Giving the Pottery Wheel a try

I woke up today in a really good mood. I think it was getting that extra hour back & having it light out in the morning.

So after creating a few images to help promote First Friday Art Walk (for the AWETeam – Art Walk Etsy Team), getting some orders organized, doing a bit of floor cleaning – while contemplating this huge issue with Etsy and the "handmade" community, I decided that what I really needed to do today was try out my kick wheel…

It has been since 2001 that I sat at a kick wheel. So I had to dig up memories of the process and figure out which basic tools I needed for this refresher session.

My intentions were purely to introduce myself to my clay body on the wheel – especially since I just finished pugging it a couple of weeks ago.

I found that the clay was still a bit short.
But I still enjoyed playing and remembering the process and what the tools are useful for.

This clay is just not ready to cooperate yet – but soon…

And throwing for the first time allowed me to see where the clay is going to go.

I am going to keep working at it and little by little make some very simple forms.

Most likely some bowls. I like that you can use bowls every day and special occasions alike.

And the final test is the cut through to see about thickness. I am going to focus on form & technique.

All of that thrown clay is back to the scrap pile ready to be wedged and thrown again.

Don’t forget that a lot of items currently in my Etsy shop are on sale until November 9, 2013.

Etsy Shop Update and First Friday

I’ve finally gotten my Marsha Neal Studio Etsy Shop updated!!!

And just in time for the November 1-3, 2013 First Friday Art Walk Weekend!

Handmade Air Plant or Seed Pod Holders

Handmade Air Plant or Seed Pod Holders

Porcelain and Chocolate Stoneware Pendants

Porcelain and Chocolate Stoneware Pendants

Butterfly and Bat Pendants

Butterfly and Bat Pendants

Ceramic Bats and Bead Groupings

Ceramic Bats and Bead Groupings

Porcelain Clay Shards: Twirly Style

Porcelain Clay Shards: Twirly Style

Handmade Terrarium Sculptures by Marsha Neal Studio

Handmade Terrarium Sculptures by Marsha Neal Studio

Various Silk Knot Bundle Color Variations from Marsha Neal Studio

Various Silk Knot Bundle Color Variations from Marsha Neal Studio

Next on my update “To Do” list is to send out my mailing list (I love to send out little bonus things for my email newsletter subscribers)!

 

Tiny Ceramic Vessels

As a nature enthusiast I find that I like to pick up and collect little things while outdoors and bring them back into my studio for inspiration.

Some of my favorite things to collect are seed pods, small flowers that my kids pick for me, and just about anything with cool textures.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector Vessel

Rustic Seed Pod Collector Vessel

And with my body of work going more towards these organic shapes, textures and color palettes, it just seemed natural that these old seed pods would find a home in these. I also liked putting a little air plant from the local garden center into them!

Hanging Ceramic Vessel with Air Plant.

Hanging Ceramic Vessel with Air Plant.

Here is a bit of a visual insight into how I create these and make them ready for you to use in your home:

Ceramic clay rolled out into cones, holes added, set up to dry, then bisque fire.

Ceramic clay rolled out into cones, holes added, set up to dry, then bisque fire.

Layers of glaze applied to bisque pieces. Pieces are suspended during the glaze firing (over 2200 degrees F).

Layers of glaze applied to bisque pieces. Pieces are suspended during the glaze firing (over 2200 degrees F).

Soft copper wire (16 or 18 gauge) is oxidized and cleaned for a rustic look.

Soft copper wire (16 or 18 gauge) is oxidized and cleaned for a rustic look.

When working out an idea, one has to start with what you know.

When working out an idea, one has to start with what you know.

Just like with jewelry design, every piece needs to details attended to - no wire ends poking out.

Just like with jewelry design, every piece needs to details attended to – no wire ends poking out.

This beginning phase is a good place to try out technique to see how to get to the end fastest without compromising quality.

This beginning phase is a good place to try out technique to see how to get to the end fastest without compromising quality.

Some things work, others don't. Taking pictures and notes help with remembering lessons learned.

Some things work, others don’t. Taking pictures and notes help with remembering lessons learned.

Nylon jaw pliers are great for cleaning up those bends from forming.

Nylon jaw pliers are great for cleaning up those bends from forming.

Time to gather Seed Pods and the vessels to take photos in natural daylight.

Time to gather Seed Pods and the vessels to take photos in natural daylight.

I love the way this torn Seed Pod Collector Vessel looks.

I love the way this torn Seed Pod Collector Vessel looks.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector  or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Glazed Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder.

Glazed Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder.

Royal Blue Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Royal Blue Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

These will start out in my Marsha Neal Studio Etsy shop where most of my OOAK work is.

My Marsha Neal Studio website is still there – especially for individual silks. One week I will sit and get it all reorganized so people can shop in either places.

Pugmill Finale For This Year

It feels great to have finished up all the pugging of my ceramic clay just before we start to hit freezing during the nights!

De-Aired Pugged Clay 12 rows wide by 3 rows deep by 7 rows tall.

De-Aired Clay Pugs 12 rows wide x 3 rows deep x 7 rows up.

It took me about 4 straight days of pugging (10 hour days) to reclaim about 1000 pounds of useable clay.

Wet and Dry Scrap Clay Combined in Pugmill Mixer

Wet and Dry Scrap Clay Combined in Pugmill Mixer

Then add in time of lugging the buckets up and wet clay back down… Pshew!

Dry Scrap Clay into Pugmill

Dry Scrap Clay into Pugmill

Here is what it looks like adding a bunch of the dry scrap (both bone dry and leather-hard).

Clay slurry into pugmill with dry clay.

Clay slurry into pugmill with dry clay.

And here is the slurry that I also had – this is like muck and slime – completely saturated particles of clay in water.

Pug of Clay starting to emerge de-aired from pugmill.

Pug of Clay starting to emerge de-aired from pugmill.

Hard to believe that after just 5-10 minutes of mixing once you get the proportions of dry and wet right, you get clay coming out that is totally usable.

Finally done with the buckets!

Finally done with the buckets!

And out of all of these buckets I have been using for years and years, I am finally able to get down to keeping just about 8. The rest will be put into the recycle bin and made into something else down the road.

Pugmill put away for the winter.

Pugmill put away for the winter.

And now we can have our garage back. The pugmill is all cleaned up, sealed up, and ready to chill out until spring.

I plan on throwing quite a bit on the wheel this winter and I really hope that I can use this machine more regularly to get my money’s worth out of it.

Mixing and Pugging Ceramic Clay

A few years ago I made an investment purchase. A Bailey Pottery de-airing Pugmill MXP-50. This was when the economy was still pretty good and I was selling buckets of beads…

When making ceramic clay pendants – I was using a lot if textured clay slabs. All of those scraps from cutouts were put into buckets for recycling.

Always use a dust mask & mix outdoors to avoid breathing in ceramic clay dust particles. I added the scrap into the hopper, closed the lid & ran it to break down any larger particles.

This particular Pugmill is so freaking amazing. Just using it – I just can’t help but love it for the ease of mixing consistent batches of useable clay from scrap clay regardless of size and dryness. And not to mention how much wear and tear a tool like this saves on my wrists and body.

I add water and check the moisture level of the clay. Mix more, check it, add more water (and I add beer to aide in the growth of bacteria while it is sitting in clay storage in my studio). And every batch is different depending on the moisture level of the clay being recycled. Lots of babysitting here…

Once the clay is at the right consistency – it’s time to pug the clay. This pug shows me priming the pug after it sitting for 6 years (sealed so well by my friend Tracy – the last woman pugging clay for me) that it was almost like a few days ago vs years.

Then once ready, I kick on the air pressure for de-airing the clay and the pugs start to look more like this. Awesome!!!

Sometimes the clay is a bit too moist, but at least it it’s fun to poke at. And it is so much less effort to dry clay in the studio than lugging it up and down stairs to mix it like this.

My friend Jenny Davies-Reazor stopped over for some lunch and clay chatting. It is great to have another ceramic artist over to talk clay and studio setup. Especially cool because of her knowledge of mixed media and jewelry making so I can make the best use out of my studio space (some areas translate well for overlapping use).

And then she left me with a little clay smile…

Which will be stored along with the other clay pugs – to be found weeks, months or even years down the road.
How Fun!!!

Since this process is ongoing over the next few weeks, I need to seal the Pugmill up when I am finished for the day. I simply repeat what Tracy had done – add extra plastic bags to seal any gaps where air could get in and dry out the clay (you never want to let the clay inside the Pugmill dry out).

Then 20lb bag by bag – back down the stairs into the studio. Such a process. One must really be in love with a medium to do all this…

And through mixing – I took a couple minutes here and there to just sit and observe the suburban garden view from my garage. It was time to reflect on how fortunate my life is right now, and to remember all the hard work that has happened to arrive at this point.

I am fully aware that at any moment all of this could be gone – as life is full of change. My aim is to enjoy every day as it comes and make more work that stems from my interest in nature and gardening. So these steps of organization, purging, and studio preparation – will all hopefully get me to my goals of leading a more creative life every day.

And there are always curious little hands here. It is my responsibility to teach safety, correct use, and make sure that my two little ones are knowledgable about what they are allowed to touch and do while I am working. It always keeps me on my toes to keep them safe yet confident and interested.

marshanealstudio

marshanealstudio

Ceramic Artist. Garden and Nature Enthusiast.

View Full Profile →