Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maintaining My Creative Sanity and the Introduction of Feltware

Well. I've been making my current line of work for about 4 years now. I still get excited when my kiln is finally cool enough for me to peek inside. It still feels like Christmas when I finally get to unload it. And, I am still learning when it comes to my decoration, glaze application, throwing, trimming, and even my slab work. I've done my best to add some new pieces ever six months or so, but despite all my efforts, I absolutely fear the inevitable boredom that comes from doing repetitive work. I know its coming, and I dread its arrival.

Last year, I finally decided to get serious about this looming issue (Okay, LATE last year!). I am now making a conscious effort to work on NEW pieces. The year began with me adding a glaze test to at least one kiln load a week. Since I don't have a lot of 'extra' time for playing, this snail's pace turned out to be as fast as I needed to go. With glazes coming out of the kiln, ideas began to swirl, and after following several paths for a brief while, I've narrowed it down to a new line that I'm going to explore.

I call it Feltware.

I fell in love with knitting about 7 years ago when I moved back to Ontario from B.C. It gave my hands something to do during the week when I couldn't be in my studio. Once I got to be in the studio full time, however, my hands just couldn't muster up the strength to knit in the evenings. But I still found myself drawn to wool as a material.

Enter: felting.

MUCH easier on the hands. And results come a lot faster than just knitting. I started felting about the same time I started trying out the new glaze tests. The ideas merged and this is the results:

The bands of felt are actually felted right to these cups. They make a perfect barrier against the heat from a hot cup of tea or the freezing cold from a tall pint of beer. And they are just the beginning. I have some ideas of where I want to take the shapes, and of other forms that I could apply this technique to. I'm super excited!

Once I found my direction, branching into another line of work was not as daunting as I thought it would be. But like I just said, ONCE I found my path. Ask any artist and they will probably tell you they have more ideas than they know what to do with. So narrowing them down, to accommodate limited time can be a challenge, to say the least.

I'm happy with where I'm going with this work. There's a LOT of potential here for me. And while I can only move at a snail's pace in terms of making work different from my main line, I now have a direction to go in. And with that direction comes the motivation to MAKE that time.

Watch my etsy shop, I'll be posting these soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

They always say...

They always say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I'm gonna have to agree with that.

You'll recall from my last post the problems I was having with my new pug mill. Well, I removed the paint as recommended by the company, and sure enough, within two weeks those pesky hard chunkies were back. My frustrations were growing, to say the least.

So I posted a comment on Clayart, an online clay forum, about the issue of porcelain in my Peter Pugger. I explained what had happened and wanted to know what others had done about the situation. My timing couldn't have been better. It just so happens that the same week I posted my question to Clayart, that ceramic gurus, industry reps, galleries, schools and enthusiasts were meeting for the annual NCECA conference and someone was kind enough to pose this question directly to Peter Pugger. Apparently there were others in my position who were also frustrated.

The company was aware of the problem and were currently working on the solution. I couldn't be happier! I called the company first thing the following Monday morning and was immediately passed on to the owner. They offered to help me resolve the problem right away. I must say, the customer service was amazing. They explained to me what was going on, that it's the alkalinity of the clay that's corroding the aluminum. Just the fact that they seemed to know what was causing the problem has led me to believe that they have thoroughly researched the issue and that their fix will work.

I know that other people, with other types of pug mills have not been so lucky in dealing with other companies. So I guess I got the right machine after all, especially considering the price tag of some of the others!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Perhaps I should have listened to my gut...

The past few weeks have been somewhat frustrating to say the least. I have recently changed clay bodies. Having had repeated problems with the one I had been using, I decided to try a new one.

Great. No problem. Until I opened up my pug mill to clean it out. Ughhhh!

So porcelain will react with certain alloys in metals. I knew this (although I confess I didn't exactly know what 'react' meant) and researched pug mills accordingly. When it came time to buy one, due to some injuries, the Peter Pugger VPM-9 was recommended to me. After reading testimonials, I decided 'sure, why not!' and that's the one I brought home. After about a month of loving this particular little machine, I started to find little hard chunks in my clay as I was throwing. These pesky, hard bits made throwing and trimming incredibly frustrating, and after firing, led to lots and lots of seconds. These bits bulged out and fired a different color. Grrrr! I figured it was just more 'stuff' in my clay, that I had been having issues with for some time, but when it was time to clean out Piggy (which the pug mill was affectionately nicknamed) I was shocked to find those pesky hard bits stuck to the inside of the pug mill. And they appeared to be stuck ONLY where there was some over-spray paint on the inside of the mixing barrel.

You'll notice in the image on the top, all the little bits stuck to the inside of the pug mill. When they finally break off, they take the paint with them. Turning your attention to the image on the bottom, you'll see that there is absolutely NO little bits stuck to the parts of the pug mill that have no paint.
I called Peter Pugger for some advice and they suggested Airplane Paint Remover so that's what we did. Sprayed the inside, waited, scrubbed out all the paint we could. And now we wait. I hope, hope, hope (finger's crossed) that these little chunkies don't return. I've got about three more weeks to find out. (Sigh) The most maddening part is, I WANTED the stainless steel pug mill from Venco, (which was considerably more expensive) but got the Peter Pugger on recommendations from my supplier and other users. Perhaps I should have listened to my gut...