Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ceramic studio change-over

There's an interesting difference between being a potter and being a woodworker that most people don't consider. Woodworkers switch materials all the time, from job to job. Right now, I'm working on a cherry piece, but the next one I'll start is in oak. There isn't a significant difference; the adhesives and finishes are much the same, and it's not as if I have to change my sawblade if I've switched wood. Just a little cleaning with the air compressor and the changeover is complete.

But clay poses a different problem. For the last six years, I've used a deep brown clay body called Black Mountain. I love the way it fires to a chocolate brown color. But just as all things must change, I've started mixing some new glazes, and the bottom line is - the glazes I like simply look better on a lighter clay. I'm switching to a buff stoneware called Long Beach, which I've thoroughly tested and find works perfectly for my glaze palette.

Now many potters switch back and forth, but to me - it's a hassle. That means I have to clean everything from my canvas mats to my throwing tools, to my wheel. And since there is such a drastic color difference in the two clays I use, the slightest cross contamination really pops out.

So it's with some sadness that I used the very last of my Black Mountain clay this week. I've probably gone through several thousand pounds of it; not much by most potter's standards, but for me, that's a fair amount. I threw three pieces - two small pitchers and a tumbler, on the wheel, as my final farewell.

And now the changeover begins! Time to pack away all the old glaze tests, using that clay body.

A clean wheel!

And clean tools!

The plaster molds needed a little scrubbing and organization.

And the glaze area needed some straightening out. There were all sorts of slips and unlabeled mixtures, all of which went into the trash.

As long as I've giving you a tour of my clay studio, here's something that most people ask about when visiting. Call me silly, but I save my cone packs. I just think they look cool.

And finally, my current sketch wall. Whenever I'm working on a project, I sketch it in full-size, or print it with my computer. At times, the wall can be crowded with dozens of drawings, but right now - the the new clay being introduced - most of the older drawings have been retired, and new ones are being added daily.

Hope you enjoyed the little tour!


FishStikks said...

Wow, I think I actually got a little misty over the poor retired clay.

I can see so many cool things in those cone packs though...oooooo.

Love the stroll through you pottery stuff, thanks!

Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

I was going to say that perhaps you need two (or three) of everything, but then I thought it's probably good to get everything cleaned up and sorted out. You are so creative, a potter AND a woodworker, how cool is that!

Anonymous said...

Loved the tour. Might even stimulate me to a clear-up and re-organization of MY studio--which it badly needs! I have a ^6 stoneware clay that I've been using for 5+ years and am committed to. But recently I got into a couple projects that used earthenware clay--^04! And somehow have gotten stuck on it! So I'm juggling with the two different clays--and it is HARD! New glazes etc. (BTW, how did you dispose of the glazes you did not want?)
Your energy for new projects amazes me! Congratulations on all fronts! Gay

Anonymous said...

ooh it's always exciting to see clean tools and make the old stuff fresh again. thanks for the tour, and keep up the great work!!!