Monday, March 28, 2011

Interactive Possibilities?

I visited the North Carolina History Center in New Bern, North Carolina this past weekend. This is a new building and exhibition space for Tryon Palace. I went to the Regional History Museum, which had great exhibitions showing the natural, historical, and cultural heritage of the region around New Bern.

I also went to the Pepsi Family Center where I time-traveled back to 1835 and got to make turpentine, kill rats on a ship, and help make ice cream! I may not have children, but watching how kids and adults alike interacted with the models and materials on display in the Center was fascinating.
My other half helping to navigate a ship. Each interactive model had multiple stations which could involve numerous children, but required each station to work together. 
1835 "kitchen" with interactive touch screen table 
One of the interactive models got me thinking. In the "kitchen"of the 1835 house the table in the center of the room was an interactive touch screen. You were instructed to choose items from around the room in order to gather the necessary materials to make ice cream. As these items were chosen, they appeared on the "table" in the basket on the screen.

After all of the materials were picked out, then the screen turned into an overhead view of watching how the ingredients were mixed together and the end product. I started thinking that this would be a fascinating way to show how pottery is made, by making an overhead view of each process, sped up slightly, with captions, and making it as if the person watching is in the position of the potter. Below I have included some photos I took while the video demonstrated how ice cream was made. I think this would be a great interactive model for showing pottery production!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living Two Lives

It's been pretty busy this past week! I helped Joseph Sand load up his kiln last week, did one shift on Saturday and then went for my 6:00 a.m. shift on Sunday. When I got there, Joseph's comment was that this was "the hottest he had ever had it" which means my position in front of the stoking port was pretty warm! We kept it at about 2430 degrees until we salted around 11:00 a.m. Luckily another potter showed up around 8:00 a.m. with a leather apron and a face shield. This was pretty helpful since I constantly had that feeling of sitting too close to the bonfire (you know, when your jeans feel like they're going to burn into your legs?!). Call me a wimp, but it was nice to have a little more protection.
So here I was, all dressed up for my kiln duty:

THEN I left at 12:00 to rush home, clean up, and do a quick turn around to get to the North Carolina Museums Council conference that afternoon! Here's my freshening up:

Aside from being incredibly tired, I think I pulled off my double life pretty well! The conference was on Sunday and Monday, was well attended, and the lectures and presentations were good. The kiln will be unloaded this coming weekend, so I will keep you posted!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Listen to those Voices


Do you know that small voice inside that says, "don't bisque that piece of pottery, it might still be a little too damp"? Well, listen to that voice. I thought a few pieces which had sat out for several days were dry enough, and that bringing the bisque kiln up slowly would have helped them out just in case. Apparently, the bottoms were a little thicker than I remembered making them, and lo and behold, they exploded. In order to humble myself, I am sharing my mistake with you and revealing lost pots!

This also gave me the chance to see that I need to leave the front side of these pieces a little thicker for applying my stamps. The crack across the shoulder of the piece showed that pressing the stamp in made the surface thin and uneven,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Loaded Up

Yesterday I helped finish loading and bricking up the front of the kiln at Joseph Sand Pottery. Levi Mahan and I wadded pots, hauled bricks, and moved pots around. I'm becoming more comfortable with transporting green ware for single firing, and got away with not breaking anything!

That's Lucy at the end of the kiln. I tried to catch a photo of her  walking along the edge of the kiln. She was sticking her nose in the port holes. It was adorable. 
The preheat for the kiln firing starts today and I will be helping with a few shifts this weekend. I need to rest up!

Alex Matisse brought a few pieces to put in the kiln. He also brought these little bugs which were kind of entertaining to see on the kiln shelves. He said they were good luck charms, so hopefully they'll bring good luck to the kiln firing!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Getting Ready

I dropped my pots off at Joseph Sand's this past Friday. The boxes of pottery filled my car, twice! I wish I had my camera with me when I was packing things up at the North Carolina Arts Incubator. Everything had been tucked away on my bisque ware shelf, and as I brought each piece out, glazed it, and put it aside to pack, it seemed like everything multiplied and spread out. It was a little overwhelming!
Boxes of bisque ware on top of the shelf and all over the place!

I helped prepare some kiln furniture bricks, and then slipped and glazed some single-fire pieces. I have not done a lot of single-firing before, so I will be interested to see how these turn out and if the forms I made are conducive to single-firing.

Single-fire dishes with interior glazed, rim left unglazed so they can be stacked

Trying out a few forms with a brown slip

Tankard with brown slip
The firing is next weekend. I have two kiln shifts, and am really excited!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

North Carolina Potters Conference

This past weekend was the 24th annual North Carolina Potters Conference in Asheboro. It was hosted by the Randolph Arts Guild. It was my first time attending this conference, and was a great opportunity to meet potters, see other work by potters from universities, North Carolina, and a few other states, and to have the unique opportunity to see demonstrations by potters from Jingdezhen, China. I am still sorting through my notes and photos, so I will share a few images and tidbits from the conference.
Something I appreciated as a potter was having the opportunity to have a few items in the exhibition space at the Moring Arts Center. All attending potters were given the opportunity to bring five items to sell and have on exhibition for the weekend. This was a great chance to see other potter's work and to have a conversation starter with new potters I met.

Exhibition gallery at the Moring Arts Center

My little display

The first few days were held at a local church, which provided a lot of room for the demonstrations and for people to walk around.

Setup of the conference at a local church
I liked how the room was set up. There were five stations: one overglaze painter, one underglaze painter, a trimmer, a thrower, and a slab builder. Each station had a camera dedicated to that demonstrator, and a screen which was set up behind them. No matter where you were in the room, you had a pretty good view of what was going on.

Large screen for slideshow presentations and small television screens behind the demonstrators
One of the demonstrations on Saturday was to have randomly chosen potters draw designs for the thrower to make. Another potter gave me her sheet of paper, since the challenge was to draw a piece he had not thrown that weekend (and I'll get into this in a later post, but he went through I think over 1000 pounds in a day and a half, so you can imagine the array of forms made!). My first drawing was of a bottle, but I decided to change my design and I drew a large pitcher. Clearly I did not have my thinking cap on because after the potter finished throwing the body, it was announced that he does not pull spouts, and that if I wanted a pulled spout I would have to put it on myself! So rather than do that, when we were told we could take the pieces home, I kept it as a nice vase form.

My "unfinished pitcher"

Signature of master potter Zhan Shaolin

Here are photos from another potter's design of a large 19th-century style ovoid bottle. If the photos make it look like throwing this piece was a breeze for him, it was. I do not think it took more than four or five minutes to make this entire piece, from centering to finishing!

Finished form

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fried Food and Chimney Toppers

Door to New Hope meetinghouse
Should you ever find yourself near Snow Camp, North Carolina, I highly recommend stopping at Ye Old Country Kitchen beside the Snow Camp Outdoor Drama. I had heard that the food there was good, and if you go during the week the buffet is $5.50! I went this past Sunday and enjoyed down-home cookin' and a fascinating collection of historic buildings.
I told myself that the vegetables on the plate on the right balanced out the fried food on the plate on the left!
The food was good, and there were numerous Quaker meetinghouses, including the New Hope meetinghouse:
New Hope meetinghouse

Normally, I would tell you everything I can about this structure, however, I was unable to obtain a map of the buildings which corresponded with the numbers on small plaques outside of them. Either way, on top of the  New Hope meetinghouse were red earthenware chimney toppers, which were really exciting:
Red earthenware, possible sewer-tile, clay chimney topper
The historic buildings were not open for the most part, so I hope to make it out there this summer and see one of the shows, and get a chance to see more of the buildings.