Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mud, Sludge, Mugs, and a Skull

I've been attending the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. First a studio in photography, then ceramics. It's been interesting. Ceramics was the hardest to get a grip on (yeah, pun's intended…slippery mud's like that). I had to grow patience for it at the same time I was learning to be quick about getting it done. It's like the worst of being crew on a movie "hurry up!…and wait."

Clay dries while you're trying to fashion it into something less lumpy, heavy or ugly than what you've got so far. It weakens into a floppy failure if you work too hard to smooth out the unwanted textures of the canvas you flattened it in or some misguided pattern tool. It becomes uselessly loose when you lay on the water that will make it work in your hands. The contradiction is intentional. I think it's supposed to weed out the weak.

Don't try to figure out the lumps in front. They make no sense.

My first mug was overly tall and overly narrow, patterned with well-intentioned, but seriously ugly jewellery and heavy as a weapon.

What the heck am I supposed to do with this? Pencil holder, you say? I got me one of those. Got a couple. They're plastic and from the '70's, so are slightly less ugly. Easier to clean, too.

I don't want to discuss it.

My second run at the task left me with four mugs Dianna calls "The Flintstone cups" that are also too heavy, glazed with teeth-chipping grit and charming only in the words they spell. They are the perfect example of a good idea gone terribly wrong.

I'm sorry Jennalee. You were great to help me with these, but they aren't working out. Want them? Yeah. Thought so.

My third batch of mugs (three, rather than four, because I was running out of clay, time and steam) were planned diligently, executed carefully, detailed lovingly and glazed with great care and trepidation. I can only assume the glaze came out splendid. I'll never know for sure, because while I was away promoting my book they were stolen from the racks. Grrr!

First: You have no idea how hard it is not to hex my wayward mugs into poisoning their abductors.
Second: I'm a little flattered, if inconvenienced. My mug-making finally made it to the level of theft worthy. Thanks. I'm touched.

Regardless, while I was working out the how's and why's of mug manufacturing, I figured out I'd been taught everything I needed to know to make a ceramic skull. So I did.
Now, this was fun!
His cranium is from slab (as opposed to "thrown" on a potter's wheel) made into a cylinder, a bottom sealed on and paddled into the round. A top was sealed on and paddled roundish, too. It had three holes that I eventually worked into eye sockets and a nose hole. Everything but the mandible is applied like handles—that would be the maxilla, the nasal bones and the zygomatic bones (cheek bones)—then worked and carved into realistic shapes. Call the lower mandible a lid and I've followed my instructor's lessons to the letter. He didn't mark it, though. I had to make lids for my now missing mugs to get all my projects done. I still have the lids. Bonus.

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