• Tag Archives clay
  • Working Off the Hump

    Mid-Summer                                                                                  Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Potting, something done for thousands of years by diverse human communities, is hard.  At least for me.  Kate seems to be getting it.  We have a 6,000 year old Chinese pot at the MIA that is one of my favorite pieces in the museum.  It is not easy and especially not easy to turn out something so pleasing in shape, execution and overall proportions.

    We start at 10 am at the Northern Clay Center. Leila Denecke, our teacher and a veteran potter, gives us a demonstration.  This morning she showed how to make a honey pot.  She throws “off the hump” which means that she actually throws the object on a larger hunk of clay known as the hump.  This raises the level of the piece on which the potter works, an advantage in itself, and allows for following one piece with another and another, using clay from the same hump, working down from the top.

    Like most expert artists her hands work the clay with ease, as if any one could do it.  From a lump of clay, literally, she fashions a small jar with a slight belly and a flanged mouth.  With her wire tool she cuts its off the hump, raises the hump higher by creating a cone and creates a flanged top for the jar with a small handle.

    After the demonstration we go back to our wheels.  Most of the class, experienced potters, then try to reproduce whatever Liela has shown us how to make.  Refinement of their craft with feedback from a pro is why most of the students are in this class.

    Hands slick with slip we work at our various levels, one woman has her own studio, has had for twenty-five years, another sells work at art fairs, yet another came up here all the way from South Miami.  It’s a varied group, 6 women, myself and Patrick.  We’ve bonded a bit and will share a meal tomorrow.

  • Life of Riley

    Mid-Summer                                                        Waning Honey Flow Moon

    On Monday I started the clay class.  Monday evening the Woollies made monoprints at Highpoint Print Co-op.  Last night was the History of Graphic Design lecture on graphic design, 1950 to the present and tonight Justin and I meet to discuss the Sierra Club’s legislative process and other matters related to the club’s political work.  This has been a demanding week and next week won’t be easier with guests coming.  Ah, the quiet life of the Golden Years.

    Moorehead was the hottest reporting station on EARTH yesterday.  A dewpoint of 88 made the heat index 134.  Yikes.  Thank you, global warming.

    More clay today.  More wedging, centering, drawing up cylinders and, I hope, bowls.

  • Clay. All Day.

    Mid-Summer                                                      Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Turns out making cylinders is hard.  In clay.  Kate and I are rank beginners at this clay thing, but we are taking a class with others who aren’t.  This makes life difficult for the teacher and for us rank beginners.  Near the end of Day 2 today I think I got how to draw up the wall of a cylinder.  Light touch, right hand and left hand equal pressure for pressure, move up, relax and the lip, repeat.

    Kate’s arthritic thumbs gave out about 3 pm today.  Now that she has the new hips and the back fusion, her pain load is less, but the arthritis moves around, finding new joints to bug.  The hands have been less bothersome up till now because the hips and the back were worse.  Now though…  She also wears out after about four hours.  She did the other day (did I write this already?) how surprised she is at the effect major surgery has on her stamina.

    We’re both having fun though, trying out new modes of expression, learning new things together.

  • To Bee, To Do

    Mid-Summer                                                             Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Out to the bees in just a few minutes to slap on two more honey supers each, the six I finished varnishing yesterday while Mark put foundations in the frames.  This will find six honey supers on colonies 2 & 3, while colony 1, the parent colony for next year’s only divide, will have four.  Not sure if I’ll need more than these.  I’m having to do this in the early morning, not the best time, but the only time I’ve got today.

    At 9:15 Kate and I take off in separate cars for the Northern Clay Center.  Our clay intensive starts this week, 10:00 to 4:30.  I hope to learn how to make Japanese style tea cups and salad sized plates.  Like tai chi working clay puts a premium on hand-eye co-ordination and sense of touch as well overall design skills.

    A good while ago my spiritual journey had gone stale in the reading, meditation, contemplative modes I knew best. The next stage of my spiritual practice became gardening, working with the rhythm of flowers, soil, spades and trowels.

    That practice went on for many years when Kate and I decided to add vegetables and the orchard with permaculture principles in mind.  That added a good deal of oomph to the tactile spirituality, deciding to keep bees put animal husbandry into the mix.  At this point my spirituality has become more and more attuned to the rhythms of growing seasons, plants and bees, all within the context of the Celtic Great Wheel.

    With tai chi and clay my spiritual practice comes closer in again, my hands, my feet, my hips, my arms.  Both clay and tai chi are paths on this nature focused ancientrail, though for me they are quite a bit harder.  But that’s the push I need to grow.

    After our first day at Northern Clay, I have my Woolly meeting tonight at Highpoint Print co-operative where we will make prints.  One more step down the ancientrail of the mind/body link.

  • Garlic

    Beltane                                                                      Waning Garlic Moon

    In my new names for Minnesota full moons this is the garlic moon, because under its gaze, in its waning nights, the garlic leaves will begin to die back and the garlic will  be ready to come out of the garden.  This is now my third year with garlic started from garlic bulbs I grew myself.  Garlic gradually adapts itself to your soil and climate if you keep replanting it.  Not sure how long it takes overall, but the process should be well underway.  Artemis Garlic.

    Walking the line.  Nope, not Johnny Cash, but me, trying to track down a short in our electric fence.  Found it.  An ironwood branch detached during the last round of heavy weather landed on the eastern run of our chain link fence, bending the chain down and over the electric fence.  Chain saw.  That old branch popped right off.  Since I had the chain saw warmed up, I went out to the front and pruned some of our amur maples.  They’re getting old and their limbs have begun to crack and die.

    Now I’m in here, finishing up e-mail communications and getting ready for a nap.  Kate and I have a hand-built clay class this afternoon from 1-4.  The last two days required a burst of energy.  I have to restore it now.

  • Clay

    Beltane                                                                      Waning Last Frost Moon

    “We can make our minds so like still water that beings  gather   about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps  even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” –W.B. Yeats

    Surprises.  They come unexpectedly.  That’s no surprise.  I had one tonight.

    Kate signed us up for a couples clay class at the Northern Clay Center.  It ran from 6:30-9:00 pm.  Matt, a BFA grad from the U, teaching during a gap year before graduate school, lead us clay novices.

    ( Kiln Prayer)

    It was fun.  Maybe more than fun.  The clay had a vitality, a presence I hadn’t expected.  The pieces I made ranged from uh-oh to not too bad.  One, a tea bowl, had some promise.  Since they won’t be fired and ready for two weeks, it’s tough to say just what happened.  But I liked it.

    Talking with Matt, who began discussing sodium trees versus calcium trees and how those differences affect the wood ash impact on ceramics, a realization began to dawn on me.  This is clay.  Clay.  It’s part of mother earth.  Part of her body.  Working with clay is not only like working with soil, it is working with soil.  Glazes can be totally organic, using plant and mineral materials available anywhere.  In fact, the properties of the clay differ from region to region.  So do the types and variteies of plant and mineral materials available to fire kilns and use in glazes.

    Ceramics, in other words, is a sister activity to permaculture, bee keeping, flower gardening and native plant use.

    Every once in a while I like to push myself outside my comfort zone.  Tai Chi and Latin are my current excursions.  I can’t see getting into clay until after our cruise in the fall, but I want to do it.  By that time the learning curve for both Latin and Tai Chi will be manageable.  After that, though, I can see taking a class or two, maybe more.

    Manual dexterity is not my thing, at least it hasn’t been, but why not?  No practice as much as anything.  So, if I can learn basic techniques and practice.  Well…