Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Several Disappointments

Yesterday, I made what I call my bamboo pitcher. I used a 6.5 inch diameter piece of PVC pipe as a brace to hold up the sides till it hardened up a bit, which I thought was a 5.5 inch diameter piece of PVC pipe. As the teacher and students got to the class they said the vessel looked too large to function as a pitcher. I had picked the PVC pipe up out of a debris pile in our back yard thinking it was less than 6 inches in diameter and would shrink to less than that and be the right size after it was fired.

After I had the pitcher built I, too, noticed and had to agree, the pitcher was much larger than I expected. Rather than crumple the piece and start over I decided to use it as a plant holder. It's kind of comical really, this pitcher is 6.5 inches in diameter and about the same in height. It would weigh so much if it had liquid in it that the handle would surely pull off, don't you think? Well I'm not perfect, but I try.

So today I went to the studio with the intention of making another pitcher. I had the design all worked out on paper. This pitcher was going to be taller, more slender, just the right size, with just the right size handle, and everyone who saw it would agree it was just the perfect pitcher. I wasn't going to let the disappointment of yesterday's pitcher deter me from success. Oh, no!

Let me preface my arrival at the studio today with... Last week you may recall I made six matching tumblers. I dried them slowly and have been checking on them every day to be sure the drying was going along fine. Last night they seemed almost dry but the bottoms were still slightly damp. I didn't want to risk the bottoms pulling away or separating from the tops. So I decided to finally remove them from the bat last night and place them on the drying shelves (which are open on the bottom) but still keep the tops covered. So that's what I did. Here they are drying nicely.

Last night when I put my bamboo pitcher on the shelf I noticed the door was open to the studio and there was a pretty good breeze coming in right near the drying shelves (not the best designed ceramics studio) but didn't think anything about it. Today when I got to the studio, I uncovered the tumblers to find that five of the tumblers had large cracks up the sides, some on the seam but most on the opposite side of the seam, the side facing the breeze and doorway. Only one tumbler was intact - the one closest to the wall and furthest from the breeze coming from the door. What a great disappointment and loss. One of my toothpick holders also cracked opposite the seam.

I was so devastated at all the time and effort I had lost today, especially since I had dried the tumblers for over a week very slowly, I decided to leave without making anything today. I decided to construct my 'perfect' pitcher tomorrow. Several other things happened today before all this devastation at the studio, so the disappointment just got to be too much on top of everything else. I won't bore you with those details.

Oh, I almost forgot. On a more positive note, I love going to the beach and collecting driftwood and have amassed quite a bunch over the years which I keep saying I'll use some day. So the other day I decided to make a cylinder with a handle where I could place a piece of driftwood through as the portion to carry the cylinder with. Here's the cylinder drying with the side handles with holes in them ready to accept the driftwood after the piece is fired. This one hasn't cracked yet. It did show some signs of stress as it was on the same shelf, but I quickly moved it to a bat to another location and covered it well. Hopefully this one will survive.

Till next time.


  1. ohmygoodness I love the pitcher, but those poor tumblers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I know what it is like though, when something doesn't work I get really upset too

  3. I find that cracking really wierd. It's so extreme and all at the same place. I am wondering, do you remember if you tried manipulating the forms, say, trying to squeeze or press them into a rounder shape when the pots were leather hard? I have had pots crack on the rims before when I have done that, but never all the way down. What kind of clay is this?

  4. Bummer about the tumblers Linda! What did you use to join the seams - and I'm assuming that you're scoring the seams before joining? I'm having great luck with paper clay slip - very easy to make and it's like super glue!

    I like the design of your pitcher a lot - definitely worth repeating. I have some pots that could kill a person - heavier than all get out. I kept them for myself as a tool to help me assess how far I'm progressing.

  5. Hi Deborah, I was shocked when I removed the plastic off of the tumblers. I thought those cracks were really weird too. I know not to squeeze them especially when they are leather hard. I always handle them very gently once they are built - like they are the most fragile things - with kid gloves. I touch everyone's pieces like that when I am loading them till they come out of the glaze firing.

    But that is not to say someone else might have picked them up when I am not at the classroom to look at them or show them as an example. None of my other stuff has cracked like that - ever. I was so shocked and was already upset because of another reason when I got to the classroom. I threw them in the recycle machine - now I wish I would have saved them to look at them further - I still have the one left - I will see how it is today.

    The clay is Dave's Porcelain, which I got this time because Duncan's didn't have any Windsor porcelain - this clay must be really sensitive to a breeze is all I can think - unless someone squeezed them. I think I better go back to the Windsor Porcelain rather than this - it isn't worth the risk - I guess I will have to see how my bamboo pitcher does and my driftwood handle and the last tumbler to be sure. But if this clay is that sensitive I don't want to use it. Here is the link to Laguna who manufactures it -

    it says it is good for hand building - I think something happened to them when I wasn't there - that's all I can say - I will have to hide my pieces from now on.

    The tumblers were constructed kind of elliptical and not perfectly round - I wonder if someone thought they should be more round and tried to squeeze them to straighten them out - not knowing that they can't be changed at that point?

    They just started a bisque load and it wasn't full - I wonder if someone picked them up to check to see if they were dry enough to fit into the load after I left class that night? I had already helped to load the whole kiln, but there was a bit of room on the top shelf - and sometimes they obsess about getting a full load and try to push the envelope with stuff not completely dry. If they did and they cracked - they'd never admit it because they know I would be so pissed off.

    I'll be checking everything closely today - and report back,

    thanks for your input. I do want to know what the reason for the cracking is - if I can find it as I am trying to determine which type of clay to stick with - and the Windsor porcelain had the little brown specks in it - Oh I forgot I need to call Laguna about it and see if that is normal.

  6. Hi Cynthia, the cracks are on the opposite side of the seam like someone squeezed them - and pretty hard - only one had a crack on the seam and it also had the same huge crack on the opposite side. I just checked them yesterday when I moved them and they were perfect not even the slightest inkling of a crack. I left the classroom at 6 pm the day before yesterday and they were perfect and got back the next day at 3 pm and they were all like that except one at the back on the shelf.

    I'm leaving very soon to see what is what today

    I don't think some people realize how important this is to me - as the questioning and not knowing what has happened to a piece can significantly affect how future work is produced and which clays are used. If it isn't the clay's fault - then I don't want to attribute it to the clay.

    anyway - I am glad I posted this - even my husband, Gary, said last night - I need to have everything here so I'll have control over it - whether the cracking be from handling or the breeze - if the pieces are here I can control what happens to them and will know where I have gone wrong if that be the case.

    Yes, the seams are scored and I used paper clay slip on these as I didn't have any of this porcelain slip made up at the time. My seams never come apart - I don't even use snakes and have never had anything come apart even my first semester. I have a way of using this sculpting tool to blend the seams and it has worked for me all this time.

    Thanks so much. I'll report back here.

  7. The 6th tumbler is ok, it had a slight cracking and I put some slip on it and covered it up. I am not sure I like this Dave's porcelain, I may switch back to Bee Mix or Windsor Porcelain. Anyway I didn't make anything else today still recovering from my losses. Wasn't feeling well anyway.


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