Month: April 2012

Artwork: Handmade Teapot and Teacups

In addition to my mixed media paintings and visual journal, I love using clay. I fell in love with it in high school, and had amazing professors in college who only pushed my love for it further. While in high school I tried for a month to use the pottery wheel… and failed miserably. At the end of the month I had one very wonky bowl, and I wrote off throwing for life. Perhaps “for life” was a strong choice of words, because with great reluctance I tried again in college, and something clicked. I discovered my stride, and I haven’t looked back.

Through my many ceramic and throwing classes in college I fell in love with teapots. They are complex, yet fun to make. You can alter the look in so many ways, long spouts, short spouts, over the top, twisty, or side handles, tall, fat, squat bodies. Every one of these choices has a huge impact on the overall look and personality of a teapot. Above all, that’s my favorite thing, the personality of a teapot. Even the machine made teapots have personality.

I have made many different types of teapots, and along the way I fell into a project where I started making my frog teapots. It started with a request from one of my coworkers to make three teapots, with tree frogs somewhere on it, for gifts. I some what reluctantly agreed… frogs? I wasn’t sure where to start. I eventually went into constructing the pots with little thought about the frogs, and somewhere in the process it hit me, I would create tree branches wrapping around the pots, and incorporate the frogs into that. The tree branches better reflected me and my aesthetic, and the frogs would find a way to work into that.

I ended up being very happy with the result, I loved the way the branches and leaves grew out of the body of the pot, and the frogs ended up adding a playful feel to it. I was very happy with the unglazed pot, I was hesitant to glaze it, especially since the commissioner wanted bright, vibrant colors; again, not quite fitting with my aesthetic… but I had to meet the expectations of my coworker. When it came time to glaze I sat down, trying to decide where to start, when again it hit me. I would add the bright vibrant color, but I would leave the white of the clay showing through. It would have a very painterly feel, loose, quick, yet together.

In the end I really fell in love with these teapots. I’m glad I did because I was asked to make two more. After five, I wrote off frog pots for life, but you should never say “for life” because it seems that isn’t possible… I was asked recently by one of my student’s parents to make one of my “frog teapots” as a graduation gift. I was touched, of course I had to do it, and I really enjoyed the process. Perhaps for life will never happen, and I’m just fine with that.

             

To create a teapot you start with the body. I threw mine on the wheel, and I tend to lean more toward the very round, squat, type pots. After I finish the body I “throw off the hump” to create the lid and spout. When you throw off the hump you start with a medium size piece of clay, center it, and make multiple things with it. I typically make a few spouts out of the top portion of the clay, and cut them off. I use the second half of the hump to make lids, cutting them off as I finish them. It’s best to make at least two spouts and two lids, because certain shapes suit different bodies, and sometimes it’s hard to tell until you put it all together. I leave everything out to slightly harden while I make the handle. I roll a large coil, and flatten it on both sides. Like the spout and lid, I always make at least two.

Once everything is dried just enough to be able to hold its shape on its own I begin attaching. I place the spout on the area I want it, and trace around it with a needle tool. I then cut a hole just inside the outline I traced. You always attach pieces of clay together by scoring, scratching the surfaces that will touch, and slipping, applying watered down clay to both surfaces. I then blend the pieces together, so you can’t tell where they attach. I do the same with the handle, if the handle has trouble holding the shape you want, put newspaper inside of it to support it until it dries. I then add the design details by building clay up on the body of the pot. I used coils to create the branches, small pinches of clay for the leaves, and sculpted the frogs. Everything was attached by scoring and slipping.

This teapot was fired to cone 06. I glazed it using underglaze and clear glaze on the outside, and Tawny low fire glaze on the inside.

         

To mix things up this last time I decided to make matching teacups to go with the teapot, and I was very pleased with the result. I threw the body of mug on the wheel and made everything else by hand. To create the handle I start with a long coil, flatten it on both sides, then attach it to the mug by scoring slipping, and blending in the lines. I score and slip coils on the side for the branches, and create the leaves by pinching off small pieces of clay and making the ends come to a point. I sculpt the frog and score and slip him on last. I used the same glaze on the teapot and teacups to make sure they match.

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Visual Journal Page 52: My Dream Home

The beginnings of things are typically very exciting, and this was a very exciting time in my life. Nick and I had just gotten engaged, we were planning our wedding, and had recently decided to go ahead and buy a house. Around this time President Obama decided to offer incentive to new home buyers, $8,000.00… which made our decision to purchase even easier.

I was beyond excited the first day we went out with our amazing realtor, Brian. Even at the end of the day, when everything we looked at was so far off our expectations, I couldn’t wait to go out again. The next time we went out, I felt very prepared. I looked at the booklet Brian put together for me for me, I did my own research, and I was positive one of these houses was going to be our home… Unfortunately, I was let down again… and again… and again… and again.

It really is amazing how good something can look on paper. A double balcony, a spiral staircase, a sun room, detached garage, decent neighborhood, in our price point turns into poor foundation slanted walls, doorways shorter than normal, slanted floors, and oddly laid out rooms. By the sixth or seventh time we went out I was over it. I wanted to find my house and I wanted to find it right then.

The benefit of the Obama money was the money… the downside was the deadline. Not only were we having issues finding a good house, but we needed to find something soon, the pressure was on. Eventually it all boiled over, and I needed to vent… and I vented in my journal. In my book pages I designed my dream house, craftsman style, a big front porch, fenced in yard, fireplace, curb appeal. I created this visual journal page as a dedication to it, to the hope we would find it, or something we could call a home. I knew that it existed… We just needed to find it…

CHALLENGE: Dedicate a page to your home, dream home, current home, past home. Make sure you focus on your favorite parts, and what makes it feel like home.

To create this visual journal page I only used a few materials. I wanted to work on a page that wasn’t white, so I used a tea bag to dye the page an off white, brown color. To achieve this look all you do is heat a cup of water, place a tea bag in it, and either use the water or the actual tea bag to dye the paper. I prefer to drag the bag on the page, it creates a darker color. Sometimes the bag will burst, which can be messy, but not necessarily a bad thing. The tea particles will pool darker colors around them, which can create an interesting pattern. Once the background dried I used India ink and a small paint brush to paint the house. A tip my mom once gave me was if you use a ruler for one straight line when drawing a building, all the lines have to be straight. If you free hand them all, they will blend together and create (I think) a more interesting affect. To make it a bit more interesting I took a piece of paper towel that was accidentally dyed while I was using bleeding tissue paper, and glued it down with rubber cement.

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Visual Journal Page 51: Wedding Plans

Wedding planning is exciting, happy, fun, stressful, time consuming, aggravating, and difficult. The excitement can quickly wear off as you start to realize exactly what planning a wedding entails. You are planning every detail of an entire day, from start to finish, for a lot of people.

Luckily I am blessed with an amazing family, and now husband, who helped me beyond their requirements to make my day perfect. In fact, my mom decided to go ahead and get tickets to a bridal show when Nick asked my parents for permission to marry me… before I even said yes!

After going through the wedding planning process, and especially seeing my friends go through the process, I realize how lucky I am that I had the amount of support I did. I literally called my Mom everyday for six months to discuss venues, invitations, bridesmaids dresses, food, etc., etc., etc. I would book an appointment in the morning, and my mom would be ready to meet me that afternoon. I am pretty sure I dragged my mom and sister to every store in the Atlanta area to look at bridesmaids dresses. They were always willing participants, never complained, and my wedding wouldn’t have happened without them.

CHALLENGE: Create a page that sums up a busy day, months, years, any period of time. Find a way to sum it up in one page, while still getting the point of the page across.

I knew that I needed to create a visual journal page to sum up my months of planning. While in the planning process I often held onto magazines that had images that inspired my own wedding. As I began to overload myself with these things, I began to go through them and pull out images that really represented my wedding. I decided to collage them together and show the process of choosing a locations, invitations, flowers, arrangements, and a cake. I also decided to emphasize the idea of progression, and planning an entire day of events, I would create a fade in the sky from day to night. I ripped up and glued down magazine images for the background, and collaged and glued down images in the foreground.

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Mixed Media: Trapped

This mixed media piece was made to go with my other mixed media piece, “Caged“. They are meant to hang next to each other, and reference the upper and lower parts of a whole body. While they create one body, by hanging them next to each other it appears as though the body is split. Although they were conceived as one piece, I consider them to be separate.

I really love how both of these pieces turned out, and it has inspired plans for a whole new series of artwork similar to these. My only reservation is the fact that so many people refer to them as dark, depressing, even creepy. I received one comment that it didn’t seem to fit me, because I appear to be a happy person, and it seemed like I was creating dark artwork because I some how thought to be taken seriously I had to create something dark. I was slightly offended by this at first, of course I am not creating artwork to try to fit in to whatever “art” is supposed to be. However, I do see their point, it is a little off for my personality.

To explain it to the best of my ability I would have to say that in my work I represent a piece of myself, but at the same time I feel like I am projecting other people, my observations and impressions of them. This piece represents a person who is in a sense trapped. They are stuck in their bubble, their small town, where they go to school, maybe college, and never leave. It can be so easy to fall into that pattern, but I think it’s important to leave, at least for a little while, and see what else the world has to offer. You need to learn about other people, different types of people, places, and things. This painting shows a person stuck in a small cage, with all of these interesting things right outside, just waiting to be discovered, and as time goes by, slowly fading away.

I created the mixed media painting, “Trapped”, the same way I created “Caged”. I used oil paint, modeling impasto wax, image transfers, and fabric. The base is made from plywood, built to imitate the look of a canvas. If you decide to use encaustic, or wax, in a work of art make sure you use a solid base, if it flexes it will cause the wax to crack.

    

 

 

 

 

I start by drawing out the image. I then heat the modeling impasto in a pan on a griddle. I then drip the hot wax on the panel, where I want wax to be. If the wax runs into areas I only want paint, I use a credit card to scrape it off. I then use a heat gun to re-melt and spread out the wax to an even layer. Once I have a good layer of wax I paint on top with oil paint, then use the heat gun to fuse the paint and wax. I alternate layers of wax and paint until I am happy with the look. In traditional encaustic the wax is dyed with pigment, then layered and fused.

Once I complete the background I added the cage and legs with oil paint. I typically use linseed oil and glazing mediums in my paint to thin it out and add a sheen to it. I then added the image transfers by placing laser printed images upside down on recently fused wax, burnishing the back with scissor handles, then rubbing the paper off using a damp sponge and my fingers. I then heated the wax around it to fuse it. The fabric was the last step, and I used a hot glue gun to attach it. To read more about the process visit the post about the mixed media “Caged” painting.

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Visual Journal Page 50: Two Peas in a Pod

I have been lucky to have some pretty amazing roommates. A lot of people warn you not to room with a close friend when you go off to school, but I took a risk and roomed with my best friend from high school, and we happily lived together for five years. Throughout college we had various friends happily move in and out, and after school I moved in with yet another close high school friend, and I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie.

I felt we complimented each other very well. We liked the same TV shows, we were both very clean, we liked hanging out, we did favors for each other, and we knew when to give each other space. While living in our upstairs apartment in Candler Park we would hang out on the front porch, on the sofa watching TV, and plan all the amazing trips we were going to take together. One day it would be a trip to LA, Nashville, Florida, the next it would be Paris, the Netherlands, Spain. We would plan what we would do, where we would go, and all the things we would see.

Unfortunately, a broke recent college grad and a broke college student don’t make a good combination when it comes to traveling. We never made it around the US and off to Europe, but we did make our own adventures in our neighborhood and in the city. We went on walks, explored nearby parks, visited Oakland Cemetery, went to festivals, discovered local restaurants, and spent time together in general. Although we never made it on our exotic vacations, I think our real life adventures are more fun than all the ones we dream up.

CHALLENGE: Create a page with a mod podge transfer! See instructions below.

To create this visual journal page I used two types of image transfers, a tape transfer and a mod podge transfer. To create the tape transfer I used a picture of a pea pod I found in a magazine. I felt like a pea pod was appropriate for this page because I really felt like Katie and I were two peas in a pod. If you are a new reader visit my supplies page or my Botanical Proposal post to learn about tape transfers. On the right side page I created a mod podge transfer using a photograph I took of an old door at the Oakland Cemetery. To make a mod podge transfer you need to go to a craft store, such as Hobby Lobby or Micheal’s, and buy a bottle of mod podge. You can buy matte or glossy, I prefer matte, but the choice is yours.

To get started you need an image printed from a laser printer to get a good transfer, this is typically of most image transfers.Once you have your printed image you paint a layer of mod podge on top, let it dry, paint another layer, let it dry. After you have two dried coats you paint one more layer, and while it’s still wet, lay it face down on the surface you want to transfer it to. Once again let it dry. After it has dried wet the back with water, and when the paper starts to peel up, rub it off with your fingers. The result should be your image stuck to the paper, with no white paper left on top. You may have to rub over the image multiple times to get all of the paper off. If you rub too hard you may pull some of the ink off, be careful if you want a perfect transfer! For this page I opted for a rougher look, so I chose to take off sections of the ink. To finish off the page I added writing using a calligraphy pen and India ink, and also added details back in the door where too much ink came off. A mod podge transfer creates a mirror image, so words will end up backwards if you don’t reverse them before you transfer them!

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