Clay bodies and Slips for Weighting to Rise

Our newest installation, Weighting to Rise, engages our interest on many levels, including our love of ancient art history, conceptual evolution of religion and a contemporary understanding of archetypal imagery. The foundation for all this speculation however, is clay.

In the earliest concept drawings for this show I was thinking about terra-cotta red. I love the color but I also wanted to focus on lower kiln temperatures for this show.  The red clay reinforces the connections were making to ceramic objects of a certain age and there is no need to focus on durability or use for these forms as their true purpose is visual contemplation.

Initially we wanted to source the clay locally, from summit brick, but in cleaning out the studio in preparation for this new work we discovered a reclaim emergency. We hadn’t done any major reclaiming in years and there were hundreds of stashes of future intention in every corner of the studio. Organizing and reclaim all this detritus reframed our thinking on the project. The show is in many ways about beginnings and endings and there were so many of those in our lives when we were conceiving this show. The end of Grad school was one of the larger of these transitions and it was partly the deadline challenges of the student lifestyle that left so many bags abandoned. We just didn’t have the time for so much of what is normal studio maintenance. It seemed right then to use what we could of what we had and reclaim all the rest into a new studio body for the coming year.

Some of it we could rehydrate in the bags and wedge back to life. This is a lot of work but the clay does not have to age as much and so is more immediately useful. We slaked the rest down in buckets and mixed with dry. This clay must be aged for some time to enhance plasticity so we did the reclaiming early in the year to accommodate that need.

Reclaiming clay is heavy and demanding work so its great to get help, Gabe’s girls ran the pug mill for a day and really helped us out.

The rest of the hand wedged stuff was random small batches of the clay we had used in the studio for the last four years. There was a little more than 150 lbs of the 200 we mixed when we first moved in to this studio, about 500 lbs of reclaimable White Stone from Laguna of which we bought a ton in late 2013 and a number of clays we only had a bag or two of. These  clays were for special projects or bits friends gave us to try. It was in this last batch that we had the red clays. The one we started with and held to for the entire project was Laguna’s R2 with grog. we had a box of this from my mom who bought it and didn’t use it so it had gone hard in the bags. We started using this as a sculptural medium in the earliest pieces for the show but we found it couldn’t handle water as well as some of our preferred clay bodies so we decided to use it a slip for surface treatment and not the structure of the work.

We were especially focused on its interaction with another Laguna body, Babu porcelain. we’ve used this for years as a slip in the studio for its very smooth texture and titanium free white color. It was the interaction of these two clays that we intended to build the bones of the show.

While I focused on the structure and build techniques we would use, Gabe began experimenting with using clays alone for building up 2 dimensional images.

As the work continued we considered what to do for black and for firing temps more and more. The black we started out using was a commercially prepared engobe that needs a clear glaze over to develop the color fully. While we really liked these results the surface shift with the gloss was not something we wanted to see everywhere and the terra-cotta looks best a little warmer (Cone 01) and the glaze was 06 making once firing impossible.

From here we went off the rails a bit playing with slips and firing temps. We had a small chunk of clay we brought back from the Rain Harris workshop that I really wanted to integrate. She uses the most beautiful black clay from Aardvark, Cassius Basaltic is a cone 5 clay that is very black with a vitreous surface that is beautiful when used as a slip. Using this would eliminate the need for a clear on the black and the porcelain at least can handle the higher temps.

This switch did require a switch in red bodies. For that we wanted to go with a clay that a friend from grad school in Kansas was mining. It’s a midrange clay with a dusty red finish at cone five and we had about 30 lbs of it, plenty for slips. We really loved many aspects of this look, but the higher temps were often too much for the sketchy assembly techniques and so were abandoned. This wall hanging is the best of that combo, before and after firing

wall hanging with face
wall hanging with face fired

It was really the bull that forced us to get real about the firing temps. The technique we used to put that together was risky enough, asking that hot mess to make high temperatures seemed like a recipe for disaster so we brought back the R2 and began looking for another black. We settled on barnard clay for that, straight out of the bag. On its own its very saturated at cone 01 and was a decent compromise.

From here we began using mixtures of various strengths for developing color in the show using the 3 main bodies as a base: Babu porcelain, barnard clay, and R2 terra-cotta

As mentioned earlier we wanted to use what we had around the studio for most of the project but there were a few pieces we wanted science on our side for. After all the struggles with using white stone for slabs that we ran into with The Magic Box, we chose to put some of the trickier aspects in a clay we knew we could rely on. Laguna’s soldate 60 is a work horse for our studio. While not the most beautiful body, its durable, fires well and so forgiving both to students and sculptors who must push edges.

Part of this winning formula is the 200 body we get from the local brick yard as an attaching slip. So much of the insanity of this show is possible because the perfect combination of Soldate with 200 binding it.

Community Revisited

Gabe and I started Foxy-Wolff when we were both working at the Art Center, Gabe as assistant Curator and myself as resident artist in the ceramic studio. That meant that the work of the first couple years of the project came out of a community studio. While much of our time working on those early projects was outside of the studio’s regular working hours, there are still considerations when working with others that just don’t come up in a private studio environment, such as putting things where others can find them and giving and receiving awkward hugs (Gabe’s favorite).

On the upside, having people around forces clearer communication and invigorates stagnant ideas with new perspectives, plus its more fun.

Our latest round of classes were an exact balance of all the goodness and just enough hugs to keep us on our toes. We hosted a small group that included friends from work, our kids and a few notable drop-ins’. The classes had a very loose structure and wound up running most of the day on the Saturday, with a fluid movement between wheel and hand building with lots of inspiring conversation throughout.

And the results? Pretty fantastic really. In addition to the batch of great ceramics we made during the 6 weeks, we are building a community that will continue our Saturday’s and the conversation.

 

Registration for Class with Foxy-Wolff

For those of you looking for an easy way to secure your spot in our upcoming classes we’ve created an Etsy listing that will allow you to register for either the 10:00 am or the 1:00 pm sessions.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/507082453/classes-with-foxy-wolff?ref=shop_home_active_1

Classes will be held at 26826 East US Highway 50, Pueblo CO, 81006. Feel free to call us if you have any questions, Kate Fox (719) 821-9105

You can also reserve a spot by using this form and paying by check or credit card on the first day of class.

Classes begin February 4th and run 6 weeks ending March 11th. There will be two Saturday sessions, the first from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and the second from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Please specify which class you are interested in.

Cleaning Up at Foxy-Wolff Studio

With school and The Magic Box complete we are moving back into projects and ideas that we had to leave behind because of the limits of time. First up is the heavy cleaning/rearranging of the studio for a series of classes coming up beginning in early February.

The studio is above all a functional space and changes a great deal to suit our current project, most recently, aside from a small space for us to fill some christmas pottery orders it has been a storage space for The Magic Box. Also we’ve been so focused on that project that some of the unused corners of the studio had filled with unconsidered objects.

My grandpa loved games and puzzles and there was one he had that I played with often. It was a small plastic number slide game.

Rearranging a small space is exactly like playing this game, it’s all about how you begin. For us this meant moving the boxes, pedestals and art from The Magic Box into storage until it shows again. So the storage room was the place to start for us. Gabe is an animal about this kind of work, and he had all my personal storage lined out in an afternoon and the pedestals and the rest put away in the next few days.

While he worked that out I had to make sense of the working area. That space has a tendency to get cluttered with the remnants of works in progress, including old clay bits in need of reclaim and tools misplaced on shelves. A clean studio is not always the highest value but its great to get a clean reset before the beginning of a new project. I think it helps to keep ideas fresh and forces us to deal with the dust fairly often.

This freed up the center space, leaving only the Kuan Yin of the Magic Box on a table in the center of the room. More heavy lifting cleared a space for The Great One and we hung her where she can watch over the large front room.

The glaze room was the next priority, that involved clearing the old front office space of everything and then gathering all the materials and tools used in surfacing the ceramic in the kiln.

Critical to inviting other people to the studio to make art was lighting all of the work space. Gabe to the rescue again. Heres a funny little video he made to celebrate getting up on a ladder (again).

Look for posts coming this week with details on the upcoming series of classes.

Digital Do Over

One of the biggest projects we’ve taken on in preparation for the show in May was to reconstruct our online presence. Over the years we have built several websites and blogs on a variety of platforms, some of these obviously work better than others.  The goal was to combine everything to a single platform and server. We chose to go with third-party hosted WordPress. The platform was an easy choice, the blog has always been on WordPress, it’s a format that I am comfortable with and with the plugins available through third-party hosting, it is an incredibly versatile platform. For hosting we chose Go Daddy, primarily because we bought our domains through them years ago and changing domain hosts is a lot of work. We also went with them because of an end of year sale on hosted WordPress sites, we were able to buy 5 sites for two years for slightly more than it would have cost to host the page I wanted through wordpress.com. In addition we would be able to use Etsy as our cart, which after struggles with several different carts over the years was a huge win.


The Blog was the first site to rebuild, it was already in the correct format and needed the least development. I began by initiating the domain transfer from wordpress.com of our .me. It’s a good thing i began this process early, as there were many wrong turns and false starts. I’m sure for truly educated tech heads these things are completely simple, but for me, with no formal education in web development, everything starts as trial and error. The cool thing about doing it all myself (with a little help from my tech support friends) is all the learning. through the process of moving the domain and eventually the blog I learned about all sorts of hidden settings. I feel like every afternoon of tech struggle makes me appreciably smarter.

Step by step and week by week I transferred both the domain and the blog to the new server, though transfer of the blog itself required help from Go Daddy because of its size. The WordPress specialist tried 3 or 4 different transfer programs before he could get the majority transferred. In the end I did loose about half of my media library but that’s not such a big deal because it’s all on my computer as well. Part of the reason the blog was so difficult to move is that wordpress.com does not allow file transfer protocols. This is part of the security that makes it a very safe host, but part of the problem in not allowing the open source plugins. It’s an imperfect compromise that I hope I don’t have cause to regret one day.

Once the blog was in place I wanted to transfer all the relevant posts to this blog from other blogs we started over the years. This was fairly straight forward but required a good deal of time as the featured images were also some of what was lost from the transfer and early posts were poorly categorized and tagged. In the end I went through and re-edited all 95 or so posts to ensure they were of acceptable quality and that the tagging was in place. I also created new categories to correspond to the .com that I would be building next, so that blog posts on certain pieces could be readily linked to their corresponding web page. I’m so glad I took the time with the bolt that I did. When I began the project I regarded the blog as being in great shape. The review showed many problems that are now corrected.


Etsy was the next profile to create. It is a remarkably straightforward platform that allows as little or as much development as an person wants to put in, though I suspect that the more one does to fill out the site the better the store performs. As mentioned above we wanted to use Etsy as a stand alone but also to have it serve as a cart for the upcoming .com. For this reason I built it before the website so it could be plugged in at the proper time. Etsy is by far the most user-friendly template I’ve tried and it only took an evening to put a small but well-considered shop together. I am looking forward to focusing more on its potential in the months after the show. See the shop here:

www.etsy.com/shop/FoxyWolff?ref=hdr_shop_menu


The website was the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of this reboot. Choosing WordPress was a great help here, as I knew the platform well and did not have to waste a ton of time discovering how to make it work.

We built our old .com specifically for the jewelry on a Wix template. We constructed this large site fairly quickly in 2014 in preparation for the Google Online Marketing Challenge. In addition to taking my business through the challenge, I was the team captain during the challenge. I was a tremendous learning opportunity and part of the reason I feel empowered to do my web development. taking an online marketing class was actually one of the best decisions I made during grad school.

The site itself, despite boasting professional photography and development by several skilled developers on my team, was unsuccessful in the challenge. According to Google Analytics  we lost most of our shoppers at the cart. We tried several fixes for this problem but we were unable to create a cart that customers felt safe entering their credit card. Finally the site was largely abandoned as it was very expensive and never provided any income to offset this. I’m anxious to run an AdWords campaign on the new site and see how this one fares in comparison.

Commercial interest is actually a small part of this sites function. Its primary job is that of promoting the different bodies of work we have done over the last few year with Foxy-Wolff, especially The Magic Box.

The show will run with almost no tagging, instead we are using QR codes to direct smart phone users to home pages for the four sections of the video. This was the reason for recategorizing the blog and for the new site in general. We chose to go with an Asian company for the QR codes that specializes in visual codes, this allows us to use our imagery in creating the codes. The first code is in, based on our logo it directs traffic to the homepage of foxywolff.com.

Visual QR Code

In addition to The Magic Box, there pages dedicated to other projects and aspects of Foxy-Wolff and individual pages for Gabe and I. A good web site is never really done, but we’re happy with the results so far. My biggest concern at this point is to direct traffic towards it, we’re hoping the QR codes help in that.


Social Media needed a tune-up once all the redevelopment was in place. We primarily use Face Book, Instagram and You Tube as our social media outlets. In addition to cleaning those pages up and updating the links, I uploaded all of our videos to the Foxy-Wolff channel, which only had links to the earliest videos and renewed our commitment to regular posting on the sites we use.

You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCor8dP1FkdrYAp6xkC9l5rw

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/foxywolffjewelry/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/foxy_wolff/


At this point contacting any Foxy-Wolff page on the web should lead to all the others. We’ve unified font and cover images as well as text style and message. There is one more site coming, foxywolff.net which will be a site for other artists seeking help in adding video, web development and tech into their projects.

Building the Bear Cave

The third video in  the “Magic Box” series is nearly finished, so to prepare for its release we are going back and giving a look at some of the aspects that have gone into its making. As Gabe was the lead on the cave and did the majority of the work, it seemd important for him to tell its story. Since video is his mode of expression, he put this together to detail the process of its making.

Pots for Beautiful Grotesque

We’ve been back in the studio again after a long absence for the breeding season on the farm and are starting right back in with work for an upcoming show.  We have been invited to the upcoming Beautiful Grotesque show at the Sangre de Cristo arts center in Pueblo. The show opens in October and runs through mid January. Stay tuned for information about the opening and sales.

For this body of work we chose to start with a functional form, since we worked with vases for the graffiti show covered jars seemed like the logical choice.  The jars allow for another layer of narrative to work with the content we are working with in this series. The jars are collage, using molds from several of our previous projects and from salvaged doll molds.  These images are reconfigured to suggest meanings that might relate to an ancient cultures fertility rituals.  Many of the pieces were then textured to reference deep sea salvage, creating a false timeline for the objects. They will be finished to reflect the layers of ideas.

IMG_8901 gabesbabypot2 IMG_8914

We used a combination of techniques for decorating the pieces, including sprigging, slip casting, buttoning, incising and sculpting.

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Though not recommended by clay makers or professionals, we are using two different bodies on pieces that incorporate slip casting.  The throwing/spriging body used is Laguna’s White Stone and the casting slip is Cashmere from New Mexico Clay. These fit together remarkably well and gave us almost no problems with attachments during shrinkage to bone-dry.

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The work as usual was very collaborative, some pieces we both touched while others were one or the other, and will be decorated as a team as well. We deliver to the gallery in late September, watch for finished pieces soon.

Recreating Chinese Glazes

As a part of my history studies at FHSU this semester, have been researching Chinese glazes, a part of that research has been the recreation of those glazes from modern materials.  Using Nigel Wood’s excellent text; Chinese Glazes; Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation, I have been attempting to recreate the earliest evolution of these glazes.

To begin the process I had to refine the raw materials.  I began with the wood ash as this process takes the most time.  I started with half a five gallon bucket of ash from a friend’s wood heater.  They burn a mix of soft and hard wood, a great deal of it being scrap and remnants, so not only is the chemical composition difficult to guess, but there was a great deal of impurity, particularly metal, in the mix.  To begin I soaked the ash in water.  this is a good way to separate impurity and to remove the water-soluble portions of the ash, which would affect its performance in the glaze.  To streamline this process Gabe built a large screen of medium mesh.IMG_7906IMG_7909I was able to remove large particles with this, then after this process was complete I drained off the water and dried the ashes for several days.

While that was drying I prepared the clay and acquired materials I could not make myself.  The stoneware clay used was a locally sourced stoneware called 200 by Summit Brick which it uses to make a white brick.  The porcelain is Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  To process the clay I first crushed it with a hammer then ground it fine in a blender.IMG_7912Once the materials were prepped I got to mixing and glazing, the test pieces were made from the bodies used in the glazes, though the 200 has an addition of reclaimed Soldate 60 from Laguna to add plasticityIMG_7927 IMG_7966Rather than going to the back of the book and mixing Wood’s already translated tests, I chose to focus on the text and come up with my own basic formulas based on the research found there.  Those earliest glazes were composed of Alumina, silica and calcium carbonate derived from either limestone or wood ash.  The clay provides the alumina and silica in the mixture.  My first test were thought to be the earliest glazes used in high temperature kilns in China.  Using the two two different clay bodies I mixed 60% clay and 40% washed wood ash.  To add color I also added 2% red iron oxide.IMG_0674The stoneware and porcelain tests on the left are test 1 and contain the stoneware clay is the 200 and the test on the right is the same formula but replacing the 200 with Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  The 200 clearly has incidental colorants that are not present in the test mixed with porcelain, and so shows darker.

The nest group used the same 60/40 mixture but instead of using wood ash, I used limestone or whiting as it is more commonly known in ceramics.  For this group I also pulled the iron back to 1% because I feared over saturating the color and skewing the tests with the fluxing capacity of the iron.IMG_0675This time the test on the left is mixed with the porcelain and the set on the right with the 200.  A major down side to using the 200 in glazes is that it is prepared for brick making before I get it, which means it is full of very heavy grog. Though I did screen it, some small particles escaped and made the bottom of the testers rough and unrefined.  The wood ash too, though washed and crushed was not ball milled and so added large particles that did not break down and integrate with the glaze.  They are beautiful glazes but could only be used on sculpture without significantly more work in refining the raw materials.

The next group of glazes were derived from the earliest porcelain glazes, and use little wood ash.  IMG_0676From the left: 82% Babu porcelain, 18% whiting and .5g RIO                   70% Babu porcelain, 30% whiting and .5% RIO                                                 70% Babu porcelain, 28% whiting, 2% wood ash and .5% RIO

The test in the center, number 6, was my favorite from all the the tests, it is a buttery matte with a subtle green color.  Adding a  full percent of iron would make this glaze a winner on the porcelain body, truthfully none of these is very nice on the stoneware clay, too gritty.  Though the fit does seem to work.

For the last four tests I chose recipes from the back of the book, though they had to be somewhat modified to work with chemicals I have available to me.  The first two were porcelain glazes, a clear and a northern celadon.IMG_0677These glazes are from later in the evolution of Chinese gazes and are much more complex, very near to their modern counterparts.  I had to change these recipes, especially where the author used english ball clays which I don’t have access to.  The glaze on the left is #1 in the book and is called porcelain glaze the original glaze recipe asks for Hyplas ball clay which I substituted EPK, feeling that this would be closer in makeup than domestic ball clay. The recipe is:

Potash feldspar  25%; Wollastonite 27%;  China clay 12.5%; EPK (sub) 12.5%;  Flint 20%; Talc 3%

The recipe on the right is #3, northern celadon, for this glaze I replaced SMD ball clay for EPK, again feeling its properties closer to domestic ball clay.

Cornish stone 56%; Wollastonite 20%; EPK (sub) 20%; Talc 3.5%; Red Iron Oxide 1.5%

These were winners on both clay bodies, I was especially impressed with the “porcelain glaze” on the stoneware, it may be the most beautiful high temperature clear I have seen on this body.

The next tests were a Northern Hares Fur Temmoku (#4 reduced) Again, slight modification was made to the original recipe, for this I subbed 200 for the BBV ball clay on the right and EPK for the test on the left.  The original recipe also asks for molochite which is a calcined china clay, which could have been made but since a sub of china clay (slightly more) was allowed, I used it.IMG_0678Cornish stone 42%; 200 (rt) EPK (left) 15%;                                             China clay 15%; Dolomite 15.5%; Flint 17%;                                                         Red Iron Oxide 4.5%; Rutile .5%

These were both beautiful, again the test containing 200 was darker and slightly more opaque, but both worked very well.

Thanks to Shane Jarrett for firing these for us, it was a wonderful study.

Hanging Wall Tiles

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Wall hanging tiles are a new part of the Magic Box project that we have been working on.  Like the house, the mold was made for this in July.  This mold was designed by Gabe and is intended to mimic gallery wrapped canvas.  The piece is large (16″x15″x2″) and was constructed initially from wood wrapped in a heavy burlap.  The top pic shows Gabe taking the mold apart after the plaster was poured.  The piece by piece construction allowed the box to be removed cleanly without damaging the plaster.  The second shows the finished piece.IMG_6001 IMG_6177 IMG_6178Once the mold was dry, we were ready to press.  The first slabs for this were 3/8″ and weighed about 15 lbs.  This weight was usually enough to build the supports from as well, provided the slab was well-shaped before pressing.  The photo of the finished tile really shows off the texture.  The initial rules of the press have changed quite a bit as we have made several.  The piece is very large for slab work and has major problems with cracking.  We have adjusted the support structure, slab depth, dry times, clay bodies and added a waster slab.  In spite of all these adjustments, cracking is still a major problem for these pieces.

In addition to the technical exploration I have tried several finishing methods for the surfaces, depending on the image and the condition of the tile.  The first series depicts images taken from The Magic Box film,  These images originated as screen shots and then were translated into paintings or transfers through various methods.

IMG_6659 IMG_6740 IMG_6614 IMG_6741These four pictures show the screen shot after photo manipulation and then the finished image on tile.  These were rendered in oxide and glaze.  This was difficult to control saturation and color gradient and was not attempted again.

IMG_6759 IMG_6751 IMG_6748The other major technique used in the first series was a more graphic approach that relied on decals and glaze effects.  I really love these, in part because they work with the cracking a bit better than the heavily image dependent tiles.  This graphic approach also relies less on images from the film.  Only the house image here is taken directly from the film.  The other two tiles are more descriptive of the development of the characters depicted.

painting tiles1 painting tiles 2 Painting tiles 3IMG_7387The second series saw further development of both the technical clay and surfacing techniques.  The tile above was too badly cracked to glaze fire and so was epoxides and paint finished.  The process of painting ceramic always starts with spray paint for us, the first image shows the tile masked off and the second, the protected drawing after the mask was removed.  The last two are the paint in process.

IMG_7389 IMG_7391The last two tiles combine the techniques used in the first series but rather than oxides, I used commercial underglazes for building the image.  These have a painterly quality that I am interested in, but might benefit from more color.  The series is ongoing, and will likely continue to evolve.

Film Festival Trophies

Every year we make the awards for the Pueblo 24 hour film festival in our home town Pueblo CO.  This year we made a video to accompany the process.  Rather than write about this one, I’ll let you watch.

The screening was this weekend and the entire event was very successful, with 25 entries and 18 films for judging.  The big winners of the night were the makers of a film called “The Brighter Side”, Gabe and I were lucky to catch up with the winning team, Lyonman productions at the event to offer congratulations.FullSizeRender

You can view the film here:

The festival is in its 7th year and is growing steadily, If you are interested in learning more or possibly entering a film next year, their website will fill you in of the details:

http://pueblo24hourfilmfestival.com

You can also watch the films from previous years at this address.