Friday, December 20, 2013

Pottery Shop Dressed and Ready to Party!

The pottery shop and studio is 99% finished. As in real life, there is always some tweaking to be done. Here is the Shadyside Potter as she stands today. (Click on the photos for a larger view.) The driveway has been completed, stepping stones made from terracotta air dry clay have been installed, the turf has been roughed up to show some wear from foot traffic, and tea leaves and coffee grounds now masquerade as dirt and mulch.
     The kiln still has a bit of a shine after several sprayed coats of matte-finish artist's medium. I've accepted that it is what it is and won't fiddle with it any more.

I discovered that there is a subtle difference in the shade and texture of tea leaves. Earl Grey has a slightly larger cut and is lighter in color than English Breakfast tea. Coffee grounds are more granular and are much darker than either of the teas. I used Earl Grey for the mulch around the stepping stones, coffee grounds for mulch under the bushes and trees, and a combination of the two teas with a touch of coffee grounds next to the driveway. For the path between the door and the kiln, I scraped off some of the grass and sprinkled a mix of all three mulches to indicate some footworn spots.

On the shop side of the building, there is less going on. After this photo was taken, I added a couple more pots on the ground next to the porch. The stepping stones here are also made from terracotta air dry clay. (Note to self: that bit of stone wall is crying out for a ceramic wall sculpture.)

The photo in the next picture was the inspiration for the driveway. I went to Walmart and bought two dozen eggs just for the cartons; the grocery store we usually use offers only plastic foam trays. The arrow is pointing to an inscription in the stepping stone. While the clay was wet, I used a pin to scratch KB 2013 into it. :) 
     The tea leaves, coffee grounds and loose turf were sprinkled onto diluted white glue that was brushed on the base. The top layers didn't touch the glue and had a tendency to blow around. I hit them with a good dose of hair spray, which keeps them in place while remaining invisible. Another part of the 1% tweaking that needs to be done is aging the stepping stones. They look uncomfortably new. 

Inside the shop, I added some posters and signs for a bit of color. I copied them from the internet and printed them on matte-finish photo paper.

I see two more spaces for ceramic wall art -- above the door and below the shelf.  I like this shot because it shows the skylight in the studio area.

One sign is posted in the studio. It reads: Keep Calm and Throw Something. This photo shows the back of the garage doors, which are perfectly flat. I faked the boards and cross bars by drawing them with a woodburning tool and doing a bit of shading with the paint to mimic the front sides.

Okay, so maybe the pottery is closer to 95% than 99% complete. There is still the potter himself or herself to make. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pottery Shop Landscaping Challenges

Before we get to the landscaping, thought you'd like to see this project as it's coming together. The roof of the pottery shop has been removed in these photos; it's made to be removed for easy viewing. In the background is the Beacon Hill. The general contractor is wondering when I'll get over there. This was supposed to be the winter of the Beacon Hill, but the pottery shop hollered louder.

The kiln is finished but for one step. Do you see the slight glare on the curved of the kiln? I painted the kiln with satin finish polyacrylic. Mistake. Kiln bricks are not supposed to be glazed. I've tried to dull the finish with washes of gray and ivory acrylic. It helps a little but not enough. I'm not sure what the step will be, so I'm moving on to the landscaping while I ponder. One thought is to powder some gray or black chalk or charcoal and gently rub it on with a fingertip. Actually, that's the only thought at the moment. Suggestions welcome!

There are some challenges with the landscaping. The lovely grass sheets have to be cut and fitted around the building and kiln. The sheets have a directional grain. The grain doesn't always run in the direction it should, which results in obvious breaks between sections. Not realistic at all. If you look at the strip to the left of the garage door you'll see what I mean.

Also, I haven't figured out how I'm going to make the driveway and walkway to the steps. I don't like the painted stone-finish paint. Another issue is the too-clean lines between grass and man made areas. The pads by the doors are bits of a plastic foam egg carton. They look like concrete pads that might lead to strips of concrete with grass between. 

One thought is to make some stones from left over terra cotta air dry clay, paint them gray and then put some white on as if they've been whitewashed, and line the driveway edges with them. I have some crumbles of green/brown flocking/foliage materials that can be put between them. If you click the next photo to enlarge, you can see a bit of the crumbly material close to the right side of the garage door. It blends well with the grass.

I had three of the oblong bushes like the one in front of the porch but needed smaller ones near the corner of the building. I cut one of the oblongs in two and glued some of the crumbles on the raw edges. I like the result.  I've saved some used coffee grounds and tea leaves for dirt and mulch. That's what is in the containers in the foreground.

Another challenge is how to indicate wear. The grass would be worn in paths from the driveway to the door and from the door to the kiln. Stepping stones? Indicate matted grass with glue & stain brownish? Or? Again, suggestions welcome!

Back to head scratching!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kiln Nearly Finished

An iron frame, little paint, a little Spackle chinking, and the kiln is nearly finished. The bracing is necessary because the bricks expand unevenly from the great heat inside. The "iron" here is actually thin strips of 1/32" basswood. The expansion causes cracks in the wall that have to be chinked before each firing session to prevent heat loss. In real life, the clay chinking also gets fired, gets loose, and need to be replaced. In this case, the air dry clay caused some separations and one lovely crack.

The kiln is sitting on a "concrete" base made from part of a foam plastic egg carton. Love those egg cartons, both plastic and paper. The inside of the oven is the original brick-painted paper. It is not easily seen and mimics the outside enough that it works for me. I wasn't too excited about trying to paint bricks inside, especially since I'd glued the pots inside. 

The base will be set down a bit when installed. In these photos it is sitting on top of the grass sheets. Next step: installing the grass.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The incredible shrinking kiln

Well, I suppose it's really not all that incredible. I should have realized that air dry clay would shrink as it dried, despite being glued to the base. As it turns out, all is not lost. In fact, Lloyd says it adds a touch of realism to the kiln, as the brickwork suffers from the intense internal heat and is in need of regular patching.

The worst damage was the top of the oven. The two panels pulled apart, leaving a gap nearly the width of a course of bricks.

The separations on the side of the chimney resulted from the horizontal lines being a little too deep. What was one panel became three. The crack on the side of the oven gave me reason to pay attention to the need for some iron bracing. It is an integral part of most real brick kilns. I'd hoped to get away without it, but in the interest of realism, I see some ironwork on the horizon.

The back side of the chimney didn't fare well, but the bracing, plus painting and patching, should take care of it.

The only repair made was the addition of a row of bricks in the biggest gap. When this dries, it will be time to add some bracing and shading.

While that's drying, the landscaping is demanding attention.