The weather cooperated for an action packed final part for this Spring session! There’s always a little more excitement knowing we can spread out in the fresh air and do cool stuff, like getting a barrel firing in (but the action didn’t stop there).
The Raku firing in the barrel requires a variety of material including firewood, sawdust, leaves, needles, cow manure, and further in, additives like iron oxide.
While the barrel got heated up, it was obviously time for a head to head round on the mini wheels! But as a twist, contestants threw tiny pieces an active tic tack toe board. A near turducken of competition!
Eventually it was time to pull pieces from the barrel and experiment with applying horsehair and feathers, which have to be applied within a particular temperature range to leave its effects. The pieces were cool and interesting straight out of the barrel.
It was a marvelous day of fun and experimentation!
After the resounding success of our blindfolded throwing competition, we thought: ‘how else can we screw up a thrower’s capability?’.
Each pair of competitors had only one hand to use each to throw the tallest vessel in 6 minutes! Some pieces were remarkably well formed. Others, not so much! But in the end it was all for the prestige of the title, not the art.
A late addition to the rules was to demand competitors fill their free hand with their drink! Why did it take so long to figure that one out? Better late than never.
All of this restricted pottery training should produce some Kung Fu level throwing skills!
This idea emerged from other final party contests, like head-to-head speed throwing and throwing the tallest pottery inside of several minutes. It was time to make things really interesting!
This time a student at a pottery wheel was blindfolded (even before their clay was centered) but had the benefit of a coach. The first potential side benefit might’ve been to allow students to better focus on what they were feeling through their hands. However it quickly became clear how important the coach/thrower relationship was, and it was fascinating to watch the teamwork play out.
It was immediately apparent how the quality of the coaching became key to adjusting to the nuances of getting a cylinder thrown and gaining some height to ‘win’. In addition to providing a squirt of water here and there, the coach had to learn how to communicate to the thrower in a whole new way, since nobody was familiar with strictly verbalizing specific throwing movements or corrections. So both coach and thrower had to work together to overcome their respective handicap!
It was suspenseful throughout! By the end of each session it was genuinely impressive how well the students could throw blindfolded, and just about everyone was surprised and fascinated by the ‘social experiment’ aspects too!
Puppy Epiphany was one of the first videos we made here at the studio. It was a completely scrappy and spontaneous thing and done basically in a day on a pre-HD video iphone 3.
We leveraged many of the things Russell already did regularly, including looking completely bored for the “pre-inspiration sequence”. Russell was so eager to please and loved every task. Maybe not the throwing shots as much, that was a bit more complicated.
We initially weren’t getting a convincing shot of him focusing on what was happening below him as he worked the wheel. As we held him in a sitting up position we finally we realized a light shimmy made it look like he was actually gettin’ busy! After about 5 minutes of laughing we finally got the shots we needed.
The music became a critical aspect to reinforce the silly. Some hard creative commons digging on the internet for vintage recordings gave us the right tone and energy.
For the rest you’ll have to wait for the documentary! 😉
The personalities are as diverse as the work! They converge from all over Seattle. The smell of popcorn and familiar faces. Inspiration and perhaps also some friendly competition from fellow classmates.
It’s a pleasure to see them take experimentation to new places, some of which is evident here. Lots of happy accidents, others…not so much! Most students bring along their own unique style and others find it along the way. It never gets old.
The final class party is when students converge from different classes, pick up their newly fired delightful work, and enjoy some eclectic pot luck grub.
The weather was perfect, so instead of a barrel fire we knew we had to have our 2nd inaugural mudslinger’s invitational, where random teams compete to cooperatively throw the biggest, crudest bowl against the clock, head to head. Is it easier to spin a delicate yet sturdy form with another set of hands and after a cocktail? Nope!
Students admired each others’ creations and took pictures of their work at the photo station. Between the kids joining the festivities, the great food and banter, there was scarcely a dull moment! Thanks everyone!
I often marvel at how so many good people come to my Seattle studio as students. They continually inspire me as an artist and teacher, and while experimenting and exploring the medium, they typically motivate and inspire their classmates.
Most of my students are adults, but when anybody is in learning mode, especially clay learning mode, the kid in them comes out. They are curious, hungry, and sometimes transparent about feeling impatient or thrilled while they work and create. I love watching it all happen.
Because of students, I seek out new techniques to share with them, and this rejuvenates my own work. Years ago I bought a slab machine so I could teach students more hand building and it turned me into a sculptor. Before that I only had eyes for the pottery wheel. Currently I’m working on a new image transfer technique, again, to share with them, and it’s already finding its way into my work.
I may never figure out what it is that brings such good, fun, curious, friendly people to class. But there’s no time anyway, I’ve got to get the studio prepped for another fun Spring session, which begins tomorrow!
It was a beautiful day in Seattle to get a barrel fire going, enjoy some marvelous food and drink, and watch students carefully pull out their pre-configured pieces to see what sort of effects they achieved. I’ll be writing more soon on what we put into a barrel firing to create such cool possibilities. Once pieces come out, additional effects and decoration can be done with horse hair or feathers, which burn random, semi-permanent patterns into the surface.
To see more pottery fired this way, check out some of the #dunsheestudent images on the Photos page!
After much hard work, coffee, and snacks, we’re excited to share this new, more fun and revealing window into Barb’s multi-dimensional world of ceramic art and teaching. Her remarkable pottery class students, who rock in so many ways, certainly have played an inspiring role. The site was designed and built in-house by Bob Boulware of Plaid Tractor.
The new site makes registering for classes easier and more enjoyable, and gives students a way to share their work and experiences. We hope to give you many good reasons to keep coming back as things grow, ripen, mature, immature, etc.