Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Review of "The Extruder Video" by Daryl Baird

A while back I was lucky enough to acquire the 2 disc DVD "The Extruder Video" by Daryl Baird and produced by Ceramic Arts Daily.  Took me a little while to be able to watch it as I had to get my computer set up and fixed to watch the DVDs.  Could have used my hubby's PS3... but I can never remember which setting the tv has to be on to use the PS3 to watch DVDs.  Regardless, I was able to watch both DVDs and am sooo very glad I did!  I had paper and pen out ready to take notes.  But I didn't need to!  Daryl walks you through from the VERY BEGINNING in clear, easy to remember steps and speaks like he's speaking to you in a workshop setting and NOT in front of the camera.  Which the dialogue was quite refreshing.  It may be the manner in which he spoke was the reason why I didn't need to take notes!  Every step of the process was easy to remember and I know I can go back and review items if I need to.  So time for the break down of the DVDs. :)

When you get the DVDs, it looks like this (well, covered with plastic..but I took that off.)

 And inside of the 2 disc set.  They weren't numbered, just a list of segments on the DVDs themselves.  So to remind myself, I went ahead and took my permanent marker and labeled them 1 and 2.
One thing I REALLY appreciated, is that Daryl takes you step by step on how to install your extruder fresh out of the box!  Finding the stud, how to install it so that the attachment is sound and won't fall off your wall, setting up your work/staging area, and even some tips on proper body mechanics.  For the complete clay extruding newbie this information is invaluable!!  He also talks about the proper clay condition and how firm/soft you should be working.  Wish I would have watched this before I got and used my extruder 2 years ago!  I have one from TA Metalworks out of Canada, so it's set up a tad different than the NorthStar extruder used by Daryl in the video.  But I've definitely created more ware and tear on my personal extruder as a result of using clay that was too firm to be put through the extruder.
Daryl goes on to explain the anatomy and general construction of hollow dies, how to appropriately handle the hollow extrusion to prevent warping, and then he walks you through some different projects.  Yet again, Daryl proves why the clay community as a whole is awesome!  He shows you several different projects to do and encourages you to make them for yourself, and add your own spin on them.  One such project is his iconic mountain top boxes.

Disc 2 - Tips and tricks on how to make your own custom dies with a variety of materials.  Plywood, metal, plastic, and yes...even credit cards!  The credit card dies were my favorite section as that's something anyone can do without any special tools.  Granted, you can't make a hollow extrusion die out of the credit cards because they don't have enough strength to handle all the stress placed on it during the extruding process.  But that's okay.  I haven't created one yet..but that is definitely on the to-do list!

All in all...I would HIGHLY recommend this set of DVDs to anyone.  From the very beginner who is thinking of acquiring an extruder to the seasoned extruder professional.  Daryl imparts great tips and tricks from beginning to end.  I truly felt like I was participating in a 1:1 workshop with him rather than watching DVDs on my computer.  And NO, I was not paid nor was I asked to write this review.  Just wanted to impart my opinions and personal experiences with this product to the interwebs.

For the clay enthusiast who works with extruding and slab building, there's even a Facebook group for us all to be groupies of!  You can find it here:

'Til Next Time! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Use of Ferric Chloride - Safety Precautions

Good day one and all!  As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I am a member of the Facebook group, Clay Buddies.  One of the things that I really love and appreciate about this group is the imparting of knowledge from those who have been around the block a time or two, and helping to educate us newbies.  Recently, Dave H., made such a post.  I think it is important to make sure people have access to this knowledge and asked if I could share on my blog for all the interwebs to find.  Here was his post (re-posted with permission).
Photo by Mark McMillan, from the Ceramic Arts Daily Member Gallery
"Concerns about ferric chloride come up enough times that I'm going to jump into this discussion as a former environmental chemist, with a number of years in the health and safety field.
Ferric chloride is used primarily in two different ways in raku. A solution of ferric chloride is sprayed on a hot pot to color the pot, as in ferric chloride fuming of horsehair raku pots. It (a solution) is also painted on bisque pots in the aluminum foil saggar process.
In terms of the toxicity I am going to focus on inhalation hazards, because it is doubtful that you will ingest it. And dermal toxicity is not as much a concern as inhalation toxicity (that is why you wear protective clothing and gloves).
Ferric chloride solutions are acidic. So when you directly inhale a sprayed solution of ferric chloride, the acid irritates and burns your tissues. This is why you start coughing and feel a burning sensation and your eyes sting.
When ferric chloride is heated above 500 degrees Fahrenheit, it decomposes to form hydrochloric acid and/or chlorine gas. If you are doing horsehair or a similar process, the pot is over 500 degrees F, so the fumes you inhale contain toxic hydrogen chloride (acidic) and toxic chlorine gas. In aluminum foil saggar, the temperatures in the kiln are well over 500 degrees F (1000 to 1300), so toxic fumes of hydrogen chloride and chlorine well be given off. This is why they don't recommend doing aluminum foil saggar in electric kilns, the elements and metal parts of the kiln get corroded.
So, HOW TO BE SAFE HANDLING FERRIC CHLORIDE? Don't get it on your skin - wear appropriate clothing and gloves. Wear an APPROPRIATE respirator. A paint mask will NOT protect you from fumes of hydrogen chloride and chlorine. You need a respirator with a cartridge good for particulates and acid gases (chlorine and hydrogen chloride). A particulate cartridge alone will not protect you. You can buy combo cartridges that are good for particulates, organic vapors, and acid gases. Make sure there are no spectators nearby or downwind when you spray.
Having said that, I know MANY potters who do not use respirators when working with ferric chloride. If you watch them you will notice that they always stand upwind when spraying, or use a spray booth. Brushing the ferric chloride solution on pots is not an inhalation problem, there are no fumes/mists/small droplets.
Do I follow my own advice? Most times, but I have to admit that sometimes I make a last minute decision to spray a pot with ferric chloride and don't run get my respirator with the appropriate cartridge. I try to be upwind when I spray and make sure that nobody else is around me. I'll still manage to inhale some and cough a little."
 There were several comments, and some that stood out were by other potters who I highly respect for not only their knowledge but their willingness to share it!  William S. had this to say in response:
" I taught rake processes for years and one thing I always stressed about using ferric chloride was the need for common sense use. During any spraying process, most students did not have the proper respirator cartridges so I had a turntable set up away from the firing area, a small flag to indicate wind direction and a commercial grade portable fan blowing from behind and slightly to one side of the person spraying. FYI - if one uses a metal turntable, place a broken kiln shelf on top to protect the metal from the acidic action of the ferric chloride."

THANK YOU GENTLEMEN for you willingness to help educate those of us less knowledgeable!

As with anything, especially in ceramics, while the hazards may be scary or turn us away from possibly trying certain techniques; so long as proper safety protocols are followed and appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is used, this technique can be executed safely.  Remember to follow all safety guidelines and procedures, whether you agree with them or not.  They are there for our safety.  Another clay buddy, Harriet H., said it best:
"As we age, the damage to our bodies accumulates over time and takes a toll on our health. There are environmental factors such as pollution that we don't take into account and the effects are not felt until years down the road even if we only take occasional risks. If you don't take precautions for yourself, think of your loved ones and do it for them."
 I've included links to all applicable MSDS forms. Just click on the highlighted words to go view them.  Or you can follow the links below:


For more information on the techniques that use these chemicals, follow the links below.
Horse Hair Raku (Loveless Pottery has a GREAT post about the technique and if it's right for you)
Saggar Firing (Ceramic Arts Daily posted a very informative article on this, featuring the methods of Charlie and Linda Riggs)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How To - Experimenting with Decals

Ceramic Decals... for the first few years I was learning about my craft/art (ceramics)...I had my head set on being a "purist".  No decals, no alternative firing or finishing techniques...everything would be stoneware and glazes.  That's it.  Well, as I've evolved as an artist and learned more...I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with using tools of the trade, as well as alternative finishing techniques.  At least for me since my items are sculptural and very rarely do I make functional ware anymore.  It's just not my passion...sculpting is.  Where this has me acquiring lots of different ceramic decals for a sculpture idea I had (as well as some limited edition ceramic ornaments!...stay tuned for those..).  But I wanted to still be able to fire my ceramics to their maturity temperature of ^6 (cone 6, which is roughly 2200*F).  But all the literature I'd read on ceramic decals said that they had to be applied on already glazed/finished ware, and fired to a much lower temperature.  So I took this as a challenge.  I searched for an additive I could add to either the greenware piece of pottery in an effort to raise the maturing temperature of the colorants used on the decals.  I discovered that silica is a product used to raise the melting temperature in certain glazes.  Luckily, I had some on experimenting I went!  These are my results of my first tests.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Creative Space

I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but several months ago, I signed up to participate in the Art Business Academy that was created and is run by Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery.  I knew of this opportunity because I've been following Jason and Xanadu Gallery for nearly 2 years.  When I really got serious about my sculpting, I started checking out various galleries for where my work *might* be a good fit.  Xanadu Gallery was one of those that I put on my radar.  So when Jason said he was starting this online art academy, I jumped at the opportunity.  Which leads me to today's blog post, my creative space.  During one of the question and answer discussions, the topic of our studio and/or creative spaces came up.  Which of course inspired me to share my space with y'all.
So first, I figured I'd show ya what my studio space looked like at the very beginning...Before it became my studio.
And this is my view...

 This is the crazyness that was my studio about a year ago...
This was before the snow flew last year when the hubby took my studio apart so we could insulate it.  Tell ya what...made a HUGE difference in how much I had to use the pellet stove!

 And this was my studio before I cleaned it does tend to get kinda crazy chaotic when I'm in the middle of a making session.  :)  Then I inevitably take a day...or two or get it all cleaned up and organized before my next big project/sculpture. 

And this is how it looks today.  Still seems a tad cluttered..but it's organized chaos... (is there really such a thing?!?  haha)

So there ya have it.  My creative space.  It's long and narrow..and not ideal.  But it's mine.  And I have an amazing hubby that is supportive enough to allow me to carve out my own personal creative space within our home.  

How about you?  Are you an artist or crafter?  What does YOUR studio look like??  I'd love to see it!  You can post it to my Facebook page, or email me the picture to  I will post a follow up blog and would love to be able to include pictures of other artist's spaces. :)


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tutorial Time - Making Copper Wire Ornament Hangers

Been a while since I've written a this is LONG OVER DUE!  I was looking for an alternative to the plain ole ribbon or hemp I was using to string up my ceramic ornaments.  So I started playing around with some 18g copper wire I had laying around and VOILA!  I think the end result turned out rather nicely. This tutorial will be VERY photo centric with captions.   ENJOY

Materials: 18g copper wire, ruler, round nose pliers, flat needle nose pliers, wire cutters, and an object to wrap the wire around.  I used a pottery tool I had available to get the right size I wanted for the hanger. 
STEP 1 (not pictured) - Cut the wire into approximately 6" lengths.  This size worked well for my purposes.  Adjust the length based on your needs and trial and error.

STEP 2 - Ensure the end of the wire is flush cut, not beveled.  Grasp the end of the wire at the very tip of the round nose pliers and make a small loop.  To get a nice even loop, grasp the wire at the very end (so it's not hanging over the top of the pliers.)  Rotate your hand/wrist towards you a quarter of a turn, release the wire being careful not to move the position on the shaft of the pliers, rotate the pliers back towards the wire, grasp again and rotate towards you another quarter turn.  Repeat this process until the end of the wire meets the tail.

STEP 3 - Grab the tool you will be using to make the hanging portion of your ornament hanger.  In my case, I used a tool often used to hollow out solid lumps of clay.  Hold the end of the wire against the tool with the edge of the loop you just made facing the tool.  Wrap the wire around the object until you have about a finger's width of space left between the tail of the wire and where the loop is.  When you pull the tool out of the wire loop, it will widen the larger loop you just made, which makes it "just right" for what we're going for.
STEP 4 - Grasp the tail of the wire in your fingers approximately parallel with where the smaller loop is now positioned.  Gently bend the wire down so that it makes a sharp bend in the wire.  It should look like a question mark at this point.
STEP 5 - I used my thumb to gauge this next distance.  Place your thumb at the edge of the bend you just made.  On the opposite end of your thumb, grasp the wire with your round nose pliers at the largest part of the pliers.  Bend the wire around until it makes a full "U", or so that the two ends of the wire are now parallel to one another.
STEP 6 - Grasp the end of the wire you just bent up with the flat needle nose pliers slightly above the round needle nose pliers and bend the wire back down.  In the pictures, I had grabbed the wire right above the pliers but ended up needing a tad more space.
STEP 7 - Now that the wire is bent on top of itself, use the flat nose pliers to tighten up the bend and flatten it out.  In the images the wire is on top of itself.  In subsequent renditions, I rotated the wire so the bend ends up being side by side.  It makes the spiral we make later on sit more flat on ornament hanger.
STEP 8 - Now grasp the end of the tale of the wire.  Remember that loop we made at the beginning?  Do it again. :)  Then we're just going to keep on winding until we make a spiral.  Once you've made the small loop, use your finger to guide the wire as you wrap.  Once you get 1.5 loops, you will need to grasp the wire with the flat needle nose pliers to keep wrapping (continue guiding the wire with your finger).
STEP 9 - Once you spiral the wire all the way up to the bend, it gets a tad tricky.  You want to continue the spiral, but putting the spiral over this bend.  The spiral hides the bend in the wire and adds just that little extra "something" when you put the ornament on.  Once you get the spiral over this bend in the wire, use the flat needle nose pliers to compress everything.  It makes it nice and tight and pretty.  It also hides the pierced hole in the ornament.  Win-Win

STEP 10 - String on your ornament!  
BONUS - For a little extra flair, I added a cute reindeer charm to this Santa Boot ornament.  Take your flat nose pliers and turn the small loop at the top perpendicular to the rest of the hanger.  Gently open it up and slide on your charm.

Want one of these?  I have 10 available in my Etsy Shop. :)
It will take some time and fidgeting to the spiral to look the way you want.  With subsequent ornament hangers, I was able to get the spiral to completely hide the pierced hole in the ornament.  Just takes a little bit of fiddling with the wire spiral, and how much wire you actually need for that *U* where the ornament sits.

Have fun!  Let me know how yours turn out in the comments below!  Looking forward to seeing your own renditions of this simple ornament hanger. :)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Summer Lovin' Design Challenge/Blog Hop Reveal

 It's reveal time!  Time to see what everyone has created with my components!  SO EXCITING (at least for me... :-D ).  I've been making ceramic jewelry for a few years, but was using silicone/rubber molds to create the charms.  Lately, I've been working on creating my own texture stamps, trying to find my own aesthetic.  This was my first time hosting a design challenge/give away.  Seeing what folks are able to create with my ceramic beads, as well as receiving any additional critiques and comments, has been truly beneficial! 

Without further ado... time to see what everyone has created!  Some early birds have already posted their pics (it's 0700 EST).  Looking forward to seeing all the designs throughout the day! 

If you're a jewelry designer... would YOU be interested in participating in a future design challenge?  What theme would you like to see?  Leave me your suggestions and comments in the comments below!

To see more of my components available for purchase, please see my Artisan Component Marketplace store.