Okay, I said the next blog would be about dark clay bodies, but I had a workshop with Julia Galloway this past weekend so I'm going to talk about that first. Julia is an administrator/professor at the University of Montana and a first-rate potter. Julia's workshop focused on surface decoration, something I haven't given enough attention to. On the first day we threw or handbuilt different types of pots. Here's Julia showing the class her technique for making a flange. She makes the flange early and then pulls up the walls below it. That way she has enough clay to make an adequate flange. If she waits until the walls are pulled up all the way, she may not have enough clay at the top to make a good flange. She worked while standing up to protect her back, but it was pretty rough getting her foot up to that pedal! (Just kidding, of course) I learned a great deal from her about a number of things such as how to center small pieces of clay. Some of you have large hands like mine and may have a harder time centering smaller pieces of clay than you do larger pieces of clay. If I'm correctly interpreting what she was doing, she had a sponge in her right hand, cupped her hands around the clay on both sides and pulled it back toward her while controlling the top with both thumbs. Anyway, that's what I've been doing since then and it's helped me center small pieces of clay more quickly. While Julia was doing her demo's she was sharing very funny and insightful stories about her journey as an artist.
On the second day, Julia was helping us decorate our pots by showing us different techniques she's mastered such as incising, sgraffito, and shellac resist. With each technique, she was using colored slips to add depth to the surface of her pots. Julia is also interested in the history of pottery, and gave us an interesting presentation (along with images) about how decorations work on pots, what they actually do. For instance, one decoration may move our eyes around a vase, another takes us into the center of a bowl, still another takes us up and over the spout. Some decorations express something about the pot's function. For instance, a Chinese pot that served as a sort of aquarium would have fish and aquatic plants on the side. Many of the most effective decorations create graphic tension which increases its visual interest. Julia continued to be informative and funny throughout the day, but the second photo shows a bit of her intensity. She's a great teacher, and great teachers know how to shift from being funny and light-hearted to looking straight at their students to see if what they're saying is getting through their thick noggins! I think a great deal got through ours, judging from my own experience and the experience of other participants.
Finally, Julia set up a stand and had each of us put one of our undecorated pots on the stand. She projected images of decorations from historical pots on to our pots in order to get us thinking about different ways we could decorate them. I'd never seen this done before, but it's a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Some of the decorations worked better on my pitcher than others, and the image to the left captures one of the better design ideas. So if you're looking for a workshop leader, consider inviting Julia. She's an amazing potter and a great teacher. If you'd like to find out more about her work, visit her website at www.juliagalloway.com. There you'll find things like a gallery of her work, a section called "alchemy" (which includes her favorite recipes for glazes and slips), and her "field guide" which is a real gem. The field guide is intended for young potters who are graduating from college and helping to orient them to professional potting, but it's also useful for those of us who aren't full-time potters. You'll find a great deal of information about things like taking images of your pieces, setting up a website (I need to read this one!), and packing and shipping your pieces. One section includes short interviews with important potters like Tony Marsh and Richard Notkin. The last section has a gold mine of pdf downloads. I've had a great deal of fun looking through this stuff. Check it out and let me (and Julia) know what you think.
I began potting in January of 2012. Because I'm so new to potting, I think I understand the challenges of beginning potters and hope this blog will be encouraging to them and a source of helpful information and comment. I hope you'll join the conversation!