Walking through a store in San Francisco, I saw something like this silhouette made in a metal that looked like polished chrome. There have been other times when I see something made in wood or glass that inspires a new shape to try. I liked this shape and it seemed like a good challenge to make from clay. This is my first attempt. I'll try again and hopefully make the base a bit narrower and the top slightly taller. It's recycled clay and could be glazed in a matte white or black, or just glazed on the inside leaving the raw surface on the outside.
I've been working on creating a matte black glaze. Since I have zero knowledge of glaze chemistry, I've been mostly been adding mason stains to tint base glazes. Just add the black mason stain, right? Well, different things happen with that approach: glossy finishes, blue tones, brown tones, etc. As usual, the answer came from another member of the Berkeley Potters Studio. This time it was Doug Dowers. I saw his black matte bowl on the shelf, and he was kind enough to provide the recipe. The second vase from the right has that glaze on it. The others are only a small sampling of earlier tests.
I took photos of some pieces drying in the studio today. Using this background, instead of the very simple ones I normally use, provides a different context for these work-in-progress vases.
I've been experimenting with faceting some cups, inspired by the glass version that's so common. These have to be thrown a little thicker than normal to allow for the cutting of the wall. I used a potato peeler to make the cuts in each piece.
Usually I make this "Flathead" pattern by stamping it with a standard screwdriver. For a set of vases for the Beverly Laurel Hotel in Los Angeles, I'm using the Flathead pattern but on a larger scale and carving it instead of stamping it. The carved texture is more pronounced than the stamped version and should be more easily seen from across the room. I'm looking forward to seeing how the glaze looks over this surface. Thanks to Brian Lane, partner at Koning Eizenberg Architects, who thought a BD Pottery vase or two would work well on the reception desk of the hotel that the firm redesigned.
I've been working on this shape and its proportions for a while. It has had a smaller pedestal, straight sides and different surface treatments. These grooved ones are unfired, but I'm excited to see how the glaze will work over the texture. If the effect is successful, I will include them in a few pop-up shops that I've been invited to do inside some Northern California West Elm stores, as part of their Local program. Thanks to my friend Tanya Stolurow for helping with the connection.
This vase will later be hand-stamped with a screwdriver to form the Flathead pattern. It was made with 4 pounds of recycled clay.
In the process of making pottery pieces with commerically available clay, material is always left over. It can accumulate quickly, and, if thrown away, would create unecessary trash and be wasteful. The best way to handle these scraps is reclaim and reuse them. A mixture of whatever clay has been used in the last month or so is processed and stored to be made into new pottery. The combination of light and dark commercially-bought clays that are mixed usually results in a light brown that fires to a toasty, almond color and infuses lighter glazes with a subtle texture of iron speckles. Here are some of the steps in the recycled clay process.
1. Throwing with commercially bought clay.
3. Trimmings and scraps put into a bin of water.
5. Different kinds of clay are mixed together.
7. After a few weeks the clay begins to solidify.
9. The recycled clay is wedged before using.
2. Material from trimming pottery pieces collected.
4. Liquified clay is scooped from the bin.
6. Mixed clay is poured onto plaster bats for drying.
8. When the clay can be handled it's stored.
10. New pieces are made with the reclaimed clay.
I'll do some variations on this, but it’s fun to try new shapes. On the right, or below, if you're on a phone, is how it might look when trimmed.
When a piece is removed from its bat, the base is usually flat with rough edges. Working on the foot of a piece (upside down) and cleaning it up is an important part of the process that can't be rushed.
I've been experimenting with some different pitcher shapes and handles. These are in the greenware stage, but after firing it will be interesting to see how the balance and weight feel when pouring.
I've been continuing to explore a textured surface. This time with a flathead screwdriver. Hoping they take the glaze well. I will try several approaches including an oxide stain underneath the glaze and glaze only on the inside, letting the outside be just the patterned clay. Will post more when I have results.
I have never made a mug or anything with a handle. My talented friend Kaari Meng of frenchgeneral.com asked me to make some mugs, so I decided to accept the challenge. The one on the left shows my first awkward attempt and, on the right, some progress with the handle and base. I will keep going and make some more. Thanks Kaari!
A lot of extra clay gets saved from throwing and trimming. In my process, the clay first gets collected in a 33 gallon drum, then dries on plaster bats and finally is wedged and saved for new projects. All of the bowls in the top photo were made from this reclaimed clay. It fires to a nice toasty color and can vary a bit depending on what mix of clay has been used lately. The second photo shows different pieces made from recycled clay.
Some good results from the initial glaze testing. These are all on Black Mountain clay. The next batch is a mix of recycled and B-mix. The waxy white glaze will be more white on those. Here it has a more greenish-gray tone. The cinnamon color comes from a thin coat of White Shino glaze. These are a challenge for me to make, but the shapes are fun when I can avoid them collapsing in on themselves — which is about half the time.
In addition to the BD stamp, I use a number on the bottom of each piece. The first digit indicates the pounds of clay I used (not what the finished product weighs), and the second is a code for the type of clay. After the bisque firing (and before the glaze firing) the different clays can look very similar, so this is a way to know what clay I am glazing. Clays change quite a bit at 2300 degrees in the glaze firing. Some of the numbers: 1 - B-Mix; 2 - B-Mix with Grog; 3 - Recycled; 4 - Soldate 60; 6 - Black Mountain; 8 - Porcelain (usually Coleman). So, for example, this "53" started as 5 pounds of recycled clay or a "46" would be 4 pounds of Black Mountain.
Luckily this doesn't happen too often. It might have dried too fast.
I try to avoid measuring pieces — and only do when I have to make a lid fit or a group of pieces more consistent. But I do weigh every ball of clay before it is wedged. Pieces are made in 1 pound increments to keep things organized (there is a number system stamped into each piece). Previously I used an electronic scale that had to be turned on each time. This new one is simpler.
The simpler necks seem a bit better — I will continue to work with this group of shapes and make more of them while this set gets fired and glazed.
Our local squirrel is always trying to get to the bird feeder,