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Member Since 25 Apr 2015
Offline Last Active May 20 2017 02:41 AM

#126851 Help! Newbie Struggling With How Much Water?

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 17 May 2017 - 01:44 PM

I taught myself to throw through watching every pottery video I could find, reading every article, trial, and lots and lots of error.


I really loved this book: https://www.amazon.c...k/dp/1600592449 It may seem odd to learn wheel throwing from a book but this is presented very well with photographs of hand positions that are hard to see isolated in a video. 


I agree that it sounds like your clay is way too firm. I didn't even realize in the beginning that it was part of my struggle that I was using hard clay. When I switched over to a different soft stoneware it was amazing what a difference it made. Every once in a while I decide to "use up" some older clay that has gone a little too dry and every time I regret that decision and I remember over again why that doesn't work for me. 


If you can, look on this as purely a learning experience. If you keep on persevering and making use of all the resources at your disposal you will come out the other side. I joined this forum a couple years ago as a rank beginning thrower and have received nothing but helpful kind suggestions and a generous sharing of knowledge from so many lovely people with decades more experience than I. :)

  • Min likes this

#126495 Nine Warning Signs Of An Amateur Artist

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 11 May 2017 - 12:20 AM



If you come up to a problem or some sort of limitation to moving forward, and cannot figure a way around or through it, and just give up then what?







I've always felt that if I can only come up with one solution to a problem I'm doing something wrong,


While teaching, it was my set policy to always give the student at least 3 choices when asked to solve a problem for them. Kept things from being too much the "Teachers pot". Also demonstrated on another piece of clay whenever possible, not on their pot.







I like this!! Something tells me I would enjoy having you for a teacher, Pres! :) 

#126494 Qotw: The Psychological Ups And Downs With Clay

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 11 May 2017 - 12:15 AM

I was just talking this over with someone so it's funny that it has come up here as well. 


I have definitely had my ups and downs, fits and starts. Originally I was making clay stamps to sell online since I first was introduced to clay when my son was very small and it was not an option for me to pursue ceramics more fully. Originally I intended to transition to functional pottery while still making stamps but I have found that I have little to no desire to continue making and selling stamps when I have all these pots in my head begging to be made. 


The past 2.5 years since I started teaching myself to throw have been a roller coaster. The first six months I couldn't even center because I was so stressed out about not being able to center. Eventually I told myself that no matter how long it took, I was determined to learn and in the meantime I was going to have F U N. Within a week I was centering my pots and making finished items for the first time. 

Once I could reliably make mostly what I wanted, I tended to spend 6-12 weeks making, then two glazing, then not touch clay for a month or two because my glaze results were not what I had hoped for.

January of last year I changed over half the glazes I was using due to an issue with the QC and customer service of the manufacturer, but I was too impatient to test, which resulted in four kiln loads in a row with 50% or more failure rate. One kiln load had 23 out of 27 pieces unable to be sold because of a single mistake I made. From January to July I became so frustrated and depressed that I seriously considered giving up ceramics for good and going back to the simpler, easier, safer stamps. From July to October everything clicked with the glazes and for the first time since I took up ceramics I started to have flawless kiln loads. After my huge two weekend studio show in October I decided to take a couple weeks off and promptly became sick, then having three back to back colds and bronchitis it was January before I went back in the studio. 

For the first time since I started learning to throw I find that I am in a rhythm of work that is starting to feel like it's sustainable, I really can keep doing this, I really am making something people want to buy! 


Some things I have learned, and I remind myself of them over and over to get me out of my funk:


1. When I have a high failure rate it is ALWAYS because I am taking risks and moving outside of my comfort zone. This includes flopping pots as I learn a new shape or weight of clay, trying out a new glaze technique, or seeing if I can eliminate a step from my process. Sometimes it fails and sometimes it succeeds but I learn the most from the failures. 


2. Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean somebody else might not love it. I have stopped pointing out flaws real or imagined, and just thanking people for the compliments. 


3. If I am feeling upset or overwhelmed or depressed, I always feel better if I put some clay in my hands. The answer is not to give up and close my studio, but to let myself go out there MORE than I already do. :)

#126451 Nine Warning Signs Of An Amateur Artist

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 09 May 2017 - 12:49 PM


the only person in my very first throwing class who was worse than I was failed out at Christmas. I had, unquestionably, the least amount of talent in that group. To my knowledge, out of that group from the fall of 1997, I am the only one still working in clay. Talent counts for very little once you're past the beginning, or all of those artists who had some incredible abilities would still be at it. I keep in touch with many of them, and they have beautiful lives that they enjoy and are happy in, and they don't feel the loss. When I stopped making art, or did it extremely timidly for about a decade, I did feel that loss sorely. 


Callie, I couldn't even center the clay for the first six months. 


I connected with some specific potters online in the first year of throwing. They were about where I was in skill level although they had been throwing longer, and some of them were where I was in the amount of time they had been learning. None of them had the struggle I did to center or to just make basic pots. Some even said that they threw something successful the first time they sat down at the wheel, whereas for me it was something like 40-50 lbs of recycled clay before I had ONE POT that did not fail. 

The interesting thing to me is that I have now been throwing for 2 1/2 years and I still can see videos of the same hobby or small business potters throwing and they appear to be in the same place they were two years ago, while my throwing, which was horribly stunted at first, has improved to where I feel I can call myself competent. I sometimes wonder if because I have worked so hard for every scrap of skill I have, I am aggressive about holding onto it and refining on it. Perhaps, as some have said on this thread, if it had come easily to me it would have no value and I would have lost interest. 

#126352 Nine Warning Signs Of An Amateur Artist

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 08 May 2017 - 12:22 AM

I feel almost a little bit insulted to have all the years of hard work and study, teaching myself to throw and largely teaching myself other ceramic techniques dismissed as "talent". If I have any talent it is in a strong sense of color and composition that I think I've had since childhood, and in a dogged persistence to get things "right". Gary Larsen, creator of the Far Side comic, said that his most important piece of equipment was his eraser. In every batch I make adjustments to refine my work.


Every chance I get, I tell people: you have to spend a lot of time and make a lot of not-good stuff to get to making the good stuff. I firmly believe that every person is creative in their own way and just as firmly believe that most people never find their creativity or if they do have a creative hobby, they are bound by fear and prevent themselves from being totally free, making mistakes, failing, and through those mistakes and failures eventually creating work that is individually expressive of their inner person. 


Years ago I made a costume for a party out of satin which is my least-favorite fabric of all time to sew with. When we cut out the bodice the fabric was not perfectly flat or aligned with the grain and it resulted in a misshapen piece cut on the bias. We discarded that portion of the dress and cut a totally new bodice. When we went to the party we met a girl who had made her own dress, also out of satin. I could see at once that she had a similar problem with the bodice fabric. Only, she had not stopped, re-cut the piece, and done that portion over. The result was a crooked neckline, misshapen sides, and puckered seams because with satin every single mistake shows. I remember looking at that and realizing, it's not that I am a perfect seamstress. It's that when it is not right, I stop, pick out the stitches, and start over, no matter how much I don't want to redo it. 

This is a habit that has happily carried over into my work with ceramics, although it is not quite as easy to "pick out the stitches" or "erase" and add a new piece of clay. :P  

#126236 Nine Warning Signs Of An Amateur Artist

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 05 May 2017 - 07:48 PM

Sometimes it really isn't about the value of the product, but the lessons we learn getting there.



So very, very true. :) 

#126022 How Many Cubic Feet Of Kiln Space Do You Use In One Month?

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 01 May 2017 - 01:07 PM

I do 1-2 bisque loads and 1-2 glaze loads per month. I use 50-100 lbs of clay per month unless I'm getting ready for a show. The kiln I use is 18 in across by 24 inches high on the interior. I make mostly items under six inches tall, functional work like mugs and bowls. The kiln I am about to start using is perhaps 6 inches taller so I am excited that I'll be able to fit one more whole shelf of mugs into the kiln, taking my average from 33 to 44 mugs per load. :) 

#126021 Ok, I'm Asking An Incredibly Simplistic Question

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 01 May 2017 - 01:03 PM

This is exactly what I would recommend. :) I do a ton of decoration this way. Probably on 60% of my work is done with wax resist. :) 


And yes, vent the kiln or stay WAY out of the way when you're firing, the fumes are nasty. The kiln at my dad's is in a shed outside. The last time I fired I had to run back over a couple hours later because I forgot to put the plugs in. Ugh so nasty. I did it as fast as I could while holding my breath. 


One thing, Nancy: I have heard Forbes wax resist is really good but I have never used it. I have a gallon of unfortunately discontinued Laguna wax resist that I love. It sets within about half an hour (as long as it's not incredibly humid) and when I carve through it the wax very rarely rips or peels off. I have tried Amaco (works great but takes overnight to set up) and Aftosa (horrible! horrible! lumpy, clumpy, uneven, takes forever to dry and peels right off when you start carving) and I cannot recommend either of them for the reasons I mentioned. 

#125604 Qotw: Do You Like Other Forms Of Art And Is There A Cross Over To Your Cerami...

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 20 April 2017 - 02:50 PM

I had a certain level of rendering ability ground into me the first 2 years of art school, but anything 2 dimensional remains an awkward medium at best. Drawing often feels like I'm trying to write something down with my off hand, with the paper on a table behind me. I keep a sketchbook, but it's not a thing of loveliness.


Two dimensional work always leaves me feeling (NO PUN INTENDED) flat and disappointed. Love the sculptural aspects of working in clay. :) 

#125159 2Nd Newbie Question - Resist Ideas For Holes In Pendants

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 10 April 2017 - 12:43 AM

Wet pipe cleaners work amazingly well for this. There are actually pottery tools that are a stiffer wire pipe cleaner, basically, or like a bottle brush. It helps if you don't let the glaze dry completely before you try to clear the hole, though. 

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#124769 Need Pictures Of Kiln With Pottery Fired Too Hot In It

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 03 April 2017 - 10:49 PM

Pugaboo, I just had almost exactly that conversation with my nephew. Had no idea what clay it was, what cone it fired to, nothing. I explained to him that if it was a low fire clay it could potentially slump in the kiln. His response was, "Oh, that's okay, I'll understand if the piece doesn't make it." I had to explain very carefully that it was not just HIS piece that might be ruined but other pieces nearby and potentially damage to the kiln too. 

He think's it's a Cone 5 clay but I'm not going past earthenware with it. In his class they fired to 05 so I think that's pretty safe. Worst case, it IS a Cone 5 clay and it gets underfired. 

#124693 Engobe And Glaze

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 02 April 2017 - 02:51 PM

I don't use engobe but I do a lot of work with dark clay covered with white slip and I agree with Min. Try making samples with increasing coats of the engobe to find the right coverage for your dark clay. 


Another option might be to put less water in the engobe, as long as that doesn't create other problems for you. I know if I allow my slip to become thicker I have to apply much less to cover even my darkest clay. 

#124556 Qotw: Pottery Attributes In The Studio

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 30 March 2017 - 07:18 PM

Um ... you guys DON'T drink five gallons of tea at one sitting .... ??? Weird. 

#124466 Qotw: Pottery Attributes In The Studio

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 29 March 2017 - 02:19 PM



 If I dislike a texture I will actually "wipe" the unpleasant feeling off my hand. 


Oh yes, me too.  Sitting here cringing with the thought of some yukky textures.



Polyester knit. The shiny stuff. Ooh, I have goosebumps all over just thinking about it. :( 

#124423 Qotw: Pottery Attributes In The Studio

Posted by GiselleNo5 on 28 March 2017 - 10:40 PM

Unless my calculations are wrong (they are not )


Tom, you're awesome.  :D  :D