Kiln loading !

There is an art to loading a kiln.  When you’re a sculptural artist everything has a different shape so it starts to be like a three dimensional puzzle. My profits depend on how much I can squeeze into a run, space is precious and it influences how much I charge for each piece – tall pieces are the most expensive because they limit everything else I can fire, small pieces I can fit in between the big pieces make nice promotional pieces to send along with my packages or $5 snap purchases at a market table to be enjoyed by kids, do it yourself jewelry makers or the thrifty.

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So you use the large pieces to lay out how you will use the shelf. This kiln only has 18 inch shelves and as you can see I really cram everything I can, but there are gaps –

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Which in this case I filled in with some small beads. I lifted each bowl and surrounded the base with beads, lowered the piece and used a pencil to adjust the beads not to touch the bowl. This takes time, but again space is a premium with such a small kiln, the goal is to have about $2k of goods in each run. The rest of the time I fill in with miniatures but this load is entirely stoneware. On the next shelf I had some of my pajama animals which are top heavy. So in this case I space them a bit because it’s hard to balance them, this is a big reason I charge $20 for these guys, they take as much room as a trinket bowl even though they take less time to make than a bowl.

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And if I don’t give them room, they can act like dominoes and instead of one ruined piece I could lose a half dozen, notice too that I face them away from the bigger more expensive sheep figurines so that they will fall away from them. Not that I expect them to fall… but they can and it pays to be mindful when loading a kiln. The kiln has two more very full shelves after this, and I will hopefully have a kiln opening entry here!

A Day at the Office

I now know our ink refilling color and black and white printer inside out. Its nozzles dry out if you leave the printer alone too long (yes it appears we have the most social of printers on our hands!) and I had to introduce myself to the concept of a printer having cleaning programs and maintenance printing. It was all quite odd. The reason for my crash course is because I had orders from my etsy shop and I needed to print shipping labels. I ended up with 11 boxes containing many little sculptures! Thank you!

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So I didn’t finish with shipping until 9pm due to learning new stuff and wanting to wrap up all my pieces carefully and treat everyone to a pendant or two. After that I went to go burrow through my stock and was delighted to find a variety of pieces I had forgotten about like this stash of handsome trinket bowls:

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And this pretty impressive pile of items that I amassed while going through boxes:

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There’s everything on that tray from tiles to miniatures to beads, pendants and a puffer fish vase! I’ll get to listing them over the next few days, there’s literally hundreds of items. I will likely not list everything or I’ll do in a multi-listing on etsy so I only get charged per sale rather than for individual items. If you spy anything there that you just want to see, drop me a line here or on etsy or if you’re on facebook that’s fine too!

I hope everyone is staying safe and well and I am really thankful for the sales I have had this week!

 

Wednesday Tutorial, Sculpting a mini fox

Start with a piece of clay, any kind of clay – fimo, plasticine, porcelain, terracotta or fine grained stoneware (too much grog will make it look like it has mumps at this scale). A ball about and inch and a quarter in diameter should suffice. You’ll need a dowel about as wide as a pencil (a pencil eraser end will suffice) and a needle tool (the tip of a pen or pencil will do). Split your ball of clay in half and put one half aside, roll your remaining clay into a blunt cone like this:

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To make the head, take your set aside clay and take 2/3 of it, setting 1/3 aside for the tail.  Roll the larger piece into a ball and use the dowel end to put a dimple on one side, this will be where the head connects to the body. Use a drop of water or slip to attach, or careful pressure with other media to attach the head.

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Gently holding the body so you don’t distort it, use your fingers to shape the head into a v-shape, you want to have plenty of clay on either side of the nose since you will use this clay to pull up the ears.

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Gently push in the clay a little bit at the top of the head so you have plenty of clay to make the ears, then pull up the clay to make the ears.

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Now use the needle tool to give the ear some depth and to poke in two little eyes. You can get a lot of character at this point, you can further use your fingers to make bigger ears, or push the ears further together to create a surprised expression or apart and to the side to make a bashful fox. You can sweep the very tip of the needle tool side to side to make a blinking or winking fox or make U shapes to indicate a sleepy fox. Also experiment with making the eyes closer or farther apart to see what that does.

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Now let’s get back to the body. Note that you can do as much or as few of the body steps as you want. You can go straight to adding the tail and let the glaze or paint do the rest! To add the haunches face the fox to you and squeeze in your thumb nails on either side to create them, pushing a little to make them look a little plumper, you can use the needle tool to sharpen the details if you want.

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To create the front legs, use your thumb nails again to push out the triangle of clay between the haunches like this:

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Use your fingernails or the needle tool to split the triangle in two to make the legs. Note that you can add little feet by pulling the tips of the legs out a little bit and pushing them up with your fingers, rolling them slightly to make a paw. I don’t do that here, I just use the needle tool and use my fingers to shape them a little.

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Now take your remaining piece of clay and roll it into a fat cylinder, then taper each end by either pulling or rolling each end. The tail in the photo was pulled and then rolled a little to smooth. Don’t worry about it being perfectly smooth and, I find these imperfections can add the impression of fur and shade.

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Attach your tail by aligning the body end to a point between the fox’s ears, use a little water, slip or pressure etc depending on your medium. I use very little water, it keeps things tidy – your piece should never be wet all over or gooey. Curve the attached tail around the body or leave it behind the fox, whatever you prefer – the position of the tail can add a lot of personality.

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Now finish up your fox. You can use the needle tool to add fur or roll a little ball of clay to add as a nose for a more cartoonish fox, a small smile can be added with a needle tool too!  When working with your needle tool or pen tip for detailing be careful not to use it like a brush up and down as this produces a lot of crumbs and a messy look (unless that is what you want!). I use my needle tool to make individual marks – press the surface and then away from the surface tap tap tap and if I see crumbs I wipe them as I go so I don’t have a clean up nightmare later!

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That’s it, at some point I will do a tutorial on fast and efficient underglaze for a little fox!

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