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subject: personalization and skills: made/bought tools

updated tue 18 may 04


Bonnie Staffel on mon 17 may 04

Dear John,

Your post made me think about what tool I used that influenced the look of
my work. Then I remembered after leaving Cranbrook, Toshiko gave me a
number of Japanese brushes. Since I was trained as a painter, these brushes
opened up the possibility of painting designs on my pots. I certainly had
no ability to make my own and Oriental brushes are hand made IMO to some
degree. I chose them for their quality and what they would deliver for me
in my hands and from my ideas. Many are quite old and still favorites to

When I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco a long time ago, I went to
Chinatown particularly to buy brushes. In one store I picked one up and
dipped it into a dish of water on the counter. The saleswoman, (Chinese)
started screaming at me in Chinese, but I got the picture that I should not
have done that. I really wanted to test the spring and feel of the brush as
in use. I really dislike to order brushes from a catalog but that is
necessary since none are sold in my area.

Otherwise, I use few tools that add a design to my pot making except my
hands and fingers. I am introducing clay to my great grandson who will be
five in July. I was making some birds and I asked him if he would like to
make the poop (air) hole with the needle tool. He loves that word which is
typical for little boys. I think I have a helper in the making.

Warm regards,

Bonnie Staffel

May Luk on mon 17 may 04

Hi Bonnie;

Re: Chinese Brushes

Chinese clay art in San Jose has a big selection of chinese brushes that are
economical. [] It's cheaper than china town.

You can order a bunch and see which kind of hair you like. Wolf hair is
firmer than goat hair. Wolf hair got a nice bounce. But the big goat hair
allows you to fully load the brush with oxide or glaze for expressive brush
work. Goat hair is hard to control. But that's just how it is. The strength
of the brush work is supposed to come from your body as in "chi"

The liner brushes in wolf hair is very good for detail work. [for only a
dollar!!] I used to use it when I couldn't afford sable brushes in art
school. It's really good for painting in gouche.

I used to do water colour. I now use a sable brush to do everything in clay.
I just like the feel of sable brush. I save my chinese brushes for
calligraphy-good chinese brush is expensive overseas.

About the woman in china town, maybe she wasn't screaming at you. That's
just the way chinese talk. :-)

London, UK

P.S. This past saturday, I had a tool making workshop with Steve Harrison
UK. It's actually easy and fun to do. Now I got a vice and a junior heck
saw. 6" bench grinder and 2" belt sander next!