, thanks to support from dozens of neighborhood businesses and a strong donor base. Besides featuring the work of more than 300 visual artists, it also includes music, food vendors, kids activities and a live graffiti wall.
I will post updated location information as soon as it is available.
Save the Date!