Archive for March, 2009

First Session Complete

I have been procrastinating about taking a ceramics course since we returned from Barcelona. Francesca introduced me to the craft (she’s really good) and I finally got around to enrolling in a class at the Gardiner Museum. I am sorry I didn’t enroll sooner because I absolutely love it. It seems to cover almost everything that keeps my attention. Things like research, problem solving, analysis, planning and above all a constant learning process. I read somewhere that to be interested in ceramics is to become a beginner forever. I like that.

Anyhow, the 10 week course is over and here are the results. I might add here that the course I am taking is hand building with Ian Symons as the instructor. The techniques used to create forms by constructing with your hands, no potters wheel. I didn’t even know they had two different methods so ……

I had no idea what to expect when I went to the first class. I didn’t even know what was expected. I did know that I eventually wanted to make masks but had no clue as to where to begin. Ian, the instructor, showed us a technique called pinching and showed us how to build many shapes using this technique. I had no idea what I was going to make as I built the basic form with this technique. Slowly, the shape began to lead me and I ended up with Mr Potato Head (as Alex named him). I wanted to toss it as it’s part of the road to discovery but Alex insisted I keep him.

I introduce you to Mr Potato Head ………..

I was a little more prepared for the second class and I knew I wanted to try and build my mask. I spoke to Ian about it on the first class and he gave me some ideas on where to get some info and how to approach the project. I managed to get a burlap bag from a friend who has a coffee shop in Kensington Market and spent the entire weekend unravelling the fibres. I had decided to use that burlap for the hair.

This was the result ……….

On the third and fourth classes I was experimenting with block prining on soft clay. I had carved out some Haida designs on linoleum and intended to press the carved images into the clay. It didn’t work so I created the slabs of clay and let them dry to what’s called “leather hardness”. The reason for this was the soft clay was too difficult to carve properly and Ian suggested letting it dry a bit before doing the carving. I experimented a bit with the glaze on these two pieces but I really didn’t learn much about glazing.

Here are the two slabs, the whale was the first one and the bear benefitted from the mistakes I made with the whale………..

The Whale ……….

and the Bear ……

For the next few classes I had decided to try and build a park bench with a figure sitting on them. That was the original idea. I did research on the benches, to photos of them and took them apart on the computer. I discovered two different models of bench and laid out the plans for both. In one the planks lay on top of the end pices and in the other, they go thought the end pieces. I had trouble with the second one but managed to save it. In class, I made the end pieces and the planks needed for the bench. I discovered that I couldn’t build them. The planks were way too soft and would sag as I tried to lay them across the end pieces. Once again, Ian told me to let them dry a bit so they would be able to stay straight. I had all the pieces cut out and started on the man but I couldn’t get the scale right as the benches were not built. I decided to make the man sit on a log and quickly built him up. I did this roughly as all this is still new and I figured these pieces are just part of the learning curve so I wouldn’t be keeping anything. I had looked for pices of wood that had a pronounced grain that I could use to stamp on the park benches and I found just the pieces when Alex and I went for out Sunday tour. I really wanted the benches to look used and beaten.

Here are the three pieces……

First the Log Man ………(his hat shrunk and didn’t fit his head properly)

Next Park Bench 1 ……

and Park Bench 2 …..

The final piece was one Alex asked for. She wanted me to make her a container to hold all her pens and stuff. I wanted to experiment with inlays so I tried to inlay a bit of white clay into the red clay and it came out pretty good. Played with the glaze a bit but it didn’t do what I expected or wanted.

Here is Alex’s container ………

Classes at the Gardiner are done but I’m taking other classes at a place called Clay Design. That will take me into May and then I’ll take the summer off. I intend on going back to the Gardiner with Ian in September. I plan to build a replica viking longboat entirely out of clay. It may be overly ambitious but Ian thinks we can do it. I’ll spend the summer outside and when it’s raining, I’ll research building techniques and draw up plans and templates on the computer.

I love ceramics ……………………………………

March 31, 2009 at 7:54 pm 2 comments


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