Looking Geometrical

The kiln has spit out some more of my ceramic pieces and thankfully they all survived. I was playing around with the idea of viruses and the instructor issued a challenge to several of us – make something that has a geometrical component. At first I ignored it. I mean, all my orbs are spherical and that is very “geometrical”. That was my reasoning. Then she came over to me specifically and asked if I couldn’t do a piece that incorporated triangles or rhomboid shapes. With furrowed brow I scanned my favorite databases for a coccolith, fungus, pollen, or virus that had a some triangular aspects. *sigh*

I chose to model my orb off of the group of viruses called Iridoviridae. this virus effects insects (mosquitoes and isopods) and causes blue to bluish-purple iridescence and a shortened lifespan. As you might guess their capsid shell has a series of rectangles that form an isohedron. These occur in a variety of ways either as regular or irregular forms…

This particular orb is glazed in Super T which with the red iron oxide stain has a very striking contrast. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is a white stoneware clay body fired at cone 9.

Before the challenge I was working on a virus orb of a Reovirus. These viruses are associated with upper respiratory infections, enteritis, fever, and the symptoms of the common cold. So not as horrible as the coronavirus but still bothersome.

This one is again a white stoneware clay body glazed in Shaner Gold with red iron oxide applied thickly to give a dark metallic sheen to the portions protruding. The Shaner Gold went on a little thick and obscured the textured details on the background. Still it is a favorite glaze and came out looking good!

Looking Mousey

I finally got a piece back from the kiln! With the kiln tech in and out and the restrictions on class size due to the pandemic, it was taking a lot longer to get things fired. You see they won’t do a firing unless the kiln is full (for monetary reasons as it costs a lot of time and money to complete a cycle in the gas kiln). I had made this concept orb several times. It was so very popular with coworkers, vet techs, graduate students, and researchers that every time I completed one I felt compelled to give it away. I will likely make this one again, as a gift, but this one is mine!
The clay body is white stoneware. The mice are glazed with a red iron oxide stain applied thickly to give a metallic sheen to the surface. I am very happy with this one. Amazingly all the tails and ears are intact and it came through the firing perfectly!

Looking at What the Kiln Coughed Up

I’ve been back at ceramics and slowly glazing the backlog of pieces that I did last session that didn’t get finished before COVID hit. The kiln tech has been working like a fiend to get everything caught up. She proudly announced to me that my piece had made it in one piece. Hmm. Which piece was she referring to? I hadn’t written down the last couple I’d put in the queue for firing. It was a surprise! I remember agonizing over the glaze for this one. I had thought that I’d make each prominence a different color but since it is high fire my color palate is limited. I had quizzed the instructor and finally decided to make it easy on the kiln tech. The clay body is 3/4 white stoneware with 1/4 dark stoneware. I was hoping that I’d get less shrinkage since the dark doesn’t shrink as much as the white stoneware. I can’t tell any difference and so probably won’t make that effort again. I glazed with a concentrated Red Iron Oxide stain in several dilutions. It was a real tricky one to make but that is how I relax. I’m calling it my “Sleeping Hedgehog” orb although one of my classmates (who has a little bit of a sarcastic streak) wanted to know if it was a hairball. …

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 Jumbled

The ceramics studio started the summer session May 28th and I didn’t sign up. Instead I waited to enroll in the shorter 6 week course that started Wednesday – sort of. I’ll explain that in a bit. It is entirely OK with me that I decided to delay my class because I haven’t shared most of what I produced this last session. The studio management has been conducting “research” to determine the average output for students. I’m pretty sure that my output will be well below the threshold. The people who work on the wheel turn out at least 6 bowls/vases/mugs a night where I’m hard pressed to complete a single orb per class. We’ve been emailed yet another message assuring us that they haven’t come to a decision and are still gathering data. The last message also assured us that there would be lots of forewarning for any changes. We were asked to come to the studio management with any concerns “to avoid miscommunication and rumors that can fuel anxiety and negativity.” Really. These are the same folks that shortened the sessions from 10 weeks to 8 weeks but kept the price the same. These are the same ones who increased the fees and included 25 pounds of clay and a year later took the clay away but didn’t reduce the fees. These are the same folks who reduced the number of glazes and took 5 years to fix the sink faucets. They had 12 wheels but only 5 were working properly and it took them 2 years to fix them. In the interim a generous ceramics student donated 3 brand new wheels but they reserved them for instructor demonstrations (until the student and her lawyer husband made a stink).

The most recent “improvement” was to offer a 3 week extension to the last session for only $100! Currently an 8 week session with the member discount costs $152. I may not be a math whiz but 3 sessions for $100 is too pricey for me! Anyway there are many students with jumbled opinions and emotions. Also I was informed that I had to remove all my stuff from my shelf – for cleaning. My shelf is clean. I have lots of stuff. I don’t want to have to cart it all the way to the parking lot and home and then get assigned a new shelf. The last time I was assigned a shelf they put me on the top shelf. I had to stand on a chair to get to my things. I’m too old for that.

This summer they offered a 6 week course that I signed up for. The first session was Wednesday night. I had received an email a few weeks ago that indicated that there were only 4 students enrolled and that if additional students didn’t join it might be cancelled. Without any further communication I assumed the class was being held. I arrived a few minutes before class to discover the studio locked. Long story short, the instructor had a family emergency and the class may not happen. There was no communication and so far no indication refunds will happen. I was able to have an open studio night with the other 3 women in the class… Not too happy about the whole thing.

This is a slightly jumbled orb. It was supposed to be a monocyte covered in antibodies but it looks more like a glob of tapeworms. I glazed it in Yellow Salt. The yellow salt when applied thinly should have a variegated look in browns. When applied thickly it has a creamy yellow color reminiscent of pus. If you didn’t catch on, I’m not too pleased with how this one turned out.

Looking at My Muse Unchained

I am guilty of self-censoring to the extreme. It comes from years of employment in a hostile work environment where any and every comment made could be sharpened and hurled at the target on my back. I learned very quickly to keep my own counsel, apply a heavy duty filter to my words, and to trust very few people. I carved a niche for myself. And more importantly, I survived. The self preservation tactics worked but my muse was stifled. She wore a gag and I certainly had her in chains lest she run wild and sabotage my efforts to “fly under the radar” and avoid all notice. Times have changed but old habits die hard.

So I’m taking the chains off my muse. It may take awhile for her to realize that she is free to dance and run and to scream profanities into the wind. (I’m hoping she doesn’t go all rumspringa!) Her one big act of rebellion so far has been to say “NOPE” in a loud voice when asked to help me compose a little get well verse for a coworker. So that didn’t happen. *sigh* I’m beginning to understand Dr. Z’s frustration with her fickle and unpredictable muse…
Since my muse is MIA, all I have to offer is this little orb.

This is another representation of the Influenza Virus. It was made using a mixture of white stoneware and porcelain at a 3:1 ratio. This clay body has enough porcelain clay to make the glaze colors more vivid and not enough to complicate the hand-building technique. It was glazed with Turner’s Celadon with Blue Glaze accents. It is the size of an orange and has a pleasant texture and good colors. I’m very satisfied with the result!

Looking Mousey

Movement from the shadows sees
Outside the bounds of reveries
Undercover quiet creeps
Skitters brown a softened blur
Escapes the feline’s paws and purr

This ceramic piece was a redo of an earlier one that I made as a small lidded vessel. I had presented it as a work going away gift. It had turned out OK but not as good as I had hoped since the glaze was too thick to allow any detail to show. This time I made it as an orb and used a much thinner glaze in white and clear. It is much better since I wasn’t trying to get brown and black mice to show up without having the glaze run. I am going to take it into work to display on my file cabinet. It took 3 weeks to complete since I had to wait until one side was firm enough to bear weight and not deform the little figures as I worked to add the mice on the other side. It was a little tricky to avoid breaking off their tails! The poem is an acrostic. For any not familiar with this poetry form, it holds a message in the first letter of each line – spelling out either a phrase or word that relates to the topic of the poem. I used NPM prompt #2 – Favorite animal from the Looking Foolish Scavenger Hunt…

Looking Orbicular

I haven’t posted any ceramic photos lately. It isn’t because I haven’t made anything. Mostly it is because I’m lazy and had neglected to photograph any of them. This is a coccolith of unknown origin. I used a white stoneware clay. The glaze is Phil’s Celadon in the centers and a Red Iron Oxide stain on the outside. I applied it thickly to get the metallic sheen.

I have 4 more that I haven’t photographed.  That is one of the “to do” items on my weekend chore list. We are coming up on the end of the month and there are so many things that need to be done in preparation for Easter. I’m not sure if we are having a big Easter dinner for the whole clan or if it will be just the nuclear family. Sparky was asking me if I knew where I wanted to go on vacation. The short answer was no. I would like to visit Alaska or Hawaii but that takes a little planning and I just don’t have the energy to do that until after GeoWoodstock in May.

Looking at Footprints

When I make my ceramic orbs I am often inspired by nature. Sometimes I get inspiration from other places. It had rained in the early morning and there were areas on the sidewalk that had dried. There were also places that had small puddles. As people walked through the water, they left footprints on the cement. These prints were transient as they disappeared as the water evaporated. Walking along I recognized the bird and squirrel prints that had been memorialized in the sidewalk; leftover from when it was first poured and the barricades prevented human traffic but didn’t warn off the wildlife. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to do an orb that had footprints. As I pondered, it occurred to me that I might want to tap into my uber-geek and an orb was born.

This is a photo of Apollo 14 footprints on the moon. They will be there until some force removes them. And by force I’m talking a meteor strike or another rocket landing.

So I decided to make my own “Footprints on the Moon” orb. It is relatively small, about the size of a racquetball, and glazed in Super T and Royal Blue.