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Then & Now – Sheep

When I was doing pottery full time my sheep obsession came full circle with putting sheep on the pottery. It never made it to the website as an option but I would bring it to all the shows I did.

then-now-oldsheep

Slowly the fiber took more of my time and I didn’t throw my pottery but we still had the big casting studio so I used cast ware to still provide sheep mugs

travel-sheep-green

That mug was just done last November before I started to throw mugs again. Now we have mugs that look like an interesting cross between the first sheep I used to do and the ones I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.

then-now-sheep

They couldn’t ever be exact because of the changes in clay and glazes but I rather like the new one I’m doing…

Glaze Formulation

I tell myself each time I start to formulate that there has to be someone out there that hits the right glaze on the first try.  And today that person might be me!  Coming up with glazes isn’t for the faint of heart. Its seriously one of the most frustrating and then hopefully rewarding parts of being a potter. You have to be ok with failing.

I have failed a lot. Though, all you need is one success to wipe away all those failures and make it really feel like you can do this “thing”.

I can do this thing.
I told myself this over and over again while making the majolica glaze I’m currently using.

Did I have enough boron in that formula?
Too much tin oxide? Do I even need that?
Was it the wrong Frit?
Maybe if I fired at a different cone?

stacks-test

I have a stack of old bits of failed glazes just hanging out waiting to be dumped. Really I’m done testing with them so they can go away and never come back thankyouverymuch. I have my glaze.

rosesheep

Its final test before a full size piece test was this:

final glaze

But before it was that it was this:

almost there

and this:

better

and worst of all, this:

onmyno

I now have my formula for majolica that is based on but not exactly the same as some of the glaze recipes I found online. They’re a great place to start. I also now fire to a cone higher than I expected to but am pleased at how the pottery and glaze work at that temp.  I learned a few things that I’m sure I’ll forget the next time I formulate but it’s all fun right? It is once you get past the frustration anyway.

 

Paper to Pot

Sometimes I use a pot as my test piece. I can of course completely wash off the glaze and start again if it’s awful or just not what I wanted. Still I have some time here and there when I’m not in the reach of a piece of pottery to paint on but I do have my watercolors and paper. I find myself sketching little motifs that will hopefully translate well onto pottery.

sketchtoplate-1

Sure the colors are going to be different, they just don’t always match up and I don’t necessarily need them too. I do have a tendency to paint a little different once I get a piece of pottery in my hand but the idea is sometimes all I’m looking for. There are the times that it’s a pretty good translation

sketchtoplate-2

There are also all the those times that a watercolor just won’t translate. Sometimes you really don’t know how a piece will fit. A flat square watercolor doesn’t always translate onto a shapely mug. Many of my old designs were just smaller motifs that worked with a shapely mug or bowl so now I find myself telling my hands they need to make more “square” feeling items for those designs that just won’t work as well on a sexy mugs with big hips. In those cases when a patterning won’t work, it’s back to the drawing board for either the painting or the pottery shape, or maybe both. I’ll talk more about successes and failures as I continue.

Making Templates

I have a favorite template. You can see it in a lot of the plates that I post.

templates-5

Since it’s a favorite, I need to have it in more than one size. I started out making a smaller shape for a tiny bowl. I started with a cutout like you see above and folded it in half where the design met up and then in half again – you can see how simple this design shape really is

templates-4

Then, I simply cut off about 3/4 of an inch keeping with the design. It could be drawn first but I just cut away.
templates-3

Making it bigger takes a little more effort and there are 2 methods. The first is one that never really works well for me but I know others might have success with it. Sometimes it depends on the shapes you are copying. I lay out the pattern and trace around it then using a compass, draw a line out. This wasn’t big enough so I drew one more time. You can see the design got distorted.

templates-2

To fix that, I drew lines straight out from the major design points and then re-sketched my design so I could have more crisp hills. Then I cut around the piece leaving a little bit around the edges. I just needed to be able to match it all up.

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I folded just like I did with the first piece and in cutting I cleaned up any non-symmetrical issues.

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For my final even bigger template, I folded a large piece of paper into quarters like I did with this one, Then traced the design on there, marked my points of interest, measured out the increasing distance on those points and drew my shape. It was easier because I only had to draw one quarter of the final plate template.

templates-7

Voila! I have 4 different sizes of matching plates/bowls now.

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Soon I’ll show you what I’ve been making from each of these sizes…. that is if you haven’t already sneaked a peek from my Instagram.

My Life is Color

I spend a lot of time with color. With fiber and with pottery. It’s all about color with me. Not that I don’t like the natural look of clay or of a fine fleece, I just want to add a bunch of different naturals together at least. Really though, I’d rather paint it all.

This is a big reason why dipped glaze stoneware didn’t capture my attention for the long term. Sure I could have painted on it but majolica has always been a love of mine. I spend a lot of time thinking about color.

If I’m not painting fiber
fiber
or pots…
beetles

I’m painting watercolors…
watercolors

or I’m just searching around looking for landscapes pictures.
landscape-1
Anything that will inspire me.
landscape3
Not necessarily to inspire me to paint that picture exactly.
landscape-8
It’s all about the colors themselves that I can translate into some other piece.
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Nature just seems to get it right, even when the colors are just value changes.
landscape-2

Then & Now – Serenity

There was a paint design that I always called Serenity. Most of the designs I had were plain descriptive or about the main flower/animal that showed up in them. For some reason, even if it was mostly what I said in my head, I called this design Serenity.

serenity-then

Last year I decided to bring this pattern out and add sheep to it. I’ve mostly only been painting sheep mugs for the past few years but I had a smidge more time on my hands and I wanted a more elaborate sheep pattern.

serenity-mid

You can see even though I was using the same paints that the style had already started to change. Well, it’s changed even more now. I’m not sure I’d even call it by the same name but to me it’s got a similar feel.

newserenity

In the past I worked to obliterate all notice of white in the designs. Now I really am embracing it more. This design may still morph some and more of the white might be lost but for now I love the shabby chic feel of it. Its not my usual style and maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it. It’s a little more subtle than I usually am.

Mug Shapes

These are the 3 main mug shapes I used to make and they were all really shapely.

The paintings and sketches I’ve been doing require a more flat painting surface. I’ve been playing around with a bunch of different shapes and sizes. I’ll weigh out my clay and then see what happens at the wheel. Sometimes, my hands just make what it remembers…
mugs-variationontheme

And the rest of the time I make what I know I want.
mugs-flat

Sometimes I do the same shape in different sizes to see what really is the right size for the right shape.
mugs-2sizes

The shapes are all ideas but they don’t really seat themselves as a style until I do a series of them. I’ll take my favorite shapes and make a series. I weigh out the clay I need and make 5-10 of the same mug. Somewhere in that line a shape will show itself.
mugs-series

It’s similar to the original test though it may not be exact. I’ll work this way for all of my favorites and then we’ll see what emerges. In the past I get really hooked into one style and stick to that. Right now I’m thinking I want to do 2-4 styles depending on the painting I want to do. It might be possible that one mug shape gets only one style of painting. I have to get working in multiples to see what emerges and what works best. There will likely be a lot of one offs and super limited  pieces coming.