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My recently purchased 50mm (f/1/8) camera lens arrived last week.  A 28-135mm lens is my standard when taking images of work.  It gives me flexibility with the ability to shoot sharp details throughout the entire range.

The new lens is far less flexible; with a fixed focal length, it has a relatively short depth of field.  But, my thinking was that it would provide excellent images of larger work where actual viewing distance won’t allow the 28-135mm lens to capture the entire piece (yeah, I tell myself that all the time, “I should work smaller.”).

So then, I set up a little exercise to record my glaze process as a way to see what the lens would do (in spite of my incompetency).  I learned several things during my self-imposed drill.  Two of the most notable:

1. Don’t rely on the auto focus (AF).  I employed the AF and timer for most of the shots because my hands were otherwise occupied with glazing.

2. As if I hadn’t already realized, this exercise amplified the fact that my glaze process is tedious.

Apply a fairly thin layer of slip* over the drawn area.






With a sponge and water, wipe back the slip; leaving the color in the recesses of the drawing.





Cleaned up drawn image on bisque.


A quick dip over the drawn area in a glossy clear glaze.  Thin application.
(AF frustration!)





When the glaze can be handled without marring the newly applied glaze, dry foot (remove glaze) the bottom.  I also clean the clear glaze from the interior foot ring so I can apply a color glaze in there later in the process.




Carefully clean off the clear glaze with a sponge from all areas that will be glazed with a color later.








Wax to cover only the areas glazed with the clear glaze.





Go to lunch!
Need to wait at least two hours for the wax to set up.  Though, in the Arizona heat, it’s still a bit soft after two hours.  However, allowing for much more time would dry the moisture in the bisqueware; creating a whole new set of problems.


Dip the piece in the second, color glaze.  Quickly sponge any residual glaze off the waxed areas.






Dry foot (again).  This time, leave the glaze in the foot ring.






Lastly, clean up the edge of the color glaze where it meets the waxed area.





Ready to be loaded into the kiln!

*For all the purists out there: I use the terms ‘slip’ and ‘engobe’ interchangeably (The stuff in my throwing bucket…that would be slurry).

Mistaké Slip ^5-6  (pronounced: mis-tock-ee)
Yes, that actually says ‘mistake’.  The urban legend is that a grad student was trying to develop a stoney glaze and mistakenly created this slip.  The revised pronunciation was an attempt to provide some legitimacy and confuse the undergraduates.

EPK or Grolleg 50

Custer  25

Flint     25

add: Macaloid  3

~for mid-range (^1-4), substitute Nepheline Syenite for Custer.

This slip is compatible on bisque (for most clay bodies…test, test, test) when applied thinly.

This Is How the Work Gets Done, Charlie Peacock.

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say cheese!

baker, scoops

~baker and scoops

My first job was a little unconventional.  I was 15.  I was a dietary aide at a nursing home.  To clarify, ‘dietary aide’ is an administrative title for someone who makes sure residents arrive at the dining room on time, receive the appropriate meal as per their dietary restrictions, then cleans and prepares the dining area for the next meal.

As with any job, there are a few things requisite to the position that you wish someone had mentioned earlier.  You never discover this until you’re in the big middle of it.  For instance, no one told me I would spend a considerable amount of time tracking down misplaced personal items.

“Mr. Stevens, where are your teeth?”
“What, dear?”
“Mr. Stevens, whose teeth are in your mouth?”
“Sir, I don’t think those are your teeth.  Do you know where you put your teeth?”
“No, honey, I sure don’t.”

Sometimes I spent an inordinate amount of energy retrieving flatware.

“Mrs. Gaines, can I have the spoon?”
“Mrs. Gaines, we need to clean the spoon now that you’re finished eating.  Mrs. Gaines.  Mrs. Gaines, please don’t put the spoon…in…there.”

And, like clockwork,

“Mr. Hernandez, STOP!  Mr. Her…nan…dez, ahhh…I just finished cleaning the floor.”

The little things they don’t tell you during the interview.

berry bowls

~berry bowls

Similarly, there are a few necessities about making art that I wish someone had told me about earlier.  Like that whole taking photos of my work thing!  It’s not always addressed in the classroom setting – you’re busy creating.  All too often during school the taking of photos ends up being a hasty group project in an effort to get that show application in the mail before the deadline passes.  So much confusion in that situation!

When I graduated with my BFA, a friend and I took slides (yeah, I go way back) of my solo show.  The images were flat, the space inappropriate, the exposure and temperature way off.  What did I know?

When I applied for graduate school I knew I didn’t want to repeat the disaster I’d created from my BFA show.  So, I bit the bullet to hire someone to take the slides for me.  One of the best investments I’ve ever made.

blue platter

~blue platter

During graduate school I learned to take my own slides.  However, the learning curve magnified my frustration with the process exponentially.  So much so that I still took every opportunity to avoid taking slides.  In order to document my MFA exhibition as required by the university, I paid a photo grad, who’d won a travel grant, in film to take my slides.  They were beautiful!

All these years later, I still put off taking photos.  The fact that digital images are far more forgiving than slides does provide some level of comfort…or perhaps it’s financial security.  I have surely spent the equivilent of the boys’ college funds on horrible slides.

Though I have a working knowledge of the image taking process, I will admit that I don’t/haven’t taken photos of my functional work.  Until this week.  I’ve skirted that necessity for far too long.  They aren’t perfect.  I see much room for improvement.  Its a start.

vase and bottles

~vase and bottles

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common ground

Biennial Juried Ceramics Exhibition

Biennial Juried Ceramics Exhibition

The Biennial Juried Ceramics Exhibition closed last week, which provided an opportunity to take a mental health day.  Thursday we traveled to Flagstaff to pick up my art work.  Approaching the errand as a chance to escape the heat (it’s still hot here), see some fall color and do a little shopping.

This national exhibition was installed at the art museum on the campus of Northern Arizona University.  The exhibit included an impressive collection of work, making use of the museum’s large spaces.  Flagstaff Live, a local weekly arts publication printed a favorable article about the exhibition.  A successful show!

Flagstaff’s highs were in the 70’s that day.  The leaves were just starting to turn – in a week or so the trees will be awash in rich, warm hues.  Our shopping venture amounted to poking our noses into some of the local galleries in the historic downtown area along Route 66.


We stopped by the Shane Knight Gallery – the gallery of photographer Shane Knight.  Mr. Knight creates large format photography.  His images are of the southwestern/cowboy genre – not unheard of in the tourist stomps along this famous highway.

The artist’s large format images were impressive, his composition sound and his personality engaging.  We talked a bit about photo processes – a lopsided conversation; him a photographer and me, not so much.  Searching for a bit of common ground, I mentioned the work of my friend Neal Winter.  Neal’s images are beautiful.  Some of my favorites the product of a pin hole camera or his beloved Holga.  As much about the process as they are about the image.

Mr. Knight shared that he had a similar plastic camera – light leaks and all.  The excitement in his expression spilled over as he talked about the challenges of the tool and the beauty of the images created through the

There is where we found the shared experience of every artist.

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