What Happens When You Don’t Use Your Clay

I’ve had this small ball of speckled clay on my rental shelf since… let’s say… late November. After analyzing the bridge on last tuesday, I had little motivation to make aquarium pieces so I sculpted a male version of the awesome angler fish out of my small lump of clay.

Boy, carving out that little fella was something. Little did I know, I had tons of little colonies of black anaerobic bacteria growing inside my clay. I seemed perfectly fine on the outside and I’ve seen this before with paper clay but certainly not with regular clay. It smelled of sulfur and I threw the scraps out instead of recycling them. Yuck. The little fishy should be okay though. The bacteria will burn off in the kiln.

It truly is leopard print! Here, I’ll show you!


The Bastard Cracked

Everything can’t always go according to plan.

The large bridge, along with the other large pieces were fired Monday. I went down to the studio Tuesday evening to unload. I was very disappointed and heartbroken that my bridge not only warped more than expected, but it cracked about three inches on one of the archway seams.

Here’s the good side

It was a difficult project to master first try. For one, I was dealing with 40 pounds of wet paper clay, just the weight alone was difficult to manipulate and move. I was uncertain how such a heavy mass would react under such high temperatures, though I may have had too much faith in the type of clay I was using.

This kind of stuff happens and I did learn a lot from my mistakes. I spent a great amount of time reinforcing the connection between the pathway and the arches. I knew this area was proned to splitting from previous examples of smaller models. Because of it’s size, the archway had to be constructed into three pieces. I carefully attached them together using slip and filled in any creases but I should have maybe attached them on an angle instead of side by side. This would have given it more strength at those weak points.

Besides the bad news, all the other pieces came out beautifully. They’re a little darker than I expected but the colors are vibrant and consistent which was another aspect I was worried about. Because of the shear size, I had to guess the happy medium between too much glaze and not enough. If too much glaze was applied, it could run and stick to the shelf and because it had so much vertical surface area to do that, I was extremely cautious.

That’s all I have for tonight.


Eternal Reefs Project

I am so very happy I started a blog!

After posting about a reef ball inspired ceramic piece, Todd Barber from the non-profit organization Reef Ball contacted me and suggested I contact Eternal Reefs. Before I go any further, I just want to explain what a reef ball is. A reef ball is a large man-made structure made from concrete. They’re formed on land and lowered into the ocean especially in areas where coral reefs are deterierating. This artifical habitat helps restore the damage of a dying reef by providing shelter for many species which help maintain the oceans biodiversity. They come in many shapes and sizes so if you’re interested in their appearance, click here.

Back to what I was saying! Eternal Reefs is a company based in the United States that focus on an alternative for remembering loved ones. George Frankel and his company provide the option of having a loved one’s remains incorporated in a reef ball structure. I think this is a beautiful non-traditional method of burial. It serves a wonderful purpose and I honestly can’t think of a better way of giving back to the earth.

I’ve known about this company for a while from a wonderful book I picked up years ago titled  Grave Matters. I’ve since contacted Eternal Reefs and we’ve been emailing back and forth. Right now, I’m redesigning their tribute reef (a miniature version of the actual size) using a lovely speckled clay. I feel so lucky and privileged to have this opportunity. I’ll keep posting updates on progress and we’ll see where it goes from there!

Here’s some pictures of the two different sizes so far. The structure on the left is  Eternal Reef’s original tribute reef and the right is my replication. Sadly, the medium size broke during shipping so I had to do my best with reconstructing it!

It’s a little hard to see in the picture but I added the non-profit website to the bottom of each piece.

That’s it for now! Pretty excited to get these guys bisqued and glazed!

Everything large piece is glazed.

[EDIT: If you can’t already tell from my title, I am dropping tired. Night blog world. I need some major sleep.]

FINALLY. After a several weeks I have brushed two coats of glaze on every visible surface. These will be fired Monday, Feb 6, 2012 if the weather holds up. We’re expecting a major snow storm this weekend and the last thing I want is the power to go out while the kiln is on so it may be postponed.

I was in a rush so I didn’t get pictures of the glazed work! I’ll have to get one Saturday if we’re open. I have another project started but I don’t have permission yet to tell you. shh 🙂

So, since I don’t have any pictures of the work in progress, here’s a few from my aquarium.

Two Finished Ceramic ‘PVC’ Pipes

Here’s the two original remakes of the aquarium PVC pipe. I posted the blue one before but I wanted to show them together. I adore the albany brown  glaze.

Putting in three solid hours of studio time this evening. Maybe I’ll share photos of what I’m up to!

Made It!

One firing down, one to go! The bisque fire went well. I unloaded and glazed yesterday and glazed some more today. Phew, it’s time consuming. I may have to reschedule the last firing because I can’t see this all being done for Monday.

The Kiln is On

Yesterday evening myself and Wendy loaded up the kiln with 6 of my pieces: the large bridge, the three tall towers and two cylindrical tubes. I wasn’t as nerve wrecked moving the bridge like I imagined. I’ve been reading a lot about paper clay and it has tremendous strength before bisque. I am fairly confident that this firing will be fine.

The glaze I’ll be more concerned about. I decided to not make paper clay supports for the middle of the bridge mainly because I want the bridge underneath glazed and sealed as much as possible, especially where it will be sitting in water. Also, I want the intended oscars to be able to swim under the bridge and ugly supports might prohibit that. That being said, we did use a fair amount of silica sand so the bridge can move more freely when it’s shrinking in the kiln.

Here’s the Devon House Clay Studio’s large kiln.

All the pieces loaded and ready to go!

I’m popping by tomorrow after class to unload. Will post tomorrow evening if I can. Exciting! I have the glazes picked out but I’ll leave that as a surprise.