Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On my way to San Antonio

Well almost on my way. The bead sets are sorted. The pendants are packaged. I've been to Hobby Lobby for a few extra bits and pieces. Yay! They had a sale going on some things I needed (and some things I didn't). Miss Wiggle Bottom and Old Bob are booked into the doggie spa. OK, it's not really a spa but they do come home bathed and festooned in new bandanas. I am actually a day ahead of my list. I do not know how that happened. That never happens.

I'm off to do a little dress rehearsal with the beads. If you are in the San Antonio area this weekend stop in. I would love to put faces to names!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The key to ceramics 101

Those little keys up there are bronze toggles I’ve been working on. They are prototypes and that I am not entirely sure will make it beyond this stage. They are little horrors to make and I'm not really sure I like them. But I really wanted something to go with the oval filigree pattern that could work as a clasp. They are up there to lure you into this blog post.

But the ceramics part of this is an answer to a comment by Kelley. I’m so happy she asked about the ceramic process. You know, I often talk like everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about. A lot of times this is not the case, as my children like to point out, sometimes rudely. They also like to point out that to assume makes an …. oh well lets not go there on this nice clean blog.

So here’s what I do from start to finish to make a bead and a few definitions thrown in for good measure.

bisque kiln
The bead gets made, dried and cleaned. Then it and all its brothers and sisters go through the first firing, the bisque. The bisque is the firing that goes before glazing. It makes the bead hard enough to glaze without falling apart but porous enough for the glaze to sink in and bond to the surface. This is a pretty low temperature firing in terms of ceramics, cone 04 (around 1900 F). I’m not going to go into the whole Orton cone stuff, because, yawn, because heat work and cone bending is far too boring even for me. The pieces can touch at this point because nothing melts in this firing.
glazing bisque beads and pendants
Once out of the kiln, I brush glaze on the bead. Fresh out of my glaze jars, it’s a thick liquid. Fired to maturity, it’s a glass surface bonded to the bead. Lot’s of chemistry here, also far too boring to go into. But for those of us who have a bit of mad scientist lurking in our psyche, it’s pretty amazing stuff.

Then it’s off to the glaze firing. I fire to cone 6 (around 2300 F). This one takes about 10 hours and another 8 hours to cool before I can unload the kiln. All of the pendants and beads are put on metal rods that won’t melt at that temperature. They get loaded so that nothing is touching, because if the beads touch they will become melted together in interesting but totally unusable ways.
cabachons and buttons on bottom shelf

pendants on middle shelf

beads on top shelf

18 hours later, shiny sparkly finished beads

So there you have it, ceramic beads in a nutshell.

One other little note. I do use metal clay as well and refer to that as a bronze/copper firing. Metal clay in fact has nothing to do with ceramics other than it’s plastic like clay in its moist state. And firing really isn’t what happens in a ceramic sense. In the kiln metal clay sinters and all of the stuff that held it together burns away and the microscopic particles of metal melt together. More geeky science here.

And if you made it this far in this post you need to head to your nearest ceramics studio and get your hands muddy. Oh and do join me on the Beads Of Clay blog tomorrow for a little behind the scenes as I get ready for my first ever bead show.

Thanks everyone for your lovely sweet comments on the bird and branch pendant. I love that feedback and it always inspires me to new things.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In the middle of it all I take a detour

Two bronze firings, one bisque firing, and a table of pieces sorted for glazing and I decided I absolutely, positively had to do something totally unrelated to the bead show I'm getting ready for. This is actually quite typical for me. It's part of the Procrastination Queen syndrome. This is sophisticated procrastination. I made something. Ever since I first made the little branch toggle bars I've wanted to make a branch pendant hanger. So I had to do it even though it isn't on the list. Out of the kiln, into the tumbler, and the bronze piece just screamed at me to drop everything and add a bitty bird. I feel better and I even got a lot on the list done today.

Now I'm back to tackling that load of bisque up there. There's two glaze kiln loads in that pile. I'm about half done. Oh and I think there is a copper firing in the near offing and I smell a bit of LOS in my future. Lots of work ahead for me this weekend.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beads 2010

Yesterday was pretty exciting for me when the postie brought me a copy of Beads 2010. I knew at least one of my little pieces was in there but I didn't know which pieces were selected. Worse, I couldn't remember just what I had submitted. January seems so long ago. So it was quite a treat to see my work included in four sections. So many talented bead artists out there and it is a pleasure to see my humble little beads along side of these gifted people.

Now it's back to the studio. I have my first ever bead show coming up May 1st. I have a huge pile of beads to clean up and put into the first firing tonight. The only ones done are in that little cup. But there's no pressure. I've got an entire 8 days to get ready.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Art of the Brick

The Arts Festival Festival is over and I am breathing a little sigh. Each year the Festival organzies a theme/special exhibit. This year was lego art. Now, I have a small confession. When I heard this I was not terribly excited. All I could think of was the countless small pieces strewn across my son's bedroom floor when he was 9, and 8, and 6 and well, he loved those little pieces at pretty much all ages. And golly miss molly those little buggers hurt when you stepped on them in bare feet.

But when I saw this exhibit of 30 pieces by Nathan Sawaya, I was enthralled. They are huge, they are intricate. Photos do not do them justice. This is exhibit is touring the US right now. If you've haven't seen it and have the opportunity, you should go. It is incredible and many of the pieces are quite moving.

I am so tired after this show, more than usual. On Saturday more than 20,000 people turned out to the Festival. It was so crowded that if you got into the traffic of people going the wrong way you were much like a fish swimming up stream. I know. It happened to me on the way to the loo. So tired as I am today, I think I'll just show you a little sample of the Art of the Brick.

This last one is how I felt Sunday night after packing up and coming home. But it was a great show!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I am a factory

The Procrastination Queen has been sent on holiday and now I am making up for lost time. I set up for Arts Festival on Thursday and suddenly on Monday it seemed important to take getting inventory up seriously. Nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing. My hands are so tired from wire wrapping that it hurts to type. Lately, I have been making a lot of beads. Well, in the Arts Festival setting beads are a little hard to sell. Those are part of the third load of beads to go through the tumbler today. I've actually had quite a good time making these. So now we'll just have to if anybody likes them.

OK, so times a wasting here. I am off to attach earwires to dangly things and maybe even sleep sometime tonight. Have a good rest of the week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kicking into high gear

And I'm definitely kicking the Procrastination Queen in the back side. Where did all of my time go? That little pretty up there is one of the very few pieces I have done and that one's just for me. The bronze is badly fired but I hung onto it because I sort of like the warty surface. The pretty blue bead is one of Kelley's. The bead actually deserves a better home and a better photo.

Meanwhile, this is a partial glimpse of my dining room. It's only just a partial glimpse because it really is too frightening in there to expose you to the full horror of it. It's art market tomorrow and this is all getting packed up in a little while. That is once I've finished all of the packaging, and making some neck cords, and.....
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Procrastination Queen

The artist, formerly known as LeAnn, would hence forth prefer to be called the Procrastination Queen. I have art market on Saturday and set up for a 3 day show on Wednesday. That would be the Wednesday that is 7 days away. But look at that large pile of stuff up there, you say. Well that large pile of stuff up there is from yesterday. It is still not finished. It should have been twice that size today. It says so on my list that I made to keep myself on task and not away with the fairies.

What did the Procrastination Queen do today? Well I started out the day looking at the sky with a cup of coffee in my hand. Then I went to coffee with friends. Then as long as I was out, I thought I might go to Hobby Lobby. There might be something there that I couldn't live with out. And as long as I was there I might as well cross the road and go to Michaels. I was sure they had something that I absolutely, positively needed. And so progressed the morning and early afternoon.

But the real culprit was an idea. I woke up with an idea. That idea needed to be followed. It might just evaporate into thin air. It is not an idea that needs to be done now, not even 6 months from now. That idea is still being worked on. (What, now you think I might be the Enigma Queen?) The idea is curing so I think I might just head off to finish that pile of pendants. Maybe a cup of coffee? It could be a long evening after all.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Home again

The week at my daughter's home flew by and I had such a good time with my children. It is sometimes odd to think of them all grown up with their own homes, their own furniture, their own dishwashers, doing their own laundry. How did they grow up so fast?

But I am home again and it feels nice to be surrounded by my usual life. My crazy dogs, my Monday morning coffee with my friend, my sweetie. When I walked out into the garden this morning I was greeted with my favourite part of spring. The iris have started to open and are in full beautiful deep purple bloom. It was like they were just waiting there to welcome me home. Oh I would love to bottle up the glow of the iris in early morning sun and save it for a rainy day.