Dabbling with plaster

So I took some time to try making something with plaster the first time, without any guidance. It’s kind of a disaster.

First I had no “feel” or when I have added enough plaster, so I stirred the plaster mixture too early. I didn’t realize I had to vaseline the base, and I probably poured the plaster twice. Then the school building closed for the day, so I could not work on it when it was still workable.

So when I got back to the plaster studio today I was surprised the thing was still wet. But of course I couldn’t do anything with it any more. If I use a scraper to dislodge it from the base, it just breaks, and weirdly enough the plaster seems to be in two layers.

Anyway, I could still do my experiment, so I took my ball tool and tried to poke some dots on the plaster, and the dots were not well-formed.

I really don’t know what to say now. It seems that I can’t really work on the mould as I originally planned, or maybe it’s just because I was not working it when it was still workable. So I suppose this calls for a second experiment—one where I would have enough time to try working the plaster when it was still workable.

In the meantime, my project now looks even less feasible than I thought.

The C-5 worked, but not the A-5 or the B-5

So I spent about 10 minutes testing the nibs I got a couple of weeks ago. The C-5 worked, but not the A-5 or the B-5. In fact neither the A-5 nor the B-5 even did anything.

It is possible to write relatively small with the C-5. In fact it is very difficult to write large.

Autopilot on, destination trainwreck

So the eagerly anticipated meeting happened. And during the meeting I became as confused as two months ago. And after the meeting I felt depressed.

Maybe depressed isn’t the right word, since I didn’t think of literally dying or killing myself. But I had stuff to finish and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just headed to the studio to calm down.

One hour into wedging I realized what I had gotten really was just a crit. It just meant there’s something wrong with my concept and I just needed to work on it. But that was the best I was able to put out after literally half a year of confusion. I strongly doubted I could put out anything better, especially if it’s going to likely involve another drastic shift in direction.

There were no pins. The bat shifted.

The coils didn’t work. The bat shifted.

The bat kept shifting and I couldn’t fix it. After what felt like eternity I just took out the bat, wrapped it in two layers of plastic, and put it aside. I’m going to get some screws from home and see if any will fit the holes.

I need to remember starting the day trying to throw anything complicated is a really bad idea.

Obviously, by the time I left it was almost 12. No more time left to think. Or write, for that matter.

On the train back home I checked my texts. “When is the first class?”


(Mug shot of 2013 11 06 A)

Yesterday was sort of an important day for me, since I got some of the affirmation that I so badly needed, while at the same time saw the importance of sticking to your gut feelings. And no, the one does not exclude the other.

The fact that I had only one piece of work left at the end of the day despite not feeling confident about what I had put out spoke volumes. The fact that there were people who chose my work despite having a huge selection of other works I felt were clearly better spoke volumes. And yes, it does take this for what some have been saying to even ring true.

(Of course, Robin later said she wouldn’t allow any bad work to be put out. So the result should not have been surprising at all, but I never knew until later.)

But I also keep worrying about that one piece that originally failed vetting, later put out for re-vetting by mistake, and eventually passed second vetting. That’s why you never put out work that you think is probably not ok, even if others say it’s ok.

The challenge, I guess, is to balance the two.

The question of how to glaze spoons

(Four bought porcelain spoons, two having obvious trivet marks on the bottom, and two obviously without any trivet or wire marks anywhere on the bottom.)

I have been wondering how I should glaze a spoon, and my first thought was to fire it on a wire. But today I took out the ceramic spoons I have at home to see how they might have been fired and I saw something unexpected.

Two of the spoons obviously have something resembling trivet marks on the bottom. (Whatever were used, however, were clearly not trivets since they clearly had more than three pins.) However, the other two spoons do not have any obvious trivet or wire marks at all; the bottom surfaces are in fact completely smooth. So my reaction right away was: How did they do it?

Both of the two spoons without trivet marks have a hole, so my hypothesis would be that these spoons have been fired by hanging them on a wire through the hole, and that’d be my guess of why there are no marks. So we’ll be looking at some sort of armature supporting a wire of some sort that can sustain kiln temperatures, and they would have to make sure the spoons won’t deform in the kiln.

It will probably take some testing to see if this hypothesis can be correct.

Studio back to normal

I went to the studio late today, and when I got there it was already 7, which of course meant there was little chance I would be able to work on my thesis, because I had to trim, and because it was supposed to be a plate and I am still figuring out plates, trimming would take a lot of time.

Which was exactly what happened: By the time I had trimmed the “plate” to something that looked like a deep dish, it was already 9:30 so I didn’t even have time to glaze my bisques, let alone work on my thesis.

But in any case, I was happy to find that all the big noisy machines were gone, and the studio is quiet again. There’s some chance of progress again.

Except that it’s probably already too late. I’m screwed.

I knew my techniques were not great, but I didn’t realize they were so bad

Robin did her demos for handles and surface decoration today. I knew my techniques were not great, but I didn’t realize they were so off the mark. I have been finding handles so hard probably because my techniques were so wrong.

So I guess I’ll need to try the new techniques. The two cone 6 pieces are ready for trimming, as well as one of the cone 04 pieces I did two days ago. Practice time, I guess.

Too bad I didn’t take a few pictures today; I should have kept some records of the two demos.

First thrown piece this semester written off

[crack on my first piece thrown this semester]

The first piece I threw has now been destroyed, after spotting two cracks on the inside this afternoon. I now have two almost-finished pieces destroyed for reclaiming, but since I have made so many more pieces this semester I still have almost half a dozen in the pipeline. I still have lots more opportunity to practice and try new stuff. And for what’s worth, it was a practice piece and I’ve already done a lot of experiments on it so it’s ok.

Anyway, this is the second time I destroyed a piece that’s already bone dry, and this time I was not going to just dump it in a bucket of water, so I actually tried spraying water on it and scratching it to let it absorb more water more quickly, and I suddenly realized these scratch marks actually look kind of good:

[scratch marks I made on the piece in the process of trying to destroy it]

I have no idea if anything scratched like this is still structurally sound or safe to fire, but I guess if I leave enough thickness for me to scratch it will be safe; this will be in the queue of things I’m going to try.

I have also accidentally deformed the first plate I successfully threw. It looks like it’s still in one piece though, so I’ll still fire it, if not just to practice glazing. But it looks like the next practice piece is going to be another plate.

First day at the wheel this semester… left me physically exhausted

I couldn’t really stay for Throwing Club today, but I managed to spend two hours after class at the studio to practice. Not having thrown for four months, I almost failed to even centre the clay. And when I tried to shape it it almost felt as if the clay had no plasticity.

So when the first blob of clay collapsed, I grabbed my second blob and, for the sake of making something to later practice trimming on, decided to pretend to be Ayumi Horie. And I eventually managed to make something that at least looked like a small handleless cup.

[Photo of second piece thrown on September 12, 2013 that managed to not collapse]

Of course, having tried this last Winter I know that if I have to pretend to be her it doesn’t really mean there’s anything wrong with the clay; it just means I’m no longer physically fit enough =P

Indeed, after the whole exercise I felt more tired than playing three hours of badminton. But the two hours at the studio did seem to calm me down tremendously. I think I’ll have to, whenever feasible, aim for heading to the studio first thing in the morning before I tackle the other, technically much more important stuff.

Spec, something that people in my program shouldn’t even be worrying about

Today is August 30, the last day for submitting an entry to a certain design competition, but I’m not going to submit anything.

Nor will I likely submit anything two months from now when the other competition closes — one that, if this means anything, I would probably not do well in any case but was still really excited about — in my eyes, it’s all about identity and EGD. And if you asked me, I was really disappointed when I found this other competition to be “equivalent to spec”: I was talking about my ideas with one of the docents at The Power Plant and neither of us thought there’s anything wrong with that competition.

I had dug through hundreds of discussion postings on spec-vs-no-spec before I had any connection to the AIGA, but I have always felt real contests — especially those that are clearly branded as student contests, one that you find on your art school’s job board even — had to be some kind of an it’s-still-ok-even-though-it’s-kind-of-grey area. But compared to AIGA’s pretty much advisory position, RGD’s position leaves little room for interpretation. In a sense, the RGD’s much stricter position forces you to think more, so it’s a good thing, I guess.

My program’s program director likes crowdsourcing, thinking it to be possibly a good way to get those pesky accessibility problems solved. But crowdsourcing in tech circles isn’t really the kind of taboo it is in the graphic design world. So who in my program will worry about spec? Probably very few.

In any case, September is coming, and I will be back in the ceramics studio very soon. If I’m fortunate enough to be able to log sufficient time to enable me to produce some decent work before I finish my thesis in what now appears to be May, then maybe — just maybe — I might be able to show my work in some less controversial venue.

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