Friday, November 18, 2011

Near Catastrophe

If you ever see a ceramic form and think it looks easy to make, think again. Sometimes that's true but other times it's far from the truth. Gazing at this bucket serenely sitting in the drying cabinet you'd never guess a near catastrophe was narrowly avoided today. It was touch and go for what seemed like hours. So much concentrated energy and adrenaline was released into the atmosphere the studio shall remain vacated until tomorrow.

It all began with my desire to make another bucket form much wider than yesterday's piece. I had saved one of those big generic oatmeal containers which I thought would be a perfect form to use for my design. I've used various cardboard forms in the past with great success. I just spray a little WD40 on the surface and place the clay up against the form. When I have the form constructed I just slide the cardboard out and my piece is ready to dry. I usually slide the form out before I put the bottom on but for some reason I didn't do that this time. Woe is me, as you'll see.

All was going so well, I had each piece constructed so well. They were measured and cut, dried to slightly firm, textured and scored, slipped and attached beautifully. Then came time to pull out the cardboard form before the clay had a chance to dry and shrink. I pulled and pulled and pulled and the form wouldn't budge.

I thought the bottom was creating a suction so I tried to pull the bottom off and it wouldn't budge. A tribute to my improved attaching skill (I thought, Ha). I was so frustrated. All that work for hours would quickly be for naught if I couldn't get the form out. The clay was shrinking and the piece would soon burst at the seams or scored sections.

I started cutting the cardboard form with my scissors and then the scissors broke. I ran and got flower clippers and cut and cut at the cardboard form inside the bucket. It wasn't easy. My hands barely fit inside and I was trying to work quickly without making a total mess of the piece. Add to that the side attachments were sticking up in the air without any support. Those will hold the future driftwood or bamboo handle illustrated by the dowel.

Clip, clip, clip, then rip, rip, rip I went, removing the cardboard a small piece at a time. I felt like giving up and just crushing the form but I kept persisting, fighting against time and the terrific suction the cardboard had formed with the clay. Finally as I got near the bottom I felt the cardboard form give a little and then I inched what remained of it up and out a little at a time.

I looked inside and saw there was an indentation where the bottom of the form had been. A ridge in the bottom of the form had embedded itself into the bottom of the clay. Just as I suspected the form had created a suction with the bottom of the piece. When I turned the form over I saw there wasn't any plastic coating like the rest of the form and that's what had created such a terrific suction to prevent the form from releasing. I made this same style of form years ago which is shown in the photo below. (Sorry about the quality of the photo, it's the only one I have of this piece long since gone to a new home).

I have no idea if this new pieces will make it through the firing. The scored sections did almost split. As you can see in the first photo I added slip in those sections. The piece is well worn even before it's bisque firing due to the gyrations of the past hour or so. Hopefully it will turn out at least palatable. All in a day's work I guess. Easy for me to say now that the piece is happily sitting in the drying cabinet. I'll have to post photos of the fish market tomorrow, I've done enough damage for today. This post is part of show and tell Saturday for Artists in Blogland. Thanks for reading and for all your comments.


  1. Hello Linda:
    Never for a moment do we consider making any of the ceramic pieces easy. Indeed, we should not even know where to begin. As for making a bucket, well splitting the atom would be in the same league for us!

    Yes, after all that angst, better to take a calming walk somewhere completely different. Where better than the fish market?

  2. After all that you have the right idea. Step away from the studio!

    I've never thought of using WD40 as a mold release. I always wrap the piece in newspaper and pull the form leaving the paper behind to act as support. Your way sounds much easier! Toes crossed that it fires well!

  3. Hi Jane and Lance, thanks, yes something calming to calm the nerves. Ha.

    Hi Smartcat, thanks, I do hope it makes it through the firing. PVC pipe in different sizes works great with the WD40 or pam if you don't like the smell of WD40. I usually spray the WD40 om a paper towel over the trashcan and then wipe the papertowel over the mold on all sides. When the pieces hardens up a bit I slide it right off. But I didn't have a big enough diameter piece of PVC which I left at my last place because I didn't have room to move it so I used the oatmeal container. I learned using the paper as a release, but I find the oil works much better and is easier and quicker to use. We shall see about this piece.

  4. Wow Linda! You have great patience! Hope it holds together. I'd like to see it finished.

  5. Your narrative gives me an even greater appreciation for the artistic process and the possibility of mishaps. Hope the firing turns out okay.

    Many thanks for your thoughtful comments on my roofing photos. There are too many victims of our sluggish economy and what appears to be wrong-minded values. I send you and your husband good wishes for better times ahead!!

  6. I have enjoyed looking at your work. I came to visit your blog after reading your comments on Kates. Hope things start looking up soon.
    Best wishes John.

  7. It's been one of those weeks Linda! sorry you had to 'suffer too'. It's always worth it in the end though, if it was all easy it wouldn't feel as satisfying.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  8. Wow, what perserverance. Sure hope it survives and thrives. If nothing else, it was a learning process.

  9. I wonder if you had left the cardboard in there if the clay would have wet the paper enough to get it out later or if you could have just left it in there and burned it out in the kiln firing? I know as the clay shrinks there is a possibility of splitting the seams but since it's cardboard would it give enough so that might not happen. I haven't tried this, just thinking out loud. I used to do a lot of forms around pringles cans and remember having them stuck inside so I just fired them with the can in there. I didn't have any problems but the form wasn't as large as an oatmeal can. Hmmm, I wonder??? There's always a problem to solve isn't there :)

  10. Adorei teu trabalho!! Lindo!!


  11. How stressful for you (and us pulling for you). Go take a cup of tea and put your feet up.

  12. Hi Barbara, thanks, I just hate to make something and then have to crush it, we shall see.

    Hi Kate, thanks for your well wishes, yes clay has it's challenges which is what keeps me coming back again and again. Ha.

    Hi John, thanks for your well wishes, I think age discrimination has something to do with not getting a job too unfortunately.

    Hi Scott, thanks, yes you are probably right if it was too easy it wouldn't be a challenge.

    Hi Patti, thanks yes a learning experience to check the forms I am using especially their bottoms. Ha.

    Hi Tracey, thanks, the clay was shrinking around the form and the scored sections were starting to split so the form couldn't be left in. Also the edge of the form had hard plastic so that was remaining rigid and not letting the clay shrink. Also the oatmeal form had a plastic type of paper coating on the outside. I don't think I would want to fire plastic in my kiln. I am surprised the pringle cans didn't cause your forms to split, but maybe they were just cardboard and the cardboard softened with the wetness of the clay and allowed it to shrink too. I am amazed your forms didn't split open before you fired them.

  13. Ma Ferreira says:

    I love your work! Beautiful!


    Hi Ma Ferreira, thanks, hope it all turns out thanks for your well wishes.

  14. Hi Lori, thanks, yes stressful when I put all that work into the piece and was in the home stretch so to speak, and then something happening, but as Patti said, I learned, I'll never put the bottom on a piece before I pull out the form I am using. Ha. Next week I might go by a plumbing supply and see if I can get some cutoffs of some large PVC pieces, they really do work well as the WD40 allows the clay piece to just slip right off and they are easy to clean and last eons. In California I had a bunch of different sizes of them I wish I had brought them with me, but didn't have the room.

  15. Wow, what a day! Good luck with the firing and have a great weekend!

  16. Hi Marguerite, thanks, you have a good weekend too, I am sure you will with all your good cooking and dancing the night away. Ha.

  17. So glad you were able to salvage this really cool form. How frustrating thst must have been. Hope it fires beautifully and you see it's grace in the end. xox Corrine

  18. You are very patient and persistent person...beautifully done! Your work is amazing!

  19. Wow... Loved hearing about the process... Anyhow you persevered. It looks like it was well worth the effort!

  20. It's worth the effort, indeed. Your pieces are amazing!

  21. Ceramics were my weakest subject at college and so any time anything turned out I was amazed... your post bought back many memories of the frustrations of clay... great result in the end though xx

  22. Great bucket! I find ceramics very fragile and not at all easy to make. I don't do this craft but I know of people who do and it sounds to me to be pure luck to get the product out of the oven the way you wanted it to. :)

  23. Hi Corrine, thanks, so far it seems to be drying well, but the bisque will tell the story, in a week or so.

    Hi Joni, thanks, or I might be obstinant, Ha. I am persistent, but not so patient with other things.

    Hi Molly Girl, thanks, normally the process isn't like this, but I hate to admit I can't do it or that I failed so I kept going.

    Hi Black Pumpkin, thanks so much, hopefully they'll look good after firing.

    Hi Tracey, thanks, I think that's why I like the clay, it is the challenge of it all and then the occasional success. Ha.

    Hi NatashaMay, thanks, sometimes the clay seems so easy and then other times so difficult, the challenge keeps me going along the way.


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