Monthly Archives: April 2008

Tool Review: Bevel-o-Matic

I picked up some new tools at NCECA last month. One of the tools that I bought from Bracker’s is the Bevel-o-Matic from Todd Sholtz of Claystamps.com. I had wanted to talk with Todd about his new tool, but I kept missing him. So I brought it home from Pittsburgh and started using it… without any directions. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use it, and I instantly loved it. After I got home that night, I checked in online to see what sort of info was up about this new tool. That’s where I discovered that I was using it incorrectly. Oops! But I liked how it worked and I’ll have to play around with it some more to see if I want to change my ways.

The Bevel-o-Matic is a simple tool for beveling the edge of a leather hard slab with a razor sharp cutter at a 45 degree angle so you can create a clean, sharp mitered joint. I’ve used several other bevelers that are designed with an angled wire to cut the edge but I didn’t love them. For the way that I use a beveling tool, I prefer the Claystamp.com beveler’s sharp razor edge better than the wire ones.

Here are some images of the Bevel-o-Matic in use:

Above you can see how I used the tool. (correct/suggested usage is the last photo). I hooked the metal Bevel-o-Matic over the edge of the table and pushed the leather hard slab over the tool. The clay is easily cut away leaving a very clean beveled edge. Caution: By using it this way, you do have the possibility of cutting yourself. I did like how hooking the bevel tool over the edge of the table allowed me to have lots of resistance and made it easy to cut a slab that was pretty firm. 

I have all the parts for my box waiting to be joined with the nicely beveled edges:

The parts went together perfectly thanks to good measuring and nicely beveled edges.
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Here is the proper way to use the Bevel-o-Matic. You’re supposed to drag it across the top of the clay instead of hooking it onto the table and running the clay over it.

Thanks to Bracker’s for this photo. 

 

Of course there are other options for beveling, and you don’t need a special tool…but I appreciate a tool that makes a job a little easier. If you’re a big hand builder, and you’ve been using this tool regularly, I’d love to hear from you.

 


Another note on Claystamps.com… I wrote about this company 3 years ago on this blog after I got a signature stamp made: A Potter’s Mark: Signing Pots.

Peace, love and leather hard pots.

One of my favorite moments when I’m making pots is that moment in time when the clay has firmed up enough to handle without distortion. The moment when you can take a trimming tool to the bottom of the pot and you get nice long ribbons of trimmings that don’t gum up your tool.

Normally, the moment in time when the pots are perfect for stamping, carving, slipping and trimming is a moment that I experience in solitude with my pots. But I thought that I would try to share a bit of this moment with you. Below are some images of cups that I made today. They are freshly stamped and awaiting a second trip to the wheel for trimming.

You can see in the image (below) on the left that the soft clay is impressed deep enough that you can see the stamping on the inside of the cup. I hope that you can get a sense of the depth of the stamping from the image on the right from the pictures (click on them to see the image larger). The clay has to be dry enough that the stamp doesn’t stick to the clay, but soft enough to get a deep impression without cracking. More to come on this series in future posts!

 

I know that I am not alone in my love of leather hard clay. I see lots of freshly made pots in the posts of my fellow clay bloggers! I have put together some pictures (and links) from their sites to share with you.
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Eleanor Hendricks of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, shared some great pictures on her blog last week illustrating her love of the process of making. She ended her post with this question:

Does anyone else sometimes treasure the process more than the finished products? 

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Amy Sanders, of Charlotte, North Carolina, shared this image on her blog of her carved plates. What beautiful lines! As usual, with pots, it’s all about the timing!
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I love how these drying beer cups from Euan Craig caught the sunlight in Mashiko, Japan. The perfect moment of leather hard met the perfect moment of sunlight streaming in his studio.
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Cheryl Alena Bartram of Golden, British Columbia, shares this great image of tumblers on her blog. I can imagine the board of cups going on and on and on and on…. I have been known to base the amount of pots that I throw in a sitting based on the length of a board or the size of the table.
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Douglas Fitch makes pots “in middle of nowhere, north of Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom,” far from my studio in Chicago. But when I see these images of the rough leather hard pots I think I can smell the mustiness of the clay… and that’s a great thing.
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I find that there is little more satisfying in a day’s work that a table covered in finished pots.
John Zhender (from my home state of New Hampshire) posted this satisfying image of finished banks and lidded cups on his blog:
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Look at these gorgeous plates that Ron Philbeck made at his studio in Shelby, North Carolina! I think I have to throw some plates tomorrow…
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One of my favorite clay books is A Potter’s Workbook by Clary Illian. The images in the book are almost all photos of leather hard pots. The focus is on the forms without any distraction of decoration or firing technique. If you make functional pots, I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.

Updates and shout-outs!

I had a bunch of things piling up that I have been wanting to share with you, so I decided to compile everything into one big shout-out blog post. Enjoy!

Some (blog) updates from me:

  • I have been tweaking my blog template and have made some small but good changes. I updated my ceramic blog links. It’s now connected to my blog reader so it will be automatically synced and up to date from now on. Just head on over to the right side of the blog to check out all the great links. 
  • I have changed and added the categories on the side of the blog too. This way you check out all the How-to’s & Tutorials in one place or all the posts about Soda Firing in one place too. Hopefully this will make it easier for folks to search the archives (they’re pretty big!).

Some shout-outs:

  • The Salt/Soda Firing discussion group/ social network is really taking off. If you’re interested in salt and soda, I highly suggest that you join this group! There are some great potters that have joined (including my friend Gary Jackson who finally has images of his work up online). I’m excited about the sharing that happening (slip and glaze recipes for soda!!) and for it to continue to evolve and grow. 
  • My friend, Jayson Lawfer, has left Chicago for Italy and has started a new company: The Nevica Project. It’s focus is bringing collectors together with art. The focus of the art, at this point, is on ceramics. From Jayson:

    “Creation is the first step. Though it is no doubt one of the most important steps, it is also the connection between artists, patrons and dealers that make the art environment a complete circle.” 

  • My friend Machiko Munakata is an amazing ceramic sculptor who has taken her talents into a new direction. She’s making these amazing felt foods, like this yummy plate of yakisoba to the left. You can find all of her creations on her Etsy site. The plate that her creations are displayed on is from Kristin Pavelka. Machiko has been my biggest cheerleader for me to join Etsy. I’ve taken one step closer and set up my page. There’s nothing for sale yet, but that’s to come next week (after taxes!). Update: Machiko’s work was featured on Boing Boing today.
  • Lindsey Holmes, a potteryblog.com fan, told me about what looks like a great show. Lindsey works for Hedge Gallery in San Fransisco. The gallery has an exhibition of Welsh potter, Paul Philp’s work that will be on display through mid-May. Thanks for the tip! 

  • Cattle Barn Clay Co. is a new clay company that was started by fellow Earlham grads Billy Cooper and Li Hunt-Cooper. It’s located in Royal Center, IN (sort of between Indianapolis and Chicago). They specialize in raw materials and new and used refractories. And their prices are really great. Kiln shelves that are up to 50% off retail prices. Check it out!

Empty Bowls – Scranton, PA

This is something that I had to share with all of you….

A couple of days ago I got an email newsletter from my friend, Jordan Taylor. He shared news of a new show of sculptural work which I am excited about. He also announced of a local Empty Bowls project that is being held in Scranton, PA on May 4. This particular Empty Bowls fundraiser is one that Jordan is donating 1000 bowls to. I’m blown away yet not surprised by his incredible generosity.

If you happen to live in north east Pennsylvania, here is a bit of information about the event (from Jordan’s newsletter):

 

Meals on Wheels will host an “Empty Bowls” dinner May 4, 2008 1-3pm at Marywood University, Nazareth Hall, Multi Purpose Room (formerly known as the Crystal Room).

A $10 donation will purchase a bowl of soup, and you get to keep the bowl. The bowls, consistent with Taylor’s work to date, are wood fired, made largely from materials gathered and processed locally, and are microwave-dishwasher-oven safe, lead free, and non toxic. Each bowl is individually decorated by a different Scranton area art student.

Contact MOW Scranton director Linda Steir 570-346-2421 mow110@hotmail.com for inquiries.

Empty Bowls is an international movement that began in the early 1990’s and has since raised millions of dollars in donations to help hungry people. It was founded by several school teachers in Michigan whose students asked for help in raising money to help the local hungry. As a group they decided on a fundraiser dinner of simple soup and bread, served on dishes made by the students in their art class. www.emptybowls.net

Taylor had participated in several “Empty Bowls” events by donating and by dining before becoming interested in staging an event in Scranton. In 2006 Taylor was a visiting artist at a “Craft and Social Conscience” session, run by one of the founders of the Empty Bowls Movement, at the Penland School of Crafts, NC. Taylor’s experience at that session inspired him to reach out to the MOW chapter in Scranton.

I’m truly inspired. But I have to remind myself that it’s important to act on the inspiration and put it into action. This week I plan on calling my friend, Joanna Kramer, who organizes Chicago’s Empty Bowl project to see how I can be more involved this year. Our event isn’t until December, but it seems like the perfect time to start making bowls!

I’m curious to hear about other Empty Bowls fundraisers out there. Have you organized or participated in one? What was your experience? I love that Jordan made the bowls but students decorated the pieces. Have you done an interesting twist on Empty Bowls? Are you in Chicago and interested in joining us?
Just leave me a comment below!

A Semi-Complete Tour of Ceramics Blogs (part 4)

When I started out on the venture of writing this blog almost 4 years ago, I could only really find a half dozen or fewer ceramic bloggers out there writing. Things have really exploded and there are new blogs popping up every week now (as well as some casualties). I thought I’d share with you links to the blogs that I read. (UPDATED)

You’ll notice that my blogroll is long. 63 blogs to be exact. There is no way that I could remember to check in with these blogs on my own, so I use the blog reader, Google Reader, to subscribe to these blogs. Instead of visiting all the sites, the newest posts are compiled into the reader automatically and keeps track of the unread ones, etc… It’s very easy to set up (really…it is!).
If you’re interested in subscribing to my list (below), and you’re using Google Reader, just follow these simple steps.

  1. Login to Google Reader
  2. Click on this link and “save file”: http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user/15666827403315601321/label/public
  3. Figure out where the downloaded file is located. (for PC users) Right click on the download and click on “open folder containing.” That will tell you where the downloaded file is located
  4. Click on “Manage Subscriptions”
  5. Click on “Import/Export”
  6. Click on”Browse” and locate the downloaded file.
  7. Click Upload and then start reading! You’ll be overwhelmed with posts to read at first, but once you get caught up, it’s quite manageable :)
    You can always use this as a starting point and add and subtract subscriptions from this list to suit your interests.

I do plan on continuing sharing my “tour of ceramics blogs” with little write ups and images, but there has been such an explosion to pottery bloggers that I thought I should take a moment to catch you up with what’s happening in the world of ceramics bloggers.

I know there are more blogs out there, but it’s not always easy to find them! When looking for blogs to subscribe to, I look for the following criteria (it’s not an exact science):

  • regularly updated… or interesting enough that it’s worth the wait!
  • the content of the blog is multi-dimensional. (it’s not just a blog that is just showing what’s new in the writer’s online shop)
  • The focus of the majority of the blog posts are about clay. (pottery, tiles, sculpture, etc…)

The way that I have found out about most of these blogs is to follow the links from the blogs I read, and wander off from one blog into another. The linking and referencing between blogs has created a sort of community the exists between bloggers and readers from around the world, but within one’s own computer.

If you write or read a blog that you think I’d be interested in, please let me know! I am always excited to find a new one. If I have overlooked your blog, it’s not intentional, please send me a link.

And just one other thing that you might be able to help me with. I don’t know the names of all the bloggers who write these blogs. It often just doesn’t exist anywhere on the blog. I am sure this is sometimes intentional, but I think it’s sometimes just an over site. If there are any gaps that you can help me with, please pass on the info to me. I really like knowing the names of the person writing, it allows you to make a personal connection to the person writing. A big part of why someone buys a handmade pot is because of the connection to the maker. I sort of feel like it’s the same thing with reading a blog. I want to know about the maker/writer. At least their name and where they’re from.

Enjoy the trip you’re about to take wandering off into the land of ceramics blog. I’m sure you’ll be inspired, like I am every day.