Friday, October 30, 2015

Glazing night

Last night saw the final session of the "intermediate wheel" class I'd been taking in Tiffany Hilton's pottery studio, and it was "glazing night". I was concerned that I might not have time to glaze all my pots (twenty-five in total) in one two hour and forty-five minute class, even with a plan to make them pretty simple, design-wise. 

I still had a bunch of pots to wax the bottoms of, so I got right into that. I also had a plan to try something new, with TIffany's permission -- I'd brought two cookie decorating tools, small plastic squeeze bottles with little red protective caps. My plan was to fill at least one of them partway with glaze, and then see if I could squirt it out onto a pot which I would have spinning on a wheel (not too fast, of course, as it would not be secured to the wheel!), with the aim of producing some interesting patterns, perhaps spirals.

I decided to go with "iron red", which I would then cover with "olive green", producing a kind of black hue where the two colors merged. At first, because the glaze was kind of watery, and the nozzle a bit too wide, the squeezing of the plastic bottle produced some blobby shapes, not at all like the more delicate patterns I had hoped for. 

Then I got the idea of putting the tiny red cap back on the bottle, and poking a smaller hole in that cap with a needle tool. This allowed me to create a thinner, more controllable spray, which actually ended up working pretty well, and I used it on the insides AND the outsides of some of my larger pots and a few of my mugs. Some of the effects of the spray on the outside of the pots were unexpected and attractive. I wish I'd taken some photos of them before I did the next step of dipping the pieces in the olive green glaze, which obscured what I'd done with the spray. But I hope the final result will show those patterns.

The photo at top is a shot of some of my glazed pots from last night (the top two shelves), including some I decorated using the technique I just described. I can't wait to see what they look like once TIffany fires them! -- PL

Friday, October 23, 2015

Teapot Tuesday

Often, when I get to pottery class, either hand-building or intermediate wheel, I don't really have a plan for what I will be doing. I get there and I let the clay speak to me. Or perhaps a better way to put that is that the clay and my hands have a conversation, and eventually something emerges.

But this Tuesday morning, in my hand-building class,  I arrived with an idea. It wasn't a fully-formed idea, but I knew that I had two prepared slabs of leather-hard clay to play with, having made them at the end of the previous Tuesday's class. The idea was pretty basic -- make a boxy teapot.

I decided to use a shape I'd stumbled onto during my last hand-building class in the Spring. I'd made a template which was essentially a rectangle with one of the ends narrower that the end parallel to it, so that the shape (and I am sure there is a name for it, but I can't at the moment think of it) tapered toward that end. I used this template to make four pieces of clay which I then joined into a four-sided form. But instead of joining them narrow end to narrow end, which would have resulted in a sort of truncated pyramid shape, I decided to alternate the order, flipping each successive slab so that the narrow end joined with a wider end. I'm probably not articulating this too clearly. But the result was a very intriguing geometric shape which pleased me greatly, and I went on to make several hand-built pots using this technique. Here's an example from that last class:

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to do something similar to build the body of this slab-sided teapot, although the shape I had in mind was less vertically-oriented and more squat -- as teapots generally are.

It came together pretty quickly. Once I'd textured the slabs (using two small carved wooden rollers TIffany has in her studio, part of her extensive selection of texture tools), I traced the shapes with the template I'd made onto the slabs and carefully cut them out.

Once I had the basic body shape, complete with base, I had to make a top with a lid, and decided to go with a long rectangular lid, again made from pieces of a textured slab.

Then it was on to the spout, which came out a little funky -- I think I was rushing a bit, and didn't consider its shape carefully enough… so it isn't exactly centered or straight. But at least it i positioned at the right height, thanks to TIffany stepping in and reminding me to keep that in mind (I'd made a teapot previously with a spout poorly positioned, making it impossible to fill the pot more than two-thirds full without tea beginning to spill from the spout).

For the handle, I'd considered building an angular shape out of the slab, but ultimately decided to try something a little different, carefully (so it wouldn't crack) curling a piece of the softer slab into an half-cylinder shape, then cutting fingerholds into that once I'd attached it.

Will it all work as a teapot? Will the handle be comfortable to hold? Will the spout dribble or flow? The jury's still out. But it was a lot of fun to build. -- PL

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Turtle sighting

Yesterday was a hot one here in western Massachusetts, and my friend Rick and I decided to take our bike ride on one of the shadiest routes we know of -- the rail trail bike path from Northampton up to Look Park in Florence. We often do this, in large part because Look Park is just such a beautiful place to ride through.

Like many times before, we took a break for lunch on a bench overlooking the small pond at the park. While sitting there and talking, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an object which seemed to be making its way across the pond, but just under the surface. We were about a hundred feet away, so it was a little difficult to discern details, but I soon realized it was a big turtle! I would guess that it was about a foot and a half long.

I couldn't remember ever seeing a large turtle swimming like this. I've seen similar beasts sunning themselves on rocks or logs near water, but never cruising along just under the surface. I tried to get a good shot of it, but my little pocket camera could only manage these:

       Here's a cropped version of the second one:

Though I couldn't see a lot of detail, I think it looked like a snapping turtle. -- PL

Friday, July 24, 2015


I saw the following headline on this morning:

I had to laugh. -- PL

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A sign of Spring

One of the sure signs of Spring in our area, at least in my opinion, is the dirty snowbank. 

       As the winter plods on, plows push snow into large, dense mounds lining the edges of streets, driveways and parking lots. In moving this snow, the plows also scrape up a lot of the sand which the Department of Public Works trucks spread on the pavement to give drivers a bit more traction on the slippery stuff.

What happens as the weather starts to get gradually warmer is this: The snow begins to melt, and the piles of snow to shrink, and as they do, those particles of sand within the piles begin to move closer together, becoming darker and more obvious against the snow, rendering what were previously almost pristine white mounds of snow into blotchy messes. 

       It's deliciously ugly, because even as these unsightly shrinking mounds become ever more unsightly, they tell us that the warmth is coming… just wait! -- PL

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Hidden Geometry of Snow

A thick accumulation of snow -- something we have seen far too much of in recent months -- can seem almost featureless in certain lighting conditions. The homogeneous nature of the bright white blanket makes it difficult to see the underlying shapes upon which that frosty mantle rests.

That's why I have always enjoyed the way that trees can help to reveal the hidden geometry of snow, especially during those times of days when the angle of the sun drapes the trees' cold shadows over the landscape. Graphic against the pale snow, these broad, stark lines show us much as they ripple over hillock and plunge into decline. -- PL

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy March 26, 1931 - February 27, 2015

It was inevitable -- one might even say logical -- but it's still sad to read about.

At least some comfort can be taken in this: He lived long, and prospered. -- PL

Artwork by Bruce Laird 2008.