Category Archives: Clay

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 15

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Happy Art Week to all.

Saturday, June 9 – After a walk in Norristown Farm Park, my husband and I stopped by the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to pick up an order I had placed earlier in the week.

I am very lucky to have this resource so close to my house – clay supply outlets are not plentiful and shipping is very expensive for clay (for example, I only bought 100 pounds, and shipping of $60 was more than the clay itself cost). Even better for me, this store used to be located in Philadelphia in a warehouse-type spot on one of those smallish city streets, and no parking. They moved here about a year or so ago and I was thrilled.

We parked in the lot:

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and went inside.

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You can buy just about any clay-related item here, from kilns to wheels to clay to tools to glazes. I have learned it is better to order on the internet and then go in a few days later to pick up – your order is all ready for you to take right away. I will show you some of the things clay people find in this store:

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Tools galore.

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This is the Velvet underglaze display, these being the products I use. Notice the sample board above the jars. It shows each color, fired at the correct range for the product, and how it will look with or without glaze. This type of display is found with each coloring product so that you can get an idea of what it will look like when fired. It’s especially necessary with glazes, as how they look in the jar is not how they will look when fired. At all.

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Underglaze pencils. They “write” on the clay like a colored pencil (you can see the samples on the mugs holding the pencils). I have used a similar thing, underglaze pastels, in my work, and I like the crayony look they offer.

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Whisks – Or you could just get the one out of your kitchen…

These  whisks can be used for stirring large buckets of glaze mixture. In large production studios, glazes are often mixed from powders and chemicals with water added. Production work requires large quantities of glaze so it’s more economical to do this, plus it ensures color matching for all items glazed from a particular session.

A bucket-load of glaze is literally what is needed – production work is usually dipped in the glaze rather than brushed on. Saves time and ensures a very even coat of glaze.

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Kiln furniture. These items are all used for glazed items that have a glaze coat on the bottom or otherwise can’t be set on the kiln shelf. Remember, a glazed piece will glue itself permanently to a kiln shelf if any glaze is on its bottom, ruining the piece and the shelf. These furnitures are set on the shelf with the nails up – the glazed piece rests on the little pinpoints of the nails and does not stick.

I wandered around for a while and treated myself to a couple of small jars of underglaze – new colors to try. I never can resist. When I had paid for them, we drove around to the street side of the building and they brought out our clay to us.

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I had chosen a couple of tile-cutting tools I carried out separately on my own. I’ll show them later on when I try them out in a new session of clay work.

Sunday, June 10 – Calendar note – I graduated from high school 42 years ago today. Just saying.

Last night and today I spent some time working on a project I mentioned some weeks back – I want to make a print book of my Minuscule story/poem combinations (read an example here) and illustrate it. The writing part of the endeavor moves along apace. I think I need about 100 entries to make a nice book and I’m maybe halfway there.

Illustrating a book is not new to me, but – I’ve always done the pictures first and fit the words to them later. This is a different slant – words first, pictures second. I have been wondering if I can do it. I decided to take the plunge right now and start to find out.

I printed out the writing done so far. I bought paper. I bought India ink (my idea is to do  B/W pictures, very simple, using the ink and my Chinese brushes).

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I got to work. Now, I am a newborn baby as far as this kind of thing goes. I have no idea how to illustrate anything. Be literal? Allude to some element of the story? Sketch something out first? Remember, these stories are only 2 sentences long. Imagine if I had a full-length work to illustrate!

All right. I decided to read over each entry and whatever came to me, that is what I would do.

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All right, after some false starts, in fact, many false starts, I got more of an idea of how to proceed. For me, it’s best to just read – close my eyes and imagine -draw. That’s it.

OK. I made a good start.

I feel sure I will be replacing or amending some of these images. Well, that is fine. I can see that by the end of this project I will be much more proficient and confident in my drawing skills as well as my ability to illustrate something. Plus, it was fun to work in this manner.

Some of the failures, well, I cut out parts that I liked. I am sure they will come in handy for some other project down the line.

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Monday, June 11 – I spent a lot of the day doing poetry work, so I had just about an hour to fit in some art time. I had this half-hearted attempt at a tree painting (6″ x 6″) that was really more of an excuse to use up paint from earlier projects.

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Suddenly I saw a man in my tree.

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And another one in that ATC. OK, now I’m going somewhere. To be continued…

I also did a couple of drawings for my Minuscule book project. I’ll say one thing – I anticipate using up a lot of paper. I try to remember – relax, and just work quickly and without thought. Secondly, not to try to be realistic in my depictions – it’s not in my nature. And last, the brush has its way of doing things, don’t fight it.

I did a couple of new images (one with two different versions; I’ll pick one later on) and re-did one from the other day I was not satisfied with. I have the feeling there will be many re-dos but you know, I don’t mind it. I’m in no hurry. And setting myself this kind of assignment, to illustrate this book, well, it will build my skills.

Wednesday, June 13 – Today I thought I’d get into some clay – just sort of play around with it. I got out my 25 pounds of terracotta:

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It’s very fresh and wet. I rolled out a couple of slabs.

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I had only a short time before I was going to leave the house, so I made a few cylinders, wrapping a slab around and joining the edges.

I worked on a figurine or two.

Then I loosely covered the works with plastic (dry-cleaning plastic, the workhouse material of clay artists everywhere) and went off to the gym. In the summer, my basement is very cool and while not damp, it dries items slowly (in winter, the heater and the drier air make a difference in this room). I probably did not need the plastic but it is better to be safe. You cannot un-dry clay.

In the afternoon, I refined my earlier pieces and added some more. Individual shots:

and a group shot.

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Notice in the background of the previous photo the clay cylinder with a dowel running through it supported at each end. I have set this contraption up so that the cylinder can semi-hang from the dowel (it just touches the table) and maintain a more rounded shape until it stiffens a little. I can’t make anything with it until it can stand up on its own.

OK. I left these guys to their own devices and I got out new tools I bought on Saturday.

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What are they? They are tile cutters. You roll them through the slab, then cross the slab, to make the tiles. I read up on their use before I tried them. Interesting thing – you can use them on the clay, straight, to make tiles with sharp angled sides, or you can roll over plastic to make rounded edges. I thought I’d try the plastic option.

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I got some nice results right off the bat. I learned a couple of things. One, things work better when the clay is just not so fresh – let it dry a little and firm up. This reduces the distortion that can happen when the criss-crossing is done.

Two, move slowly and make sure you follow the previous track carefully so as not to double-cut an edge. Three, make sure you take off at a 90-degree angle when you criss-cross, to make certain of square tiles.

I’ll let these firm up a little and tap their edges to re-square them, but I really like the look of them.

Interesting note – if you roll the rollers directly on the clay, it sticks. The recommended treatment is cooking spray on the roller. I will try that next time.

Once I finished up with clay, I went back to painting black edges on paintings…

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Friday, June 15 – This morning I set out all my paintings for review, for two reasons. One, I’ll be at a show this weekend, and I needed to decide which ones to take.

The show will be held in a park and my booth will have all sides available for display, but the car can only fit so much work. So, I had to make some decisions.

Second, I needed to make an inventory of paintings that I will take to my upcoming gallery exhibit in July so that the organizers can make price cards and so on. Not all my work will be hanging but this way, they can make choices what to display without saying – Oh no, we have no information for this piece so it sits out the game!

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My clay work is drying very slowly in the basement. I plan to work on it a little, if time permits. In that case I will show what happens in next week’s Diary. I thought I’d get this one done early today because I have a variety of non-art things to get out of the way. So that’s it for this week!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.


It’s My Turn!

I’ll be showing my clay work in Sellersville, PA, at the Pennridge Gallery of the Arts, in September, but this week I’m one of the featured artists on their Facebook feed. They also did a small write-up to accompany the images that made me feel good.

Clay figurine potato animal #1 5-18

Anyway, thought I’d mention it so you could take a look if you want, and I want to say thank you to the show organizers, too.

Pennridge Gallery of the Arts

People Sitting

Some people are busy, some are contemplative, some social, some taking life as it comes.

Clay tiles, various sizes, Velvet underglazes fired at cone 06, January, 2018.

Recent Clay Work #5 From May 2018

More clay work from May 2018. These are animals. Done in white clay, colored with Velvet underglaze, and fired at cone 06.

Clay figurines animals group 5-18

I will arrange the photos in groups by each animal. Click on the photos if you want more detail.

Yellow spot animal.

Round animal.

Potato-shaped animal.

Pink spot animal.

Goat ear animal.

Long-necked animal.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 1

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Smile, it’s time for Art!

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 25-27 – We spent this time at Mayfair in Allentown, PA. I’ll give you some info.

As background, this incarnation of Mayfair is the third one of this long-running show. For many years it was outdoors in a park; it then went indoors to a local convention center (which is where I first came into the story), and this year was held on the campus of Cedar Crest College. The show has a bumpy history – it was not held at all in 2017 for financial reasons – and so this revival was kind of a test.

Mayfair is a combination family festival, music festival, and art festival. I had stopped doing the show before it took its hiatus for reasons of – no sales! – and I thought I’d try things out at the new location. No expectatations, just a let’s see how it goes.

The campus is lovely. Very open and green.

Many kids’ activities. I saw one little girl go down the bouncy slide like a sack of flour, hit the barrier at the end, jump up laughing, and immediately start climbing back up to the top to do it again.

We left our mark on the Chalk the Walk.

I stopped and talked to the people who were running the pony ride. Wish I could have taken a turn but I am too big now…

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I noticed a lot of women (and a few men) wearing these yellow t-shirts mentioning “Tap Ties”. Turns out it was National Tap Dancing weekend and each day performances were put on by a multitude of tap dancers on the second stage. I stopped to watch a few sessions. Dancers were all ages – very young to a group from the Allentown Senior Center.

As this man filmed the performance, he was moving to the music, and I have the feeling the video will be a little – bouncy. I figured one of the girls onstage was his daughter. Made me smile, he was so obviously into it.

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The main music tent was enormous and was not only filled each night for the headliner performance but also the lawn beyond it was covered in – people.

And of course, many food vendors.

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I show you all of this to portray the nature of the festival – it’s not focused on art but on the community having a variety of activities. Now I get to the art part.

We arrived and unloaded on Friday. The show went three days, noon to 8 PM.

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I had chosen an inside spot in the gym. There was also an outside section.

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I had a nice space and the accommodations were just great.

Overall, the show was really pleasant and easy to do. I think this revived version of the festival was really enjoyable and I know the organizers were very pleased. For me, though, sales were almost non-existent, and while I am not focused on that aspect as much as others, I do need more revenue from the show to make the work and time worth it.

Now, there is certainly the case that maybe things just didn’t fall my way, etc. I have been to many shows where my work generated interest but for whatever reasons, it didn’t turn into sales. Here, though, it was clear this crowd did not come to buy a painting or spent a lot of money on art – we were just part of the overall scene at the festival. There just wasn’t much interest in my work; though I had  a few nice conversations, overall, most people drifted in and out, or looked as they walked by.

I had wondered if this scenario might be the case. I  know that paintings fall at the end of the impulse buying spectrum (the bad end, if you are talking sales!) Show attendees need to come to the show wanting to look at art and understanding the price ranges in order for me to have a chance at interesting them. Even someone who was caught by my work was not necessarily expecting to be thinking about buying a painting. And since most people regard a painting as an investment, something you live with for a while, there is a need to be in a mindset open to making this kind of decision – regardless of how much you are taken by an artwork.

Maybe it sounds too psychological, this analysis, but it’s what I’ve worked out over the years. I don’t need a large crowd to sell or to have appreciation, I just need the right crowd. And you don’t know this until you try out a show.

So, now I know. I won’t do the show again, but I am glad I was here, and the pleasant location and the great organization of it lessened my disappointment. We packed up the car after three days, said good-bye to our show-mates, and headed home.

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Monday, May 28 – We spent the day starting our recovery from the show. My rule of thumb is that it takes two days for every day spent at the show. We’ve done 5 days of shows in ten days, so we’re down five days!

When I went through my work to pack for the show, I decided that several older larger paintings had to go. Plus some smaller ones, too. (When I say older, they are about 2 years old. Things do not stick around here – one way or another they move on! I don’t hang on to my own art.)

I felt they were not up to current standards. So I got my husband to sand them down and then I gessoed them black. I’ll set them aside for later.

Wednesday, May 30 – I’ve spent most of my time today working on putting together one of my print poetry books (getting the manuscript ready to be published, I mean). Ran out of time for anything else. I will mention a clay-oriented book I just finished reading – I checked it out of the Montgomery County Community College library last week. It’s full of info on handbuilding in clay. I can recommend it – I learned quite a few things from it. I find that in almost any book I can get some tidbit of info or another that makes my work easier or better.

Friday, June 1 – Art time today consisted of getting ready for tomorrow’s show at Saucon Creek (near Bethlehem, PA). I’ve done this show before and so I know what to expect, which makes things much easier.

This event is a small but classy one benefiting the Saucon Valley Conservancy and is held on the grounds of the Heller Homestead. It’s a one day show, nice because it is less tiring, but we will have to set up and take down in the same day. No big deal, just requires different planning.

Unlike the previous two shows, we will be using our tent set-up. I will try to take pictures of that process for next week’s Diary. What it means is – I needed to do some planning.  The tent, its weights, and side curtains (since rain is expected tomorrow) take up room in the car. Also, the rain issue means that I don’t want to take a table to set outside the tent (where I usually display smaller items).

On the plus side, I know from the site plan sent to me by the organizers I have a neighbor only on one side, so I can hang art on the outer side of my racks (though if I have to keep the tent sides down, that advantage will be negated somewhat).

So, I developed a plan to figure out how much art to take. I’m in the position of having a lot on hand right now because I’ve worked hard in the last few months to create pieces for my gallery show in July. Usually I don’t have to leave anything at home and I’d just be packing the car with whatever I have.

First, I figured out how much hanging square footage I had to work with.

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This cryptic notation just means that I have 12 rack sections to cover (top and bottom counting as one, though the racks themselves break into half for transport). The inside ones are priority as they will be most protected in case of bad weather. The outside ones might have covers on them at times.

I got out my work and started to array it around my studio in configurations relating to each rack section. Each grouping is an upper and lower section together, and each section is 3 ft. x 3 ft. for a total panel of 6 ft. x 3 ft.

I’m a hands-on kind of person – this is the way I make sense of the situation! The quilty coverings you see are bags I made a long time ago (when I was still exhibiting collage, which is what they were sized for) and they work great to pack art in that they are padded and yet very easy to put around the work (essential for packing up. You just want to go home!).

I also transport some paintings in cardboard boxes that I got when the boards were originally shipped to me – I separate each painting with foam board. Now, cardboard is not a great thing for wet weather. I will need to be careful to keep these off the ground tomorrow.

I also packed a box of 8″ x 10″ paintings – these will be the smallest I take to this show. Here is the group I selected from.

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Once I was finished, here was the result.

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I realize my display may be a little crowded, but I’m not worried about it. I expect that the show will have less attendance than usual if the weather goes as they say, but this show also gives prizes (I won an Honorable Mention last year). I always like to be judged, and though I don’t anticipate winning, many judges will talk with you about your work, a professional assessment, and that does not come along that often in the art fair world.

After I finished this work, I went to the grocery store. Another thing I’ve learned over the years – you cannot count on what kind of food the fair will offer. Take your own meals, as well as drinks and snacks.

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OK, that’s it for this week. Cross your fingers for manageable weather and pleasant art conversations!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Solitude and Society in Nature


Clay tiles, Velvet underglazes , January, 2018, fired at cone 06.