Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Throwing Videos

Earlier this summer, I decided to redo some of the throwing videos on my YouTube channel to improve the quality of the videos. I perhaps could have gone into the original files and re-uploaded them at a better resolution, but I thought remaking 30 videos in their entirety would be a quick 2-day project for my summer enjoyment.

my wheel and camera set up in the YVC studio

I was completely wrong. It was not quick, nor was it fun. However, uploading the videos from the borrowed camera to my work computer was pretty easy and I am able to upload them directly to YouTube without editing them. The last time I uploaded a bunch of throwing videos to YouTube, I spent a tedious amount of time editing the video setting so they'd upload correctly.

Please remember that some of these videos are aimed at a beginning pottery student at the start of class

So, what I've created are higher resolution videos demonstrating throwing techniques on the YVCC wheels--but not necessarily better throwing demonstrations overall. I'm afraid the videos aren't as nice as they could be if I were a professional videographer, but the videos are stable (YouTube disagrees because it sees the movement of the wheel as a "shake", but all the videos were filmed on a tripod, so I disagree with YouTube's automatic stabilizer recommendation--on every dang video!), the shot is focused in the right place, and the audio is audible.

The videos are meant as support or repetition for concepts discussed in class (like a free textbook that talks to you).

Sadly, the first day I chose to film, wasn't a great day for me. I had a bunch of air bubbles in the clay and I kept forgetting that the videos I was filming in series weren't going to be watched in series, so I occasionally refer to the previous demo. Because I was filming the videos myself, they start and end with me getting to the camera or wiping my hands off before turning the camera off.

This video's more fun (though probably less helpful for beginners).

Next time I do this, I want to bring in another person to do the filming. That person can help set up the best camera angle to see the wheel and maybe me, too (I'm cropped out of basically all of the videos). That person can also move the camera for another angle while I situate things on the wheel.

This helpful hypothetical person with clean hands can start and stop the videos so that I can demonstrate distinct steps (like centering) in separate videos without cleaning my hands off over and over and over and over and over again. Additionally, this person can talk to me between takes so I don't lose my mind.  And with the aforementioned clean hands, this person can simply stop and restart the camera when I make a silly mistake.

in other news, I'm looking forward to getting some students to join me in a few weeks in the new studio. This summer maintenance installed our classroom rules. These two pretty much cover it for my studio.

If you have any constructive criticism to offer regarding videos, angles, demonstrations, etc you'd like to see (for class), please let me know. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Functional Work: Story Bowls, Spoons, Jars, Sets

a set I was commissioned to do earlier this year

I just unloaded a batch of functional work from my new kiln. This was an array of items (30 pieces, not counting spoons) that I threw this summer and finished glazing this week. This load was mostly lidded containers, as well as some mugs and a pitcher I threw to match a lidded piece I was commissioned to do earlier this year. Of course after the firing I noticed two more pieces on a shelf in my studio--I'm not sure when those will get fired.

most of the stuff out of the kiln

Walking out to unload the kiln in the morning posed an unexpected challenge. Because my new kiln is now in the garage, I need to walk back and forth between my studio and the garage. On this morning the lawn was wet from the sprinklers, so I and my helper had to dodge the many slugs on the sidewalk while bringing the fired ceramics in and the greenware out to load the kiln.

a base with clay wads and a lid wadded in place

This load included lidded pieces because I remade some lidded pieces with spoons I had done earlier this year. I didn't like how the last batch turned out. This time I was more careful with the lids. I used clay wads to ensure that the glaze wouldn't stick the lids together. The wads allow me to fire the lids on the pieces so that the lids and bases don't warp into shapes that no longer fit together.

a lidded form with wads after firing
After the firing my young helper enjoyed knocking the little wads off of the rims of the containers. A couple of lids stuck temporarily, but a little whack with a wooden paddle got them loose. All the lids fit well, but I have a bit of work yet to do on two wads that stuck to one lid. Usually wads are dipped in Alumina hydrate so help prevent sticking, but I didn't have any handy when loading.

a storyteller bowl
I glazed most of the mugs and lidded containers with storytelling designs like the ones for the Storyteller exhibition at Boxx Gallery (Aug 27-Oct 22 at 616 Maple Street in Tieton). I also glazed some bowls with similar storytelling designs.

two storyteller bowls

The cylinder forms make a little more sense for storytelling designs because the story wraps around the outside like a zoetrope, but I am pleased with the bowl results where the design spirals around the interior in a similar fashion.

I made a whole bunch of spoons in this batch, mostly to be used in lidded sugar jars, but also just for fun. My favorite spoon worked well because I squished the handle and then applied the glazes in combination to the indents, making for more interesting colors compared to the whole batch of work.

My young helper instantly claimed the tiniest spoon, which hangs over the edge of a mug, or in this case, a miniature form that copies the design of the Rotary Commission work. 

the littles spoon and the spoon through the lid piece

I also tried out this funny method of making the hole for the spoon inside the middle of one of the lids. It's a little awkward, but fun to try. I'll have to try it in action to see how annoying it is to put the lid back on when scooping sugar. The jar itself has a flower story around it.

hand-built mugs
I also had a few hand-built mugs in this batch which I decided to glaze a little differently. I shaped the rim visually with glaze since, unlike the other rims, there wasn't a thickness change that marked the transition from rim to wall of the form. These smaller mugs aren't storytellers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Storyteller Mugs at Boxx Gallery

Join me at Boxx Gallery in Tieton this Saturday for the opening reception of the Storyteller Ceramics Show. The reception runs from 11am - 4pm at Boxx Gallery on 616 Maple Street in Tieton.

Some of my storytelling mugs will be on exhibit and for sale. 

The exhibition will also feature ceramics by Jane Gutting, Delma Tayer, Mike Hiler, Carolyn Nelson, Matthew Alan, Debbie Sundlee, Gary Dismukes, Deborah Ann, Carol DeGrave, and Michelle Wyles. 

The reception will feature local poets Terry Martin, LeAnne Ries, Barbara Hershey. I am told the reception will also feature cookies. See you there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Art on the Wall Piece

bowl form with cake decorations

I've been working on my Art on the Wall piece for the Capital Theatre's Fourth Street Theatre a few weeks. The theme is metal, so of course I planned to use bike parts, but in combination with some ceramic forms.

the first arrangement of bowl forms and sprigs (at random)

I threw some concave bowl forms with wiggly rims to mimic open flower forms. I added some cake decorating things into a sprig molded form to suggest the flower's stamen. I also made some small forms from sprig molds of bicycle gears and other parts. 

too many bowl forms
Once I started planning the form, I learned about a group of plants called hyperaccumulators, which are plants that pull metals from the ground and store them in the fibers of the plants themselves. These plants can be used for phytoremediatio--for cleaning up the environment. I get a kick out of the idea that I made flowers for a project whose theme is metal, and then it turns out that there are real plants that have an excess of metal.

spiral bowl forms with "leaves"
I made more flower forms than I needed and then tried to think of how to arrange them inside the prescribed shadowbox form. All the Art on the Wall pieces are done on or in the same square gessoboard/shadowbox. It is a different process to work within a constrained form for a project than to build a free-standing sculpture in which all the dimensions and surfaces are my choice.

close up shot of the gears around the edge of the form

The arrangement I ended up using for the flower forms is an attempt to gain some control over the very regular, square, and not-very-exciting form of the project. The flowers themselves vary, so they are arranged in a spiral. I was going to make it a fibbonacci spiral, but I should have started planning to control the sizes of the forms more than I did.

finished piece: it is very difficulty to photography shiny metal in a small studio

As I worked through the project, I was experimenting with metal pieces as leaves and sepals. The irregular placement of these hopefully adds to the interest when viewing the entire piece. One factor that I included to entertain me, but that may not work for my audience, is that two of the flowers can spin on their bases.

Art on the Wall opens September 8 from 5:45-7pm at the 4th Street Theatre.

Friday, August 19, 2016

New Throwing Videos

A month ago I looked at my throwing videos on my YouTube channel and realized the quality wasn't great. I decided it wouldn't be too much trouble to redo the videos with a better camera. There were only about 30 videos I wanted to redo.

my wheel and camera set up in the YVC studio

Obviously I didn't think this through, because this project was considerably more work than it seemed to be in my head. I thought I could probably make most of the videos in one or two days and spend one day uploading them. Instead, It took me three mornings to film most of the videos I planned to make and I found it far too tedious to continue working in the afternoon. I want to redo half of those I filmed and I couldn't bear to upload any of them yet. I also have a lot of clean-up left to do.

my efficient list of videos that fails to address any issues related to camera angle or length of video

I was actually gobsmacked by how an activity that I repeat every quarter, multiple times, class after class, could be so unbearably boring when done alone in front of a camera for the second time. It obviously didn't help that I couldn't listen to music or an audiobook while filming and that I was doing this during what should have been summer sculpture-making time for me.

I still plan to upload the replacement videos--at least some of them, but I'm going to wait until some other projects are finished. It's possible, too, that the first round of videos can be uploaded again at a higher quality. I'm not sure whether watching this round's videos or editing videos in iMovie sounds more painful. They both sound like torture. 

Given that the process is so painful and tedious and unpleasant and annoying and--did I mention I dislike making and editing and uploading videos?--I might try to enlist some help next time. I think the videos are valuable for students, but no fun to make. 

I'm considering whether I'd be better off writing a grant to have someone else film while I demonstrate. That way I'd have someone to talk to, but I'd also skip the agonizingly repetitive step of cleaning my hands thoroughly every time I want to start or stop the video. It would be immensely helpful to have someone else assist with getting the right camera angles, since I can only estimate what the camera will see when I'm sitting down or leaning over. An individual on the camera could also start and end a video while I'm still on the wheel with wet hands.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pitcher Plants Plans

my pitcher plant sculpture and the live inspiration

I recently acquired a hanging pitcher plant for my studio. I've always liked the form of these plants. In fact I made sculptures based on this form back in graduate school.

throwing the pitcher plant form
I've been thinking about a couple of different pitcher plant based sculptures this summer and I finally had the time to try one of them out. I threw the basic shape on the wheel, then altered it with coils and ribs.

pitcher plant forms drying off the wheel

My plan is for the pitcher plant forms to hang down from a central base like the live plants hang from their basket. I removed the spokes from a bike wheel rim and plan to bend them to be the stalks or stems of the ceramic plants.

ceramic base and bike hub with spokes

I made about seven of these pitcher plant forms, but on one I forgot which way the stem is supposed to go, so it comes out of the front instead of the back. I also threw the pieces in one day without thinking as far ahead as I needed to, so all seven are roughly the same size. I probably should have some smaller pitcher plants for the finished sculpture.

pitcher plant in progress with spoke

As my daughter kept pointing out, I might also make some that are more closed on the top like those in my studio, though she might be noticing the ones that seem to be dying.

pitcher plants in progress

I didn't think a great deal about the interiors of these plants, though they are open. In previous iterations of this form, I had things coming out of the interior, but with these I stayed closer to the original plant form (if not the original surface).

bisque fired pitchers

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Destruction of Palmer Hall

Palmer in August 2016

Palmer Hall is no more. Just over a year ago, in June 2015, we packed up, and moved our stuff out of the old Palmer building. We commenced teaching art classes in the new Palmer Martin building on the south side of the Yakima Valley College campus in Fall 2015. 

Palmer in June 2016

In June of 2016, the building was fenced off so that the demolition process could begin. The progress was slow because there were some less visible parts of the process that needed to be completed first. There were some things related to water and power that needed to be rerouted or adjusted before demolition.
view from the west side of the clay studio kiln yard

Someone I know who has no official capacity told me that the building also had ash from Mount Saint Helens inside the roof space, leftover from when it was remodeled. This is an excellent story, though I can't guarantee it is completely true.

view of the clay studio sans kiln yard in July 2016

The art department had been in the building since before I came to campus in 2006, but I believe it had been the art building for closer to 20 years. Before that, it was the library, but I'm not sure how old that building was. It wouldn't be difficult to check my facts, but instead I'm going to post demolition pictures.

the clock tower overlooks the half-demolished clay studio (you can still see the louver that used to be next to the kilns)

The demolition this summer started with the roof the wall of the kiln yard, but wasn't very far along when I was on campus in July. This week I happened to be on campus on Thursday and as I was driving past, I noticed that the building was smaller than it had been. I had some time, so I stopped by.

It was fun to watch the very precise movements of the machinery smashing, pulling, and cleaning up the space. It used an I-beam to sweep the ground as it moved around the building.

My daughter and I watched the demolition for about an hour. It's usually fun to watch a demolition, but we happened to arrive exactly when the clay and design studios were being ripped and smashed. I could recognize the red wall of the clay studio, the metalsmithing cabinet, a terrible old chair that has been broken for years, and the metal shelf that used to provide space for soldering in metalsmithing class.

the grey object on the right is the metalsmithing shelf.
The building is now completely demolished, though obviously the pile of rubble remains. Once the rubble is gone, I believe the space will become a green gathering space in the middle of campus. At this rate, I'm guessing the space will be more or less ready by the time the quarter starts in September.

here is the wide open design studio and a view into the part-time office and the drawing/painting studio

I did manage to get a video of part of the demolition. The start isn't very exciting, but about 30 seconds in the machine breaks into the ceiling of the next segment of the building.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New Kiln!

new kiln, just delivered, still in its box!

I finally have a new kiln! I haven't previously paid more than a few bucks or gas to pick it up before for an electric kiln for my home.  One major disadvantage of a small kiln is that large work doesn't necessarily fit and small work has to be divided into small loads.

the complex packing of the new kiln

In about 2013 I decided I needed a new kiln and planned to use my Parker Award money to buy one, but then, on sabbatical, I started building sculpture in pieces and the need became less pressing.

the catalyst for the new kiln

However, this year, I started building sculpture without sparing even a though for my kiln size and I ended up with two pieces that wouldn't fit in my existing kilns. So my husband helped me negotiate a space in the garage and I ordered my "first" real kiln that allows me to make what I want.

last firing in the old kiln

I've been firing quite a bit this summer, since I've been doing so much commission work and so many small pieces. This weekend I unloaded my (probably) last firing from my small, old, used, donated kiln and loaded work into the new Skutt.

new kiln, plugged in and ready to go

I was able to fit both the too-large sculptures, as well as a whole shelf of other work, into the kiln for one firing. The kiln I bought is one of the Kiln Master series, rather than a Kiln Sitter series. Before this year at the new YVC studio, I've used mostly kiln sitters at home and at work. Kiln sitters require hourly manual turn-ups and therefore make it difficult to leave the kiln unattended for more than an hour at a time.

the packing foam around the kiln looks funny

I can still hear my first ceramics professor, in my head, telling me never to leave a kiln unattended and never to trust a sitter, timer, or automatic shut off, but I must say that the freedom to run more than one errand while the kiln is firing is pretty nice.

new work, waiting for glaze

My summer work time is sadly running out, but I have one last batch of sculpture that I hope to finish building and a whole assortment of functional work I hope to glaze and fire before the end of August. Someday, I might even glaze and finish the few sculptures I built this summer.