Pottery Update


my pitcher survived its first firing. This means that it is likely to survive its second firing without being ruined. What is not yet clear is how well it pours, or how stable it is. It is a very fine looking piece, though — aside from some finger ridges in the neck. Hrm.

It is also not clear how well it will be glazed. So far, I am really not happy with my glazing at all. My first mug came out of the kiln, and it’s larger than the largest coffee cup I’ve ever actually seen used. It’s 5.25″ across by 3″ deep, and the handle is crooked. The inside is raspberry red, and the outside is wheat-colored. There are bare patches just under the rim. Ack. The splatter patterns on the outside from the dripped glaze are… OK, I guess, but it’s not exactly what I was trying for.

And then there is my vase. It’s not exactly tall enough for its mouth, and I went for this whole geometric effect with red and blue underglazes around the lip inside and outside, and a sun on the bottom inside, and another couple of bands around the base, and this black net-like effect on the sides and shoulders… and all the glazes ran. I was expecting clean lines and neat geometry, and instead I have sorta drippy-cool effects over white glaze, with a clear glaze over it to make it shiny. It was supposed to have this elegant proto-Greek feel to it. To my eye, it looks messy. Hmmm.

The solution to this, apparently, is to skip the white glaze and just do underglazes, with a clear glaze over the black underglaze — or maybe just a white glaze on the inside, and only underglazes on the outside. The result is a much rougher and unfinished outer surface, though. This is the technique I am planning to try on my pitcher, which I would really like to resemble a Greek funeral urn of the 8th century BCE, so I can use it as a classroom prop. It’s already a classroom prop, since it demonstrates how to assemble a large piece from a couple of smaller ones — but if it were geometric, so much the better. I’ve already resolved that I’m going to try to make the same shape again, anyway. The next pitcher is going to have to be assembled using a precise set of steps. 1) throw the lower half with more of a vertical side. 2) throw the upper half with a clearer spout and with more of a vertical side (for painting surface) 3) combine the two halves; 4) trim the foot of the whole pot; 5) add the handle. This first one, I added the handle first and gave up the chance to make a good foot for the pitcher.

‘s diminished breakfast set seemed to survive the first firing, the bisque firing. It started as a six-piece set: a cup, a plate, three bowls, and a mug. I wrecked two of the bowls in the trimming process, and the mug. The remaining three have very, very thin bottoms. From what I saw, peeking in the kiln, the surviving bowl and the plate survived the first firing; I have yet to see about the cup. If the plate did in fact survive, it will be the first plate I’ve made to survive. My first one is already in the trash. I still have to make another mug to match the others, since the first one didn’t survive trimming. This is why you have to plan this sort of thing well in advance.

Tonight I made a jar and a lid. My first attempt at a jar (for what our teacher calls a Type II lid) failed miserably. I really wanted to make a couple of canisters, as I’d said, but I had a lot of trouble centering tonight. I’m discovering that I work best with between two and four pounds of clay. When I use a pound of clay (as I did with ‘s breakfast set), my pieces tend to wind up with several flaws that prevent them from surviving the firing process. When I use four pounds of clay or more, I get pieces that won’t sit right or are badly balanced. I’m not looking forward to throwing the chip bowl for Claire and Brian for this reason, or making something for Megan and George, my cousins. Big stuff is hard, hard, hard.

Mom and Dad rented this house down in southern MA for a week that belongs to an American master potter. Neither I nor Mom and Dad like his stuff much, but his house is filled by works from the wheels of his students and colleagues. The results are stunning; it’s an amazing collection of fired clay, including two replicas of the terra cotta warriors from Xian, China. Anyway, I was reading a book there about this ceramicist by the name of Beatrice Wood; she was apparently influential in the Dadaist movement in the 1920s because she was the lover of one of the important painters. Yet in her eighties, she was throwing one-piece goblets and vases on the wheel that were twelve, fifteen, twenty inches high, and involving eight or ten pounds of clay. This is apparently very difficult. I now understand why. My pitcher, in two pieces, was eleven inches high, and I almost lost it on the wheel, both when dealing with the individual sections, and when trying to assemble it a few days later.

Anyway, in this book on Beatrice Wood, there was an interview with her reproduced, and the interviewer asks her about these tall pieces and why she didn’t do them in the early part of her career, and mastery of so much clay can’t even be done by master potters in the prime of life, and she says (and there’s this picture of her with this interview, an elderly wrinkled woman with bright, bright eyes, dressed in a silk indian sari and tons of Indian silver and turquoise jewelry)… she says, “darling, they say I helped found Dada because of who I slept with, but that’s old history. I am a ceramicist, and I am here now. We work with what we can do. I’m still figuring out what I can do.”

So it is with me. I’m still figuring out what I can do. So. Making mugs. Making vases. Making pitchers. These things I am not so good at. This is to be expected, since I am only an egg. In the meantime, there is writing to do, and I am only an egg at that, too. Yet still, we must make our beginning somewhere.

Planned on doing some more RPG writing tonight, but feels like a lost cause for tonight. I can’t complain. I started the day with only 3060 words done, and ended with over 7100 words done. Not a bad day of writing, really.

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