The Potters and Sculptors Club hosted artist, Bobby Free, who discussed his lifetime of experiences that he crammed into his 36 years during his demonstration at our beautiful Laguna Woods Studio. As artist, studio potter and teacher, he has a comprehensive background in all aspects of ceramics. He has repaired and built kilns, managed The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, spent two of his ‘early’ years as a production potter and currently is the Senior Lab Technician at Saddleback College.
He began his demo with a slideshow of his collective experiences including work done during his MFA studies and multiple ‘Artist in Residence’ programs in which he participated in China, South Korea and the United States.
His ‘hands on’ demonstration started with the coils and handbuilding technique and then proceeded to throwing a set of cups. Bobby showed us how to make a scoring tool out of toothpicks, pulled handles directly off each cup throw and ended with his unique style of decorating a thrown pot.
Raku is a low-fire ceramic technique that was developed in the 16th Century in Japan. In using this technique, a bisque fired piece is coated with a low-firing Raku glaze. The best clay to use for Raku is WSO, while B-Mix or Porcelain should not be used.
As can be seen from the pictures, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of Raku
glazes to choose from. The Raku glazes are found on a shelf in the special Raku
cabinet in the back of the room between the glazing area and the lunch room. The Raku
glazes are thick and are applied with a brush. Once the glaze is applied, the bottom of
the piece needs to be cleaned just as with the other Cone 10 glazes in the Studio.
Once the bottom is cleaned, the piece is placed in the Raku cabinet. There is an as
needed special firing for Raku pieces. During this firing process, the glaze melts,
creating a glowing piece that is removed from the kiln with special tongs.
In our Studio the American Raku method is used. This process was developed in the
1960s by Paul Soldner, and uses a metal, non-combustible container filled with organic
materials. Upon removal from the kiln that was fired to a bright, red heat of 1800
degrees, the piece is then quickly placed into a container of newspaper and is tightly
covered. This smoking “reduction” atmosphere changes metallic oxides into a brilliant
luster. The change in temperature causes the glaze to crackle in abstract patterns. The
results are never totally predicable, making each piece truly unique. Try this wonderful
process and prepare to be dazzled!
Thanks to Sabine Stadler Bayless, Richard Moren and Ron Spencer for their input into this article.
Portions of the article were found in a previous P & S Newsletter.
Would anyone in Potters and Sculptors not recognize the lilting South African accent and the beautiful Shino and Woo Woo blue glaze on her pots? Oh yes, this month’s featured artist is a most talented lady who was born in Zambia and with her parents moved to South Africa when she was 6.
Although she spent eleven (11) years teaching grades 3 through 7, she discovered ceramics at age 18 when she first saw a woman demonstrating ‘throwing on the wheel’. Subsequently digging terracotta clay and taking classes with the woman that demonstrated ‘throwing’, launched Vivian’s interest and eventual career in ceramics.
She studied with Kerry Ellis, studio potter for six more years. Interestingly, he made all of the wheels and kilns for his own studio.
When Vivian returned to his studio to buy another wheel for her workplace, she ended up buying his studio. Averaging 80 students (16 wheels) she held classes all during the day and evening for the next 15 years. She made her own glazes and clay from recipes, but felt she never had time for more artistic pieces.
Vivian has been married for 40 years with 2 sons and 1 daughter. They first moved to London and won a green card lottery. She and her husband migrated to the US in 2011 and has lived in Laguna Woods for 4 ½ years.
She likes helping people. As one of the most task oriented folks in Potters and Sculptors, Vivian took the responsibility of organizing Bonanza. Well done!
Her current focus is on shape: lidded pots with extruded pieces added, as she is diligently working towards making them larger. Shino and Woo Woo blue have become her trademark. Vivian enjoys coil pots – “just because I love the shapes I can make”. She throws mugs to relax (six to ten at a crack), pulling their handles, trimming, and glazing every part.
Vivian loves walking and enjoys sewing all kinds of bags –she has done most crafts and even owned a scrapbooking shop. Multi-faceted—multi-talented—just plain MULTI!