Friday, January 14, 2011

Wall Pocket

Finally getting to my blog post for the week. It's been crazy - as always - but very good. I had a great time during my visit to the west side of the state. Spent some quality time with Laurie of Nature Connection of Kalamazoo (and our good friend, Linda from upstairs), talked long into the night with Julie (and had wonderful Indian her husband, Bob, prepared for dinner; how could they know I love Indian food?) and got some fresh air tromping around my friend Cleve's property, followed up by a delicious meal and artist talk for lunch. Not to mention a great time with the Calhoun County Master Gardeners - what a great new facility they have there at the Leila Arboretum, and what an enthusiastic audience! No wonder I was bushed by the time I got home Wednesday evening!

Been crazy in the studio, fabricating over 100 Deluxe Baby Daisies (don't ask) and more really cool wall pockets and platters; don't worry - you'll get to see (at least some of) them. And the big deal is I finally plunged into the huge Hanging Bird Bowl glazing project - 210 bird bowls, not to mention Mini Leaf Bird Feeders, Trivets and Spoon Rests, Toad Houses, Fairy Houses, Leaves and Wall Pockets. Five down; 205 to go!

And speaking of Wall Pockets, I thought I'd follow up on last week's post on the new Wall Pockets I'm doing with the Wall Pocket style I've been doing for a few years. Both of these projects are great because they require minimum tools - no fancy molds or cutting shapes; just a flat surface, some newspaper and a punch or two.

After rolling out the clay, I tear it to a shape that tapers to the bottom; I try to gear the size of the piece I tear to the size of the leaf (or leaves) I'll be using on the top. I lay this first piece, which will be the back, on a flat surface (I use shelves intended for a small kiln - perfectly flat and I can load them in directly if I need to) and punch a hole in the back to take a nail for hanging. Then I tear another slab of clay, wider at the top than the first piece, and, after scoring and slipping the two legs of the "V" it makes, I attach it to the first piece with a cone of newspaper to give it some support and create the pocket. I take some more clay, create two tapering coils and apply them to the top of the piece near the two legs of the "V" and squoosh them together so they look like twigs; you can apply some texture to these to make them more "woody". Having smoothed the remaining clay slab with a metal kidney (and here's a new tip - after using the kidney to get out the impression of the slab roller's canvas, go over the surface with your clean rolling pin to really get it smooth), I roll the leaf into the clay, cut it out, score and slip the back and apply it to the pocket. The wall pocket illustrated here uses Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) so I made some acorns using cut-out tools (use a slab and a round punch to get consistent sizes for the acorns; I apply some texture using burlap and use a rosette-shaped cutter for the cap; attach the two using slip) and applied those as well. The key here is, again, to dry the piece with the base of the "V" facing the fan, if you're trying to dry it more quickly (or it may crack, fatally).

Glazing is rather complicated, a seven-step process. I use a solution of Burnt Umber for the twigs, taking the excess off with a damp sponge to get some variation in the surface (Steps 1 and 2). I use a second stain or oxide for the leaf, using the same process (Steps 3 and 4). I do put ladybugs on these and use Amaco's HF-165 (Scarlet Red) or HF-167 (Clementine) for the wing cases and HF-1 (Black) for the spots and head (Step 5). I then use wax resist over all these surfaces (Step 6). Finally, I dip to glaze, removing the excess glaze on the waxed surfaces with a damp sponge. I fire to Cone 6 with stilts. These pieces are usually water tight but sometimes the clay does weird things and creates gaps.

Hope you're keeping warm out there. We had our first big snow (finally) this week and it was great to get out and make some mounds for the Christmas trees I've scavenged; I have my own mini-forest now and I love it!

No comments: