Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Art Studio Tour 2013

A group of ten artists in my county have teamed up for an "Art Studio Tour". We're going to open the doors of our respective studios and let the public come in.

The Tour will be held on Saturday, Nov. 16th, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. We'll have food, beverages, plenty of art and we'll be on hand to answer questions. Some of the artists are going to do demonstrations.

There is more info and a list of the artists, locations, at www.design29.com/tour2013

We're hoping it will become an annual event and that we'll add more artists. We're dreaming big! 

When my friend Andrea Boswell first proposed it I jumped on board enthusiastically. I'm still enthusiastic. However, it's a bit daunting at the moment!

I walked outside today and tried to see my yard, the outside and the inside of my studio with "new" eyes. Yikes! I have a LOT of work to do before the 16th. 

I just finished up my last outdoor show of the year and everything is still stacked in the garage. I broke some bones in my foot. My shop-vac broke (of course).

I have this long list of things I want to do before weekend after this one comes around. I want to put up some signs, organize, clean up the yard, trim some trees, set up my tent, figure out which pottery I want to put on sale, advertise the event... that's just a broad overview. I'm figuring I'll get maybe a tenth of the list done.

Oh, yep, there's some pieces I want to finish up, too.

And I'm taking a painting class so I want to set up a corner for my paints.

I thought I'd show you some "before" pictures today. 

Truthfully, those pictures were taken after I'd done a bit of cleaning. They aren't current. You can see the now-broken shop-vac in some of the pictures...

The studio needs to be pressure washed.

I keep adding to the list.

I won't bore you with all the things that have popped into my mind.

Come see my cleaned up, spruced up, prettified, studio on Nov. 16th. I will even wear my non-clay-stained clothes for you. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Wishing Tree

When I started on my Wishing Tree it was simply a tree-to-be. It was not yet a wishing tree. My cousin, a fabulous painter, came to visit, walked in and saw the tree before I had glazed it and said it reminded him of the book about the wishing tree.

After I did a bit of research, looking for the book, I realized that the tale he told me was for The Giving Tree. Knowing the way my brain works, he may have said giving instead of wishing. However it happened, as I layered the glazes onto the bisqued clay it I thought of it as a wishing tree.

There is a book titled "The Wishing Tree" by Marybeth Whalen about divorce, reconciliation and such. That is not what MY tree is about!

And there's an older children's book titled "The Wish Tree" by John Ciardi (1960s). The Wish Tree, children's version, is about the responsibility of wishes and taking care of gifts. The words carved on the tree are "Take Care of Your Wish". I may have to do another tree in honor of that book!

I found the poem I posted below on a poetry site and it seemed perfect for my wishing tree. I tried to find a way to contact the author but couldn't. I did post a link below that was on the page so you could read more of Reshika Ramprsad's poetry. He is from South Africa and writes some nice poetry.

The Wishing Tree (mine) stands roughly 7 inches tall and will hold water so you can start your own wishing tree (or just put a nice floral arrangement inside). As always with my pieces, the inside is just as important to me as the outside thus the roots travel into the interior of the pot. It will work just fine with absolutely nothing in it.

The piece was glaze fired multiple times with sand, matte and gloss glazes, glass additions and at least 12 or so contrasting glaze colors to attempt to give the appearance that Mother Nature does in her glorious works!

The Wishing Tree

Be fore warned and
Do not be mistaken
For many have
For this is no ordinary tree
It is but the wishing tree

Listen and pay heed
For this tree is the bearer of hopes
Dreams, wishes and desires
Give to it a little
And you will receive exponentially

For it has been bound together
With the strength and hard work of
Mother Nature herself
This tree listens and listens
Only to your heart desires
So wish upon this wishing tree

For its time too will approach for it to wither and pass
But know this much
That the wishing tree existence
Is beyond its physical state

For once you have wished upon the tree
It has been heard, registered and now nurtured
So wish upon your wishing tree

~ Reshika

Click here to visit VoicesNet.com to read the poem called "The Wishing Tree" by Reshika Ramprsad, South Africa

Monday, October 28, 2013

Playing those head games...

A few years back I decided I was going to do some faces, some figures, some people. I did two. This is one of the two.

I sold the other one --- it actually won some awards before I sold it. I was rather impressed with myself.

This one, I'm not so sure about.

I made it with a white clay, something I've discovered I do NOT like to work with.

I played a lot with the features but never quite felt like I captured the look I wanted.

After I made it I let it sit, unglazed. I didn't want a flesh colored piece. I didn't want to have the face one color and the hair another. I wasn't sure what I wanted.

I would pull it out on occasion, take a look, pull out my glazes and spend time trying to get just the right look for my girl.

Finally, I opted for a very translucent flesh-toned color. Almost a tan I guess.

I still wasn't happy.

It sat for months again.

Ultimately I got tired of looking at the face. She stared at me saying with much exasperation, "finish me, do something, anything!".

I was digging around in some old glazes and found a rainbow clear finishing glaze. It was so old I wasn't even sure if it would work. They no longer make the glaze and I didn't have instructions so I had to do some digging around on the Internet to find the right cone temp.

So, here she is in all her glory.

She's empty headed. I intend to fill the head with things. Not sure what kind of things yet, I'm still waiting on inspiration. Then again, maybe I'll just call it a day and pop her out at a show to see how she's received. She's waited a long time.

On my list of things to do someday is to take a few pottery classes that focus on the human form. My list of to-dos is a very, very, very long list. Usually the way I get to something on the list is a class or opportunity will drop in my lap, get in my face or I'll trip over it.

Due to the type glaze I used it's almost impossible for ME to get a good shot. In the last picture you can even see my old light box. I've moved on since that box. Yes, she's been sitting again for a while!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Searching for Atlantis

Waiting on the first glaze firing.
Making my sculpted sea pieces is a fairly long process. Searching for Atlantis is a rather tall "bowl" of sorts...it's not functional, definitely decorative.

I start by rolling out the clay, then tearing it into strips. Usually I shoot for a triangular shape if I'm making a bowl shape.

Each of the "flukes" (not sure that's an accurate term, but it's what I call them) is torn, textured, then rolled to form the funnel.

The "bubbles" are each individually hand-formed. Sometimes they take forever! Good music playing in the background makes the time zip by...

I usually use a form to semi-hold the bottom shape as I begin. Sometimes I just use clay to prop the pieces up for a bit. After I've been working for a while the clay holds up by itself to some degree.

I have gotten ahead of myself before and had the piece collapse! Not fun.

Atop the kiln, after first glaze firing.
The inside of my creations is just as important at the exterior. Even if I'm not making a sculpted piece I try to make sure the inside is interesting.

With these sea pieces the interior is often more important than the exterior. I want the eye to travel into the piece. I want to mimic the idea of looking down into the sea. Thus I leave spaces where you can look into the bowl from the sides.

When I've finished forming the bowl I start placing my bubbles. Again my goal is to leave the viewer thinking about the ocean, the sea. The bubbles need to float upward. It's not possible (without using wire or other mechanisms) to have the bubbles truly float, so I attach them on the sides of the walls in various positions, hopefully giving the idea of motion.

Side view after first glaze firing.
I want the piece to undulate like the water is moving it, hence the wavy motion of the flukes & sides. Sometimes I'll add extruded strings to further give the impression of movement.

After I complete the piece I let it dry for a week or so. Then it is bisque fired. The bisque firing takes roughly 12 hours. The kiln then has to sit for about three times that long to cool. I'm sometimes a bit impatient and can't wait... that doesn't matter much with the bisque firing as long as I don't open too soon. Open a glaze load too fast and the cold air can crack the glaze or even crack the entire pot.

After I finally unload the kiln, I rinse the bisque fired pieces, let them dry thoroughly, then begin the glaze firing process.

I glaze fire each of my sea pieces multiple times.

Searching for Atlantis has at least 10 - 12 shades of layered blues, greens, turquoise glazes. I fired the piece, then did it all again adding some glass on the second go-around, popping certain colors that I wanted to be predominate. As you can see in the various stages, the red color of the clay shines through. I wasn't quite satisfied so I did it again.

Below is the finished piece. You can still see some of the clay tones but the turquoise tones and the glass are stronger. The interior has even more glass to give the appearance of water.

I named the piece Searching for Atlantis as it something that people have dreamed about, believed in (or not), searched for and sung about. It's a place of mystery and, if legends are true, beauty. I truly hope you'll think that Searching for Atlantis is worthy of the name.

Though Gods they were
And as the elders of our time
   choose to remain blind
Let us rejoice and let us sing
And dance and ring in the new
Hail Atlantis
Way down below the ocean
where I wanna be, she may be
- Atlantis Lyrics, Donovan

Friday, October 25, 2013

Birth of the Blues

Birth of the Blues has been sung by greats such as Nellie Lutcher, Louis Armstrong, Keely Smith, Shirley Bassey, & my favorite: the trio of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr & Dean Martin.

If you haven’t listened to the Rat Pack with Johnny Carson (subbing for Joey Bishop at the time) go search it out on YouTube.

This trio of pieces shouted out the name they wanted! The Rat Pack was larger than life and the blues speak of the ups and downs of life. Hopefully my three pieces pay worthy tribute to both.

Multiple blues, hints of green and some tan tones on the patchwork of majolica clay. The tallest piece is roughly 10 in. high.

I hope you'll come see them in person at one of my upcoming shows or studio tours. - Janet

Oh, they say some people long ago
Were searching for a different tune
One that they could croon
As only they can
They only had the rhythm
So they started swaying to and fro
They didn’t know just what to use
That is how the blues really began
They heard the breeze in the trees
Singing weird melodies
And they made that the start of the blues
And from a jail came the wail
Of a down-hearted frail
And they played that
As part of the blues
From a whippoorwill
Out on a hill
They took a new note
Pushed it through a horn
Til it was worn
Into a blue note
And then they nursed it, rehearsed it
And gave out the news
That the southland gave birth to the blues!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why you should NOT buy a Fitbit Flex...

I know I usually write about pottery but I'm as into fitness almost as much as I am the creative arts so I wanted to share a bit about my experience with Fitbit. Many of my friends have been considering getting a Flex so writing here is easier than talking / emailing eac.

The Fitbit Flex is a tracker you wear on your wrist that keeps up with your steps. It syncs to the computer & you can compete with your friends, keep up with your diet, calories and much more. (www.fitbit.com)

Fitbit has a number of products. I started with a "One". The One clips to your belt, pocket or bra and does pretty much the same thing as the Flex, just not as conveniently. The Flex is waterproof so you can shower and swim with it...the One, not so waterproof.

The One has some advantages. It keeps up with floors, which is kind of fun. It gives you the time. You don't have to be near the computer to see your steps / miles walked as it has a display screen. The Flex lets you tap it, shows series of lights so you have a really broad idea of where you are in reaching your goals. However, most have the Fitbit app on their phone so that's not a biggie for many.

Anyway, as said, I started with the One and loved it. For my birthday my husband gifted me with the Flex, something I had wanted badly. Had to wait two months as it was back-ordered so the anticipation was even greater due to the wait.

I noticed immediately that my step count dropped. I "assumed" at first that the One had been incorrect. Not so. I was consistently off up to 4,000 steps.

After much back & forth with the nice folks (and they are) at Fitbit they sent me a replacement Flex. Told me to toss the old one. Wow, nice, didn't have to hassle with sending anything back & I ended up with some extra arm bands. Woo hoo.

However, the problem wasn't fixed.

I kept playing and finally figured out the Flex doesn't like treadmills.

My options, per Fitbit support, were to manually enter my steps (why have a Flex if I have to manually enter??? and calculate what I did, plus what wasn't counted, or take the thing off...) OR wear it on my waist-band. However, I wear sweats, no hooks for a band, no way to attach it.

So, I'm back to the One. I love the One, but hate that I just blew $100. That's a lot of clay!

I really, really want all my friends to avoid the Flex & please spread the news. If the Flex was off by a few hundred steps, no problem, I'd just make myself work a bit harder to reach my goals knowing I was actually going over. My goal is 15,000 steps a day, that's close to 7 miles. Sorry, hard enough to reach that without adding extras (although when I can I bump up to 20K).

I was going to try their Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale (need a new scale) but nope, not going there. Will have to see if I'll replace the One if it goes out on me. Love competing with my friends, kind of addicted to keeping up with my steps, too. Maybe by the time I need a new One I'll be over the burn from this experience.

(Just in case your curious, right now: Flex band shows 7199 steps, the One shows 10627).

One more comment: I spent some time on the Fitbit Community dashboards before sending something to Fitbit. I'm not the lone stranger on this one, lots of others having similar issues. I think they need to do a bit of tweaking, maybe allow for some user-defined adjustments...


Here's the entire exchange we had just in case you want to see how they tried to work with me (until it bombed & then it's gee sorry you wasted $100). You'll have to start at the bottom & read up to get it in sequence...

Hello Janet,

Thanks for your time and patience with the Flex.

We appreciate you have checked the device setting in your account and we hope you keep enjoying your Fitbit One.

Feel free to contact us back if you need more help in the future.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
I think that being off by 3,000 to 4,000 steps is excessive, especially
since I have it on my dominate hand, set for non-dominate & I make sure
to keep that hand moving.

Hope your feedback dept. will read through all of the exchange below,
not just our current conversation.

I have nine-ten friends who were following my experience before they
decided to go with the Flex... love the One, can't recommend the Flex.
Gave you high marks with them re: customer service, attempting to fix
(although ultimately, no fix, just a waste of $'s for me).

Hello Janet,

We appreciate your patience with your Flex.

We are always striving to improve the Fitbit experience. We have forwarded your feedback to our product department. Sometimes we will have to manually log some activities since all Fitbit trackers are optimized for walking, running, and general household and lifestyle activities. It will not be as accurate for activities like walking on a treadmill, but will record that your were active if you wear your tracker during a non-walking or running activity.

Though your body is in motion on exercise machines, these motions are not recorded as accurately as your tracker records running or walking. That is why we recommend to log manually your activity.

Feel free to contact us back if we can be of more assistance.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
Thanks, but I don't have a way to hook it on my waist when walking and
it defeats the purpose of having the Flex to hafta manually enter
activity. I walk at a pretty good clip (3.5 & up mph) so slow walking is
not part of the issue.

Hi Janet,

We're sorry to hear that you're seeing a difference in how many steps your Flex is tracking comparing to your One when walking on a treadmill.

Fitbit's trackers can potentially miss steps if the user is walking on a treadmill desk at a very low speed. Our engineers have determined that Fitbit trackers will provide greatest accuracy if the user is wearing it clipped on their mid-section and walking at least 2 miles per hour. However you may still miss some steps.

Also, keep in mind you can manually log your activity, this will provide a most accurate information. To manually log your treadmill activity please do the following:

1. Log into Fitbit.com.
2. Click the "Log Activity" circle near the top of your Dashboard.
3. Click the blue "Browse" link to the right of "Find an Activity to Log".
4. A window will open. On the left side of the window that pops up, you will be able to search for an activity by category. More specific activities will then appear on the right side of the screen. Scroll to the desired activity, then click it once to add it to your activity log.
5. Once you enter the duration and start time of your activity, click the pink "Log Activity" button. Your activity details will be added to your logged activities.

Thanks for your patience with this and do not hesitate to contact us back if we can be of more assistance.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
Been using the new Flex for a week or so. I am giving up on it.

I figured out the problem --- the Flex doesn't like treadmills. I'm off
by thousands of steps consistently & by comparing both accounts (One -
janet... & Flex - janet....m) I've been able
to pinpoint that even through I make sure to swing my arms, pump them,
make sure not to hold onto bar with the Flex arm, steps just aren't
being counted when I'm on the treadmill at the gym or at my home.

So, I'm going to stick with the One and give up on the Flex.

Really frustrated because I love the idea of wearing it on my arm as
opposed to having to clip something on a belt or bra.

Hello Janet,

Thank you for providing us with your information.

Your replacement black Flex is now being processed. Your confirmation number is 2TNKCWV.

Once your order ships, you will receive a shipping confirmation from our order system. You can view the status of this order by clicking the View Order Status link in the confirmation email. This link also provides your tracking number. You can expect that your order will arrive within 5 - 7 business days from the date of shipment.

Once you receive your replacement, please go to the following help article for instructions on how to set up your replacement device:

Please recycle your defective unit through a local electronics recycling program.

Let us know if you have any additional questions.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
Thank you very much. Yes, that is the correct information.

Hello Janet,

Thanks for troubleshooting this issue with us.

We are sorry to hear your Flex is not tracking your information properly. We would like to get you back on track with a complimentary replacement.

We see that you purchased your product from the Fitbit.com Store. Please confirm the following details:


Once we receive your response, we'll be able to continue with the replacement process.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
3rd reply (in case you need to look at other responses /connect the
info). Currently my One account (Janet McGregor Dunn2 /
janet.... shows 12,643 steps while the Flex account (Janet
McGregor Dunn / janet@.....) is only reflecting 5,946.
This is AFTER I did the restart of the Flex per instructions below.
I tested the Flex on the treadmill this morning. I walked 2 miles
exactly. I came home from the gym, logged in --- it shows I have walked
1.28 miles this morning (which includes all the extra walking to /from
gym, etc.). I am resetting the Flex right now but wanted to provide that
info before doing so. The One shows 2.52 miles walked. (5768 steps vs
2936 for Flex).

I just set up an account for my One. It's janet..... Janet
McGregor Dunn2. I'll keep it going for a while. Today have only walked
4001 steps per Flex, 4675 per One. That will increase just as soon as
they both finish charging...

I'll reset my Flex when I go to bed. Am a little competitive & my most
competitive friend is kicking my butt at the moment, can't lose a step :-)

Hello Janet,

We are sorry to hear you are still having issues with the accuracy of your Flex.

We would like to know if you have a second account paired to your Fitbit One. If you do, please provide the email address linked to that account so we can check both information.

You can restart your Flex, this should fix any issue it may be experiencing. To restart your Flex please do the following:

1. Plug your charging cable into the USB port and insert your tracker into the charging cable.
2. Insert a paperclip into the small pinhole on the back of the charger.
3. Press the pinhole for 3-4 seconds.
4. If you see lights on your Flex, let it charge for a few hours.

Flex will count your steps when you're walking with your arms stationary, as we do want to give you credit for this activity. This includes walking while pushing a stroller or shopping cart, or holding on to a treadmill. That said, because your hands are not moving, your step count may be a bit lower while you are not moving your hands but you are moving your body.

Let us know if you have additional questions.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
No, not resolved. We're still communicating.
Hello Janet,

We are sorry to hear that you are still seeing a difference in how many steps your Flex is tracking comparing to your Fitbit One.

We would like to check the account associated with your Fitbit One. Please provide the email address linked to your Fitbit One account. If you do not not have a second account we recommend to open a temporary account to set up your Fitbit One. Once you have both account please wear your trackers for at least a day and compare the information on both Dashboards.

Flex is a motion sensor on your wrist. There are many instances where your hands may be moving, but your body may not be, such as playing the drums, cooking, or even burping a baby. Flex may count some extra steps here and there to give you credit when it thinks you are active.

You can improve the accuracy of your Flex by changing the Dominant Hand setting on your Devices page (http://www.fitbit.com/settings/device), which can be found under the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Dashboard. Changing this setting to "Dominant" will decrease sensitivity of step counting and should reduce the over counting of steps when your body is not moving. Using the "Non Dominant" setting will increase the sensitivity of step counting, and can be used if your Flex is not counting enough steps.

Please let us know if changing these settings doesn't improve the accuracy of your Flex, and we'll be happy to continue investigating the issue.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.
I've been wearing the One on my wrist next to the Flex for two days.

Flex 10003 steps
One 13716 steps

Flex 9609
One 14049

The One is consistently giving me way higher steps than Flex --- also
fairly consistent with what it was doing when the One was on my waist &
Flex on wrist.

Tomorrow I'm going to wear them both on my waist next to each other.

I will do the 100 step test a few times to see if they're close. Given
that's not really going to be the way I walk, run, move through the day
I'm not sure that's really a good gauge or accuracy, but will try to do
a number of different tests, some running, some with more hand motion, etc.

Hello Janet,

We're sorry to hear that you're seeing a difference in how many steps your Flex is tracking comparing to your Fitbit One.

Flex has been tested extensively against our clip-based devices like the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. That said, because Flex is specifically designed for your wrist, if you move your body a lot and not your arms (or vice versa), you may get a slight difference in activity than you would see on your clip-based trackers. Additionally, since you’re more likely to wear Flex 24/7, you may count a few more steps.

This is no different than any wrist-based tracker on the market. For most people, there may be no difference at all between clip and wrist based trackers or it may be within a few percentage points difference. That said, if you have a lifestyle where you move your hands a lot such as playing the drums everyday, you may see a few extra steps on your Flex as we do want to give you credit for this activity.

Thanks for checking the settings on your Dashboard, this way you can select which hand you want to wear your tracker. Also, you can perform a test. If you'd like to test your step count, please do the following:

1. Put your Fitbit on your hip or torso.
2. Pause for several moments. (We want to make sure that the mounting of the tracker is not affecting your step count. Pausing should prevent this).
3. Walk 100 steps, making sure to count a step each time one of your feet hits the ground).
4. Pause, then check your tracker to see your step count.

Fitbit trackers should be at least 95% accurate for step counting, which allows for a 5 step margin of error for every 100 steps.

In regard to the Fitbit Connect Software, we believe this issue should be resolved uninstalling and reinstalling the software. You can do this following the instructions available in this link: https://help.fitbit.com/customer/portal/articles/1084265-how-do-i-uninstall-reinstall-fitbit-connect-from-a-pc-

Please let us know if these steps did not resolve your issue, and we’ll be happy to troubleshoot further.

Flor M and the Fitbit Team

Reply directly to this email, or click #805383 to update your case via our online support portal.

Original message
I have had my Flex for a week or so. I had/have a One. They are WAY off. I've been wearing both & today they're 4,000 steps apart. The Flex is consistently 1K or more steps less, is not accurately keeping up with steps. I often forget to put the One on when changing clothes so the discrepancy is even further off.

I've been tracking & commenting on the Community board here: http://www.fitbit.com/forums/topic/GN77LDH3XFY2B.

I put it to sleep & wake it up simply by tapping my hands to music when I'm driving. It turns off & on (sleep tracking) as I toss & turn.

I don't really care about the sleep tracking so no biggie. However, the difference in tracking steps is really frustrating.

I've tried changing hands, putting it on my dominate hand while having it set for non-dominate (which got me a bit closer), but I don't want to wear on my dominate hand due to the work I do.

I updated it to see if that might help. No luck. Suggestions? I'm getting ready to give up on it & just go back to the One. It's fairly accurate. I wouldn't mind a few hundred steps off, but this is way, way too many.

One last thing --- for some reason the Fitbit connect pop up is not loading when I start up my computer since getting the Flex --- and every time I use it I have to log in. Then I have to log in when I get to the fitbit website.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Firing a load... pins and needles

I am firing my first full load of glazed Lizella pieces. I'm on pins and needles and will be until I open the kiln. I have some pieces in there that I really love. I'm concerned that the glaze may have seeped too far into the clay, that I might not have let it dry enough between glaze coats, that the glaze may not interact with the clay the way I want, that I may have the glaze on too thick in areas...


I'm not a worry-wart type so I'm not going to spend the next few days fretting and worrying, but it's going to be in the back of my mind.

Every kiln load is a learning experience. I don't want this one to be a bad learning experience!

It's kind of funny. I can remember when I first moved from paint to clay. I was so timid. I felt like every little scrap of clay that dried out was money down the drain. The cost of glaze seemed prohibitive. I was amazed at the cost of kilns, brushes, tools, books, classes.

If a piece didn't turn out well I was bummed. I saved my mistakes thinking maybe I'd figure out a way to fix them someday (ha ha).

Now I have a pottery garden comprised of plants and all those mistakes, broken pieces, pots with pitted or runny glazes and other strange experiments I simply didn't like. I reclaim clay when I can and add it to the soggy area next to the studio when I can't (it's amazing how long a piece of dried clay will retain its shape!). My glaze collection, along with all the additions, is extensive and I only think about cost when I do something stupid like drop a bottle or forget to put a lid back.

Lizella is making me feel like a first time potter again. Who'da thunk it would be such a big learning experience?

This first load is low-fire. I'm working on finishing up the next load which will be mid-fire.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Breaking the clay rules

I typically stretch or completely break all the "rules" when playing with clay.

I remember one of my instructors over and over correcting my tendency to paint rather than place glaze on pieces. "You PLACE the glaze, you do NOT paint the glaze" she would say in horror. I think if she could have slapped the brush out of my hand she might have done so.

I grew up painting with acrylics, oils, water color. The idea of NOT painting with glaze was completely alien to my nature.

It still is. I paint, I don't lay my glaze on pieces. So there.

Another one I was taught and ignore is the idea that you let your glazes dry between coats. Three even coats, blah blah blah. It makes sense when you're working on most pottery creations. You want even coats, you don't want thin areas, weak areas, blobs.

However, I blend and paint. I want my glazes to mix. I want uneven results. I often use 10 or 12 or 20 glaze colors to achieve the look I want. Of course, most of the time I make sure that there's plenty of coverage to protect the finished piece. Sometimes I want the clay to peek through so I deliberately expose or scrape off some of the glaze.

I don't dip my pieces. I paint and get into every little crevice with a brush or some other tool. It's painstaking sometimes but I don't want a solid color anywhere on any of my pieces. Sometimes I miss a spot because I use a lot of texture and layer my clay so there are often little areas that are hard to get into.

At times I look at a difficult piece before I attempt to glaze it I tell myself I have to think more about the glazing process when making a piece because getting into all those little creases and hidey-holes is going to be impossible. I don't listen to myself.

So now I'm working with Lizella, a Georgia clay, as I wrote about in my last blog. It is not a clay that lends itself to my penchant for glazing wet layer upon wet layer. The clay is more brittle than many (OK, all) I've worked with and it absorbs the glaze, weakening the clay. I've already chipped off some pieces while glazing because the edges were saturated with glaze and weak.

I'm learning. Luckily the pieces that have broken off weren't important to the piece and I was able to sand the edges and blend. And no, I'm not telling you which ones I chipped! You'll never know when looking at them.

I'm glad the breakage happened where it did as I can tell it would be fairly easy to have a piece break in half! Especially the way I man-handle everything when I'm glazing. I get so totally into what I'm doing that I don't think about things like fragility when I grab a piece and flip it over.

I've also had some of the additions, like the little balls I add or the flute, come off when glazing. I stick them on when making the piece with clay mixed with magic water. For all the times I've made pieces with other clay I've never had anything separate or not stick.

With the Lizella some of the pieces fall off and separate during the firing process. Some drop off when I'm glazing when they get too wet. Again, aside from one piece I'm puzzling over, all have been fixable, or leaving off whatever fell off doesn't affect the end result.

Today I'm heading back to the studio to finish up some glazing. I had to let some pieces dry overnight as they really were getting too wet to handle.

I'm not sure I'm going to survive my Lizella experiment! I love the idea of using Georgia clay, I love the way the clay is so versatile when it comes to range of firing temps. I think if the end result makes me happy I'll probably learn to adapt.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the pieces hold up when I glaze fire! I'm doing a low-fire load first, then moving onto all the pieces I made for mid-fire.

Photos: All the pieces pictures are glazed and await their final glaze firing. We'll see. The one that looks pink & gray is royal blue and black tulip --- there were a whole lot of tiny, tiny crevices and pockets so I'm kind of expecting to have to refire it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Playing with new clay

I finally got around to experimenting with some Georgia clay, Lizella. I have some favorite clays and have, over time, adjusted to their peculiarities. I had moved from mid & high fire to low fire years back because I like glazing the bottom of pieces. With higher temps you can't put pieces on stilts when you glaze fire as they slump over the stilts.

While Lizella lends itself to a wide range of firing temps from low to mid-fire, I like the darker brown-toned clay that you get when mid-firing (cone 6). I grabbed a bunch of high fire glazes when I picked up the Lizella with the intention of firing high.

One of the biggest adjustments I'm having to make is that I've grown accustomed to making low-fire pieces that can be glazed on the bottom. My designs flow down under. I keep looking at a finished wet piece and realizing I won't like it without glaze on the bottom! Habits. Ingrained.

But I do like to stretch myself so I'm sticking with it.

To semi-force myself to stick with it (cause I know I'll ultimately adjust and like), I bought a bunch more Lizella, more glazes and a couple of other mid/high fire clays last time I was up at Davens. Now I have to keep going!

Luckily for me, Lizella has a great firing range so when I "goof" and make a piece that simply MUST be glazed on the bottom, I can still fire it at a low enough temp to do so. However, I'm working hard to remember when I'm in my creative mode so I can make some mid-fire pieces.

I posted on Facebook a week or so ago that I was playing with Lizella. My FB friends are great --- a number of them who use Lizella added comments, gave suggestions and even posted some pieces for me to see. Art people are some of the nicest people in the world!

I just pulled out my first bisque fire load and will be glazing pretty soon. I learned that Lizella doesn't adhere to itself when wet as well as the clay I was working with... I have to re-fire one piece because part of it didn't "stick" to the other. That's part of the frustration and the fun of working with a new clay.