Saturday, July 9, 2016

Collaborating With the Hands that Hold

Some people can do more with two handfuls of hours of curious exploration than others do in 10,000 hours of practice.
 
Jessica Fong and Zygote Blum collaboration
 
I happily stand next to one of the former. My studio partner has been playing with piecing together single serving teapots while graciously letting me have a crack at the surface with the paper stencil designs that are currently floating around the studio. 


Collaborating with Jess has gotten so commonplace here now that we have a chop to mark our work together and I'm finding myself preferring what we create together more than what I make alone.



I don't really have a problem with that...

R&D evaluation

Ist round evaluation.
 
A quick sinapus, this project premise was to do the preliminary R&D for a small run of dessert plates for possible use as support for a Patron project that's being put together specifically for our studio's friends and neighbors here in Stockton.
 
 
Overhead look at kilnshelf
 
I wanted the main feature of the project to subtly communicate community, generosity, and delight. A lot of my personal joy is found in preparing and sharing meals with friends and family. It's always been a path to connection for me. Dispite the small size, the plates are thrown thick using a liberal amount of clay. The result is a visual generosity reviled by the undulating soft cut rim. The heft and balance is very comforting in the hands and works serves its function extremely well, to act as a frame and pedestal for a special delight... Dessert
 
Greenware paper stenciled dessert plate
 
Now that I have the first round of R&D green ware in hand, it's become apparent that when the work is set out on the kiln shelf, there's a bit more room to grow into. I'm not sure if (slightly) bigger is necessarily better, but in making the next round, an inch and a half will be added onto the diameter. If the extra clay used to get to the new size doesn't make the pieces too heavy or affect their balance, I might as well go bigger and use the kilnshelf space if it's there.
 
Greenware dessert plate by Zygote Blum
 
 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth!



Just so you know... Jess is snapping shots again and that blur on the left hand side is a naked man.
Happy Fourth!

Point of Origin

There's always a need for an origin... a way into an idea... a starting point. That singular place at the edge of something new. Invariably it's about choices... a place to jump off quickly or wade in slowly. 
 
 
Exploring functional flat surfaces is scheme I've been meaning to get around to for years. There never seemed enough time to wade in slowly and quite frankly, anticipating the given results, I wasn't looking forward to getting into any of the headaches of making standard sized round serving plates. 
 
 
Shrinkage
Warping
S-cracks
Problematic materials 
Process issues
Firing problems 
Storage
Blah blah blah...
 
Finicky nature aside, making anything out of clay is generally challenging and complex, and at the moment, I don't really care to go out of my way to see exactly how frustrated I can make myself in my spare time.
 
 
 
 
 
"Gotta keep it simple", (always the "go to" phrase of a truly shortsighted man)...
 
 
Floating in my mind's eye are rectangular sushi trays, square salad portions, and small dessert plates. Small, flat, delightful canvasses.
Thinking about it, the smaller sizes feels less formal and more intimate, and because of the intimate nature, it's much easier to feel free to delve through surface ideas once standard forms are set.
 
 
 
Returning to the issue of a starting point. 
A few months back, Jess had gotten us a small cut rim plate from North Carolina potter, Michael Kline. 
 
Unmistakably, it's an amazing little piece.
Unwrapping it was like holding a Hamada bowl for the first time... I could feel a standard being set. 
 
The size was nice, (really nice).
There was a slight concave that was alluring.
The cut rim effectively disrupted the cliché of a round plate (there's a brilliance to this single point that will be saved for another post).
 
...but what I was really drawn to was Micheal's generous use of clay.
 
There's a thickness that the cut rim visually conferred that strikingly affected the form. Because of the smaller size, it's thickness could be dramatic without it disturbing its balance or it becoming a heavyweight. More surprisingly, the extra heft made the piece that much more comforting. 
 
Sweet trick.
And for a dessert plate, to add a finespun element of comfort to the presentation of the food... well that's magic and a darn good starting point.
 
 
 
So with a deep bow to the genius of Mr. Kline, this is where I'd like to dive in.
 
 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Refitting the Money Hole

The kiln needs to be switched over from natural gas to propane.

No problem...


A quick trip to Ace Hardware was enough to solve a plumbing problem.


The old MR-750 Venturi gas burners were still in good shape... The primary air shutters were frozen with rust but were easily fixed.


The nozzles orifices were set up for natural gas. The one pictured on the lower right was what was in place. The propane are much smaller. It made a HUGE difference when we ran test a test burn. Getting an oxidation flame was pretty much impossible with the larger orifice. The smaller orifice gives a much broader range of reduction to oxidation.


To be continued....