Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cracks Happen... # 3 in the Polar Series

#3 of the larger Polar Bear Series- Coiled Piece
Ann's Soda Clay Body~ Soda Fired to Cone 11
Dimensions~ H:16"  W: 10.5"   L: 22.5"

If you had read my last post, you know this was exactly what I was worried about. It seems the larger I go w/ the bears, the more apt they are to crack during the final firing in the Soda Kiln. I  thought about it a lot & spoke w/ my instructors about why this is happening. (oh, also note the back foot... one of my friends cups was stuck to it when it came out of the kiln.)

I believe several things are happening. 
One, the clay I am using is more of a throwing clay vs a sculptural clay. When I build small to medium, the clay body can handle it, but when I go bigger & add all the twists & turns that I do, I am not sure this clay body can take it. (Though I know people do large scale porcelain work- so that kind throws that theory out, but I plan on testing several grittier sculptural clays next semester.) Related to this also, I believe, is the fact that the Soda Kiln can heat unevenly- the bottom can be around cone 9, while the top (such as in our last firing) was around cone 13... perhaps the Ann's Soda Cone 10 clay body does not like that much heat!
Two, perhaps I am drying the clay too fast. Once a sculpture is finished, I have not been covering it & letting it dry slowly... I simply uncover it & let it dry. Though, on the smaller pieces, that was not an issue... I'd often let them sit outside in the dry NM fall weather where the humidity was quite low- which literally sucked the moisture out.
Three, (and I think this could be one of the main issues) because I only make 4 pencil sized holes on the bottom for venting, the outside of the sculpture is drying MUCH faster than the inside. 
My Resolutions & what I will be working on next semester~

1)Testing various sculptural Clay Bodies in this large format.
2.) Drying pieces very slowly!
3.) Placing larger & more vent holes on the bottom of the piece.
4.) Building slower than I already do... covering the outside of the piece & allowing more air to get to the inside before closing.
( I invite commentary or suggestion on these issues!)
Here are a few more views. This was the first bear done w/ a batch of freshly mixed glaze... so I was glad to know that I had the right recipe from glaze calc last semester & mixed it properly. Despite all the cracking on this piece, I am still totally in love w/ this glaze!

Close up of the glaze where it crystalized over the neck & nose of the piece.

Below is # 4 in the Polar Bear Series. (No, I don't count "The Beast," which was a bear -no pun intended- of a project... to me, it does not fit w/ this series, nor do the smaller versions.)

I finished him up about a month ago & he has been through the bisque kiln w/ only minimal cracking. He is larger than all the others- wet measurements were 23 inches tall, 20 inches long & 14 inches wide. I was afraid that if I glazed him up & put him in the Soda Kiln, he'd just crack up like # 3. Actually I am very certain of this. He'll be in storage over winter break until I decide whether to go for it & begin to learn about post- production crack repair, or maybe leave him in the bisqued state & do some sort of "cold surface" treatment like painting and/or staining.
In other clay news, our Community College Clay Club Sale was a success! We had some 39 clay students that participated & brought in just over $14,000 in combined sales! 40% goes to the clay club (for things like advertising, bringing in outside artists for demos, rebuilding of the beloved soda kiln & so forth,) 60% to individual artists. Below is my table of... you guessed it...  pots & bears.

 While I myself did not get rich, (ha ha) I did bring in about $680 which would translate to about $400 after 40% to the clay club... which, considering it was my first sale~  was not at all bad. Although the hours were long (about 11 hours each day for 2 days,) & I was quite exhausted by the end... I think overall it was a good experience- it provided some exposure for my art, and it was fun to be a part of this larger clay community event. (It also generated some post sale sales from co- workers, which is awesome!) Special thanks to my instructors & the Clay Clubbers for putting on this event... there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen, and thanks to all who stopped by to say hello & purchase a pot & a bear or two!
I've just finished for the semester & am back to working full time through the holidays AND I'll be moving yet again... so I don't know if I'll be blogging much for a while... though I'll try to get out w/ my camera for an evening walk or two... I love all the lights & farolitos up around town this time of year. I promise to share if I do. 
Happy December! May it be a peaceful one.


clairz said...

There is so much patience and learning involved in clay work. I'm so glad, as always, that you share your experiences with us.

Your pots have a wonderful glow to them. Someday I will see them in person. Just keep letting us know when you have shows.

Moving again? Oh, my. I'll stay tuned. In the meantime, have a wonderful December. As your header photo shows, it's a magical time in New Mexico.

Annie said...

Hi Becky, So sorry your bear cracked. A friend of mine told me when I first started doing clay, NEVER let it sit outside to dry!
Always dry things slowly, a bag over it for at least 5 days before air drying. This is most likely the reason for the cracking.
So glad you sold a bunch!
So sorry you have to move during the holidays! Good luck with the housing search. xoxo

Randy said...

Darn cracks! Sorry to hear it but I know future bears will be perfect. Sounds like it was a successful sale for everyone. I hope you've found a place and not far from where your at now. Oh and great news, I got an "A." Our grades came out today. Are you going to Canyon Road for Christmas Eve? We might be going to the Taos Pueblo but I will keep you posted.

Kate said...

What an interesting story about your experience with this latest endeavor, and although the cracks were painful, you obviously learned a great deal from your mistakes. Isn't that what learning is all about?! You will have lots to consider as you attempt to incorporate all that you learned this time around.

So sorry that you need to move again. Such a bother! I love your banner and cannot wait 'til we put out our own "luminarias"...nobody here has the foggiest idea of what a farolito is.

I hope that your holiday is happy, joyful, and serene. Stay well and keep us informed of your new artistic projects.

Miss all of you!!

Tammie Lee said...

it really does sound as though the sale was a success. how wonderful.
yes, fairs are tiring... the main component that does not make them tiring and gives us energy is when we make enough money to make it worth while.

loved considering your experience with cracking and glazes and your plans for next season.

your pots/bears are always a joy to see.

wishing you the best with your work and move.

Randy said...

Merry Christmas Becky! Are you going to be on Canyon Road? I will keep an eye out for you. We're supposed to get snow this afternoon.

Barb said...

Hi Becky, I've been thinking of you and came by to say Happy New Year. You've done so much creative work in 2012. May 2013 hold even more magic for you! I cross country skied today for the first time this season. It was cold but glorious - will go again tomorrow. Good Luck with your move.