Water, water everywhere

Lindsay Rogers was an established potter and resident at The Energy Exchange before returning to graduate school at University of Florida Ceramics. Tapped by Crimson Laurel Gallery, NC, to curate their fall cup show, Lindsay chose the subject of water, and invited a number of artists with diverse approaches to consider the topic and send works for the show, which will feature over 300 cups. Each artist is sending 5 cups.

There is a saying: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail. Yep. The challenge of “water” flummoxed me for a bit. Water? Water? I don’t “do” water. But that’s the whole point: to be pushed out of my comfortable studio orbit in collision with an outside idea. It was a perplexing, but refreshing challenge that let me open some new windows.

In 2004 and 2008 I visited Jingdezhen, China, and was amazed by the clay activity there. Among other wonders (like HUGE porcelain vases, platters and tiles) there are shops that print and sell ceramic underglaze and overglaze decals. Since I couldn’t fit inexpensive kiln shelves, handmade bent bamboo chairs, or the large size Tang dynasty horse reproduction in my suitcase, I settled for coming home with lovely small horse and a roll of decal pages. (These are now available in the U.S. – one vendor is Chinese Clay Art .) One of the pages I brought back is a graphic image of a pink lotus with a green center – a water flower. From there, I looked at symbols for water, and thought about a drop-shaped cup form and a handle that was wavy. Once the cups were made, bisqued, glazed, decorated, fired, and decaled, it seemed some of them needed some bling, so I used a gold luster pen and added some touches. If you haven’t tried one of these, they’re like using a felt-tipped pen. Ferro’s pen is called Goldrush. So easy, so much control compared to a brush. Way too much fun for something expensive. Uncap. Draw on clean surface. The lines are varnish-brown looking. Fire to 017 = bright gold luster. Very easy to do line work, dots, text.

I shipped my cups this week for Source Materials: an Exhibition on Water and the Ceramic Cup, which will be up at Crimson Laurel in Bakersville, NC, Nov. 3rd – Dec. 31st. See the show link for a list of artists. I appreciated Lindsay’s humbling challenge, and it has me thinking of how to look farther afield in my studio. The Clean Creek iron experiments earlier this summer were a great start. This was the icing on the cake. Being uncomfortable and clueless is a starting place, an opportunity.

Fired Results of Testing for Treasure

The iron and manganese glaze show featuring Clean Creek products has been bumped back to February to allow some of the participants more time. I’ve done my first round, and photographed some of the results. I still have plans to work on some pieces with the dark cordovan colored-glaze, and I have a lurid-looking cup that isn’t photographed yet, but here are some of the results in fired works. The oval servers are about 15.5″ L and 11 W, 2.5 high. Bring on the pasta. The rectangular trays are the size of a butter dish in length. Click on the thumbnails for bigger images and descriptions. See my June post for glaze info. My best shots at making brown look interesting.


Design Problem-solving

At the recent workshop at Peters Valley Craft Center, there were comments from some participants that they hadn’t often thought about design when it came to putting surface on pots. One of my favorite books for looking and thinking about design changes is architect Brent Brolin’s small book The Designer’s Eye: Problem-Solving in Architectural Design. Mr. Brolin has also written the excellent Flight of Fancy: the Banishment and Return of Ornament, which was re-published under a title I felt less useful: Architectural Ornament: Banishment and Return. It’s a great book about ornament, not just buildings.

As a fun fact, Mr. Brolin’s mother-in-law was Eva Zeisel, the remarkable designer.

Excerpt from The Designer's Eye by Brent Brolin

Excerpt from The Designer’s Eye by Brent Brolin showing the effect of off-centering the doorway.

The Designer’s Eye would not have been possible before digital image manipulation. A building detail is shown in 2 different versions, and a brief comment below remarks on how the change influences the way the building is seen. This is from a section on openings, and he conveniently shows another example of a teapot with an asymmetric opening. Basically, it’s a picture book with comments. The comments are often observational, rather than judgemental: not THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY, but that A gives a different visual effect than B, and you can see what works best for your own design goals. A way to practice visual sensitivity; good for your own works and for looking at other’s works for critique. Brilliant. Someone should do design make-overs with pottery. Click the image below to go to Amazon and pick up a copy if this interests you. Inexpensive used copies available when I looked. I think it’s a great look book.

Beautiful Peters Valley Crafts Center

Just back from presenting a 2-day workshop at the lovely Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. Great people at Peters Valley and in the class. Pretty country location: I saw deer, bunnies, wild turkey, and a heron. They have a big anagama firing coming up next. Thanks to everyone who came to the workshop and gave such good energy, and thanks to the nice people at Peters Valley.

Before I left I got a few cups out of the kiln from a decal firing. Lindsay Rogers is curating a cup show at Crimson Laurel Gallery for later this fall, and chose a theme of water. Initially, I was a bit flummoxed about what to do for the show… water? One of my early pottery teachers said you are destined to make pots like your body shape. In reaction to that, my studio life has been a quest to make rising volumes that lift in response to gravity. For the water show, it seemed right to make a cup with a low, drop-shaped volume.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to go back to Jingdezhen, China, for an NCECA symposium on ceramic education. Jingdezhen is the home of porcelain, with over 1000 years of continuous porcelain production. Ceramics is a major occupation in the city, and you see it everywhere. They make both screen-printed underglaze and overglaze decals there. I fell in love with the overglaze orange carp decals and the pink-and-green lotus image and brought several sheets home, waiting for a good excuse to use them. This seemed the place. Not only do lotus grow in water, but the story of the lotus-eaters is about forgetting. There is a huge local flap here about a permit for a mammoth cattle facility and slaughter-house in FL that will pump 13 million gallons of water per day from the Florida aquifer. One of the local paper articles here. So, I think in some ways we are all lotus-eaters about the way resources are consumed. Looking forward to finishing up a few more water cups in this shape. Below, cup in terracotta with majolica glaze and Chinese lotus overglaze decals. If you’re interested in exploring the Chinese overglaze and underglaze decals, Chinese Clay Art has them for sale online inexpensively.

Linda Arbuckle cup

Water Cup: Lotus-eaters

Images and The Art of the Cup: Functional Comfort at the Ogden Museum

Busy morning getting some work shot, invoiced, packed up and off to The Art of the Cup: Functional Comfort. The  show will run from Sept. 6th – Dec. 10th at the Ogden Museum at University of New Orleans. NOLA is always a good audience for beauty and comfort, and I’m pleased to be showing up there.

I knew I had to ship today, but discovered to my horror at 7 a.m. that they also wanted high-res images as well. Uh oh. Glad I could shoot at home and didn’t have to deal with getting a photographer. On my web site is a link to info about my photo setup. In undergrad school I minored in textiles loved to screen print fabrics until I had hand problems. As a practical fall-back, I decided photo would help me in any art career, and took less manual work than squeegie-ing ink on yardage. Those were the days of black-and-white film and silver prints in the darkroom, where a good day printing (like any deep studio experience) stopped all sense of time. Gainesville artist Jerry Uelsmann, international photo rock-star and UF Professor Emeritus, still prints his surreal images with silver process and multiple enlargers in a darkroom.Part of me misses the physicality of making b&w prints, but much of me is happy I can do quick digital documentation of my work at home. It’s within the grasp of most artists to learn to shoot serviceable images of their own work. Certainly, a professional photographer can really make glamor shots with great lighting happen, but many of us can’t afford the money or time to hire a professional. In the early days of digital photo, talk on the street was that it was a fun novelty, but would NEVER rival the quality of film. A lot of progress has been made. One of the advantages is that you can try any shot at no cost in materials, and take it to your computer right away to see how that lighting and those settings worked out for you. There are free photo programs available online. I can’t say I’ve used them (I use an older version of Adobe Creative Suite), but have read that the free Picasa and GIMP are popular. Adobe’s lower-end Photoshop Elements program is another budget solution to working with images. For very basic things, there are some tools in Microsoft Office’s Picture Manager. In Office 2007, it’s in the TOOLS folder of the program menu.

Basic image management probably includes adjusting any errors in color and contrast, cropping where needed, manipulating image size, and converting file format where needed. There’s a lot online to help people getting started with these mysteries. For the images below, the camera saw the fluorescent photo flood light as more yellow than my eyes, and I had to adjust the color a bit to look true. One of the images was a bit crooked and I had to rotate it a bit to look straight. The images were taken as RAW (uncompressed data) for any future high-end print use, and  large jpg for current digital and casual print use.

For web use or e-mail, images need to be made small. Please don’t send people print-sized images by e-mail. If you live in a rural location, as I do, with s-l-o-w internet, it takes nearly forever to download a huge file. Anyone receiving mail via a paid data plan, like on a smartphone, will not want to pay to look at your huge images.

Printers would like 300+ pixels per inch and need a big file to make a lovely print. Many cameras are set by default to take images at print resolution, as you can downsize images for other uses, but not up-size a small image for bigger use (they get pixellated and fuzzy if you do that.) Digital screens only render 72 pixels per inch – ppi. All the rest of  your 5 meg digital image is just wasted space and time if it’s just for digital only use. The original jpg images for those below are about 2.4 megs – that’s 2400 kb. The camera I use (Lumix G1) shoots at a high setting at 180 ppi, but a huge image: 21 x 15 inches. That means at 300 ppi, I can print a very nice image in the neighborhood of 10 x 8. The images below are re-sized in Photoshop for tidy digital use: 72 ppi, 10″ H x 7.5 or so W, and saved in Photoshop under the FILE menu, SAVE FORE WEB AND DEVICES, which compresses the file into a small size. Saved in that as a medium-quality jpg it’s about 30 kb of data (vs. 2400 kb+ in the original.) Still a large, crisp image on screen, but a polite, small file size.

Below, images of the cups I sent off to the upcoming Ogden show. I did send them the big files by e-mail, as they requested high-res images that they could use for print media, or make smaller for digital.

Linda Arbuckle. Cup with Sunflowers w Striped Top. Majolica on terracotta. 2012
Linda Arbuckle. Cup with Sunflowers w Striped Top. Majolica on terracotta. 2012
Linda Arbuckle. Tankard with Wisteria. Majolica on terracotta. 2012.

Linda Arbuckle. Tankard with Wisteria. Majolica on terracotta. 2012.

Working with drop molds with Chris Pickett

The web site is the 21st-century’s business card. UF Ceramics MFA alumnus Chris Pickett has a snappy new web site designed by UF Graphic Design student Marisa Falcigno. Marisa worked as a graphic designer before deciding to return to school for MFA study. She’s been a great consultant and designer for many people affiliated with Ceramics, and assisted Masters Art Education alum Jeni Hansen with her K-12 ceramics resource site for teachers, Oh Happy Clay!

Chris’s new site includes a fun process page that shows how Chris handbuilds his work using drop molds made from foam insulation. It’s a variation on forming slabs that uses shallow cut-outs to slump soft slabs into curved forms. I’ve seen people use plywood forms, but the stiff foam insulation sheets are easy to cut and light-weight. It’s a flexible method of adding volume in shapes to slab-building. Ceramics Monthly had a nice article about Chris’s methods in Dec. 2011. Chris is inspired by inflatable toys, mid-20th century modern furniture designers, and the seduction of touch.

Chris Pickett drop-molded tray, cone 6

Feldspar changes

Somone just asked me about a spar substitution. My experience is that for many applications, spar substitutions within the categories of soda spars or pot (potassium) spars have some leeway and will often endure substitutions fairly easily. Unless they don’t. The “pot” or “soda” spar refers to the dominant flux in the feldspar. I suggest testing, and I’d test the easiest fix first – substitute a spar you have, and see if it changes things in an unacceptable way. If it does, try the things suggested below. At home I’m still slogging through my big bucket of old majolica glaze. At workshops, I’ve had people use various substitutions, and other than some alternate soda spars deflocculating the raw glaze, it’s been fine. If you need to review floc/deflocc, see the  Ceramic Arts Daily video demo on this.

feldspar Idealized formula KNaO• Al2O3• 6SiO2

In the idealized (simplified) feldspar formula above, KNaO refers to any combination of sodium or potassium. K2O is potassium oxide – 2 potassium for every oxygen. Ditto Na2O. So KNaO maintains the 2 units of flux for every oxygen, but is shorthand for “any combination of” because they often operate interchangably and it’s easier to calculate if you overlook the distinction because if often doesn’t matter. An actual feldspar, say F4, will have traces of other oxides in it, and not be quite that simple. These small inclusions are often overlooked in calculation of glazes because they often are insignificant. Since sodium and potassium have different atomic weights, the weights of soda spar and pot spar differ in idealized form. If you plug in two K instead of KNaO, the weight is 556 units vs. 524 for sodium. So, you might get a weight difference if you jump pot vs. soda categories. It would be conservative to stay within K or Na family of the spar you’re substituting. Wikipedia on feldspar. Image from Wikipedia.

Info below thanks to NM Clay in 2010.  If you go to Brant’s blog post below, you can download the datasheets for the spars.

Soda Feldspar – Kona F4 There is a supply change in the Soda Feldspar Kona F4. It is not available from the mine any longer due to a fire and mine closure. We will have Minspar 200 available. They are both very close to the F4 in composition. A chemical analysis of the materials is below.

 Minspar 200 Feldspar  Kona F-4 Feldspar   Sodium Feldspar
CaO 1.50 CaO 1.70
~~~ MgO 0.05
K2O 4.10 K2O 4.80
Na2O 6.50 Na2O 6.90
Al2O3 18.50 Al2O3 19.60
SiO2 68.60 SiO2 66.80
Fe2O3 0.06 Fe2O3 0.04
Volatiles % LOI 0.30 Volatiles %    LOI 0.20

Minspar 200 was Formerly NC-4 Feldspar.

G200 update From Jeff Zamek Article from Ceramics Technical (November 1, 2009)

“G-200 felspar, mined by Imerys North America Ceramics, has been discontinued. While there are still stocks in potters’ studios and ceramics supply bins it will eventually join Albany Slip, Gerstley borate, Kingman felspar, Oxford felspar, and other materials that have gone out of production. G-200’s demise is based on economic considerations that potters do not control. Originally, G-200, as potters know it, was blended at the processing plant by using 70% Minspar 200, a sodium based felspar, and 30% HP G-200, a potassium based felspar. The blended felspars then became G-200 and were shipped throughout the United States.

The increasing costs of shipping Minspar 200 from Spruce Pine, NC and G-200 HP, mined in Siloam, GA, to the processing plant in Monticello, GA, a trip of over 200 miles, made this situation uneconomical. Potters are now faced with either using Custer feldspar in place of or finding a new potassium based felspar.”

Thank you Mr. Zamek I couldn’t have said it better or at all!

Laguna Clay will be blending G-200 so it will be available. G-200HP is the new product and according to Jon Pacini from Laguna the major difference is slightly more fluxing power, similar to (the also defunct) Kingman Feldspar of old.

Posted by Brant from New Mexico Clay Inc on his blog.



Online color resources

There are sites online where you can give the URL of an image, and it will deconstruct it into a palette.

This is what it did with my banner image:

Color Palette Generator results

On Color Hunter it’s similar: put a URL or upload an image, and it gives you the palette and the hexidecimal color numbers for web use.

Behr Paint has a website that helps you find your color combinations.

Color Schemer’s website helps you work from digital color to develop a palette of colors, and gives you some colors to go with your choice as well as letting you lighten or darken your palette.

Color research

Color gives emotional tone and interest to our visual world. Color can be indulgent, luscious. Many companies that deal with color do or subscribe to color forecasting and use color stories to shape a concept around a palette. Color services make a business out of selling subscriptions to color forecasting.

Lenzing manufactures fibers, and deals with color. The have free trend forecasts. Their Fall 2013/Winter 2014 forecasts are here.

Lenzing Majestic color forecast for Hands On – Fall 2113/winter 2014

To quote from their Hands On theme for the season:

To make with your hands; craft, handmade, artisan and all derivates … along with creativity going from designer-artisan to digital-craft; the user sensing the affection the maker put in making an object. Does mass customizing develop different identities by proposing 613 types of socks, wanting to match everybody … when is more too much?

To create smart engineered designs; incredibly inventive thinking out- of-the-box is unfolded to find ways out of the huge challenges of the present … and of the future.

To be responsible as producer and supplier is an unavoidable claim from the user.The consumer demands that pleasure links to responsibility, that grandeur and beauty is not the opposite to liability. Everybody takes on ones shoulders to make the sensible choice innumerable times in everyday-life … the consumer-driven community is pace setting.

This is how we conceive all this to be, on the fashion scene, through our themes: ELITIST, MAJESTIC, SYNTHETIC, EDIBLE and STORM.

Go to their web site to see more about how they interpret Elitist, Majestic, Synthetic, Edible, and Storm. I love the rhetoric that goes with the forecast. Some are waaaay over the top and not linked to the visuals, but most are a fun way of making choices and organizing them into a coherent group.

I subscribe to a few big, colorful magazines, like W from Women’s Wear Daily,

Color studies from magazine clips

because they are cheap eye candy and give me a lot of material for what a certain zeitgetist has going on, and great resources for color development. It’s hard to make time to do this in a busy day, but it’s worth “playing” now and then to research. Look at colors that catch your eye, or think of your own color story word and go from there. In magazines, color is surrounded by other color and image and often reads differently in context than as a swatch. It’s an interesting exercise to remove color from image and adjacent color, and see how you perceive the hue. Move the colors around into groups, and think about what’s next to what, and relative amounts – it’s all important in how a color palette works. When you’re happy, glue them down on paper. THEN, cut a small window out of a blank white paper, and use this as a “finder” to vignette your compositions and further refine the proportions that look good to you.


Other People’s Blogs

It’s summer, and I’m doing desk archaeology, trying to clear off the mounds. Clay Times magazine from Winter 2010/11 had an article on blogging by Albert Avi Arenfeld, and a list of other people’s blogs. Some of my favorites below.

Michael Kline         Sawdust and Dirt .  Thoughtful content. Great guest writers.
Mignon Khargie      Plate a Day.  Every day, a new plate to see. Great archive.
Christa Assad        Christa is a firecracker and an active, rewarding blog author
Molly Hatch            Stripes and Dots. – views and info on historic and contemporary ceramics
Naomi Cleary         Melt My Heart . Newsy blog about her own studio and beyond

Beyond the blogs from the Clay Times article, I also enjoy:

Ben Carter              Tales of a Red Clay Rambler. Ben has great posts about his experiences in China, observations about pottery and potters, travels.Great July video clip on using color and pattern on pottery form.
Meagan Chaney       Meagan Chaney Studios. Lowfire Fridays are fun for earthenware glaze development.
Chandra DeBuse      Virtual Sketchbook. Lively, mixed observations.

Not a blog, but a good online stop: The Louise and David Rosenfield Collection. Louise and David have put their collection of 1800+ ceramic objects by noted artists online.

Meagan Chaney glaze tests from her blog.