Horsing Around…

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…

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12 Responses to “Horsing Around…”

  1. Seltsa Says:

    That’s a super funny story. I sure miss KY and I go to Big Lots regular…that and the Tree…Dollar, that is.

  2. Cindy (DirtKicker Pottery) Says:

    Beautiful work.

  3. gz Says:

    You might go to your local bike shop to get your position sorted- sounds like tense shoulders so the shocks from the bumps are jarring instead of being absorbed.

    Go the Bug!! Looks like the next generation is definitely on her way 🙂

  4. ang Says:

    jim only you can rpt such crazy stories of peeps you meet in line!! love the vases and the new squiggles i see dancing peeps and a bike or 2…love em!!!!

  5. tracey Says:

    I wish terra sig would stay in that enameled looking phase after firing, that’s my favorite part of it. I had a miserable firing yesterday, some of the ts was from an old batch and crackled on me, some of the new colors sucked…… trying new things is so tiring some days!
    I could draw you three houses going in three different directions with them thar pins if I was a mind to 🙂 gel pens are so cool

    • Bonnie Staffel Says:

      I really enjoyed reading your blog entries. Also your pots are done beautifully. If I may add a comment from my own experience of over 60 years of potting, it is my opinion that you are doing a couple of things in the incorrect way to achieve a polished TS that will stay polished. First, your TS is too thick if it cracks off when dry. Or that the TS is shrinking more than your body when drying as the body is still shrinking from being wetted. It should at least look as thin or more than skimmed milk. You can apply a couple of coats if you follow the my suggestions. The greenware should be very dry for application. Dipping it in water first defeats the application, IMO. You only apply a small area of the TS and then polish, continuing to go around the pot. If the TS is properly made, then very little polishing is needed as it is almost self polishing. However, adding colorants and iron oxide without ball milling the mix, you will not get a polish as the size of the colorant grits is larger than the TS.
      The next process in order to get the TS to keep its shine after bisque firing is that the bisque should only be fired to no highrer than Cone 06, even better is 010. The greenware should be completely dry before turning on the kiln as steam will then remove the shine of the TS. If the shellac is water based, then it is already taking the shine from the TS as you apply it. I am not experienced in using shellac, but use hot wax for a resist. If the Shellac is not water based, then it is not causing any problem.
      Keep up the good work. It is beautiful, but you should not be having these problems.
      Thank you for listening. Bonnie

  6. Patricia Griffin Says:

    Damn, I was hoping to see a drawing of the three horses.

  7. meredith@whynot Says:

    me too- 6 minutes….!
    I too am a magnet for strangers and if my sister is with me we can bring in the mother load. Some days I talk but other days I just want to buy my what ever and retreat to my car.
    The weather has broken here with much needed rain and maybe just maybe i will get some green beans from my garden.
    Pots look fab- the vase is very retro to me love the long neck and can see if filled with some weeds or flowers.

  8. John Dorsey Says:

    Great story! The pots look beautiful, as always. I am particularly drawn to the bowl with the thick, white interior – love the contrast between inside and outside and yet have it still feel like the same bowl…

  9. Natalie Thiele Says:

    I love your hieroglyphic work, but I’ll be darned if I can find the three horses all going different directions on any of your pieces.
    I would have put the guy to the test. I’ll bet he could do it. I used to teach first grade and I could ask my kids to draw anything, ie two pirates, a ballerina and a circus tent, and they would- without hesitation.
    Your guy was begging to show you. If you are lucky enough to run into him again, please take him up on his challenge, then show us!

  10. Anna Says:

    I would have like to have seen the 3 horses too :^)
    It was my impression that glaze wouldn’t take at all over Terrasig. Burnishing before the bisque firing means you can then reapply the terrasig for a shinier finish after the firing and then low fire again to retain the soft look without glaze.

  11. Clay Blog Review - August 2011 | Pottery Making Info - Blog Says:

    […] Gottuso talks about terra sig and has […]

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