September CSA

Good morning and happy Friday! My week has flown by.  A special long-time "flickr friend" was in town this week, visiting from Madison, WI, and we had a great time doing some of my favorite "hidden Memphis" activities- from hole in the wall bbq to taking a Mississippi River kayak trip (we were so lucky- the water was just like glass so it was safe to venture out in*) where I showed her my secret clay source, and plenty of down time for her to explore and for me to work like crazy. 

I shipped off my SCA packages on Wednesday- I know I say this every time, but I think this was my favorite yet.  I knew the shape I wanted from the beginning, knew I wanted to have a river theme, knew I wanted to work with inlay.  I couldn't be more pleased with the end result.

These cups and bowls are my favorite English Porcelain.  One day in late August I sat down and threw the whole batch and the clay just SANG to me.  I have been thinking about yunomi, or tea bowls, a lot lately, and I'm sure that I've told you that I prefer cups with no handle so that I can wrap my hands around them and feel enveloped in their warmth.  These little cups are like that, with a flared bowl and gently curved, nearly straight sides, and the bowls are similarly shaped, just larger.  After trimming and smoothing the surface of the clay, I added ticking with my pattern wheel tracer on both the exterior and interior of each piece, and I drew mussel shells, inspired by the shells I collected on the Spring River in Hardy this summer, and some of the large (as big as my hand!) mussels I occasionally find on the Mississippi River. 

Every so often, I go out to my secret clay spot and scoop up a chunk with my paddle.  This chocolate-dark, iron-rich clay is pretty pure in some sections on the banks of the Mississippi.  I discovered that this clay was delightful to work with about six years ago, after acamping trip which included some river play, and brought a bag home to play with.  It's not the best for throwing (though not impossible, but I don't have to skills-or patience- to clean the grit out of it) but it is WONDERFUL for inlay.  I usually float along the harvesting spot until I see a place with deep cracks and flaking between the clay layers.  That's best to work with, and I scoop it up with my paddle and put it into a zip plastic bag with me.  I don't need much, just a handful a month.  I am not generally a brown fan, but there's something so compelling about using such raw materials, collected locally, to tell a story in my work.  On an early iteration of this series I tried painting with the Mississippi slip, but too much detail disappeared under the glaze, so I went back to inlay.

When I use cobalt for inlay, the solution is very watery and I try to only apply it in the incised lines because cobalt is expensive and it gets EVERYWHERE and doesn't show up until it's fired.  I really slopped the Mississippi slip on, though, to make sure I got good dark lines.  After it dried, I scraped it off and then bisque fired the bone dry pieces.

I'm quite pleased with how these turned out- even more so when my visiting friend commented that the glossy clear glaze on the white porcelain looked pearlescent, like the nacre on the inside of the shells.  I'm quite sure that I will continue to play with this shape and the Mississippi slip inlay, and I still have some ideas bumping around in my head about the mussel shells, which I've loved ever since I was a child, spending vacations floating on Arkansas rivers with my family.

gouache on paper, from my sketchbook

gouache on paper, from my sketchbook

There are still several cup slots open for this CSA and one bowl remaining, which I opened back up after several requests, but I'll close that again after the end of this weekend. 

Have a lovely weekend friends.  Thanks for reading!



*note- it is NEVER safe to go out in the Mississippi River without a life jacket, without a boat, without at least one other person.  I am adventuresome but extremely cautious and I never venture out into the main current and if there is a lot of barge traffic, I don't go out at all.  My husband is has 25 years paddling experience, my friend Martha, who was with us Wednesday has 16 years experience paddling in the big river, and I have been a canoe-lover for the past 18. I wouldn't kayak in the Mississippi by myself.  This was your recreational kayaking PSA