Oct 032014

I’ve noticed that many bloggers do a visual feature on Fridays, perhaps because it’s the end of the business week and visitors have just enough energy to look at photos, but not enough to read posts. In any event, every week I spot beautiful finds on Etsy that simply beg to be shared with others, so I’ve decided to dedicate Fridays to treasuries I curate. The one below consists of handmade clay items that evoke autumn because of their colors. No surprise there, as it’s my favorite season!

As usual, click on the image to visit the treasury and individual listings.

Friday's Favorites in Clay

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Apr 262008

A humble potter’s wheel and a ball of clay form the building blocks of Pearl Peters’ clayware. This Colorado artist produces an amazing array of stoneware, porcelain and Raku clay products. These include a practical Stoneware Utensil Holder, a fanciful Waterfall Flower Stoneware Bowl, and an inspirational Porcelain Sun Torn Roses Free Form Wall Sculpture. All of these pieces reflect her skill with the wheel, her passion for shape and color, and her zest for experimentation.

Pearl’s interest in pottery began as a small child, when she observed her mother and grandmother working with ceramics. A kiln was always within arm’s reach. As a Brownie leader, she asked her girls to paint some ceramic ornaments she had slip cast, which led to a discussion with one of the girls’ mothers, who happened to be a potter. After Pearl visited this woman and watched her throw a pot, she was fascinated with the freedom of this new art form. She was invited to sit down and center the clay on a pottery wheel, although she was warned not to expect too much of herself on her first attempt. To both her surprise and her host’s, Pearl took to the clay right away, creating her first bowl. Three weeks later, after calling every pottery shop in the city, Pearl was the proud owner of an old kick wheel. “I had to borrow the money from my grandpa to buy it,” she recollects, “and his truck to get it home.”

Pearl describes pottery as an escape for her. “I turn up the music, close my eyes, and start.” Most of her work grows out of her passion and imagination, rather than out of a need to sell or gift the pieces. “I make them for me and my heart,” says Pearl. She points to her Urban Torn work as an expression of her feelings. Passion for her art notwithstanding, Pearl is saving for a digital control for one of her kilns so that she can explore crystalline glaze, whose crystals she describes as beautiful. The crystals, she explains, are formed by the rise and fall of temperature, much as in nature.

Both the type of clay and how it can be shaped are foremost in Pearl’s mind as she begins designing a pot. “I choose clay I’m in the mood for–white or brown stoneware, Raku or porcelain. I get it wedged up, throw a piece, and while I’m throwing, I ask myself ‘will this need a handle or lid?’ I think about how I want to decorate it.”

Afterward, the clay needs to dry. “Some pieces need to be wrapped up to make them dry very slowly so they don’t crack.” When the pot is leather hard, Pearl trims it out on the bottom or sponges it off. Then she signs it. After a week she fires the bisque to 2008 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8 hours. Then follows the glazing process. Stoneware and porcelain pieces are fired again in the kiln at a temperature of 2300 degrees.

Several of the pieces in Pearl’s Etsy handmade goods shop, Fehu Stoneware, are Raku-fired, such as her Raku Celestial Incense Jar. Raku is a technique used to produce bowls for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Clay is fired for short periods of time at extremely high temperatures, then removed from a kiln while still red hot, at which point it is cooled in cold water, which sets the shape. Pearl enjoys the unpredictability of the results. She fires her Raku pieces outside in a small homemade kiln that holds two or three pieces at a time. When the temperature reaches 1,944 degrees after about 20 minutes, the flame is turned off, the lid is lifted and the red hot piece is placed in a pile of sawdust. It bursts into flames, then is covered tightly for about 20 more minutes. Afterward, the pot is transferred to water to cool it down.

Pearl’s shop name was inspired by the Old Norse rune called “Fehu,” which stands for fulfillment: ambition satisfied, love fulfilled, rewards received. According to Pearl, Fehu promises nourishment, from the most worldly to the sacred and divine. That nourishment fuels Pearl’s passion for pottery.

To learn more about clay artist Pearl Peters, visit these sites:

Etsy Shop: Fehu Stoneware
Blog: Fehu Stoneware
Video: Making a BBEST Mug

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by Pearl Peters and are used with permission.

Apr 202008

Meet Zuda Gay Pease, polymer clay artist extraordinaire. This Illinois grandmother of seven designs polymer clay creations that are a visual, tactile feast. Although some of her most popular items are her pendants and brooches, she also produces clay-covered tins and pens, votives and ornaments. Zuda enjoys music, reading and art as well.

Zuda’s basic clay working skills go back as far as she can remember. “I was always able to roll a smooth ball and an even snake,” she says. “When I made things out of my play dough, people knew what they were.” She worked with salt dough and other homemade clays for quite a number of years before polymer clay arrived in the area where she lives. That was 12 years ago, when she bought her first batch of polymer clay.

“I started doing research on the Internet and most of what I know I learned from the generous polymer clay artists who share tutorials online, and from the few books I’ve read…and lots of experimenting.” That tradition of sharing polymer clay knowledge is continued through a flower veneer tutorial in Zuda’s photo gallery, located at http://www.pbase.com/zudagay.

Zuda says that all of creation inspires her. “I love color. I love flowers and trees and leaves.” Indeed, that love of nature and color is prominent in all of her work.

When she first creates a pendant, Zuda begins with a color or color combination that she has been mulling in her head for a while. “When I made sunflowers,” she says, “I wanted to see what would happen if I mixed yellow mica powders with translucent clay.” She then mixed yellow translucent clay with a coppery brown to produce a special blend for petal cane. “Cane,” she explains, “is created when you put clay, glass or even candy slabs and/or snakes together to make a design that runs through the length of the roll. A jelly roll cake is an example of a simple cane; you get the same design throughout the entire jelly roll. Each slice looks the same.”

Zuda flattens a ball of clay into a base for a flower, then inserts two wire bails into the base near the top for stringing so that the pendant can become part of a necklace. She cuts petals off the petal cane and manipulates them by hand to form the shape she desires, then attaches them to the pendant base in a floral shape. Then she works on the center of the flower. “Sometimes I use a button, and sometimes I use balls of clay in coordinating or contrasting colors.”

After checking for foreign particles, such as stray hairs, Zuda places the flower pendant on a bed of fiberfill in the bottom of an aluminum pan and covers this pan with another of the same size. She bakes the pendant in her table top convection oven and then allows it to cool, which hardens the pendant.

Despite Zuda’s painstaking attention to detail, sometimes the results are not what she hopes for. “I know what to change the next time,” she says, emphasizing how each clay creation represents new learning.

Zuda says she rarely has plans, and that she is entirely a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-breeches kind of gal. “As long as I am able and the Lord is willing, I will be creative in some way and be a blessing to others in some way.” She adds that she is “holding on for the ride” and is going to see where it takes her.

To learn more about Zuda Gay Pease, visit the following Web sites:

Etsy shop: ZudaGay
Blog: Clay in the Hands
Photo gallery: Zuda Gay Pease

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the image in this post is owned by Zuda Gay Pease and is used with permission.