Saturday, July 1, 2017

Text on Bulbs and Mugs

stamp holder ready with with the maximum amount of letters

The work I've been doing in the studio since summer started has been mostly glazing work, but I've also been able to start on some protest bulbs for a show coming up in January. I showed some of the bulbs in June for the Membership Show at Larson Gallery. At that show, I sold several and plan to replace them. 

First Amendment bulbs at Larson Gallery

Two of the bulbs I sold at Larson had text on them. I had a set of rubber text stamps, but that set is apparently missing a letter or two. In spring, after discovering the missing letter on the first text bulb, I purchased a plastic set of letter stamps. The plastic set is a bit larger, in a different font, and the set can be placed in a holder so that a whole word can be stamped at once.

bulb stamped with letters one at a time

The first two bulbs I created with the new plastic stamps were done by holding the tiny plastic letters in my fingertips and pressing them into the clay on one by one. The process is tedious, but not as painful as putting the letters in the little holder. The text holder only can fit about 11 letters at a time and it is hard to slide the letters in place. If they clicked in like Legos it would be a different matter, but the sides of each letter need to be squeezed as they are slid in the end. If you slide them too hard once they are in, they pop out.

stamp holder in action

Since the letters are meant to be used together to form words in the holder, there are multiple letters as well as some punctuation, numbers, and odd shapes. The kit comes with one single container, so using the letters means first sorting them, then sliding them into the holder, then stamping. 

"...or the right..."

To limit the time I spend sorting the letters, I needed a small container that could hold and separate 26 letters, as well as numbers and punctuation. I found some some daily pill boxes at a drug store, scraped off most of the letters and changed the marking to indicate the letters I needed.

letter sorted with the tools I used to modify the containers

The pill boxes worked well and cut out the sorting time, but there is still the tedium of pressing the letters into the clay one by one or pushing them into the holder. The text on the protest bulbs is the First Amendment of the Constitution. I had been thinking of pressing the same text into mugs, so I figured if I made the mugs and the bulbs at the same time, I could assembly-line the stamping process. Friday I threw and trimmed the mugs, attached handles, and press-molded the bulbs, then I was able to stamp each piece 11 letters or so at a time.

letters in their holder

The process was still tedious and my fingertips hurt by the end, but it was probably faster and certainly less tedious than pressing one letter at a time for all 8 pieces. However, the result wasn't as nice as I'd hoped. The bulbs had an obvious problem, as they have convex and concave curves and the stamp holder is flat, it didn't reach all areas evenly and some letters had to be hand stamped. It also is easier to wrap text around a curve letter by letter. The stamp holder also had some trouble when the text was up against the handle of the mugs.

mugs, bulbs and unsorted letter stamps in my studio

The other problems had to do with my planning. The text holder spaces everything more evenly, which meant that I ran out of space on the bulbs and most of the mugs, though I can fit the full text on a bulb when I don't use the holder. I also made the decision to start and end the text at the handle of the mugs, but since the mug is a cylinder, the text reads left to write all the way around. It isn't necessarily logical to drop down a line when reading across the handle. The problem is exasperated by the fact that I didn't always keep my text parallel to the rim of the mug. One mug didn't have a handle, so that line break is just silly.

mugs illustrating the artist's difficulty with parallels and planning

Both the mugs and the bulbs will look different with color, so I plan to fire them and at least see what they look like finished with glaze. The possibility that most of them aren't good enough to sell means that I can try out some different glazes without too much added risk. 

The one mug that looks more or less as planned

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