Lidded jars are one of my favorite items to work on, from sugar bowls to French butter dishes and garlic jars. I've even made a couple of urns for some beloved pets. Honey pots have been on my to do list for quite a while, but I hadn't really made time for myself to work on new shapes and imagery until recently.
It was so nice to allow myself a couple of hours here and there during my studio time to just explore and experiment. I was pretty thrilled with the results of these honey pots and dippers, and so excited to open the kiln after the final glaze firing to see how they turned out. A kiln opening with new work is pretty exhilarating...that is until one of your new pieces had a stuck lid.
Just for a little background info, I prefer to fire my lids with the main pot. It seems to create a better fit, less lid warping, and just fits into the kiln better. I brush wax resist on the lid and the gallery of where the lid sits. For the lidded areas that are waxed, I use a separate container of wax that has some alumina hydrate mixed in because the alumina hydrate helps the lid release after the firing. This last firing, I used a new wax resist from the Clay Art Center, called Reed's Wax. It has a smooth finish, and resists the extra glaze beautifully which made for less clean up of the pots before loading them into the kiln. I must not have added enough alumina though because when I unloaded the kiln, the blue honey pot lid was stuck on tight. I am usually pretty careful to wipe the excess glaze off between the lid and the pot but was really hoping I hadn't missed this one.
Normally, I am not so attached to the pots that come out the kiln and because of the alumina trick it's pretty rare that there is a stuck lid. But I was pretty excited about these honey pots, especially the blue one. Lightly tapping the lid with a rubber mallet or wooden handle didn't work. Trying to pry off the lid with a fettling knife (which I would not recommend, BTW) didn't work. I finally Googled "stuck pottery lid" and came across a ClayArt archive with a few suggestions. So, I spritzed some water on the pot where the lid meets the main body and stuck it in the freezer, per the instructions, and waited for about 4 hours. After the pot had been in the freezer for a while, I took it out, dunked the bottom half of the pot (up to just below the rim where the lid rests) in somewhat warm water. Then tapped the lid again with the wooden handle, and the lid popped right off! I was skeptical, even though it makes sense that the thermal expansion between the hot and cold would help relieve any pressure.
So, a few tricks to keep lids from sticking:
Add a bit of alumina hydrate to your wax resist for lidded areas. Keep it in a separate container because if you accidentally wax the bottom of a pot with this mixture nothing bad will happen but it creates a gritty mess. I have also added a bit of food coloring to this mixture as a visual reminder that this is the alumina hydrate wax.
If is is still stuck, try spritzing a bit of water between the lid and the pot, then freeze for a couple of hours. Pull out of the freezer, dunk the bottom part of pot (not the lidded part) in warm water. Lightly tap with a wooden handle. The lid should hopefully pop off. The Clayart thread suggested trying this a few times if it doesn't work the first time.
Another trick that was suggested is to pour boiling water over the stuck area. I was saving that as a last resort and was happy to not have to try it.
As a board member of the Washington Clay Arts Association, I have met so many people in the clay community in the last year. It has been a great way to connect with people who have a passion for clay, and get me out of the studio!
We are looking for a few more people to join the fun!
Spring is here; add your Ideas, Experience, & Energy to the Washington Clay Arts Association! We are seeking members to be involved with the WCA through active participation on the board or volunteer committees. Together we will shape our community. The WCA is an active, growing organization, looking for a few volunteers to help us expand our reach to ceramic artists and enthusiasts throughout the state of Washington. Most of these positions only involve a few hours a month, are a great way to strengthen your skills, and meet people who work in clay. Here are a few opportunities:
Web-Master and Web Updating Committee Members
Newsletter Article Writers (several would be swell)
PR-Social Media Manager
For detailed info about each position, email me at: sarahbakpottery (at) gmail.com or call Deb Schwartzkopf @ 206-653-4490 and chat about options for involvement.
Many hands make light work!
It is the time of year, after the craziness of the holidays, where I take a deep breath, dive in and deep clean the studio. My studio is located in our house which is mostly a blessing but can be a curse. It is in a part of the house where we store most of our excess stuff, and can also become the depository of things we don't want to deal with at the moment, especially when I am not actively making pots. December in the studio is mostly sending out orders, packing and unpacking for shows. By the end of the month, it looks as if Santa's workshop exploded in there. We spent most of last Saturday going through and purging the storage portion of the basement in a effort to get a bit more studio space which was fabulous, and funny, and emotional at times. It is amazing the things that you hold on to for much too long. There were boxes that my husband and I went through that were like opening a time capsule. I also have about 20 years of Ceramics Monthly magazines that someone is welcome to come take off of my hands. So happy that there is now a digital version. Moving on...
Yesterday was the day I had been dreading (and putting off) for longer than I care to admit. Time to clean out the clay trap under the sink. I use a Gleco Trap, but because we have low sink clearance, can only use the smallest size bottle, which holds 19 oz. Honestly, this doesn't even take very long, but is such a messy, smelly chore, and switching the bottle always seems to lead to taking apart the whole system. Mostly because I let it go too long, and it gets heavy, pulling everything out of whack. Dentists also use sink trapping systems and it may be less expensive. If you are looking for a Gleco-Trap or something similar, check out dental supply places.
It brought me back to my days of being an apprentice at Eckels Pottery Shop in Bayfield, WI, and having to clean out the trap there. The used an old-fashioned grease trap, which worked great for a studio with high-volume use, and it was actually pretty easy to clean out (albeit messy, still), because it was accessible.
Sink traps are a pretty important studio tool. Keeping clay out of your sewer line will save lots of headaches and $$ later on. I have been posting DIY sink trap systems for studios on my Pinterest studio and display page as I come across them, thinking maybe I would someday find one that was easier to clean out and use. Here are a few links to some in case they might be helpful for someone out there:
Written by Charan Sachar of Creative with Clay:
A good option for studios without running water from Pottery-Magic.com:
One technique that I have been using for a few years is to incorporate textured areas into thrown items, or into slab work (mainly buttons). I have recently started experimenting with different ways to add texture without using commercial rubber stamps, including designing and having my own custom rubber stamps produced, but that is a whole other adventure that I will share later.
These laser cut wood piece caught my eye recently. Truthfully, I am a sucker for anything laser cut in general because of the precision and detail that show and had slowly amassed a collection of small laser cut wood pieces, with the idea of impressing them into clay and finally got around to doing it.
Craft foam sheets are a staple in my studio, mostly to roll our slabs, to minimize the canvas pattern from the table. I had read a tutorial about using craft foam to create textured mats on Chandra Debuse's blog here, which reminded me how useful those foam mats are. So, out came the trusty glue gun (which doesn't melt the foam, fyi) and those birds quickly turned into a nice textured mat. The beauty of this too, is that you can customize it to whatever size and shape that you need.
So far this mat has been used approximately 10 times and is still as sturdy as it was with the first use. The one challenge is pulling it off of the clay slowly, and as straight up (rather than at an angle) as possible. Because the die cut wood pieces are so precise, pulling it up at a angle can distort the individual impressions slightly. Here is an example of the texture on the lid of a french butter dish.
If you try making your own, I would love to see your results.
It has been a busy time of year in the studio (and at home), getting ready for holiday shows, making gifts for family and friends...
I sew a bit, crochet a bit, someday hope to learn how to knit, and made my first clay button about (GASP, my does time fly!) 18 years ago. At the time I had little access to a studio or equipment, so it was a fun way to get my hands on clay. Since then, buttons have become a staple in my studio rotation. They are something I can work on while the kids are playing with clay, they fit neatly into all the nooks and crannies of the kiln that I am always looking to fill. While I haven't embellished enough of my own clothes with these buttons yet, I do have a sweet flannel bag that my grandma Esther made for me that I have added a few to for some added decoration. This bag had been laundered many times, and I am thrilled to report that the buttons go through the wash and even the dryer (on a low-medium heat setting) very well.
The buttons in the photo are all destined for new homes this weekend. 200 of these lovelies have been included into swag bags for the etsyRain Homemade Holiday show that I am participating in. If you are one of the lucky 100 people each day that get a swag bag, I hope you find a great use for your button, and I would love to see photos of where they end up!
More info about the swag bags can be found here (they look awesome - I really want one): http://www.handmaderain.com/
More info about the etsyRain Handmade Holidays show can be found here: http://etsyrain.com/shows/etsyrain-2012-handmade-holiday-show
One of the best aspects of clay is how versatile it is. You could probably spend a lifetime exploring it all the different ways to interact with it.
Printmaking has always interested me, but I was hesitant to commit to learning any processes, figuring I already had my hands full, and should focus on pottery, and all the other projects I find myself getting sucked into. So when I saw there was a weekend workshop at Pottery Northwest about printmaking and clay, I was completely intrigued. The workshop was taught by current resident, Akiko Jackson, and it was so informative. I feel like I walked away with so many possibilities to explore, and all on clay, which made me feel like I wasn't diverging too much from my intended path.
Akiko demonstrated aspects of mono-prints using a plaster canvas, screen printing, lithography, and linocuts. Above is a sample of my first lithograph on a vertical surface. All of these processes were intriquing, and it was exciting to walk away with a basic understanding on how to apply them. I can't wait to start experimenting especially with screen printing on clay.
If you are interested in a clay class in Seattle, Pottery Northwest is a community studio with classes for all skill levels.