Saturday, February 7, 2009

ice + clay = bad

I've heard that it's bad to let clay freeze. It doesn't get that cold in Portland very often so it's never been an issue before. Let me just settle any doubts in anyone's mind. It is bad to let clay freeze. On Saturday I tried to throw from a block of clay that sat in my car during Snowpocalypse 2008. The ice crystals caused huge cracks to form through the middle of the clay (or that's my theory anyway). I couldn't just mush the clay back together, there were tons of air bubbles all through the clay, which will require a huge amount of wedging (like kneading) to remove, and I'm a super bad wedger. In case you don't know - air bubbles are bad. They make it really hard to throw because the clay gets all wonky and off-center, plus they can blow out during firing. Best case, it cracks the piece. Worst case, it takes out other pieces with it. Grrr.

But the good news is that I finished a big piece I was working on. The one with the big feet that I twittered a partial picture of. If you want to see it done, I guess you'll have to come to my show. When I have one. Hopefully someday...

Friday, February 6, 2009

New concept

One of my current goals, as I've mentioned in other places, is to create a more coherent body of work. I don't want to make a bunch of things that all look the same--I'm not into mass production. But I want the pieces I make to look like they came from the same artist, like they have a common aesthetic. This new idea I have is a way for me to bring together two aspects of my work that have until now felt very disconnected. It's about my experience of the clay--how I shape it and how it shapes my vision of the piece. It's also about the human element in pottery. The way the creator is embodied in the work, either overtly or subtly.

While I continue to labor over each piece as usual, I feel like I just can't make the pieces fast enough to satisfy my yearning to see how the idea materializes. But clay moves at its own pace, so gratification must be delayed.

Upcoming firings

I'm currently preparing for two firings. One is at Mt Hood CC with Chris Baskin. It will be a soda fire workshop. I know nothing about salt/soda firing except that when you put in the soda it creates a lot of stinky smoke, and the pieces come out absolutely gorgeous. I would say I'm helping organize the workshop, but really I just nagged Chris until he agreed to do it. I hope enough people sign up to make it happen!

The second is the one I'm really excited about. Jay Widmer's anagama at Digger Mountain. I'm creating lots of work for this firing--so far mostly teapots, but this weekend I'm going to start throwing some larger pieces for some variety. I'm hand building a few very large pieces, but might save them for a firing at MHCC in July. Richard Brandt is planning a reduction cooled firing of their nanagama, which will be perfect for the darker clays I'm using for much of the hand-built work.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tomorrow night part 2: Tonight

The premiere was cool. The movie was good (now I have to re-read the book), and the 3D was impressive (though the glasses were annoying).

But the best part was...I gave Neil Gaiman the teapot. I told him my story--that I'm a potter and that his blog inspires me--and I gave it to him. He had his assistant take a picture, and he hugged me. And he said he would use it. I hope he does. It's a great teapot--one of my favorites. His surprise and appreciation of the gift seemed really genuine and I'm glad I gave it to him.

It was a good night.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tomorrow night!

Tomorrow night is the Premiere of Coraline, the animated movie based on Neil Gaiman's novel. The red-carpet premiere is in Portland, and I'm going! No, I'm not anyone special, I just bought them.

I wouldn't probably cross the street to see most famous people. But Neil is a good writer and a fascinating blogger. I really enjoy his books, but I read his blog religiously. It is the ONLY blog I read regularly. He writes almost every day, and I love hearing about his daily life and his creative process. Even though he writes about writing, not pottery, the idea is the same. He has ideas that he struggles with and ideas that come easily. Some ideas he puts in the attic for years, then pulls them out and writes a Newbery award winning book based on them. I don't want to go on about his blog. It's great and you should read it, but that's not really the point.

The point is that he will be there tomorrow. There is a party/reception after the movie and there is the possibility that if I come up with something to say and don't chicken out at the last minute, I could meet him. So at some point it occurred to me that I could do more than just meet him, I could give him something. I could give him a piece of pottery.

I know he drinks tea, and I've been toying with an idea (inspired by Laika's Coraline boxes) of creating tea sets in hand-lined wooden boxes. Being a librarian, I just happen to have an old card-file box, so I lined it with green silk dupioni and nestled one of my favorite teapots inside. I also put a Volvox on the lid.

So the question now is: do I give it to him at the event, assuming there is actually a chance to do so? Will he like it? Will he use it? Or will it go into a pile with all the other weird things that fans have given him over the years? And does that matter? I'm not sure.

So I think what I'll do is this: I'll get it all ready to go. I'll take it and see what happens. I know that if I leave it at home I'll wish I had it. At least if I have it and decide not to give it to him (or don't have the chance), I won't have any regrets.

Hard choices

Last month I applied for a scholarship to attend a workshop at Arrowmont. Shortly after applying, I learned that I had been invited to be on the firing crew for a great wood kiln in Oregon. The wood fire is scheduled for the same week as my second workshop choice. Two days ago I got a letter offering me a $500 scholarship for my second choice.

Going to Arrowmont will still cost me close to $1000. The workshop is a one week course on using clay "sketches" to refine ideas inspired by objects and images. I have no doubt that it will be a great experience. Getting the scholarship is a great compliment, and several people spent time writing me wonderful letters of recommendation (including a current Arrowmont resident). If I turn down this scholarship, I probably won't get another one. Of course I can always pay my own way.

The woodfire is one of the best anagamas in the state, and two of the crew are close family friends. New people are not always invited to participate, and if I turn down this opportunity, I may not be asked again. Getting involved in the local woodfire community is important to my future work.

After much agonizing and talking to several people, I've decided to stay and do the woodfire and turn down the scholarship. It sounds like a foolish choice on the surface, but I realized as I was talking to friends, I kept hoping they would give me reasons to choose the woodfire. I feel calm about my decision, and that makes me think it's the right choice for me at this time. There will be other workshops.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Welcome to VolvoxAureus

Introductory posts are always hard and awkward. I want to write about who I am and what this blog is about, but you can learn who I am from reading my website (or more likely you already know me, which is why you are reading my blog). And you will find out what the blog will be about along with me, as I write it. In general, it will be about pottery. Not just the art itself, but my experience making, learning, finding inspiration and turning that inspiration into something tangible.