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Isculpt

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  1. Jed, it's the oddest thing. Nothing has separated out! It's consistent top to bottom....??! Bill did add sand from our creek to a small batch of clay but the jury is still out on that attempt to strengthen the clay. It seems that after the small pot that he made with the altered clay began to dry, it was stronger than a pot made with that clay before the addition, but while working it, it still felt hinky. I dunno....... Jayne
  2. Jed, I'll break out the quart jar and try your experiment first thing tomorrow (well, since it's 5 am and I'm just finishing up in the studio for the day, I guess it will technically be today...) Jayne
  3. Benzine, disregarding the smoke effects of the pine bark, the clay fires to a range of colors from tan to yellow to amber. Interestingly, I've noticed that the older pots tend to be lighter in color. About 20 years ago, we came upon an unsigned pot at a flea market that Bill instinctively believed to be the work of his grandmother's grandmother, although he'd only seen one of her pots in an old photograph. He told the seller what he believed it to be and happily paid the $18 price. When we showed it to the acknowledged authority on Catawba pottery, Dr. Thomas Blumer, he immediately and excitedly confirmed that it was a rare example of the work of Martha Jane Harris, Bill's great, great grandmother. A beautiful cork color, it is on the left in the photo attached. For the last five generations, pottery-making seemed to skip a generation in his family, so that the pot on the right is Bill's, in the middle is his grandmother's, and on the left is the pot we found at the flea market, almost certainly the work of his great, great grandmother. Jayne
  4. O.K., Lou. You're right. Grandma would prefer that Bill and the other potters find an indigenous solution! So he will try crushing the rocks that were removed and adding them back in. We read that grog can be added in at 10% for throwing and up to 80% for building. What would you suggest as a starting place for additions? And would you suggest adding only the crushed rock or combining it with sand and fired/crushed clay and adding that mixture to the too-fine clay? Or perhaps we should limit the variables and add only the crushed stone to one batch of clay, sand to another batch, and fired and crushed clay to another? It's hard to say if it retains the other traditional properties, since no one has gotten any further than half-built bowls with this clay. Bill came home from the tribe's Longhouse today chuckling about the fact that the other potters are blaming him for the bad clay, forgetting that when they saw what he had dug they immediately began digging in the same place. It fooled them all. But I think you've all figured out the problem, and just understanding what makes this clay "work" (or fail to) is a huge relief in itself. Now we just have to figure out the proper additions and proportions.... By the way, for the sake of simplicity, the tribe's employees are given the usual federal holidays, which includes - and yes, it is beyond ironic - Columbus Day, the day that Columbus "Discovered" the Americas! So Bill has a long weekend to play around with all these suggestions!
  5. Babs, Given that I have two very curious and large dogs who share my studio, I suspect that the Dandasana pose may do wonders for me but not for my production schedule! I can just imagine the broken sculptures that would result from working at dog-level! Jayne
  6. Lou, you made me smile with your reference to Grandma, which is indeed what even I called Georgia Harris. She would have been dubious about anything a "modern" potter could offer, but she would have been practical enough to consider it! On the other hand, with 75 years of experience as a potter, she wouldn't have been fooled by this clay vein! Since you like history, I thought I'd share this image of a turn-of-the-century Catawba potter named Sarah Harris. I can't imagine sitting as she is and working on hand-built pots! It makes my back hurt just thinking about it!
  7. My husband, who works 60-70 hours a week as Chief of the Catawba Nation and soooo looks forward to weekends when he can put his hands in clay, asked me to express his appreciation for all of your help. You have offered a lot of potential solutions and he will be pursuing them all in an effort to salvage this clay for himself and other tribal potters who were initially thrilled with what looked to be a fine clay vein. Wyndham, the Catawba reservation is an area of under a thousand acres about 30 miles southeast of Charlotte NC, and about 10 miles east of Rock Hill, SC. In 1760 the King of England granted the Catawba Nation 144,000 acres straddling the NC and SC border. In an illegal treaty, the state of South Carolina "purchased" that parcel in 1840, leaving the Catawba homeless until a white settler gave a 630 acre parcel to the state to be held in trust for the Catawba. The Catawba sued over that illegal treaty and settled for $50,000,000 and federal recognition in 1993. That parcel is the core of the present Catawba Nation.
  8. Lou, the clay is dug from what I suppose you would call river bottoms. Before there were vehicles, the Indians paddled canoes across the river to this patch of land to collect clay. (The clay was so desirable that the North Carolina Cherokee would travel - sometimes on foot - to South Carolina to acquire this clay from the Catawbas.) This clay is used to make small bowls, peace pipes, etc. But to make larger bowls, clay from a different area had to be added in at the proportion of 1 part strengthening clay ("pan clay") to 4 parts river bottom clay ("blue clay"). That clay could be found in many places. The clays, full of debris and rocks, are spread to dry in the sun, after which the debris and rocks are removed by filtering through a window screen. (Before there were screens, it was simply picked out by hand.) Then the clay is covered with water until it has become a smooth slip. That slip is poured into a pillow case or onto a cloth covered surface and allowed to dry to workable consistency. It is wedged and formed into coils. The process is unscientific, with the quality of the clay judged by feel, with one generation teaching the next generation. If you look at the earlier posted photo of Bill handing clay up to his grandmother, clumps of rejected clay are scattered around her feet. Traditionally, the clay has been strong enough to withstand a punishing firing system. After preheating pots next to a fire or in a fireplace (or for the last half century, in an oven), the pots are placed in the hot coals of a fire that has burned down. Then another fire is built over the pots with small pieces of wood. As that fire burns down, layers of pine bark strips are laid over the pots to smother the fire and create the characteristic shiny black and grey areas. This firing takes place on the ground or in a very shallow concavity, a method that is risky to the pot and to the potter. In fact, a tribal elder recently lost her home to a fire that spread when she was burning pots. Catawba pottery is not as widely known as many western tribes' pottery, but Bill's grandmother Georgia Harris had a one-woman show at the Renwick and is the only person to have been posthumously awarded the Folk Heritage Award by the NEA. In their press release in 1997, they wrote about Catawba pottery: In the western United States, many Indian pottery traditions thrive and enjoy wide recognition. In the east, however, few Indian pottery traditions survive, and only one - that of the Catawba of South Carolina - maintain a direct connection to the pre-conquest past. "The Catawba potters constitute the only group of potters east of the Mississippi River which has maintained this aboriginal art form in a nearly pure state from pre-Columbian times to the present" according to Catawba historian and culture scholar Dr. Thomas J.Blumer. So, no, there is no QC or use of witness cones or anything more nontraditional than using an oven to preheat the pots. I hope this answered your questions?
  9. Neil, it looks like there's going to be a lot of experimenting with different solutions. For your suggestion, what proportion would you suggest starting with? Could it be wedged into the wet clay, or would the clay need to be turned back to slip before adding silica and ball clay/fireclay? Thanks, Babs. Yeah, I like that picture, too. I remember that day as one of the best of my life. (probably because I wasn't standing in the ditch lifting out clay that ended up in reject piles around his grandmother's feet!) Jayne
  10. You say that you hollowed it out as best you could; how thick is the thickest area? I'm a sculptor too, and I'm not terribly particular about getting all the walls to be the same thickness, but I do try to keep things under 1/2". I would suggest that you preheat the piece for a long time if it hasn't been drying for more than a few weeks. I prefer to play it safe and preheat regardless of how long the piece has been drying. The alternative to losing a few bucks on electricity could be losing a sculpture that took you days to make, To me, there's no question which way I'm going on that decision. I've tried firing without a long preheat and with a long preheat, and I can tell you that it makes a huge difference. I never lose sculptures if I preheat, but I've lost week's worth of work allowing someone else to bisque it without preheating. Because it uses so little electricity, I usually preheat for about 12 hours under 200 degrees. Then I go with a slow bisque. There are posts on here regarding suggestions for a slow bisque schedule. Jayne
  11. Babs, I think this clay is well beyond saving with paper additions, even if it were an acceptable practice. Tyler, thank you for your insights into this. It all makes perfect sense, given the fact that the clay vein is located near the Catawba River in lowlands. Regarding digging deeper vs wider: this centuries old clay hole, long kept a secret from outsiders, was bulldozed over several years ago by the white owner of the land where the Catawbas have been digging clay for as far back as memories and stories recall. It was done to make access to other areas more convenient for the farmer who rents the land from the landowner! It was a blow, but the Catawbas persevered, as they always have, and resumed digging in the same area, although from atop the soil that had been pushed over the hole. For a better understanding of the subject, we will check out your suggested sources. Any other sources that you think might help would be welcome. The potters have no understanding of or knowledge of clay's composition; they've simply always gone by "feel" and this clay was deceptive in its feel. I've attached a photo, taken around 1985 of my husband standing in the former clay hole, handing up freshly dug clay to his 85-year old grandmother, who would tear away the undesirable bits and toss the rest into a bucket for her grandson to schlep out. That trench no longer exists. My husband dug 700 lbs of this clay that day, carrying it in buckets great distances to his truck. Is it utterly worthless as clay or do you think it can it be saved with additions? Grateful for the help, Jayne
  12. Wyndham, thanks for the suggestion. As it happened, I was just starting a long preheat prior to bisquing my sculptures, so we rolled out super thin pieces of the hand dug clay and added them to the kiln. Being paper thin, the bisqued bits of clayshould be easily crushed. Do you have a suggestion regarding the minimum % of additive to clay? That is, an idea of a place to start wedging it in and testing it? And Denise, that's a good idea for the long run. I'll look into just what my local clay retailer has. Highwater Clay's office is just a couple of hours away, so if it's not available locally, that's an option. Colby, your suggestion is imminently practical, but there is evidence that my husband's tribe has been making pottery in this area for ~6000 years, and continuing to follow the traditions is their way of honoring their ancestors. It is impractical, given what is now known about clay and firing techniques, but to stray very far from tradition would be considered unethical in the making of Catawba pottery. Thanks to all for offering help. My husband hasn't been able to reach the traditional clay hole for months due to rain, so finding that this beautiful, silky clay was unworkable was a real disappointment.
  13. My husband recently dug clay from a clay hole that his tribe has used for years, and the clay vein was so smooth that the clay peeled off the walls of the clay hole. He and other tribal members thought they'd found the best clay yet from that spot. It's now been dried, screened, soaked and dried to workable consistency. It wedged up beautifully but they find that the clay has no strength! A coil-built pot sags under its own early weight. His thought is to return to the clay hole and dig what he would consider poor clay, process it, and add it in. But I wonder if anyone has a suggestion about an additive that would add significant strength without drastically changing the color of the clay, which is a deep brownish- grey color, which fires to a tan or yellow-brown. This clay is slightly darker and more grey than the clay that is usually acquired from the hole, making us wonder what is missing. The pots will be burnished, preheated to 500 degrees and fired on the ground in the traditional way. Any help is greatly appreciated, since the clay hole is inaccessible during hunting season, which has begun. I've attached an image of a fired pot. Thanks, Jayne
  14. I use a heavy slip made from dried bit of clay softened in a small quantity of water, with wet toilet paper added at about 20%. Then the whole batch goes in a food processor, producing a silky smooth, sour cream consistency. If I really want to make sure a seam holds up, I'll make a coil from very soft clay and press it onto one of the slipped edges. , When I press the two sides together, most of the coil squeezes out, but it does a great job of sealing any uneven fits.
  15. Old Lady & Pugaboo, I love the collaboration. And Pugaboo, your new gallery additions are gorgeous!!!!
  16. Gitanjali, thanks for the suggestion. In my case, I don't use enough clay for your efficient idea to work for me, although it might for someone else.
  17. I really like that idea...even if I did just donate a lot of my more interesting canvas bags to Goodwill, darn it!
  18. What a fantastic article, Marcia! Instead of the trashcan and all the hassle of building a fire, I'm now planing to use my old kiln that sits on a covered porch. I was planning to use root kill, copper carbonate and rock salt, but he writes: "Aluminum foil starts to break up and become flaky between 1200°F (650°C) and1290°F (700°C). This means that most coloring oxides cannot be used because they have little effect below thesetemperatures. In addition, salts can attack the aluminumfoil, breaking it down." May I ask what your favorite additions are? So many of the things that are used in traditional western Native American firings are much more readily available in dry climates. (Dried cow/horse/sheep dung? Really? When it rains every darned day here?!) Thank you for sharing the article! Jayne
  19. This is probably obvious to everyone but me, but let's say I put a pot into a trashcan with sawdust and wood. When the sawdust and wood burn, they create smoke which gets on the pot creating color/shadings. If I wrap the pot in a foil saggar before putting it in the trashcan with the sawdust and wood, how does it get color/shadings? Doesn't the saggar block the smoke? I know I'm going to be embarrassed when someone points out something exceedingly obvious in this process that I should already know..... And while we're on the subject, why do people use masking tape to make patterns on a pot that they're going to fire in a trashcan firing instead of using wax to block the smoke and create those patterns? Jayne
  20. I love everything about this piece, from the strong, oversized hands to the benign facial expression, the coloring, the arrangement of the animals and the piercings to let light shine through. A magical, mystical piece.
  21. Tenyoh, how generous of you to take the time to share your experience through images and text. We all learn from each other. Although I helped you with a few suggestions here and there, you helped this seasoned craft show exhibitor to see a number of things from a different and fresh point of view. Great job!
  22. Mug is right about avoiding liquid nails, especially on slick surfaces. As a trim carpenter, I used it to attach heavy decorative moldings on the front of fine cabinetry and was surprised and embarrassed when it "let go" three years later.
  23. Thanks all. That's a great idea, NanetteV - keeping the quantity manageable and having a tube filled with clay that I can place on my cement porch and wedge with my feet as it dries. (Now if I can just keep the dog from peeing on it to mark it as his!) Marcia, I love the idea of the plexiglass. Like High bridge Pottery, I'm thinking of incorporating plaster into the stackable wire boxes. If I place plexiglass into the bottom of the wire box, how do I keep the plaster from sticking to the sides of the wood box frame so that I can remove the plaster and flip it over to the smooth side? Chris, I never thought of hardiboard or hardibacker. I thought of that product as water resistant since it is used as a tile underlayment but since it is 90% cement, maybe I've got it wrong. And Neil did mention using a cement floor, which I no longer have, thanks to laying tile over my studio's uneven cement floor, but maybe I should give a dehumidifier another shot. I bought a large 50-pint one last year, and found myself dumping water at least twice a day. But the reason I returned it to the store was that it produced so much heat and noise that I just couldn't stand having it in my small studio. Do I remember from previous posts that I need a special plaster to make a strong surface or can i use the plaster powder that comes in a tub from hobby stores? Recommended minimum thickness?
  24. Marcia, I don't have thick slabs of plaster (or a place for them) but maybe I need to explore that further. I've seen/read here and elsewhere about making plaster slabs. My impression of them is that they are exceedingly heavy, permanent, wood-frame enclosed structures. Is that accurate? Or is there such a thing as a thinner "portable" plaster slab? Thanks for the video CindyD. I've always wondered how clay was made, and although I use such small quantities that I won't be buying big bags of stuff to make my own clay, it's nice to know how to do it. Using his screen method, if your friend can dry a 4" deep trough of slurry in four weeks, I should be able to dry 1/2" bed of thicker slurry in a week, surely. My husband, who digs his own clay and makes very small batches, has some wood frames with screen bottoms that I'll try. It didn't seem that his clay slurry was getting dry any faster than my slurry poured out on sheetrock, but maybe I need to give it another go. Pres, if it didn't rain here almost daily, I'd sure try the pillowcase idea, and BigLou, what in the world is a Rootmaker pot?
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