Art School: Semester 7: Week 2

Greetings once again, this time really from the Great White North:

Just in case you can’t make that out:

That’s right: 11.5" of snow, and that wasn’t all of it. Those photos come after the second major snowfall. The first had finished, sublimated a bit (look it up if you need to), and then the second arrived. And there was more after this. All in all I think we had 12.5" or so, but I honestly wasn’t tracking it.

Don’t believe that photo? Well, how about these:

I love the way the snow accumulated on the backs of the deck chairs, the rim of the water dish, and the fence. The Dr. Seuss tree was gorgeous until a wind storm a couple of days later removed all the snow and took out our power for several hours at the same time, and I figured the mound of snow next to Anne’s car would show just how much of an effort we put into shovelling this past week.

Here’s an amusing snow story: I came home one day last week, looked at the forecast, and told my wife “No snow tonight. Looks like it starts tomorrow night.” At the time it had been sunny in the afternoon with a few clouds, and evening was setting in. Four hours later we had several inches of snow on the ground. Vancouver weather forecasts are useless.

All that snow meant the greater Vancouver area completely shut down on Wednesday, which meant no school. That created a minor ripple effect in wheel throwing class which you may read about below.

I should also mention that I am writing this on Sunday morning before heading to campus again. That means finding typos in this post will be like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone playing the game should have an easy time wracking up points. Feel free to join in.


Advanced Ceramics

I regret that I am still behind in my photography, so photos will have to wait for next week. We met on Monday, as usual, but the instructor was very late arriving. This was during and after the first storm, and the ferry sailings were cancelled or delayed. Turns out she lives on one of the islands and had been commuting to school for 24 hours by the time she arrived. Ouch.

Still, we talked about various things including the sculpture featuring sprig moulds that we’re working on. At that point we had two weeks to get it bone dry. As of this writing we have eight days left to finish that task.

I have been working on it, and… well… let’s just say that my selection of objects for the sprig moulds resulted in thought patterns and an eventual choice of subject that seems more than a bit phallic. Definitely not my intention, but it happened and I am embracing it. Possible titles include:

  • Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan Walk Into A Hardware Store
  • Sometimes A Lag Screw Is Just A Lag Screw
  • We’re All Screwed

I kid you not. Photos at some point.

Wheel Throwing

This class was cancelled due to snow. As a result, we were in limbo for a few days as we waited to see how the schedule would be adjusted. And it has. But first, here’s what I had thrown during my first session at the wheel, before the snow arrived:

Three views of the same four cups. These are not for the first project. Instead, they are for the project before the first project, which is “practice throwing, save five cups, and use them for glaze tests.” As with last term’s ceramics class, these will be glaze fired in the gas (reduction atmosphere) kiln, so the colours will be more muted and earthy. (That’s a general rule… bright colours tend to be fired in electric — oxidation atmosphere — kilns, and more muted colours tend to be fired in reduction kilns, which typically burn a fuel like gas or wood which consumes oxygen. I cannot explain the chemistry and why bright colours want more oxygen, but that is the case.)

Anyway, since those four cups were thrown, I threw four more, the snow day hit, and the schedule for the class was slightly adjusted in response.

For next week we’re still supposed to have five bone dry cups for glaze testing (though the instructor claims she dropped it to four to have pity on us, but that’s not what her email said). We’re also to have thrown two mug forms without handles that we’ve kept wet (or are no more than leather hard) so we can learn to attach handles to them. The following week we’re to have five mugs with handles thrown, and the week after that all ten required for this project need to be dry and ready to bisque fire.

Yesterday I threw four attempts and a possible mug shape. They are wrapped in plastic and I will check on them regularly to keep them damp until class this coming Wednesday. I am not at all sure I like the forms, but they are all reasonably similar, and I think I know what sort of handle I want to put onto them. Maybe.

That said, I need to create a template for the form and handle for the final batch, and I still have grave doubts about both the form and clay in general. It requires so much babysitting. Ugh. The results can be stunning, but the process doesn’t yet agree with me.

As for photos, I’m afraid you’re out of luck this week. I failed to take any yesterday, so there are none to share. Next week, I hope. Unless my brain fails again.

Public Art

This class was also snowed into oblivion, but the impact appears to be less serious. There was no email with schedule adjustments, but I spoke with the instructor and she’s not too worried. At least some of the steel has been ordered, and if it arrives we’ll probably start laying out the pieces for cutting in class this week.

One thing I can share is that the artist (Heather) whose work we are creating sent out some images to everyone in the class. Last week all I had to share was a photo of her maquette. This time you can see what she envisions in colour:

I really like Heather’s illustration style, and I love this piece. In my mind, it was the best of the bunch in the class (and yes, it was definitely better than my own) and it deserves to be on display for a couple of years, which is what we’re making happen.


We met Friday morning as usual and the class largely consisted of getting going on incising the image into our wax casts of the original spindle whorl.

As I have it at home to continue the work, I took a photo of the work in process:

It’s hard to tell, but the surface you see there is curved. That’s the back of the whorl, and thus doesn’t come into contact with the spun yarn as I understand these things. The curve matters because we (or at least I) used a template cut from thin card stock to trace out the pattern of the design. Flat card stock on a curved surface makes for some distortions, as you might imagine.

The rows of dots you see are placeholders for the pattern I will be adding to the object, but it turns out I need to carve out the original design first, so I will be adding those dots back in after that initial carving is done. (More about my pattern addition at some future point. Consider this foreshadowing. Or a bit of mystery, or something.)

Carving this wax is a pain. It goes soft very easily, so I created a hand rest that lets me get my hand over the object without resting on it. That helps, but I also have to hold it still while carving, so I am always warming it up somehow. As it warms the wax gets sticky, which makes the carving harder. I may toss it into the freezer at some point.

But we don’t have a lot of time for this, and that is my biggest worry. We need to have the carving done by this coming Friday, and it will take a lot of hours. I am not sure how I will get it done, as it is now already mid morning on Sunday, and I have to head into campus again to work on my ceramic sculpture. Whee.

The next time I think about taking four studio classes at once I hope I can look back on this experience and slap myself into sensibility again. Oh, wait. Once this term is done I am done with school. Never mind.

Harbour News

I wish I had anything to share this week. Other than one container ship in motion (that the SeaBus had to go around), it’s been pretty quiet. As I think I have previously mentioned, nearly all of my harbour crossings are in the dark at the moment (or at least there isn’t that much light), and some have been in the snow. It’s pretty, but nothing has looked particularly photogenic of late. Sorry.

Other Stuff

There was no other stuff this week. None at all. I suspect that’s going to be the norm for the rest of the term: classes and nothing else. We are already one seventh of the way through the semester. That is, we’ve completed two weeks of class, and the term is either 13 or 14 weeks long, depending on quite a few variables. It’s totally crazy how fast this is going to go, and I have no idea if I will be able to keep up with the work load or not.

And In Conclusion…

One thing I can do this week is share a bunch of dog photos. These are mostly of Tinkerbelle, but Cruzer appears in a few. Skookie was out of sight most of the time the camera was out, but she does make an appearance in one of the photos up top, where she was rethinking her various life choices in the face of so much crystallized water.

As you can see, Tink loves the snow and had a severe case of the zoomies. She’s still a puppy at heart, despite rapidly coming up on being four years old.

See you next week.



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Jeff Powell

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