Keisha Pegues on sun 28 aug 05
I don't post here often either but just felt
compelled to speak. I'm in a similar situation as you
so i guess I can do alittle talking haha.
Debbie, If you're an imposter then hey call me one too
haha. But really I don't think you are. You're as
interested in ceramics as all of us on this list. So
you haven't been able to attend a class or go to a
workshop. Your situations dont give you time to do
those things right now. I'm sure many people on the
list have experiences this too. I can say AMENNNN too.
You will soon get to take a class and go to
workshops. But the thing is that you have to stitich
that in you mind. Have them as a frontlet before
you're eyes. You said you look at websites, read
books, and lots of other things. You're not behind;
you're right on time!!! The things you are doing are
right for you at this moment in time. You will get
there. Ceramics was like Greek to all of us at one
point but with practice( a little book reading and
website searching) Greek becomes a second language
(good Lord we want it become a second language). Just
find ways to keep you're mind on ceramics and you will
be in that class before you know, throwing off the
hump and everything else!!!
Mound Bayou, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Peace Be With You
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Steve Slatin on sun 28 aug 05
No one is an impostor because of being new to
something. They're just new. Once you go into the
dark alley of wondering if you're an imposter, there's
really no way out* as any accomplishment can be simply
adjectival in nature -- you're not a taxi cab driver,
you're an imposter who simply happens to have an
appropriate license. Then, who happens to have a
license and a hat. Then, a license, a hat, and a job.
Eventually, an encyclopedic knowledge of one city's
streets. And finally, an imposter with a license, a
hat, encyclopedic knowledge of the city's streets, a
35 year working history, an inadequate pension to look
forward to, etc.
(Similar considerations reduce Descarte's hyperbolic
doubt to the rubbish-strewn dark alley it is.)
If you work with clay for a day, you're a beginner.
You're still working in clay. If you work with it for
a year, with conviction, you're learning. When you
can start to make things that approach the appearance
of things in your mind, you're getting there. Only if
you claim to be a sculptor, or potter, or whatever
without actually having done any work are you an
If the clay speaks to you, your task is clear -- you
must learn to carry on your side of the conversation.
Best wishes -- Steve Slatin
*Consider Sartre's theory of impersonation -- he said
that a waiter is just an imposter***, standing around
in a restaurant and occasionally delivering a plate of
something to someone but never really *being* a
waiter. He then smugly claimed that only he was NOT
an imposter because he went into a room, closed a
door, and wrote, and that made him truly something. A
*writer*. Ignoring completely that the possibility
that he was impersonating a writer to himself ****
just as the waiter did to everyone else.
***OK, so maybe the problem is waiters in French
restaurants, but I hate to condemn any class of
people, and condeming them simply for being a member
of the class is fatuous.
**** We should forgive Sartre his philosophical
weaknesses. As Walker Percy points out, Pascal was
the last French intellectual who was not insane.
--- Debbie wrote:
> Anyway, once I picked up this clay several months
> ago, I realized that
> it "spoke" to me. I loved the feel of it between my
> fingers. I loved seeing
> my mind's images take place before me. But there was
> only one problem:
> Sculpey doesn't hold up like "REAL" clay.
Steve Slatin --
Drove downtown in the rain
9:30 on a Tuesday night
Just to check out the
Late night record shop
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Snail Scott on mon 29 aug 05
At 09:34 PM 8/29/2005 -0400, you wrote:
>I may, for that matter, still use acrylics for some of my work...
If that's what the work wants, do it! Don't
make it look like 'fake glaze'; instead, take
advantage of all the things that paint can do
and glaze can't. And don't let anyone tell you
that there's only one right way to do any of
Snail Scott on mon 29 aug 05
At 09:34 AM 8/28/2005 -0400, you wrote:
>...Does the fact that I don't know how to
>mix clay or glazes, or that I wouldn't know how to formulate my own glaze,
>or for that matter that all the chemistry involved seems like Greek to
>me....does it mean I'm not as good as those of you who do?
'Good' in what sense? Not as good at glaze-making,
for sure, and not as good at kiln-firing, maybe,
but 'good' is a pretty broad term to apply to the
entirety of anything. It's hard enough to say
whether a particular hamburger is better than
another; how are we ever gonna compare people? HA!
(Insert the sound of a loud juicy razzberry here:
Learning to make glazes and clay bodies from scratch
is a useful skill which can expand your options, but
it's far from necessary. How many embroiderers, even
at the top levels, spin and dye their own yarns?
Hardly any. How many painters grind and compound
their own pigments for paint? Practically none.
How many woodworkers cut down their own trees, or
even cut and season their own lumber? Some, but not
many. Those who do gain a measure of control over the
outcome of their work which is not achievable by
those who rely on others for their materials, but
(and note this!) ONLY if they're any good at those
things. A good embroiderer may have no skill at
spinning, so they may stick to what they're good at
and rely on other skilled people to do the spinning
for them. Would that embroiderer produce better work
if they did their own spinning? maybe. Or maybe
they'd just spend less time embroidering, with badly-
Making glaze, I think, is less difficult than spinning
and dying, and is more useful because fewer people
are doing it for us. There are a zillion spun-and-
dyed yarns available for purchase, but only hundreds
of commercially-made glazes, and fewer for high-fire
temperatures. So, making your own glaze can give you
a range of options not available from commercial
products. But those glazes that are commercially
available are pretty nice, most of them, and if they
suit your intentions, go ahead and use them. When I
buy a tube of paint, I seldom think that I should
make my own. I could, but the commercial stuff suits
my needs well enough, and the price is a fair trade
for not having to do the process myself. With glaze,
though, I often find myself wishing for a surface
that isn't available on the market, and that's why
I mix glazes from scratch. Scratch-made glazes are
often a chance to stand apart from the crowd, by
having something unique to show, but glaze alone
won't make the work good. It may not even be a major
factor. I once knew a guy who made all his own paint
from scratch, and made a big deal about it, but his
paintings were still fairly boring and ordinary-
looking. (Besides, he bought all his ground pigments
from someone else.) How much do you really need to
do from scratch? Where do you, personally, choose
to draw the line? No one else can answer that
I know a successful clay sculptor who works only
with commercial glazes. They suit her work perfectly.
What would she gain by duplicating that effort
herself? A little independence; a little more control.
Enough to be worth the effort? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Making clay has a similar set of issues. If there's a
commercial clay that doesn what I want, I'm happy to
use it; it saves my time for better things - making
the work. When I was very broke, the cost savings
was worth the effort - my time was cheaper than the
clay-making company's. It's not, anymore. I still
make my own clay when I want a blend that I can't
find from a commercial supplier, but it costs me
time, and that's more valuable to me now.
Makng clay (and to a lesser extent, glaze) also
takes space. Not everyone has a studio where a big
dusty mess is manageable, and storage for raw
materials takes space that may be in short supply.
It's also a new skill-set to learn. You have enough
on your agenda for now, just learning to manipulate
the material and fire it. GET HELP. Even a short
class at a craft center or community college will
help a lot. If there's not one around, try to find a
local ceramics person and ask to watch them and ask
a few questions. Even if they do work that's utterly
dissimilar to your intentions, you can learn a lot.
It's hard to learn a physical skill from pictures
After you've got some confidence in your direction,
and you're ready to expand your skills, you can
decide whether making your own glaze is a good thing
to learn. It might not be. It's often valuable to
know how to do something, even if you don't have a
use for that skill at the moment, but it may not be
the best use of YOUR time, now or ever. I know how
to make glaze, and I actually use that skill, but
the majority of my work doesn't even have glaze on
it. Someone once said to me, "The only appropriate
surface for clay is glaze", but with all due respect,
I think that's bull. (I'll say it again: "BULL!")
Glaze is really useful stuff, and lovely, too, but
it's not the right surface for every purpose. Making
soup bowls? Glaze is great! Making clay sculpture?
Maybe it needs glaze, but maybe it really needs
colored engobes, or just lovely bare clay, or maybe
paint, or gold leaf, or wax, or pine tar, or
ecoupage, or flocking, or lacquer, or sequins, or
chewing gum, or bits of fur, etc, etc...
Find what your work needs to be. Then, find out what
you need to know to make it. Sometimes, the tail
wags the dog, and learning a new skill will suggest
wonderful new directions you'd never thought about
before, but don't feel any obligation to learn a
new skill just because someone (or even a whole lot
of someones) said you ought to. Do it, IF you do,
because the work will be better for having done so.
Debbie on mon 29 aug 05
Thank you so much for responding!
I definately agree that I wouldn't be as good chemically...so I mostly
meant as a sculptor...would not knowing how to mix clay mean that I cannot
truly call myself a ceramic artist?
I agree with the idea that painters don't mix their own paint, etc. And
that is why I went ahead and purchased a kiln. I still would like to get
some one-on-one with a true potter to learn the basics and feel more
confident. But I'll never be at the level many are with knowledge about
clay or glaze composition. I think it's intriguing, but I just don't have
the funds to learn it all right now, and as you said, for my pieces it
won't really matter.
I may, for that matter, still use acrylics for some of my work. Since I
mainly wanted a medium that didn't fall over once I had constructed it, I'm
not so picky about how I decorate it.
I'm hoping to check out some ceramic artists when I go to a few high-
quality craft shows this fall. I'll be checking prices, what they produce,
etc. It should be eye-opening for me.
marianne kuiper milks on thu 1 sep 05
I just found your email. I often wonder...artist?
artis it? is it art?
To a degree an artist, in my view, (i.e. personal
projection) is someone who can produce something new
from basic materials and considers it exciting, fun,
beautiful, stimulating or whatever emotion it evokes.
everbody else may have their own view. I grew up with
Karel Appel. Boy..talk about social/artistic
reactions! But he opened eyes/minds, did something
Look at www.petersvalley.com (net?) and look at the
workshop offered September 9. I forget the artist's
name, but look at the picture showing the genre
presented. I'm not sure yet whether I'll like it, or
use it, but it's another eye-opener and mind
stretcher. Good excercise and DEFINITELY worth a
little time! And I have to bring 20 bisques pieces,
brushes, glue, acrylic paint, papers, krylon spray...
:) More new choices.
Have fun getting dirty and I truly recommend taking a
class at Peters Valley (NJ) in the future. People fly
in from all over the country!
Take a left on Elbow Road to Muckland turn on Eternal
Bliss Road. Please watch out: don't kiln the deer!
--- Debbie wrote:
> Thank you so much for responding!
> I definately agree that I wouldn't be as good
> chemically...so I mostly
> meant as a sculptor...would not knowing how to mix
> clay mean that I cannot
> truly call myself a ceramic artist?
> I agree with the idea that painters don't mix their
> own paint, etc. And
> that is why I went ahead and purchased a kiln. I
> still would like to get
> some one-on-one with a true potter to learn the
> basics and feel more
> confident. But I'll never be at the level many are
> with knowledge about
> clay or glaze composition. I think it's intriguing,
> but I just don't have
> the funds to learn it all right now, and as you
> said, for my pieces it
> won't really matter.
> I may, for that matter, still use acrylics for some
> of my work. Since I
> mainly wanted a medium that didn't fall over once I
> had constructed it, I'm
> not so picky about how I decorate it.
> I'm hoping to check out some ceramic artists when I
> go to a few high-
> quality craft shows this fall. I'll be checking
> prices, what they produce,
> etc. It should be eye-opening for me.
> Send postings to firstname.lastname@example.org
> You may look at the archives for the list or change
> your subscription
> settings from http://www.ceramics.org/clayart/
> Moderator of the list is Mel Jacobson who may be
> reached at email@example.com.
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katetiler on thu 8 sep 05
Debbie, thanks for your post - it's really important that you stood up
and waved to us! I just wanted to add a couple of things to the
supportive comments from everyone else.
Two of the artists that I am most drawn to are women working in clay
who paint, rather than glaze their work. One is Mary Seton Watts, who
was an artist working in the Art Nouveau style in England, she was
born in 1849 and died in 1938:
Is a gallery mostly dedicated to her husband, but she built a
terracotta chapel and decorated it with the most beautiful life sized
angels that she painted and gilded.
She also used to make small figures and pots and plates, all in
terracotta clay which she then painted with watercolours and waxed, so
they have a soft sheen to them. I've tried to find online images of
these but I can only find the front cover of the book about her, which
has one of the chapel angels.
The other artist is a contemporary clay sculptor called Marie Gibbons:
She makes figures and works in clay and mixed media, and uses paints
and other 'cold finishes' i.e. not glazes to decorate the surfaces of
her work. I've watched her work develop over the last 6 or so years by
looking at her website, I've never seen it in the flesh!
This is a description of how she creates her work.
They may not be to your taste, but I wanted to show you other people
who have been drawn to less conventional ways of working in clay, to
encourage you to explore the possibilities!
The other thing that you might want to look up is paperclay - mixing
tissue and newspaper in with clay which gives you a lighter, more
versatile sculpting medium. It means you can add wet clay onto dry
clay, join sections together and carve it when it has dried.
Here is a description which also uses 'cold finishes' rather than glazes:
and there are lots of previous discussions about it in the archives:
Again as I said to an earlier potter who was just starting out, try
not to get too bogged down in research and checking what everyone else
has done before, you are the most important resource - make notes of
what you are learning, thinking about, passionate over in case your
head is going too fast for your hands!
When you start firing your kiln, keep a log of what you do, just a
date, what was in the kiln, what the firing schedule was & how the
results came out. I recently went back to the notes I took 6 years ago
& realised I had a reason why my firings weren't as successful
recently, because I'd gotten confused by being advised by a stoneware
firing potter. I went back to my old firing schedule and now my
firings are successful again!
Let us know how you do! love Kate