Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pottery Magic!

One of the (many) good things about being a regular at Scarborough Fair Pottery Studio are the days when you show up to find that Peggy has discovered a new project in "Clay Times" or another pottery magazine or web site. It may be something she has seen before or something she has never tried, but every time she is all excited about it. "Look," she exclaims, "look at this! We are all going to make ___ (fill in the blank.)" It is her enthusiasm which emboldened me to attempt this project - a conjoined chip and dip bowl assembly.

First, you throw two bowls of equal size and shape. The directions suggested 3 pounds of clay per bowl, but my first attempt, using 2.5 lbs per bowl, went dramatically wrong. For my second attempt, I scaled down. These bowls are made of 1.5 lbs of clay each.
By the way, I find that a lot of pottery directions sound much more simple than they really are. That one line, "Throw two bowls of equal size and shape" assumes you are talented enough repeat your moves from one bowl to the next in order to make them equal. Mine were close - close enough that only a little judicious trimming was needed.

The demo article we were following did not suggest two different colors of clay. That was my idea. I thought the project needed more of a challenge!

After they dry to "soft" leather-hard stage, you are ready to begin assembling your bowls. I trimmed the bottoms as usual, then took about 1/4" off the rim of the brown bowl to make them the same height. (This was my "fudge-factor" adjustment. It was not in the original instructions.)

Any good construction project has to start with a little demolition, and this is where the new potter tends to cringe a bit. Those carefully crafted bowls - centered, balanced, well-formed - well, you have to cut them up!

I made marks on each bowl, approximately 1/3 of the diameter, then sliced through each bowl with a taut cut-off wire.
Eeek! The pretty bowls are now in pieces! Putting the smaller slices aside for the moment, I wet the cut edges of the two larger sections, stuck them together, then rolled a thin coil of clay to fill in the gaps and seal the seam.
First problem with two colors of clay - which color do you use for your coil? I chose brown, simply because it was out and accessible. It's a bitch to keep from smearing brown clay all over the white, in case you hadn't guessed. I didn't think about that.

Next you turn the conjoined bowl over (carefully, by sandwiching it between two pieces of wareboard) and inspect the underside.
Another thin coil of clay seals the bottom and outside seams.Going back to the cut-out pieces, you join them the same way,using more coils of clay to fill in the gaps and seal the edges.
The brown clay is starting to over-run the white right about now. When I get it all together, I can lightly scrape the surface and remove most of this brown slip.
The bottom of the dip bowl. Some of the weight still needs to be trimmed off in order to make it fit for the next step.
The smaller dip bowl is placed into the larger joined bowls section, creating the optical illusion that the two bowls are overlapping.
You can see a bit of a bobble where the inner brown wall of the dip bowl just misses matching up with the curve of the larger brown chip bowl. My excuse? I had been at this for 1.5 hours and my sister was hovering over my shoulder, saying, "I'm hungry - when are we going to eat?" I wrapped the project in plastic wrap and let it rest for a couple of days, to help all the seams "cure," and took Lisa out for a belated birthday brunch.

A little scraping with a thin metal rib cleaned up most of the seams to leave as sharp and defined an edge as I could, then the bowl had to dry to a bone-dry state before it could be fired.

Now, a pause for prayer. Will all those seams stay stuck together, or will the whole thing crack, fall apart, or explode in the kiln?

* tick

* tock

* tick

* tock


It made it! Now, to decide about glazing. Since any colored glaze will minimize the two-color clay effect, I have just about decided to go with a simple clear glaze.

I think I'll try this project again, but I'll use only one kind of clay next time!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quick Post

Some cute photos from last week:

Lucy, recovering from her spay operation:A mourning dove on her nest,
in a dogwood tree at my Mom's place.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Coming soon, the BAM! Festival. BAM, as in Bethel Art and Music, that is, the first of what planners hope will be an annual event, featuring a juried art show, music - 3 bands!, a quilt show, old tractors, antique cars, Harmony Hill wine and Scarborough Fair pottery. Here are some examples of the pieces I'll have for sale at our booth.

You want spoon rests? I'll have 'em. These five are a few of at least a dozen.

Same with pet food bowls - there should be a few choices.
A set of three small matching bowls, in green tea on brown clay.

And look - they stack!

Also made of brown clay and glazed in green tea - a new favorite of mine - is this vase
and this small pitcher,
which I am rather proud of.
Look - a decent handle!
(There is hope for me yet.)

Going back to my roots, here is a pump dispenser, also of brown clay but this time glazed in my old friend, blue rutile.
This reminds me - I haven't been doing these lately. I need to make some more.

I hope to get a few of these small lidded crocks done, and then fill them with homemade soy candles. Time is running short, though, so maybe that will have to be put on hold.

textured kiwi on brown clay
textured turquoise on white clay

Two of these chili bowls will be available - - the one on the left is mine.
These are white clay, dipped in Morty's green and celery.

I must say, I'm very pleased with this piece, a potpourri burner. It came out very nice. I'll put it in the sale, but I think I'll put a high price on it.

Made of white clay, the top was stenciled and hand-painted with underglazes, then dipped in clear glaze. The bottom is dipped in Morty's green. I have only used one dip in the past - two gives a much deeper color.

The inspiration was this piece, from my collection. I think I did as good or better with my copy!

If you want a "Black Kat Pottery" original, please visit the Scarborough Fair vendor booth. (My shift is 2-5pm.) I think we'll be in front of the Grant Memorial Building at the corner of Plane and Main Streets (SR 125 and SR 133.) Worry not - if you would rather buy good stuff, real potters will also be there. I'll be the comic effect.

So, if you are in the area and looking for fun, food, music, wine, and last-minute Mother's Day gifts, be sure to visit Bethel, Ohio on Sat, May 8. We'll be there all day!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Let me state at the outset, I am categorically opposed to dog clothes.

Having made that point abundantly clear, let me show you what I bought for Panda today:
OK, but see, it was $6 off - originally $9.95, on sale for $3.95. What a deal, right? And, the heat might go off next winter, and my Boston Terrier might get cold. I want to be prepared. Doesn't this look nice and toasty?Besides, it was "As Seen on TV." How could I turn that down?Oh, God - I don't even HAVE this puppy yet, and I am already rationalizing buying her clothes. I've crossed over to the Dark Side.

Wait till you see the lilac and yellow bed I bought her. It was also on sale, $4.95, marked down from $14.95. I couldn't pass it up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Wildflowers, 2010

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica.
Photo from 2009

My mother and I took a wildflower walk at the Cincinnati Nature Center this afternoon. It was a large group - 25 people or more - and when that many people get strung out along a woodland trail, the folks in the back often miss what the trip leader at the front is saying. So, yours truly took it upon herself to act as auxiliary leader, pointing out plants and distributing names and any interesting facts I knew. At first, I think my mom was a bit embarrassed when I took charge of the back half of the group, but she soon realized I couldn't help myself and resigned herself to admitting her offspring is, at least in part, a teacher.

One person asked me if I was on the staff at CNC. "No," I said, "I'm just an obnoxious know-it-all." Another gentleman asked me how I knew everything that I did, and I really didn't have an answer. After 20 plus springs of walking, studying, and learning, you just know. While I will never be a botanist, one of the things I do know is Ohio's spring wildflowers. Here are a few of the things we saw today:

Squirrel-corn, Dicentra canadensis, a relative of Bleeding Heart and the plant below.
Dutchman's breeches, Dicentra cucullaria. Photo from 2009

Dwarf Larkspur, Delphinium tricorne, also known as Spring Larkspur. Most were still in bud. This one, on a south-facing slope, was in bloom.

Wild Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata,
also called Blue Phlox or Wood Phlox.

Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica.
When photographing the bells,
t helps if someone turns them over.

There were plenty Wild Ginger plants, Asarum canadense, with their fuzzy buds just emerging, but this photo is from 2009, since I forgot to take any pictures of this year's crop. The deep reddish-brown flower lays on the ground, and is pollinated by beetles.

False Rue Anemone, Enemion biternatum. I always have a hard time remembering how to tell the difference between this and the plant below,
Rue Anemone, Anemonella thalictroides. Our leader gave me a good tip: In "true" Rue Anemone, there is usually one large and two or more smaller flowers clustered together, as in the photo above. False Rue Anemone only has a single flower.

Sessile Trilium, Trilium sessile, also called Toadshade Trilium was in full bloom. Yes, this apparently half-opened bud is as big as the flower gets. (Photo from 2009)

This Nodding, or Bent, Triliuim, Trilium flexipes, is barely in bud. This is the most confusing of Triliums, as it may have an upright or a dangling flower, and comes in white or red. All trilium species share one trait, however - they all have parts of three: three leaves, three sepals, three petals.

Yellow Trout-lily, Erythronium americanum. White trout-lily has already gone to seed. Missed it again! Bloodroot was gone, too.

One thing I was glad to find was Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. It always makes me smile.

After missing this wildflower for the last three springs, I was even happier to see one of my favorite wildflowers,
Blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia verna. While most of the other wildflowers shown above are perennials, this is the only annual spring wildflower I know, sprouting in the fall and flowering in early spring. Isn't it a beauty?

The spring show lasts only a few more weeks. Get out and see the wildflowers before they're gone for another year.