Gifting Gratitude

During my last Spring class at Clayscapes Pottery I was gifted with two pieces from artists unknown. Appreciation of the gifts inspire awareness of the heart’s intent and energy connection of the artist.

 

Holding each piece and studying it allows my focus and intent to increase gratitude for its creation.

Thank you for these gifts.

Snowstorm Stella

I think I was conceived during the Buffalo, NY blizzard of 1966, and born later that year.  Being born in Buffalo I’ve learned the richness of being identified for a particular trait – in the case of the city of Buffalo, it’s Chicken Wings and Snow. As it turns out moving to Central NY brought another Snow perspective: Buffalo, NY typically gets a lot of snow dumped on her in a couple big batches, while Syracuse, NY gets her snow in a continuous deposit.  I believe Syracuse is a major contender for the Golden Snowglobe Award each year, many times over Buffalo.  

Okay, so what’s the connection between Snow & the magic and beauty of Pottery?

I was given permission to post this on my blog, courtesy of artist Carrie Koziel Althouse (visit www.althousepottery.com):

 

For The Love of Pottery!

A Wow’s Tail

A very good friend of mine asked if I could make a vase similar to one she already owned, but which was recently felled by her daughter’s cat.  My initial thoughts were “Wow!”, “What an honour”, and then, “How and when can I attempt this?”.

The vase she showed me was in pieces, was tall (14-16″), had a blue-purple glaze, and had an indigenous-looking depiction of a dancer.

 

Oh dear! My current pottery experience didn’t include anything over 8″!

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( by the way this isn’t me )

So I worked out a schedule, considering I was in the middle of doing pieces for Wood-Firing (a technique and process that I thoroughly have been enjoying!)  I told my friend that the earliest I could focus attention on her request would be 5-6 months. She was okay with that – WHEW!

The time came to give ‘er a try. I did have some Bmix Wood clay left and thought I’d experiment with that clay to allow my mind and body to get inline with my spirit to create a tall vase (taller than my usual 8 inches or so).

So off I went.. I talked with my instructor about my intentions and she suggested I try coiling. She provided some tips as I’ve never coiled before.

This was my first attempt:

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First attempt at coiling a tall vase

Let me share with you that I had to make a LOT of coils (and my back ached for a while afterwards), and had to keep them from drying out (in a large plastic zip bag) before I layered coil after coil. My coils were too thick (this I realized later). Looking back I think I may have been okay with thinner coils (I’ll give that a try next).

I wrapped the coils on the outside of a PVC pipe lined with plastic wrap. As the clay slowly dried I would check on vase – I would be pleasantly amazed on how tall (and bumpy from the coils) it was, and so heavy/sturdy. When it came time to trim I didn’t know what to expect. I soon found out that there were little spaces between the coils. Although looking solid, the vase did have what appeared to be little areas of gapping – nothing large that that you see through to the other side – but rather areas where the coils weren’t consistently flush. So I would trim the clay (on the outside and inside) to a degree of smoothness and then tend to the little gaps with some vinegar and reworking/smoothing.  It was about this time that I knew I had to seriously think about what type of bottom I was going to put on this baby. So I created a flattened bottom made with a slight curving in the middle, and attached it to the vase once it was slightly less than leather hard. I coiled the inside and outside where I attached the bottom. Whew! I felt so good doing this vase via coils, trimming and putting on a bottom.  Wow! A sense of adventure and accomplishment indeed – but I knew I was only 1/2 way to completion.

So while the vase with slowly drying still, I thought I’d starting throwing tall cylinders. I definitely had fun – BUT… and isn’t there usually always a BUT?  Something unusual was happening. As I was making the cylinders I noticed little air pockets in the walls. I would try to remedy this as I was throwing the clay and I would do more wedging of the clay before throwing it. Wedging is so very important for this fact alone – as no one wants air bubbles in their work. As stated on Lillstreet Art Center blog page, “The air bubble (will) expand when it is heated in the kiln and the air will have to escape somehow.  The point of escape (aka the size of the hole it creates) depends on the size of the air bubble.  Wedging also aligns the clay particles so that it is more workable.”

Wedging Technique (image courtesy of meeneecat education materials)

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( these are not my hands )

I soon realized that the whole batch of remaining Bmix Wood clay had this issue. My thoughts then entertained the possibilities of 1) making a decent wedge table; and 2) purchasing a clay Pug Mill!  Note: Pug Mills save your back, arms and shoulders from aches due to a) tons of wedging because the clay would be de-aired and would have more plasticity due to the mixing/pugging; and b) working hard to center clay that has less plasticity.  However, Pug Mills cost around $4,000+, new!  Quite an investment indeed.

In the meantime, back to my first coiled vase…

I knew this vase most likely wasn’t going to my friend as the requested vase, so I allowed this as an opportunity to play.  And boy did I play! I thought to etch or Sgraffito a design on the exterior – using a red underglaze.

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Coiled vase with red underglaze

I’ll post a photo shortly of the design, and of course a picture of the final product after the wood-firing.  Oh I can’t wait to wood fire these pieces!  Stay tuned, and thanks for joining me on this journey of the heart!


Here’s an update! (June 16, 2017)

These pieces are prepped to go into the next  Wood-firing scheduled for mid July! These have interior glaze of Gold Shino, with some having Gold Shino external accents.  Note a couple pieces have Chakra inspiration.

 

I have another set of pieces to prep. Going to use a different internal glaze, and will try to accent with some Native American honoring.

 

 

Time

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Have you noticed that there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do the things you Need to do, Want to do, and Have to do?

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Is this perception a matter of getting older?

Is this perception a matter of not prioritizing in a healthy and balanced manner?

Is this, at its root, simply a matter of perception based on one’s created reality?  Whoa, that’s deep!

I love creating with Mother Earth’s clay. I love creating with heart’s intent. I love sharing expressions of creation.

 

 

Thank you for letting me share this heart-based energy.

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Master Pottery Techniques in Less than a Year

That’s what I thought could happen, seriously, if I hunkered down, listened to what the Pottery Instructors were teaching, and within a year I would master some pottery techniques.  It’s nice to dream isn’t it! LOL

In actuality I quickly realized that my hands weren’t fashioning some beautiful art piece from the get-go. My fingers would wind up pushing too hard, not pushing hard enough, or I had too much water on my pieces or they were too dry, and this list could go on and on. And during this introductory period, while I realized that it was okay to get my fingernails dirty, and my smock all smeared up, I discovered brilliant moments of peace & serenity were to be had by simply working my hands with clay from Mother Earth. My little inner-child finally was coming out to play!

I worked the next several years to balance play, with learning the techniques, with doing. I am very happy to say that I haven’t mastered any techniques so far but I am definitely enjoying the journey.

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The Mug of Life Sojourns

The adventures of the Mug of Life reached a milestone at the end of 2016. I gifted it to my brother on his 54th year, at a birthday celebration that included old and new friends, and many family members. Of course after any level of gifting there’s always the chance that a gift can go quietly to the shelf, hardly ever to be touched again; so for this event I felt the need to communicate a little background of the hand-crafted piece before any time flowed elsewhere.

 

Here is a more complete storyline of the Mug of Life:

Mother Earth created clay through eons. At some point nearer this date a portion of the clay came through the hands of a gatherer, a processor, a seller and a buyer.

In the year 2016 the clay was picked up by my hands and formed on a Potter’s Wheel to become a mug.

The mug was created by me, as with all of my pieces, with the senses of Love. Even if simply the word LOVE was a thought in it’s creation, or if several forms of Love’s facets were expressed or experienced through to it’s recent milestone, the resonation of LOVE was echoed through its journeys.

An opportunity to revel in life’s dynamics came early in the mug’s existence when while trimming the clay I accidentally spun the Potter’s Wheel too quickly. This resulted in an altered mug. I looked upon the altered mug with a fresh perspective and relished the chance to ‘just go with it’. Soon enough a handle with a button thumb-rest was fashioned to the mug and then rested. It rested right through to the time of bisquing.

I knew the mug was created with the chance of being fired in a wood kiln. Anything fired in a wood kiln can produce some very cool results – and the mystery of the interplay of the elements is a huge draw. While the elements are known: the clay, the wood, the fire, the glaze if any, the wadding, the temperature, the duration, the ash, and the cooling – what is a big variable is the location of the piece in the kiln in relation to those elements.  It’s all so very very cool to see how the pieces come out.

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So before this Mug of Life came out of the wood-fired kiln, I knew there was a chance that the mug would have characteristics that may or may not be pleasing to the eye.

 

But that was okay. That’s life. Accepting what may or may not happen, is probably one of the largest life lessons one can hope to learn. It is what it is.

The mug came home with me. As part of my typical process, I took the mug to my 9 to 5 to try it out. I test the handle comfortability, the weight, the balance, the handling, the drinkability of coffee. I tried out the mug over several weeks and learned more about it than I’ve would have hoped or expected.  While the outside of the mug didn’t have smooth lines, curves or symmetry, it definitely had character in all of its senses.

When my brother’s birthday arrived I knew this mug was going to be his. Perhaps it was created to be his, from the get-go. That’s kinda cool to think about.

As I told my brother at his birthday party, while the mug may have dings, bumps, and “character”, its what he puts inside that counts.

That cute little mug, the Mug of Life, continues to teach me that even though life has ups and downs, ins and outs, and provides us with character through it all, ultimately its what we put inside (inside our heart, mind, body and soul) that counts – for our own soul growth and development.  So thank you little mug. Thank you for sharing your love and life, with my brother.  Amen.

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The “Mug of Life” Birthday Present to my Brother, December 2016