April 23, 2014
April 22, 2014
The design on these vessels was created by rolling an old railroad spike across a slab of clay then folding the slab around and sealing it into a slightly oblong tube. This was then attached to a pinched and coiled base.
After completing the large vessel I tooled and sanded it until the design was smooth and crisp. The lid was fashioned by hand using the pinch and attachment methods. I went to bed that night with dreams of applying a sumptuous color to this piece that would emphasize the spiral design. When I visited my vessel the following morning, however, I discovered to my dismay that the bottom had dried too fast and had separated from the rest of the piece. What to do? At least the bottom had split off in one evenly rounded piece so I could melt that down and sand smooth the bottom edge of the vessel. Standing on its edge it was not even noticeable that it had no bottom.
April 21, 2014
One of the things that made this vessel special is that I went together with the widow into a nearby woods to harvest the clay from which it was made. The clay came directly from a river bank. We carved out a good amount and hoisted it up the side of the bank. It took a few weeks to process the clay and a few months to let it age properly to increase its plasticity.
Last week I finally got around to making the lidded vessel from the clay. It was a white clay that fired to a buff pink color. I decorated the surface with blue and green terra sigillata and burnished it smooth with a stone. After the first firing I noticed that some of the glaze had delaminated off of the lower half of the vessel. I had already started the pit fire and had to leave this vessel out anyway because it would not fit (save the lid) into my makeshift metal container inside the pit. But I decided to try something different with this vessel. I sanded down the delaminated parts of the glaze to expose the clay body. I then wrapped the pot in a layer of Spanish Moss and with the help of a long crooked stick, lowered it directly into the fire. Smothering the fire with the rest of the Spanish moss, I said a potter’s prayer.
The next morning I opened the pit kiln and found to my surprise that the pot had survived the hot spot in the fire. Not only had it survived, the Spanish moss had burned a nice design onto the surface.
Another minor but fortuitous accident was that I found after delivering this gem to the widow that it matched the colors in her couch and rug. The vessel may not be a repository for my neighbor’s remains after all but at least it rests in a good place and stands as a memorial nevertheless.
April 20, 2014
April 7, 2014
April 2, 2014
March 17, 2014
The irony is that as I was on the cusp of being sent to a movement disorder clinic to try yet another medication I decided to check the medication I am already on, doing a thorough search this time for an extended list of possible side effects. Sure enough, involuntary movements was on the list. Pays to check carefully.
March 7, 2014
March 6, 2014
I recently completed a painted box that is to be displayed on a mantel underneath a reproduction of a Piranesi. I didn’t look at my client’s Piranesi print and perhaps I should have, because for some reason although he said “Piranesi” my brain heard “Nicolas Poussin.” Images such as the painting reproduced here danced in my head: dark shapes against a turquoise blue sky. Piranesi, conversely, was more famed for his black and white etchings. Nevertheless, my painting was influenced by classical traditions and hopefully will look just as well beneath a Piranesi as it would have with a Poussin.
My client was interested in a box painted with images of birds and flowers. He is a bright and discerning fellow, with a formidable musical career as scholar, educator, and performer. For this reason I made two mock up studies in acrylic on a long piece of paper that would wrap around the box so he could see what it would look like and have personal input into the aesthetic process. My first painting study was basically a dark on light design. But my second design was based on my visions of the wrong painter, Piranesi, and was dark on light. Good thing I made a second version because that was the one my client chose.
Making the box was somewhat problematic. The top was made from picture molding and the rest from hand crafted poplar. I didn’t have the equipment or skills to create it so I had to find a picture framing willing to take the trouble on. No one wanted to do it. I finally found someone in Charleston willing to make a lid with a matching box because after conversing with him for some time we found that we had attended the same graduate school in New York and knew the same people. Connections and New York “bonding” always come in handy.
The box arrived from Charleston and although well crafted, needed something more in the way of finish. Once again, it turned out to be a wise choice to have my client look it over before I painted it. We decided that the interior needed to be refinished and painted, the inside lip and base sanded and coated with shellac. A final addition was four squares of vitreous glass on the base to raise the bottom of the box.