Tag Archives: firing

Blowin’ it up! with Rain Harris


Last Week Gabe and I had the good fortune of attending a Rain Harris workshop in Hays KS as a part of my midterm critique weekend.  We had a fantastic time, meeting people and learning the new techniques that Rain brought to teach.  The workshop centered around her black flower bouquets, which when paired with resin coated plastic and silk flowers, become a commentary on the distinction of good and bad taste.

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Using a black clay called Cassius Basaltic made by Aardvark Clay, we were instructed in making the beautiful and delicate flowers seen in the sculpture above.  Typically, Gabe and I had a hard time staying on track with the assignment.  This was our first workshop in a long time and we were so excited.  Gabe especially was determined to “blow it up”, his way of saying the was going to go all out.  So while our class mates made beautiful flowers ,mounted on nichrome wire, Gabe and I made monster flowers.

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The top image shows the clay wet, and the lower is after the clay is fired.   Both these flowers were made by Gabe, true to his word, he blew it up…in more than one way…

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The process of firing the work is very aggressive, these went into the kiln and were fired to cone 5 the night they were made.  “I told you I don’t know what I’m doing” was his comment, (though truly loosing one of 7 isn’t bad) and off he went to vacuum the kiln.  We then gathered all the pieces for the next phase of the build.

Our class mates took the lovely flowers on wires and made arrangements using the black clay again as a center piece to hold the wires together.


This is the piece that Rain created, but all of them were really terrific.  And then there’s us.  We took our frankinflowers and the broken pieces and pushed together a strange collaborative hill of weirdness.

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We left lots of the under clay exposed and textured it and forced the broken pieces in, then shoved on the other flowers, most of which did not include the wires that our more skillful and attention paying fellows added.  In spite of its odd ball status, we were happy with it and having a blast.  For good measure I held it up and asked Gabe to poke it a few times.  Im laughing as I type, because we blew this one up too.

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please note how awesome most of these are. Somehow we were just not destined to be among them this weekend.  No tears though, we salvaged what we could and may make some further monstrosity later.  Gabe also  got to make a new friend.

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Thanks to everyone at FHSU for the great weekend!

Graffiti Pots

One of my favorite aspects of the work of Foxy-Wolff is the way that the large project can contain so many splinters and still remain whole.  The intent, scope and heart of all the projects lead to the interior of the next project and are connected back to projects that are many years past, even before the beginning of our collaboration. The graffiti pots are especially one of these projects.  Gabe and I began working together rather later in our artistic lives.  For myself, I was focused on ceramic entirely.  Especially working as a studio potter and sometime sculptor for almost 20 years prior to Foxy-Wolff.  For Gabe about the same number of years have been given to the study of drawing and painting.  Within those time spans we each developed interests.  For me, the history of human culture through clay sculpture and pottery, for Gabe, Graffiti and street art have been important influences.  For this group of vases we unite those years of experience and differing interests into a unified group of pots that are setting the tone for the work we intend to make for the next year at least.IMG_4614I threw the pots off the hump with the clay that we made this winter.  The influence for the form comes from the arts and crafts movement.  Not that these pots are intended to copy work from the period, but their forms and handle attachments reflect fashionable conventions from the time.   This period has had the strongest influence over my sense of beauty in thrown forms and they are shapes I make often.

once the pots were trimmed, handled and bisqued, they were ready for surface treatment and their first firing.  The first step in this process is to spray paint the surface of the work.  We use a lead free industrial grade aerosol primer for this.

After the paint dries the pots are glazed.  The paint acts as a resist and an uneven glaze surface over the paint is encouraged.IMG_4593

IMG_4592Following the glaze application the pots are ready for firing

While I was focused on design and execution of the pots, Gabe was working on the tags for the decals.  Concerning the work Gabe said “I want the work to look as if it was taken from the unknown origins collection in a Museum and used like a wall is used by a graffiti artist”.    Here is a group of photos that reveal his process in designing1324Once a design is ready on paper it can be moved to the computer for extensive preparation in photoshop for becoming a decal.  These were printed by the sheet and then cut out.  Gabe chose a repeating order for all the pots.  Even though some of the small pieces could only hold 3 of the tags, the order was held throughout the decaling process to prevent overuse of an image56Once the pots were fired, they were ready to receive their decals

IMG_47798Decaled, they were ready for their third firing to set the decals into the glaze.910The completed pots exceeded our expectations and have set the tone for future work.  These are for sale through the studio, reach us through our “About” page.cropped-graffiti-pots1-copy-21.jpg

Building the Doll House


Once the molds were dry, the build began immediately.  I have not worked extensively with stiff slabs and there was a bit of learning curve.  The procedure was pretty straight forward.  All the pieces were pressed in a day and left in the molds to stiffen.  the next day they were sprung from the molds and assembled.  the floor, then the walls, one at a time, and finally the ceiling.  once the main floor is built, the details and stairs are added on the following day.


The schedule for completion was very tight, so these had to go to the kiln pretty quickly.  The large stories completely filled the kiln.   This was actually one of the main design parameters, the small kiln is our studio’s limit, transcending that limit has been a priority of ours from the beginning.  This small kiln also lacks the computer controls that I was used to at the art center.  It was an unfortunate combination of dirt barn floor, that prevented drying, small hot kiln and no way to read internal temps that cost us much time and stress on the build of the piece.  The first piece blew up in firing.  the tight schedule and the stress of deadline pressure, constant cold from working in the old barn and months without a day off piled up.  All these factors contributed to the loss of the piece and certainly to my willingness to give up and bring the work incomplete to critique.  I assumed it would cost me my grade and I was ready to take the incomplete in the class as well.


But of course I don’t work alone, and after a day to cool down and refocus with the support that is sometimes necessary for hard work, I got back to work and remade the missing piece.  That piece was not nearly the only work lost in the early winter and we employed a variety of methods to get the clay dry in the damp, cold barn.  The first attempt was to use heat lamps to dry the work before firing.  This worked pretty well for the pre firing dry time, but we were still loosing work, those roosters had to be remade three times.  Finally we ponied up the money for a pyrometer, which has been one of the best investments the studio has made to date.  Now we are able to monitor the interior temp and ensure it does not climb to high before we are sure the work is completely dry.  For our situation, its completely necessary.


Once all the work was fired and repairs made to the porch pieces, which were a design flaw and needed much post firing attention, the work was glazed.  The film was a primary consideration here, I needed to choose a surface that would show the characters and film well.  I was also concerned with the characters being able to keep their feet so an unglazed surface was chosen for the floors and stairs.  We have since modified the method of movement for them during filming and this may not remain a good decision but it is integral to the finished look of the piece and can not be regretted.



Over all, Im am really happy with the way this piece has turned out so far, and the interiors are wonderfully intimate.  I’m hoping we can translate that into the character of the film.