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Putting Studio Time AsideMost years I spend nearly all my summer weekdays working in my clay studio at home.  This is my main time to get sculpture built and prepare for shows during the year. Also, this work refreshes me for the coming academic year.

I did glaze a bit before settling down to do some online work

This year I am not going to be able to spend much time in the studio. It is disappointing and I feel a bit sad about it, but I have made the decision to prioritize other things this summer. I have three different types of activities that will be taking precedence this summer: union work, preparing interactive lessons for my online Art History classes, and travel. I had hoped that I would get to supplement this work with a three-day workshop with Beth Cavener on the YVC campus, but with less than a month to go before the scheduled workshop, there weren't enough folks signed up and we had to cancel.


Other Responsibilities this SummerUnion DutiesThis spring I took over as union president for the AFT faculty union on my campus. As union president there is some stuff that ends up on my plate naturally, stuff like meeting with faculty groups and representing faculty in disagreements (major or minor) with administration. This year I am also researching and organizing a group of faculty to prepare for the contract negotiations that will take place next year. The work is important, though it isn't fun, relaxing, or refreshing in the way studio time is and it doesn't lend itself to sharing publicly at this point.

Interactive Lessons for Art HistoryOver the 2018-19 academic year I took on the daunting, but rewarding, task of "gamifying" my online Art History series. Since I only have so much control over the learning management system, the game elements are not quite as seamless as I had initially hoped, but with game play (and student learning) in mind, I redesigned the classes to feature interactive lessons in SoftChalk.

I also made a character "Art Student" who is meant to travel with the students on their journey.

I wrote about SoftChalk before because I'm a big fan. I used it for my Clay Studio Safety training lesson and apparently our safety person on campus is now using a similar SoftChalk lesson to run his own trainings. The SoftChalk lessons allow students to interact with the content in more ways than Canvas does, allowing them to do multiple choice but also click on areas of maps or images, drag and drop labels or cards into categories, and even give answer that generate feedback instead of grading.

I made achievement badges for the Ancient & Medieval class, but I'm not sure anyone cared about them, so I didn't bother for the Spring class.

Last summer I spent about a month on the SoftChalk lessons and integrated them into my Intro to Clay class and my Ancient & Medieval Art History class. The clay safety lesson is used by all of my clay classes as well as my work study students in the studio. But I only had time to prepare SoftChalk lessons for about half the Art History class before I simply ran out of time and energy. I complicated things by working on some other significant changes to testing and assignments during the same time.

Interactive map plan for the Clay Safety lesson
Because the SoftChalk lessons and organizational overhaul took so much time and energy in the summer and fall quarter, I ended up teaching the Ancient & Medieval Art History class twice (Fall and Winter) and skipped the second class in the Art History series last year. I was able to make 70% of the changes I wanted to make in the first of the series, about that much or more in the third in the series, which I taught in Spring, and I've made none of the changes in the Winter quarter class.

Did the SoftChalk lessons result in improved results in the clay classes? I'm going to just say yes.

I was able to get a lot more done for the spring class because I was able to recycle some of the interactive lessons from Ancient & Medieval for use in Impressionism through Post Modernism. I had also made some of the smaller changes in the Spring class during my ESCALA project last spring and I also teach a reduced load in the Spring because I teach a slightly higher than average load the rest of the year.

planning calendars and todo lists for the online classes
So this summer I have set aside some time to make ALL the changes in the Winter quarter Art History class, Renaissance through 19th Century and, hopefully, the remaining additions to the Fall and Spring quarter classes.



Travel
Of course I am not spending my entire summer working. My family also has three significant trips planned. Last week my daughter and I were in New Hampshire visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew at their house. We had a lovely time watching carpenter ants at the Museum of Science in Boston (and then getting hailed on!), playing board games in Manchester, and visiting Flume Gorge in the White Mountains. 

An epic paper airplane afternoon
The kids getting absolutely wild with their sparklers (both fearless pyromaniacs as you can see)
the family trolling other hikers in the White Mountains
beach glass and shell collection, properly sorted

Later this month the whole family is traveling to London! My daughter is very excited. It will be the first time she and her dad have been out of North America. It will be my second trip to London, but the first in nearly 20 years. I spent J-term (January 1 month class) my second year in college in London taking an education class. We spent nearly all of our time in London and had lots of free time to explore. It was great and I anticipate it will be great again this time. We already have our tickets to see the Harry Potter stuff at the Warner Bros Studio Tour and a mile-long list of other things we want to do there, too. 

this month: real Harry Potter, not just Wizards Unite

Our last summer trip is one we've planned tentatively but we've done nothing to make it official (like booked a hotel). The plan is, assuming we still have energy in August, to drive down through Oregon to the northern part of California and see the redwoods. My daughter has never been to California and Sean and I have only ever been to San Diego.

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New Homemade SignA couple of weeks ago, after our grand opening party, we finally got the second sign made for our Little "Tree" Library. The rest of the library and the sign on the street side was complete when I wrote this extensive post about the process on June 15, and the sign might even have been started, but we hadn't yet attached it at that point.

Our library with the sign in place.

My husband did 99% of all the work on the whole tree and library, but I made the sign. I'm pretty happy about how it turned out. I used a Dremel and a pneumatic vibro etcher to create the letters, which are etched or engraved into the wood. 

Little "Tree" Library
Take a Book     Return a Book  

I printed the text and taped the paper to the wood before beginning to outline the letters. The process wasn't particularly difficult, but it took a while, probably because I was using fairly small tools. After carving, I added some paint into the depressions and wiped it away on the raised surface just like I do with the second layer of underglaze color on my ceramic sculpture

the article and our (big) picture in the paper

Local Newspaper (Yakima Herald) Article
We also got some press on our Little "Tree" Library. Last week the Yakima Herald Republic ran an article about the library. Though I was out of town last week, a number of people have mentioned the article to me and I've received 5 copies of the paper (or that section of it) from friends and neighbors. I can tell that new books have been added and others removed and my daughter, our librarian, even found a card to us from another little free library owner in Yakima, welcoming us to the little free library community.

three of our five copies of the newspaper

Little Free Library ArticleThe Little Free Library website also included our library in an article/post on their website. The article is "11 Epic Little Free Libraries Carved from Trees", though I would argue that only 10 are actually libraries carved from trees (one is a library next to some tree stump seats).

The empty library with the door open and light on in the evening
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Our little free (tree) library, in the evening with the lights on (and before being filled for the first time).

Last night we held a grand opening party for our new little free (tree) library. Yesterday was also the last day of school for the kids and the last day of finals for YVC (grades due Monday, so guess what I'm doing this weekend?) and we wanted to celebrate summer, too. So we invited some friends over to show off the new library and maybe help us stock it.

My daughter arranging the first books.

My husband, Sean, has been working on the library since early May after I went out and bought a cabinet from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. The process involved a lot of learning and adjusting of plans. When I bought the cabinet, I thought we were going to cut a hole in the tree and stick the cabinet in. But the cabinet I bought had two doors, so Sean decided to cut a hole all the way through the tree (which was a great idea, but required a lot of work).

The hole goes all the way through. I think Sean is blowing out the sawdust from inside.

The idea sort of began a year ago when the large old maple tree in front of our house died. It still had leaves, but they were tiny, and after talking to a few tree experts, it became clear it wasn't going to get better, but it might drop a limb on our roof, our neighbors, or a vehicle, so we hired some folks to cut down the tree.

Our dying tree last year.

We decided not to pay for the stump to be removed, and we spent the next year thinking about what we wanted to do. We thought seriously about hiring someone to carve the stump into a sculpture, but we couldn't really come to an agreement about what we wanted, so we put it off.

Our stump after the high branches were cut down.

I can't remember when we first started talking about making the stump into a library, but when Sean decided to take some serious time off of work (he quit his job), it became a real possibility. At the tail end of Spring break, I went to the Habitat Restore thinking I'd look at options, and I came back with a cabinet that was larger than I'd anticipated, but with attractive doors.

Sean's first cut for the library.

Not long after, Sean measured the cabinet, plugged in his chainsaw and started teaching himself how to cut a hole in a tree. I don't know how the experts cut a hole in a tree, but Sean's method was pretty smart. He cut a set of gridlines in the front of the tree and then used a crowbar to pop each square out of the tree. Once one set of blocks was out, he could cut deeper gridlines and pop them out.

The grid of chainsaw cuts after a set of blocks were popped out.

It took him several days to get through to the other side using this method, and at this point all three of us took turns hammering out the remaining cubes of wood so that we could see through the tree. 

Popping out blocks from the hole in progress.

Sean had started with an electric chainsaw, but thought perhaps a gas powered version would do better. He borrowed a gas chainsaw from a friend, then, not wanting to damage the friend's chainsaw, he ended up buying one. And then another.

Using a hammer to pop out the last center blocks from the back to reveal the hole.

An inexperienced woodworker cutting through a tree can be pretty hard on the machines, I guess. It wasn't clear whether the first gas chainsaw had something wrong with it or if it was used and abused. Presumably they aren't designed to cut large holes through the middle of large tree stumps.

After the center blocks were popped out.

It took about three days of hard work to get through the tree, but then he had to expand and even out the hole for equal sized openings on both sides. By this point, I think, he had decided not to use the cabinet, but to remove the doors and install them in the tree directly.

Cali didn't actually enjoy being placed in the hole.

Our landscaping had also changed at this point, with little blocks of wood edging the entire length of our front yard fence almost as if the wood blocks were a poor attempt at bark mulch. The kids, however, had some fun building dams with the portable and very stackable blocks of wood.

The kid was happier about going inside the library. Also, that's a big little library.

The next step in the process was to make the inside look nice. I would have been happy with getting rid of the lines in the floor from the chainsaws. (I even thought it would be fun to leave the cuts and use them to stand up small paperbacks, kind of like built-in slots for book display.) But Sean has higher standards for his tree hole library projects.

The floor and door frame after sanding and before varnish. The wood grain and tree rings are easy to see.

It was difficult to keep the chainsaw level inside the tree, so Sean bought an angle grinder with a chainsaw blade to smooth out the inside. It is such a terrifyingly dangerous tool, that I'm not even going to link to it. It worked okay, but would then kick back. Since it had such force, that kick back could get really dangerous. Luckily it was cool weather so Sean was wearing a sweatshirt. The blade bounced off his watch band and then got tangled in his sweatshirt sleeve before hitting his arm. The watch band and the fabric slowed down the blade so it didn't cut far into his arm. 

The rails for the router sled inside the tree.

As a safer solution, Sean looked up how to make a router sled. Though a router sled isn't typically made to go inside a tree, he made this one work. The wooden sled has a space for the router and the length of the bit can be adjusted to go through the gap in the sled. The sled moves along two rails which can be leveled and attached, in this case, to the tree itself. The router moves side to side in the sled and the sled moves forwarded or backward along the rails to take off even strips of wood over a large surface.

Sean standing on top of the tree to show the router sled in action (and I'm glad I wasn't home for this vertiginous photo op).

The router sled allowed him to level the floor of the library, and he later used it to level to the top of the tree. Using the router also increased the height of the (already fairly large) space inside the library. He couldn't use the router to get all the way to the edges of the interior, because the router itself would bump into the walls, but it was easier to do this part by hand once the rest was flat and level.

The tree top when nearly finished routing. Notice the sky light is visible on the far side.

Sean didn't use the router on the walls of the library space. It would have entailed some awkward positioning and I'm not sure he even considered it. He smoothed the walls with a combination of chainsaw, angle grinder with a rough disk, and the terrifyingly deadly grinder until that tool was officially retired and dismantled to avoid any future temptation to use it "just this once."

The inside of the tree, showing smooth floor but rough walls.

There were also many levels of sandpaper involved in smoothing the walls and the floor. Because they weren't leveled with the router sled, the walls gently curve and undulate. I love this feature, because it highlights the organic surface of the tree. Whereas the floor is controlled and fully functional, the walls remind us that the tree was a growing changing thing. And really pretty, too.

The doors placed temporarily. I like the way the light comes through the window glass and shows up on the wall.

The smooth surfaces of the floor and the walls were nice, but the wood grain was a bit hard to see. Sean wanted to protect the interior of the library, so he applied a durable two-part varnish. Once he began to apply it, the wood grain shone out just beautifully. It's very glossy, so the texture is a bit hard to capture in photographs (at least with the amount of effort I intend to put into it today), but in-person it is stunning.

The grain of the wood on the wall is particularly visible in the bottom half of the photo. The pattern is the wood, not a texture from the cutting.

Before he applied the varnish, my daughter and I marked the rings of the tree. We weren't really sure what we were doing. Sometimes a ring appears to stop and start. Sometimes one dark ring appears to have a bunch of faint rings before the next dark one, and sometimes we disagreed about what was and was not a ring, but we did our best. By our count the tree was planted in about 1929 (though this did not quite match my earlier count of 1938).

Our tree ring markings are visible, even if the tree rings aren't as clear.

With the varnish on, and the wood cracking as it dries, the rings are much harder to see than when we were marking them. The marks are also difficult to read, but still visible. I'm glad we marked them, since they are so hard to see now. The most recent ring dates can be seen outside of the library door on the sidewalk side. Then it might be necessary to move the books to see the line of numbers as they move towards the middle.

A shrink wrapped tree hole, as the varnish dries.

While the varnish was drying, we discovered that any water, dust, or debris could mar the finish, so we ended up plastic wrapping the tree between coats. This was the first time I'd ever plastic wrapped a tree. I think our neighbors must have thought this was the strangest part of the process.

The library hole with much of the tree still above.

I'm telling the story a bit out of order, in part because some things were happening in overlapping time frames. Once the hole was cut, Sean also wanted to cut down the top. The original plan was to make a castle/playhouse on top, but we have some concerns about safety if people might choose to climb up on a structure in our front yard.


This lego model of the little free library shows earlier plans for a castle top.

The chainsaws were probably more appropriately put to use to cut down the top sections of the tree, than the interior, but getting up there was a challenge. Speaking of safety, scaffolding in the back of a truck is a thing that is possible, but I'm not sure it is actually advisable. Sean took down the chunks of wood in fairly manageable sizes and didn't hurt himself, so we're going to call it a win.

Scaffolding in the truck bed to reach the top of the stump for cutting.

However, some strange things started happening as he reached the lower sections of the tree above the library. There was a crotch in the tree between branches and we knew something was rotten there, but while cleaning out the dead wood and mold, Sean discovered some pieces of metal and glass and an old cell phone. Apparently someone had tossed it up into the tree, then left it there to rot into the hole. It was rediscovered when it dropped through the hole. Unfortunately the metal bits were first discovered with the chainsaw blade.

Sean inside the library, with the skylight above.

Sean wanted to create a flat surface on top of the tree and hopefully protect the wood from weather, especially since the hole in the tree would let the rain in onto the books. He could have simply covered the top with something, but a little free library with a working skylight is great fun, so Sean cut some holes in the aluminum sheet (the one he cut precisely to the size and shape of the top of the tree stump) and installed some plexiglass windows. We used silicone to attache the entire metal sheet to the planed top of the tree. The idea is that the silicone will prevent mold.

The two circles on the roof are the plexiglass skylights.

The more Sean worked on it, the more impressive the little free library plan became. As long as there's going to be a skylight, why not actual lights, too? So Sean rigged up some solar lights (the kind that light up..
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April & May Art Events
The end of April and beginning of May are busy times. It seems like we have a two- or three-week span during which events are pretty much non-stop. Saturday, April 27 was International Sculpture Day, with events in Yakima and Tieton. Tuesday, April 30 was the opening reception for the DoVA Student and Faculty Exhibition at Larson Gallery (exhibit continues through May 25). And next Thursday, May 9 is the Spring Clay Sale at YVC.

Mugs with glaze drips by Beau Filbert
Clay Sale: Thursday, May 9, 11-7, Palmer Martin Hall (YVC Campus)The clay sale features functional pottery and sculpture made by current and former YVC clay students and faculty for sale at low, low prices! The sale runs Thursday from 11am-7pm in Palmer Martin Building (building 20) on the south side of the Yakima Valley College campus. We take cash, checks, and credit cards. Many pieces are priced below $10 and even $5 dollars. YVC clay T-shirts, as well as prints from the Winter 2019 printmaking class (not clay) will also be on sale.

Standing spoon rest with underglaze decoration, by Amber Ryan 
This quarter, my students (and even employees, when they have time) have been working hard to throw, trim, glaze and fire new work for the sale. In fact, though it is only week 5, we've already fired one load of glazed work and are getting ready to fire another kiln full on Tuesday so that the work can be ready for Thursday's sale.

Oxidation copper vase by Amber Ryan

We usually fire our first reduction glaze firing around week 5 or so. This load usually consists mainly of beginning student work. I required beginning students to glaze some of their early work around mid-quarter so they can see what the glazes look like. This quarter we ended up firing an even earlier oxidation firing that consisted mostly of intermediate and community student work. This quarter I have an unusually large group of 6 intermediate students, as well as some prolific community worker/students who have been making mostly clay sale work for the past few weeks.

Reduction copper vase by Amber Ryan

Firing AtmospheresBoth reduction and oxidation firings in our studio reach the same temperature (cone 10 or roughly 2300 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be fired in the same kiln. We used the same glazes for both firings, but we adjust the gas and air in the kiln to create different atmospheres. An oxidizing atmosphere is one in which there is plenty of oxygen for the fire. For a reduction atmosphere, we reduce the amount of oxygen available in the kiln so that the fire must pull oxygen out of the glaze chemicals or the clay itself. This process turns the Iron Oxide in the clay body into metallic specs of iron when the oxygen is used to react in the firing process.

oxidation copper bowl with glaze drip by Austin Peart

Similarly, the oxygen in copper carbonate (CuCO3) reacts with the fire and changes the look of the copper in the glaze. In an oxidation atmosphere (seen above in Amber and Austin's greenish pieces) there is plenty of oxygen inside the kiln, so the copper remains this greenish color. My comparison for students is the statue of liberty. The copper on this statue is out in open with plenty of air and thus as a greenish appearance.

Reduction vase with bent rim by Austin Peart

In a reduction atmosphere, on the other hand, the copper reacts to the removal of oxygen by turning red. My comparison for students is a copper penny kept in a pocket and not exposed to the air. The result in our firing is that copper in a reduction atmosphere turns red. The red copper glaze in Amber and Austin's pieces above and Leticia and Beau's pieces below has turned a vivid red and has become fairly opaque in the glaze.

reduction copper glaze with incised decoration by Leticia Ortiz

The firings can also be loaded a bit differently. We have found that if we load the bottom of the kiln tight, with pieces close together, and run out of work (or have irregularly shaped work) at the top for the kiln, so that the pieces have lots of space around them, the kiln will not be able to maintain a reduction atmosphere. The extra space around work tends to cause those loosely loaded areas of the kiln to have more oxidized look, especially with copper glazes.

bowl with glaze drips (upside down) by Beau Filbert

In the red and green examples above, Amber, Austin, Leticia, and Beau have used the copper glaze in combination with other glazes. Beau used some Ninja Junior crawl on  his rim, Leticia and Austin have layered a different white glaze over or under their red copper glaze near the top. I believe Amber's copper glaze is over the same white in both instances and I believe Leticia's white is over the copper, but I'm not 100% sure anymore.

bowls with glaze drips by Beau Filbert

Austin also has a drip of some other glaze running down the oxidized copper into the middle of his bowl. Our copper glaze has a lot of "flow" meaning it melts relatively early and keeps melting and moving during the firing. This movement can lead to the drips we see on Austin's piece (his are intentional, but sometimes students underestimate the movement and end up with their glaze stuck to the shelf). This movement can also cause other glazes on top of the copper glaze to move a lot too. This is what is happening with Austin's bowl and probably what is happening with the white glaze in Leticia's vase.

oxidation mug with mountain design by Leticia Ortiz

The copper glaze I've been discussing isn't our only glaze with copper. We have another glaze, seen in Leticia's mug above and Austin, Kim, and Ruby's pieces below, that contains both copper carbonate and cobalt oxide. The cobalt itself doesn't change much based on the firing, but the copper does. The combination of the blue cobalt and the transparent greenish of the copper in oxidation results in a blue glaze like we see in Leticia's mug. 

reduction mug by Austin Peart

The same glaze in reduction looks purple because of the combination of red copper and blue cobalt. This glaze tends to vary more than others due to variations in thickness or atmosphere, so we get a range of different red/purple/blue colors in the one application of glaze. In Austin's mug above, the thinner layer at the bottom looks different from the thicker area at the top/middle. The interior of this mug has a different cobalt blue glaze.

shaped vase by Kim Hansen

Students can create further color variations by layering glazes over one another. The order in which two glazes are applied can result in different colors and textures as the glazes react and combine. A high-flow glaze underneath will pull the top glaze with it, while a high flow glaze over a fairly stable glaze won't cause the first layer to move as much. In Kim's vase above she has layered three glazes together, making it difficult to distinguish the transition between the copper/cobalt glaze and the dark glaze at the bottom. 

glazed mug set by advanced student Ruby Mayo
Copper and iron aren't the only materials that react differently in one firing compared to another, but their effects are the most dramatically different (of our studio glazes) and I have the best examples of these color changes today. In Ruby's mugs above, we see the copper/cobalt glaze reduction purple over a different lavender glaze (the front most mug). In the taller mugs in the back, we see an iron based red glaze, probably fired in oxidation. The iron red and the Shino underneath it (on the left) both react to atmosphere changes as well.
glaze vase by advanced student Lauren Coffey

Writing as Discovery
One of the fun things about writing a blog is that I don't always know where I'm going when I start. I began this post about a month ago (or more) when I simply wanted to show the great stuff my Winter 2019 throwing class had made. At that point I had just added the images. When I sat down to write today, I thought I might write about the upcoming clay sale (this coming Thursday, 11-7 in Palmer Martin's lobby), then as I started to write the post turned into a discussion of chemical reactions in firing oxidation and reduction. Surprise!

graphic mug with underglaze decoration by Autumn Wilson

Though these last few pieces by Lauren and Autumn don't exhibit the dramatic changes in glaze color that we see in the copper glazes, I can still fairly confidently recognize the firing. I can guess, based on subtle variations, that Lauren and Autumn fired the vase and the red mug in oxidation (the red is an underglaze, not a copper based glaze). The middle of Lauren's vase has a subtle tinge of green that makes me thing she layered the copper glaze over the white. Underglaze colors tend to become more dull in reduction firings so I would have advised her to fire oxidation (plus, I think she and Lauren were finishing these after we loaded the last reduction kiln). 

blue and white mugs by Autumn Wilson

The blue and white mugs, however, were probably fired in two different kilns. The two on the right exhibit little specks of iron in the white glaze. These specks are the iron oxide from the clay body reacting to the lack of oxygen in a reduction firing. The iron loses its oxide and turns into metallic iron bits that we can see through the glaze. The mug on the left does not have these specks, which means either it was fired in an oxidizing atmosphere, or the student used a porcelain clay for this piece (and stoneware for the others). Porcelain clay does not contain iron oxide, and thus stays (or turns into) a pure white color in a reduction atmosphere.

Bowl with gold luster decoration by advanced student Ruby Mayo

Well, that's today's chemistry lesson. Maybe next time I'll talk about gold luster and mother of pearl overglaze decoration (like in Ruby's bowl above). 

Artwork and Photo Credits
All the artworks in this post were created by Winter 2019 Functional Pottery students (except for the advanced work, marked as such in the caption). All photos were taken by the artists who made the work (using the YVC clay photo setup). 

DoVA Exhibition
You can see some of their work now at the DoVA Student Exhibit at Larson Gallery through May 25. Location: Larson Gallery on the YVC campus (corner of 16th Ave & Nob Hill Blvd, across from Taco Time).
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10-5, Saturday 1-5 (admission is always free, open to the public)
Dates: April 30-May 25, 2019

YVC Clay Sale
You can also purchase some work (though probably not what is posted here) at the YVC Clay Sale this coming Thursday.
Location: Palmer Martin (building 20) Lobby
Hours: 11-7pm, Thursday only
Date: Thursday, May 9, 2019

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"Judas" by Jennifer Martinez, Winter 2019 hand-building
This coming Tuesday is the first day and opening reception of the annual Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition at Larson Gallery on the Yakima Valley College campus.

this cat portrait is a collaborative piece involving 16 different students from one class.

The show features work by students in all studio art and photography classes at YVC in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2018 and the Winter of 2019. Student work on display includes ceramic sculpture and functional pottery, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and mixed media. This year's show also features at least one collaborative piece done by a whole class.

Portrait by Samantha Sugihara and other functional pottery and ceramic sculpture by YVC students

My student work includes an unusually high amount pieces from the hand-building portrait project, including work I've talked about before in this blog.

Portrait by Anjela Sevilla and work by other students

The show opens on Tuesday, April 30 with a reception from 5-7pm and awards at 6pm. The exhibition continues through May 25, 2019.

"Strider" by Isabella Johnson and tea sets by Kim Hansen and Ivy Shearer

The Larson Gallery is located on the corner of Nob Hill Boulevard and 16th Ave on the Yakima Valley College campus (across from Taco Time). The gallery is open Tuesday - Friday 10am - 5pm and Saturdays 1 - 5pm. The gallery is always free and open to the public.

Faculty corner in the exhibition featuring work (left to right) by David Lynx, John Bissonette, Chris Otten, Bruce Lindell, Rachel Dorn, and Meghan Flynn

The show also features faculty work from both full-time and adjunct faculty at the Yakima and Grandview campuses. David Lynx teaches online Art Appreciation, Asian Art History, and Art of Yoga. John Bissonette teaches drawing, painting, printmaking and Humanities classes, Chris Otten teaches digital photography, History of Photography, and Digital Design classes. Bruce Lindell teaches drawing, painting and Art Appreciation in Grandview. At the moment I teach clay classes and art history classes. Meghan Flynn teaches drawing, 2D and 3D design, and sometimes Art Appreciation classes.
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Knob 'n Alls by Lauren Coffey
Spring quarter has gotten off to a busy start. Shows, installations, kid projects, hiring committees, and perhaps I've said "yes" to a few too many things. My winter quarter students were so prolific that I've got two more posts partially done, but I just haven't finished and posted them.

Knob 'n All by Kim Hansen
One of the things my winter quarter classes did a lot of was knob 'n alls. I don't really know how it is supposed to be spelled. (It used to annoy Shannon, one of my advanced students when students would call them "nominals.") However they're spelled or pronounced, they're lidded containers made by throwing the lid attached to the bottom in one closed form.

Knob 'n All by Kim Hansen

These forms are usually a fairly popular shape to make. The basic shape, if you don't cut off the lid, is fun to throw and I use it as a basis for a lot of my own forms. 

Knob 'n All by Amber Ryan
The shape can be thrown, then the lid cut off when the piece has dried up a bit. The lid can be cut off with a "key" which basically means you cut the lid irregularly so that it fits on only one way. The cuts can be a part of the overall design of the form. They also don't take a lot of pre-planning.

Knob 'n All by Amber Ryan

The other way to do the lid was something I learned from a student. Of course some of my students are more than students. They make a significant impact on the studio and they make my job easier and more fun. Janice was the one who discovered the technique I now prefer for knob 'n alls. 

Knob 'n All by Lauren Coffey
Janice's technique is to press a flat tool into the side of the wet wall once the form is closed. The wall then becomes the gallery that holds the lid on. Lauren and possibly Leticia (from this post) used this technique. You can't see the galleries in these views of the finished work, but you can see them in this post of my work in progress.
Knob 'n All by Lauren Coffey
The knob 'n alls from winter quarter were done mostly by beginners for their third project. Lauren's was in the advanced class and she did these as a kind of recuperation break while she dealt with an injury.
Knob 'n All by Adela Arciga
There was a great deal of variety in the lidded forms, decoration, and glazing. Adela and Lauren both used Ninja Junior Crawl glaze on their lids and Adela just managed to avoid sticking her lid to her base as the glaze ran.

Knob 'n All by Adela Arciga
Adela's lidded jars were tiny, but she made each one very differently. The orange was a favorite during critique, as was Amber's apple. Strangely no-one tried to make a banana knob 'n all.  Adela, Amber, and Lauren also achieved the challenging tall knob. Lauren threw some of her's separately and then attached them to the lids later. I think Adela threw hers in one.

Knob 'n All by Adela Arciga
Last quarter I ended the quarter will a full class of 16 students, three of them advanced. This quarter is shaping up to be a similarly strong quarter with a full class and 6 intermediate students, which might be the largest group of intermediates I've ever had.

Lidded container by Leticia Ortiz

If you're in the Yakima area and you are interested in seeing some of my students' work in person, we have two exciting opportunities coming up soon. The Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition opens April 30 with a reception from 5-7pm in Larson Gallery. The show continues through May 25. The spring clay sale is May 9 from 11am - 7pm in the lobby of the Palmer Martin building (building 20).


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I have work in a show at Boxx Gallery this month. The sculpture show opens today, Saturday, April 6 with a reception Saturday from 11-4. The gallery is free and open to the public. And there will be snacks.

Installation view of Political Bulbs

The gallery is located at 616 Maple Street in Tieton. I have installed my political bulbs for this show. I decided (at the last minute) to install them in a different arrangement than the grid I have done before. While I was installing, I realized I should install them in the shape of the United States, which is kind of how they ended up, but since I didn't decide this until partway through the process, it isn't really clear.

Installation view of Political Bulbs in Tieton

This show features my most recent political work. I showed these pieces in a grid in Hood River this summer, but I never managed to get great installed images. Maybe I'll remember to take some this month. This installation features both references to the flag, the congress building, and the constitution, but also some more blatantly offensive works.

ice cream or the poo emoji?

The gallery is open every Saturday this month from 11-4, and there will be another reception and associated events on April 27 for International Sculpture day.


I also have work up at Artebella Gallery, at 1111 W. Spruce Street in Yakima. Artebella is open Thursdays - Saturdays 10-4. (and by appointment). The gallery is free and open to the public.
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New work, April 2019, now on display at Artebella Gallery

April 27 is International Sculpture Day and there are several sculpture events going on in the Yakima area. Boxx Gallery in Tieton is having a sculpture show (I'll have an installation in this show) and there will be an associated community event in the square that day. And Mike Hiler is showing work at Oak Hollow Gallery.

New work, Summer 2018 (not on display at Artebella)

Artebella Gallery at 1111 Spruce Street, next to Taste and See Deli in Yakima is having some events, including artists talks and a display illustrating the process of lost wax casting. The gallery owner had contacted me earlier this year to ask for new work from me. 

New work 2018-2019

When she first contacted me, I told her I didn't have any new work, but then I realized I might have time to make something before April. So I actually got myself into the studio and made something new this winter. Of course when I went to pack up to take her the new piece and a few older pieces, I realized that I did have two or three new pieces from the summer that I had forgotten about.

New work, Winter 2019
I pulled the latest sculpture from the kiln Saturday morning. I had tried a combination of underglaze layers and cone 6 celadon glazes. I was trying to create a sense of thickness and color variation that was a bit more subtle than the underglazes on their own.

celadon on underglaze, detail

I fired the work in my small kiln, since I was firing so little, but the kiln didn't quite reach temperature. Regardless, I was pretty happy with the results fo the firing. The blue celadon has some mottled texture on the top bulb that is only evident when you look closely at the work.

I was trying to get away with not setting up a backdrop for photos. This is the result of my laziness.

I used a blue celadon over two layers of blue underglaze on the main body of the piece. I used the same blue celadon over two different types of blue underglaze on the bulbs and I like the similar texture and different color result. I used clear celadon over the orange and cinnamon underglaze on the sprigs.

Celadon over underglaze (and a small glaze fault)

 The results weren't perfect, however. Two of the bulbs have small dry spots after firing. It looks like I brushed up against the side of the piece after glazing, but I am sure this isn't what happened. The strange thing is that I underglazed the entire piece, then bisque it. Three coats of blue underglaze were applied the entire surface, then fired. After bisque firing I added the celadon. So for bare clay to show up, both the celadon and the underglaze came off during firing.


New work, Summer of 2018, on display at Artebella

I've had similar issue in the past when underglaze has peeled off of a pot after glaze firing. This has happened a couple of times in the last few years. I think the problem is the fit between the glaze or underglaze and the clay body. I have never seen this issue on a textured surface, only on a smooth, burnished surface. I don't remember every seeing it with underglaze alone, but it shows up as brittle pieces of glaze (with the underglaze attached) cracking off the surface, leaving no evidence of either glaze or underglaze on the raw ceramic below. 

New to the gallery work at Artebella

Luckily, on this piece the glaze faults were pretty tiny little spots, but I think I do need to do some research into this in the future (though the thought of doing this does not fill me with joy). This is also something I occasionally see in student work, so it is worth it to figure out the problem.


new to the gallery work at Artebella

If you'd like to see my new work, or slightly older work, including almost everything pictured in this post, stop by Artebella Gallery at 1111 W. Spruce in Yakima. Tomorrow I will be installing some political work at Boxx Gallery in Tieton. More on that in a future post.


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Raku vase by Amber Ryan
Most quarters, now that we are in the new building on the south side of campus, we do a raku firing at the end of the quarter. This quarter we had to shovel first, so we wouldn't be standing in snow. During the firing, students asked me what the bucket of salt was for, thinking this might be related to a salt firing. The uninspiring answer was that the salt was for the ice on the ground. We had a lot of snow and ice this year. 

Extruder bowl by Malea Esqueda

The raku firing process is lots of fun, but also fairly exhausting. We fired on Monday for the hand-builders and again on Tuesday for the throwers. It snowed on Tuesday morning, but not enough to stop us. About half the hand-builders were involved in the process on Monday. In fact, I was a little bit concerned about some of their pieces making it through the firing.

Raku vase by Austin Peart


The raku firing is a pretty intense process for the pots. We fire them up to temperature rapidly, then remove them, with tongs, when the glaze is molten. We take the pots out of the kiln and put them into a bucket of combustable materials (shredded paper, dry leaves). The materials light on fire and we close the top of the bucket to trap the smoke inside with the pot. As the pot cools, the exposed clay absorbs the smoke from the firing, turning any unglazed sections black.

Raku bird jug by Malea Esqueda

Some students took advantage of this effect and used wax to protect sections from glaze. Malea waxed the branches of the tree on her press-molded bird vase. Amber waxed what she says look like cow spots on her white vase and lines spiraling up her blue vase (the first image in this post). The contrast between the dry black clay and the white or blue glaze is striking.

Raku cow vase by Amber Ryan

Some of the students used copper based glazes. The copper in the glaze reacts differently when there is or is not available oxygen in the firing. With plenty of oxygen during the firing and/or after in the reduction bucket, the copper tends to turn green or blue. Without oxygen during the firing, the glaze tends to turn red. In the post firing reduction bucket a combination of reds and metallic coppers can show up.
Faceted vase by Ruby Mayo

We have several copper raku glazes in the studio. Two tend to melt to a glossy finish. On of those, the one we see in Amber's first piece tends to stay a teal blue with not much change to coppers and reds. The The other on Ruby's vase above goes green, red, blue, and metallic copper.  Our  third copper glaze does not melt to a shiny surface, instead it stays rough and even a bit crumbly. This is the glaze used on Ivy's small cups and lidded sugar dish below.

Raku tea set by Ivy Shearer

Several students chose to use a horse hair raku method during this firing. These pieces have no glaze on them. We fire them up with the other work and remove them when the other glazes are molten, but we don't put them in the post-firing reduction bucket. Instead, we take individual pieces of horse hair and apply them to the hot surface.

Horse hair coil piece by Anjela Sevilla
Since the pot is so hot, the horse hair begins to burn immediately. As it burns, the smoke is absorbed into the clay just like it would be in the bucket. Students can control how much horse hair they apply to the surface. The horse hair is burned off by the end, but the smoke from the burning hair is a permanent part of the pot (until it is fired again, or until it sits in direct sunlight for a few months or years).

horse hair extruder jug by Jennifer Martinez

During this last firing I was amazed that Jennifer Martinez's extruded jug survived. The pots go through pretty serious heat shock as they are cooled from 1800 degrees Fahrenheit to the outside temperature (about 30-40 degrees on the days we were firing). This heat shock, as well as the fact that we have to move the hot pots using tongs, can cause the pots to crack during firing. 

Horse hair coil piece by Anjela Sevilla
Angela Sevilla's horse hair pot is entirely black on the inside. That is because while she was applying horse hair on the outside she put some shredded paper inside and set a ceramic biscuit on top. The fire and smoke were trapped inside and had the same effect as the smoke inside the buckets for other pieces.

Pit fired and painted coil piece by Raquelline Llaguno

Raquelline Llaguno was the only student this quarter to choose to fire her work in a pit kiln. In fact, she was the only students in about the last 4 years to pit fire on campus. We set up a metal trash can with a few holes in it, loaded it up with shredded paper with her pot buried in the middle. Then we lit the paper on fire. It fired for several hours and created a variegated smoky effect on her burnished clay surface. Raqui then painted the yellow and red on the surface after the firing.

Extruder bowl (top view) by Malea Esqueda



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Lidded Jar by Adela Arciga. The Ninja Junior Crawl Glaze is used only on the lid, where it was applied over a copper/cobalt glaze that caused it to melt.

The quarter ended last week with final critiques and final photos of work. In my clay classes the last week before finals are spent glazing and firing kilns, so that by the end of the week most students are done working and are just waiting on kilns. I also have them all take photographs of their work on a nice clean backdrop and put them in a folder shared with me. The work looks so much better on a backdrop and I like them to get the practice of taking good quality photos of their work. Even if they never do pottery again, they have this record of what they made. All the photos shared in this blog were taken by the students themselves (I did crop some of the students' photos).

Mug by Amber Ryan. Ninja Junior Crawl was applied over a cobalt glaze that doesn't run or flow too much. The dark spots on the side and handle are where the NJC glaze fell off before firing.

This quarter's wheel and hand-building classes were particularly strong. One indication of this was that all students had all but two of their works glazed and finished on time for their last critique. This probably shouldn't be a surprise, but it isn't unusual for hand-building projects to break before or during firing and it isn't unusual to have a few students who just don't get their work glazed in time to be fired, or at all.

Lidded Jar by Lauren Coffey. Ninja Junior was applied on the lid over a  fairly think coat of a semi-transparent glaze.

This quarter I was firing lots of kiln loads at the end of the quarter, but I didn't have really any abandoned student work to deal with after finals were over, meaning the students either took their work home, loaned for the Spring Student show, or donated it to the studio. On the other side of the equation, both final critiques were lots of fun and the students had great work. 

Bowl by Amber Ryan. This bowl has NJC only on the bottom, again over the blue glaze she used on the mug above.
In the throwing class in particular, there were some trends I noticed as far as the forms students chose to make. I'm not sure if a glaze choice can be a trend, exactly, but during their final critique my throwers spent a lot of time discussing our Ninja Junior Crawl glaze. This is a glaze recipe I developed in graduate school and brought to the YVC studio during my second year (while I was heavily pregnant). It was named after my daughter's tendency to kick fairly hard before she was born. I remember throwing for class one day and she kicked so hard she moved my arm.

Tiny bowl by Taelynn Loyd with just NJC
The conversation during the critique focused on students' preferred methods of applying the glaze. Ninja Junior is a crawl glaze, meaning it is designed to have some thickness and pull away from itself (or crawl) on the surface of the pot. When applied alone, as in Taelynn's tiny bowl above, it has a matte texture and cracks in the surface. The edges are linear and the edges can start to peel upwards. With thick applications, it can fall off before firing, or even peel up so far during firing that it barely seems attached. If it is applied excessively thickly, it can start to melt, but it will still pull away into separate pieces.

Lidded Jar by Lauren Coffey with NJC on the lid over a runny copper glaze


When this glaze is applied over another glaze, the other glaze can impact the texture and the shape of the NJC glaze. The reaction of the two glazes together lowers the melting point of the combination. This is sometimes called eutectics. A glaze that melts during firing, but retains a more satin texture will cause Ninja Junior Crawl glaze to also melt a bit, rounding out or flattening the individual sections of the NJC glaze over the top. A glaze that melts to a high gloss finish and also moves on the surface of the pot when in the kiln will cause NJC to start to move and mix with the gloss glaze during firing. In the images shared here, the dark blue glaze melts the least. The red glaze melts the most.

Bowl by Taelynn Loyd
Of course the thickness of the Ninja Junior Crawl glaze also matters. In Taelynn's bowl above, she applied the blue fairly thin, but the NJC is fairly thick, causing it to look different from both of Amber's examples earlier in the post. The NJC on blue in Taelynn's bowl is divided into large glossy blobs, whereas Amber's mugs and bowl with the same blue glaze show smaller and more geometric divisions of the NJC, mostly because NJC was applied thinner.

Underside of bowl by Beau Filbert
Beau Filbert created a thick texture with several glazes, simply based on his application. In the bowl above, he applied a Copper Red glaze, which melted enough to create even drips all the way around, but not enough to drip onto the shelf. He used a think coat of Ninja Junior Crawl on the rim. Though is is a thin coat applied in a small area, we can see how it acts differently on its own and over the copper glaze.

Mugs by Beau Filbert
Beau did lots of experimentation with drips on the sides of both bowls and mugs. In the photo above, the mug on the far right has drips that similarly get thick at the bottom but don't melt off the piece. This glaze combination does not involve NJC.

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