Good morning! Today is the last weekday of our fall break- we've been kayaking, working in the studio and in preparation for teaching in November, resting, working on expanding a treehouse, and shipping out this month's CSA subscription. Next week I head out for *my* fall break/art retreat and I've tried to pack in as much as possible before heading out. I thought I'd give you a little preview of this month's work:
While I generally have a bit of a game plan before the CSA is introduced, the real work begins in my sketchbook. In the past few years I've played around with sashiko embroidery/mending and dying textiles and yarn (and my own clothing) to refresh and transform pieces that had lost their sparkle, were damaged (ripped jeans and a beautiful skein of cashmere that was sadly moth-infested), or were perfectly serviceable but I just didn't like anymore. These all became canvas for creative embroidery, darning, or transformation by bright ultramarine synthetic dyes and natural indigo vats. Both the sashiko and dye processes can be unpredictable, slightly messy, and definitely show the hand of the maker. I've watched my good friends Sarah and Melissa begin their own dye studios (Sarah works with a range of bright colors and Melissa uses natural plant dyes, including my recently transformed indigo yarn, which began its life with me as a bag of insipidly baby blue cashmerino that sat in storage for two years) and admired the range of color and intensity in their work.
And so: this month's work
I threw large noodle/ramen bowls and mugs out of my regular porcelain right as September turned into October and used my pattern tracing wheel on the pieces once they were leather hard (I learned the hard way not to use it on wet clay- the wheel gets "boogered up" and won't turn, but makes a single line rather than ticking marks) making a slow spiral around each piece. The ticking marks the wheel leaves have always reminded me of a running sitch, which is the first stitch anyone learns when sewing. It is also the basis of sashiko. Once the bowls and cups (I attached the cup handles after making the ticking design) were decorated with ticking marks and were on the firm side of leather hard, I painted on my cobalt wash and set them aside to dry a bit longer before carrying them down to the sink to rinse off the excess cobalt. This is where things get interesting. Cobalt oxide is such a powerful colorant that even if it looks like all traces of the wash has been removed, it hasn't. I rinse the pieces under running water, gently rubbing (in one direction) with a sea sponge to remove the wash from the outside of the piece, knowing that the colorant stays in the incised lines, creating an inlay design. I also know that I never, not ever, remove 100% of it. After the bisque firing, whatever I didn't remove shows up. If I'm feeling really ticky, I will put on a mask and sand off the extra cobalt. This month I decided to leave the excess deposits where they were, much in the same way indigo leaves its mark in varying intensities on textiles. Some bowls and cups have bright patches of cobalt showing through the clear glaze, and others have fainter blooms left from their rinse. These didn't show up after the bisque fire but only made themselves known after the glaze firing.
I found this whole (truly) wabi-sabi process interesting and unsettling. I generally like precision in my work and the process of using materials like cobalt oxide, glazes, and kilns challenges my notions of what my work should be. Porcelain reshapes itself during the heat, glazes run or don't run contrary to my expectations, oxides show up where they aren't expected. Part of a CSA program is accepting what comes, whether as a farm share or in this work, both for the recipients and the creators, and I have to fight the urge to make the work I'm sending out as close to perfect as I can get. So it's appropriate, this month, that the make-do make-art influences of hand-dyeing and sashiko mending should be my inspiration. .