Tag Archives: kiln

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending October 5

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art every day and all week.

Saturday, September 29 – This afternoon we took a trip to the Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA. I needed some underglazes. This store is always a treasure trove. I worked my way past the shelves of glazes:

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…stopping to look some over, for future projects, before I came to the Velvet underglaze display and chose my items.

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After that I wandered around the store a little. As always, I am fascinated by the huge array of tools that can be used in clay work.

Here is a sample board showing various clay bodies sold here. Different clays fire in different temperature ranges and are additionally of different consistencies – some very smooth, some gritty. It all depends on your purpose as to what clay you chose to work with. Additionally, each clay can be fired within a range of temperatures – the different samples show the same clay fired at various levels. As you can see, this display is very useful in choosing clay.

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Here you see a selection of kiln shelves. Since each firing requires the shelves to be configured to fit the clay work being fired, there are a lot of choices.

Here is a display of pyrometric cones. You may remember me as describing a clay item as being fired at “Cone 06” or that kind of thing. Before computerized controls, each firing required the use of a pyrometric cone, created to be specific to a firing temperature, which was designed to bend or slump when the correct temperature was reached (you needed to view the cone through the peephole in the kiln wall).

These cones are still used today, even in computerized firings, for a variety of reasons – to make sure a certain item gets to the correct temperature, as kilns can have hot or cold spots; or to check that the kiln’s controls are accurate, for instance. I don’t use them, as my work is not that temperature-specific and my kiln has computerized controls – but obviously lots of people do. There is a large display of them here.

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Sunday, September 30 – My husband and I went to a play this afternoon at Allen’s Lane Art Center. You may remember other productions we’ve seen here – it’s a small theater and the seating is cafe style. This show was lightly attended, being a Sunday matinee, and we got a place right up on the edge of the stage.

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I got out my trusty sketchbook:

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but I didn’t have much time for drawing the audience as I usually do here, because I was downstairs for some time chatting with my friend Lisa, who runs the box office. Just saying. Anyway, here are a few quick things:

Monday, October 1 – I fired up the kiln. It may look like it’s just sitting and doing nothing, but that number on the front means it’s 1200+ degrees F inside. And that’s not the whole story – it will go up to about 1830 degrees…

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Let me back up a little. I forgot about these. Remember when I went through that box of little scraps last week? I pulled out some that I wanted to color. I’ve spent some of the last few evenings doing just that with my markers. I’ll figure out what happens next soon.

Back to today. I felt like slapping a little paint on a surface. I got out one of the 18″ x 24″ 1/8″ thick masonite boards I recently bought, as well as two of the 11″ x 14″. They have already been gessoed in black. I started working away. We’ll see what happens. I remind myself that the large board cost $3.50. I have nothing to lose.

Tuesday, October 2 – I opened the kiln.

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I was happy to see everything sitting in its place, nothing blown up, nothing fallen over. There is a variety of objects and tiles in this load. Tiles -(commercially made terracotta base):

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Sgraffito tiles – made from terracotta that I rolled out myself. I realized after I’d done them that they are only 1/4″ thick, and these days I like 3/8″ – but I was using up already-rolled clay, that’s why. Anyway, all good.

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Various figurines:

and remember this vessel? It came through the firing well – no seams opened up. I think I will do a little work on sanding some rough areas, and I’ll clean up the rim with a better black coat around it. Then I need to decide – will I glaze just the inside or the whole thing? Because for it to be functional the interior (at a minimum) must be glazed or it will not hold water.

Then there was this little stray tile…

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After congratulating myself and the clay items for completing a safe trip through the firing, I decided to go upstairs and work on that painting thing I’ve got going on. Today, I decided, would be ink day. I pretty much stuck to adding only India and acrylic inks to the picture, though I did put some more paint on, too.

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Where is this thing going?

Thursday, October 4 – First, a few more of those ink drawings turned colorful.

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I worked on the large painting. It continues to progress. Then I brought it upstairs to sit in front of me and let itself rest for a while.

I worked a little on the small painting, too. Really, all I did was to decide to turn it the other way around and to outline the person in ink, but…it’s still something…

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Friday, October 5 – I brought the recently fired clay into the laundry room/face painting venue to start the coloring process.

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Using Jet Black Velvet underglaze, I did my usual routine: paint the faces and other relief details in black and then wash off, leaving the color in the crevices.

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I got the whole gang done and set them on my work table. Next step: giving them a black coating all over their bodies to form the base for the bright colors I plan for them.

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I may do that this afternoon. Or I might work on that painting. Or I might sit on the sofa, watch TV, and finish up odds and ends of art tasks and paperwork. I don’t know. So I’ve decided to cut off this week’s Diary entry here. I’ll post this afternoon’s work (if I do any, as there is always option #4: I might just lie on the sofa and read) tomorrow. Happy end of the week!

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending August 24

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.


Saturday, August 18 – As you know I’ve been working on illustrations for my Minuscule book, using a Chinese brush and India ink. When I really make a mess of a picture, I wipe it out with a few swashes of the brush, loaded with ink. Then I have really nice black background papers to draw on with white or colored gel pens. They are perfect for the TV-watching kind of art-making.

I also do the same thing with acrylic inks, if I happen to be using them. Depending on the color of the ink I’ll use a pale or a dark pen.

Here are a few examples.

Here are some peeks at the images I drew for the book.

Sunday, August 19 – More TV time in the evening and more black/white design things. Oh, some green, too.

Monday, August 20 – I did the firing of my clay pieces – the weather has moderated and it was cool enough to run the kiln. You may remember I loaded it a week or so ago.

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I happened to be passing through the garage later in the day and the kiln shows its temperature as being significantly higher –

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It tops out at about 1828 degrees F. This particular firing took just short of nine hours, typical for a bisque load (because the kiln brings up the temperature slowly so as to bake out moisture in the clay very gradually, making sure that it doesn’t turn to steam instead and explode the item).

I worked on more illustrations for my future Minuscule book:

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and as always there are leftovers. I have accumulated quite a collection at this point, a nice box-full.

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I had a couple more of those black/white ink doodle things, too, from last night.

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Finally, I think I’ve finished up these 6″ x 6″ cartoony type mixed media pieces.

Wednesday, August 22 – Today I faced a task I’ve known was coming for months, and I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. What is this dreaded event? Well, I’ll be participating in the Lansdale Festival of the Arts on Saturday, and…almost every painting I have is hanging in my exhibit that opened in July. I pick them up next Thursday, but that won’t help me this weekend.

I knew this situation was coming and I made only vague plans. I just figured, well, I’ll get an idea one way or another.

I have two very large paintings plus three medium sized ones here at home. And I’ve got a modest array of small paintings that can also be hung.

What I have decided to do, to fill out the booth this one time,  is to bring out my array of small paintings that I don’t usually show – the ones I did for fun, or they have no frames, etc. etc. I took the box-full out into the garage and laid them out on a table to see what I have.

I plan to take two tables and set the paintings on them. I have small and large wire stands, which I usually use for clay work.

I have two ancient flip bins, which I used to use a lot when I made collage work – I often sold items matted but unframed, and those went into these bins. Maybe some of these paintings can fit into one of these.

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I think I can put the tiny ATC-sized paintings into an old drawer that I sometimes use as a table bin. Anything else, I can lay flat on the table. I’m hoping my display will look coherent and neat.

I re-packed the paintings and took them inside to wait with the other large paintings for Friday, when we load the car.

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You might say, why can’t you take whatever you want to the show? And/or, why didn’t you take your clay work?

First question, it is a juried show, and I juried in with acrylic paintings, so, that’s what I have to show.

Second question, you are right, I could have juried in with clay this year, and looking at what I have on hand right now, I would agree. But, I had to enter this show in March, I think, and at that time, I was more concerned with making enough work for my exhibit. See, I had purposely run down my paintings inventory over the last couple of years and suddenly – I needed work to show.

I had done the same thing for clay. My stock was quite low, tiles and sculptures. But I had no deadline for clay work, and additionally, clay takes a lot of lead time given the multiple steps in the creation process. I was not sure I could get enough clay work done at the same time as doing more paintings.

I also was at that time evaluating how many shows and events I wanted to be producing clay items for. I did not want to build up excess clay work – especially when I felt more sure of my plans for my paintings.

Now in retrospect and with some of this year’s events under my belt, I have decided to look for more shows for my clay, and keep my painting schedule stable or even reduce a couple of shows. Showing clay at Lansdale would have worked out fine, as it turns out. But – let’s look at it this way – some paintings that never get seen will now be the stars of my little show.

Friday, August 24 – I did a few odds and ends this afternoon before we pack up the car for tomorrow’s show. I painted some papers that I might use for my secret project:

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And then I went to the basement to start the process of coloring the clay work I took out of the kiln a few days ago. You may remember this process from earlier sessions. I plan to do the wild color patterns all over the cylinder figures and the puff people, but first I need to prepare their faces and give them an undercoat of underglaze. Here we go.

I brought the figures into the laundry room to work on, because I need to use water from the sink there.

First, I colored their faces with Velvet underglaze, Jet Black.

Then I took a wet rag and, holding the figure under a trickle of water, I rubbed away the black color from the raised areas – it stays in the indentations. I then went back and did the same thing for the grooved areas at the bases of the cylinder figures. These areas are created when I make the join between the figure’s body and its base with a serrated tool. I could smooth these joins out and sometimes I do, but this session, I left them.

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The faces are done and I am ready to wash off the black color at the bottom.

Here are the final results.

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I then took them out to my work table and proceeded to give the cylinder figures a coat of Velvet underglaze Jet Black. This base will form the underlying color for when I put on the colorful designs.

I will do the smaller figures another day. Until then, they will wait over on the other table.

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All right, that’s it for this week, except for packing the car, as I mentioned earlier, for tomorrow’s show.

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending August 10

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art in all kinds of forms. Yes!

Sunday, August 5 – This week’s diary may be skimpy on information, I warn you. I plan to devote a lot of time to my secret project and I can give you only glimpses of it. I worked on it both days this weekend – here are those glimpses:

And here is what else I did. Odds and ends of clay work. I put my name and date on the backs of these sgraffito tiles. Now they are ready to be wrapped up and stored (soon as my ordered bubble wrap comes in…)

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I started coloring these tall figurines. They will be part of my next firing.

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And the small figurines I did late last week are drying. Notice how the color changes as the figures dry out.

Monday, August 6 – Some more work on those clay ladies…

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More work on the secret project.

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Tuesday, August 7 – My husband and I went to Allentown, PA, to drop off a painting for an upcoming exhibit at the Baum School of Art:

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That took no time. So we decided to walk up the Art Walk to eat lunch at a restaurant we’ve enjoyed in the past, Queen City BBQ. Here are some pictures of the Art Walk:

We stopped at the Dick Blick store on the way home.

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Now I am a devoted Blick customer but I do my shopping through the internet – the nearest store to me is in Center City Philadelphia and that’s not easy to get to. So when in Allentown we often take the opportunity to stop in here and browse. I bought a tube of paint, a sketchbook with gray pages, and some white acrylic ink as a treat for myself.

Wednesday, August 8 – These two ladies are finally done. Ready for firing.

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Thursday, August 9 – I priced these tiles and wrapped them up. Now they can be stored until I take them to a show.

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I loaded the kiln with the work that I have on hand. I may try a firing as soon as I get a cooler day (the kiln should not be run on 85 degree F +/- days, it doesn’t like it). This load is tiny but I don’t worry anymore about packing the kiln fully for a firing – I mostly want to keep the work flowing. I’ll check the weather and see what looks good. Anyway, even if I add more work, I’ve got this amount already set to go, that’s always a nice thing.

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Friday, August 10 – Well, this week didn’t go as planned, really – I have had ongoing family issues and some other hitches in the schedule. Hoping next week might hang together a little better.

This afternoon I did some work for my secret project – I can tell you that this aspect of it involved painting some papers. I used acrylic inks today, mostly:

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and I used acrylic paints, including the new one I bought on Tuesday in Allentown. I do love trying out a new paint. This one looks like I’m going to love having it in my paint workforce.

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I was painting at random to achieve my effects today – here are the things for the project:

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and here are some accidental byproducts that are extremely useful. I usually use a page from an old book to blot or spread inks or paint – today I used this one, from my childhood collection:

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Who knew the Bobbsey Twins could be so versatile as to still be hard at work solving mysteries and opening eyes right here in the art studio, 50 years after I purchased this volume? The paper is soft and absorbent but is not at the point of being so brittle that it crumbles. Here are the results. I’ll save them to use later.

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And, I’d like to mention, these papers were painted to the accompaniment of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, can’t say enough good about them – and then, my favorite radio program ever, Funky Friday on WXPN Philadelphia (Fridays 4-7 PM, just saying). You will always paint beautiful papers to the sounds of music that makes your feet move, believe me.

All right. I’ll finish up here and go listen to more music. Happy Friday!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending August 3


Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art. Art. Art.

Saturday, July 28 – First, a look at some paint brochure work I did while TV-watching on Friday night. I like to do this kind of thing for relaxation. I have a few brochures on hand pretty much all the time just for this purpose…I realized too late I was using a non-water-resistant pen and so there are some smears. Oh well. In order to preserve the images from harm, once I’d finished, I gave the page a spray with a matte varnish kind of thing that seals it.

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In the afternoon of Saturday I had time to work on coloring the set of figurines I had fired a couple of weeks ago. I was finishing some figures and clothing some naked ones:

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Here is where I ended the session (please excuse the blurred photo, I didn’t notice until later)

and a closer view of this larger guy:

Here are the in-process figures.

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You may say – where did those two small black figures come from, as I thought you’d started to color all of them? And you would be right. Sometimes, though, I get off on the wrong foot with designs or colors or whatever and then I never get back on track. I usually try to “fix” it and make things worse instead. It’s better to do what I did here – wash off the color, repaint a black base, and start over. I guarantee these people will be happier for this extra care.

Sunday, July 29 – I finished up the coloring of the remaining small figurines. I was right, they are happier with these new outfits.

I also did a few 2″ square tiles. They are perfect for using up color on the brush when I am working on larger projects. Here you see them getting their initial coat of Jet Black Velvet underglaze.

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These tall figurines are all that are left right now. They will need to wait for a different kiln firing as they need to be on the bottom shelf, because of their height.

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What about us?

I added the completed figurines to the kiln. It’s ready for a firing.

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A couple of notes about that kiln picture. That mint-green thing? I made a tray-like dish thing some time back. It has been sitting around for a while – it’s not really functional because it has not been glazed, only underglazed. You need a glazed surface on a functional item for health reasons – a non-glazed bowl, for instance, is not sealed so that bacteria can be washed off – instead, they can grow in the porous surface. Bad.

I decided to glaze this dish so that it could be used. The glaze is that green color. It will be a shiny clear when fired.

You also may recognize some sgraffito tiles. And you thought my assortment had all been fired? Yes, I had done so, but upon examination, in various tiles I saw small white flecks and other imperfections in the black color, where maybe clay crumbs had landed or some other thing was a little wrong. It occurred to me that I could repair these flaws quite easily. I touched them up with Jet Black underglaze (you can see where I did the repairs as a somewhat grayer-toned area) and put them in for another firing.

Last, I made some cylinder people. You know, they are very easy to construct – the time consuming part is in the color application. I’m currently really enjoying coloring (my version of adult coloring books, these figurines?) and I’ve decided to make a dozen or so of these to submit to the Baum School (Allentown, PA) holiday market that I participate in each winter.

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Monday, July 30 I had time for a few more cylinder people today.
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Also, I rolled out this slab of leftover terracotta clay. It was too dry to do much with. On impulse, I covered it with black underglaze and without even waiting for it to dry (a big no)I did this quick sgraffito image. We’ll see how that turns out.

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I also did a firing – no pictures of the kiln at work, but it was.

Tuesday, July 31 – I opened the kiln. Everything looks good
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except for that glazed dish.

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See the cloudiness at the bottom of the picture? I believe that it is a sign of glaze that did not completely vitrify. I had the idea this might happen – I fire my work at Cone 06, usually, and I think the glaze requires Cone 05 (which is hotter) to get the right results. I didn’t check the jar…I just kind of knew and did not want to know…)

I do not like to fire my underglaze work at Cone 05 – I think it burns out the colors just that little bit too much – meaning that they are darker and muddier. I think I’ll send the dish back through – nothing needs to be done to it – with a bisque load that I will fire at Cone 05. See what happens. If it still looks bad, into the trash it goes.

Wednesday, August 1 – Time continues to be short for art activities this week. I decided to unload the kiln and photograph the work – and to clean up the clay area and studio. I want to work on my secret project later this week and I need to get the area, and my head, clear and ready for ideas.

I photograph most of my work and always have done, even when I was making fabric collage work in the 90’s and did my photography using film. I had a plywood board covered in black fabric that I hung from a pipe in my basement; I set up lights and taped the works to the board in order to photograph them. I did not get very good results but at least I had a record of my work.

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“Urban View”, fabric, 1990’s.

Now I use a digital camera and PhotoShop Elements to achieve my images. Today I was photgraphing clay – tiles and sculptures. For tiles, I lay them on a surface, usually white, but since I was doing white tiles as well today, I also used a black background.

I don’t photo each clay item I make – there are too many of them. I will post only the ones I like most and the rest, well, they go their way, wherever that might be, undocumented.

I took 112 photos today, of which I will probably keep 25% or so. I do know I’ll re-photo the terracotta/black sgraffito tiles – they were done with a back blackground but looked awful.

As far as sculptures, I usually set up a little stage like this:

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Two pieces of matboard on a chair. I set the item onstage and photo it.

Overall, I want to have a record of my work and I don’t worry much if the pictures are not all perfect. I just need a few really good ones to use in submitting to shows, and with all the things I make usually something comes out well enough to add to my application-worthy category.

I do think it is important to document my art, if for no other reason than that it represents a lifetime’s work and is valuable to me as a record of my past and how I have grown. I have thousands of images now and I am really glad I have taken the time (and it does take a lot of time) to create this archive.

Friday, August 3 – I finished up the week by working on some clay – new puff people and some mini-cylinder people – this time working in terracotta clay.

And that did it for today.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 27

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art! Let’s do some art!

Saturday, July 21 – Last night I had the four paintings in progress upstairs in my living room, staring at me as I tried to watch TV and do a crossword puzzle. As you know, I put work in progress there in order to let it sort of soak in, let me see if I am done with the works or not. The answer for this group was – the beachgoer painting continued to bother me. Here’s how it was:

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Sometimes, it is better to start a painting over than to continue to work on it. When my husband said he thought the lady’s arm looked like a turkey leg (I had to agree), it was just the push I needed. I grabbed that painting and took it back downstairs to the studio.

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To me, the painting had too many problems. I judge my work by the feeling I get from it – I can only describe it as things being in balance. If the painting is not at that state, I have an uneasy feeling.

It sounds airy, I know. But years of doing art have taught me to listen to this feeling.

Not knowing where I was going with this painting had left me with a work that lacked that spark I want to see. In frustration, I revised the lady again. Still no good. In more frustration, I turned the painting 90 degrees. Now the lady was sitting in a beach chair. It seemed right. So here she is. I hope this will be it for this lady. I bet she does too.

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All right. On Saturday morning I stopped at the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to buy more underglazes.

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I wanted to start work on my recently fired figurines. You remember that I had prepared their faces last week. Here are puff people waiting for color.

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I’ve made this style of figurine before but never with color patterns applied in the fashion I am using today. I was not sure how things would go. I put Jet Black Velvet underglaze over their bodies, leaving their faces clear.

Then I applied color in patterns as usual. I think things went pretty well. Here they are at the end of the session.

I took them out and set them in the kiln (which is half-loaded with other work).

Sunday, July 22 – I worked on this painting for a little while. I am happier with it now, too.

Next, I went into the basement to work on some clay figurines. Today, the cats and some of the round women figures. I gave them their Jet Black Velvet underglaze base coat:

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Then I set to work. I did not finish them all, so I’ll continue with them and ad more to the crowd, maybe tomorrow. I also worked on the clay rocks.

Monday,July 23 – I decided to work on some illustrations for my anticipated Minuscule book. I’m making pictures to go along with the tiny stories and poems.

I usually make more than one version of the image idea I have chosen. I’m not always happy wit the first version, though I never know what I’m going to get with the second or later versions. I’m not the kind of artist who can do the same thing twice in a row. Sometimes that is good and sometimes less good. Luckily, these stories just need one picture. I choose the one I like best. Then, the discards, I either keep the whole picture, figuring I can do something else with it later – or I cut it up. I’m saving these pieces for collage works later on.

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Tuesday, July 24 – I worked on clay today. I finished up the color details from the figurines I was working on earlier in the week. Then I prepared this group:

to be colored later on, by giving them their initial coat of Jet Black Velvet underglaze.

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It takes time to apply the black around all the details of the figure while leaving neat edges and a good solid coat of underglaze. If I wanted to sell figures such as these in production, I would need to do some redesign so as to simplify and speed up this step. (I also probably would never do the amount of color detail work that I do).

Now, I might sell these, and I might give them away, but in either case, I don’t really care how long it takes me to do them. It’s not production, it’s really more for my enjoyment. So I’m good with the way they are designed.

Friday, July 27 – Some family issues that require my attention have come up over the past week, and so art has had to take a back seat. Depending on events, I’m sure I’ll be working on projects but I don’t know on what or how much. I’ll just see how it goes.


See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 20


Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art. Your hands and mind work together as best friends. 

 Saturday, July 14 – I’m celebrating the conclusion of the last 7 or so weeks of busyness with shows and public events with my favorite activity – ordering my living and working space. It’s the first step in starting new projects. I got my studio in shape:

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I’m planning to work on some paintings. Like I need more of them! with so many that I made for the exhibit –  but – maybe I do. All but two of my current work are at the gallery exhibit until 8/31. Somehow I neglected to realize I have an art fair planned for August 25th. Oops. I also would like to enter a piece in an exhibit in August.

I’ll dig around here at home and improvise, but maybe three more paintings would not hurt? Besides paintings, I also have a couple of other projects on the go. So, a clean studio is a signal to get to work.

I also opened the kiln this afternoon. Take a look.

I’m really happy with what I can see – I was mostly wondering how the sgraffito tiles worked out. I’ll show them in more detail in their own post, but I can see that the contrast is good between clay and figures, the tiles are not warped (sometimes that happens in firing to tiles that look flat in the greenware state), and overall, well, I’m just happy!

It’s a whole different look from my bright tiles and I love that idea, too, another aspect of clay that I can participate in.

Sunday, July 15 – I worked on those paintings some more, in the afternoon. You can see that there are four of them now. That is enough. I’m coming up with some odd images. We’ll see where they go.

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Monday, July 16 – I decided to prepare the small clay figurines for the coloring process by doing their faces. Here’s the whole group before I start:

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I color their faces with Velvet underglaze, Jet Black. (These little people remind me of those sheep with black faces. Just saying.)

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Then I wash off color from the prominent spots, using a wet rag. The black color stays in the indentations. After I finished their faces, I did the same thing with their hands.

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Now they are ready for their color sessions.

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I did the rest of the figures in the same way.

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I also gave the “clay rocks” their coat of black – it forms the base for the colorful patterns I give to these items.

Tuesday, July 17 – From yesterday, I worked a little on that “secret project” I mentioned a week or two ago. Here is a snippet, just to represent effort:

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I also worked on a couple of the paintings from the group I started. The yellow shape one now has turned into trees. Kind of.

Wednesday, July 18 – I got in a little painting today. As you know, I’ve been working on those four paintings over the last week, a couple at a time. Today I took three of them into the studio. Two look pretty similar to how they appeared when I started today’s work but the one (that started out with three yellow things, moved into trees, and well, now it’s a beach with rocks on it…I think) underwent a lot of change.

Oh dear, sometimes I feel for my paintings, with their identity problems in early life…but I think these particular ones may have found their way. More or less. I’ll let them sit a few days and see.

Friday, July 20 – After spending yesterday at my weekly Poetry Marathon session, I decided today that it was time to wrap up these paintings. Two look finished to me. The other two I took back to the studio.

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I did just a few small things to this one:

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This next one, well, if you look back earlier in the week, it started out as three yellow things, became trees, then a sort of beach. I was getting annoyed with it by Wednesday’s end and so on Thursday, I got my husband to sand down the lower half of the painting. Because… I had an idea and I wanted a smooth surface to work on. I highly recommend sanding paintings off if they get lumpy and you hate what you are doing (this is a good reason to use board or masonite, if I think about it, because it won’t work on canvas…I find yet another way to enjoy my choices in life, this one being my love of board/masonite to paint on).

You also see a concrete example of what happens when I want to paint but don’t know what. I just keep going around in circles until – things resolve themselves. It’s always worked that way for me, so I trust the process and keep slapping on paint…

But I digress. At the end of today’s session, I have a beachgoer. Time to stop.

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I’ll set these paintings aside for a little while. I think next week I want to try some clay work. Some ink and Chinese brush. Some…well, we’ll see, won’t we?

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 13

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art! This week is devoted to shows and gallery events – the public side of my art.

Friday, July 6 – Tinicum Arts Festival set up time. The forecast was for rain and clouds…but it all worked out. I’ll give a short tour of this pre-show day.

Now, unlike most shows, this one offers a set-up time the day before, and most people take advantage of it. It’s like seeing the circus put itself together, I have always thought.

We arrived after lunch and were directed to our assigned area. Unlike most shows, artists are not assigned a specific spot but instead an area, and can choose any spot within the section. I think of it as a land grab kind of thing. Naturally there is some competition for spots (people have their favorites, and I am no different) but it all works out.

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We are in a section in a row of trees kind of out in the open. I like the ease of getting the car in and out and it’s less crowded during the show, too; the shoppers don’t have to push through the area. They don’t skip it, either – since there is an admission charge, people see every part of the show and most people make a day of it, given the array of things to do. Everyone eventually goes past every booth.

Me, I don’t like feeling pressed in, so our spacious section is appealing to me for that reason. Our tent, seen through the neighbor’s structure, is right above the red arrow.

Other areas of the show are under deeper tree-cover:

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Since the weather was iffy, some people dropped in just to snag a space and then will set up tomorrow.

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You wonder why a ladder and a blue tarp-pile are here? Well, they are saving the spots. I’m telling you, you get in here, you pick a spot, you stand in it and don’t leave until your husband drives your car through the check-in gate on the other side of the park (yes, I admit I get out of the car and go through the fence to grab my spot before picking up my show packet, and I’ve been doing it for years with success…thanks to my wingman and partner in crime, we’ve got the routine down).

All right. We got a nice spot, next to some show friends, and we spent some time catching up, then got to work. The rain had stopped. We put up the tent, complete with sides. Please forgive the ghostly blurry photo:

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We then set up the racks and left some other items. We will complete the set-up tomorrow with the art. I do not leave the art in the tent overnight, ever.

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Meanwhile, other things are going on. They set up the flags while we were there:

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The Tohickon Garden Club booth is ready:

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My friend Pam has her booth right behind the gardeners. I stopped to talk with her for a little while. Then I went back to our booth to get ready to leave, passing the stage, closed up now, but tomorrow they will open it and poof! a stage:

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and I put some effort into avoiding getting caught up in the emergency dead tree limb removal:

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I was kind of wondering why they didn’t do that work last week…OK, finished with today’s set-up, we took off for home – our plan being to stop at the grocery store on the way to pick up our provisions for the weekend, food-wise. Experience has taught us that bringing your own food to a show is always better than taking a chance on what the fair might offer.

Saturday, July 7 – By the way, this day is my husband’s birthday. All day! It was a beautiful clear and cool day, brilliantly sunny.

We arrived and began to put the artwork up in the tent.

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A view of our section of the fair, plus a backstage look – here is where we keep all the various boxes and so on during the show.

My friend Helena, a wonderful pastel artist, was the featured demonstrating artist for the fair. Her completed plein air pastel view of the barn was donated to the silent auction and will be the image used on the show postcard next year. I went over to talk to her and watch her at work. The arrow points to where she was situated.

The fair got busy. Here is a quick overview of what was happening…


The used book tent:

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Yard sale:

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People eating lunch and listening to the music. (Remember, I told you the stage would appear out of that trailer…)

The day went along fine, and then it was time to take down the artwork and close up for the night.

I always take my artwork home at night, as I said earlier. Other people leave their displays as are. Most tents are zipped up tight, like these – mine looked just like them.

Sunday, July 8 – The day was pretty much a repeat of the day before, weather-wise – perfect. I put the art back up in the booth, moving the pieces around – I don’t like to look at the same display two days in a row.

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In the afternoon I had time to visit the indoor exhibit, which is juried separately from the festival and also awards prizes. My friend Alison had won second place for her piece, entered in the acrylics division. You see it in the middle photo.

Here is a view of our tent from the barn – the arrow marks the spot:

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I took a couple of pictures from the back of the barn over the music/food area, including this peek into the backstage work of one of the food tents:

I walked around a little bit more. The purpose of the fair is to raise money for the Tinicum Civic Association which supports the park and several other sites nearby. These trees were planted with proceeds of one of the previous years’ takings:

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I didn’t eat any fair food but I toured the area. Plenty to choose from, and by the way, the Italian place is the one that appeared in the earlier photo from the barn.

I heard an announcement about painting pigs, pigs that paint, I mean, and I went over to check them out. They were not painting at the time though you could buy their work. The set-up was to benefit a pig rescue group (people who get pigs as pets when they are tiny and then are dismayed when they grow up…big… and don’t want them anymore – this group takes them and re-homes them).

Anyway, the pigs were darn cute. (They are not pink – the sun coming through the red tent is doing that to them, but I like the effect…)

The day wound down to a close. We took everything down and left our little patch of grass behind.

Overall, the show was a success for me. My sales were fine, not the best, but good. The crowd included real art lookers and buyers, and my work got a nice amount of attention. Plus, I really enjoy looking around this fair. It’s a big draw for the area – Tinicum is kind of out in the country, but accessible from more populated areas, if you know what I mean, and there are not a lot of competing activities in the immediate vicinity. People come and spend the whole day.

I also get a lot of visitors at this show, which makes it a lot of fun. Shout out to Mary Ellen and Guy, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law; Missy, John G, Steve, Bill, and Stephanie and her husband (whose name is escaping me at the moment, I apologize); I also got to see my artist friends Pam and Aidan.

Wednesday, July 11 – On Monday I put some time into cleaning paintings (they get dusty at outdoor shows), inventorying, and packing up the paintings I am taking to my exhibit at the Gallery at the JCC in Allentown, PA.

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On Tuesday, my husband and I drove the paintings to the gallery and left them to be hung the next day. I also met Catherine Debbage, my exhibit-mate, who does sculpture. And on Wednesday, the paintings were set into place – I got a phone call telling me that all is well and everything is on the wall.

I was asked to bring some of my clay tiles as well, a late addition! So I’ll get an assortment together tonight and set them up before the exhibit. Since they will be arranged on a shelf or in a case, it’s no work to do this and I am glad to give my clay work some exposure too.

Thursday, July 12 – Today is my long-awaited exhibit at the Gallery at the JCC. As background, a year ago I received an invitation to exhibit my work here. I prepared for it over the winter, working to gather a good group of paintings, and now in summer, the day has arrived.

My husband and I drove to Allentown and ate an early dinner. We still had some time, so we took a short walk in Trexler Park, not far from the JCC. This park is quiet, though it’s surrounded by busy roads, and a good calming place to rest a bit.

There is a small lake near the entrance.

We leaned on the railing, near these ducks all quietly sitting on the ledge. The whole group of us, peaceful.

We marveled at the colors the sun brought out in the feathers of the birds and at the reflections in the water.

All right. Now it was time for the exhibit. I took pictures before I got too busy with things. My husband took the others (and I thank him here, because he is not familiar with my camera). In any case, at least I can give you a feel for the evening.

As soon as I walked in the organizer told me, Someone sent you flowers! Guess who – my husband. I was so touched I had to cry a little. It really made me feel encouraged the whole night to see them.

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Let me try to show you how things looked in the two rooms where my work was presented.

Music, too. And something nice about it for me – I knew one of the two musicians, Mickey, personally, once again through art connections, but I had never heard him play. The duo is called Just So and now I can say through personal experience that they are great. And, I want to thank Mickey – he emailed me earlier in the week to ask me if I had any requests. I looked at their list and I did – Roy Orbison. Three Orbison selections for me on this night, and thank you!

Here I am with some friends, Susan and Geoff:

and with Adrian:

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The exhibit reception ended at 8 PM, but the art will be in place through 8/31/18. I hope if you are in Allentown, PA, you’ll stop in – the gallery is open whenever the JCC is open, unless there is someone using the room.

I went home very happy. It is affirming for me to see my art in this kind of setting, and I want to thank everyone on the gallery committee for how wonderfully it all went and how nicely they presented my work. And I also am very grateful for everyone who attended, who encouraged me, and who has helped me along my art road.

Events like this remind you to step back and appreciate your own work – a good thing, because it is so easy to focus on where you fall short and to overlook your accomplishments. They also remind you of how many people contribute to your life and helping you accomplish your goals, and of the thanks they deserve. And last, at least for me, it reminds me that art is a connecting force, bringing people together, a glue holding my life and my spirit together.

Friday, July 13 – Now I return to my inner-focused art life – my schedule of shows and events takes a break until late August. I turn my attention back to my studio and the projects and ideas I have progress or in anticipation. I decided to run the kiln today – it’s been loaded and waiting.

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I’m ready to get to work on some new projects!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 6


Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

And we are off on another Art week…

Note: Since we’ll be setting up for the Tinicum Arts Festival on Friday, I’m posting this entry in the Diary a day early. I’ll include show info from Friday, July 6, in next week’s post.

Friday, June 29 – I know it was part of last week, but I’ll show you the first attempt at clay sgraffito (look at last week’s post if you wonder what I’m talking about).

The underglaze dried on the tiles I had laid out – no longer shiny but instead dry to the touch.  (Note – this photo is from Saturday, but, you get the idea).

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I did not have the tool the You Tube video recommended so I made do with these small loop tools.

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Then I set to work. I realized fairly soon that the process is a lot like doing linoleum block print carving – it’s a subtractive rather than an additive process. I also learned that there is no need to dig hard into the clay. A light touch is better. I ended up with these tiles. Not great, but then, let’s face it, I never did this before, in this manner!

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Saturday, June 30 – We stopped by the Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA, to get the tool that was recommended by the video. You may remember this store from the Art Diary of a few weeks ago. Here’s what I got – I’ve already forgotten its name, but it has a curved end and a straight one.

I went through the process of putting five coats of underglaze on tiles and letting it dry. Then I set to work. I had decided to make figures sort of like ones I had done in ink from the figure drawing book I mentioned earlier this year in the Diary.

The new tool really made a difference. I was better able to control the cutting process. As I said, all that’s needed is to remove the underglaze and the slightest bit of clay, so that the white clay is exposed. There is no need to strip away deep into the tile. In the end I had these figures:

It’s also recommended to use a clay with no grog (larger clay particles that make it hold together better, used for sculpture or tiles), but – I have clay with grog, and since I use it for a sculpture or tiles much more than sgraffito, I worked with it. I can see it would be a little easier to make clean lines with a more plastic clay, but…I’m happy with this direction I’m going, for now.

I also spent time in the studio today. I have a long-term project that I am embarking on, and I cannot reveal it until after I have completed it – it is a commission. I will show you hints of it, though, so you know that I am doing…something…

Sunday, July 1 – More sgraffito tiles in process.

Monday, July 2 – This week is shaping up to be another choppy one for art, I think. My computer fell ill on Sunday and so it’s off being fixed; shouldn’t be long but I was confused by not having it. My mental flurry was compounded by the need to deal with state bureaucracy involving my sales tax license (which I’ve had since the 90’s, do not owe money on, and yet is tangled in a snafu that the people at the state say they can’t figure out who should help me. We have now enlisted the aid of our elected state rep’s office to maneuver through the red tape after submitting paperwork and hours on the phone. Ugh. Nothing major, but taking a LOT of time. And not done yet.)

Paperwork is part of being an artist, too – that must be the lesson here?

Anyway. I decided to load the kiln. I won’t be running it for about ten days. I will not have many days at home over the next couple of weeks, and it is also not good for the kiln to be working in 95 F temperatures. But – the warm weather means that I can put items in the kiln that are not totally dry – they will be plenty ready by the time I get to firing.

I’ve got a different set-up this time. The tall woman figure has to stand on the bottom shelf. I had calculated her height, when making the figure, for this situation.

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This means I can use only half-shelves to stack up. I have just two – you can see that if I had more I’d have room to put more work in, but – I also estimated the number of items I could fit in pretty well – I’ve got everything in here that I’ve made since the last big firings a couple of months ago.

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You can also see that I put in some terracotta clay “rocks” on the top shelf – they are darker because they have not dried at all. I will make sure they are ok before I fire the kiln, but ten days out here in the garage and I think they will be…DRY.

I also worked on my secret project a little…

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Tuesday, July 3 – I had just enough time to work on these little paintings/drawings/whatevers. I’m heading them in the direction of the small images with text that you might remember from earlier. (Think Ogre Babies.) They are 6″ x 6″ and good for picking up when I have a little time.

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Wednesday, July 4 – I spent the afternoon in the basement (the cool refreshing basement – it’s about 95 F outside) working on some more sgraffito tiles. This time I rolled out terracotta clay (actually yesterday, but you’ve seen enough shots of rolled out clay, I think…)

I put black glaze on most of them but I also decided to try some white.

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I am wondering how the white will show up against the orange of the terracotta. Here’s how the tiles in white looked at the end of the session.

And here are the black ones. I have full confidence in this color scheme – I’ve made lots of black on terracotta clay and the results are strong and very striking, I think.

I wish I could fit these into the next kiln load but there is just no more room. I am sure they will be included soon, though – glaze loads are less tightly packed, because the items cannot be stacked, so that means the current bisque load in process will take 2-3 loads to work through with color, and these red tiles will slip in there.

I like how these turned out. I am getting more sure of myself in working in this way. I did do one thing wrong in this group – I forgot to keep the tiles under covers while I was working, and over the hours that passed, well, some dried out more than I should have let them. It was noticeable in the white ones – I left them until last.

It was harder to carve with precision and I found the tool scraping and bouncing at times. Also, the terracotta clay has a lot of grog (grit) in it, and that causes swerves when the tool hits.

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Well, that’s all part of learning. I’m very happy with these results and I’ll be very interested to see how they and their white clay companions fire.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending May 11

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art is a refuge.

Saturday, May 5 – I spent the day either running in the park or cleaning my entire house. So, not much time for art. At night, I colored in this drawing done last week in my current large Artist Sketchbook. I used various markers.

I also looked over this landscapy thing I’d done on the next page – it was a way to use up paint on the brush when I was working on the tiny tree portraits from last week. I’m trying to think what to do to it next – it needs more, but what?

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I’m also thinking about another project I want to do. I have been writing very short stories called Minuscules (look here for more info and to find out how to read the ones I’ve posted so far). I want to make them into a print book (if you follow my poetry blog you know of my love for print books, and for making my own words into print) and I also thought I might illustrate each story with a black and white pen and ink picture. (Because, as you know, color illustrations make the book cost a LOT more, plus – I like the idea of using my Chinese brush or my dip pen and making pictures.)

Anyway, I’ve printed out my current assortment of stories and I bought watercolor pads that I think would make a nice surface to work on. I have them in my studio and ready for when I settle into the process. Maybe I’ll start this week…or at least start thinking about how to go about things.

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Sunday, May 6 – I’ve decided that I will finish up the current clay items I have in process and then see about that book illustration idea when the clay is done and out of my brain. Accordingly, I got to work on clay. I covered the remaining small tiles and “rocks” in Jet Black Velvet underglaze (dropping one rock in the bottle in the process – luckily the bottle was very low, so I could fish it out. Messy…).

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Here are the small items partway through the session and then at the end.

The face tiles were done on clay rolled thinner than usual, leftovers from when I put together the figurines. I don’t like skinny tiles, and I won’t sell them, so I have decided these will be art drop-off material – I’ll leave them around for people to find, out in the world.

I finished up these figurines:

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and started on these guys.

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Later that evening, I was trying out a function on my phone – Notes – where there are simple drawing tools. Just doodling. I made a lady (an actress in the “Murder She Wrote” episode we were watching on DVD) and then I made an abstract (scribbled over a photo chosen at random from my photo albums.) I like drawing with my finger. One day I’m going to see about an iPad and drawing programs.

Monday, May 7 – I finished up the coloring of my clay work – these figurines were done:

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and I applied Jet Black Velvet underglaze to the edges of the many small tiles. If I were intending these to be used for practical applications, such as on a wall or a table top, I would not bother with this step, as the edges would not show but instead would be covered by grout.

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As a note, for these tiles to be used in a functional way, I would have to glaze them. Grout will adhere to unglazed tile, discoloring it; and an unglazed tile will not repel water and will absorb whatever is thrown at it. If these tiles were bowls, say, they would need to be glazed to be food-safe.

But, I intend these tiles just to be for fun, for decoration, etc. They could be displayed individually or they could be glued to a board and framed (without grouting).

Now I really need to clean my kiln shelves, so that I can fire these items.
As background info on kiln wash and kiln shelf care, look here.

Tuesday, May 8 – A really beautiful day outside, so…I decided to get to work on those kiln shelves. I only have two that need work. That’s nice.

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I carried them outside to the picnic table.

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First I scrape them with a … scraper. Now you see why I do this outside.

I then gather my kiln wash, some water, and a brush. There are various recipes for kiln wash and I have no idea what is in my version – I just buy it from the supplier. It is a very fine powder, almost like talc in consistency, and for some reason they always pack it in a paper bag, so I put it in two plastic bags to store it better,.

The idea is to mix it to the consistency of buttermilk and apply thin coats. I gave my shelves a couple of layers.

Then I went off to the park to run and came back a couple of hours later. I got a nice surface – no chips or bubbles. I can use the shelf right away – I do not have to fire it first.

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I went into the garage to give the kiln a little bit of a cleaning. I removed the shelf that always stays on the bottom and swept up debris, then vaccumed it out.

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I repaired the cracks in the kiln wash on the bottom of the kiln.

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Then I thought, why not? and loaded the kiln up. Since this is a second firing, it will go pretty quickly – about 6 hours – and I figured since it was only lunchtime I could do a firing and it would not finish too late in the evening. I don’t have to turn the kiln off, it does it on its own, but I want to know when it is finished.

The load is not crowded at all. That’s because I’m not doing any big tiles this time. I set the controls and tomorrow evening I’ll be able to open it and see how things went.

Wednesday, May 9 – I opened the kiln and I was thrilled. I don’t say that very often about my work, but this time I felt the kiln had done an extra nice job. I am really happy with the colors – so brilliant and rich.

OK, I’ll give you an array of photos showing the kiln, the unloaded work, and some details. I will be doing a post on the various items in more detail later on (I didn’t have time for taking nice photos today) but here you can see how things went.

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Well, that was a nice end to my latest clay work projects. The rest of the afternoon, I gessoed some more black panels:

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finished up those small tree portraits:

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and prepared the rest of the ATC-sized Claybord surfaces for…something. I decided to start off with blue. That does not mean things will stay blue. Oh no.

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Friday, May 11 – I have assigned myself an art task today that I don’t much like – photographing my art. All that clay needs to be documented (I love record-keeping, just saying…) and I can’t put it all away until I’ve finished all the tasks that go with the process. There is a business side to things, so to speak.

I got out my camera and went to my studio for the photo session. I had done the tiles earlier in the week – that’s easy. Just lay them on a white surface and point the camera.

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The figurines and animals, though, are full of trouble for me. I’m not a great artwork photographer to start with and I don’t have the kind of lighting and so on that makes the art look its best. That’s ok, I just want a reasonable picture for my records.

For this kind of thing, I usually set up two white pieces of matboard or canvas to make a little environment.

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Sometimes I do it outside but today it was too windy, and the set up blew around. So I went back inside. One by one I put the items up on stage. Here is where questions come in for me. How many views? What angles? Oh dear, this is my favorite part of this particular piece, I must get a shot of it. How to photograph an animal looking up at you? Tiles just do not cause this kind of trouble.

I took a lot of shots. Thank goodness for digital cameras vs. film. I would be bankrupt with a film camera.

I’ll show a few results, but I plan to do some posts devoted to these items later on, with a full array of shots.

Now that I have finished this task, I am relieved. I will set these items in the cabinet in my studio with earlier work. This is where I keep them, so that I can see them, and if anyone comes by and takes a liking to one or more, I can hand it right over.

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Now, I’ll tell you what I am thinking. It’s a beautiful day and I see that the softball team over at the high school (across the street) is warming up for a game. This computer work has given me a desire to get outside and away from tedium. So I think might walk over and watch the game for a while. I’m going to post this week’s Diary now and if I do anything else today, well…I’ll add it to tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, as always.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending April 27

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art is in the details. Be ready, this week there is a lot of clay talk!

Saturday, April 21 – I decided to load the kiln and fire it. Now, you’ve seen a kiln loaded with tiles. That’s relatively simple – all the objects are similar and they are easy to fit in around each other. Here’s a photo of a layout of tiles only, from a past firing:

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This load today is different – it combines tiles and objects. I had to consider how to place them in the kiln so as to fit them in and to fire them safely.

Remember, the kiln is just an empty interior on its own, and in each load, I take the shelves and stilts and build a custom arrangement depending on the items to be fired. I need to take into account the heights of objects, airflow, and expansion.

Also, I haven’t fired objects in a while and my guesstimating skills may be rusty. Well, nothing to do but get to it. I looked over my array of items to be fired and came up with a plan.

I decided to lay out tiles in the bottom layer. Remember, I can stack the tiles because there is no glaze on them to stick them together, but I don’t like to go too high, because the objects expand when hot and the more in a pile, the more chance for misshaping and explosions.

I placed my clay “rocks” in this layer (small blobs in groups at the edges). They are thick and may explode – I hoped to limit the damage they could cause if they do. The tiles will not be hurt but a sculpture might be.

I also fit some small objects in this level – they can go there as long as they are shorter than the stilts.

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So far so good. Next layer: more tiles.

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And here is a shot of the electrical elements that are what make the kiln…HOT.

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Next, for layer #3, I placed a whole shelf, believing that my sculptures were short enough to fit the space. They need to be at least 1″ below the closed lid. I should have taken the tallest one first and checked, but no. I put most of the others on the shelves before I got to the tallest one and… bad news. Too tall.

Now I needed to unload this shelf #3; remove the whole shelf from the kiln; unload half of shelf #2; replace the whole shelf with a half shelf.

I’ll interject here that the clay items are dry and extremely fragile. You need to hold each one firmly but gently. Nothing can be picked up by the edges (as you would a plate, say – no, don’t do that). Two hands are needed for handling any object.

You need to think before you even move to place any item (you’d be surprised how often you clunk things into another thing, which is fine if it is two plastic tubs but very bad for two greenware bowls.

And a few more things…No setting pieces down hard. No pushing them on the shelf to adjust them (pick it back up. With two hands). No hurrying. Repeat that – no hurrying.

And my cardinal rule – touch each object one time – bring it to the kiln and place it – do not move it again.

So you can see my kiln-loading skills were a little rusty! It irked me to have to re-load things. I kind of pride myself on loading an efficient kiln in one try.

But. I persevered. First, I re-loaded the sculptures in the open half of shelf two.

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Then I added the half shelf for level #3 and filled it. I used the tallest stilts I have so that when I put on the next level, there would be room for the sculptures that needed to fit under it.

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I added another half shelf to make level #4 and put the remaining tiles on it. There is plenty of room for them under the closed lid.

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Success! Fire us up, say these figurines.

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Well, despite the re-load, I count this session a success, as everything made it to the kiln and in place, no breakages. (I have knocked heads off figurines, cracked or crumbled tiles, and broken bowls by grabbing them on the rim, not to mention just flat out squeezing a piece too hard, in this stage, so I mean it when I say getting a kiln loaded and full calls for a sigh of relief). I set the kiln to fire to cone 06, about 1860 degrees. Since this is a bisque load, a first firing, it will take about 9 hours.

This process illustrates something my friend Anna told me when I began doing clay: Don’t fall in love with your pieces until they are finished. Very true. Otherwise there would be heartbreak in every kiln load…

The rest of Saturday art was spent cleaning the studio and reviewing the possibilities – what will I work on next? I put new paper on the work tables and laid out things I’ve got in process. I checked my paint inventory and mostly just puttered around.

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Sunday, April 22 – I am sure you are waiting with bated breath for the results of the kiln firing. I can tell you it took 9 hours 35 minutes and that we opned the kiln today about lunchtime – it finished up at about 7:30 last night – and the items were still too hot to handle, but viewable.

Everything in sight looked good and I saw no evidence of shards of clay (which would indicate something blew up). Success! Here are photos when I unloaded it later in the day.

Compare these photos in particular and note the change in the color of the clays.

I took everything back down to the basement and arranged it by category – it helps me to see what my work process should be when applying color.

I also noticed that I cannot put off cleaning the kiln and the shelves any longer. I’ve been allowing things to go along as they are since the weather has been cold and I need to do some of the work outside. First of all, I need to scrape the shelves and reapply kiln wash. You can see the cracks and bubbles in the current coat.

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What is kiln wash and why do the shelves need it? Kiln wash is a substance applied to the shelves so that if the glaze on an item runs on to the shelf (remember, I am talking about liquid glass, essentially), the fired item can be lifted off (taking the kiln wash with it) rather than becoming glued to the shelf, ruining both item and shelf. (Then you’ve got to get that ugly white remnant off your item, but that’s another story.  Find your dremel, for starters).

My work doesn’t stick to the shelves since I use usually apply underglazes only and don’t add glaze, but I still need the shelves to be ready for glaze in case I do. Some people have sets of shelves they use only for non-glazed items and kiln wash is not necessary, but I’m not that big-time enough to do this.

When the shelves start to flake, the flakes can fall on the work. Even if it is not glazed, flakes can sometimes stick. Ugh. So I need to get to work. I will take the shelves into the back yard and scrape the old layers off and apply new wash. I will show you this process when I do it.

Also – I really need to take out the bottom shelf and vacuum the kiln. You can see kiln wash flakes galore as well as glaze splatters built up on the kiln floor. The latter is not a problem but those flakes once again can fly around and aggravate.

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Monday, April 23 – Today was a day for moving some projects forward and for just having some fun.

I took the first steps in applying color to my clay figurines. I am focusing on their faces, which will be more plain as opposed to the wild colors I want to put on the rest of their bodies. I used a technique of washing underglaze that accents the details and leaves large plain surfaces alone. I’ve used it in the past for relief tiles and it has this kind of effect, seen in a tile I made in 2014:

three white tiles 1-14

First I painted black underglaze on the areas I wanted to color:

I let things dry for a short time. Not good to wait too long as it gets harder to wash off the underglaze.

Then, I set the faucet to a trickle of water, grabbed a rag, and wet the black area on each item, working one at a time. I scrubbed at the face; the color is removed from the raised surfaces and stays in the grooves. Note: you may be tempted to use your fingers rather than the rag. Don’t. Or your fingers will be angry at you, yes, they will. That rough clay abrades skin pretty fast…

You can see that this technique is perfect for textured surfaces. I used it exclusively for my relief tile and sculptural work for many years and I’ll do it again if I make that style of clay art. For now, though, these current pieces have a lot of smooth surfaces, and that is because I want to add interest through painted-on pattern and color.

I set these items aside. They are ready to be worked on in colors, now.

Otherwise, I painted the edges of the two larger paintings, done recently, in their traditional black:

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And, I did some more of those little ATC-sized paintings on claybord that I’ve mentioned earlier. I put random colors on – then I inked in outlines of the shapes that ocurred to me. People again, it looks like. I’m not sure what will be the next step. We’ll just have to let them tell me.

Tuesday, April 24 – I did not have much energy for art today, being busy with a lot of other things that have left me feeling more like sitting down with a book (which I did do). In this kind of mood, it is a mistake to take on anything of much importance. So I looked over the small portraits from yesterday. I decided to paint the backgrounds gray; I added a few more details in ink; and I painted over one of the images because I just did not like it.

That’s ok, it can join this group of panels I painted in plain colors, ready for more later on.

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I forgot to mention these items yesterday.

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If you follow my poetry blog, you may remember that I have cut out random phrases that appealed to me and glued them on to cards – they give me ideas for poems.

Montco 2-1-18 card001

I had accumulated a group. Now I have “enhanced” them – not really interested in the words as words but as print, and the little strips as texture. Don’t know what I’ll do with them – I put them aside for later.

Wednesday, April 25 – I’m on the tired side today – I’ve started back to running now that I can get outside and between that and my body combat classes at the Y – don’t laugh – I’m feeling it – plus I did a lot of poetry editing today. So I just zipped to the basement to get some clay items ready for a session, probably Friday.

I took one of each kind of object – cylinder person, rectangle person, and animal – plus some tiles. I painted Jet Black Velvet underglaze (Velvet is the brand name) in areas where I want to apply color. Like my tiles, I want to be able to scratch through for black lines. Plus, I like a black background for the bright colors and designs I have in mind.

I did leave showing some of the natural color of the clays on the objects.

We’ll see what develops with these figurines and tiles.

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After I finished with the clay, I buzzed through my studio to clean some brushes from yesterday (oops, forgot them). And looked over this “artwork”. Really, it’s a piece of Bristol board I used as a drop cloth, then I doodled on it with India ink, then more drop cloth. It’s shaping up nicely as a found art object, or…as a useful drop cloth! Anyway, I thought it might make you laugh at how things occur in my studio.

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Friday, April 27 – Before I start on what I did today, let me show you some TV-time work I did a couple of days ago. I had painted a whole sheet of Bristol board with India ink (because I had messed up something I was working on and had to black it out…) I cut it into ATC-sized cards and then I drew on them in a white gel pen. I will use these for something later on, I think. But it was fun to do.

OK, today’s work. I went down to the basement to work on clay. You saw the prepared pieces. Now, I am used to painting tiles, and they lie there nice and flat, no need to worry about colors running. Not so with these objects. I’m out of practice.

I decided to work on them by laying them flat.

That worked pretty well. The little animal was the least cooperative, but he ended up ok. I think he’s done.

Cylinder man is almost finished. I have made his front less busy on purpose, so as not to compete with his face:

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but his back is getting a lot of action.

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Back to the tall guy. Now, there is always a section of any large piece I do where I go off the rails, and I can always tell, because then I get anxious about it, and I start trying to fix it up, and it gets uglier. With this fellow I had done a section I KNEW was not ok, but – I plowed ahead. Ugh. Finally I resorted to washing it off. Which was tricky, because so much of the figure had been covered. Note to self: stop and repair as soon as you get that feeling things are not right…

I did a pretty good job of protecting the parts I liked. The front is fine:

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The area I washed off is on this side. I have re-covered the section with Jet Black.

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This side will need some touching and changing, but it’s pretty much ok. The black area on this side had not yet been colored, as a note.

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Tomorrow things will have dried and be ready for more color to get things back on track. While I was working on these objects, I was also doing some tiles:

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I feel happy about the way all of these items are shaping up, despite the detour.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.