Saturday, October 4, 2014

Now for the Dirt

Before I do anything with new dirt, I run it through a series of tests in the kiln. I make containers out of a known and trusted clay, fill with dirt, and run through both bisque and glaze firings. Some materials melt, showing potential as a glaze material. This clay from the Annandale Campus is highly micaceous, and fired up perfectly to cone 6. Here I am testing the clay after it has been fired above 1700 degrees, removing all of its molecular water and stabilizing its rates of absorption and shrinkage.

A Pretty Color for Dumpster Clay

After testing the clay, I prepare a larger amount for working into the clay. First I dry it out, then smash it up, and then sieve it to homogenous particle sizes.

Hammering clay from Shooter's Hill in Alexandria, Virginia.


Evenly screened clay ready to add to the drying porcelain.


Natural clay poured over sticky porcelain.


Wedging it in.


It tends to fall apart before it comes together.


Eventually the porcelain takes over.


Clay balls ready to throw. The porcelain has totally absorbed the dirt.




Friday, October 3, 2014

New Studio, New Series

I've moved into a new studio in Rappahannock County, Virginia, and it's time to get going on new work. I've poured some smooth slip of English porcelain into pillow cases to draw off the excess water and stiffen up the clay. Even when I buy clay in bags, I go through this process first to age and plasticize the clay. I've also taken the opportunity to add raw, chopped, flax fiber into the liquid porcelain. I hang the bags of slip up until the clay is almost ready to wedge; in this case, it took about two weeks.

Hanging Porcelain like a Side of Beef

Next the clay is removed from the pillow cases and set out on plaster and canvas to dry up the last excess water under constant supervision. Here is both porcelain and black clay. Porcelain is particularly likely to go from being too wet and sticky to suddenly hard without much warning. I drink a lot of tea and flip the clay over and over.

Airing Out the Last of the Extra Water

Hand-making clay like this is essential to get the perfect consistency and plasticity for it to be able to hold the variable materials I add to it without collapsing. 






Sunday, June 8, 2014

Too Busy, but for Making Pots

My last post was in Ireland, last summer, which is hard to believe. Writing, unfortunately, lists somewhere below what is currently necessary, and I just haven't made it down that list this past year.
I recently moved to the Washington DC metro area from a town of 444 people halfway up a mountain in the high desert of northern Arizona, which was quite the culture shock. And I'm also now working at a college campus with a population of 20,000 students from 180 different countries! It is amazing.

Here are some of the Irish pots:






And some new work from Northern Virginia:





Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Portrait Started


Clive has started a portrait of me. I’m lying with my head nestled in the juncture of the arm and back of a black leather chair, and it is not too bad, as far as sitting for artists goes. He’s only painting my head, so I can move my feet around as I like, and really the only pain is in my right shoulder and ear pressed deeply into the leather to keep the angle of my head steady, and my right pinkie losing circulation. I spend the time thinking or not, and sometimes the crows doing aerobatics outside the window distract me. (photo by G. Pates)




Here's what we have for tea breaks:




Monday, June 24, 2013

Roches Terrace


June 24, 2013 - Settling in to Roches Terrace.


I’m looking out the window, over the roofs of the houses below us (this town is as steep as Jerome, Arizona!), across Cork Harbor, to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Capricorn full moon started out yesterday morning with a rainbow stretching from Cobh out to sea. The jackdaws are building nests in the chimneys, and fighting with the crows that live on Spike Island out in the bay. Out the back window are the convent gardens: 


It is very quiet, except for the cathedral bells that ring out every fifteen minutes on unholy days, and more if there’s a reason, and the foghorns from the ships when the yacht club holds sailboat races in inclement weather.
It poured with rain our first day, as we arrived in the little Cork airport, almost alone except for the Boy Band (the Wanted?) and the screaming girls. From the baggage claim, I momentarily thought we were under a terrorist attack.
We thought the weather would hold, but the little squalls have been interrupted by long stretches of sunshine and warmth. The temperature must have hit the upper 70’s! Everyone has been sunning themselves on the sidewalks, in folding chairs and as little clothes as possible.




Clive has stretched, primed and undercoated several canvasses, and he’s arranged a studio space in a corner of the living room, looking out over the water. He's starting a portrait study this afternoon.

For the clement weather, he seems to be speaking highly of a pair of pretty trees in the convent garden. But, he’s also got some still-life objects from the beach in waiting – melted plastic, rusted metal, dead birds, the usual. 



Yesterday Richard Scott, from the Artistic Alliance, took us to visit Ballymaloe House, where our exhibition will be in November. We toured the grounds and walked the Labradors, and everything was a million shades of green, including the ponds full of swans.




I’ll be hiring Miss. Giulietta at the exorbitant rate of 50 (Euro)cents a day to help me gather pottery shards at low tide. As she worked very hard over several days to earn 62 cents being “good”, this new job and salary has got her very enthusiastic.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Working towards Ireland

It has been a busy month - starting a new series of work based on Virginia Dirt, developing sculptural forms for a class at George Mason University, volunteering for the kindergarten field day. That last on really wore me out.

I've also got a couple of shows up:

@ The Arts Center in Orange, Virginia


The Verde River Bank
Haji porcelain with toilet paper and inclusions of Verde River clay from Clarkdale, Arizona; thrown and altered; 10.5" x 4"; glazed with Chartreuse and Cherry Blossom Shino; fired to cone 6 oxidation. $500.00


June 6th the Virginia Clay Invitational opened at the Arts Center in Orange, Virginia.
I was invited to participate by juror Bill Schran. Bill teaches ceramics on the Alexandria Campus of NOVA, and is becoming internationally known for his crystalline glaze experimentation. He's generous with these, and I have been having fun with them. You can find recipes, firing profiles, etc. at http://www.creativecreekartisans.com/. The Arts Center in Orange has a lovely gallery, and you'll likely see my work there again.



@ The Torpedo Factory, Scope Gallery
Alexandria, Virginia



New work on display at the Torpedo Factory Scope Gallery through the end of June. The Montgomery County Clay Guild was kind enough to ask me to jury their June show, and then they let me put in a few pots as well. Included is a new piece with the micaceous clay from the NOVA campus.

NEXT STOP: IRELAND

I am flying to Ireland this evening.
My husband, who is a painter (www.clivepates.com) and I are doing what is called an "artist's residency", which means that someone gives us a place to live, etc., for a month or two so that we can make some new art. We usually give a piece of work to the person/organization, and often have an exhibition of the completed work.
This summer we will be spending 8 weeks in Cobh, Ireland, here: http://www.artisticalliance.eu/artist-retreat/ 
Soon I'll be on the Irish seaside (sheltering from the wind and rain most likely!) and looking for interesting dirt.