Setting Up a Clay Studio

Einstein Planter 2016

Einstein Bust Planter Ceramic Clay – 2016

Earlier this year, I finally committed to the fact that I love working in ceramic clay and it was time to be a grown up and set up my own studio at home.  I had been working at Lewis Snyder’s Studio S (StudioSPottery.com) for the past 5 years doing hand building.  My good friend, Kay Currie, was my instructor.  I had reached a point though that I was no longer satisfied with only doing clay 2 hours a week.  I find when I work with clay I really get lost in the work.

My husband and I discussed it and we went in search of a kiln.  At the point of making this decision, I also realized I had never even fired a kiln, let alone my own kiln.  I also didn’t know what clay body I wanted to work in – there are 100s.  The luxury of Studio S was that the clay/glazes were provided and all the firing was handled by someone besides me.  Needless to say, I had to dive into some intense independent study of additional clay education in order to fully equip myself.  I mean glazes???  What kind and what fire – low or high?  Colors and the chemistry, oh my sweet lord!!!

Brigid

My kiln – “Brigid” – Celtic Goddess of Fire

Lewis helped us purchase a great kiln (Olympic MAS2327), and I went to work setting up my “clay studio” and equipping myself with all the peripheral supplies I needed to get in place. From, tools to forms to glazes and a place to wedge clay.  I discovered the amazing mecca of clayness that is Mid South Ceramic Supply in Nashville and The Clay Lady Studios (MidSouthCeramics.com).  Every single person there is absolutely amazing and so helpful.  They really took time to answer all my questions.  They had nearly everything I needed to get my studio stocked up.

My kiln took 7 weeks to be built, she is beautiful and was worth the wait.  I named her Brigid after the Celtic Goddess of Fire.  We had to reassemble her on her base and add venting when she arrived.   I also spent the 7 weeks that I waited for her to arrive, building pieces to fire, educating myself, attending a couple workshops and doing research.

I decided to work with low fire red clay and attended a wonderful two day workshop at Mid South Ceramic called “Red Handed Symposium” and also finally took a workshop from the amazing clay artist, Nelson Grice, in Birmingham, AL on how to do image transfers on clay.

clay figure7I purchased a table top pottery wheel and am a long way from mastering throwing, but I will tackle that and get the hang of it.  Practice, practice, practice on that one.  Though I was able to throw a couple pots with the help of my friend, Kay.

My first batch of bisque is glazed and I will load up Brigid this week and put the final glaze fire on the work.   That is when it all comes together.  It’s like a science experiment with lots of variables and you only really know how the study works when you pull it out of the kiln after the glaze firing.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Learning New Tricks

“Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.”  Rumi

I will always be a learner when it comes to art.  I love setting aside what I think I know and taking a fresh look at ways to make art.  It never gets stale for me that way. I think sometimes I am more in love with the process than anything else.  Most recently, I enrolled in Lynn Whipple’s online class called “The Essence of Still Life” (Carla Sonheim Presents) which has been absolutely delightful.  Lynn is one of my favorite instructors.  Her approach to making art is always free, colorful and fun.  In this particular series of 6 lessons we learned to draw simple shapes of our favorite objects, jumble them around on the panel and then created wonderful layered still life works that do just hint at the essence of of each object.

I learned a new art term that I really love: “Pentimento” – which is actually where an artists covers a previous layer or body of work and you see hints of it in the new layer or work.  It’s something I have always loved to see in my own work.  Like a little ghost of another story that was being told.  I thought the Latin breakdown of the word pentimento would come out to be something like “small” and “remembrance” – which would make love sense and who doesn’t like a small remembrance.  However, turns out its Italian and means something like “repent”.  I think I will stick with my Latin guesswork since it sounds so much more pleasant than to repent or be regretful.

The techniques I learned in this class will definitely show up in future works as their own “Small remembrances” or Pentimentos.  Thank you, Lynn.

2018 & Technicalities

cropped-20161102_192349-1.jpgGoals are set for the year!  I always start out with a long list of things I plan to accomplish each year, and get going with a bluster of excitement.  One of the top runners on my goal list this year is a new website and getting on top of my blogging.  I am giving WordPress a try as a format for my site.  I am sure I am going to have to upgrade the level that lets me customize my site a bit more, but this will due for now.  More of the techie stuff will come later.  Yikes!! and HELP!!

I generally can find my way around this stuff and muddle through some basic design elements, but I want my site to be colorful with some whimsical-wowza.  I want it to say “I am an artist who has fun creating”.  Thank goodness my kids are pretty savvy.  Heck my grandchildren are more savvy than me and they are only 3 years old.  If I wait a couple years, they will have this “formatting a template site” stuff down.  I think it’s taught in Kindergarten now.  No cursive handwriting for that generation, but binary code…sure!

I appreciate your patients with the site, while I get it into tip top shape.  Please come back often to see my progress.  I can’t hold out until my grandchildren can help me, so onward I trudge.

Peace,

DKM