19 October 2009

snug as a pug....or something like that.

I've been anxiously awaiting the end of my scrap buckets of cone 6 stoneware so that I could completely clean all of the red clay out of my pugmill and start processing the scrap from my new high fire porcelain and stoneware. Thursday was that day. Of course I had 19 other things that I probably should have been working on but when duty calls....

I bought my Venco de-airing pugmill about 8 years ago I think. It's one of those luxuries that some potters afford themselves to recycle clay and in some cases...avoid wedging. (kneading the clay to get the air bubbles out). I treated myself because it was in the "pre-mortgage" glory days of extra money. I think it was about $2300 or so. Since I had it apart, I thought some of you might be interested in how it works (or not.) I'm a bit of a machine freak so I love this stuff. I usually take it apart about twice a year to clean out the screen which ends up full of gravel bits, sponge parts, earrings, etc. It usually takes a little over 2 hours and involves bleeding knuckles.

LinkAfter my slurry has dried for a week in a plaster tray (see 'clay management) it is fed through this hopper in tennis ball sized chunks. This screen catches any big items (needle tool) that may have fallen into the slop bucket.

It then passed into the auger chute and through this smaller screen which catches the bits of gravel chunks, etc. It then continues through the auger where the vacuum pump attaches and sucks out all of the air so there are no bubbles in the finished clay (that's a good thing).I've had some trouble with the old gasket leaking a bit so I pulled it out last year and now each time I crack open the barrel, I reseal it with this goopy gasket product that seems to do the trick.
The pugmill is anxiously awaiting some smooth, white cone 10 clay.....maybe this afternoon.

14 October 2009

artist questionnaire..

When did you consider yourself a professional artist and when were you able to dedicate yourself full time to that pursuit?

i suppose when i started selling pots a little over a decade ago. when i look at them now, it is a sincere effort not to cringe but the people who bought them, enjoy them and that is really all that matters in the end.

How long have you been in this studio?

almost 7 years in this shop..we built our home here at that time.

Is your studio separate from your home? Is that what you prefer and does that affect your work?

my shop is about 150 feet from the house. it leads to a very intimate home/work relationship for me that is nearly impossible to separate. i'm in the shop throughout the day and night most every day. having your studio at home, to me, means integrating your work into the flow of your everyday.

Did you have a plan for the layout of your studio or did it develop organically?

leif tried diligently to get me to do a work flow layout when we were designing my building, but i've just never been a great planner.

we've already added on to my shop and i could use about double the space. i think i was going for cozy and am now interested in a bigger, more open space with an area for clay storage, hand building and a small gallery for finished work. (not asking for much, am i?)

Has the studio location influenced your work?

i don't see how it couldn't...i live in the forest near glacier national park. i see few, if any, people in the course of my day. i love living in the woods...love, love, love.

Please describe a typical day, being as specific as possible. For example: What time to you get up? When do you come to the studio? Do you have specific clothing you change into?

i get up when i wake up for the most part, which most often is between 7:30 and 8. it changes with the seasons and daylight hours. i usually drink tea or coffee and am on the computer for at least an hour. then clean up the house and maybe work outside and usually in the shop around 11am. i'm in and out all day...very a.d.d. in that regard. my work and housework are intertwined.

my clothing is usually an eclectic combination of cutoff overalls over leggings, several shirts, maybe boots if i'm in the mood. i really have to have be 'feeling' my outfit for some reason :)

working alone does not foster the most cohesive clothing choices, plus nearly everything that i own is stained, torn, or just plain tired.

Do you listen to music, the radio, or TV when you work? If so, what, and does it affect your work?

i listen to music (satellite radio or cds) depending on my mood. i also watch a few t.v. shows (oprah, charlie rose and sometimes martha stewart). at night, the t.v. definitely helps me to keep on working (we get 4 channels,thank god one of them is pbs). i also listen to books on c.d. and talk on the phone. a couple of weeks ago, i set up my computer and skyped with a friend in san francisco while trimming pots. it was great fun.

Do you have any special devices or tools that are unique to your creative process?

not that i know of...my wheel, kilns, and pugmill are tools of the trade. my hands are the most important tool and that's why i freak out if i hurt them (which is a regular occurrence).

Are there specific items here that have significant meaning to you?

in my shop, i imagine that the most meaningful objects are those things related to my friend susan who taught me so much and passed away 2 years ago. the ravens that she sculpted watch over me and a few pictures of us on the walls. also, tools that she bought for me.

Do you work on one project at a time, or several?

Several....i'll start throwing a new series while the previous set is drying. my work is not very complex or heady so it's more a matter of timing than mental focus.

When you are contemplating your work, where and how do you sit or stand?

i usually take a hard look at my pots when i put them on the shelves in front of my wheel and sit back down in my chair. if i need to tweak the lines, i'll stick the bat back on the wheel and touch it up. (a bat is the plastic disk that attaches to my wheel, that the pot sits on).

How often do you clean your studio, and does it affect your work?

i am a chronic shop cleaner....clay dust and glaze drips are my enemy. that doesn't mean i'm the neatest person in the world, but i mop and sponge several times a day. my shop is small so being clean is important.

Do you have assistants?

i often dream of an assistant to do some of the more tedious tasks but then i remind myself that i still love the process and that moving clay slop, mixing glazes, loading kilns and pugging clay are an important part of the pot making.

Did you ever work for another artist, and if so, did that have any effect on the way you work?

i have never worked for another artist but think that being an apprentice would have improved my learning curve. i love to chat with other full time artists who make their living selling their work. we are a small crowd for sure and i love getting a different perspective on the creative process as well as the business end of selling our work.
Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?

"ain't is a blessing to be doing what what you wanna do?" is a shawn mullins quote that i have painted on the door of my shop and it's the truth. hard as it is sometimes, i wouldn't have it any other way.

What advice would you give a young artist that is just starting out?

i find it curious that so many artists advise choosing another path...because it can be so difficult to make a living selling art but i firmly believe that with the right approach, strong work ethic and proper business training..it is possible earn a living but i think it is a tough road for studio artists. selling on the internet has cracked open the market though for those that can keep up.

06 October 2009

making a plan..

cup o tea...check. one of the 19 notebooks that I use...check. calculator...check.

It's "make a plan before you spontaneously combust" day. I gotta say...I do love to plan and make lists and schedule my month a bit. Even though it rarely comes to exact fruition, just by putting pen to paper, I tend to feel loads better.

Currently, I've got special orders written on scraps of paper floating around or just written in my head. I've now deleted the phone number for a woman in Havre who ordered mixing bowls....I thought for sure it would stay in my caller i.d. but ummmm....not. I'll track her down but how ridiculous. Sometimes the planning just gets away from me and then I feel overwhelmed and start having dreams about being late for concerts and planes and totally unprepared.

I already feel better as a result of writing that I'm going to make a plan, even though I haven't done a thing yet. Sigh.