Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm going round and round again - ceramics week three

small ceramic cylinder
Small ceramic cylinder
Week three of ceramics was much the same as week two.  Practice, practice, practice!  We went straight to work, and Wendy the instructor came around to answer questions and trouble shoot.  I've gotten okay at centering and building a basic small cylinder.  It would be nice to do some other shapes and sizes.  Next class we will have a demonstration on bowls, and, by request, mugs. 
While I was working, it occurred to me ceramics has some things in common with Thai bodywork and Buddhist meditation.  The first connection to Thai massage is that you have to listen to the clay, as you would listen to a client's body.  You have to be quiet in your own mind so you can observe the conditions.  You also must have a steady and firm grip, but not grasping.  In ceramics, if you push too hard, you'll go off center or create a lump, or even ruin the piece all together.  Thai bodywork has also helped me be more aware of when I'm holding in my own body, and I've caught myself at the wheel plenty of times being taut in the hands, overly hunched in the shoulders, and tense in the hips.  Relaxing or even taking a little stretch is nice.  It can also help to get up entirely, and look at your piece from a different angle. 
Which brings me to the connection with Buddhist meditation, and the idea of non-attachment.  Especially as a beginner, there are just so many things that can go "wrong;" a finished piece definitely isn't guaranteed.  Today I went to the studio for extra practice.  I had a piece finished and was getting the wire ready to take it off the wheel.  It somehow snagged, and the wire handle irreparably gouged the side.  Clay is a delicate thing - it could dry too quickly before it can be trimmed, explosions happen in the kiln, it can be handled indelicately and shatter. 
But back to the class!  A few of us had items that were ready for the next step, trimming.  We also had a lesson in handle making and attaching.  See below for my little pitcher moving on. 
In a few weeks there will be a raku firing, and we are invited to prepare items for it.  There is another type of clay used.  It looks lighter in color, but otherwise I'm not sure how it is different than the brown clay we've been using.  I'll find out and report back.  The firing itself it a low-fire method, done outside, with lead glazes and sometimes combustible materials (e.g. grasses, leaves, even hair) that will leave an imprint on the clay.  Pieces made through this method are somewhat porous, and not food safe.
Here is a short video of a raku firing.  Looks fun!  I'm planning to participate, so I should start making items next class.  Let's hope for decent weather, November in Illinois can really be dicey. 
Be back soon!

small cylinder
Oh look, a small cylinder. 
small ceramic pitcher
The small pitcher from week two is now trimmed.
small ceramic pitcher with handle
And now it has a wee handle.

The little pitcher (bottom right) ready to dry more and the first firing. 

raku examples
Raku examples

Catch up with the previous adventures in ceramics:

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