Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Studio Time

This week I had to do a bunch of studio maintenance; cleaning, organizing, and other non-creative projects. Sometimes I wish I had an assistant to do such things for me! Ha! One thing I did was make cone packs with some leftover clay. Cone packs are used to test the temperature of the kiln when it is firing. If the kiln fires to the correct cone (temperature), or lower or higher, I will be able to find out by seeing the cone pack when I unload the kiln. I usually use two cone packs per firing; one on the lowest shelf and one on the highest. This way, if one of the heating elements is out I'll know about where it is.

I also loaded my kiln with some new test tiles. From an earlier post I wrote about using a new red clay body. After the bisque firing I was able to paint test some of my old glazes on the new clay. This weekend I will fire the kiln and find out how they look.

After loading my tiles I had about half of the kiln space left over, so I decided to make more tiles with the new artifacts I found on my artist date from earlier in the month. I am so excited about these new textures! I will be able to make some new images with my mosaics. Last summer I had many organic textures from the plants by the woods by our house, but this past winter we've had several freezes and many of the plants have died. That has forced me to find other sources of texture, which is actually a good thing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Artist Date

I got to take myself on an artist date this past weekend! I am reading a second book by Julia Cameron called Walking in This World. Any of you who are creative would benefit from reading her books. Yes, they are in the "self-help" section of your book store. But who can't use a little help here and there? I have to say that these books have helped me tremendously with my creations.

Anyhow, back to the artist date... The Artist Date is when you take your creative self out to do something that you enjoy - such as see a play, or go to the park. I needed some new textures for my clay (which I always do) and went to this old antique shop that I last visited about 10 years ago. I love old things. Locks, irons, tables, whatever. For me, though, in order to keep such things, they must be functional. I can't have a bunch of nick-naks sitting around my house. To me, it's clutter.

I spent about an hour scanning shelves and found some really neat things. Some old chandelier parts, a thermometer, a piece of iron - not sure what it is, and a wooden box. All of which will make some great new textures. I look forward to using them for my next batch of tiles.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pizza Stone

This week I'm making a pizza stone for my wonderful husband! He likes to make home made pizza for me every Friday night. Lucky Me! The last two commercial stones we bought have cracked in half after baking at high heat. I figured it is a pretty easy thing to make, and at the temperatures I fire at, the stones should withstand 500 Degrees just fine.

I start out wedging a large piece of clay - about 13 lbs. Then flatten into a disk and throw into a slab. I use my rolling pin to help keep it circular and flat. I roll out the piece using my height guides and keep it to about 1/2" high. I know the piece will shrink about 11% after firing and I make it as large as my kiln is wide, about 16". Once I am happy with the shape and size, I add feet to the stone. Then smooth out the clay so it looks nice. Any holes may breed bacteria... we don't want that! I then move it to a wood board to dry out a bit, then flip to check that it is level. Then let it dry completely before firing.

This is my first attempt at cookware. I hope it works out just fine. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Clay Valentines

This week I've made clay valentines for the kids in my playgroup. For this project I chose a low-fire, white clay that is mixed with paper fibers. When it fires, the paper burns out. This results in a strong clay that is lighter in weight than regular clay. I used paper clay because I wanted something lightweight and strong that is less likely to break when getting banged around by kids.

After rolling the clay to 1/4" high, I cut out heart patterns with cookie cutters. I then poked a hole in the top corner with a straw and wrote their names in the hearts with a wooden clay tool.
For this particular project I don't have a lot of time so I will glaze them as greenware and then fire them. Greenware is unbaked, dry clay. Normally I do a bisque fire - which is a greenware firing without glaze and at a higher temperature. The bisque firing is not really necessary, but I usually do it so that I can keep the bisqueware around until I need it, and then do a separate glaze firing. Greenware is very fragile and I don't like to leave it lying around the studio. I glazed the valentines in reds and pinks. They were a big hit at the playgroup.