Saturday, March 19, 2016

pottery 10 and a season of jade

 It was a little bit like Christmas, walking into the room and looking for our fired pots.
Familiar shapes, with our initials carved on the bottom, but with new surfaces...glossy and smooth, with wonderful variations of color.

Butter dish
5 succulent pots

I purchased cactus and succulent soil from Early's on my way home,
and filled my 5 entertainingly misshapen succulent pots.

Then went to my bag of jade to find pieces that wanted to be planted.
Bag of jade?  you may wonder...
It has been a year of abundant jade.
I have one jade plant from a ten year old Solar gardens succulent pot, that has grown from a little plant to a veritable tree.  This winter I decided to prune it back. Hard.  Poor thing.  I took off every branch with a green leaf, and put all of the branches into a bag and left it by the front door - offering jade to anyone who comes into my house.  They sit in the bag, patiently waiting for a new home, or sign of hope.  Some of the branches have sent out little white roots, searching tentatively for soil, for water to help them to extend their lives.  
Wasn't sure if the main trunk would survive, and that was ok because I don't get all that attached to my indoor plants.  And besides, this past summer its pot fell over in a windstorm, breaking off branches which I promptly  stuck into other pots and they ALL just kept growing.    
I seem to be growing a jade forest.  They thrive outside on my deck or the sunny west side of the yard all summer, and then endure my neglect all winter.

But it has survived, and is sprouting life from all of its fingertips!

And another family of jades has joined my forest.

A long time ago a jade tree grew in my living room.  I was just beginning to learn to grow things ... and people.  My daughters were toddlers, my gardens were mostly experiments in how well the weeds could thrive in the midst of my neglect.  My young husband planted a garden big enough for us to live on.  He was - among other things - a gardener, and collector of a wide range of beautiful prickly cacti and succulents.    

When Dan's life was over, his parents took over the care of his beautiful jade, and it has thrived all these 27 years.  It fell over last year.  The main trunk rotted, and they salvaged some of that grand jade's branches and brought them to me.

And so some of my new pottery experiments hold jade.  My pottery class is done.
And the sign at Lakeshore Nurseries assuring us that we'll see them again in April feels more like a reasonable promise than a sign of abandonment.  April is not so very far away.

We have these treasures in jars of clay...  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

pottery 9

After the throwing and the trimming we leave the dark clay vessels on a multi-layered rack, and sometime during the week someone comes and fires them.  They come back brittle and bleached and detached.  They bear the same marks as before but they feel unfamiliar.  not mine.

It has happened a couple of times during the classes that my mind feels like unhooking.  I'm done.  I've done what I wanted to do - played in clay on a spinning wheel.
And besides, the snow is melting outside and I have to figure out where to put my sour cherry shrub.

When I start musing out loud, Randy gets worried.
You are not taking down the blue spruce to make room for the cherry.
I know I can't, I mutter.  You'd have to be crazy to think that I'd take down a blue spruce that is taller than our house and provides room for a secret nest for a family of crows!

He looks at me to be sure - did you say can or can't?  ... take down the spruce?


You never know.  I have a thing ... when something needs to be planted I find a home for it.  Take out lawn, mostly.  But I have taken out other things.

I digress.  This is not a post about spring.  This is a post about GLAZING!

My succulent pots!  
Succulent pots side view ... so much consistency :)

Our pottery wheels were covered with a sheet of plastic, and each wheel had a tub - a large summer ice cream parlour size of tub on top of it, with a thick viscous liquid that is stirred with a toilet brush. The dipping color of the glaze is quite unrelated to the final color.  The glazes we used as a beginner's class looked mostly rusty reddish brown.  The outside of the tub has a little identifying square piece of pottery with the glaze post-firing that matches with the name just to reassure us that they are not all playing with our minds.

Black (rust). Sky blue (rust). Autumn leaves (rust, of course).  Bean pot brown (rust). Floating blue (rust again). Frogskin (yup.  rust.)  Shino (GRAY!!).

First we lightly brushed any loose pottery dust away with a damp sponge. We painted liquid wax onto the bottoms, and a rim up the side so that the heat of the kiln doesn't turn the glaze on the bottom to glass and fuse it forever to the shelf in the kiln.  Then we got to start dunking.

Succulent pots half dunked

week 3's study of wonkiness beside week 7's creamer with a spout

Butter dish

Friday, March 4, 2016

Còig at the Bassment

I just need to write about a fun concert that we went to ... a month ago now.  :)
Tuesday, February 2 found us at the Bassment, with an east coast band made up of 2 fiddlers, a piano player and a fourth member who was a master of multiple instruments.  We had a table close to the front, with a great view of the keyboards on the grand piano.  Their lively music was captivating!  They had no drummer, but Jason Roach accompanied their music and his keyboards with an animated drumming on the floor beneath his feet...his leg propelling the drumming with astonishing vertical and reverberating regularity as his hands danced on the grand piano keys.

Chrissy Crowley and Rachel Davis held their fiddles as they sat.  It wasn't long before their feet also began to beat...not the fierce accompanying drumbeat of the piano player but an energetic fluid steady dancing that must have taken the same amount of energy as their fingers and bows.  Rachel had to pull her chair back to the mic after each song; the dancing kept sending her backwards.

The music carried them, it seemed, as much as they performed the music.

The only one whose feet didn't move much was the mandolin, banjo, mandola, bouzouki, whistles, and flute player.  They refer to Darren McMullen  as the "Swiss army knife" of their team, who brings his arsenal of instruments to their music.  Ask him about his banjo!

Each fiddle tune has a name, which may or may not be related at all to the sounds of the notes it holds. "Bad day at the Beach" sounds like a pretty awesome day at the beach.  They introduced their D jigs by letting us know that it has not one tune in the key of D.  And then grinned and began to play.

And the tunes are a mix ...  they introduced some from Ireland and Scotland that were centuries old, and others that they had written in the past weeks and years.  I can catch the sound of lilting something, and feel it kick into a beat that begs my feet to respond but these legs simply do not speak that language.

Their sing-along song was a beautiful gaelic lament of a woman who had lost her man.  Live energy, surge of life and dance and celebration merging seamlessly with dirge of sorrow.

It was a quiet prairie audience, with some fringe clapping and vocal appreciation.  We absorbed their music without really knowing how to send the energy back.  Smile and nod, and tap your foot; clap, whistle and holler and somehow let them know how much they transport us.  It was just so much fun.

But you knew that this music came to life when the room was filled with musicians, and feet that knew how to dance a reel.

Listen to them here!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

pottery 7

Our friends have beautiful pottery mugs from favorite holiday travels, and our after supper conversation naturally turned to a discussion of pottery, and the qualities of fine pottery mugs...
about shapes (a good cradling shape is important) and the size of the opening (too big an opening, and the liquid cools too quickly, too small an opening and the cup keeps banging into your face). The distance from mouth to bridge of nose is apparently optimal for the diameter of the brim.  These things matter if one is considering a cup built to hold liquid rather than release the liquid through carefully drilled holes.

Back to the studio...
My butter dish survived the week under wraps and was worth some serious trimming, I decided.

So I set about to anchor it sufficiently onto the wheel with fresh clay.  You roll up 3 snakes of clay about the width and length of  your middle finger and put them around the bottom edges of the pot. This occurs after eyeballing it onto centre, and letting it rotate a couple of times - slowly - holding a finger motionless at 3 o'clock to see if the pot has an off-centre wobble.   If an edge swings closer and farther away, you adjust, till the distance from finger to outside of pot is fairly even all the way around one rotation.   Then you anchor with the freshly rolled clay, pull out the trimmers and spin away.

Shavings and long twists of clay that look so much like wood shavings begin to pile up around the plate.

This was the first day that the spinning wheel threatened to made me dizzy.
Once the pot is securely centred and the wheel gets going, a lot of the clay can be trimmed off to significantly change the shape. The wheel can keep going at a pretty good clip.  Under these hands of mine the pot eventually begins to shift.  A voice inside my head throws down a cautionary yellow flag but I ignore the flag.  I think to myself - no problem.  (Yes.  We've heard this before.) I'll just shift with the little wonk as the pot swings deeper into the (sharp metal) trimmer at each rotation.  Keep that wheel spinning.  But of course the centre eventually gives way and the thing swings out of control and the trimmer causes some sharp damage to said precious pot.  So much more at stake now, having decided to keep the thing intact! All is not lost.  Recentre, and just keep spinning

My lovely instructor suggested as I took the butter dish dome off the wheel that I make a bit of a handle for the top, but I declined.  I have been sorry every since.  

I try to still the growing sense of urgency rising as my hands remain occupied with this trimming.  This is the last class for throwing pots.

I had time to throw two.  One mug which will remain a mug and not be rendered a succulent holder. Another one began as a mug and morphed into a creamer with a spout.  Not sure that will hold.  I'll get back to you on that after tomorrow.