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Ghost Bunny Urn – side 1

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a workshop from the wonderful Kevin Snipes (who was joined by the delightful Amy Smith) at Sierra Nevada College.  Sometimes a workshop can come at just the right time for me and supply answers to problems that I have been wrestling with… this was the case with this one.

Cracking is my nemesis.  I have changed clay bodies, dried pieces at a turtle’s pace, compressed, rolled in multiple directions, made slabs thicker, then thinner, tried every trick I could think of and still the bloody cracks would appear.  Cracks… not usually at the joins but showing up  in the middle of the piece… causing my grey hair to turn even greyer.

I thought I was just stressing the clay too much by asking it to form the shapes of my work BUT after seeing the complex forms  Kevin accomplishes with porcelain I knew he would have some answers for my problem. He did not disappoint! I am feeling optimistic that perhaps my days of massive crack attacks are over.

Here are a few of his practices that might help anybody who is experiencing hand building cracking problems:

  1. Cut 25 lb bag of clay in 1/3 pieces lengthwise. Slap each piece on floor (to wake it up) before rolling  out 3/8″ think slabs. Store these slabs, covered tightly in plastic for long periods of time…the longer the better.  Aging seems to settle the clay. Before rolling out the slabs make sure to square up the edges so you have a nice even slab to eventually cut your patterns from.
  2. When ready to use the slabs re-roll with rolling pin to about 1/4″ ( he uses small round dowels as guides). Cut off the ragged edges and compress with yellow mud tools rib before cutting your pieces.
  3. He uses a skinny needle tool with a ball at the end to cut around his pattern pieces (which he cuts from file card stock) not an exacto knife as he feels it makes cutting the curves easier.
  4. Compress with your finger the edges of each pattern piece before assembling.
  5. He doesn’t cut 45 degree angles for his joins. He compresses these angles with his fingers and uses a serrated rib to score and further make the angle for the join.
  6. Get the joining pieces together loosely then, when they’ve set up for awhile, clean the joins up by compressing with ribs.  Be sure to place a support coil at seam joins.

Additionally Kevin woke me up to the joy of narrative pot making.  The pot pictured is an homage to the many  pet bunnies that we managed to kill when my daughter was young.  They died untimely deaths due to many different reasons…dogs, intestinal blockages, climate changes, fumigation….I know …I was A REALLY BAD bunny mom.  Finally the pet store refused to sell us another bunny until we read a book on bunny raising.  It’s bizarre what comes into your mind when you’re drawing on pots.

I  can’t recommend a workshop with Kevin Snipes enough.  If you have the opportunity and inclination …Go FOR It!

Ghost Bunny Urn – sides 2 & 3

 

 

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I am taking a break this year from the  ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival.  I am in the mountains enjoying the insane wildflower season, working on wholesale orders and creating new work for my Holiday Open Studio (yes…ALREADY…) and shows that I have been invited to participate in. Then I’m off to Cuba for a few weeks.  Summer is GREAT!

At this moment, if I was there, I would be wrestling with setting up my tent, fretting over my display and dreaming of a gin and tonic!  Even though I am sitting on my deck having one … I will miss doing this great show . Seeing and reconnecting with  loyal and new customers is always the BEST. The weather for this outdoor event is usually great and of course the work available from approx 150 of the best clay and glass artists in California  is just brilliant.  I am wishing all you ACGA exhibiting members a terrific  show.

 

 

 

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 Sunny Poppy Cup with Stripe Handle

This year I will not be participating in the ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival due to all sorts of fun family events. I will miss setting up my big white tent and seeing all the  friendly faces  at this wonderful show.  BUT if you would like to buy a piece from me you still can. How about a sunshine yellow poppy cup with striped handle to brighten up your morning coffee or a quirky little harlequin vase with a silver luster top  to hold a sweet summer bouquet. These and a few other of my pieces, as well as fabulous work from other ACGA artists, are available at Bloom an on-line ACGA sale happening now. Please check it out.

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Harlequin Vase with Silver Luster Top

 

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Folded Wildlife Bowls and Cups hot out of the kiln and ready to ship.

I am making massive amounts of Wildlife Cups and Folded Bowls for a wholesale order going to my favorite shop in Truckee, CA…Bespoke.   I would never classify myself as a production potter and thus don’t do a lot of wholesale orders. I lack the discipline and patience.  Hand building each of my pieces takes so much blood, sweat and tears…not to mention the loss of  all the work that for some reason decides to crack, usually after it is full formed and decorated…URUGH!  In the end selling pieces for wholesale prices just doesn’t work for me… BUT  there are always exceptions to my self imposed rules.

I love this shop so much. We live near by Truckee in the summer and  I often visit Bespoke just to wander through and admire their beautifully curated selection of  handmade things. I almost always end up buying something special and I  REALLY wanted my work in there. When the owner contacted me  and placed an order I was  thrilled. This was last summer and I have been supplying them with my pieces ever since.

If you are looking for a Wildlife Cup or Folded Bowl to add to your collection don’t hesitate to contact the great folks at Bespoke (info@bespoketruckee.com). If you are in the Tahoe area, make it a point to stop by and see this wonderful shop.

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Spring Open Studio copy

I didn’t know if I would be able to do the Spring Open Studio (and seconds sale) this year.  I had a new hip installed 2 weeks ago. I had no idea how I’d be feeling but… hot damn… it’s been  pretty easy.

I will be open for one weekend May 6 & 7, 11 -5.  I will have a fairly limited amount of work available … some new experiments, some familiar, well loved  styles and some seconds. Come early for best selection.

Happy Spring.

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Wonderful wall pieces by Maura Wright @ Archie Bray Show at Lewis and Clark College

How do I describe my 2017 experience in Portland?

A three ring circus filled with too much to see and do.

Socially I always feel pretty awkward at NCECA. It reminds a little of a high school experience.  It’s a gathering of obsessed clay people,some who have become elevated to rock star status.  I consider these my people but I always feel  a bit in awe.  There were 6,008 clay nerds attending.  I think I personally ran into  about 10 that I knew!

I went on a bus tour that made me feel really good about what I’m doing.  I went to some beautiful shows that filled my eyes with wonder and inspired me.  I heard lectures about folks who have greatly influenced my life.  I sat through a key note speech that made me laugh and think. I bought $100 worth of diamond grinders. I ate delicious corn dogs, ramen and drank lots of famous Portland beer. I walked/limped 15,000 steps one day.

I look at other people’s pictures of what they saw and did and wonder …How did I miss THAT ???? But I know I was running to see all I did see and couldn’t have squeezed in a moment more.  NCECA doesn’t disappoint.  I couldn’t do it every year but when it comes close again I’ll be there with my track shoes on. Maybe next time I’ll get off my butt and apply to be in a couple of shows.

This incredibly detailed birch bowl by Heesoo Lee at Lewis and Clark College was mind blowingly beautiful.

 

 

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Sometimes I can find inspiration in the most unexpected ways.

My friend,Lana Wilson, asked me to join her  and her buddies at the Sergei Isupov workshop that was recently held at the Walnut Creek Art Center.  I am not figurative clay artist.  To be honest, as much as I admire  Sergei Isupov’s intricate,dream-like, sometimes sexually explicit work, it is about as far from my pattern driven, rather naive functional pots as  night and day. However I really love hanging out with Lana and haven’t been to a workshop in a long time so thought what the heck and signed up.

We arrived to a packed house. The  chairs were closer together than coach class on Southwest Airlines. Sergei, a sprightly guy in bright red pants, began his presentation and immediately the entire room was captivated.  He took  impossibly large slabs of B- mix (though he uses porcelain in his own practice) and began cutting and smooshing together the seams, darting, paddling, pushing out and pushing in. A bigger than life sized head took shape.  It looked remarkably like Sergei. All the while he was doing this he was keeping us totally entertained.  The guy is a performer…funny stories, gossip, the inside scoop, family history all told in a wonderful Russian accent that I had to listen very carefully to so I didn’t miss a thing.  Whew…the whole room was swept up in the Isupov whirl wind.  Not satisfied with just a massive head he began sculpting a tiny lady head who would be holding monkey tails for the back of the piece.

Lunch was served. The piece was whisked to the kiln to dry out a bit.  Slides were shown.

After sufficient time and the piece was dry enough and with less than an hour and a half left in the workshop Sergei began painting.  It was a dazzling feat to almost complete the entire sculpture in the 5 hours of the workshop.  BRAVO to Mr Isupov.

For me I came away with more than just a day spent with friends watching a true professional ply his craft.  I didn’t know when I signed up his pieces were slab built or that he used underglazes and slips in ways that I could adapt in my work.  I came away not only wowed but filled with ideas.

If you haven’t been to a demo given by this guy I would strongly advise signing up the next time he comes to town.  It was truly one of the best workshops I have ever attended.

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Poppy  Box Vase with Patterns – side 1

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, including the never ending much needed but  mood dampening rain, I have been inspired to work  pretty much non-stop in my cozy studio.   This new “black poppy series” is inspired by my love of my state  after the election (poppies are the CA state flower), my frustrated, disbelieving feelings toward our new president (hence the black) and my worship of Betty Woodman’s freedom of form and color. If that isn’t a mish-mash of ideas I don’t know what is !  But I think the work is coming out pretty cohesive. Sometimes throwing everything in the pot and stirring it up works. More photos of this series can be seen on my web-site: josiejurczenia.com

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Poppy Box Vase with Patterns – side 2

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unfinished flower brick side 1

5 years of drought have ended this  January in the Bay Area.  The creek in our backyard has turned into Niagara Falls…when we hear it roaring  it’s the signal that it’s pouring.  Every day (except Sundays..usually) I commute out  the back door, down the brick steps and into my sweet new studio.

January is my favorite month in my clay practice.  I take this time every year to try out new stuff that will shape what I’ll probably be doing all year for shows and gallery sales.  Being in my studio with the rain hammering outside is the perfect place to reflect on what new directions to explore and what I want to continue to work on and expand upon from last year’s efforts.

Pictured is a flower brick based on the poppy pieces I did last fall. Lately  I have been looking at a lot of Betty Woodman‘s work and getting a giddy rush of inspiration.   I think you can see how much these days of drooling over her images has influenced me –  loosened things up. I can’t wait to bisque and add the color  to these pieces and see what my January musings bring.

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unfinished flower brick side 2

 

 

 

 

 

Good bye to things that might have been.

Hello reality that cannot be but is.

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