Sunday, October 23, 2005

Throwing Again

Got back into the studio tonight.

Started with a rocket. My notebook is full of rockets, especially long, skinny ones. The rockets that I have been throwing are shorter and rounder. I like the rockets that I throw, but I have some neat designs for the longer shape.

I got out a hunk of raku clay, and centered it on the wheel. I ended up throwing a tall cylinder, and worked at making it narrower and taller.

The way that one typically makes a piece taller is by raising the walls; starting at the base of a wall, gently pinching the clay between a finger on the inside of the piece and a finger on the outside of the piece, and slowly pulling up. The wheel is turning at the same time, so a rising wave of clay is 'pulled' upward, making the walls thinner and taller. Making a piece narrower involves 'collaring; pushing in on the piece from four sides simultaneously with the fingers of two hands, and slowly raising your hands along the piece, as the wheel is turning.. Collaring also makes the walls thicker. If I remember right, raising walls and collaring both appear in the Japanese, Chinese, and European schools of throwing.

I took a class once in Georgia, where the instructor showed us some Korean throwing techniques. One was grabbing the pot with the right hand, where the middle finger is on the inside of the pot, and the thumb is on the outside, at the point that the pot is closest to the potter, pinching the walls between these fingers, and rapidly pulling up. You pull towards a point above the center of the wheel, so you create a tapering cylinder. It required a compression step after each pull, where the potter would support the inner and outer wall of the pot with the left hand while bridging the first two fingers of the right hand over the rim and pressing downwards. The second move is for creating tall, narrow cylinders, by first creating a cylinder on the wheel head, getting the palms and edge of your hands below the pinkies very wet, and then chopping your hands into the base of the pot from the sides at a forty five degree angle. The distance between your hands defines the diameter of the resulting cylinder, and you drag your hands upward to raise the clay. Using this technique, I have created clay tubes eighteen inches high, starting about an inch and a half in diameter, and tapering to a little less than an inch. The last inch or so flares out again. The tubes sort of look like tentacles. I have a raku piece (what else?) in our library, with three of these tubes attached to the lid, called "Things are Looking Up".

I used this technique to try to throw a rocket. The problem that I encoutered was that the taper was backwards, the rocket got narrower the higher up I got. Aesthetically, I want the rocket to have a narrow base, slowly flare out the higher you get, and then converge to a point. As I was fussing with the clay, trying to force it to do my bidding, it occured to me that I could throw the rocket body upside down, so that the taper would go in the direction that I wanted. I would just need to plan ahead, making sure to leave enough clay around the base of the piece so that it would support itself while it dried, and to make sure that I leave enough clay down there so I can trim it to a point afterwards.

I threw my first long, tapered rocket. I got to fuss with highest point on the piece, which would be the bottom of the rocket, and made a little aerospike exhaust nozzle. I cut the rocket off the wheel, and started throwing a second.

The second rocket had problems. Half way through raising the walls, I discovered a lump in the raku clay, a lump of harder clay about the size of a pea. It was embedded in the wall of the rocket, and I discovered it while raising the walls of the piece. The harder lump caused the wall to stretch out of shape. I finally had to cut the lump free, but it was half way up the rocket, so I had to cut everything away above the new hole. I turned the rocket into a chuck for the first rocket.

I started a third, and had problems. I wasn't focused very well, since I have a meeting coming up at work tomorrow that has me worried, and the boom box that I was playing music on starting behaving strangely (skipping parts of my 'Yes' album, then playing other parts too fast or too slow). While the piece did not make it as a rocket, I did sucessfully create a nice lidded jar. I planned to ask Julie to put some dragons on it for me.

As I was moving the lidded jar onto the drying shelf, I accidently bumped the rocket, and knocked it over. It kinked where it fell across our extruder, which was on the same shelf. I tossed both the rocket and its chuck into my scrap raku clay bag for recycling.

Went and watched some football for a while. Julie had made some more of her turkey chili (based on a recipe by the wife of Kit Carson), and we had a few cups of it as we sat on the couch.

I eventually got back into the studio, and threw with the 266, chocolate brown clay. The clay was getting a bit stiff, so I had a heck of a time with it, but I threw a little strait sided bowl and a second bowl with a wide lip that rests on the first. Its going to be a 'dip warmer' or 'dip cooler', depending on whether you put hot water or ice into the lower bowl, and then dip into the top bowl. There is a program on the 'Do It Yourself Network' called 'Throwing Clay', and I saw a demo of how to throw one Saturday on the program.


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