Sunday 13th September, 10am-4pm
A large group of SPSA members and visitors came along to Jeff Mincham’s inspirational presentation. He began by talking about what it takes to be a contemporary ceramics practitioner. He pointed out that, in the art world, there are no rules to the ultimate goal of creating an enduring work of art. The artist is constantly experimenting with new processes, which leads to many failures, before an eventual success generates new possibilities. Ceramic artists need two distinct sets of knowledge and artistic abilities. First, that of creating an art work from clay, which then becomes the canvas for the second stage of decoration (e.g.: sculpting, carving, painting etc), glazing and firing, each requiring a separate distinct set of skills and artistic creativity.
Jeff demonstrated in a number of ways that we should challenge routine processes that are familiar to ceramic artists. First, a large bowl was turned on the wheel and then a “hanging” coil process was added to produce a large bowl. Second, a pinch pot item was placed on a hump on the wheel, to create several tea bowls. The third item, an elliptical coil bowl, demonstrated how different clays could be combined to enhance a piece. With some of his finished work on display and a presentation of images of exhibited pieces he talked at length about decoration choices such as carving, painting and glaze layers etc.
The lunch break gave us all the opportunity to exchange ideas and stories over the usual wonderful variety of food provided by members.
Many thanks to Jeff for his time and a fabulous presentation that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. by Bernadine Hardin.
- Sabbia Gallery – Artists – Jeff Mincham
- Jeff Mincham – Living Treasures Exhibition (Craft Australia)
- Living Treasures: Masters of Australian Craft (Craft Australia)
- Jeff MinchaM: ceraMics. Living Treasures: Masters of Australian Craft – [PDF]
- Book: Osborne, Margot (2009) Jeff Mincham: Ceramics. Living Treasures: masters of Australian craft . Craftsman House. isbn 0980354072, 9780980354072
Teapots with pencil, brush and Popstick
As all good demonstrators do, Anthony explained his techniques and their reasons as he worked, and also produced some pre-prepared bodies so that he could continue the processes without waiting for work to dry. Here we see him faceting the sides with a paddle to give the pot style and strength and below he also paddled the base to carry the style to the foot.Having used the unfinished spout to mark its position and gouged a circle of holes to mark the spot he used his popstick to break through and then also to smooth the edge of the hole, gradually enlarging it until the, now perforated, filter fitted snugly.No he didn’t use his pencil for the holes (!) but a custom-made hollowed metal gouge that had no doubt served the purpose for all his teapots over the years.The spout having hardened enough to be gripped firmly the popstick was again used to shape the profile to fit the pot around the hole and then also to gouge out the center to reveal the hole in the bottom end of the spout. On the right Anthony is securing the spout over its hole having prepared the surface with hatching and slip, smoothing it on with popstick and thumb. A close look will show that there are two spouts in the picture! Anthony believes in insurance!Now it was time for the handles, another idiosyncratic aspect of Anthony’s style, driven this time by his experience that large handles at the rear of the teapot are the first casualties and so he mounts them on top where they can’t be so easily knocked! But there’s more. Note how the front strap is offset to the left to accommodate a right handed pourer, and, you guessed, he puts them on the right for left handed users!
And now all that remains is the lid and lid(s) get thrown off the remnants of the hump, again using the popstick as the shaping tool. This was of course thrown after the body was removed (sounds creepy doesn’t it!) and set out to dry until ready for a trial fitting. Here we see Anthony at the table demonstrating this final stage to the group but he was at pains to point out that “in the real world” he would leave it slightly oversize and, after bisque firing, grind it down to fit more tightly than it would otherwise.
And so, although it was after 4.00pm, we of course made tea in one of the many pots and ate the cakes we had taken along, celebrating a most inspiring and enjoyable day. Thank you Anthony and a special thanks for donating your time to mount this workshop for Studio Potters.
HEAD, HART, HAND
Decorating on Clay
By Philip Hart
At 9.30am on 25th March, a cool and bright Sunday morning, we found that Phil had already set up and made himself “at home” having dusted off our antique kick wheel which had been hiding “in plain sight” in a corner of the Club Room for yonks. Also set up was his Gnome slide projector, straight out of the TV documentary “The Collectors”. Both early indications that Phil never throws anything away if he can utilise it, of which we were to see more!
Shortly after 10.00am Phil kicked off our first workshop for 2012 with a tip for making your own cutting wire. Securing an end of a length of fine fishing line to the centre of the wheel head with a lump of clay, he held the other end aloft and rapidly spun the wheel until he had enough twists in the line. He then held it by the centre and brought the high end to the low end and, on release from the clay anchor; the two strands twisted themselves together. All that remained was to attach handles to each new end and, Pug Mill “Eat your heart out”! Other tips he shared were his “vent less” bat doughnut and the soft chuck he threw on the kick wheel to accommodate, without tress, different sized rims of pots inverted for turning.
Then, using his “clock spring” tool, he rapidly turned feet on some pre-thrown bowls, all the time keeping up a patter of anecdotes ranging from the superiority for turning of clock springs, “scarce as hen’s teeth”, to his activities as a “house husband” which allows him to be a gentleman potter, freed from the pressures of the production potting that he did in earlier years.
Turning to his advertised topic, Phil showed us why the kick wheel, with it’s gentle, controlled action and extra height, was better for the slow inscribing of patterns into the leather hard clay. He brought the pots up to eye level with various; ready to hand “platforms”, that sometimes seemed precarious but nothing fell over!
Having completed the carving (difficult to show in a photo), layers of slip were applied and left to dry while other, smaller pots, are treated to patterns made with liquid wax. Note the drying pot is also a plinth!
Most people took a short break for Morning Tea and biscuits but Phil continues applying slip and sipping occasionally from his rapidly cooling coffee.
You see him here painting lighter slip into grooves to provide contrasts in the final pattern, all the time keeping up his explanation of his actions and tips about his techniques and occasionally calling for help with jokes from the audience!
After a BYO Lunch around 1.30pm, when Phil did stop and join us for a bite and some informal chat, he proposed his slide show and commentary while the slip and wax dried in preparation for the next stages.
The Gnome projector (left) was not without old-fashioned charm and worked well with the magazine shown but when it came to the next batch of slides in the spare it balked! After a few anxious moments Phil swapped the new slides into the “good” magazine and we were off again through Phil’s entertaining tale of his beginnings to the present via various styles of pots and decoration. He has now vowed to convert his slides to digital!
Although he advised that this final stage be left a bit longer to avoid the risk of “accidents” while scraping back, he had to press on as we were running out of time.
Here you see him with either a metal kidney or his other favourite makeshift tool, the credit card – preferably out of date and cancelled! While he used both, he preferred the card for its flexibility and “softer” touch allowing him more comfortably to remove only what he wanted. Having finished this pot (not shown here – there was scraping still to go) Phil had the smaller wax resist pots to clean up, very carefully with a sponge, and, while they didn’t have the impact of the carved design, they had a subtle appeal all of their own. And so, with decorating at an end, we gave him a standing ovation to which he responded with an encore in the shape of a handle-pulling demo! As he explained, while expertly “milking” his lump of clay, this was a skill he had learned in production potting days when he just made handles for other potters’ pots.
Handles can be fixed to the pots in two ways. Phil is here showing the one that is most secure by which he means that when you knock it, the handle breaks but both ends stay attached!
And so a most enjoyable and informative day came to an end. All agreed that Phil’s relaxed style and informal, yet action and information packed program, added up to a great social and learning combination.
Paul Mac’s Gas firing for Reduction Workshops
Sat Oct 8th; 15th and 22nd
In spite of the fact that the workshops ran from 1.00 till 4.00 in the afternoon, 8 keen participants were gathered around the gas kiln at 9.00am on Sat the 15th eagerly awaiting Paul’s demonstration of loading and firing the fiery monster. In the first week we had been to “school” (in the Clubrooms) where Paul had illustrated with blackboard diagrams the internal architecture of the kiln and pathways the draught and the flames would take. We also saw graphs demonstrating the “magic” of eutectics in the heating and cooling process that reduction would take advantage of.
Now we watched and took photos as Paul carefully loaded our pots and explained why he staggered the levels and placed small and large pieces strategically to ensure the flame flowed around all the ware before escaping up the flu.
Notice the cones placed both at the top and the bottom. There were also others at the back and they all bent the same! Indicating that the heat was distributed evenly throughout the kiln. But we are jumping ahead! The door was closed and the pilot jets, first one side and then the other, were coaxed into producing the right flame to gently heat the space and the flu so that a draught was created. As soon as the pilots were turned up to full, the all-important firing record was begun. Every adjustment to burners and the damper as well as temperature increase and atmosphere changes were accurately recorded in the Kiln Log for as Paul says repeatedly, “You can’t replicate a firing without accurate and detailed records”.
As soon as steam ceased coming off, the main burners were lit, first the rear and then later the front. These were turned up slowly and progressively and we watched the temperature rise and listened to the kiln as it started to “work”. At 960 degrees Paul turned both burners on to full and eased the damper in 2.5cm. Then he eased out the top spy-hole bung (with gloves on!) and flame licked out searching hungrily for oxygen! We were in REDUCTION!
This was the time for waiting, watching the pyro carefully; and looking quickly though the spy-holes for changes in the atmosphere as well as keeping an eye on the cones. Paul eased the damper out at 1224 degrees thereby ending the reduction as cones 8 and 9 were bending. At 1253 with cone 10 down Paul started the cooling process. This was at 7.50pm and he cooled the kiln for an hour before turning all burners off and going home! We had all gone at 4.00pm, the official end time for the workshop, though we had been there since 9.00am. But then so had Paul! And so ended Week two and firing stage one.
At 1.00pm the following Saturday we were all there, waiting with baited breath for the unveiling, the “moment of truth”! You mean no one took a peak during the week? What! Us? Never! So it was a pleasant surprise for us all when Paul took off the latches and swung open the door. But, we weren’t allowed to touch yet! Paul was so excited that he had to emphasize again that it was “All about the cooling!” And we were very impressed – but we did so want to get hold of those pots! Then, because we had been very good boy and girls, the unloading and the post-mortem began.
Here we have a shot taken so that, comparing it with the similar shot, (No. 2 on page 1) we have a “before and after” look and changes can be easily seen. Each pot was carefully removed and passed to its owner and Paul described what had happened to it and made suggestions about the suitability of the glaze for reduction and ideas for next time. And we all admired each other’s work as all good potters do. Eventually we returned to the “school room” and Paul got us to look at our glazing under a powerful microscope that revealed the beginnings of colour changes, which he explained in terms of the physics of eutectics and chemistry. Here he is seen demonstrating a computer program designed to take the hard work out of designing and mixing your own glazes for reduction, from scratch.
And so ended a mind blowing series of workshops in which theory and practice were combined such that one supported and informed the other and left you with the satisfaction of knowing that, not only did you now know how to do it, but also why you did.
Thank you Paul. You are a born teacher though it wouldn’t have paid as well as your real job.