Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Little Color

I added a little color to the carved parts of the new sugar skull jack-o'-lanterns I made. The next step was to wait for everything to dry and scrape off any of the overflow so the lines could look crisp. Afterwards, I touched up the spots where the white underglaze was too thin or missing, and now these guys are drying with the rest of the jacks I've made so far.

I'm really looking forward to the studio opening so I can get everything fired, but man! I am nervous about getting them all there without breaking anything! Dry clay is so fragile, and can beak or crumble far too easily, making transport a nervous endeavor. The pumpkin people, in particular, are going to make me sweat, because their little fingers are at the biggest risk for breakage.

Crossing my fingers! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Progress and Experimentation

The Pumpkin Person on the left is intended to go into the Raku kiln.
I was busy making Hallowe'en over the weekend. Big surprise, huh? ;) But since L.A. is still mostly closed down because of the virus (and I'm having one of those moments where I need to be away from people for a little, anyway), I might as well put my time to good use!

As you saw in my last post, I've been making some pumpkin people to add to the usual collection of jack-o'-lanterns. I made a couple this weekend with the intention of putting them through the Raku treatment, to see if they'll survive the thermal shock of the process. If they do and the results are acceptable, I'll make some more! 
I'd been thinking about how to make my jacks a little more fun and had an idea in my sleep the other day to make them sugar skulls. You can see I've etched some patterns into the jack below. I laid down the first layers of white underglaze on the one above and below, and I'm going to be inlaying some color into the carving. Again, it's an experiment to see how they turn out!
And I laid some color down on this little guy, who's ready to be fired once the studio opens up again. When that's done, I'm going to be putting clear glaze over the top so it has a nice gloss.
I have to say, I like his little bat buttons!

The next step after that is the one that I like least, as an artist, which is pricing my items. Since it's more expensive for me to fire at the studio and Etsy is taking a chunk out of my bottom line for shipping and their cut, I need to look at the cost of making my creations before I put them online. Clay, glazes, propane for the Raku kiln, shipping boxes and filler, not to mention my time! It all adds up!

I'm hoping to have an open house in mid-September, since pretty much all shows have cancelled due to Covid-19, but it remains to be seen. If it's not safe, I'll just be selling online this year. C'est la vie, right?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

More Pumpkin People? Yes, Please!

I've been working on these little pumpkin people to add to my jack-o'-lantern army. I'll be playing around with designs moving forward, including glaze patterns. But these are a good start and I made them so you can drop in a candle, just like my other jacks.
Of course, I made a couple of jack-o'-lanterns, too.
They've really been talking to me this season, telling me what they want their faces to be! And I don't know why, but the one on the right reminds me a little of the Mayor of Halloween Town!
Below is one of the witch hat pumpkin people, without his hat.
And I just love this last little guy! Goofy and trying so hard to be spooky!

Have I mentioned that I can't wait for the studio to open so I can fire them?

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Army Grows

On the left side, jacks for Raku. On the right, low fire for traditional, colored glazes.
The studio is supposed to open sometime in the next month or so. I'm going to see how much I can pile into their kiln!
I love having these racks for drying! They're perfect!
Here are a few jack-o'-lanterns drying slowly in the shade before getting moved to the rack you saw pictured above. If they dry a little slower, there's less chance of cracking.
Even my dad seems impressed with how the amount of Hallowe'en things has been growing! I only wish I had more time, but that will come!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fragments of My Father
I'm taking a little side trip today to shamelessly plug my dad's new book about his relationship with his father, one of the premier chefs of his day: Fragments of My Father: Reflections on an Unfulfilled Relationship.

Before the great Anthony Bourdain was a twinkle in his father's eye, my grandfather, great-grandfather, and great uncle were creating culinary delights in Europe.

From the book description:
"Fragments of My Father" tells the story of the life of one of the 20th Century's foremost chefs, Charles Finance, as told by his son. Beginning his career as an apprentice cook at the age of 16, Charles soon acquired a depth of knowledge of the art of French Cuisine that he applied in many of Switzerland's most renowned hotels. His personal journal relates the many struggles of his early career, of his seasonal wanderings, his romance with his future wife, and of the behind-the-scenes life of a young cook. He soon rose in prominence in the Swiss culinary world and became professor of culinary arts at the Swiss School of Hotel Trades. While serving in the Swiss Army during World War II, he writes to his young wife of the trials of Army life. The life of a cook was always uncertain in those days, and in his letters Charles gives testimony to the difficult periods in his life when management of various establishments treated him shabbily. His dream was to come to the United Sates to make his own way. He eventually succeeds, but at the cost of his marriage. Now a top Executive Chef, he oversees kitchen operations in several major U.S. hotels and leads teams of American cooks to international competitions, where his leadership earns the Americans numerous 1st-place medals. After he retired in Ft. Worth, TX, , Charles devoted much of his time to breeding orchids and to being a judge at a variety of cooking competitions. He lived an extraordinary life during which he made extraordinary contributions to the culinary profession over the span of nearly half a century.
This is an engaging insight into another time and another country, and it's the story of how my dad's side of the family came to this country. You can get the Kindle edition here, and it's only $4.95. If you're looking for something different to read in quarantine, this might be something you'll enjoy!

My dad also wrote a book about my Grandmother, which should be coming out on Kindle in a few weeks. He's started to gather notes and photos for his own biography, too! I'm pretty proud of him!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

A Couple Of Jacks...

For me, these little guys lend a little sense of normalcy, a little sense of rhythm of the year. I was always making new critters for my shows this time of year, and even though I can't fire them right now, it's comforting to have my hands in clay and to be able to make things which I know will make others happy.
It's humbling to know that some folks will bring these guys out yearly, like they do their Christmas decorations, and like Christmas decorations, be delighted when they come out of their box.
 And maybe, just maybe, the kids will grow up with fond memories of these faces. The faces they grew up with. The faces they associate with Hallowe'en, laughter, costumes and candy.
Knowing I made someone's Halloween memorable, makes me happy. I think that we need all the "happy" we can get, these days, don't you?
Fresh on the wheel. Shaping, trimming and carving, still to go!
I'm really grateful I had the time to develop these skills. That I had teachers who nurtured my talent. No one is truly a self-made person. Someone always invests in you, first, and brings you along. I am so very lucky I've had that in my life!