Saturday, 12 January 2019

Towards Zero Waste Studio

ClayMake Studio has been open to public since 25.September and as predicted, occupied all my available time and energy ever since. We closed over Christmas break for 3 weeks, which finally gave me a chance to slow down and get my hands into clay and start a new project. While not "art", it is certainly "clay".
A tiny bit of background: At ClayMake (just like in my personal studio and studios of many potters that I know) we like to reuse as may resources as possible -reclaim clay and clay slip, reuse plastic bags and containers and make our own tools if we can. But, there has always been an amount of materials ending in the landfill: the sink bucket slops.
For those not familiar with it: clay and associated materials will clog up your sink so every studio needs a clay trap. It can be invisible, built in the system, or it can be as simple as a bucket in the sink.This is my unglamorous version:
It collects all glaze and clay residue. Heavy particles sink to the bottom and clear water rises to the top. 
In the personal studio, I get a few buckets of slop a year that I dry and bin.
ClayMake Studio, however, has much higher volume of use and as people use various clays we can't reclaim all of them .... so our sink and slop buckets fill quickly. 
I recently came across an article by Rat City Studios, published in Ceramics Monthly describing how they make pavers out of the clay and glaze slops.
You can read it HERE.
So here is my version, and slightly different approach:
I like hexagon shaped tiles too, and for design inspiration I went to Japan: 

oh, they would tessellate so well!
First I cast plaster blanks in hexagon shape, 1.5 cm tall and then transferred couple of patterns on them. While the plaster was still damp, I transferred the pattern by scratching through the paper onto the plaster tile, but when plaster tiles are fully dry, you can use carbon paper to transfer the pattern:

I used dremel to etch the pattern:

To make clay tiles, I made a wooden hexagon frame, held together by a strap with buckle stapled onto the wood. Unfortunately it did not hold it as tight as I was hoping for, so I added a plaster ring. Here it is with the plaster tile inserted:

This is the clay slop, after drying in the plaster mould, before kneading:
It contains various clays, casting slip and glaze residue. At it is stage I assume that it is mostly clay as I didn't have a glaze mixing class.

It is softer than regular recycled clay, so stickier and messier to work with.

Chuck cloth keeps my tools cleaner:

after compressing, first I cut the bulk of excess clay with the cutting wire:

Then smooth the surface with the metal ruler. This is why I prefer wooden mould  for this purpose rather than plaster - it is always level and it doesn't scrape as fast as plaster would:

You can still see various colours in the mix. I'm curious to find out how will it turn out after the firing:

Opening the mould:
(First part of wooden frame is not stapled to the strap for easier removal.)
The mould has been turned up side down so plaster is now on top.

As the clay is so sticky, it is easier to remove plaster before fully opening the mould:

Gently easing the wooden frame away:

You have probably noticed that I have made 2 frames and 2 carved designs. Working with 2 wooden frames means you can alternate the use and let them dry out a bit before the next tile ( yes, the clay mix is quite wet and sloppy - at this stage I think that it is a good thing. I will let you know if I change my opinion on this)
So here is "the other tile":

It is nice dry and warm summer here in Perth, so I'm hoping that the pavers will dry quickly. I know that I should fire the test first, but I'm not sure if I will as I don't have the test kiln. I might just follow the Rat City Studios recommendations.
I think that this can become an interesting community project...... 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

New beginnings - again

This blog is usually dedicated to my personal ceramic practice, and as I really value publications that stay on topic it will continue to be so. It documents the creative process behind the scenes and hopefully provides a more in-depth vision of (one) artist’s way; questions, struggles, ups and downs, without too much embellishment.
Right now the rhythm of my practice is changing – a bit like a having a new baby in the family (together with sleepless nights, worries about the future, delight in new opportunities, energy and potential).
The new “baby” is called ClayMake Studio and (to keep the metaphor going) its birthday was on Tuesday 7/8/2018 when we signed the lease on the property and received the keys of what will become a ceramic studio.
Until now, I was splitting my creative time and focus between (in broad terms) studio practice and teaching. Now I’m adding another big project to the picture – running an open access ceramics studio. And yes, I’m very excited.
 I will still make my own work that I’ll talk about here – there is exhibition coming in November in Mundaring Arts Centre - but lot of my time will be devoted to ClayMake.
ClayMake Studio will be run by me and my daughter Emma. You can find out a bit more about it here:
So if you don’t hear from me in a while, you know where to find me!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Long Silence

Recently I read a facebook post from an artist friend saying how she realized she “didn’t make” anything in almost a year. She sounds like she feels guilty about it.

Her post resonated with me at this point of time, as it does with many creative people. Regardless of how busy we are with the day jobs, families and everything else we are involved with – we have a need to create and make. I’m not talking about “busy fingers” making. I’m talking about meaningful, thought provoking making.

I would like to find out if all humans feel that way? (Is it a “human condition”?) Or is there really such a thing as “artist’s mind”?

As I have contact with lots of creative people I tend to think that we are all like that (at least to a degree), but every now and then I am told something like “you are an artist, you are different” that leaves me in a stunned silence (really? HOW am I different?)

So how to break that creative silence?
The question is not as simple as it sounds – it depends on the cause of “silence”.
Creative thinking requires empty time, uncluttered by distractions of our busy lives, and lots of mental energy. 

Just as seeds can sit dormant for years until the conditions are right, so can the “creative mind” wait silently for the right time. And we know when the time is right. For me it usually starts with the guilty feelings of “I haven’t been in the studio for a while” and “I should really be making”.

This is usually followed by the few false starts, dragging myself to the studio (“Why do I feel like this, I LOVE the studio, what is wrong with me?”) and being utterly unhappy with everything I make.

This is the danger zone. Important thing is to go through it. Just be there. Show up. Even if it doesn’t work out and you have nothing to show after a whole day of making (working/procrastinating) come back tomorrow. It is a part of a process and (at least for me) there is no way around it. Being through it a few times, now I can see the pattern and my family knows to brace themselves for turbulence. We all know that it will pass. The only question is will I go through it or back down?

Having a deadline is usually a good incentive to persist and push through that barrier. Knowing that most of us go through those cycles helps too. I look at it in terms of seasons. There is time for planting, dormancy, germinating and growth. Ideas are seeds.
For me, the silence has been broken and I can start making again.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


I have added a new page with the links to the articles and writings. You will find it under the heading          

on the right of the page.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

It is done (and dusted)

At the moment I am sitting in the shade of a tree, listening to the birds competing for the title of the loudest performer, and trying to relax.
I haven’t had the time or the head-space to write while the whirlwind of the Sculpture by the Sea activities was in the full swing. Now it is all over for another year and it is time to slow down a bit, catch a breath and reflect.
How was it?
This was my 4th Cottesloe SxS and each one is a different experience. Some things get a bit easier – I know more people and my way around, so I felt a bit more confident. My work had lots of new elements so I felt a bit uncertain. It also involved help from lots of people that made me feel more accountable and vulnerable. Being involved in such a massive event made me feel proud too, so all together I think I was on an emotional roller-coaster, feeling exuberant, fragile, energized and inspired. I think I’m getting a bit addicted to the energy of the event.
Tomorrow early I am off to Kalbarri for a few days to recharge my batteries and soak in the beauty of the canyons, river and the ocean.
Maybe I start thinking about making again. I find that I need stillness and quiet to hear the creative voice whispers. They are so easily drowned by the every-day "noise" of activities, chores and general running around.....

Thanks to Branko and Isis for the photos!!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Bursts and spurts and lights

The frame for the acrylic has been welded; although I am still not sure how will I attach the panels to the frame.Before I make the final decisions on that front, it is time to look at the LED’s…
I have purchased 50 meters of individually programmable LED's (they come in 5 meter lengths) and couple of Arduino computers. 

Until a few months ago (before I met with All Saint's College students) Arduino's were not part of my world. Now we have been formally introduced, but not really acquainted.
This is the part of the project that I am totally relaying on help from my friends: Silas (ASC student) and my Arduino whizz, his dad Chris who knows how to power the whole set up (just look at the board at the forefront of the photo), and my son Robert, a software engineer

While they are working on the programming and powering, I'm figuring out how to physically wrap 50 m of LED's around the sculpture with the least amount of cutting and soldering. We have worked it out nicely at ASC, but with 10 x 5 m of LED's, not 1 x 50 m.
But I have the starting point:

No, no, no yes!
First mock up:

Ups, lights will be interfering with acrylic. Back to the drawing board:
Second mock up (now we have movement, not all LED's lit at once):

Ooohhh yes!