Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Small Lace Kimono Yarn Bowl

Just less than a year ago, I ran into the owner of a yarn shop with whom I had had a not-particularly-successful retail relationship. We had really connected on the theoretical level: She strongly believed in the artisan tradition and wanted to support it by offering other art in her shop. Unfortunately, the folks shopping there didn't even really "see" the pottery she was offering because they weren't expecting to see it there. (I could tell you dozens of stories of folks who have been to my booth at numerous events who have said to me, "You've never had those before!" about an item I've been showing for ten years; selective vision is a reality.) Anyway, we encountered one another again in February 2012 and she inquired as to whether I'd be interested in working on a few projects with them, including buttons and yarn bowls.

I tried out a few ideas and developed an interesting line of lace-embossed ceramic buttons. As I don't throw, however, the yarn bowl concept was more... challenging. It wasn't until I saw a slab-constructed cup at Rovin Ceramics that I figured out how I could tackle the project using my preferred technology.

In designing a Yarn Bowl, there are a couple things to consider: (1) We don't want the yarn rolling all over the place, hence the bowl, but the bowl has to be roomy enough that the ball or cake of yarn can move freely as it unwinds; and (2) there has to be a slot and/or hole through which to feed the yarn smoothly. The slot vs. hole thing perplexes me. I've been told the slot is preferred because then the fiber artist doesn't have to break or cut the yarn; but I've knitted, and eventually you either do have to break or cut the yarn if you're changing colors and the skein is gonna end sometime, regardless. But, regardless, there are folks who want a slot and not a hole through which to feed their yarn.

After a couple of false starts (clay way too plastic; slab too thin; bowl way too big and tall, lots of warping), I came up with a design for a small ball of yarn (suitable for skeins of cotton and/or silk blend yarns) which I'll be able to translate to a larger size for chunkier, wool and wool-blend yarns. Realizing the piece will shrink ten to fifteen percent, I figured out the final diameter of the bowl I wanted to create and factored it by 1.15 (for the shrinkage). I multiplied that by pi (3.14) to determine the circumference I needed for that diameter. I decided the height should be a bit more than the diameter to keep the yarn from popping out.

After rolling out a sufficiently large clay slab, I rolled in an oblong piece of lace for texture and, using a carpenter's square, cut out the size slab I had calculated. Flipping it over so the lace texture was on the bottom, I used the same square to mark an inch up from the bottom and then marked four sections across the bottom and mitered at those marks and at either end, to make the bottom of the cylinder. Cutting a square slab of clay slightly smaller than the desired diameter, I folded up the mitered sections and rolled the large slab into a cylinder, so the miters all met in clean corners

Scoring and slipping the edges of the cylinder and the top of the base slab, I knitted the seam together and positioned the cylinder on the base. Using an icing knife (it's amazing what uses I can find for the tools of other trades!), I clean up the miters at the bottom of the inside of the vessel and pinch the outside corners together with my fingers. I also smooth the seam with a wooden tool. I wanted to make the seam both secure and interesting, so I cut out flat clay medallions using the same lace pattern, scored and slipped the undersides and affixed them along the outside of the seam. I then set the pieces aside to dry until leather hard.

Once leather hard, I cut out the holes in the middle of the medallions in the lace-patterned sides of the pieces and cut a slot down to one of them as well. It is very important to not do this until the piece is leather hard, as the clay will warp as it dries. I even put a large rubber band around the outside of each piece to keep it as aligned as possible as they finished drying. Once dry, I cleaned the pieces up with synthetic steel wool, keeping in mind there should be absolutely no rough spots to catch on the yarn. I then bisque fired them to Cone 06.

I had thought a lot about the glazing for these pieces. they reminded me of traditional kimono for some reason, with the textured brocades of the obi and the juxtaposition of non-analogous colors. I decided to finish them with two overlapping glazes, using the Amaco Potter's Choice Temmoku first and then overlaying with more brightly-colored selections from the same series, including Indigo Float, Lustrous Jade, Vert Lustre, Ironstone and Textured Turquoise. I was very pleased with the results, as the glazes and glazing technique further enhanced the lace texture.

These pieces work great for finer-textured fibers, including silk and cotton blends. I'm going to make some larger ones for chunky wool blends next!

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