Hello and welcome to the Burnish Clay Studio Blog. This week, there is not a ton to report on, except that the AtmosQueer firing was a smashing success by all accounts, and the Bridge the Gap is well underway. Remember to label your boards, (which should be in the "Bridge the Gap" racks), with BTG and your name, so that they aren't emptied and cleaned when the time comes to do that on July 3rd.
Are you getting the newsletter? If not you can sign up here at the bottom of the page. Below is the bit of good news that just came to us newsletter subscribers, which is a wonderful and rare development, as most of the spots in classes usually fill up within minutes.
Spring Students and Members: Since we have found that people come in less often during the sunnier spring & summer months, we feel we can add to the total number of people in the studio and still keep up with the reclaim and the kiln volumes. Given this, we have added a Sunday wheel class to the line-up, and there are 2 spots in the Saturday morning class too - both classes are 10-12:30 AM and start the weekend after 4th of July.
I offered it first to the people who had previously signed up for the Summer class raffle, but it did not fully fill. Before I go through the many steps that would be necessary to post this class via Social Media or to the main mailing list, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to have any friends or family that have been wanting to take a class the opportunity to register. You are welcome to forward this email to any and all of your contacts that have been asking how to get in for a class. I do not know how quickly these spots will fill since so many people have fun summer sunshine plans, but I would not wait if it is something people want to try. If it doesn’t fill by Thursday, then I will post it on the socials.
A few important points:
Critique Club on Tuesday
The title pretty much says it all. Tuesday the 27th is the next critique club, which will take place at 6 pm. Feel free to bring a drink and a snack to share if you are so inclined, but it is not mandatory to do so. For this type of critique, there are some things to keep in mind.
How to Fix Anything in Three Steps
A few weeks ago I was in the studio, fixing a potter’s wheel with Finley. As I was pulling things apart to get a good look inside the workings of this particular Laguna Pacifica potter’s wheel, a potter who also works in the studio approached me with glee, explaining to me how my supervisor advised that she talk to me about fixing her wheel. She described a rumbling sound it made every time she pushed down on it.
I envisioned making the trek to her home studio, opening up her wheel, and finding something quite simple to fix. In this moment, I realized she herself could do this repair, so I suggested that to her. She expressed doubt. Repeatedly. She gave me many reasons why she could not. She fully doubted her abilities in this matter. Then, in exasperation, I explained the first of three steps in Knowing How to Fix Anything.
2. Don't wait for permission to solve your own problems, be they mechanical, culinary, or emotional.
The interwebs is full of “how-to” videos and PDFs describing all manner of ways to fix an astounding variety of problems. As my father used to say to me, “you don’t own anything you can’t fix yourself.” He said this to me in the eighties, around his suspicion of the growing throw-away culture he saw with the rise of mega-consumerism, but nonetheless, it’s relevant to this topic.
As she was explaining how she managed to fix her potter’s wheel, (with a cosmetic sponge, as you can see in the image above), she was telling me how she had figured it out for herself, using equipment that she used for other applications, though not the original intended use, which is why she thought of it in the first place. This, as you might have guessed, brings me to number three.
3. You have all the tools you need to figure out almost any problem that comes up, you just need to start. Once you start, you will see your way through.
These three steps are equally challenging, as we have grown up in a culture which has made cheap equipment easy to throw away and replace. Additionally, we are still lumbering under the weight of outdated Victorian era hoo-ha rooted in the belief that women are unable to do anything for themselves. Lucky for me, my father grew up during The Depression, when the options were limited to two; fix your stuff or go without. He infused this DIY approach within me while I was still in single digits, and this advice has taken me through many a sticky situation.
The good news/bad news is that even cheaply made things are getting so expensive that throwing away equipment in favor of replacing it with another cheaply made item has actually become financially prohibitive for most of us.
Yes, there is an upside to inflation and the narrowing middle class- learning that you can solve many of your own problems you once could afford to throw money at.
What a time to be alive!
Tip of the Week!
Even though the above article is a tip on how to approach any broken/malfunctioning equipment with confidence, we here at The Burnish Blog have decided that one can never have too many tips.
Patience. More than almost anything else, working with clay teaches you patience. The particular type of patience I am writing about today is the kind required to manage the emotional atrocity that is bisque ware.
So there you are, making something wonderful out of this living, reactive, wonderful clay stuff. The process charms you. The interaction draws you in and you are one with the clay. You put your work on the greenware shelf for firing when you are satisfied with your efforts, and wait. Your excitement over what you have made is palpable. Your ideas for surface design and glazing dance in your head at night, keeping you up with delusions of grandeur. Then, one day, a day like any other, you spot your piece, and it's...dead. It is pink, or even more horrifying, salmon. You soul sputters. Your heart mourns the death of what once was. Your mind questions how you ever thought the work you put into the kiln could be this strange and hollow object. All seems to be quite lost. But you move on...though slowly. You run through the ideas you had in mind for glazing and all feel shallow. You hold your piece, now much lighter, and stare at the glaze sample board. You walk over to the glazing wheel and consider spinning it. You walk back to the glaze board. Finally, you choose to dip your piece in a couple of glazes then lightly brush it with copper oxide. You wipe the bottom clean, then you put your piece, that thing you once cherished, on the glaze ware shelves in the kiln yard, and you leave, quietly hopeful and cautiously optimistic.
This is something we all go through, as people who love working with clay. This horrifying stasis zone where the living things we create die, and wait for us to bring them back to life with surface decoration. Through this process, after going through it many, many times, we learn a particular kind of patience. It is the patience of the hero, the patience of the snake charmer, the patience of the small but mighty who understand that there is still some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.
I am guilty of it too. My bisque ware sometimes sits on my shelves for months, waiting to be brought back to life. But this is the work we must do, those of us who have the fortitude to work with clay. We know, through practice, that while it is an arduous and chilling journey, on the other side of bisque ware lies glory. So be patient. Believe. Do not hesitate to be bold when contemplating your bisque. Put yourself into that dead object and bring that thing back to life and into the glorious future.
Resources for Artists
So you want to get your work into more places? A couple things to think about:
Good luck and have a great week.