Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pottery Class

Blog posts are few and far between for me these days. I've just finished up another six-month semester toward my degree in Information Technology with a Security emphasis. I have about a year to go, including the most difficult certification they offer and a final thesis I must propose and prepare.

Unrelated to the actual studies toward the degree, I have been engaged in two extracurricular activities. I go to English Country Dance once a week taught by Gordon Dodge. (If you've ever seen Pride and Prejudice you've seen that stylized form of dance. If you're curious, just Google the phrase English Country Dance to find a bunch of YouTube videos.) The second activity has been pottery class taught by Jerry Hendershot of Parched Earth Pottery. Cyndi, Emily and I have made a few pots to completion now, and here are the results.

I tended to prefer the glossy glazes in bold, primary colors often over a black base. Cyndi, on the other hand, utilized white and matte finishes with more natural and subtle color blends. This glaze was thick and near the bottom of the barrel, so my hand dipping resulted in a narrow band of glassy glaze near the rim which fired in place in three-dimensional heavy drips of deep blue over the natural clay base.

Here is a shallow dish about six inches across made by Cyndi. The crackle in the thick glaze appeared as the green glaze shrank and dried, and it persisted through firing.

This weighty urn-like piece has a blue glaze inside and out over a black underlayer. I had placed some texturing on the clay before glazing and that may have allowed a few air bubbles to persist under the glaze. I see a few bubbles in the surface texture of the glaze. I was working on maintaining control during the process of throwing the pottery on a wheel by trying to make a cylinder of even thickness and diameter greater than six inches high. With a bit more practice this will be accomplished.

Here is another shallow dish Cyndi made. It has white gloss outside though this photo taken at a high angle only hints at the white near the base. It has a wonderful blend of green earth tones swirling together inside.

I mentioned Cyndi prefers the matte finish, and here we see the flat black glaze inside and used for a few accent drips over a wonderful weathered bronze color which brought out the exterior texture of this bowl. We were shown how to make a foot on our pieces, and learned that it is functional in that the heat of food is not as readily transmitted if there is a ring of pottery which keeps the entire hot surface off a table or counter ... and it makes holding the pot to dip it into glaze much easier.

When I first threw a pot the clay took its own form, which was bowl shaped. This one made itself as one of my very first attempts. Mastery of the form requires attention to which hand presses the clay during throwing, and which hand merely acts as a backstop to keep the whole thing an even thickness. When I glazed it I predicted that it would be a rather boring form with a dull single color glaze ... but to my surprise the differing thickness of the glaze along with the subtle variations of the clay surface resulting from the manufacturing process created a wonderful range of colors from brown to blue-green. It is one of my favorites, and has already proven to hold water as we ate soup out of it! Yay, it does not leak.

Cyndi created this delightful bowl in green and white. It is a joy to behold and a tactile treat as well with smooth glaze over a sensual curved form.

I felt I had to provide two images of this final piece I'll show here today. The white glaze over black gloss dried with small cracks which opened even further during firing as the black underlayer repelled the white overlayer, creating what I call "bird tracks" which make me smile. If you were there when I poured a bit of white glaze inside and attempted to swirl it into a paisley form which would evoke memories of a yin-yang Taoist symbol you would have heard me express disappointment as the watery glaze took a path of its own choosing. As in life so it goes in pottery. We make our plans and try to control the results, which often have a way of ignoring us and then surprising us with the unexpected.

Here it is from the outside, showing the bowl form. I initially intended to just use blue over black, but it seemed too spartan and I then added the white on a whim, which in retrospect I deem a wise choice. Blue, white and black. They do go together well, to my eye. This one, too, has served as a soup bowl at dinnertime.

I'll admit that the process of making these was time-consuming; at times even frustrating. Cyndi started us on this path, by purchasing a Christmas gift of pottery lessons. Thank you! It was all worth it, and greatly appreciated.

Since this isn't a class that gives a grade, I'll provide myself with a "pass". And now, for extra credit, Raku! I have two bisque fired pots, and we'll be doing Raku soon. I can't wait.