Posts Tagged 'claymaking'

Autumn Fire Fest

Raku outdoors.

Raku outdoors.

The local nonprofit ceramic arts workshop, Clayworks, had an Autumn Fire Festival. Activities included:

  • Raku firing in front of the studios
  • Local bands playing outdoors in the back lot
  • A cookout near the bands (if you paid admission, you got a ticket for just normal grub, and a beer)
  • The opportunity to try handbuilding
  • And a Clay-olympics or Clayathon (there were little silvery laurel wreaths they were handing out, and prize mugs)
Yes, throwing with your bare feet. How did they clean them in the tall sinks afterwards?

Yes, throwing with your bare feet.

Spectators indoors could become participants in the clayathon, competing to pull the longest handle, make the tallest pot on a wheel, or throw a pot with their feet (yes, bare feet*).

Meanwhile, as it grew to be dusk, a local troupe came to do fire baton twirling and hula-hooping with a ring of fire. I was amused by all the people driving past the event who were stoically ignoring the festival going on below them. I managed to get some video of the fire twirling, but I’m unsavvy enough that I don’t know how to post them. A photo will have to do, and I’ll post some more on my Flickr feed.clayworks-hula

It’s a great organization, and I’d love to carve out time to go to a class again in the Spring, maybe. So, any autumn festivals happening in your area?

*Not sure how they got the clay off their feet. But it was hilarious, and everyone was a good sport about getting clay slip on their clothing.

Trial by Fire – voices from a nonprofit

Clayworks, which i have gone to for classes, has a lovely, inspiring video called “Trial by Fire” here [Link]. I wonder if others have found similar arts organizations in their area that merge creativity with community service in quite this way. Some of the speakers are very inspiring.

If you live in the area, you might be interested in classes, or doing the Noborigama community firings if you have a wheel of your own. Their community outreach is pretty amazing, and it’s great fun to see the kid’s projects on the racks. I’m hoping that next session, I will have free time to enjoy classes again. At least I can still go to the gallery and see other people’s work while I wait for the next class cycle to open. If you’re ever in north Baltimore, MD, and you have a weekend free for a class, they do offer tastes of working with clay. I’m somewhat sad to miss the brushmaking class for clayworkers, but I think I have a previous commitment during one of the classes.

Sometimes a simple interior reveals much more

I hate to admit it, but I thought the interior might be a bit boring. But the inside of plain red slip took the “shine” very well, and then the black stain ended up making the interior more mysterious. The result is something that looks ageless, and sections seem to swallow the light and others reflect. I now wonder what other simple things I’ve overlooked, not noticing the emotional feel of the play of light.

Sometimes the outside of a piece of pottery is complicated


Red clay pottery, made with a hump mold (egg half), with patterns from a pine stamp on the outside, and stripes of white, yellow, red, and a blue slip. The white and the red slip shine up the best. Then it was pit fired. Like people, sometimes pieces of work you create end up looking all flash on the outside. (I’ll show the inside tomorrow.)

Three examples of texture, terra sig, and carved tiles

  1. Top left: texture from 2 stamps, streaks of red clay sig and white clay sig, and black stain from copper carbonate.
  2. Bottom left: texture from one stamp, cobalt and copper sig, with red from tile showing through; black stain from copper carbonate.
  3. Right: red clay sig with pumpkin and vine carved design; black stain from copper carbonate; only one wrapping of aluminum foil so lots of charring from the pitfire.

Formica, courtesy of a much-beloved kitchen table. Next time I’ll do photo shoots on something less distracting. I haven’t added any shine with butcher’s wax yet, so you can see where the red clay sig shines from the buffing if you hold the pieces up to sunlight. And yes, I think the one on the top left and the one on the right are really an attempt to create my own pottery shards… I’ve also done a few scrimshaw-looking ones with white terra sig. It’s all fun.

Check back for: pictures of sock knitting progress, if the sun cooperates.

Carved tile with blue sailboat

Carved tile with blue sailboat

This small tile was made with red clay, carved, then decorated with terra sigillata when it was leather hard. The sigs used included one made with blue willow mason stain (boat body and darker sail), a sig from white ball clay (light sail and moon). The background was a turquoise mason stain, and I did a bit of black stain on it before it went into the fire kiln. This piece seems to have missed out on scorch marks, and the black stain wore off. But you never know what you will get after a pitfire.

Pine tile after firing

Pine branch tile resting on a brickThis is what pit firing can do — make a plain tile with a bit of terra sig into something mysterious looking.

The scratches near the bottom of the tile are from a sprig of rosemary I wrapped in the aluminum foil.

Treasures soaking in vinegar

After the pit fire, the pots were washed under water to get a bit of the ash off them. Then, they went for a 24 hour dunk in vinegar. Here they are, treasures in vinegar:

Pots soaking in vinegar

Clay tile carving

Clay tile carving by rjknits
Clay tile carving, a photo by rjknits on Flickr.

Air-dried clay tile with a carving of a stylized jellyfish. This is part of my terra sig work. It’s currently in the electric kiln to be bisqued. I did put blue sig on it before it went to bisque. Later on in the week it goes to the pit firing, and we’ll see if the blue sig stays on.

Element: Fire

Pit firing of clay forms can be done in a trash can. You take your decorated pinch pots, which have been bisqued. Put chemicals on them (wear gloves), and pack them in wood shavings in a metal trash can (rubbish bin). Then build up the layers of torn up newspaper and wood shavings, add “wicks” of long pieces of newspaper that go down into the deeper layers of the combustibles. Then set the combustibles inside the can on fire.

I’m not sure what kind of smoky mess I will have on my hands when this is done. Since I wasn’t “in love” with any of my creations, I’ll be OK with whatever I get.  I’ll post pictures if anything interesting happens. But it was a bit like an improptu campfire moment, in the center of a city, complete with swatting at mosquitoes (without the campfire sing-along).