Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back to the Studio

I finally got back in the studio this afternoon, right after work.

It took me a while to find the raku clay. I had built a set of shelves that we have placed just outside of the studio, with all of the boxes and bags of clay on it. It probably has six or seven hundred pounds of clay on it (its built of scavenged two by fours, held together with long deck screws). The raku clay was still in the studio, but hiding under one of our little tables. Julie had to tell me where to find it.

We have a bag and a half of soft raku clay, and several bags of dried out clay that I need to reconstitute. I cut off about a six pound hunk, a quarter bag, gently bounced it into something like a cylinder against the wheel head, and started to throw.

The clay has this musty and moldy smell to it that I always am surprised by when I've been away for a while. Its a happy smell for me. Its very earthy, like good soil.

I've been drawing pictures of rockets for a few weeks now without having a chance to throw, so it was fun to try to throw something specific.

My first piece was a rocket. Its bigger and longer than my regular rockets, along the lines of the Terra-5 from Space Patrol. The rocket body is thrown as a tall cylinder, and then the rim is collared in to a point. This traps a pocket of air within the body, so that the entire form of the rocket can be manipulated without fear of collapsing the cavity inside. Usually in clay, a push from the outside of a cylinder is matched by a supporting hand on the inside, and vice versa.

A piece is removed from the wheel head by first passing a cutting wire under the foot of the piece, pulling it as tight as possible so that the wire doesn't bow up under the piece. A squeeze of water is then put on the wheel head, and the wire is used to pass that under the piece. If the piece is small, it can be lifted off of the wheel head with the tips of your fingers cradling the piece, or, for larger pieces, the splash pan can be removed from the wheel, and the piece can be slid off of the wheelhead to a board covered in wet newspaper.

I tried to cut corners, and set a board next to the piece on the wheel head, and then tried to lift the rocket body clear. It was tall and tippy, so it fell over, and got flat on one side. Since the cavity inside is trapped air, the piece did not collapse. I was able to pat the piece back into shape, and then put it back on the wheel to remove most of the imperfections.

Each rocket needs a drying chuck and engine bells. I threw three large bells for the rocket.

My second piece is a smaller, fatter rocket, more like the ones that I threw at the beginning of the year. This one received three engine bells, and a small chuck.

The third piece is a small, skinny vase, with a collared shoulder and raised rim.

The fourth piece is a bit hard to explain. It is a spherical shape, about the size of a large Christmas ball ornament. It even has a stem like a ornament, but larger. Its too heavy to be an ornament, but it is a pleasing base shape, and I think of it more like a flower pot for a single flower, or maybe with a bit of frayed steel cable sticking out. I plan to make a whole series of these ornament sized things, and one day at lunch drew sketches of a whole family of them. This one will end up as a little jack-o-lantern, and be metallic copper when it is done, sort of like those pumpkins in the Spiderman movies. I may even do one out of cassius.


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