Archive for August, 2011

A Bird In The Hand (Or On The Head)…

August 22, 2011

Well, school started this week, albeit a couple days late. We were all geared up for it to start on Monday but on Saturday night we had one hell of an intense storm that resulted in the power going out. Luckily our power was only out for about 8 hours but it was out all over the city and in many places was out for days. This resulted in having the first 2 days of school off and Sofia didn’t go until wednesday. It’s only been a few days and we already miss having her around all day and the house is quiet quiet. I walked her to school on Friday morning where we overtook a grandmother who was walking her grandson to the same school. She was older and walking slowly and as we got abreast of them, she said hi. We said hi and she asked, “what grade are you in?”. I said, “I don’t go to school anymore”. As is typical with me and maybe it’s my delivery, this was not immediately understood as a joke, more like that I had simply not gotten the fact that she was talking to Sofia. What can I say, I keep trying. This week the bug and I had another whirlwind weekend, the climax of which is evident in this picture…

Here’s some shots I took at lunch beforehand…

Before I get to Silkies and Polish chickens I wanted to update a post I did a while back about my continuing inability to communicate in broken spanish to the people at the mexican restaurant that we go to sometimes. This link goes to the the original post where I tried to explain what I did for a living to the guy at the cash register by using the word arcilla (clay). If you happened to read that post you will remember that apparently no one involved seemed to have ever heard of the word arcilla and I was a bit dumbfounded. As a small vindication, I saw this post on FB one day from one of my international “friends”…

In that pic not only is the word arcilla used but it’s followed by the english translation. But onto the story. I go up to the register to pay and the woman at the counter is a very short, smiling, round woman. There’s a moment of awkwardness as she runs my credit card in silence and being the king of small talk, I venture out with a “it sure got busy all of a sudden”. The woman lit up and agreed. She immediately asked, “where’s your wife?” to which I replied, “she works on weekends”. “What does she do?” Me: “she’s a nurse”. This is followed by a couple questions about what hospital and then… “so what do you do for work?”. I remembered the last arcilla fiasco so I opted for “I’m a potter”. Her face pinched up in an expression of bewilderment. I said, “arcilla?”. Nope. “ah porcelana”. She seemed to know what porcelana was but couldn’t figure out how it was related to my job. As I stood there making throwing gestures which I’ve come to believe no one recognizes except other potters, she just stared like I was pantomiming something completely fictional. Finally, a younger woman came up who also works there but speaks fluent english. She manages to explain as I’m hunting for a business card that might have a picture that is explanatory. Suddenly, the short round woman gets a flash of recognition and the younger woman leaves to do something. Now the woman starts pantomiming a kick wheel kicking her foot in the air. I nod in agreement and start to explain that my wheel is electric. She just keeps kicking her foot in the air and I decide to let it go. So she looks at me and says what sounds like… “sexy job”. This is where my mind starts swimming (like it always does) and I figure since she said the two words so quickly that maybe I misunderstood. I shrug a bit and she says… “sexy job”. Now I’m thinking really? sexy? Maybe she saw “Ghost” or something but really, what’s so sexy about kicking your foot? Lost in reverie for a moment and apparently not responding quickly enough she says… “sexy job” again. Sorry but I threw in the towel and simply agreed with her and she seemed happy that we understood how sexy being a potter is. So there you have it. After lunch we went to my friend Ray’s house who had just gotten some chickens a couple months ago and we went to see how big they had gotten since we had first seen them (they were very young and small then). He has two different kinds”, silkies and polish. Here’s the coop and run that Ray built complete with a ceramic roof (not quite finished yet)…

Although this one is not necessarily named Phyllis Diller (one of them is), most of the ones of this breed share a likeness to her hairstyle…

Here’s when they opened the floodgates…

Sofia had a ball chasing them around and setting them on perches, tossing them to get them to flutter down to the ground and petting them until they fell asleep. Here’s some more of the shenanigans…

Here’s one set on a tree limb perch…

Ray has a big yard with a big garden and a three stall composting area which is nirvana for the chickens. They all made a beeline to the compost heap where they immediately started scratching and digging for worms and other tasty critters…

Here’s the bug with her new friend…

Here’s the bug feeding the bunch of them with a handful of mealy worms…

Last but not least here’s dad relaxing on a lawn chair when Sofia decided to catch as many chickens as possible and set them on me…

I was just hoping none of them decided to soil my shirt. We also spent some time in the studio this weekend where I decided to see if Sofia was interested in the shellac technique (she was)…

We also blew up some balloons inside of some old socks and dipped them in casting slip, (we’ll see)…

Here’s some of the bug’s tiles after the shellac technique was used…

That’s all I got, sayanora.

Horsing Around…

August 13, 2011

Well, where the hell have I been? Right here actually, somehow summer has become a very busy time… must be the longer days or something. First off, I need to relate one of my “yes you are in Kentucky” moments, inadvertently making contact with other human beings. I was over at B1g L0ts buying gel pens for the bug. They had a set of 50 for 10 bucks and I got it for Sofia. After a week or so nearly two thirds of them were out of ink. So we went back to see if they still had them (because that’s the way B1g Snots is). Luckily there was one set left. I set the gel pens on the counter to pay and the pens are all spread out within the plastic wrapping so you can see all the colors you’re getting…

So there’s this guy behind me in line and he keeps eyeballing the pens. He was really a big Frankenstein-ish fellow… about 6′ 6″, hirsute with a mismanaged beard-like growth on his face. He comes up close behind me and says, “lek at them pins, you ‘n artist or somethin’?” Now when I was younger I probably would have just stared off because of that irrational fear that somehow replying would mean that I had to be friends and that he’d be showing up at my house later on asking if we could hang out or go fishing. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that I don’t have enough time to keep up with real friends and that talking to gregarious strangers is not a threat in this way. That being said, I ignored the question about being an artist and settled on, “yeah, there’s a lot of pens (pins) there (thar)”. I was distracted because Mom and the bug were wandering around and I wasn’t sure they were gonna pile another item on the counter for me to purchase and I think Frankenstein sensed my distraction and backed off a bit. After about 20 seconds or so, he steps forward again and says, “so ya get you some pens thar, you ‘n artist or somethin’?” I said, “well, they’re for my daughter” and pointed off toward a scurrying bug. Then, the piece de resistance… he says, “if ah had me a pin and some paper right now, I could draw three horses, all goin’ in three diffrent directions in… 6 minutes.” In retrospect, I came up with all sorts of things that I should have said or done… not the least of which would have been to take him up on this boast and time him drawing. But, such as is the case whenever this sort of thing happens, I’m stunned by the fact that I could never have come up with something so great on my own combined with several other things racing through my brain all at once, such as… how apropos to suggest horses (is it because he’s from KY and if I was in FL would he have said gators?), why the three different directions? (this suggests that he’s been taken up on the challenge so many times that he’s thrown this in for all the people over the years that have agreed to the 3 horse challenge but were disappointed when he simply drew the same identical horse 3 times), and then there’s the 6 minute time limit. This suggests that you’re average gel pen buyer would have a pretty narrow, not to mention, preconceived idea about how long it takes to draw 3 horses going in 3 directions and it ignores another detail that Frankie no doubt will add to his challenge in the future which is… how detailed are these drawings going to be? One shouldn’t need 6 minutes to draw 3 simple contours of horses with a dot for the eye regardless of whether they’re going in three different directions or not. Add to all these things swimming around my head that I can’t wait to get to the car and relate the whole story to Mom that I stammered out something unintelligible in reply which I don’t even remember and Frank realized I wasn’t interested in his feat and got back in the line.

Moving right along, the weather has broken and we’re sleeping with the windows open again. I have finally broken the 1000 mile mark on the bicycle. With that milestone, I am down almost 20 lbs. and I have somehow injured my right shoulder. This is not a good thing if you’re a potter. I’m not sure it from the cycling but I went out on a 40 mile ride the other day and it seemed to be related somehow. I think it’s from holding myself up on the handle bars for long periods and hitting all the bumps in the road with my tires inflated to 120 psi. (no shock absorption). I went on another 60 mile ride last week and that’s almost 4 hours of holding your torso up. By the way, on that ride my speedometer’s thermometer registered a whopping 106 degrees for over an hour on the ride.

On to the terra sig. I’ve been working with the terra sig (ts) now for a bit and I’m trying to figure out some ways to exploit it. At first I was simply buffing it up a little with some plastic bag material but lately I’ve started burnishing it a bit. I’m fascinated with the way it looks on greenware but haven’t gotten any fired yet. I have been questioning why ts and especially why burnish aside from the fact that I just like the way it looks when it’s unfired. On the surface, it seems like a waste of time (sometimes it feels that way too) but there are some relatively esoteric things that I think are advantages to doing it. For instance, when it’s burnished the surface is so dense compared to the surface of a regular pot that the shellac, although it is absorbed sufficiently, doesn’t soak in as much and the result is that the brush strokes during application can be longer which is a limitation that I’ve had since I started using shellac. Also, after the glaze firing, the glaze is thinner on the ts portions of the pot when compared to the regular surface of the pot… this is just an observation but I do like the way it looks. There are some hurdles that I’ve been struggling with including the extra time involved with burnishing (like I need another long step in the process). I’ve had some trouble with adhesion that (I think) is caused by two different things. One, from rubbing too hard when burnishing and two, from incompatible wet/dry surfaces. The whole burnishing thing works much better and is easier when the ts is still damp and it adheres better if I dip the piece in water prior to dipping or brushing in or on the ts. Anyway here’s a couple errors in the trial and error. This one started to flake when I rubbed too hard so I dipped it again and it bubbled up and made it worse. I started screwing around with it and it will be a good experimentation piece…

Then on this one I had a nice black stain ts with an iron oxide ts stripe that was looking good but when I was sanding the slopped ts off the foot, the foot broke (due to dampness I think) and then I cut the foot off trying to salvage but haven’t decided if I will spend any more time…

Here’s a bowl with the white ts that looks like thick enamel paint…

Here’s a bowl with iron oxide ts exterior waiting…

This is one of the severed bowls…

A group of vases that are almost finished being decorated…

I particularly like this one…

Last but not least is this smaller vase with the iron oxide ts burnished underneath…

And of course the bug became enamored with the polishing process and worked up a few pieces of her own…