A much delayed post, Olive had an amazing chance to participate in a wood kiln firing along with about 8 professional potters at the end of April. She had been learning from Jeff about ‘imperfection’ and how perfect it can be. For so many months, she had been striving to create balance and clean lines on her pieces and now, it was more about texture and the unexpected. Poking, carving, adding, pushing her pieces to see how this form of firing affected her work. She learned more about glazes and temperatures and the unbelievable amount of wood (check out the photo – that is only a portion of what would be used for this single firing) preparation, and labor it takes to fire in a wood kiln. It was exciting to know that the wood ash would create a glaze that varied based on the air flow and were the pieces where located in the kiln. The result was an entirely new aesthetic than what either of us had known about until now! We loved it!
Exciting time at pottery – BIG BOWLS have been coming out of the kiln and we waited to have them all together so we could post them together. Jeff has been encouraging Olive to create bigger pieces to get a better understanding of how more clay affects the process. It takes a lot of strength to get that much clay centered and turned into a vessel! For Jeff, it appears effortless… 7 pounds of clay is no comparison to the FOUR HUNDRED pounds he has used to create a single bowl. You read that right – 400 lbs. Check out his website here to see his large scale pieces!
These big bowls are super functional and even though I watched it all in action, it is still hard to believe our 8 year old potter made them :0) A tribute to her attention and disposition, and Jeff’s teaching style, good humor and endless patience!
In this post, we are covering a pottery process called Raku, that Olive experienced with her instructor, Jeff, a few weeks ago. We were amazed by the individuality of the pieces and the crackle that appeared on them once they were cooled. The process comes from the Japanese tradition and it is one of the more exciting ways (we think!) to fire ceramics. The clay is quite a bit grittier than earthenware clay. The quick overview is that the ceramics are glazed, then heated in the kiln, removed while hot (resulting in the glaze cracking, leaving tiny fractures open to receive smoke in the next step) and then placed into a bin of newspaper or sawdust, and finally, covered for a while as the carbon particles find their new home between the cracks in the glaze. Once cooled, they are given a final scrub to get the glaze sparkly clean and increase the contrast you see between the cracks and the surface of the piece.
There are many Raku glazes that can be used, ranging from crackle to iridescent to black. Can’t wait to try it again! :0)
A while back, Jeff Blanford, Olive’s pottery instructor told her about a time he took cookie dough and threw it on the wheel to make a cookie bowl. Olive and I looked at each other and knew it was inevitable that we try it.
The day had come. We whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, making it extra thick, and headed over to Jeff’s studio to see what would happen. Interestingly enough, the idea he had, made us think in new ways. Would the butter melt when spinning and being shaped (yes!). Should it be refrigerated to make it more stable or would that result in too hard a dough? Would shortening work better than butter based on its melting temperature? Is wheat more stable than white flour? You get the idea! Changing the context changes the process. It’s one of my favorite things about having Olive learn along side Jeff, he’s always thinking of something new.
OK! Back to the cookies. Heavy cleaning of pottery batts, utensils and sponges. Fresh water… and the spinning began. It was harder than one might think. You have about 36 seconds to make that clump of dough into something that resembles a bowl or it becomes a clump of mush (see melting butter above). The wheat flour made it gritty, white flour might have been better. And, of course, how does one resist eating the dough that remains on your hand? We finished up – and Olive moved back into traditional clay pots.
With cookie pots in hand, we returned home, added a few chocolate chips to decorate them and popped them into the oven. In less than 6 minutes, they were a puddle of dough. The think about cookies? Regardless of form, they taste delicious!!
Terrarium day had arrived! The glass was hand blown by Jeff Blanford and as usual, he had all the necessary tools and treats ready for us to experience. I often tell Olive, that we get to experience all the fun parts of Jeff’s years of trial and error (it is a gift, we probably can’t fully grasp…). That said, check out these incredible little green worlds!
If you look closely, there are rainbow colored crystalized pieces of metal in there. It is Bismuth and Jeff has been working on growing the structures from molten metal. Every turn there is more to learn!!!
Once our assemblies were complete, we got home and took some of the moss to the microscope lab to see up close what was going on in there. Pretty interesting miniaturized land of happiness!
These were our under the scope images. Teeny little particles of sand and rock could be seen…
Check out these awesome ‘Moon Pots’! Olive’s pottery teacher, Jeff Blanford came up with the process after uniting many different (unexpected!) processes. Lucky Olive, got to try her hand at making her own moon pots…. She started by throwing the shape on the wheel, then came dimpling it, torching it and then into the kiln, only to be followed with the staining of the moon. The surface of it is convincing, wouldn’t you agree!!!?
For the past several months, Olive has been taking pottery lessons with Jeff Blanford, a Nationally recognized ceramicist. We have admired his work for years and are most grateful to be spending time with someone with his creative and positive outlook on life, creativity and nature. What fun it has been!! We will try and do a better job of keeping up with future projects, each one is more exciting than the next. In the meantime, we will take a trip back in time and post some of her work for you to see until we catch up with where she’s at :0)
The focus of the studio time is learning how to throw pots on the wheel but we have taken many side journeys, learning about crystalizing metals, glazes, glass and many other forms of art. Take a look and let us know what you think!