Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fancy Sunflowers 3

In preparation for our upcoming Garden Tour and other events coming up on the horizon, I've been splitting my time between the gardens and the studio - not always easy, having two taskmasters (not to mention the four cats!)  Monday was spent getting the front garden looking pretty darned presentable; yesterday it was mostly in the studio, trying to get caught up, cleaned up and basically getting into that creative zone.

Some of the work I've been doing is finishing glazing some more Fancy Sunflowers - I've a bunch of Deluxe Toadstools I need to fire up but they won't fill a load; these will help with that.   I'm actually glazing up quite a few using one of my (and my students', actually) favorite glazes, Lustrous Jade.  As with many of the other glazes I've been using for this series of pieces, Lustrous Jade does a great job of breaking over the edges which are so much a part of these designs.  Actually, the first Fancy Sunflower I did was a Ginormous Lustrous Jade piece, just like the one in the picture at top left. I had fabricated two Ginormous Sunflowers, one with a bubblewrap center, the other using a circular woven pandanus trivet I had found at Pier 1.  Having made them and knowing I wanted to take a new direction, I talked with my friend Tim Hanks about glazing options.  He encouraged me to use the Lustrous Jade glaze, so I did.  I actually like this center texture quite a lot, as it is reminiscent of the center of an actual sunflower, with the fractal arrangement of seeds.  I also use it in my Original Sunflowers with a praeseodymium yellow Mason Stain on the petals.  Both finishes look great for this design.  I made an extra-special Ginormous Fancy Sunflower with four rows of petals in this design for my living room, along with

Some years ago,  rendezvous-ed with my friend Kathy Evans down in Southgate.  I had a bad cold (caught in a storm spun off by Tropical Storm Ivan) and had to speak at Ray Hunter Garden Center and Kathy was going to meet me to pick up some pottery.  We decided to get Japanese at Black Pine there on Eureka road but they weren't open yet, so we did the obvious thing:  Found a Salvation Army resale store and trawl the aisles.  Kathy was looking for a shallow dish to use as a bird bath and found it in the orphan "chip" portion of a chip-and-dip.  The cool thing about it was the bottom was molded to look like a big, huge hydrangea flower head.  I asked if I could borrow it, to which she consented, and made a mold of it to use for my sunflowers.  For my Original Sunflowers, I use a red Mason Stain; for this series, I thought Chun Plum was the obvious choice to evoke the intense colors often found in these plants.  I made extra-special Ginormous Fancy Sunflowers with four rows of petals in this design, as well as the Jade and Indigo, for my living room; they make an impressive composition.  (P.S.  We did finally get back to Black Pine and had a great meal of Special Miso, Edamame, Veggie Tempura and Green Tea; I went right home, slept like a log - in spite of the tea! - and felt much better the next day.)

The one piece in this series which does not use an Amaco's Potter's Choice glaze instead uses a glaze that was given to me by my first pottery teacher, Gene Pluhar.  Dark Slate was one of my favorite glazes while taking classes with Gene and it continues to be a consistent performer for my oeuvre, mostly because it breaks a good brown where it goes thin but has an amazing greeny-blue people just love where it pools; it's a good fit for the other blue/green/purple colors in this series, making it excellent for mixing and matching pieces for a larger composition.  The center on this piece is actually from another kitchen serving piece, a plastic tray I was given by my Godmother, Aunt Nancy, for Christmas a thousand years ago.  I actually get quite a bit of use out of this tray, in the studio now, carrying stuff to and from the garage where the kilns are located.  The coolest thing about it, though, is the bottom - which looks like zebra striping.  I made a plaster cast of it as well, which I use to apply texture to the petals of my poppy and dogwood pieces, as well as for the centers of some of my sunflowers.  I think of my Aunt Nancy every time I use the tray, as well as whenever I see these pieces, which is a good thing.

The final piece in this series uses Amaco Potter's Choice Vert Lustre, a relatively new formula in that range of glazes.  The glaze has a good, deep green with some lustrous mottling which is especially noticeable on larger pieces or pieces with a good deal of texture.  The key with this glaze, or with any of these glazes on these pieces, is to dip or pour if possible; brushing - even the three coats recommended - is not going to get the consistent application you need and the glaze can only move around so much when it hits viscosity in the kiln.  I experimented with this glaze, both brushing and dipping/pouring and the results definitely came down on the side of the latter.

Although it's tough to tell in this image, the center is taken from a metal grid that has regularly-placed square holes; so, when the clay slab is slapped down on it, you get a grid-like series of square projections.  It makes for an oddly-machined look which is mitigated by the overall organic quality of the design, a dichotomy I find interesting and appealing for both my left and right brain.  The juxtaposition of the very regular form of the center and the organic placement and manipulation of each individual petal creates a tension between logic and creativity, basically a metaphor for my daily existence....

No comments: