Art School: Semester 7: Week 11

Well now, isn’t this fun? Here we all are, nowhere near each other. Social distancing at its very best. Or something.

These definitely are crazy times, friends. Crazy. But we will get through it together, as smarter people that me have said.

Some of my readers are under actual shelter-in-place orders, and some are not. I have yet to hear any stories from those under lockdown, but expect to now. You have my email address. Tell me how you’re doing.

As for the rest of us, I suspect our time is coming. It’s the only thing that makes sense at this point. We have to stop the spread of this thing to give us all a fighting chance. I’ve read that about half of the people who contract this bug won’t even know they’ve got it. No symptoms at all. I am not sure what percentage of those can still spread it, but it is certain some can. So everyone needs to do their part and avoid spreading this thing around, even if we think we’re well.

It’s going to be a long haul, I’m afraid. I’ll do my best to provide some items of interest to help pass the time, and I am looking for the same from you. Again, we’re in this together.

As you might guess, all school attendance is done. They formally closed the art studios on Thursday at 4pm. A few things are still open on campus — like the computer labs, apparently — but that’s about it. Some of my classes are winding things up with a bit of online activity. Here are the details:

Advanced Ceramics

We’re basically done here. Some of us spent time working on our final projects, and some may not have. I was in the studio while I could be and didn’t see many people, but they may have been there at other times.

As I think I mentioned last week, my final project was going to consist of several platters and several thrown forms, all glazed in a similar way. I managed to create three platters and six thrown forms. All were bisque fired except for one thrown form which either got missed or didn’t fit into the kiln. Here are some photos:

In the upper left are all six of the unfired thrown forms. Note they are upside down from their expected orientation. That is/was my intent for display. Then there are views of the tops and bottoms of the fired platters, which are all unintentionally slightly different, and which warped differently while drying and firing. And finally in the bottom right we have the bisque fired bowl forms that made it into the kiln.

All of these have been brought home. Perhaps they will get fired someday, but if so I don’t know when or where. Time will tell. I might ponder other options for how to work with them as well. Perhaps resin instead of glaze, for example. I have no real plans yet, but I didn’t want to toss these.

The only other things outstanding in this class are two video conference sessions to discuss a couple of readings. After that, we’re as done as we can be. What that means for final marks I really don’t know.

Wheel Throwing

Technically this class was done a week ago. No final project needed, though I used wheel thrown forms as part of the final project for my other ceramics class. But there are a couple of things that I still need to share here.

First, here are my lidded forms after their glaze firing:

These may be the best things I managed from this class, at least in my opinion. They actually work and feel reasonable. I like them quite a bit, honestly.

The other outstanding objects from this class were my plates, and they are the exact opposite: complete failures:

These have one common problem, and each suffers from a unique problem.

The common issue is that the glaze that was supposed to be clear is not. It’s semi-transparent (or, worse, semi-opaque) and that really messes things up. On the left there is a bit of haze, but on the right… it’s awful. The lovely black pattern I created is hazed over to the point of silliness. And the backs are no better. I can’t tell if the glaze was too thick or if there was a problem with the formulation, but either way these are not successful demonstrations of its properties.

The unique problems are:

  • The one on the left is just plain ugly. I wanted more contrast between the blue and the white/black, and I didn’t get it. The blue slip is too pale, and it simply doesn’t show well. Not to mention the fact that this plate is the learning experience that taught me how to create the pattern on the right. I should probably have wiped it off and tried again. Oh well. It doesn’t matter anyway because the glaze is so bad.
  • On the right, the additional problem is more subtle. The lip on the plate has more curl on one side than the other. I honestly don’t know when it fell down, though. I suspect it was during the glaze firing, since I didn’t notice it before then. I have definitely seen clay sag at various times, including both bisque and glaze firings, so that is completely possible. And the pooling of the clear glaze (or rather, of the glaze that is supposed to be clear) is exacerbated by the way the plate lip is higher on one side, so it is entirely possible that the sag happened during the glaze firing. Again, though, it doesn’t matter given the glaze mess itself.

So, my last wheel throwing projects are (in my mind, anyway) one big success and one big failure.

I have no clue how the instructor will mark these. I got my marks back on my mugs and pitchers, and was highly surprised. In last week’s post I described the crit as a train wreck, and yet I got excellent grades on both of those projects. When asked, she indicated that wheel throwing is hard, and she was marking accordingly. OK then. I’m certainly not about to complain.

In any case, wheel throwing is done. No work remains.

Public Art

In a final burst of energy, all of the assembly and welding of this project was finished up last Tuesday. Here’s a photo of the project as it stands:

Immediately after we took that photo, Heather and I disassembled it and put all the pieces into the sculpture studio. The frame remains outside the shop.

What happens now is less than clear. Had the class gone on as normal we’d have painted the work and unveiled it at the graduate show, and then it would have been hung outside the SkyTrain station at 49th & Cambie sometime in the summer. But with the studios closed, the next steps are out of our hands.

The best guess at the moment is that some paid students who work for the instructors (and which might include the artist who designed the work) will paint it this summer. They might — alternately — just clearcoat it rather than paint it. But either of those options requires some level of stability in the face of Covid-19, and that is not a given at this point.

It’s sad the work isn’t done and ready for display, but viruses don’t really care about our puny plans.

In any case, Heather created a lovely project, and I really like it. With luck it will get finished and displayed. If possible I will be there for the opening to congratulate her. (And yes, I know this was a group effort, but in my mind it’s her design. I and others may get credit for helping to put it together, but she gets the credit for the art aspects of it. At least for me.)

There is no other work outstanding for this class. Like wheel throwing, it’s over and done with.


At the last minute I managed to fully invest my wax original to prepare it for eventual casting in bronze. Here’s a photo of the final object, sitting on a shelf, waiting for that event someday:

Sadly, because the studios are closed, any such pour of bronze will not happen while I am around, and I won’t control the results. But the instructors suggest they will look into ways to pour these if they can, so I might get the final object back eventually, if all goes well.

To complete this class, we’ve got some written work to do in the next couple of weeks. Had we finished the class normally, that would not have been the case. Instead we’d have discussed things during crit. I’ll be doing that written stuff over the weekend, I think, just to get it done.

Harbour News

I have not been on the SeaBus all week. In an effort to maintain social distancing, I drove to campus when I needed to visit. And now that all remaining school work is done or moved online, I have no immediate need to travel into downtown Vancouver. Better off to hide at home and help minimize virus spread in the process. As a result I suspect Harbour News will be on hiatus for some time.

Other Stuff

In next week’s post I should be completely done with all the school work. At that point I will be looking for other things to write about. I don’t know what that will look like, but I will figure something out. I might be working on the long term housing situation, or I might be writing, or I might be creating art from what I have around the house.

And if we’re not locked down, I might take some walks and share some photos from those, kind of like this:

Perhaps half a mile from our house there’s a lovely little pond along a trail I walk on occasion. In this pond there are sometimes ducks. Apparently many people feed the ducks despite the big sign saying not to, because the ducks all swim over to beg for food if you stop to take a look. There were perhaps ten of them in the pond on Thursday, but this photo of two of the male mallards was the best of the photos I took.

I don’t know if or when I will get back to check on them again, but if the rules and the weather allow, I know I will be taking some walks in the coming week just to keep sane.

And In Conclusion…

I have one more photo to share:

This is Tinkerbelle and one of her chew toys. Yes, she really left it standing up like that. She manages that moderately regularly. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s how it was in which she last chewed on it. Or perhaps she’s proud of her ability to create a standing, toe-stubbing hazard. The mind of a dog is a tiny place, and I can shed no light on its internal workings.

In any case, both Tinkerbell and I wish you all the best. Please stay healthy and safe in these trying times. If you want to, email, text, or call. Personal contact is going to matter a lot in coming days, so if I can help, please let me know.

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.