Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Assembling a Teapot; it doesn't just happen!

As I have said before, in past posts, teapots are the test of the potter. Many variables are involved in the creation of the pieces and in the assembly of the finished pot. Handles that are functional and yet comfortable, Spouts that pour readily, lids that fit and don't fall off during the pouring process, are all involved in the creation of a finished teapot. The graphic to the right gets a little deeper into the subtleties of the teapot form.

Usually when I start doing a teapot, I throw several, bodies, spouts and lids at one time. This time I only threw four sets with a few extra spouts and lids. The extras allowed me to pick and choose what I wanted to use on the teapots design wise.
Embroidery hoops and trimmed pot body

The body of the teapot usually starts as some form that will hold an amount of liquid, has some form of foot ring on the bottom, and an opening to pour the water into, and clean the teapot as needed. Either one large hole, or several smaller holes are added to the form during assembly to allow entrance of the tea into the spout during pouring.
For this series of pots I am going to do something a little different to the body first. I am going to cut the shoulder of the pot at and angle using an embroidery hoop to add a little fun to the form.

Embroidery hoop at slight angle

Cut made where hoop had been
Rotated top area 180 degrees
Body rejoined ready for spout
After the body has been rejoined, it is time to add the spout to the form. The position and angle of the spout is very important in teapot meant for use. If the end of the spout comes below the mouth of the pot, the water will pour as the last of water is added into the pot. If the angle of the spout is too perpendicular to the body the same happens, or the tea starts pouring to quickly. If the angle of the spout is too steep it is difficult to pour the last of the tea out, unless one tips the pot beyond a comfortable angle. Some angle is needed also to help pull the tea in the spout back into the pot when ending a pour. The spout end should have sharper edge to cut off the last of the tea preventing a drip-difficult.

Hack saw blade at angle
Assembled spout, and lid waiting handles and finishing
The spout is cut with a fettling knife, or in this case a hack saw blade at an angle. I usually taper the inside of the cut to make it fit the rounded form a little easier. I rest the spout up against the side of the pot in the position I want tracing the shape. Inside this area a place a series of holes @1/4 inch. Using scoring and slip or magic water, I join the spout to the body and blend in the join using a wooden rib.
Here are the four finished teapots with pulled body handles and a variety of lid handles. White slip decoration was added on along with a few other embellishments to the decoration including some stamping and line work with a notched squeegee. The left three pots have the tilted neck section adding a little fun to the form. Second form one from the left uses a thrown lid handle with a little tilt to it. The far right put uses a rolled and decorated coil for a ring handle. The other two pots use pulled handle forms for the lids. As with any experiment with forms, the true test of what these work like will be when glazed and used to serve tea.

An extra note, on brewing tea in a teapot. There are also sorts of connoisseurs that know the way to brew and serve tea. There are others where it is sacrilege to do less pour hot water into the teapot and leave sit, boil the water in a kettle, pour the hot water out of the teapot, and pour in the recently boiled but cooled water. Then the tea is added and let to steep for a set number of minutes. I know these techniques, and forget much of the detail. I am simple, when I want tea, I want it then. I add tap water to the room temperature teapot, put it in the microwave for about 3 minutes, take it out and put in my tea bags or loose tea. Let it sit for about 2 minutes and pour the first cup, when that is gone I continue on until the tea is gone. I don't remove the bags, or the loose tea as the tea is stronger in the second or third cup and I like it that way.I'm sure there are those out there that would shun this, but I do what works for me, and at the same time don't knock it until you try it.
For those of you that are new to tea and teapots; a teapot is not a kettle, it should never be placed on an direct heat source like a range top, or open fire to boil water. Serious bodily harm happen from the thermal shock of the bursting pot.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Succulent Garden

Two days ago, my grand daughter took time from her Summer vacation time to plant the Succulent Garden for her grandma. We used some plants that we had in the house already, and a few from the local nursery.
It makes a nice addition to the house, and uses the pot that is in one of the previous posts. Over the years it has had a little bit of damage, but very little is of notice. I think in the long run it is better than throwing it out.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wedding Jar Part 3

Now the jar is waiting to be fired, drying should take about a week.  I have engraved the name of the couple on the lid, along with their wedding date. You may be able to see the square knot on the top for the handle; symbolic of the joining of a couple in matrimony. I did shorten the base by about 1/2" to emphasize the neck and lid area a little more. Scraping, finishing and some incised linear patterns were added to the shoulder.  these things all help out in adding detail to the glaze surface. After posting this picture I notice the dent in the rim of the lid and will smooth that in. Glazing should be in about two weeks.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Wedding Jar Part 2

waiting for finishing handles and lettering
In the post before, I documented the steps used to create the inset slabs with the pine needle decoration. The slabs were assembled into a box form and now I have the box with the neck, the lid, and the foot ring as you can see here.

Many people that have not worked with a circle over a square like the neck would assume it is by guess work. Not really, the secret is to use the distance between the sides for the inside diameter of the thrown neck, and then to use the diagonal dimension between corners for the outside of the neck. Once the neck has stiffened up to at least cheese hard, I join it on to the box using magic water, a combination of sodium silica and soda ash,  following the standard scoring always good to help with a clean join.

The foot ring on the bottom was thrown with the outside side measurements, and joined on the same as the neck. I am not certain yet if I am happy with the height of the ring yet, but can still trim it down and thicken the base rim needed.

At this point the neck/box join is in need of further refinement by scraping with hack saw blades and smoothing with rubber ribs. I will also add the wedding dates, names of the couple, and finish the lid with a handle and some matching slip colored rings. I will add those images to the blog as soon as completed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pine Needle Motif Slab Form

I have been working on a new idea for slab and wheel thrown forms after a request from one of my sisters. She wanted to have a lamp form that would go with her mission style furniture. After much thought, a few pages of sketches on form and variation, I decided to create large textured plate to roll a slab over.

Over the last few weeks, the plate,1/8 inch plywood, was covered with modeling paste, textured, and dried. Three coats of modeling paste in this manner and I was ready for step 2. This time I used a dremel tool on a router mount to create a series of pine needle type lines with branch areas added in. I cut the plate horizontally, getting rid of part for more interest. 
This form worked to some degree, especially after spraying a bakers spray on it. This aided in the release of the slab from the form. You will notice I have nailed on two sticks of equal thickness to roll my rolling pin over. I had hoped that the design would give me a complete panel with the pine needle design indented. Not so.
In the finished slab rolled out over the form, the top is missing the border edge. The pine needle motif is coming out very well, and should not need a whole lot of work in the wet stage. I next tried pounding out the slab over the form, rolling in different directions, not rolling out the slab, pounding it down and then cutting the height of the sticks. None of the techniques gave me the crisp full border I was looking for.
At this point I believed that the problem was caused by the clay moving over the design plate when being rolled or pounded causing it to blur the border. I decided to try fully confining the slab to the plate, not allowing the clay to slide around as it got rolled or pounded into the form.  This worked much better than any other attempts and with a little work will allow me to have 4 slabs to assemble and add wheel thrown parts for a jar.  This preliminary form is to be a wedding jar for a good friend. A year late, sad to say.

With a little smoothing in the wet stage, and careful trimming this slab is ready to start drying to leather hard when I will bevel the edges of the 4 pieces to join together. I will post later as things progress.
Here is the basic box waiting for the foot ring, neck and lid. these will be wheel thrown and added on next. I have highlighted some of the decoration with white and green engobe, to help bring out the texture, and add light areas to the decoration under the glaze. The hazelnut brown clay is beautiful, but can darken glazes quite a bit.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When is a large slab like a large white canvas?

Often painters will face the fear of the first stroke on that large white canvas. What to place there, what image, realistic or abstract, or somewhere in between. It is the same at times for a potter working on the wheel or with a block or slab of clay. Should they create a functional piece, or something sculptural.  Years ago, one of my painting professors said sometimes you just have to jump in with some idea where you want to go, but no real plan. There are times that I have done that on canvas, and times when it has happened to me when working with the clay.

One day I had a large slab of clay, and some idea of where I wanted to go. I had just read the Tolkien trilogy and decided to do something based on the theme: Two Towers. this started with the idea of being a fountain, and therefore would have lots of open dish type space. From there I had no idea where it would go.

 As you can see from the image on the left, I had considered the need of a hole for the cord and plug of the pump to come through. The two towers had openings for hose and would actually pump the water out through the towers to slide back in to the water basin at the bottom.
After considering this piece for a while, I have concluded that I am not happy with it as a fountain, it takes up too much space, and needs to be near a wall all the time. At the same time any fountain is not practical with the cat in the house; he always wants to be in the water. I considered making it into a bird bath outside, but really don't want a lot of birds leaving their calling cards on the deck-no yard.  So in the end I have decided that it will become a cactus garden.  Sometimes making use of the  product of the large slab is more troublesome than the idea itself. However, I like working this way with small slabs pieced together to make a larger whole. Joins are not a problem as I have become very cognizant of the scoring and slipping with compression. I also use a little "magic water" in with my slip to make it work a little better.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pine needles: an idea in progress

A year ago, one of my sisters asked me to make a couple of lamps for her that would use a pine needle motif of some sort. I started out thinking I could do it by carving a wooden stamp that would allow a repeated motif that I could connect with some sort of branches.

The jar at right is the first of a a series of pots that I have been working on for that stamp idea. I find that even though I like the effect on the shoulder border, it looks a little too much like bamboo instead of pine needles. This has led me to try a new tack, and presently I am working on a textured wooden section to roll slabs over for a lamp in a "mission" style. This is using modeling paste on 1/4 inch plywood.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Darker clay body

 The last time I ordered clay, I decided to try a darker body. I ordered the Hazelnut Brown from Standard Ceramics. This body has a richer brown color that show nicely where the clay is unglazed as near the bottom, and around lids. However, it will require some reworking of the glazes and the surface treatment as the glazes will all be darker over this clay.

In order to deal with this, I started using white slip over the clay in the wet stage working though it with combs. So far pleased with the effect.
Bowl of Hazelnut Brown with white slip on rim glazed in Teal Blue and Rutile Green(Van Gilder)

I think this will also require some adjustments in the glaze colors, so this summer will be spent on a series of  glaze experiments and test tiles. Hopefully I will be able to have a new look for pots by the Fall.
Bowl with same treatment as above with cut rim.

The two bowls here were created for the Open Bowl initiative that is run by one of the three  Altoona Junior High School art teachers, Ann Bickel. I try to make a few pieces for a good cause when I can. The proceed for this goes to a local food bank, and to a JHS program for their own students. 

I have been preparing chalice and paten orders for the Order of St. Luke, and have sent out half of the order. The chalice on the right is one from the recent batch with the Hazelnut Brown with white slip over top. It is glazed using Waxy white and Nutmeg, both recipes from Van Gilder. I am pleased with the texture, but feel I still need to adjust some of the glaze color.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teapots: a potter's challenge

Since college days, when I made my first teapot, I have always believed that the teapot was the final exam for the functional potter. The more I have studied on the process from articles in magazines to pages upon pages in books that seems to be very true. No other functional form has had so many pages written about it. Both of these teapots are from a few years ago, and are characteristic of the work I was doing then, and during the time I spent doing the show at Penn State Arts Festival. 
Since then the forms have changed, but the basic proportions still remain the same: large lid to allow for proper cleaning, and a tapering galley inside of the pot to ease placement of the lid. A deep galley usually assures the lid stays on without a tab while pouring. There is always a  wide funnel base to the spout for pouring with a narrow straight part near the opening to compress the flow of the tea to arc out of the pot.  The handles are either from the side or over the top, but both have to function well with a male or female hand.
I have changed clay to a darker brown called hazelnut brown. This has a richer looking base color where the clay is unfired, and causes changes in the glazes.  This has encouraged me to try a white slip over the clay when wet, and then exposing the darker body through the white. Glazes at this point are also dark for some people, and I am going to work a whole set of test tiles this summer for new glazes and glaze combinations. I hope to be able to post the new teapot series, and these test tiles this summer.