Sunday, January 30, 2011


Once upon a time, in another life, I braved a world colder than my own.

Across a frozen sea the ice rose and the winds struck my little ship. For on the ocean, all ships are little, no matter their size. In the Antarctic fog, icebergs rose suddenly, as if from the imagination but I could hear the lure of the sea.

The ice groaned and snarled against the hold, the prow nosed forward and the greedy ice surrounded the ship. I turned to the horizon and the bleak sky, knowing I was lost. A night passed, but I did not sleep. When dawn came, there on the ice a pair of seals were watching me, perhaps puzzled at my peculiar ice-encased vessel. At first I wanted to be alone in my misery and I nearly shouted at them.

Instead I leaned over the railing and spoke to them. "Do you know a way out of here?"

They looked at me solemnly, but just at that moment, the ice gave a shattering crack and the ship rocked. I immediately put the ship about and sailed into the open water. When I looked back, the seals were gone. 

I put the ice far behind me, I put the northern stars into my sight. In time I entered another ice cloaked world, where my ship slowed among the treacherous waves. I was cautious though, watching only from afar the inhabitants of this land.

In the end it was the orca that found me lost at the edge of that northern place, and I followed her swift dorsal fin through storm and calm. Through many weeks she rarely left my bow, straight and true, better than any bearing, she kept me safe and so I came home at last.

The end.

On the same theme, I created an icy-cold treasury of my etsy team's ceramic art -

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Captain Wonderful and the Mischief in Me

I will now admit my enjoyment of thieves, scoundrels, rogues, ninjas and various other undesirables in literature and popular culture. I understand that maybe such a character is not to be admired or emulated and of course I don't emulate them but oh, what fun it is to imagine being one with shadows, or fooling the corrupt lawman or outwitting a cruel lord or master. I love the book Les Miserables for this reason - that the policeman doesn't win and the hero is a thief - albeit one that deserves our sympathy. I also enjoy folk heroes - the clever foxes, rabbits and coyotes of fables and, of course, the unforgettable Robin Hood.

I have often felt a bit outside the normal, as undesirable as a rogue, so maybe that is where my enjoyment of them comes from because I can identify. I also tend to be playful, I enjoy being clever and surprising people - which is what the best scoundrels do.  I'm not physically strong either, or powerful really - so it is from below, from the shadows that I can express myself - and if things go wrong, I can always run away and disappear. These archetypes influence my art, in furtive faces and sly smiles, in the figures of animals peering forward or the running rabbit who has heard the farmer's gun in the radish patch.

                                                        Jack of Oak - 10 inch porcelain bottle
I wanted to write about this because I took pictures of Captain Wonderful and Jack of Oak this morning. They both look so darned pleased with themselves! I think Captain Wonderful has accomplished an excellent heist. Jack of Oak looks well fed and confident, farmer and predators be damned!

                                                Captain Wonderful and his schemes

In online games I almost always find a way to play a roguish type  - I rarely play a type of character that is all "bang you're dead!" I like to be at a slight disadvantage - so the bottom of the heap wins, the dark horse crosses the line. Even if my chosen class or profession has ways to make themselves ridiculously powerful, I will often role play them and gimp myself - the assassin in Guild Wars has, on and off, been overpowered for game balance, but I usually stuck to my favorite builds and ignored the craziness that was Shadowform. My characters are the of the trope 'rogue with a heart of gold', I don't normally play evil or wicked characters - there's enough of that in the real world without infesting my fantasies with it!

                        My assassin character in Guild Wars enjoying a bit of darkness.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Clay Taster's Guide

While I am sculpting I tend to add a little moisture with my tongue, indeed, the best way to stick tiny details onto moist clay is to use a little saliva. So essentially I have tasted various clays with reactions from "this doesn't taste bad" to "omg why did I put this in my mouth after my nose warned me?" I occasionally get made fun of in classes for having 'porcelain lips' - I look like a science fiction film extra with anemia. So far I have not come to any harm and indeed clay is considered medicinal or necessary in many parts of the world, so I am merely carrying on a dietary tradition that humans have practiced since prehistoric times.

Then there are those extra credit clay tastings - work at a wheel in a classroom setting and sooner or later someone will spray you with liquid clay. My classmates always burst out laughing when the inevitable spray happens - more points for clay on the face or into the mouth. I think though if you splash a porcelain workspace with stoneware, you lose points.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Computer Guts

I was a bit daunted when I started this mini project, but so glad I tried. I don't absolutely need this machine, but it makes life easier having old Burninator thereat the ready (yes Burninator is the machine's name). So if this makes a reader less afraid to fix their computer (or anything else) I feel this post did a service!

I have a very nice gaming machine upstairs and an older PC downstairs that is for my studio - the shipping and photo editing machine. About a week ago, my studio machine started making an obnoxious "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" noise, even when I hadn't turned it on, but it was just plugged in. I sorta figured the machine was old but then yesterday I could no longer turn the machine on but the "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" was still happening and I could see the LED on the mother board, but nothing else was happening, not even fans. After some diagnostics and talking with my more hardware savvy friend Mina, it was figured out that the power supply was dying.

Right after I pulled the power supply out. Canned air, sharpie, tape, screwdriver and a swiffer duster were my tools.

So, I opened up the machine and pulled it out. I was not prepared, since I had read how 'simple and straight forward' changing a PSU is (for hardware nerds apparently). I understand that this how a computer gets its power but WTH! It's like techno-cthulu or something...lots of wires. I used a sharpie and tape to label the bits, so when I got the new PSU, I could maybe figure it out. Of course, I opened up the old PSU because I am curious. Hey! More wires! Dirt! Bulging, sick transistors! Oooo, I want that little fan for an art project (no Karen, you will not keep garbage).

The old power supply and fan - I've labelled all the wires that were connected.

So after I pulled that out, plus some crazy exhaust pipe thing - which the case doesn't need according to Mina's tests, it was only too apparent how filthy my case is - 5 years of dirt. It stank too and I instantly snotted up. I got my hepa filter out and turned it on as I blasted away with canned air. The worst dirty part was the face plate between the front and frame. Bleh, disgusting. Now mind you, I had cleaned this machine in the past - but apparently to get really clean, the case needs to be taken apart.

Horrible and dirty. It's better now.

I purchased the cheapest power supply - no wine and caviar for a 5yo machine, plus the guy at the computer store assured me the PSU I got is perfectly trustworthy. It was $32 with tax, not bad considering the cost of replacing a whole computer.

Everything wired up!

Wiring it wasn't that bad, glad that I labeled stuff - except I forgot to label one of the hard drive inputs so I kept wondering why when I tested the box I could not get the HD running. I also had a few loose connections that I slowly corrected as I plugged and unplugged the PSU in (the big 20 prong connector to the motherboard is REALLY stubborn, I was afraid I would break it), and then, suddenly, my machine was running. It was quieter than it has been in weeks! Turns out that the problem with the PSU had probably been going on for a long time, it just happened so gradually.

Sweet! It works. The label on the new power supply says NIFT, I think it's just nifty!

So that was my first experience delving into the guts of a PC. It was pretty fun and I didn't kill my PC, so successful!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Owl Has a Voice and It's Pompous

Some of the things I sculpt definitely have a character. Maybe not exactly like in the cartoon but there is a dialog between fingers, eyes and ideas. I think the reason I gave owl an attention demanding, pompous character is because I pretty much HAVE to make owls - they sell and it is good to have things that sell. So he has a high opinion of himself :)

Enjoy your sunday!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Five Stages of Glazing

Glazing, I don't hate it but typically it can be overwhelming once 100-200 pieces are needed to be finished at one time. It takes me a week or two to fill the kiln and bisque it and then I feel it is necessary to finish all the glazing in two or three days, even though I brush most of my glazes. I guess I should find that unreasonable but I like the thought of a finished glaze run so much that I start having HUGE expectations and I want those new pieces NOW NOW NOW.

Ever told you I am impatient? I am.

So, I took glazing and spoofed the five stages of grief, which you can read about on wiki right here if you wish!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Horses

I love sculpting horses. Maybe a bit more to do with their form than any remaining girlhood fascination with them. I love that they are repeating orbs of mass, those curves attract me, the expressive neck, the large eyes, they're so pretty. Well, okay there is still some girl in me, but I do love those curves!

I start them by making a hollow ovoid sphere for the chest and barrel of the body, then I add on another sphere for the rear end. The spheres are made by that most elementary of techniques - two pinchpots squished together. Then I add the head and neck.

Then, a coffee cup comes in handy. A grande hazelnut latte please:

I like paper cups because they can be cut to shape - cut down the bottom to make it shorter or cut the top to fit the barrel of the horse closely (I add a sheet of corrugated cardboard for more padding if needed). This allows me to safely add the legs. I take the piece off occasionally to make sure it stands evenly. After that, add on the details - face, mane, tail. Once the piece is leather hard, I punch holes in the spheres. One of the best parts is hearing the air rush out of the belly of the horse - it's started to shrink and the air is under pressure!

I let these pieces dry for 4-5 days and I soak the bisque kiln for 3-4 hours before starting the program when I have these pieces in there. Glazing them is fun - sometimes colorful, other times natural. I will admit my fondness for dun or grulla colored horses - I love paleolithic art and this particular horse has a stockiness about it that reminded me of a cave painting.

The other horse has a lick of deep blue glaze and a wild mane.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Self Portrait

A while back someone asked me for a picture of myself. I don't generally do self portraits. However, in the interests of curiosity, here I am posing with my Kore statue, one of those pieces that is MINE MINE MINE, or at least until I have a new favorite. Besides, she has a facial structure sort of like me :D Can't you see the resemblance?

Bird Watching Day

Simple drawing of the view from the bluff at Discovery Park in Seattle - Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the grayness of it in January. However, I did not go to Discovery today, I went to the Montlake Fill, which is a reclaimed garbage dump right next to the University of Washington. It is a natural area bounded on one side by the Center For Urban Horticulture that also has a nice garden to visit.

I went there to bird, and even though it was a very cold and windy day I saw some good species. My sole complaint about the place is that the ambient noise is high - airplanes, boats, barking dogs and just the ambient traffic from the surrounding roads can make it difficult to identify birds by hearing.

My list today - chickadee, song sparrow, oregon junco, scrub jay, flicker (heard only), anna's hummingbird (heard only), towhee, robin, white crowned sparrow, red tailed hawk, bald eagle, bufflehead, gadwall, greater scaup, green winged teal, american wigeon, northern shoveler, mallard, winter wren, bewick's wren, marsh wren, redwing blackbird (heard only), cormorant (spp unknown), canada goose and ruddy duck.

There were probably a few more species of waterfowl (usually my patience here is rewarded with wood ducks and mergansers), but the water was very choppy and the wind was driving things around. Not seeing a great blue heron was weird. Now of course I will say again RUDDY DUCK! The first one I have ever seen, just a single one located on the main pond among the northern shovelers. I saw it listed on the birder's kiosk at the start of the trail and figured I would not see it, since I rarely see the exciting things people list, but he was very cooperative, even if he was in his dull winter plumage. When I saw him I have to admit that I whispered "YES" and pumped my fist.

The wrens were another story. In Seattle it is normal to have bewick's wrens - they even used to be called "Seattle Wrens" before they got lumped with the bewicks. Winter wrens are more of a deep cover/forest species, so it was a surprise to see this tiny, fluffy dark guy tumble across the trail in front of me. Winter wrens act a bit like mice, always in heavy cover and undergrowth, so I call them mouse birds too. Marsh wrens - well to be expected on the edge of Lake Washington, but it was cool to get the wren trifecta all within an acre.

The bald eagle pair I saw were obviously courting, circling and flying low over the landscape - they're generally pretty lazy cruisers, so to see them interacting with each other was pretty neat. Good to see how healthy and shiny their plumage was, like they'd been to a good bird barber recently.

Anyhow, off to clean the studio. The kiln is at 900F and climbing, hopefully a kiln opening of finished pieces tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hunter and Hunted

I have a pair of resident Cooper's hawks right here in Seattle. They're incredibly successful and eat mostly other birds. They appeared about three years ago - one of my neighbors feeds the pigeons every morning and that flock used to be 30 strong and now it has about 10 really wily, easily scared pigeons. The hawks also eat crows, jays and even tiny cute warblers - the latter just seems a bit mean to me - they're hardly a morsel!

On the other hand, the hawks are genuinely gorgeous and they let me get pretty close. They seem to be a pair who don't care about humans.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Movie Madness

Took a little time today to film my process. Today I am mainly painting black details on my porcelain miniatures. I think the owl one turned out best so watch it here on youtube. I can't seem to get blogger to upload my video and I am eager to be off and cleaning up the house a bit.

Ancient Times

While browsing the net and reading about pottery techniques, I happened across a little votive figurine of an ancient Egyptian potter. The Egyptians had a sense of humor, I can imagine them having a little joke - and we know this from pottery shards! Artisans in villages that decorated the tombs of kings amused themselves by painting much more earthly things on the backs of broken shards - many of them wild party scenes. Also shards were put to more mundane uses - people kept track of household expenses, supplies and random complaints. Really, pottery shards were the post it note of their day.

Here's the little votive figure. That position looks so uncomfortable, no wonder he appears a little grumpy. The oldest wheels were hand turned, with kick wheels possibly being an innovation from India. The image is from an educational site that did not say where/when this piece came from, which is disappointing since I am curious how old it might be.

I also enjoyed reading about Khnum, who was a creator god in the Egyptian pantheon. He created babies on his potter's wheel and placed them into the womb. Apparently Khnum had back problems because he gets a nicer chair. He was ram headed, you can just make out the horns under the huge, fancy headdress.

This image is from wiki creative commons.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Studio Hazards

A bit of an exaggeration perhaps. I'm actually very careful where my extension cords wind up when I need them! However I am somewhat guilty of clayptomania.

Today it's Barbara Dunshee's class and the start of glazing. Hoping to do a time-lapse film of painting miniatures.

Ya'all have a good day now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Studio Pests...I mean Pets!

Yeah, one of my dogs did get glued to the floor when he decided to become a glaze mop. I had to help him peel off the floor and then hose him off outside. I don't have cats but there are so many good videos of the pottery wheel and packing peanuts with cat ornamentation.

Today I will be cleaning up my pots a bit and thinking about which glaze colors. Mainly though I am going to lie around and play some Lord of the Rings Online and go outside and pick up dog poop. My life of excitement goes on...