Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Murphy to Yhprum

Don't you love the internet. Robert Young replied in my last post in which I complained about so many things breaking around me that it was Murphy's Law. Well, today was a much better day. As a matter of fact it was the opposite of recent days. I turned a corner.

So, when I sat down to write today's blog post, first I googled "Murphy's law opposite." And I learned about Yhprum's Law: "Everything, that can work, will work." Or "Sometimes systems that should not work, work nevertheless." Yhprum is Murphy spelled backwards.

Ebb and Flow of Inspiration/Frustration

Inspiration comes and goes. Sometimes, a deadline can inspire lovely pots. Sometimes, it can inspire frustration. With my latest deadline - 75 two-piece foot-soaking bowls by the end of June - I seem to have created many opportunities to curse my circumstances while setting up my workshop and attempting to get into any kind of rhythm. Broken foot pedals, inoperative jigsaws, a malfunctioning pickup truck, two S-cracks, misplaced tools, broken down lawnmower....

I've got 14 bowls so far, 16 if you count the two that cracked. Part of my frustration is that I've had to set up a workspace in a building that I've been planning to renovate for years but haven't found the time. I built a tool shed so I could empty this space of my huge collection of boxes containing a mishmash of electrical, plumbing, construction and pottery related items and all those other things that I just can't seem to get rid of.

Yesterday, I was working on two wheels, finally getting into a rhythm, when my Laguna wheel spit out one of its rubber belts.

"Unbelievable," I thought to myself. "I'll have to order some more of those." And I just kept on throwing.

I'm feeling a shift in the tide. Things are flowing more freely from here on out.

Starting the top of bowl on the right
while bottom stiffens on the left

Finished parts drying

Finished bowls in differents stages of drying

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bowls are Keeping me Busy

What I've been referring to as "my future workshop" is now
my current workshop as I've begun production on "foot bowls."
Wedging table on right is one I made for Wild Rose Pottery.

Not many posts lately. I've been working on - GUESS WHAT? - foot-soaking bowls. Mary and I spent yesterday afternoon driving to Greensboro for some two-inch thick foam boards (4' by 8') to make bats out of. I don't actually throw on these bats. I use them to flip large pots onto. I'm making these bowls in two pieces. One piece is a large platter (the bottom of the bowl). One piece is a bottomless bowl of sorts. I have to flip the platter over to trim it, then flip it again to score and slip it, then flip it again, so that I (and one other person) can lift and place it on the top of the bottomless bowl. Once the two pieces are attached, I flip the whole thing over.

So, it's a lot of flipping of heavy pieces, and the foam lessens the weight. I have wondered about the possibility of actually throwing on the foam, but I haven't tried it. I don't think it's dense enough for that.

Anyways, we got two 4 x 8 pieces of foam, two 4 x 8 sheets of MDF or hardboard (for bats), four sets of metal shelving for the tool shed and one set for the workshop to hold the bowls. I've got to make 75 bowls by the end of June. Today, we ordered a new kiln to help fire the bowls. I bought a Skutt 1231 because of the extra height. I'm thinking it will allow me to stack the first bowl on a shelf just off the floor of the kiln and help keep that first bowl from being underfired.

We got the best price ($2,427 plus $193 shipping) from Bennett Pottery in Florida, and they also had the quickest turnaround time between ordering and getting the kiln. They said they should be able to ship it to me this Friday.

I've also ordered four Corelite shelves, full round, 26 inches, so I don't have to wad the bowls when spanning two half shelves.

Call me crazy, but I signed a contract to make 195 of these bowls by the end of August. Today I spent most of the day trimming four platters, putting the bowls together, trimming the top of the bowls at a specific angle, then touching them up with a cheap vegetable peeler.

I also started running again. It's been quite a few years, but I think it will help keep my body from falling apart while doing this order.

Tomorrow, I'll be making some more bowl pieces - after putting my new set of shelves together.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chelsea's Graduation and BFA Exhibition

My daughter, Chelsea Rose Mahan, graduated Saturday at University of North Carolina in Asheville with a BFA in Art and BA in Spanish (Distinction in Art, Distinction in Spanish, Distinction as a University Research Scholar, CUM LAUDE). That in and of itself was enough to put a lump in my throat as it was announced during commencement late Saturday morning after a fog lifted over Asheville and the sun began to beam down on the crowd of friends and relatives during the 2010 commencement.

But her Senior Exhibition in Highsmith Union Gallery on campus was incredible. It put smiles on the faces of everyone who came by to the opening reception Friday night, especially her parents. Her show remains open through May 25, 9-5 Monday through Friday. If you live near UNCA, go by and see it.

Nearly all the work is wood-fired and functional. Many of the pieces are altered.

I loved her stack of bowls, altered to nestle together like a flower. In her artist's statement she wrote: "The natural forms in this series are inspired by the patterns and interactions found in the rural environment such as the folding of petals of a flower or placement of twigs in a nest."

I loved her altered cups cradled together side by side in trays, kindling "a sense of family." My son Levi helped her set up the exhibition. They did a fantastic job.

Here's a few pictures of her exhibit (last picture is her artist's statement):

Thursday, May 13, 2010

First Foot-soaking Bowl Survives Firing

You've probably heard enough about foot-soaking bowls, but you're going to hear a lot more if I get this order. I'll be working nonstop for the next few months on the order if the client okays the first finished prototype. It's being mailed to New York this weekend or early next week. The bowl is 18 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches high at its highest point. Glaze is an Alberta slip glaze with cobalt. I sprayed the bowl green and loaded it into my electric kiln using wads to span two shelves.

I don't like the messiness of the white clay
showing on the foot. I sprayed this glaze and
the glaze stuck to the wax anyway, so I had to
wipe off the glaze and it didn't leave a clean line.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I pushed too hard today and loaded three foot-soaking bowls into my electric kiln, and later on, as I was pulling handles on some porcelain mugs, I ignored the first noise, but the next noise was followed by another, then another.

Pots were exploding in the kiln.

Bottom line: I hadn't dried out two of the bowls enough. The feet exploded.

I pushed too hard today.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Evolution of a Foot-Soaking Bowl

I thought I'd share the latest in the evolution of foot-soaking bowls at From the Ground Up. I'm now throwing the 18-inch wide, 8-inch high bowls in two pieces and joining them at the leather-hard stage. One concern I've had is making a strong joint, this connection being at the widest point of the bowl. I've placed coils on either side of the seam, but the outer coil causing the piece to bulge a bit there, so I decided to create a space for the coil to fit on the outside. It worked well, and I think I'll continue to use this method for the rest of the pieces, but that all depends on what happens during the firings.

Here's the finished top of the bowl,
actually upside down. Bottom will
be added later.

I used a sharp knife to cut a small groove
in the edge of the bowl.

Bottom of bowl (a large platter) added.

A close up of the join after adding the
bottom of the bowl.

After adding the coil, I smooth it into the
groove with a small roller.

Foot soaking bowl with wads to support
flipping over so I can add a coil inside.