Archive for September, 2010

UNO!…

September 27, 2010

Well, the weather finally broke and it was a brisk 53 when I walked the bug to school this morning. We had a wonderfully idyllic weekend together. But before I get into that I was delighted that 2 fellow ceramics people (one that I’m acquainted with in person and one that’s a blogging friend) are featured in the current issue of “Ceramics Art and Perception” magazine. Fong Choo, who makes dreamy miniature teapots and who is a professor here in Louisville is on the cover…

Here’s a good shot of Fong and it gives a great idea of the scale of his teapots…

Also, Eugene Hon, my blogging buddy from South Africa, is featured in the same issue…

Eugene is a fantastic sculptor whose pieces are exhaustively researched and steeped in the history and metaphor of Africa and modern culture. Of particular fascination to me are his wonderful preparatory drawings where he works through conceptual ideas and I was happy to see a couple reproduced in the article…

Congratulations to Fong and Eugene and one may ask how I got those nice pictures… well, I followed the link on Eugene’s site to the Ceramics Art and Perception site and they have an online version of the magazine. I believe that it’s only intended for subscribers but either the login has a glitch or they allow access to only the current issue (probably the former). Either way, I subscribed once and I’d like to subscribe again but I have to keep my subscriptions under control.

In other news, this weekend was beautiful weather-wise and Sofia and I spent both days hanging out together. On Saturday we had a little picnic in the park, here’s the fruitbat eating her favorite Honeycrisp apple…

Here’s the obligatory mid-run shot, I include this just as a simple reminder of what I’m not able to do anymore…

Things are happening fast in the bug’s life. We discovered this week that she has a new tooth coming in and it’s making the one above it loose. She was beside herself to find out that she’s getting a new tooth and came to me and said, “Dad, there’s no such thing as tooth fairies, right?” I said, what do you think? She shook her head and said, “nah”. A chip off the ol’ block there. She also made the whistling breakthrough this week. She’s been trying to whistle on and off for quite some time and has been very frustrated at her inability to produce a sound but we had a bit of a eureka this week. One night after putting her to bed, I went upstairs to get something and I heard her lying there practicing. And of course the latest obsession has been UNO. We play UNO after school and during the afternoons on the weekends and we played on our Saturday picnic and on the porch for hours on Sunday…

Oh, the competitive gene is strong in that one. We also unloaded the bisque that had all her pieces in it. I was amazed at how much of her stuff was in there…

Here’s the bug with a warm bowl…

So that’s about it except for a couple of bisque pictures. Here’s some knurled beer glasses…

Haven’t decided if I like the ones with black slip better than the bare ones yet. Here’s some others…

That’s all I got, we’re hoping for rain. It’s been months and it’s supposed to happen today.

Autumn Bisque…

September 24, 2010

Sounds like soup. It’s been a productive week of getting up with the bug before school and heading directly into the studio (as opposed to the computer). So work and exercise. I’m amazed that yesterday was September 23rd and the thermometer on my bicycle speedometer read 99 degrees on my ride (and I’m not sure if the bike’s thermometer has a 3rd column of digits to report 100+ temps). Of course officially it was a mere 97 and the weather on TV stated last night that we’ve had 85 days over 90 degrees so far this year. I think it’s gonna break tonight though. Mom and I attended Sofia’s kindergarten open house last night where she showed us everything she’s been working on and led us around the room on a little tour. It was a hoot to see her so seriously making sure we saw everything and we understood what everything was for. It still seems a bit lonely around the house without her and I look forward to her getting home each night. Additionally, I still get to have Saturdays and Sundays with her. I have about 115 miles in on the bike so far this week and am fast approaching 1000 since getting my new speedometer. I’ve come to the conclusion that my bike doesn’t “fit” me or maybe I don’t “fit” it but something’s got to give as right around 30 miles parts of me that shouldn’t be hurting are (it’s not muscular). I ran into the (maybe homeless) guy, Michael, that helped me out when I had my hip injury accident a while back. I’d been looking for him to thank him and I finally got to do that. He remembered me, I guess because it’s hard to forget someone writhing in pain and cussing up a storm and not being able to do anything. It’s looking less and less like I’ll be able to make the trip to North Carolina for the Clay and Blogs show. Unseen forces are conspiring against me and I’m kinda bummed about it because I really wanted to meet a bunch of people that I’ve met through blogging. It makes me feel especially lame since Peter‘s coming halfway around the world from the land of earthquakes to go and I’ve only got an 8 hour drive. I was also planning to pick up and fondle many pots of participants when no one was looking… especially Pru‘s. Anyway, to celebrate the hot autumn weather, I’m going to go ahead and bisque and it probably won’t make the house seem any hotter than it already is. I managed to get most of Sofia’s work in this load which I was surprised at how much room it took up. Here’s the bisque loaded up…

Here’s a couple of the new shellacked pieces (someone take that wee brush away from him)…

Cowabunga, Success!…

September 17, 2010

It’s not often that I get to claim success. Usually after meandering through information trying to find something new, I end up with either a dead end or a kind-of-good result but with caveats. After reading Maryjane’s comment on the post at Ceramic Arts Daily about using grain alcohol instead of denatured alcohol, it seemed like that could be the holy grail I was looking for. As per my last post, I spent some time trying to find some alcohol even purer than the Everclear because I sensed that the 5% water content might inhibit it’s usefulness. So first off, thanks Maryjane and thanks to everyone that commented on the last post and educated me even more about alcohol. You’d think after drinking alcohol for so many years, I wouldn’t need any more education… of course I’m not really interested in lemon/mango flavored vodka. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the 95% grain alcohol would work because the alcohol is what dissolves the shellac flakes, not the additives that make it denatured. Anyway, here’s a before and after shot of a beer glass (you’ll notice that it’s not as dark as it is from the can)…

So I started with the equivalent of a 1 lb. cut as the woodworkers refer to it. This means 1 pound of shellac flakes to 1 gallon of alcohol. I did it with 28 grams of shellac flakes to 1 cup of alcohol which is the same proportion. Overnight the mixture dissolved completely but the mixture was too thin so that morning I doubled it to 56 grams shellac flakes in the same cup of alcohol. It dissolved completely by the next day too. It seemed a bit thin still and I was concerned that during the sponging with water phase that the thin areas would wipe off. The reason I thought this is because out of the can, if my shellac application was not-even-that-thin, it would abrade off. To my surprise and delight the thin mixture seems to soak into the clay even more thoroughly and holds up really well during the sponging. What this means is that this mixture is not only as good as the out-of-the-can shellac, in some respects, it’s better. Here’s some more shots (I’m getting a bit carried away with the brushwork)…

To conclude, the best thing about this success is that I can easily sit there all day painting away with only the slight scent of grain alcohol which would be the same as if I sat there all day with a glass of strong bourbon sitting on the table. This means that when winter comes and I can’t put a fan in the window, I can sit and decorate all day without donning the cursed respirator.

Beer: The Gateway Drink

September 14, 2010

Some of you may remember months ago when I posted about the end of the long wait for Sofia to have her first beer. It was a banner day but I had no idea it would lead so quickly to this…

That’s some rotgut if I ever saw some. Actually, after my article on hydro-abrasion was posted over at the Ceramic Arts Daily website, there were several comments. One of them, by Maryjane, suggested that I may have found the magic bullet in my resist alternative quest. Maryjane said that I could cut my own shellac with 198 proof grain alcohol which is 99% ethanol. Little did I know at the time that I would stumble upon yet another hidden crazy world that somehow has eluded me for 52 years. So I start by refreshing my understanding of ethanol, methanol and denatured alcohol. I already knew that ethanol in its pure natural form is potable (although you’d have to be pretty hard core to drink it) and that de-naturing it is precisely that… adding things to it to make it not natural and therefore not potable, or poison. These additives are what make it so difficult to breathe it for hours and days on end. It never occurred to me that pure ethanol would work too. So off to the woodworking store to buy shellac flakes which need to be “cut” which is simply that they need to be dissolved. After a painful conversation with the woodworker dude who inevitably asks what I’m doing with them that I can’t “cut” them the way everyone else does, I head over to the large liquor store a couple stores down in the strip mall for a pint of Everclear pure grain alcohol…

Now this is ethanol and it’s powerful if you were gonna drink it but it’s not 198 proof, it’s 190 proof. 190 proof is 95% alcohol (ethanol) and 5% water. So I started thinking on the way home (in my car that doesn’t strand me… yet), that I might as well go online and look for some 198 or 200 proof pure ethanol online. An initial g00gle search will return hundreds of dingdongs who typed in… what’s the strongest drink there is? So I looked up local retail chemical companies and the 1st one I called said he had a liter in stock and to come get it. I asked 3 times if it was 100% ethanol and he said yes and after the second time said he’d get it off the shelf and look. He came back to the phone and said yep. I said, it’s 100%?, and he said well, no, it’s 99.9%. So I drove down to Ducky Boy land and an old man answered the door (in retrospect, he might have been my age) and I said, are you the guy I talked to on the phone?, he said no. I told him what I came for and he went into the back and came out and said, we don’t have that. I said the other dude said that they did and finally just asked to talk to the other guy. He came out and eventually brought out the gallon jug and it was 190 proof. He apologized but I left swearing because he was a dunce. So this guy has this little chemical company downtown and he’s got a gallon of 190 proof alcohol in a plastic gallon which is exactly the same stuff as in the Everclear bottle… I hope I didn’t give him the idea that the two of them might start drinking it. So back home and start calling the other local retail chemical companies… no luck, half of them don’t even know what I’m talking about. So I figure I’m gonna have to order it online. After 3 or 4 phone calls, I start to get a picture that I’ve stumbled upon an insane niche of our culture. These places will not sell it to me… seriously, it’s like I’m trying to order plut0n1um or something. Their reasons run the gamut from they seem to think that hard core grain alcohol drinkers are gonna skip drinking that 95% pure stuff and go online to get the 99% stuff (??) to that it’s considered a hazardous material and is highly regulated. I try to make the point that the difference between the grain alcohol I bought that morning and the alcohol that’s highly regulated and hazardous is essentially the same thing except one is 4.?% more pure. This is met by the telephone version of the blank stare or more often a chance to blame Obama and EPA. So chemical salespeople that have a problem with the EPA… big surprise there. I end up calling university chemistry departments to no avail although I left my number with one that said their supply procurer dude would call me. One person says I should check pharmacies that make up potions for doctors that I can’t for the life of me remember what they’re referred to but there were 3 locally and they acted like I was a lunatic even though they had what I needed. Later on the dude from the university chemistry department called me back. He was a chatty fellow but said university policy forbid him to sell it to me because the university doesn’t have to pay the tax on it and that’s a no-no… I get it. I eventually asked him since I only need a half a cup or so if he might consider just giving me half a cup so I could do the test, that way if it didn’t work, I could stop this craziness. He said he absolutely couldn’t do that either because the university had policies forbidding it. I asked why the university would care if he gave me 4 ounces of grain alcohol and he said… “I don’t know, what if you took it and killed your wife with it?” Well, who could argue with that, what better way to poison your wife than slip her enough grain alcohol to make her a bit tipsy. I eventually found a place in New Jersey, which by all accounts operates by a different set of rules and is not under the jurisdiction of h0meland secur1ty. There willing but it’s expensive and so I decided I’ll do the 190 proof test first. So here’s my test, one cup of moonshine to 28 grams of shellac flakes…

And then, silly me, I thought it would dissolve immediately but it didn’t…

As I’m writing this, it has dissolved more but still quite of bit of solid stuff. We’ll see but my optimism is fading. In other news, here’s another drawing Sofia did solo. It’s a beach, ocean underwater scene all in one with mermaids, shark, whale, swimmers, boat, octopus and even Grandma in a lawn chair on the beach…

Ceramic Arts Daily Post…

September 8, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised to find out this morning that the article for Pottery Making Illustrated that I wrote was excerpted and posted at the Ceramic Arts Daily website today. If you get a hankerin’, click the picture to go there…

If you have arrived here from there and haven’t visited my blog before, welcome. In the column to the right is a link to the article that appeared in the magazine and below that under the heading, “Frequently Viewed Posts” are popular posts based on traffic. Also in recent posts there is an accounting of my trying to figure out a way to not use shellac and use a substitute. These attempts have failed in the short run but I haven’t given up and will probably resume in the winter when ventilation becomes more of a problem. But so far, nothing really comes close to shellac for what I’m trying to get. Anyway, I’m back at it with the shellac and have been having a bit of fun with the knurling pattern (crisscross)…

And here’s a forest of beer glasses…

It occurred to me on Saturday on my day with Sofia that I was no longer tethered to a couple mile radius of the house because I wasn’t worried about the car not starting and marooning me somewhere. It was a dreamy day that was much more temperate that it’s been all summer so we headed up to Clifty Falls park on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. I hadn’t been there in years and when we used to go, you could go right from the trail head down a steep series of steps and come out at the base of the big Clifty Falls and then hike the river bed toward the Ohio River. I thought Sofia would get a big kick out of the stairs and the falls but they have since closed them off and the only way to get down to the base of the falls is to start at the other end of the park and walk the riverbed toward the falls. This would be at least a 10 mile hike on a rocky riverbed in a gorge. So that was out so we decide to explore other areas and have a little picnic in a practically dry creek bed. Here’s the bug having an apple break on her “stone bench”…

I always forget until I actually go out in the country how much Sofia loves it. Just riding in the car through some rural areas got her oohing and ahhing about the scenery. It makes me wonder how much she’s missing by not living out in the country. I grew up out there and the woods were my playground.

On The Road Again…

September 4, 2010

So last Saturday, Sofia and I went to Tommy’s which is about a mile from my house and then on the way home we stopped for a total of about a mile and a half of driving and my car marooned us again. Luckily, my neighbor came to rescue us but when I went back the following day to start her up, the car wouldn’t start (Sofia was with me and I mentioned that we might have to junk the car, she begged me not to and actually kissed the car and said goodbye. Later that day and the following day, she pretended to call the car on a cell phone and say bye again. So, the inconveniences of getting stranded have become more frequent (and only after a mile and a half of driving) and more importantly, up until now, the car would start right up the following day. I took the car to my mechanic earlier and he said he couldn’t do anything because he couldn’t get it to not start and he tried about 100 times. All this together could only mean one thing… to engage in the biggest time waster of all and something I rather crawl naked over crushed glass than do. So onto craigsl1st and I found a t0y0ta out in the boonies. The guy who’s selling it is “selling it for a friend” and the bullshit begins. He’s selling it for a friend because his friend lives in an upscale neighborhood and doesn’t want people stopping by his house… sounds fishy to me. I don’t want people stopping by my house but hey friend, I know you don’t care because you’re not as upscale as me… I got a picture of that conversation. So he says come out at 4 and I say I can’t and he says he’s got 4 people coming out then and I say well, I’ll call you at 5 and see if it’s still for sale. At 5, I call and say, is it still for sale? He says he drove all the way downtown to pick up a potential buyer (I thought 4 were coming to his house) and the guy was a damn Pak1stan1 (his words not mine) that as soon as he got in the car asked him to lower the price so he let him out at the curb. So now, we got a couple stories that don’t line up and he’s a bigot to boot. So this dolt is familiar enough with middle easterners that he pegged him as pak1stan1 right off, he couldn’t have been syr1an, egypt1an or… irish. But I want to see the car and I don’t want to start all over again looking so I drive out and test drive the car. I like the car and it drives well. I tell him that I want it and he immediately says, hey I got some friends that work over at stand1ford f1eld auto sales (a used car lot) and I want to run all the paperwork through them… just so that it’s all on the up and up. I say, well I’m not gonna pay extra charges and he says it’s only about 100 bucks for all the paperwork but it’s all legal and on the up and up. I say, well the county clerk’s office is on the up and up and it doesn’t cost anything. He groans and takes out his phone and makes a call (it’s about 7:30 in the evening). I hear him ask, do you think we can waive the doc fees? Doc fees? Does that sound like a guy selling a car for a friend or a used car salesman using craiglist to “sell by owner”? What do you know, they can waive the doc fees. I say ok, I’ll meet him tomorrow but I’m starting to feel worse and worse about it but I really like the car and the lure of having it all over in 2 days is really strong. That night, lying there with insomnia, I keep trying to separate my liking and wanting the car with my understanding that everything this guy’s said is a complete lie. The next morning I am driving down to get a cup of coffee and on the side of the road I see what I’ve been pining for for years…

And it has a For Sale sign in the back window and it’s just old enough that I might be able to afford it. So I call the woman from the coffee place and go test drive it and decide to get it and have everything all wrapped up by late wednesday. I happily called the bigot back to tell him that I had second thoughts and he angrily grouped me in with all the other bad people that hadn’t bought his car so that he wouldn’t get mad and then he hung up on me. So making him angry was just the silver lining to the whole thing. Now that I have gotten rid of the old beat up car, the consensus seems to be that I finally have a grownup car. And all this time I thought I was being environmentally responsible by re-using a vehicle but more than that I was saving money which would allow me to be a potter and stay home with my daughter. Let’s just hope that now that I’ve joined all the other responsible adults that the damn thing doesn’t die on me within the next couple years. In other news of mechanical things breaking down, I went for a bike ride after 3 days of car shenanigans and 6 miles from the house my rear rim cracked (I was hesitant to put rear and cracked that close together in a sentence… you know those search engines) and by time I got home the tire had worn through to the tube. They told me wednesday night at the bike shop that it wouldn’t be ready til Monday and I was despondent because the weather finally broke and it’s dreamy cycling weather. (speaking of weather, are any of you n. carolinians experiencing hurricane related weather?) But fortunately, the dude at the bike shop came through with a used rim he found “in the basement” and my bike was ready yesterday. I went out for a nice 82 degree 28 miler. The only eventful thing on this ride was as I approached a young couple pushing a stroller with an infant next to the river, the mother twirled around like a shot putter at the olympics and propelled a big gob of spit toward the river and even though there was practically a gale force crosswind, the father gave the reins of the stroller to the mother and he did his best spittle attempt toward the river too. As I passed them I heard the mother say… “you didn’t reach it either”. But anyway, I’m back on the road with car and bike. Although this was an unproductive week, I did manage to get a good couple days in. I’ve gone down the path of knurling. Won’t it be great to have a knurled beer glass for that extra ergonomic grip…

Here’s some closeups of the knurling action…

And of course here’s last weekend’s dad and Sofia collaborative drawing…

Last but not least, here’s a little touch of evil…