30 August 2005

Pit-fired Goddesses

I individually sculpt these goddess focals. The holes for stringing run horizontally at their sholders. These have been pit-fired. The results are very similar to raku but the process is much different. If you're interested in learning more about the process, I wrote a rather lengthy entry on it some time ago. I love the finish on the pit-fired goddesses and should really try to get a few more made and ready for firing before the Louisville bead show. (I usually retail the Goddesses for $15 each.)

Cameo Drops

These are some of my cameo drop beads. They're temporarily strung in a set of 10. They're made of porcelain and are fired to more than 2300 degrees. (These retail for $5 each or $40 for a strand of 10.)

Porcelain beads are a lot like pearls. They warm to the touch so that when you wear them they begin to feel like a part of you. They also absorb some of the oils from your skin. This will, over time, give these beads a beautiful patina. As secondary side effect, as anyone who has ever inherited a set of pearls from beloved grandmother can attest, these beads will absorb traces of the scent of their wearer.

I envision these beautifully strung with freshwater pearls. I'd love to see what a competent jewelry designer would do with them.

Barter is Better

I've been working on images today, in part because of an interest in showing off some of my work to potential barter partners. (Since it helps to have a value when determining whether to trade, I should include pricing here. The leaves retail for $5 each or $40 for a strand of 10. The blue beads below retail for $4 each or $30 for a strand of 10.)

The images in this entry are of colored porcelain beads. Each is completely hand-formed using colored porcelain made using the method described in this entry. The beads are fired to more than 2300 degrees and the color goes all the way through. In the unlikely event that one of the beads chips, a little sand paper will disguise the area.

27 August 2005

Works in progress

I have about 60 yellow porcelain beads made and another 40 or so ready to be decorated. There are about 160 turquoise porcelain beads in bisqued bowls sitting on my work table waiting for the yellow to be finished so that I can fire them.

I was asked the other day why I hand-color porcelain in such small batches. The answer is that a 4-5 ounce ball of clay fits nicely in my hands and is easy for me to work with. No matter how well I work the clay, there will be natural variations in the coloration. I like these, but want to have a bit of control over them. I've also found that a 4-5 ounce batch makes between 80 and 100 beads depending on the style of bead that I'm working on. It just works well with the way that I work.

I spent some time last night temporarily stringing some of my porcelain cameo drops in sets of 5 and 10. I used some inexpensive glass seed beads and bugle beads as spacers. I really think that having them spaced out the way that they are now illustrates the possiblities of them. I need to get more of the glass beads to use as spacers because the ones that I'm using now are leftover from a project a couple of years ago.

I took the blue and green porcelain beads to Kim the other day to be fired. I'm looking forward to stringing the leaves in the same way that I've done the cameo drops. Well, I should be working instead of writing about working.

25 August 2005

Just a quick snap from Mica's birthday party. I'll upload more as time permits. She had a great time and was thrilled to have so many people to play with. What a sweetheart we have. I was so glad to have so many friends there to share the day with us.
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It's too quiet

I woke up this morning with a headache and muscle aches. My beloved, understanding my desperate need for a bit of extra sleep, took Miss M to his mother's house on his way to work. I woke up gradually, snuggled for a bit with Alpheus, came downstairs and took a shower, checked my email and caught up on my discssions. It's barely 1 pm and I've now done everything that I usually hope to accomplish in a day, even after sleeping in. I miss my baby.

19 August 2005

Writing things down

I've been mostly offline for the last 2 days and will probably continue to be offline until Tuesday. Mica's birthday tea is tomorrow afternoon and Sunday will be quality family time. (with hopefully a couple hours in the studio for good measure)

I've gotten about 650 words of an article about the Beads-Of-Clay group written to submit to bead magazines. Last night I started an article on colored porcelain beads which I'd like to submit for publication as well. I'm planning a series of articles which I will either use to update my website or try to find publishers for.

I've got to do something, right?

17 August 2005

Colored porcelain

After spending the day running errands and trying to prepare for Miss Mica's birthday tea, I celebrated her birthday by encouraging Mica and her daddy to visit his parents for a while and going into the studio.

Tonight's project: Hand-Colored porcelain beads

Begin by measuring out clay and adding colorants. For tonight's beads I mixed 2 batches of blue porcelain. Since I generally mix small quantities which I then use up in one or two sittings. To mix the first batch of blue porcelain I weighed out 4 ounces of Helios porcelain from Highwater Clays and pinched a small well into the center of the ball. To that I added 1/4 teaspoon of a cobalt based blue stain and a few drops of water. I mixed the water and the stain into a paste with a bamboo skewer and started working it into the porcelain by scoring through the paste into the clay. The reason for making a paste and working it into the clay in this way is to prevent the stain from being released as dust or the stain/water mixture from "squirting" out of the clay when you begin the next step.

Once the paste has been worked into the clay some, the goal is to completely blend the stain into the clay. This is best accomplished by kneading the clay, squeezing it, and rolling it into snakes which you fold, knead and roll again.

All-in-all, hand-coloring porcelain is a lot of work but it's a labor of love. if I were doing a lot of colored porcelain, I'd probably buy it pre-mixed.

What a year its been...

I can't believe my baby is a year old today. I couldn't resist posting a composite image with several pictures from the last year. The one in the lower left corner was taken in the hospital the day that she was born. They had a tube in her nose for a while but she pulled it out as quickly as she could.

She was so fragile and we came so close to loosing her.

The partial picture in the upper left corner is one of the studio portraits taken by my aunt Sandy at her photography studio in Indiana. She has taken the most wonderful pictures of Miss Mica, starting when she was 6 weeks old and she took the black and white picture of Mica and I together that is in my profile. Those who live close enough to her studio to avail themselves of her services are extraordinarily fortunate. She's amazingly talented, and so patient.

Of course Sandy says that you can't smack the smile off my baby. I guess that's a good thing, it sure makes her fun to photograph. The picture on the right here is a snapshot that I took on the cruise last month. I carry a digital camera in her diaper bag so that I can take pictures whenever possible.
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13 August 2005

Crisis of Self-Worth

I find myself asking a lot of difficult questions right now. I know, although I'm somewhat uncomfortable saying so, that I am good at what I do. My discomfort with that assertion stems not from modesty (false or otherwise) but from a desire to avoid the difficult questions which naturally follow. What I cannot say is whether or not there is any greater good to be served by being good at something that the world neither needs nor wants. Some part of the validation of my chosen course comes from people who like my work enough to want it to occupy a place in their lives.

As the date of the Louisville bead show approaches I'm more intensely aware of this question of whether I'm doing the right things with my life. I find myself asking the question, how much money do I have to make at the show to justify my life choices and to establish my worth. I am appalled by the very nature of that question. I have never believed that money justifies anything. I certainly don't believe that money and happiness go hand in hand... So, why is it that if I'm making money I'm more assured in my right to do something at which I'm skilled and that I love doing?

I can't blame my husband for this bizarre fit of conscience. He has never been anything other than supportive. I can't even say that my choice of occupation is somehow a burden to my family. I work from home and am able to take care of my daughter. I'm certainly not the only woman working from home as a way of supplimenting my household income while taking care of my child. I read an article today about being a mom first. I have certainly made Mica's needs a priority when planning my days. We are working as a family to balance studio time with the needs of our family.

I don't know that there is a simple answer (or even a complex answer... I'm not picky) to this crisis of self-worth... For the moment I just wanted to put something in writing as a placekeeper so that I could continue to examine the issue.

12 August 2005

Mica's just growing so fast. I can't believe that she'll be a year old in less than a week. It's just not possible. Posted by Picasa
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Monarchs doing what it takes to make more monarchs from a recent visit to our local butterfly house. Photographs of moths mating were what inspired my first twin chamber vessels.Posted by Picasa

09 August 2005

There's got to be an easier way

One disadvantage of making hundreds of beads is that you have to glaze and fire hundreds of beads. I've got about 70 beads sitting in a box next to me with a glaze on them that I've never used before. I sure hope that I like it once it's fired. If I like the color but not the finish, I could etch them, but I'd rather not have to invest the extra time.

I worked some on polkadots in the studio this evening. Once I'm done with the ones that I'm working on, I'll probably stop that for a while and focus on some colored porcelain beads. It's great to work with color that doesn't have to be applied with a brush and suspended during firing.