Monday, April 2, 2012

My new sculpture in progress is a sculpture of Ruth, taken from the Old Testament.   We have a Christian Artists Conference at the Box R Ranch every Spring and I would love to have it done by then-but I don't want to rush it. If I could possibly get the sculpture dried and fired by the conference I will be happy.  Since this is my first attempt at trying to do a person, it is proving to be a really fun challenge.

My first step was to find a model, who was a very patient friend of mine named, Julie Allen.  Julie is a wonderful dancer and beautiful singer who loves to worship.  She and her family attend our church and she has  patiently spent time dancing and doing worship poses for my Raku sculptures and murals. My murals have been sketched out and will be done in wall tiles.Those are on the back burner for a while.  I need to try to finish this sculpture first.

For the sculpture of Ruth, Julie had to dress up in costume and  perch on top of one of the worktables in my pottery studio.  It took two sessions, along with driving out to her house and taking some quick pictures of her in plain clothes without the shawl-which I hadn't thought about when I did the regular photo sessions.  She was very giving.  Thank you Julie!!! 

Mr. Bear

Mr.Bear started out as a closed form project that we did in STCA, (Second Thursday Clay Artist).

Gwen Childs, who is our fearless and knowledgeable leader, threw us all some closed forms on her pottery wheel. A "closed form" is like a bowl, but as the walls are brought up, they are brought in closer and closer until they finally close at the top. Each closed form shape was a little different, so we each decided what we thought our form looked like and then we started sculpting.  I thought my form looked like a bear so I decided to make him into a bear birdhouse. I made up a brown clay and water paste called slip and brushed it over him.  I used black oxide and water for his nose and eyes. Here is a picture of Mr. Bear before firing:

 Unfortunately I did not take a picture of him after that step.  I should have stopped there and just put cement sealer on him and give him a name, because he looked pretty good.  But I just couldn't leave him alone, so I decided to glaze him.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!  This is what happened after the glaze!!  He turned a puky greenish brown, his nose ran and his head cracked!!

It was a good learning experience. The color was not the color I expected because of the brown slip that I put on him. The black glaze ran because it must have had cobalt in it-or I put it on too thick.  I believe that the top part of the head cracked because I left the clay too thick.  I should have hallowed it out a little more or taken a fork and made small shallow holes on the inside of the head, which may have kept it from cracking.   I hope that I will get a chance to work on some more bird houses like Mr. Bear in the future, but I will have to put this project to bed for awhile as I am now in the middle of my next sculpture project.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

At the Clayfolk 2011 Show

This is the first year that I had the opportunity to display my ceramic art works. The show was great!  Although I had been to previous shows it wasn't the same as actually being in the show.  I loved being an artist among artists.  Everybody was encouraging and helpful.  I asked for and received critiques from others so that I could grow in my skills. It was wonderful to see the excited faces of the customers as we wrapped up their purchases. All in all it was an awesome experience.

This was my husband, Guy's, second year as the Clayfolk photographer.  Here are some of his pictures along with some others from the show:

Getting Ready For The Clayfolk Show-Saggar Tiles

  A Saggar is a  container which can be used to enclose a piece of pottery during the firing. Different things are placed in the saggar to give the ceramic piece varied effects. This is a picture of a three barrel Saggar Kiln that we made out of  55, 30 and 20 gallon barrels.  The tiles are placed in the inner barrel to keep the sawdust and chips from touching the tile and marring the decoration.  The sawdust goes between the 20 and 30 gallon barrels.  We have a fiber blanket in between the 30 and 55 gallon barrels.

I first fell in love with saggar fired tiles when I saw some of Laura McCaul's on the internet and then got a chance to visit her in Wisconsin. My husband encouraged me to call her while we were visiting family in Minnesota. She and her husband, Jim, were very gracious and invited us up for lunch and a mini workshop. We had a wonderful time and Laura continued to encourage and advise me through email. I must admit that I was a real pest and she was very patient! The pictures on her site don't begin to describe the beauty and warmth of the beautiful polished wood furniture made by Jim and then inlaid with the tiles that are designed and carved by Laura. Her tiles :Nuthatch" and Her tiles "Nuthatch" and "Blackbird in Reeds" were awarded first place in the 2002 National 21st Century Tile Exhibit. Please make sure and click on the link to visit their website at

 Laura actually builds a fire under her Saggar kiln. I also attempted to do the same.  I adorned myself with various safety paraphernalia;   Let's see...her instructions said to wait until the inner barrel is 500 degrees before adding sawdust. Yikes!! That's one huge bonfire!!!!  By the time I finally poured the chips in, and covered the top of the barrels with tinfoil, then closed  all three lids as instructed,  I had singed my hair and my eyebrows and my pants were so hot that they nearly burst into flames!!  Oh, and I burnt the ladder guessed it.... I used a wooden ladder!! Since then we have upgraded the entire process! Notice the ugly white propane tank in the above picture-it was a gift from  my husband since he decided that he was not quite ready to collect my full term insurance yet. I now have a propane burner under the barrels which I can turn off when I pour the chips in!

You can see my first meager attempts in the slide show.  I am now in the process of redoing my designs to be a little more modern.  Below is the first of my new designs:

   There will be more to come!



Getting ready for the Clayfolk Show-The Sculptures

My first sculptures:

 This is the beginning of one of my sculptures. I wanted to have fun with artistic license and elongate the body.

It took quite a few attempts to learn how to design and sculpt her body so that she would be able to withstand the kiln temperatures and the shock of  Raku.  In the next picture her dress was too thick therefore she probably did not dry all the way through before firing. This was my first attempt.  It was the only one that I took a picture of.  (The other attempts were too painful for me to keep documenting!!)  The one thing that did come out of the other failures, though, was that I was able to save some of the skirts and use them as forms to drape the clay over until the sculptures were at a stage where  they could  stand up on there own.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!!

"Giving Thanks"

Success at last!

Sculpture #2
  Although she did not sell at the Clayfolk show, she did sell at the December 1st Friday Artwalk.  It was hard trying to not get too attached, but the smile on the face of the happy customer was well worth it  :-)


Sculpture #3.
  I have been experimenting.  This sculpture doesn't have the elongated body  and she is a bit smaller at just a little over 12" high.  She looks so wonderful in my living room that I have decided not to sell her!

"Freedom to Dance"

Sculpture #4
She was my smallest sculpture and she sold the second day of the show.  The problem with her was that it took me just as much time to make her as it did to make the larger sculptures and she only sold for half the price.  I have to admit though that I was getting a little attached to her too!

"Bearing Fruit"

These are my last two larger sculptures and they sold  last week so it looks like I am going to have to get busy and start making some more!

"Touching the Face of God"

" Set Free"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Getting ready for the Clayfolk show-The Fish Mural

This is the start of one of my fish murals. I had the clay drying on racks so that it would dry evenly.  I purposely made the water and the fish a little wavy.  My first attempt is now a very humorous memory.  The mural was extremely delicate to handle before it was fired so I had to gently ease it into the kiln a little at a time. The kiln was so deep that I had to stand on my tiptoes on a ladder to try to position it at the bottom of the kiln. By the time that I finally got it in position, I was almost doing a head stand, only to find out that the sculpture was still sticking out  above the kiln by a good 10 inches or so! Lesson learned:  Always check the measurements of your planned pieces with the measurement of your kiln BEFORE you start with the actual construction! LOL!


  This is part of the finished sculpture.  It has a second bottom piece but I have to wait until I hang it on the wall to get a good picture as it is much too big to fit in the photo cube!