Humble Pie…best served on a shino tray!


Last night, I applied to and was juried to be recognized into the prestigious group of exhibiting members of ACGA—Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California.

I thought I had been proud of my work, confident of my artistry and craftsmanship, but the level of vulnerability of this challenge made me question my purpose and passion. Am I as good as I think I am, good as I’ve been told by my family and friends? Does my work speak to my individuality? Does my display show lack of maturity as an artist? Et cetera et cetera.

I arrived at Fort Mason Center Building C at 4:15 and at 5pm, after months of preparation—from making new pieces to forcing everyone close to me to judge my work and display to the point of exhaustion—I rolled my handy-dandy cart of 1 Tupperware bin of work, one shelf riser and black table-cloth into a white-walled room lit only with fluorescent overhead lighting. Staked out a corner space where I can place a 3′ x 6′ table on an angle and started setting up…took all of 20 minutes, kind of anti-climatic, really. Another 20 minutes of fidgeting the pieces an 1/8th of an inch in all direction, I called it “the best I can do today.”

There were 13 other hopeful clay and glass artists waiting for the judging to begin. There were 6 jurors, both clay and glass professionals, 1 moderator and 1 recorder (oh, what I would have given to be a fly on the wall!). We waited in another room, away from nosy and curious artists, mingling nervously. Some candidates were already dismissive with comments like, “if I don’t get in/if they don’t like my work, I’m not bothering to try again” and “I heard people have to try several times to get in”. Others seem highly confident, boasting of all of their sales and gallery accomplishments. Me, I was just grateful that in 3 hours time, I can pack up and pat myself on the back of my accomplishment in having challenged myself and presented work worth the critique of other professionals.

Jurors walked in at 7pm and walked out at 8:30pm. What does it mean when they finished so fast? Should we be concerned? Many wondered and worried. I packed up and 15 minutes later, I drove out of the parking lot. My fear of rejection didn’t get the best of me and regardless of the outcome, I am humbled by the process and glad to have experienced it.

And yes, if I don’t get accepted this time, I will learn and try, try again.

Thanks goes to (in no specific order): Lance, Mira, Dan, Linda, Peggy, Lynn, Julia, Thomas, Liz, Anne and Higher Fire Staff.

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In goes mud, out comes gold!

High gloss and luster shino glaze developed by Higher Fire Clayspace and Gallery in San Jose.


In my quest for a new kiln/studio—my home studio is now a Kiln-free zone ordered by my landlord…long story and saga still unfolding—I have made myself at home in San Jose at Higher Fire Clay Space and Gallery. And with it two giant gas kilns and a very consistent reduction firings by equally competent studio managers and instructors.

So, I now have a new series of works using a combination of Lehman’s Shino, Higher Fire Gold Shino and a dusting of Blue Celadon glazes. But with so many other beautiful glazes to choose from, I will have to continue to explore the many colors and combinations!

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HF Gold Shino in and out. Very light application of Celadon. Still got a good showing of carbon trapping, The trays got over warped for my liking, out of 7, I got 3 good ones. These tumblers are a good size for tea and everyday water/juice cups.

And yes, the GOLD!
Dan Dermer, studio owner/potter, has formulated a special shino glaze recipe that puts gold on pots! Super glossy and stable with rich gold and beautiful carbon trapping where the dusting of celadon is heavier.

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This teapot is lined with Temoku and Lehman’s Shino out…again with a dusting of Blue Celadon. Using Donegal from East Bay Clay. Bisque shows a pink blush and fires to brown in reduction.
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Except for the teapot, all HF Gold Shino. Very glossy and lots of luster to the finish. Needs heavier Celadon application for the carbon trapping, not sure I am completely sold on the intentional look of the carbon showings.
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This teapot is a good balance between the HF Gold Shino and Celadon. Still super luster on the handle and near the spout.

Also getting ready for the San Carlos Art and Wine Faire next weekend, and then I attempt to jury into ACGA-American Clay and Glass Artists…nervous about this one. Once accepted, it’s a live long membership (so long as you pay your dues!). Wish me luck.

Getting ready to show and sell.


Start of the holiday season marks my busiest most stressful time of the year—preparing for the shows and sales leading up to Christmas week. Instead of thinking about festive decorations, organizing favorite holiday recipes and making a list of what I’d like to receive, I am elbow deep in mud, glazes and covered in price tags.

No complaints though…except for the gift list. I prepare the these weeks with anticipation of how people will like my new pieces. And I have some exciting new pieces!

These are exciting time for artists who show and sell. To get feedback and comments, to see how people handle each piece. It’s disappointing when people walk past my work and not touch them. I think most are afraid to touch or think that they would be obligated to buy once touched. Artists love to talk about their work. To share the thoughts of how or why they made them. Most of us work in small little studio on their own with Pandora playing in the background. We want people to talk to. So next time you are at an art show, be engaged, be social. Ask for the story, and there’s always a story.

Visit me at Art in Clay Ceramic Show and Sale presented by Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild on Nov 16-17, 10am – 5pm at Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto.

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Carved Globe Ornaments: $18 each. Available in bronze, black, red.
Watering Vessels: $65 each.Orders placed by 12/1 will deliver in time for Xmas!

Into the fire…on the beach!


I’m very excited to share my latest pit fire with the help of photos from a fellow pit fire participant’s photos–cuz I was too busy playing with fire.

Our scheduled OVCAG-Orchard Valley Ceramics Art Guild-September Pit Fire Workshop was managed by me and I must say it went very smooth…thank goodness!

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Lovely beach with many fire rings that come in very handy. But the ashes need to be shoveled out first…at least about 2 feet. Lance dug out 3 feet and I believe it helped to give better reduction effects on my pot.

I arrived at the Santa Cruz Twin Lakes Beach with my very handsome muscle man, otherwise known as My Husband Lance in tow. And he did a magnificent job of digging out the fire pit!

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Then the cowpies to cover all the pots.
Then newspaper and kindling and then tent the fire wood on top before lighting.

We piled on the wood collected from a local sawmill who generously donated their scraps.

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Note how the fire wood is piled in a tent style. It’s to make sure that the pit is lit evenly. We piled as much wood as possible initially and filled in as it starts to die down.

And because I like to play with fire, I added a few more when I noticed some empty spots. Wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any exposed pots during the firing. Boy, it was HOT!

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The flames were super high and really hot. I recommend using Kiln gloves or at least a very long tongs when working with the fire. As you see, I had neither! Notice also the mound of ashes and sand next to the pit?

Now the hard part…letting it burn.

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We noticed that there were active flames only on one side, but it moved across the pit as it burned through. Giving the air to burn with the tented wood pile helps this greatly versus just throwing in the logs like a regular camp fire.

And wait…

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A bit over an hour has passed and the fire is dying down, but it’s still very hot and under the ashen wood, there were still active flames.

Trying to look like we are waiting patiently…

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pitfire07_peeking That’s my Muscle Man Otherwise Known As My Husband Lance. And fellow pit fire crew, Guo Feng and Joan Lin.

Lunch time! We came prepared with pot luck food…pastries, hot coffee, chips and dip, cold cuts, cold peanut sesame noodles and lots of fruit. We could have fed 10 more people!

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Can’t have a beach pit fire without the right provisions! Shade and food!

After about 2.5 hours, we started to get way too eager and decided to move the embers around to speed up the cooling process.

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This is Guo’s pit. She used white stoneware and used clear and stained terra sigilata. While loading the pit, she also sprinkled Red Iron Oxide to the tops of the pieces. Great blacks on the bottom and spotted browns from the iron oxide showed well on the top.
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Yes, little miss impatient Miki took pots out of the pit while it was still very very hot…it was tinking loudly…not a good sign but all worked out.

And my pit. Great black and lots of color flashes from the Salt and Copper Carbonate. It was the deepest pit and burned longer than the others, and the results were beautiful!

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I wanted to take this driftwood home so I could take all my pit fire pots, but alas…

And back in my studio, the other pots.

Notice the difference between the smaller ones in the middle and the bigger ones. I started get bored with the pebble burnishing and so the bigger ones only got 2 phase burnishing while the little ones had 3 phase burnishing… 1. at leather hard, 2. at green and 3. at bone dry with canola oil. Once these are finished with floor wax polishing, I hope they even out, but in the future, I won’t be as lazy!

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I pebble finish all my pots. Take a very smooth river stone and softly rub the pots in small circles until they get super shiny. This photo is a reminder for me to not be lazy with my efforts because the results don’t lie.

We started at 7:00 am and left the beach at 1:45 pm which included cleaning up and packing up the car. Super efficient and got great results. A very happy crew!

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Jim, Guo Feng, Megan George, Joan Lin, Miki Shim-Rutter, Irene Jenkins.

Photos by Lance and Jim! Thank you!

New Teapots…Finally!


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Finished teapots using the techniques acquired from the George Dymesich’s Teapot Workshop…was that in May or June?

Bulbous body, lugged-on handles and flat top lids that sit on top of the lip versus my usual with was a recessed top for the lit to sit within.

I have a couple of more colors and a total of 12 teapot currently but some didn’t photograph well and some don’t have handles yet…couldn’t decide whether to continue with the hand-made bamboo handles or the store bought ones.

I have a beautiful copper teapot and a cobalt one that I’m eager to put the finishing touches.

These are definitely going to be available for sale on Etsy and the others will be on display at the next sale with Blossom Hill Craft’s Fall Sale on September 14th in Los Gatos.

Teapots are thrown on the wheel with Navaho Wheel mid-range red clay fired to cone 5, using food safe liner glaze and exterior glaze. Hand-washing teapots are recommended for use with tea. Maximum capacity of around 24-30 liquid oz. Keeps warm and holds plenty to share a cup or four!

Fall Sale at Blossom Hill Crafts in September!


Summer is coming to a close, getting my kids ready for the new school year.

It also means I need to get my inventory up for the fall shows/sales.

First one up is Blossom Hill Crafts in Los Gatos, CA. This is my first show with Blossom Hill Crafts, so I’m not sure what I will be bringing. I have new teapots, cups, bird feeders and water pitchers. It all seems a bit disjointed, but I have a few weeks to work on getting it all to look good together.

Those of you who are in town or visiting around that time, do stop by and say hello.

September 21-22, 2013
10:00 am – 5:00 pm each day.

Held indoors at the History Club of Los Gatos
123 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos, CA 95030

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Back to Teapots


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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!

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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.