This blog is primarily an educational site that informs and inspires potters, especially those who are new to the craft. For instance, this gallery starts with some of the earliest pots he made and continues up to the present so you can find out more information about how he made them, glazed them, and fired them.
I'm having two sales at my studio in Manoa this spring just before Mothers' Day. The first sale will be Saturday, May 4, from 9am to 2pm or so. The second will be the following Saturday, May 11, from 9am to 2pm. I have quite a few new pieces and below are photos of some of them. Our address is 2966 Oahu Ave. in Manoa. We have a few parking spots in the driveway and street parking is available just around the corner on Lowrey.
The owner is selling the house we've been living in (I almost said "our house") for the past 3 years so we're moving to Kailua at the middle of this month. This will be the last sale I'll be doing in Manoa. I appreciate all the support I've received from the people of Manoa and hope I can begin having sales at a different venue in Manoa by this November.
Several years ago I took a workshop with Julia Galloway. During one of her presentations about decorating and glazing bisqued pots, one of the students mentioned she had dozens of bisqued pots in her garage that she'd never glazed because she couldn't decide how to glaze them. Julia laughed and said she knew many potters like that, so many she'd come up with a name for them: bisque potters.
I've met many potters who struggle to decide how to glaze their pots. At HPG we have over 50 glazes, so there are plenty of glazes to choose from, and that might be part of the problem. There are so many choices that people can't make up their mind. Following are some suggestions that I hope will make your choosing a little easier. I should also add that the following information is really about how to prepare to glaze your pots and not the actual techniques for glazing. Those are best handled through demonstrations or videos.
First, start a notebook. I have a longer blog about that right here: www.jonrawlingspottery.com/blog/keeping-a-notebook I draw simple pictures of each pot and include basic information about what clay I used to make it and what I may have done to decorate it before glazing, especially if I carved it. I usually wait until I have at least 10 large pots before I start glazing them. I number each pot on the bottom of the foot and put that down in the notebook since it's easy to get similar pots mixed up. I lay them out on a table and begin thinking about how to decorate them. I take my time with this. I try to get the juices flowing by thinking about simple things like how to glaze the inside of vases. Okay, I'm usually going to use a white glaze like Glossy White or Miller White so I write that down. With large bowls I start by deciding whether or not to use a wax resist pattern on the inside or outside. All of these decisions can be tweaked as I glaze, but using a notebook helps me organize my thinking, decide what I want to do, and keep a record of those decisions.
Second, think about the clay you're using. As I draw each pot in my notebook, I note above it what clay I used. After numbering each pot, I start with pot #1 and start thinking about how I might glaze it. Glazes look different on different clay bodies. If I use Butter Yellow on Rod's Bod, it looks like burl wood; if I use it on porcelain, it looks light yellow. After some experience, you'll begin making certain shapes with certain clay bodies with specific glazes already in mind. For more detailed examples about how to glaze different clay bodies, see my blog on black and brown stoneware: www.jonrawlingspottery.com/blog/black-and-brown-stoneware
Third, think about what glazes are appropriate for your pot's form and function. I'm often surprised by the glazes some potters use on their pieces. For instance, I've seen potters carve a piece with meticulous detail only to cover it all up with a thick Shino glaze. Or they use a glaze that seems inappropriate for a functional piece. I'm no expert on what glazes are more food safe, but it certainly seems we need to give more attention to this at our potters guilds. I didn't even know it was an issue the first year or so I was making pots, so I sold small bowls to unsuspecting customers that had copper or cobalt or chrome in the liner and I even sold them bowls with crystalline glazes inside. When I started learning more about some glazes being food safe and others not so much, I asked more experienced potters and teachers about what glazes were appropriate to use. Everyone waved off my concerns with comments like "Oh, I heard it's fine" or "Don't worry about it. Just don't store spaghetti sauce in it for a week." Maybe we should send examples of all of our glazes to a lab so we can be sure how much stuff might be leaching into food from our glazes. Commercial makers are held to high standards because it could impact public safety; maybe we should hold ourselves to the same high standards as well. As an intermediate step, I try to use only glossy glazes as liners for small bowls, especially glossy white. I'm also doing experiments on clear glazes that won't craze as much since we have several glazes based on a single chun recipe that tend to craze dramatically.
Fourth, think about how you'll apply the glazes and in what order. If I dip a pot in Butter Yellow it will be a glossy light yellow; if I spray it, Butter Yellow will be a matte light brown or tan depending on the clay body. Some dark clay bodies like Black Mountain will turn every glaze dark brown if they're applied too thinly. A second coat is necessary to get any of the original glaze's color to show up at all. Some glazes look awful on porcelain but on darker clay they look terrific with lots of variation in color depending on the thickness. I use several techniques to apply glazes to pots. With bowls I tend to pour glazes inside to give it a thick layer. After waiting a day for the glaze to dry. I turn the bowl upside down and spray the outside. If I've made a wax resist pattern outside, I'll pour the glaze. Wax resist doesn't work that well with spraying as the glaze tends to build up on the edges and stops shedding off. I'll then turn the bowl over and apply another glaze inside using techniques such as spraying, spritzing, or different designs with a ketchup bottle or rubber syringe. I also consider what order I'll use to glaze each pot. For instance, I glaze the inside of a bowl first. I want a thick layer so I usually pour a glaze inside, swish it around for a few seconds, and pour it out. If I spray a glaze inside, I've found it difficult to trail glazes over the sprayed layer. The sprayed glaze usually is fluffy and the trailed glaze will sit up on the glaze and often flake off. I also need a thick enough glaze layer to get some of the effects I'm going after, especially on darker clay. I'll usually wait a day for the pot to dry and then turn it upside down on a banding wheel and glaze the outside, usually by spraying. If I'm spraying or trailing another glaze on the inside, I'll turn the pot right side up and glaze it the same day. No need to wait another day. Since it takes so much time to set up the spray booth and then clean it after, I always wait until I have at least 10 pots before I start glazing. I glaze the insides of all of them, wait at least a day, then glaze the outside and finish up the inside. I organize pots according to the glazes I'm going to use. If I have four bowls that need to be sprayed outside with Butter Yellow, I'll spray them one after another until I'm finished. Then if I have two that need Sky Blue Chun I'll spray them next. After I'm done on the outside, I'll reorganize them according to what glazes I'll need on the inside, if I'm spraying them. So some of them will need to be sprayed with Oxblood, some with Pete's Cranberry, and so forth. I plan on writing a blog about how to spray pots so I'll say more about spraying in the future.
Fifth, prepare pots for glazing. If I have the time, I completely wash my pots after they've been bisqued, especially porcelain. I do some sanding on all of my pots and they typically have quite a bit of clay dust on them. Removing the dust is imperative if you want the glaze to adhere well. I'm especially careful with pots that I've carved. I'll use a toothbrush and water to remove all of the dust from recesses that might cause the glaze to not adhere to the pot. If I wash a pot like this, I have to wait at least a day before the pot is dry enough to glaze. If the pot doesn't have much dust on it because I only lightly sanded it, I'll use a sponge to wipe off all of the surfaces. I'll wait an hour or so until the pot has had some time to dry before glazing it. When pots are bisqued, they are strong enough to handle more aggressively and yet are still porous since they're not fully vitrified. Glazes are a slurry of powdered minerals mixed in water and very little material in glazes is soluble. When applied to a porous bisqued pot, the water is absorbed into the body of the pot leaving a thin layer of powdered minerals on the surface. If the pot is too saturated with water, a glaze applied to the other side of the clay body will not absorb much water and will leave a layer of glaze that's too thin. The thinner the walls of the pot, the more important it becomes to wait until the inside of the pot is dry before glazing the outside. It's already difficult to get a thick enough layer of glaze if the walls of your pot are very thin since the walls cannot absorb much moisture before becoming fully saturated.
Sixth, prepare your glaze. Start by taking a metal whisk and stirring the glaze from the bottom. You should use a motion that not only goes around but also begins lifting the material up toward the top. Whether you're dipping a pot into the glaze or scooping it into a pitcher, the glaze you're using will come from the top of the glaze. That's why it's important to make sure you mix the glaze until the stuff on the bottom has worked it's way to the top. HPG has several glazes that take some time and arm power to get thoroughly mixed. If you stop mixing too soon, the glaze will be watery and won't have all the material in it that you need. After the glaze is thoroughly mixed, I sieve the part I'm going to use. The only exception to this is if I'm glazing a large vase and need to dip it into the larger bucket. Otherwise, I always sieve the glaze to remove debris that's fallen into the bucket, material that hasn't mixed in well, and even pieces of plastic from the bottom of the bucket that have been shaved off by the whisk. This is worth the extra effort since it gives a more consistent result. If you've ever used unsieved glazes, you know how often debris can cause blemishes in the glaze. While I think sieving is usually the best thing to do when preparing glazes, it's absolutely essential when preparing glazes for spraying. I use a pretty fine stainless steel sieve that I picked up at Williams-Sonoma. You might think that sieving is a waste of time, but I've seen how much time people waste when their spray gun gets clogged up and they have to take it apart to remove the debris. A few simple steps will save you more time in the end and help you get a better result.
Hawai'i Craftsmen recently held its annual juried exhibition at the gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, Linekona. As usual, it included a number of stunning pieces in several categories including clay. Some of the best pieces were purchased by the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Hawai'i State Art Museum. Below are photos of all of the ceramic pieces in the exhibit. Sorry I couldn't include each piece in every medium, but it would have been a little too much. I start the photos with pieces by Jennifer Owen from Maui who was one of three artists who was chosen by Hawai'i Craftsmen to present a small exhibit of her work at the show.
The holiday season is upon us and I'll be having pottery sales at my studio the next two Saturdays, December 8th and December 15th from 9am to 2pm. My address is 2966 Oahu Ave. in Manoa. Below is a preview of some of the pots that I'll be offering. Hope to see you soon!
In the September blog I wrote about my visit to Raku Ho'olaule'a on the North Shore of O'ahu. I took photos of people decorating and firing pots and generally having a good time. I should mention that although the event is called Raku Ho'olaule'a, many of the potters also pit fire pots. The visiting juror, Scott Young, chose the best pots on the last day and these were included in an exhibit at Jeff Chang's gallery at Windward Mall in Kaneohe.
Mizusashi are lidded vessels that contain the cold water that's used to replenish the water in the kama (kettle). The exhibit is by Shofu Kai, a group of potters from the Hawaii Potters Guild who meet each Friday to learn about the Japanese tea ceremony and how to make and use the utensils for the ceremony. This is their third exhibition at the Hawaii Public Library's main location in downtown Honolulu. The exhibition will be up from October 1 through October 31.
This past weekend, September 21 through 24, the Hawaii Craftsmen held their annual Raku Ho'olaule'a at Camp Mokule'ia on the North Shore of O'ahu. About 50 potters camped together, decorated pots together and fired together. I've never participated in Raku Ho'olaule'a before but I decided to visit on Saturday to get a taste of what it's like. I took some photos that you can see below. I had a great time and hope to participate in 2019. Scott Young, a potter who's originally from Hawaii but who teaches now in California, was the juror. In a later blog I'll post photos of the pots he chose that will be on display at the Windward Mall in Kaneohe.
Last summer I visited the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I walked all over the campus slipping into buildings where I probably shouldn't have been and taking photos. It's an incredible place. I especially loved the bronzes by Carl Milles and the campus designed by Eliel Saarinen. I even had a chance to visit Saarinen's home on campus which is a rare treat. I also visited their art museum which had a major retrospective of the designer Alexander Girard. I was a little overwhelmed at that point but when I went downstairs I found an exhibition that explored the "Finnish connection" between Cranbrook and Finland. Part of the exhibit featured the pots of the Finnish ceramic artist Maija Grotell. Maija was one of the most important potters of the 20th century and certainly one of its most important instructors. Among her more famous students from Cranbrook are Toshiko Takaezu, Richard DeVore, Howard Kottler and John Glick. Below are photos of her pots that were included in the exhibition. The descriptions are from museum labels.
This month I visited the Detroit Institute of Art while vacationing near Ann Arbor. The DIA has an incredible collection, one of the top 10 in the US. From what I've read, the city of Detroit owns the museum and several years ago considered selling off all of its art to pay its bills when the city was bankrupt. Thankfully they didn't do that. Below are photos I took of ceramics at the DIA. Most were displayed under low lighting and my camera doesn't do well in low lighting, so the quality isn't that great. However, the quality of the pieces is so high that I thought I'd present them here anyway. The descriptions are the ones supplied by the museum. Hope you find something inspiring!
One of the most important things you can do to promote your pottery is to take good photos of it. Images of your pots, if done well, can communicate alot about the beauty of your pieces, how they could be used, and what they might look like in someone's living space. I certainly can't claim to be an expert on taking photos of my pots, but I've learned a few things over the years that have worked well for me and may be helpful for you as well.
First, learn how to use your camera or cell phone to take still life photos. Photos of pots are done at close range and present unique challenges. For instance, I've found that some of my photos of pots will be distorted if I hold the camera too close to them. It's the same principle that makes your nose look too big if you hold the camera close to your face. In situations like this, I hold the camera a little farther away and use the zoom to get closer. You don't need a tripod since most cameras compensate for minor shaking, but you do need to adjust the settings for different types of light such as fluorescent, tungsten, or natural sunlight. Explanations for how to do any of these things should be in your manual or online in one form or another.
Second, learn how to stage a photo. I'm still too lazy to work hard enough on this, so I know this is an area I need to work on. The photos of pots on this website are all taken on my kitchen table which doesn't communicate much about them. There are quite a few people on Etsy who are skillful at presenting their pieces in settings that show how they might enhance the beauty of someone's home. Some of the best photos of my pots are from collectors who take them home, fill them with flowers, and send me images. One of the best I've seen was someone who took a photo of her breakfast the morning after my sale. My bowl was filled with a beautiful salad and my cup was filled with a fresh green smoothie. It's also important to know how to take photos using a background. I don't have a lightbox but I do use a Flotone Graduated Background (white at bottom to black at top; 31" x 43") which I purchased from Amazon for less than $50. Photos using these backgrounds look like the sort of thing you see in museum catalogs. You can get many types of backgrounds with many different colors or even just white; I just happen to like white to black. These can be in vinyl or paper and are easily marred by dirt or scratching. I always brush off the bottom of a pot with a soft brush before photographing it, and I always brush off the background before putting a new pot on it. Even so, it still gets a little dirty and scratched, but I've never had anything show up in my photos since the next pots always sit where the other pots were sitting. I've used photos with a background like this for submissions to juried exhibitions and when alerting buyers what types of pots were going to be available at an upcoming sale. If you want a few examples of what my photos with a background look like, check out the blog below from April before my spring sale. All of the photos were taken at my garage using the Flotone Graduated Background that I attached to the back of a chair using plastic clips and held down on the table at the corners using books. Everything was set up on a table next to the entrance of the garage, and the garage door was open to the right. You can see how this created shadows that went to the left, but that's okay since indirect sunlight is great at reproducing colors that are closer to what our eyes see. This was better than what I was getting with the garage door closed. Even adjusting for fluorescent light, all of the whites were turning out yellowy.
Third, learn how to adjust photos after they're taken. Most photos don't look that great straight out of the camera. I've never used Photo Shop, but I use the software that Canon supplied with my camera. It's important to know how to make adjustments to photos, not to make them look better than they really are, but to correct flaws in the original image.
Fourth, learn how to use good photos to attract the attention of collectors. This website has hundreds of photos of my pots and a few thousand people a week look at them. Before sales, I send photos of about 20 pots to my mailing list so collectors know what sorts of things I'll be offering. One of the most important ways to use images is through Instagram. Even if the images aren't great, they can let collectors know what sorts of things are coming out of your kiln and will be available for sale.
These are a few suggestions about how to take better photos of your pots and what to do with them once you have them. Please let me know what you've done that's worked for you.