Monday, August 23, 2010

All fired up! Well almost ....

My house has been a pottery drying area for a number of weeks now ... and even just in the drying process I've learned more about pottery.  I already knew that the pieces would shrink (about 10% they say), but seeing is believing.  I made a cake-stand that I originally thought would be of a decent size.  It's really now only for small cakes but I'll wait to see what the end result is like before I decide how big I'll make the next one!  In the drying process the top of it probably shrunk about a cm around all sides.

Terracotta cakestand (still greenware at this stage)

I'm a bit nervous about a vase I made .... it really isn't the most stable of pieces, although I like the shape!  Again, another direction that may have to be rethought if I make another one of these ... perhaps a flat bottom!

And then there's the lattice pieces I made which are extremely fragile in their greenware state.  I've taken a risk with these pieces - any moving of them has been done with great care and I'm worried they are too fragile.   I also don't know if I've used the right clay - for this kind of fine work I probably should of used porcelain ... however this is all really a learning process and about creating, so I should take the mistakes as lessons learned!

Lattice piece with terracota coil pot in the background.
Coil pot

So today I finally, carefully packed up my various pieces of greenware pottery and transported them over to Spotswood for firing, and I have to admit I'm nervous and excited.  I can't wait to see what works - and of course what doesn't work.  Unfortunately it was not without disaster.  The first mishap was while I tried to pack the vase pictured above.  I knocked the table and in saving the vase from toppling and smashing I put my hand down on the table in the quick save action right on top of one of my lattice pieces ... now not really worth firing.  Then a couple of the porcelain pendants snapped in half.  Wow this greenware stuff needs kid gloves!

The unfortunate fall out.

Naturally I wasn't that happy about the lattice piece.  Even though it really is an experiment I wanted it to work - back to the drawing board with this one.  I'll try it again but with slightly thicker lattices and in porcelain which being a finer clay can cope better with being thinner.

I drive to Spotswood was done very carefully with Zette our careful driver, Geoff (our firing master) and myself (me in the back in back nursing the pieces as best I could).  The unpacking at the other end was going to be telling as well.  I was beginning to wish I done a big solid piece like Zette had!  Luckily I only lost one or two more pendants (I've done quick a few), but alas I also lost the other lattice piece - the bowl pictured up above.  So I never will know how that clay in that kind of fine work will fire ... so on to the porcelain version as it seems less risky.

Next will be learning about glazes, that is if all the remaining pieces survive the firing - there could be some more lessons there as well!  I'm particularly curious about decals and also about using house paint to decorate pieces.  Yes house paint!  I read somewhere that you can use it on greenware.  I find this a little hard to believe as I would of thought it would burn off, but apparently some artists used to do it in the 50s.  If that's the case I'm imagining lead based paints, which some glazes used to be, or enamel paint rather than acrylic.  I've tried research this on-line, and although I've come across the odd comments on pottery forums where someone suggests you experiment with house paint they don't go into any details.  Like at what stage?  On Greenware, a second firing, no firing - but after all the process?  And what type of house paint?  I guess I'll just have to do what the pottery forums said ... and experiment!!

So tomorrow it all gets stacked up into the kiln .... fired for three days making sure the kiln has plenty of time to cool afterwards (opening too soon can also crack pieces).  I can't wait to see the end results and start my next lot of experiments!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beach Huts

I've been meaning to do a photo session at a little known corner of South Werribee for a while now.  While the South Eastern bay beaches in Melbourne are well known, and frequently visited - the western parts of the bay coast are not so known .... which is why I love them so much.

Admittedly the beaches aren't quite so long ... and often covered in seaweed ... but I love them all the same.  Years ago I knew a couple that owned ("leased") one of the beach huts at Campbell's Cove, and one summers day and night a whole group of us went down there ... and ended up sleeping on the beach ... and I've always intended to go back ...

I eventually did - a couple of weeks ago .... the first sunny day we had had in a while.  Unfortunately I got down there all keen to take photos ... before realising I had left the battery out of my camera .... I did finally get back there ...

The thing about Campbell's Cove is not the scenic beauty ... or immaculately maintained beach huts like you might find on the other side of Melbourne ... but there's a different kind of beauty here ... one of character, history and many untold stories.  It's a secluded little corner of Melbourne which I am almost reluctant to write about ... but I am.

In fact, I wouldn't mind owning one of these!

My Campbell's Cove photos were actually taken over two days.  I took a mate of mine down here late one Saturday afternoon .... I think on the way there he was wondering where on earth I was leading him too .... however once there he got it as well and was surprised he'd never known about it.  We took photos until yet again I had battery problems (it ran out!!) and the light was fading fast  Disappointed we returned home ... not without me pointing out to him that there's a nudist beach not far from here!  As soon as I did he slammed on the brakes ... that was until I pointed out that in August it really is too cold for any sun bathing!!

The next morning I woke up to a brilliant sunny morning ... in fact with much better light conditions than the day before ... so I jumped out of bed and headed back down to finish my photo taking.

Pirate Booty

With so many bright colours, left over boating bits and just things to see .... it's little wonder that in under 3 hours I took nearly 700 photos!  Yes - I am a little ummm keen on photography!

If you want to see more from this little Urban Adventure, please see my Flickr profile ... but here's a couple more of my favourites.

I somehow think I will be returning here in different weather conditions ... there's still so much I could take photos of for a start.  Secondly, I seem to have a thing about water ... whether it be the sea, a creek, a river or a lake .... I should probably live closer to the coast.

I hope you like this little corner I've found you ... but shhhh ... it's a well kept secret!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Urban Exploring

Wikipedia defines Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) as the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities.

However, my definition is a bit looser than this.  Mine is purely exploring ... whether it be urban environments or rural ... I like to see things in different ways - to find beauty where you least expect it, and my eyes and my camera are the tools to share these finds.

Sometimes I will plan an exploration, sometimes I just decide to see where a road or a path leads.  And as I usually have a camera with me, if I find a good shot, out it comes!!

Its amazing what you find, and I've surprised some friends from finding things in their local areas they have never even known about ...

Open a map - throw down stone ... go and explore where it lands!!

Here's some photos from a recent trip.

I have been driving through Altona a lot for medical appointments.  The Petrol Refineries fascinate me ... and some of the wide open spaces around here (which unfortunately are quickly disappearing).  I had noticed some old signage in a field that amused me and that inspired me to try a different road one day ....

Abandoned KFC bucket ... in a field in Altona.

With time to kill before an appointment I decided to follow a road that appeared to go nowhere ... but I had to find out how to get to it first ... and this nicely took me to a different angle of the petrol plant ....

And to the Altona East Soccer Club ...

But I finally found the way to the road I had seen .... and to my delight lead to Kororoit Creek or lower Kororoit Creek since I leave near the creek but much further up.  Slowly over the past 3 years there have been attempts to clean the creek up a bit.  It was once quite clean apparently - up near me there used to be a swimming pool built into the creek - that stopped being used between to the two world wars ... when the creek became mucky with pollution ...

Somewhere in the past year, they have built a bridge over the creek and joined up two parts of Altona ... and alongside the creek they are making walking paths, and planting trees ... but the bit that I loved the most was the public art that had been installed here.  The day I discovered this I was still quite unwell ... massive headaches, dizziness ... I walked only a short distance along the path before realising I just couldn't do it.  I did end up coming back a few weeks later with a friend and her dog and we followed the path.  The following photos are first of the sculpture on first discovery, and then a couple of photos when I shared my discovery with Zette and her dog Peanut.

The Art piece from a distance

I love the effects of the sticks, the red and white and the shadows of the late afternoon.

When we did come back for the walk the thing that struck me the most was how quiet it was ... yes there was industry just over the fence ... and some noises associated with that, but apart from that there was so little other signs of life ... no other people out walking ... just us two and the dog ... oh and a lot of rabbits, which of course got chased!

Unusual growth spied on the walk.
Although late in the day, the bushes were all laced with droplets and sparkled at you as you walked past.

One of my favourite things to see in late winter ... Wattle blossoms ... to me they are a sign that spring is coming ...
One of the neighbours to the creek path.
So that's my exploration of Lower Kororoit Creek - well that section of the creek anyway - there's others!

I'll be coming back here later in the year when it's not raining so much and I'll get more pics.

But of course I have other places I must visit ... other photos to take ...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Maiden Blog

I have been exploring a number of creative outlets over the years ... and now I am going to start sharing them and perhaps inspire others to "get creative".  I find making or creating things to be meditative, good for the soul ... and I need to ensure I keep this side of me satisfied. By having a blog, I hope to keep having to find new projects to report on - have other people add suggestions or even comment on my works.

Part of this has come out of recovering from a disc problem in my neck.  Idle time and hands were driving me crazy.  I desperately needed a distraction from the pain.  A friend wanted to play with clay ... has access to a kiln ... and the first project began.

I haven't actually made anything with clay since high school art classes ... in fact I still have one of the pieces I made ... a sculpture.  Anyway, it took some "refreshes" with books, the internet and practice to get back into the hang of it.  I don't have access to a wheel, so it all been hand built piece, but I do enjoy getting my hands dirty.

Various unfired greenware pieces

Can't wait to fire these!

I've also been playing with some porcelain clay ... for finer pieces.  At this stage I'm making pendants.  Eventually I will try something more sculptural but at the moment I'm enjoying re-exploring the medium of clay!

Porcelain pendants - unfired, no glaze

The thing about a new medium, or in this case one I haven't used for a long long time - there's things you learn as you use it.  Like the fact that clay shrinks as it dries ... or that as it dries it can warp.  I started this whole process making tiles ... and quickly learn that drying tiles slowing, between flat items will ensure they stay flat.  Not that I mind some of my earlier ones ... they feel more organic!

Early tile experiments
More tiles in various states of drying.

All items need at least two weeks proper drying before their first firing, and I'm still making pieces (I made about 17 pendants just earlier this evening!) ... so I'll keep sharing these as I go through the various processes of firing and glazing and any new items.

But my next post will be about urban exploring and photography ... another passion of mine.