Monday, February 28, 2011

Preparing the Larder

I've been going through the pantry lately, playing the game of "what can I cook with what I have leftover from canning last summer" before the growing season takes off! In doing this, I've been thinking a lot about pickling and storage crocks.Making crocks also gives me the opportunity to play with my new stamps, which I am incredibly excited about. I made positives of the molds I made a few weeks ago, hoped the clay was set up just right, and went to town.
Positives of new stamps

Finally getting a small stamp with my studio name on the bottom of my pieces!

Trying out just the last name since I've been stamping just the first name for a long time
It's taking some getting used to in order to make sure the lettering is on level and in the middle, but I keep reminding myself of the many pieces I've seen stamped with letters and names that are backward, upside down, or misspelled!

I like how the handles look, and I enjoyed the opportunity to decorate with cobalt again. Spending time with all of the pieces at the Ackland exhibition gave me some inspiration for designs. The crocks that are pictured are to hold roughly two gallons, and were made with about fifteen pounds of clay each. Since making these I have made some one gallon crocks, and hope to make some smaller 1/2 gallons as well.
I'll be curious to see how the painted cobalt withstands a wood/salt atmosphere. I think I might try to fill a slip bottle and decorate that way

Handles are such a good place for running and placing glass!

I'll never claim to be a painter, but I think I can do plants and flowers decently

This is one of those instances where I had done a rough drawing of the cobalt design, and then it evolved as I made it

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ackland Exhibition

If you have a chance before March 20th, go to the Ackland Art Museum to see the exhibition entitled "Tradition in Clay: Two Centuries of Classic North Carolina Pots." I went on Thursday to see the exhibition and also had the privilege of seeing Daniel Johnston make a presentation on his work. He showed a sneak preview of the video made during his Large Jar Project.

Daniel Johnston presenting
After the presentation I went through the exhibition and was excited to see such a range of pieces.

The openess of the exhibition space was exsquisite
I liked the layout of the exhibition. It was in two rooms, with one room being a combination of salt-glazed and alkaline-glazed wares from all across the state. I thought this was beneficial because it showed that both of these techniques were in use at the same time in different regions. The pieces in this room were mostly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As the exhibition progressed in this room there was a transition of glazes and forms which led into the second room showing the movement of art pottery in the twentieth-century and the rise of regions like Seagrove and the establishment of Jugtown Pottery.

All of these pieces are from the Fox family, dated range from 1840-1870. I liked the austerity of the displays with just the pieces with a muted background and open pedestals

Handle of an Enoch Craven bottle, ca. 1850
Of course I was mostly drawn to the nineteenth and early twentieth-century pieces, and spent a great deal of time looking closely at handles and decorative markings. I have an affinity for ovoid bottles, and there was no shortage of these!

Bottle from the Webster pottery, dated 1875

Side of large storage jar attributed to John Craven, ca. 1850

Interior of large storage jar attributed to John Craven. It was nice to be able to get close the pieces and see the inside of them and see the details. I may have looked a little strange kneeling so close to the pieces and hovering above the pedestals!

Bottle by William Henry Hancock, 19th century

Handle detail on Hancock bottle
In closing, if you have a chance, I highly recommend going to see the exhibition and having the chance to take a closer look at North Carolina pottery.
Top of Nicholas Fox bottle, ca. 1840

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life Outside of the Slip Bucket

Unpacking and installing photographs by Marty Stuart. Photograph was taken by Lauren Hart.

I've been busy at work installing an exhibition and have been plagued by poison sumac. I apologize for the lack of posts! Rather than tell you about my poison sumac, I thought I would tell you about work! I'm not a full-time potter. You might have guessed this already from my divergences to conferences and hither and yon. I currently work as an exhibitions intern at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. My work mainly entails working with the exhibitions director in order to organize, plan, install, travel, and research current, past, and future exhibitions. Most of the exhibitions are photography, but I'm enjoying learning about using video and audio as components of an exhibition as well (like the post where I shared my work in an audio editing course). We've recently been installing a new exhibition so I thought I would share some photos captured of me in action.

Yes, that's Minnie Pearl's hat. The framed photograph was taken by Marty Stuart. I just get the privilege of hanging it on the wall. Photograph was taken by Lauren Hart.
I enjoy working in a museum/gallery setting, and am aiming to find a balance between making pottery and working with a museum in some way. I thrive on researching and learning about most any historical object, subject, or topic. Ceramics and furniture are certainly at the top of the list.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Compost Crocks

Last fall, someone asked whether I could make a ceramic compost crock. I had been thinking about a design for such a thing since seeing one in California about three years ago. I made a few test pieces, which ended up being about 8-9 inches tall, moderately heavy, lug handles, and a lip under the lid to hold a carbon filter.

I was going for a generally stout and sturdy form

The final product looked nice coming out of a wood-fired salt kiln 

Side view of the final crock with a detail of the handle

Several comments made were that it was too small, and that the purchasers were worried about carrying the crock to the compost pile in fear of breaking it. They wondered whether I could make one with a bucket inserted inside. I've been thinking about this for several months now, and have started some new designs.
New compost crocks

I researched stainless steel buckets that had handles which rested on top of the lip. I didn't want a plastic bucket because I didn't think that would last very long, and I detest how plastic gets really nasty really quickly with compost! The stainless steel averaged about $8 per bucket, and the opening at the top of the bucket was kind of large. I thought this was not cost effective nor would the shape of the bucket allow for a good design (well, I'm still plotting another design). So I made a ceramic insert. Now the crock can sit on the counter, and the only thing going to the compost is the removable insert! Still breakable if you drop it I suppose, but it leaves the nice(r) piece on the counter!
Compost crock with the insert sitting next to it

The insert sits at the base of the flange and the lid rests just above that

I put small finger tabs on the inside of the insert allowing it to be lifted out of the compost crock a little easier.
Detail of finger pulls

Insert resting inside of the crock

I kept the lid basically the same, with holes and a lip on the underside to put the carbon filter. I had to cut part of the lip on the underside of the lid to accommodate for the insert, so I hope this does not mess up the carbon filter.
Ventilation holes on the lid

Underside of lid showing lip which holds the carbon filter and the cut away part to accommodate the insert

I'm going to try a few more in the coming weeks, possibly change the lid design to the way I made the lids last fall (sitting on the rim, rather than inside on the flange). I think I might make the handles more like lug handles rather than the strap handles I made on the pieces above. I like the size of the new compost crocks (about 10-12" tall) which makes the insert able to hold roughly 1/2 gallon or more of compost. Any suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Potter's Prints

I've seen a few collections of pottery in the last couple of months where I found the fingerprints of potters from 150+ years ago! While it's not terribly surprising to find, I just thought I would share the nerdy excitement. These materials are from South Carolina and Virginia.
Placing my fingers just above the fingerprints on the bottom edge of a saggar from the Yorktown pottery site. Courtesy, National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection 

It almost looks like the person who left these prints had the saggar in one position, and then shifted their hand to the outside a little more. See how the indentations are a little deeper toward the outside? Courtesy, National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection 

Kiln wadding. It only makes sense that a wad of clay would have the prints of a potter! Courtesy, National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection 

Putting my hands around the kiln wadding. Courtesy, National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection 
Kiln brick from South Carolina kiln. See the mess of fingerprints along the upper edge? Courtesy, Steve Ferrell Studio, Edgefield, South Carolina
My fingers on another kiln brick from South Carolina. Courtesy, Steve Ferrell Studio, Edgefield, South Carolina

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exploring Kiln Shelves

Another exciting part of attending the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Austin, was to finally meet up with a group of archaeologists who are planning to excavate a stoneware kiln in Edgefield, South Carolina this summer. I am happy to report that if all plans go well I will get to go down and help for several weeks! The Edgefield district is known largely for the pots made by Dave, who was an enslaved potter. While this is a fascinating aspect of the pottery, I am much more interested in the production aspects of the alkaline glazing and the design of kilns used. This is particularly interesting after a visit to Edgefield last fall where I got to see some interesting materials which were surface collected near a kiln site. If any of these things show up in the kiln excavated this summer, it will be very exciting.
Now, about those interesting materials in South Carolina:
Perhaps this should be titled "Eating My Words Part 2" for I found myself perplexed after this trip. Somewhere (I'm still hunting) I had heard or read that prior to the second quarter of the nineteenth century kiln shelves were not used in American stoneware kilns. I visited Edgefield, South Carolina and saw the following:

Kiln Shelf
It may look like a big piece of rock, but it is purported to be a kiln shelf dating from around the second quarter of the nineteenth century, from one of the early producers of alkaline glazed stoneware in the area.
It measures almost 1.5 inches thick. I cannot imagine having to lift an entire kiln shelf that thick! Much less an entire kiln full!

Measuring the thickness of the kiln shelf

Then there were the arched bricks from the kiln:

Arched bricks from the kiln
Arched bricks may not seem like much, but it gives an idea of the likely arch that made the ceiling of kiln.
And there were these pieces of kiln furniture which just baffled me:
Look closely at the fine either wire-cut marks or the scraping to shape the sides

Each piece had concave sides, similar to the shelf supports you see today!
The materials above are said to be shelf supports, which is likely, but the way they are designed is fascinating, and the workmanship on the furniture alone is fantastic! And it will be even more amazing when and if all of these kinds of materials are found this summer at the archaeological excavation in situ at the kiln site.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was stopping for a cup of coffee in a small shop in Edgefield. The owners had taken their niece camping recently and upon returning she made the following signs:

"NO CAMPING A LAWD"[No camping allowed]

"P CUS BEARS ARE IN THE WOODS"[Because bears are in the woods]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting Stampy

I'm pretty sure "stampy" is not a word, but it sounded good for the topic at hand. I've been dreaming of new stamps (literally) and how to make them. For the first step I got a hold of some type font to suit my needs (it just so happens I know someone who loves type and font!):
Tools of destruction 
Close up of the type
I felt like a preschooler trying to put letters together to form words. Reading the type backward didn't help much, but I think I got the hang of it.
I made several impressions of the same word just in case I end up breaking one of the panels
I tried stamping the letters individually as well as holding the letters all together and pressing it into the clay at once. Holding all of the letters of "STONEWARE" together was a challenge!
At the bottom you can see the difference between impressing the letters individually (left) and together (right)
As you can see at the top right, I had more than enough spelling mishaps! 
I intend to bisque these panels and then make a handled block in order to press into the bisque letters and create a stamp. Then I will have to bisque that before I can use it! What a process!