After a month of getting settled in Helena, things are moving right along. I have the studio in full swing, and all the boxes are finally out of the apartment. I’ve made new forms in the wood shop which feels really great… Soap Dish, Beer Stein, updated Cream and Sugar Set, updated Tumbler, updated 3-tier Serving Platters, and a Lamp.

Yep, a lamp. I have always been interested in pushing functional pots out of the food and beverage arena, and beginning to use light as a material feels like an interesting challenge. I’m going to slip cast both the base and the shade, but use two different clay bodies. The base will be cast from my standard white porcelain casting body, and the shade will be cast out of an ultra-translucent bone-china porcelain. This project goes hand-in-hand with my recent material research into clay bodies.

Changing locations is always a good breaking point to adjust technical details for me. This move from Red Lodge to Helena was no different. A few things were on my agenda, 1) adjust clay body, 2) adjust glazes, 3) make new forms.

The goal of the clay body adjustment was to increase the whiteness (never too much of that), lower the absorption, and decrease the casting time. I should mention that this is a 5-year running project of mine. I love researching ceramic materials. These clay body tests also gave me the chance to get to know how the kilns fire here at the Bray. 38 body tests later, and I *think* I have a new production body that is whiter, has less than 0.1% absorption, and casts just a little faster.

The adjustment of my glazes is the next project. The main goal is to find a way to decrease the tiny glaze defects (namely crawling) that are the deciding factor in determining whether a piece is “of gallery quality” or “of shotgun quality”. First step is to make test tiles with the new clay body.

Finally, making new forms. I have a love/hate relationship with my process. Generally, my rule is that I tolerate whatever actions are required to achieve the highest quality final result. Start with a clear goal, and make it happen. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been grinding through making new prototypes in the wood shop. This can be a bit stressful, and these prototypes are a commitment to form. If the prototype is just a bit off in any way, everything down the line after this becomes a compromise.

I have the prototypes made, and now have moved on to finishing/sealing all of them before starting mold making. I also have a few molds that are just worn out, that need to be re-made. I estimate this round of mold making I will make about 25 new molds, which will take about 2 weeks. Some of the new molds will be simple 1-piece, other are much more complex 5 or 6-piece molds. However, it helps I like working with plaster, and I take pride in my efforts towards being a complete craftsman and making nice molds. This also means it doesn’t happen quickly.

I’ll post in-progress images shortly.