One of this weekends 3 featured PortCityMud artists on the Miracle Mile in Stockton, CA. was Michael Cammak. He’s ceramic work is fun and light hearted despite the references to some of the world most infamous faces. Michael creates larger than life busts that are instantly recognizable for who they are despite the whimsy of his characterizations
The more I’m around this body of work, the more I appreciate his approach. I’ve been watching the reactions of the pedestrians as they walk past the windows. They drag their eyes along the glass looking at every one’s work out of the corner of their eyes as they pass by, but when they hit “The Heads of State” grouping they pass by… stop… and back pedal and get a good look at the heads. Never fails… They walk away smiling a crooked little smile.
I’m still working out why. We’ll definitely be taking this up later at the groups “philosophy” session at the neighborhood pub.
What do you say if the local gallery asks you to produce 250 bowls in 60 days?They’ll pay for the materials, the firing costs, provide floor space at their gallery to host a spring show, and even feed you at a fantastic gourmet soup feed surrounded by 250 local patrons of the arts.
I say “YES!”
Since 2002 I’ve been part of the stable of ceramicists that have helped contribute to this event. I’ve always looked forward to this event, being very happy to be just part of the background. It’s always been an amazing opportunity to explore and develop new ideas for surface designs and forms. It’s a project that’s never failed to propel me forward into a new year.
This year was something very new though… they asked me to recruit and organize the ceramic artists needed for this year’s event and I’ve found 10 amazing local ceramic artists to stand with me so far. With 27 days left, and over 200 plus pieces still in green ware, we’ll see how this all works out. You’ll be hearing more about this as the due date February 6th approaches.
Making a super simple slip starts with collecting up some of your trimming scraps from your current white bodied clay. You don’t really need much… 300 grams is a good single batch amount to play with for starters. Multiply that by whatever number you might have in mind to experiment with other oxides and stain mixes.
Here comes the fun part… my kids joyously referred to this particular chore as “let’s whack Daddy!” They volunteer for it every time and quite frankly, it’s got me rather nervous, but it’s got to be done so get whackn!
For this chore I use an old pair of blue jeans, (I know you were saving a pair for something like this). Just load up a leg with a manageable amount. You’ll figure out how much is enough pretty quick. Special note, if you pack it too full your crotch will pop… really messy.
Now grab your trusty small hand sledge and just lightly pound the hell out of it. Like I said, my kids think this is hilarious.
This is still pretty chunky, but it’ll work just fine.
At this point I feel I should point out another advantage of using crushed clay to make your mix… it’s a lot easier to get an accurate weight ratio of clay to colorant you’ll need.
I like strong colors, so I multiply the weight of my crushed clay by 5% to 10% to get the weight needed for my oxide colorant. Commercial stains seem to like the 10% to 15% ranges. It’s really up to you how strong you like your colors. This is where you get out those test tiles and experiment.
Slowly add your crushed clay and oxide mix to the water. Keep at it, slowly building up an island in the center. The island will subside below the waterline as it pulls water into the mix. Keep adding your crushed clay mix until it all in there. Kind of give the tub a small shake to collapse the island one last time, and let the mix slake overnight. In the morning, just pour off the excess water and stir well and “Voila!” A simple slip.
It’s been a fantastic week. It started with a late night bisque firing Sunday night and the rest of the week was spent glazing, firing, doing 2 more bronze pours, and I got in a lot of gardening. The bronze pours are going really well. We’re still tuning up the foundry layout and getting it outfitted for work flow and safety. The fun part is tiring to get a new crew of interested students drummed up.
I had 33 pieces go through the firing and I managed to not loose any pieces this time! Not only that, but everything came out fantastic! The optical effects of the GhostBlue and White Liner glazes is amazing on this kiln load.The neighborhood florist promptly confiscated 6 of the vases, 3 cups have already been pulled for gallery submissions, and the rest of the ware is either for the local Potters Guild fall sale next month or for posting on Etsy.
This is a quick view of how I trim the foot on a tall narrow necked vase.
To get the piece supported well enough to apply the pressure needed to make my cuts, I throw a thick walled trimming chuck to hold the inverted piece steady. I try to let the fresh chuck set up for a few hours before using it. When I’m ready, I simply invert the vase into the opening of the chuck, level and center the ware and start trimming.
The leather hard chucks are reusable. I simply leave it on it’s throwing bat and bag it up well to keep it at a leather hard state. I try to set-up my work schedule to make use of a fresh trimming chuck. I cut fresh stencils, gather supplies, and throw as much work as I can juggle to finish without loosing control, (not often easy with 2 kids).
Once I’m finally finished using a trimming chuck, it’s left to dry out and broken up and put in my bucket of clay scrap for recycling.