*This blog post opens with the sound of violins playing in the background as our hero has a bit of a complain.
Making a big pot is hard work, the bags of clay are heavy and the repetitive action of scrinching the clay into coils makes my wrist ache, reminding me that it is still cactus fuctus. The base of my thumb is tender to the touch from all the smoothing and pinching and smoothing again of the clay, and I fall into bed at eight pm completely exhausted.
This pot is 55 cm high, it is Keane’s Raku Gold, and it does not have a base.
Here I am supporting the wet pot on a cushion while I check that the base is still as nice and tidy as it was when I began.
I painted the pot with a white slip I made from Keane’s White Raku. I had been using Walkers ten slip but I had some issues with blistering after bisque, which I wasn’t sure if it was a compatibility issue or if the body had been a bit too dry to absorb the slip. It was easy enough to make a different slip, removing the potential problems of future blistering there, I also made sure the body was still quite wet when I painted on the slip. If I still get blistering, I will just accept it as one of those things and decorate accordingly so that the popped blisters become a feature rather than a disaster.
I have coloured the pot with a 50/50 Gerstley Borate and commercial body stain mix. The green spots are underglaze colour, the blue stripey bits are also underglazes. This is an instagram photo and the colours are a tad softer in real life. Since returning from Kalgoorlie I am so thirsty for colour that there is a real risk that all my pots will be psychedelic orange.
Once I had finished with the decoration I wrapped the pot in plastic and let it dry slowly out of the way. So far it is drying nicely and everything is on track for May.
Every step of the process, when you are making big pots is fraught with potential disaster. I am very conscious of how little time I actually have to pull together the body of work I need for the, “Mud And Ink” show in THE LONG GALLERY next May. *hyperventilates a bit*
So, I thought that maybe a long narrow oval pot might be a bit quicker to make than a round pot. HA! obviously I missed this bit in physics or geometry or whatever bit of mathematical trickery it was in school where we learned that ovals are actually longer than circles. Mine are anyway, don’t argue just * CUE MOAR VIOLINS.
It all started well enough.
At the end of day one, I had a nice pot that looked a bit mountainey and landscapey. I popped this up on instagram and a friend suggested that maybe I should stop here. I thought about it but decided that it needed a bit more height. I wrapped it up for the night and came back the next day. It was at this point that I decided that I needed to put a bottom in the pot if I was going to have it as an open form. Previously the need for a bottom wasn’t necessary as I was going to have this as an enclosed form. It is never a good idea to change directions halfway through the making of a large pot.
I am easily influenced as I work, music plays an important part in my studio and often the music I am listening to will shape the pot I am making. I was listening to Radio National’s, “All in the Mind” programme as I worked on the pot the next day and thinking deep thoughts about mental illnesses and the impacts of incarceration on the human spirit. I was no longer thinking happy thoughts about about mountains and escarpments, I was thinking about what an asshat Morrison is and how appalling our treatment of refugees is and so the mountain began to morph into a boat.
I still wasn’t sure where I was going and the coils I was using were quite thin, so the pot was taking a long time to grow. A really long time. It was at about this stage that the making turned into a hard slog, I like to work hard and fast, immersing myself in the intuitive moment of making. This is why I do not throw, I dislike coming back to a form and trying to capture the relationship I had with the clay for a second time, it rarely works as the energy changes and so the pot changes.
By the end of the third day in the studio, I was done. I was so pleased to be done as everything about this pot had been hard work. I quickly threw on some slip, took an arty shot for Instagram and all I needed to do to be completely finished was add some colour the following day.
The next day I coloured the pot, wandered back down to the house to do things and FORGOT to go back up to the studio to wrap it in plastic to slow down the drying.
A friend contacted me asking if I would like to contribute some work for a stall she was curating for the Mona Market in January. With some relief I spent all of Saturday making small skull finger spoons in Southern Ice porcelain. It was nice to be working with small pieces of porcelain, rather than giant lumps of heavily grogged clay.
These spoons, once they are fired will be a limited edition run and will only be available at Mona on the 17th of January, all things going to plan of course.
I left the pot alone for a couple of days, as the weather was grey and drizzly as only December in Tasmania can be, I didn’t cover it in plastic as it was drying slowly enough.
Tuesday was Happy Minion Day, and I spent the afternoon ignoring the pot and making small things and talking a lot with Molly my gorgeous apprentice/minion/friend. Molly has a website here, Scout Ceramics.
I should have coloured the inside of the pot then but I just couldn’t be bothered, there was a storm pending, Monty the pup was being a dick, and the aftermath of the deaths at the Lindt cafe had left me so flat. Our Prime Minister is such a tool, it embarrasses me every time he opens his mouth.
In hindsight, I should have just left the pot alone, so it stayed as a nice pot instead of morphing into the POT OF DOOM.
In all the photos above, you can see that the P.O.D is sitting on a piece of cement sheet on top of a support board. I lifted the P.O.D from its support and turned it upside down to shake out the crumbs as the neck was a bit too narrow to fit my arm inside. I put the P.O.D down onto the cement sheet onto the table and began to paint the inside with a 50/50 Gerstley Borate black colour mix but I was unable to see fully inside and so I moved it down onto a lower banding wheel. NOT THINKING that the cement sheet would flex and put extra stress on the P.O.D.
I finished painting on the colourant and moved the P.O.D back onto the table to get it out of my way, inadvertently flexing the cement sheet again.
Five minutes later I noticed the cracks.
Bugger, bugger, BUGGER.
I gave the cracks a bit of a poke and the top one wobbled alarmingly.
The P.O.D was a little bit fucked.
So I did what any self respecting ceramist would do, I took a photo, wacked it up onto instagram and came down to the house for a bit of a public sulk.
Ten minutes of public whingeing later and I had a plan.
I poked a knife into the cracks and wiggled it around a bit and pulled the broken bits off in sections.
Now the pot is back almost exactly where I had been a week ago, when my friend suggested I stop.
No longer the POT OF DOOM, though that is probably what I shall title it anyway.
On the upside, and as I am mostly an optimist there are always multiple upsides, I learned a lot from this pot. Lessons that I already knew well, were reinforced and probably just in the nick of time as things are bound to get super manic around here the closer I get to the deadline for Mud and Ink.
I have kept the top bits of the pot to use as test tiles. I bought a cobalt free black bodystain yesterday and I shall mix some of that up with Gerstley Borate to see what happens and I will add some cobalt ox to the stain as well to do a counter test. I was lucky enough to receive a very VERY good ceramic education and as a result I can not let a chance to pop some tests in the kiln go by.
I think I will leave the big pots alone until January now and give my hands a bit of a rest.
Today I will be making BAT WINGS. Hurrah.
I have all the fun.