Thursday, October 17, 2013

Four Friends, Four Perspectives - Part II

Apart from the "nuclear theme" I had several other themes for the exhibit. I had sort of abandoned for a while some of my themes that I had started in the mentorship program but then returned with "the bottom billion" and the "forest theme"which morphed into the "Ottawa River series". In early April I had attended a talk at a local museum on the Ottawa River and aboriginal archaeology. It really inspired me to think about what it must have been like here over 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.
The Ottawa River levels fluctuated rapidly and widely back then, even reversing flow at one time and flowing into Hudson's Bay. I tried to imagine what this very landscape must have been like back then, a cold, white towering world, with rocks, boulders and ice chunks littering the ground. It is now thought that people inhabited this area much earlier than thought, even maybe as long ago as 14,000 years, living and hunting at the base of the glaciers. 
This inspired me to do an Ottawa River series of platters - again over the garbage can type. They were fun to do! I always remember Tony Clennel admonishing potters to reference thier location. I have always wanted to make rocky mountain type scenery, sort of what Les Manning does, but there are no glaciers here! But after that talk on the Ottawa River I realize that I can use glacier images even though I do not live out west - just include an a short write up on what inspired me and voila! The Ottawa River Series with glaciers is born! All cone 10 redux with MD shino over Dan Hill lithium ship (blue areas) or over white crackle slip. Some overspray with magnesia matt (white areas) and edged in Temmoku.

I added black sand stripes to the design, sort of indicating erosion, rocks etc.
However it is hard to apply with a brush and I find my brush stokes rather inept,
detracting from the design - otherwise I was pleased with the overall effect - MD shino over
Dan's lithium slip (top right), then white crackle slip (which did not crackle) for the ice
and then some overspray with magnesia mat.

Same problem with the black sand. Also whole design is a bit Disney like - just too
cutesy - expect Bambi to appear at anytime.

This is the first one of the series that I did. The crackle slip on the ice portions was close to flaking
off so I reglazed with  a cone 6 electric white glaze to stabilize the surface - those are the white
dots which unfortunately are rather distracting in the design.
The theme still needs more work and the glazing effects are not that cohesive, but I am looking forward to exploring this theme more.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Four Friends, Four Perspectives - Part I

When a friend of mine asked me last spring if I wanted to get together with her and 2 other friends and do a show in the local library in September I said yes. I thought that it probably would not entail that much more work as I would have to have work ready for the mentorship exhibit later in October in North Bay. However the mentorship exhibit requires just three works from each of us - for the library I had a 30 foot long wall to fill. But I like deadlines. In fact I need a deadline to get things done, otherwise I fritter the day  away on various inconsequential tasks. 
The show was a great success - with amazing work by the other three artists (sun dyed fabrics, fused glass, found art and paintings) and lots of great comments and sales. And now that's it over I've been able to catch up on my blogging.
Since Deep River is the home of Canada's nuclear pioneers, I thought I had better do something with my nuclear theme. I would do the cups with various pro-nuclear slogans. I had no idea how I would put them together into a display. I was stumped. Then on waking one morning just a few days before I had a true insight! (Thanks Johan Lehrer!) I would use my GAIA "bricks" that I had wood fired for another project and put them together with various bricks and soaps from my wood kiln and build as "industrial" wall to stand them on. Good thing the table was sturdy as it sure ended up heavy. Not sure if when they were all together like that that the cooling tower concept came through.
Nuclear cooling tower cups for the 45% - % of people worldwide that support nuclear energy

In the front Candu reactor cups for the 36% - % of Canadians that
support nuclear energy. Candu reactors are Canada'system of reactors and they do not have cooling towers.

I added a fat lady holding a Candu fuel bundle with the caption "It's Not Over Until the Fat Lady Sings." However I don't think that anyone got it - i.e. the nuclear option is not over yet.
The display was accompanied by this write up and challenge:
It’s pretty hard to beat a great slogan!
For decades “No Nukes” has carried the environmental movement against not only nuclear weapons but nuclear energy. Nuclear energy in the 1950’s and 60’s was heralded in by its own great slogan, “Energy Too Cheap to Meter”.
But today the fuel rods and bundles have all been put on the back burner by governments around the world and the future of the industry is no longer glowing brightly. I challenge all that support the nuclear option to come up with a new slogan that can fight back and help achieve a sustainable future for our planet.

Sculpture Workshop with Darryl Frost

When Darryl Frost, a New Zealand anagama potter and sculptor, emailed the Ottawa Guild of Potters that he was staying in Ottawa for a few months and would be interested in helping out with a wood firing and perhaps do a workshop as well, the Deep River Potters Guild took him up on his offer of a one day sculpture workshop for the end of August. We started off the evening before with the usual great potluck supper, followed by Darryl's slide show showcasing his wide range of sculptural work and his anagama kiln in New Zealand.  This got us all inspired to think in terms of more sculptural pieces. The next day was hands on, and we continued well into the evening- working on our own sculpture, from small abstract pieces to life-sized herons! He also enthusiastically demoed several of his special throwing techniques. Especially interesting to me were his "tea bowls" - made of a very rough groggy clay that he partially opened and then he inserted a ball of smooth porcelain clay and continued opening and throwing so he ended up with a very rough tactile exterior and smooth functional interior. They were fantastic! He is a very loose thrower and it was a great contrast to most of us who are very tight! Everyone agreed the workshop was a great success - that it was great to get thinking more than just "round pots" and several were even inspired to continue to make more sculptures!
Darryl Frost, helped by Jessica Brabant, holds up his series of rough outside, smooth inside
 "tea bowls".
Thanks Darryl -  for a great workshop and have a safe return to New Zealand!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Group Effort - Eighth Firing of the Newfoundout Train

Still playing catch up with my blog! With having to focus most of my work during the last part of spring and early summer on producing larger pieces, especially platters, (which do not fire that well in my small wood fired train kiln), I was lacking enough pots for a wood firing this summer. Fortunately a New Zealand anagama firer, Darryl Frost, happened to be staying in Ottawa for three months. He had put out an email through the Ottawa Guild of Potters that he was interested in helping with a wood firing in the Ottawa area. I contacted him and when we went to Capitol Pottery Supply for him to buy some clay, we met a couple of potters from the Ottawa Guild, Marie Hennessey and John Ikeda . John does earthenware - exquisitely coloured abstract designs that I have always greatly admired. He said he was ready to explore other firing methods and so they also expressed interest in taking part. Then another potter form Madonna House in Combermere - a religious lay community about an hour away from our farm
was also interested. Perfect!
Now I would have enough pots to fill the kiln - and not only that, Darryl had contact with Mike Doxey who has a wood fired kiln about 2 hours way from me and he was interested in partaking as well. Now with 5 people to bring pots and with two expert wood firers to load and fire my kiln I was all set!
Our "farm" and my kiln is located in "The Newfoundout", an abandoned farming community high in the Opeongo Hills of eastern Ontario. It is off the beaten track - up a very steep, rough road and then just a track slaloming through big rocks in the front fields -so I was a bit apprehensive about cars making it in to the back where the kiln is located without hitting any rocks - but all were not only great potters but superb drivers.
Apart from my very first firing this is only the second time that I had a group firing - and it made the job so much more enjoyable, not to mention easy on the back - plus with overnight shifts we were able to fire longer then my usual 14 - 15 hours.
Almost done loading!
Fire outside the firebox at the start

Firing on the hobs
Darryl loves crusty surfaces - although not my favorite I can appreciate them. He stacked and wadded with seashells and placed his pieces over the channels under the stoking holes where I would never think of placing items- but in the future I think I can make some pieces that would take advantage of this intense ash buildup.
Several things that I learned - bring the temp up much more slowly at the start - even start the fire outside of the firebox at the start - so as not to stress the kiln furniture. I have had lots of problems with the lid shelves on my kiln cracking and that could be why. After just 8 firings that should not really be happening.

They also side stoked at lot more than I would and the temperature was much more even through out. I think it is just too much hard work when one is firing all by oneself to do much side stoking.

Darryl clammed up the kiln at the end with a very runny slip mix of clay and grog and applied it with a brush. I was used to using a thicker mix that I applied with a spatula or by hand which was much more time consuming. He also did not fire down before shutting everything up as I did, as Steve Harrison in his book says that you may end up with reduction cooling if you do.

The results - well we all had some great pots, some failures but all in all a successful firing with results very different from my firings. We had pretty even temps and ash through-out but hardly any carbon trapping. Instead the shinos ending up a very beautiful, lustrous gold!
Thanks everyone for all the hard work and a great firing!
Darryl's crusty sinkers.
Analyzing the results! Lots of ohs and ah and some ughs too! But that's attraction of wood firing!
You never now what you will get!