Looking at Cooked Mud

My ceramic class is half over and all I’ve got to show for it is this one orb. The kiln was having problems with not getting to temperature or getting too hot. So they had to do some repairs which meant they have a backlog of pieces waiting to be fired. I was very lucky not to have had anything of consequence in the burnt load (just a necklace pendant or two, so no big loss). Others were not so fortunate. The current mantra at the studio is “its only mud”. So here is my latest piece of cooked to perfection mud.

This is Syracosphaera orbiculus, a coccolith found in the Eastern Equatorial Atlantic ocean. I was posting this anyway but when CalmKate posted about water I knew I’d have to add this one to the mix. Her post is located at https://aroused.blog/2020/01/19/friday-fun-water/. Please go visit and introduce yourself! And for those who are not familiar with coccoliths, they are phytoplankton that have a calcium carbonate skeleton. What I’m representing with this sculpture is the skeleton that remains after the plankton has died. These organisms are found throughout the world in both fresh and salt waters. They are the basis of the food chain. Syracosphaera orbiculus is a smaller coccolith with a diameter of ~14 microns across. For those needing a point of reference, a human red blood cell is about 7 microns. This one is recreated at about 3 inches in diameter and was made using a mixed clay body using half brown stoneware and half white stoneware. It is glazed with Atomic Purple and Woods Blue high fire glazes. The Woods Blue when put on thinly is a rich yet transparent brown which is ideal for textured areas that you don’t want to obscure with a heavy glaze. Atomic purple is actually a nice lavender color with a semi-matte finish that contrasts well with the shiny look of the Woods Blue. I was one of the only people who was pleased with the latest offerings from the kiln.

I’m hoping to get a few more things back before the end of the session in February. I’ve got at least 4 pieces queued up and it will be anyone’s guess if any of my orbs make it into of the loads. Cross your fingers!

Looking at an Empty Shelf

Stand back – I’m going to vent and it might get messy. Not really. It actually got very clean and will get even cleaner if that is possible.

The ceramics studio is having a studio wide clean out. There has been an edict posted, emailed, snail mailed, and announced in person to every person entering the studio. I have been informed and reminded numerous times that as of July 27th there will be NO wet clay work in the studio. The last bisque firing will be on August 1st. The last glaze firing will be on August 10th. All completed work must be picked up by August 17th. Sounds reasonable. But I have a punch card for 6 sessions (at $10 each) and this schedule means I will have 3 sessions in which I can’t play with clay. It will cost me $10 to go in and glaze a piece. It will cost me $10 to go in and pick up a piece. And then there is the shelf clean off. My shelf must be cleaned off – that is completely bare by August 17th. I have 20 years worth of stuff stored in a very compact and organized space. I have begun the removal of my equipment. I will be removing the rest tonight. Since I’ve had to tote it home I’m considering if I want to ever haul it back.

My shelf is 30″ long and 24″ deep. The shelf height (for me) is 20″. The word is that the shelves are being dismantled and after the floor is cleaned they will be reassembled. The theory being spouted is that the shelves are of various sizes (heights) and they are going to make them all the same size. The plan is not being carried out by engineers. The people in charge are artists, specifically artists who do not have a clue about shelving units. This plan would work if A) the shelving units were all the same manufacturer and B) they were all the same width and C) used the same size bolts. As it is I foresee disaster. The shelves will be taken apart and all the pieces stacked on the tables. The bolts will be gathered and chucked into a bucket. Once the shelves themselves have been washed and dried (causing a huge reshuffling of parts) and the floor cleaned, there will be that moment when someone starts putting them back together. And they won’t get it right. And because they took so long to clean the floor and walls and shelves, there isn’t much time before the next session starts. We will come into the studio and there will be only half (if we are lucky) of the shelves put together. We will be assigned half a shelf with a promise of the shelves being reassembled soon. Soon will be a parental soon – which means maybe never. That will lead to the ceramics students joining the ranks of the jewelry, wood carving, painting, and stain glass students who tote their supplies and equipment to and from the studio every week. Sure we will be able to store a couple bags of clay on the shelf but we will have to keep the bulk of our tools in the trunks of our vehicles or at home. *sigh* I’m laying a cash money bet on this prophesy. If I win, Sparky is setting up a kiln for me in the basement!

If you have read this far I will reward you with the following tidbit. It is a mixed clay body using white stoneware and brown stoneware in equal parts. It is glazed in Mamo Yellow with Grass Green on the interior. The rims are left unglazed. It is a representation of the coccolith Syracosphaera sp. orbiculus from the East Equatorial Atlantic ocean.

The little white bar in the lower left is a 1 micron measure for scale. For reference a human red blood cell is about 8 microns across…


Looking at Art


The photos above are of Calciosolenia brasiliensis, a coccolith from the Western Mediterranean, again specifically the Alboran Sea. I made this one with a clay body that was white stoneware that had been contaminated with a little porcelain. The glaze is Phil’s Celedon with Royal blue in the center textured areas. I had completed this orb previously in March of 2012 but was not satisfied with the result. Partly the glaze was not as vibrant and partly I thought I could do a better job.

The electron micrograph below is the picture I was working from. You be the judge – did I do better on the second try??

Looking at Ceramics

I haven’t posted any of my ceramic creations here before. The last ceramics session ended last week and I have several orbs that have not been photographed. On Mother’s Day I had a few minutes to myself and took the following picture of Turrilithus latericioides. It is a coccolith located in the Western Mediterranean, the Alboran Sea to be exact. The electron micrograph below has  a scale bar in the lower left corner that is equivalent to 10 micrometers, just to give you an idea of the size. A human red blood cell is 7- 8 micrometers across…

Below is my version in clay. I used a white stoneware for the clay body, applying Super T glaze on the center and half way up the turrets and Ochre Celedon at the top. I put a dot of red iron oxide stain in the end wells. This orb is about 4 inches across making it the size of a softball.

The glaze firing was the last of the session and I was happy that I didn’t have any crazing in my glaze like some people found on their pieces. When this one was sitting on the table (as I was preparing to leave the studio), one of the other students commented that she thought it was outstanding. I let her hold it and was lucky that she didn’t try to smuggle it into her purse. I believe she will be contacting me to purchase it!