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#71935 Red Earthenware Appropriate For Pit Firing?

Posted by Isculpt on 15 December 2014 - 08:23 PM

Thanks, all.  Some of you remember the recent fiasco with the 500 lbs of hand-dug clay that looked like it was going to be great clay but had no strength whatsoever.  My husband dug it from the traditional tribal clay holes, and despite all the helpful advice offered here, and additions ranging from creek sand to crushed fired pots, nothing seems to help.  He's using it for pieces that are under 3-4", but his hands are itching to make real pots.  Until he can return to the (now off-limits) clay holes, he's looking for something that approaches it in color.  Nothing at the Highwater Clay site looks similar, but he's hoping red earthenware might give him something like the image below (after firing it with wood & bark in the traditional shallow indentation in the ground).  We'll see.....!



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#71836 A Big Decision...

Posted by Isculpt on 14 December 2014 - 03:35 AM

There are two things that you must keep in mind if you go this route: You aren't dealing with a hobby shop or a flea market mentality, so....

1)  you will need to set a retail price for your work that allows you to give up 50% or more (shipping costs come to mind in addition to the fact that some galleries want more than 50%, so you may need to retail a $35 piece at $80 in order to get $35 for it.)  You tell the gallery owner that your wholesale price on that mug (that you've been retailing at $35) is $35 or $40 or $45  Do not disclose that you've been having trouble selling your work for $35 retail!! That fact is irrelevant because she knows her market and what they will pay. HOWEVER, once you've announced that your mug's price is $40 wholesale, you can't go back to selling that mug at $35-$60 retail. It is a very difficult thing to do, to walk out of that gallery and double your prices for all other venues, especially if your work hasn't been dancing out the door at $35.  But gallery owners take a VERY dim view of artists undercutting them by selling the work for less in other venues.  Frankly, It seems only fair for a gallery owner to expect you to retail your work for prices close to if not matching the prices she'll be charging.  She isn't just selling a piece or two of your work, she is helping you to build a clientelle while creating an artificial "value" for your work (as all values are artificial),  To undercut the gallery is to announce that your work really isn't worth what the gallery says it's worth, and that would be very short-sighted.  Most gallery owners will drop you like a hot potato if they find you doing that. 


And yes, I sell my work at craft shows for the same thing that it sells for in a gallery.  At a craft show, I may pocket about 80% of the gross instead of the 50% i get at a gallery.  But that gallery is there every day working to promote me. And as painful as it is to give up 50%, in the end, that relationship pays off.   Jayne

#71803 Food For Thought - E - Course!

Posted by Isculpt on 13 December 2014 - 02:56 AM

I'm with Paul at Bciskepottery and John Baymore on the idea of a Pay-per-view approach to the Potter's Council conferences.  I can't always afford the travel cost or the time away from the studio, but I salivate at the descriptions of the conferences I'm missing.  This is assuming of course that the Potter's council is willing to, and capable of, making useful videos of the conference demos and lectures...



#71802 My First Show!

Posted by Isculpt on 13 December 2014 - 02:22 AM

When I first started doing shows, a customer picked up a piece and asked "Can you do any better?"  In my insecurity and self-doubt, I misunderstood the question.  I took it literally and replied that I was quite proud of the piece and that someday I probably could do a better one, but that I thought it was pretty darned good.  The customer just stood there looking confused, but she forked over the asking price while agreeing that she thought it was very nice, too.  Experienced craftspeople next door praised me for my quick thinking and clever response, but it wasn't until they told me that she meant "Can you do better ON THE PRICE" that I realized what she'd meant  On the rare occasion since then when I've been asked if I could do better, I've deliberately misunderstood the question, telling them how it's made and the difficulties encountered and how pleased I am with it.  They're always too embarrassed to correct my "misunderstanding" and they always buy it!  

#71719 What Are Your Favorite Animals?

Posted by Isculpt on 12 December 2014 - 12:21 AM

Okay, that brushwork on that fox was primo.  I'd like to achieve that kind of essence, but detail gets in my way.  It's like I can't stop myself. I don't make many animals, but turtles are my favorites, and birds are my least favorites.  I study the bodies and wings of birds and yet still mine come out looking like cartoons, mostly really bad cartoons.  But here are two of my turtles and a recent owl that wasn't too bad and a stylized raven......

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#71616 What Are Your Favorite Animals?

Posted by Isculpt on 10 December 2014 - 02:04 PM

TheGuineaPotter  I may not be a lot of help...most of my animal-clay pieces are only masks.  I am sitting here with a copy of 500 Animals in Clay and will refer to that book for reference. The paperback version is about $15. The book has realistic to completely whimsical animal pieces...I lean toward the whimsical.

My masks hang out on the walls of my studio...its a little like having company while I work.  I'm not even sure what animal this is, but he seems friendly enough when I walk in:



Paul, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that mask!  And no, I've never claimed  triple-love for anything on CAD!   Jayne

#71428 To Sell Or Not To Sell? That Is The Question

Posted by Isculpt on 07 December 2014 - 11:11 PM

RiaV, I feel as though you express something that I am repeatedly tormented by. I feel as though I cycle, perhaps in a spiral moving forward, but cycle always back into the awareness that I spend huge amounts of my time pursuing exploration of something that is, on the one hand one of the most absorbing pursuits I have ever encountered in my life... and on the other involves environmentally wasteful production of "stuff". Sometimes that stuff is art, and sometimes that stuff is shards.

For better or worse, I cycle into trying to justify the money, time and production of "stuff", sometimes joking that it is therapy (which of course, it is), or I turn to vending it, as though being able to gather money for something makes it more justifiable. Part of the vending part is pushed by being in a community studio, where some indeed produce to vend, while others are in that early stage of "each glazed thing is precious". Their incredulous shock as I smash yet another 'not quite good enough in my eyes', usually evokes a "WHY didn't you sell that!!!". Sigh.

But who am I to compete for $$ at art fairs and markets against artists who absolutely depend on sales to pay the rent? Before I ever attended a market, I had this check list: 1) do I present objects of a level of skill that I am contributing to a high quality of "stuff"; 2) does my well crafted stuff have a unique(enough) nuance to be contributing to making the... art world? pottery craft? something like that... a better place? 3) are prople drawn to my stone chunks because *I've* put something into them?

It took me years to decide that I'd met those three criteria, yet never answering the predicate of who am I to compete for $$. I apologize if I seem indulgent to write this here, and I thank you for reading this, but almost nothing in the 'ethics' side of ceramics describes a constant turmoil that is my constant companion in this journey. The only thing that seems to release me from this potential paralysis is stumbling onto a new challenging technique, and for this forum/website I am most grateful. The challenge always returns me to the studio.

As to the stuff? I stop hard at the wet stage and pull it from production; nearly ruthless at the greenware stage. It's got to be really good to get fired to bisque. Clunky at the bisque hits the hammer, for at least it helps landfills at that point. At the end of the year, I donate end of the year left overs to a high school sale that supports the ceramics program. I sell a little on consignment at a cafe. I move on.

Drmyrtle, the conversation has moved on to more practical concerns, but I deeply respect your ethics about the production of what you term "environmentally wasteful stuff".  I wish that someone more articulate and more poetic than I had responded to your concerns, but since they haven't done so, I'd like to try.  


I suffer from some of those same concerns, but my conscious isn't as fully developed as yours, since I do sell my work even though the world doesn't need another "thing".  Or does it?  When I was young the world itself was enough to pry open my practical carapace and expose my sensitivities, but as I get older, I find that it takes more to make me "continuously imagine what I do not know", to paraphrase an essay by Lisa Samuels on the value of beauty.   A graceful pottery form, a rich glaze, an unexpected combination of colors, a lovely motif or intriguing texture....these things remind me (and surely others) to do much more with our numbered moments than simply plod along to the grave!  


As for concerns about the expenditure of time and money:  A friend who expressed the same concerns to her budget-conscious husband received a wonderfully generous and logical response:  "Every human has the need and the right to create beauty, however they define it.  What if you had decided to take up ballroom dancing to feed your soul rather than creating pottery?"  Hmmmm. "The right to feed the soul"..... As someone who has always needed to "pay the rent" with my creations, I've never felt guilty about the expenditure of time and money, but the (now) obvious truth that I am fully entitled to feed my soul never quite occurred to me, either!   And as to whether the final result of all that time and money merits the expenditure, I am reminded of a story by Pearl S. Buck in which a friend's severely mentally handicapped child spent joyful hours each day arranging and rearranging colorful scraps of cloth into what were to him sublimely satisfying works of art.    


And as one of many artists/craftspersons who choose to "pay the rent" or even just purchase non-essentials with the earnings from sales of our work, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to our ranks!  We don't begrudge you those dollars!  Every dollar earned by anyone is earned through some kind of competition, so put that concern to rest right now!  


In conclusion, Drmyrtle,  you are entitled to rearrange those scraps of cloth to your heart's content because you are human, and the desire to create beauty is surely one of humankind's noblest traits. 

#71330 Lettering On Clay

Posted by Isculpt on 06 December 2014 - 11:11 AM

Well, now Ms. Babs, THAT is an open-ended question!!  Would it be referring to my recent problems with my first attempts at using "real" glazes?  Or my queries about how to join glazed surface-to-glazed surface?  Or my worries about making a vase waterproof?  Or my warped sculptures that rocked like rocking-horses even when they were meant to stand steady and still?  Or perhaps the crappy clay that my poor husband dug 500 lbs of, then toted it in buckets across muddy fields only to find that it has no strength?  ORRRRRRRR – drumroll, please - the results of my second craft show in 5 years, in which I dared to hope for sales that matched last year's record-breaking (well, record-breaking for me) $5100?  I'm just back from the show and pinching myself because, even though most of the 32 sales were in the under-$250 range, I sold $6200 worth of sculptures!  For pictures of some of the new work, check out my gallery - and then tell me how to delete most of the newer images because I accidentally posted the unimproved images instead of the cleaned-up ones!  


Arrrgh! With the exception of the successful show, this post reads like an episode of Perils of Pauline!   

#71317 Lettering On Clay

Posted by Isculpt on 06 December 2014 - 12:45 AM

One alternative to indented letters is a beautiful solution by Diesel Clay.  When I asked how he achieved such impressive lettering, he generously provided this response: 


"Because i was making so many of those mugs, I went to a sign shop that has a plotter and had them cut me a stencil of the phrase out of Mylar. Then I took clay body slip and pushed it through the back side of the stencil onto strips of newsprint. Let the letters set up a minute or two, and then apply the strip to the soft leather hard pot. Don't remove the paper until the letters are fully set up. Best to leave it on until it falls off, in fact."


Pretty darned clever, huh?



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#71316 Lettering On Clay

Posted by Isculpt on 06 December 2014 - 12:36 AM

I use metal lettering stamps produced by Chip Art for the scrapbooking industry.  They come in a variety of typefaces, sizes, and upper and lower case letters. 


After I stamp into the slightly leatherhard clay, I bisque the piece and then apply a wash of underglaze (or for a slightly metallic look, I use the copper color of Mayco's "Stoneware Wash").  I apply either underglaze or Mayco glaze diluted 1:1 with water to keep it from dyeing the surface of the piece too much.  I then scrub it off with a generously wetted sponge, which leaves the color in the crevices formed by the letters.  Be aware that unless you apply a resist, the washes will remain in all crevices in the piece.


The stamps can be ordered from Amazon. (search for "CHIP Art letter stamps by Melody Ross")  Be aware that not all packages come with the metal shaft (which makes stamping easier).  It isn't necessary to use the shaft, however.  


In the images attached, I've used two different sets of stamps on the bust with the Emily Dickinson quote "hope is the thing with feathers" -- the small letters are "chickadee" and the slightly larger letters are "sparrow", both of which are lower case. On the bust with the tree branches and the blindfolded bust with the Poe quote ("dream within a dream.") , I've just used the "sparrow" lower case letters, which are about 1/4". 


There is a larger, more formal 1/2" letter called "Bluebird" which comes in lower and upper case. The Amazon link for the Bluebird lettering is :   http://www.amazon.co...ie=UTF8&psc=1. 


Since my work isn't functional, I usually fire the piece and then use thinned underglaze which doesn't obscure the darkened letters.  If I wanted to apply a colored glaze, I would either apply a clear glaze over the letters, wiping away the excess around the letters before applying glaze OR I would apply a resist over the letters and wipe away the excess before applying glaze.  I would fire once again at that point. The benefit of using the Mayco Stoneware Wash is that it is a glaze and needs no further protection.



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#70608 Overcoming Insecurity

Posted by Isculpt on 24 November 2014 - 02:49 AM

Leeu, thanks for sharing your story.  It's a powerful reminder that it is easy to get stuck in a negative place filled with a soundtrack of all the reasons we CAN'T do something and all the ways that life has cheated us. Alternatively we can make a determined effort to focus on the positive (ten fingers and toes is as good a place to start as any!) and to recognize that most of us have the power to create the life we want.  Making art is such a joy that we naturally want the world to adapt to us so that we can keep doing it, but it just doesn't work that way. Like it or not, for most people to create art, they have to accept that there is a cost -- whether it's living on the financial edge or working a part time job to help pay the bills or adapting their work to suit the market or any of a zillion ways that life extracts the toll.  We aren't entitled to make art; it is a right that we have to earn through talent, hard work and sacrifice.   


It is hard to break the negative soundtrack that afflicts many of us and even harder to create a new one, but it's absolutely necessary if you want to move on to a better place.  What is the saying -- "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results".  If something isn't working, it's time to change what you're doing, how you're doing it or where you're doing it.  


The 26 words that you put in boldface type are enough to change a life, as you have proven with your own.  Thanks again for caring enough to share a painful tale in order to help Guneapotter (and probably many others) through a rough patch.

#67435 Help! Hand-Dug Clay Needs Additive For Strength

Posted by Isculpt on 07 October 2014 - 08:39 PM

Dandasana! a powerful  pose. Try it Jane sitting on a firm cushion, stting bones right on the front edge of the cushion, you'lll be there in no time. Right in the moment. I can see you making those beautiful canoes for Bear! :)

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! 


#67376 Help! Hand-Dug Clay Needs Additive For Strength

Posted by Isculpt on 07 October 2014 - 04:08 AM

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?

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#67332 How To Complete A Mistake? Please Help

Posted by Isculpt on 06 October 2014 - 11:41 AM

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.  


#67275 Help! Hand-Dug Clay Needs Additive For Strength

Posted by Isculpt on 05 October 2014 - 10:14 AM

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 

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