Tuesday, August 3, 2010

VESSELS: Carpe Diem I (glazed)

Carpe Diem I
hand-built stoneware (ceramic) platter
1 in H x 11.5 in W x 18 in L

Carpe Diem I was glazed and fired back in May. I'm just now catching up on labeling and organizing a backlog of digital photos of my recent work.

The front of this platter is glazed with Cone 6 slate blue--painted on, not dipped--the back is olive light. Because slate blue tends to run we only use it on insides, flat or highly textured surfaces of vessels. A perfect choice for this application.

I'm very please with the way this glaze accentuates the textures and designs. Because it tends to run, it flows into crevices, darker where it pools, lighter and mottled where thinner over raised surfaces. This color variation gives the feeling of a shimmering fish just pulled from the ocean.

The body of Carpe Diem I is only 1/4 inch thick, much too thin for its size and the weight of the decorations. When I first rolled the slab for this piece back in April my intention was to make a platter using only the texture of hand crocheted laced for decoration. Then the clay began drying too quickly, cracking along the edges as I shaped it. It was clearly calling for fins and a tail.

As it dried, I struggled to keep it from warping and the cracks from reappearing. This battle was only partially won by the artist through hidden reinforcement and patience, allowing it to dry slowly, misted and covered, over several weeks.

It did warp some when the fins and tail drooped during bisque and glaze firing, but not so much as to ruin the piece. I just won't mention the small cracks near the tail, a defect that is more cosmetic than structural.

Carpe Diem II will be better.

I'm looking forward to playing with this design again.

Future fish, if made in any quantity, will have to be slightly smaller. This first one was 20 inches long when the clay was still wet, 18 inches end-to-end after firing and shinkage. It had to be fired at the community center because it was too large to fit in my 18 inch diameter kiln. They're willing to accommodate a large piece or two occasionally, but would frown on an entire school of fish platters swimming through at the same time.

Still, I'm glad I didn't let the proportions of this first Carpe Diem get in the way of experimentation on that day back in April.

I've heard it said that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. I would call this a successful failure. Or a failure turned success. Or just a success.

Lessons learned. Good results. That's a success.

(c)2010 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Monday, April 5, 2010

VESSELS: Carpe Diem I (in progress)

Sometimes during the creative process, unforeseen problems can become the impetus to try something different from what was originally envisioned.

I didn't plan to make this platter into a fish, but a couple of mistakes while trying a new idea--slab rolled too thin, edges allowed to become too dry too quickly--lead to several unmendable cracks along the rim. Cracks called out for reinforcement. Fins were added (shhhhh, don't tell anyone why) and the crocheted lace texture became scales of a fish.

It's been a long time since I've been over to the community pottery studio to use the slab roller. The clay and I have to make friends with each other again.

I wanted to work on something start to finish today.

I decided that the small time I had would be enough. With just a few voice students this evening, they would have to understand if I wore my smudged pottery clothes during their lessons. They've all known me for a while and the quality of their lesson experience would be unaltered by a few smears of clay on well worn clothes. Perhaps it would even be an inspiration for someone to try an artistic pursuit, an encouragement to see that there are things more important than outward appearances.

Once a pottery project is begun, the clay only stays in optimal working condition for a period of hours. Even when carefully wrapped in damp towels and sealed in a plastic bag, the moisture begins to shift, the texture gradually changes. Once past a certain point, malleability is unrecoverable.

I've had the experience too many times of not being able to get back to something I've begun, losing momentum, and eventually losing the piece when it got to dry to be recovered and completed. Too many times I've had to break an incomplete object, already bone dry, into pieces for the scrap recycling bucket.

The title, Carpe Diem, comes from the movement I've been making toward working more directly on my goals each and every day, even if the time available is much shorter than I would like.

No more waiting for the right moment, for the convergence of mood and uninterrupted hours.

As Dr. Seuss wrote in "Oh! The Places You'll Go!"

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.
Or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil or a better break
or a string of pearls or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls
or another chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
No! That's not for you!

For too long, I've waited for just the right moment to get started again making pottery just for fun, or writing songs, or recording, or working on my "big writing project".

Just the right moment never comes. What we have is today.

So don't carp!

Monday, February 22, 2010


The most recent result of graphics work. Finished this morning. Disk burned and labeled, ready to put together with an application to send out tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Just finished this new business card design for Sacred Shards Pottery. Sent off to www.vistaprint.com just a couple hours ago.

It's layout was set up with the intention of dual use--business card and sales tag. To make a sales tag the card will be folded in half along its vertical axis (between the heart bowl and the snail spiral), hole punched in that corner and attached to the item with a piece of raffia.

Didn't pay to expedite printing and shipping, so the new cards will be arriving in about 3 weeks.

The Sacred Shards Etsy URL printed on the cards has been reserved, but yet to be set up as of this date. Now there's an incentive to get it going!

Friday, February 12, 2010

VESSELS: Ammonoidea I - SOLD!

Title: Ammonoidea I
hand built pitcher
14"L x 8 1/2"H x 5" W
embossed designs from handmade stamps & texture plates
stoneware clay, cone 6 glazes
SOLD 02/2010

I went down to the Mystic Art Center today to take pictures of the piece I have in my first members show and discovered IT SOLD!
I thought I had set the price high enough that I'd be bringing it home with me at the end of the show. A price high enough that, in the unlikely event it sold, I'd feel sufficiently compensated so as to not regret letting go of it. And IT SOLD! Whoever you are, thank you!
This was the first time I'd entered the member's show, having felt intimidated in the past by the quality of the work displayed there.
This year I said to myself, "What the heck! Might as well try." Glad I did. It's been a positive experience all the way around.
Story of "Ammonoidea I":

"Ammonoidea I" was formed during a summer thunder storm that gathered as I worked out in my art barn. It's slabs and textures were rolled and shaped entirely by hand. It holds for me the magic of that day. My workbench was a garden cart topped with a piece of plywood, lightning flashing, thunder rolling and rain falling all around as I worked.

The design on the "Ammonoidea I" was made with an original texture plate adapted from a photo of a fossil ammonite, an extinct marine animal, in the Smithsonian collection. I found the reference photo in a desk calendar sent to me by my mom.

The slab of clay used to make the texture plate had dried to the point that it was too firm for shaping into anything else. Rather than break it up for the scrap bucket, it became a useful tool for creating decoration on other pieces. Using a ball stylus and a sgraffito tool I drew the ammonite design into the slab, going over the lines until they were of sufficient depth. This incised slab was then bisque and high fired for durability.

The other texture plates used to emboss the designs on the pieces near the handle and spout were similarly inscribed on scraps left over from other projects, bisque and high fired.

All of these texture plates were made with no particular purpose or finished result in mind. I was simply playing with design, line and materials. The process developed over many months, long before the Ammonoidea vessel was begun.

Texture plates were selected, then slabs of wet clay were then pressed into the texture plates using a rolling pin. The components were cut to shape and joined. I continued to shape the assembled vessel as it dried. It was bisque fired, hand glazed (the glazes where meticulously painted into the ammonoid design by hand, painted, dipped and poured on other surfaces), then fired to cone 6.

All this was before I had my own kiln. Firing and glazing took place at the Stonington Community Center pottery studio, also know as the COMO, where I'm an independent potter.

Patterns for this piece were drawn with sharpie marker on durable plastic quilt pattern grids and cut out, used and reshaped to reflect the eventual outlines of the components as they developed. This will enable me to create other pieces based on this design.

When I glaze, I like to let some of the bare clay show through. I'm drawn to the raw, earthy quality of the unglazed surfaces as they contrast with the high sheen of the glazed surfaces. The unglazed surfaces are intended to extend the connection between the ammonite fossil that inspired this design and earth that sheltered it for millennia. It represents our own origins within the earth, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," our dependance on earth as our home. The blues and greens of the glazes are ocean, symbolic of the collective unconscious in which we all unknowingly swim. The spiral shell design reflects my understanding of the spiral journey of life.

My work is all about connecting past with present: unearthing artifacts within ourselves, finding beauty and meaning in unexpected places, then shaping a vessel within to hold these. For me, this piece captures all these elements in one unified whole.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SACRED SHARDS: Work Play Work Play

I've been working at play, playing at work, working and playing at clay for the past several weeks. Putting in many 9-10 hour days doing something I love to prepare for two artisan shows coming up:
  • Stonington Village Fair: Saturday 8/1/09, 10 AM-4PM, Stonington Village Green, CT
  • Mystic Outdoor Art Festival: Saturday 8/8 10AM-6PM & Sunday 8/9/09 10AM-5PM. Look for my SACRED SHARDS booth in the parking lot of "You've Got to Be Beading" near the Mystic Post Office, Mystic, CT.
These are TOUCH STONES from my WORD WISE collection, ready to go into the kiln for a first firing (bisque). Then they'll be glazed, high fired and packaged for the shows.

Each is a little mantra to hold in your hand, wear around your neck, put in your pocket, hang from your rearview mirror or use to create something of your own. There will be dozens of words to choose from. Or you can combine several to make a unique statement.

Each comes with a length of colored cotton cord, a small organza bag, and a tiny card with quotes inside.

In the photo above are prototypes at several new items: hand built bowls available with Om symbol, chai (hebrew not tea), or hearts; spiral-design napkin rings; and tiny nests to wear as pendants or display close at hand. The nests can be customized with initials on the eggs to represent those who share your home nest and a small inscription on the back.

After working out tricks and details for putting these items together smoothly and consistently, I've made more. Each item is hand built and individually signed. No two are exactly alike.

The first wave can be seen ready to bisque fire in the photo below.

The photo above shows the bottom shelf of the kiln loaded for bisque firing.

Two more layers of greenware (dry unfired ceramics) to bisque fire in the same load.

Drying shelves hold 9 vessels and a stack of napkin rings awaiting their turn in the kiln. 75% humidity has slowed drying to nearly a standstill. I'll probably not be able to have these ready by the first show, the smaller of the two. With luck by the second.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, a small representation of the work and play that's part of making things I care about to share with others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SACRED SHARDS: Documenting Recent Work

Too long I've been making things and selling them or giving them as gifts without taking pictures or making sketches for future work.

Today I set up a make-shift photo booth in a well illuminated part of the house, got out my "good-enough" cheap digital camera, and started documenting my work.

This heart shaped bowl and matching ladle will be a gift for a family member and his bride, getting married this weekend.

I'll be making more in the coming weeks for sale on Etsy, in local shops, at LUNCH shows and in my art show booth. Wanted to make sure I could remember what these looked like since I won't have them on hand as samples.

Taking and editing these photos was also a useful practice run for the things I need to do for my Etsy online store and for my own website. They will go into my file of potential work samples to use when approaching retail outlets and and artisan shows.

A bowl made for a baby girl, now a two-year-old and feeding herself. Took me a while to finish it and photograph it before giving it to her. Bad Auntie Kay. Still, it's great for finger foods and reheating little portions.
A couple of adults have told me they wanted one for themselves--customized with their own name or a special word--so I'll probably be making them in a variety of sizes and colors.
This one is about 5 inches across and 2 inches high.

A similar bowl was made for a baby boy family member, but I didn't take a picture of it before giving.

I also made sketches and took measurements today so the next go around will be easier. I jotted down notes on glazes, processes, and where the JPGs of these images can be found on my computer.
All this was time consuming, but I'm hopeful that by honoring past effort in this way--by documenting it--the process of making many more will go more smoothly, and perhaps lead to new ideas that otherwise might have been lost.

(c)2009 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing