Sunday, March 29, 2009

Five Months is too long...

Five months is too long to go without my clay "fix." Since last November, after my annual holiday sale, the studio has been closed-down for the winter. (In Maine, that includes a little bit of fall and spring as well.) Once the nights fall below freezing temps, and the snow starts to fly, it is just too cold to work out there in the barn. Even if my body can take the torture of a cold floor and walks to the house in wind and snow for bathroom or food breaks, the clay simply won't put up with it.

Once frost hits, hundreds of pounds of clay needs to be lugged out of the barn and into the house cellar for winter storage. The unused clay will be fine if it freezes, but the extra wedging necessary afterwards is just too much on my shoulders. The work I have sculpted or thrown, however, cannot be left outside in the barn on those cold nights. I learned the hard way. After a productive day of potting, I went into the studio the next day to see that my pots had froze, and in the thawing, cracked horribly. Lesson learned. Now, it is a ritual, in late fall and early spring, to produce, lug all work into house and store it on floor and tables, then lug it back out to the barn next day for trimming, then back to house for drying. After all work is dry, we once again carry it out to the barn for firing. Not exactly efficient, but it has to be done.

Eventually, all production comes to a halt when the the small propane heater just won't suffice, and the walks between house and barn are just too icy and treacherous with arm-loads of pots on wood trays. It is always a saddening event when I close-down the studio, and on an equal level, frustrating in the spring when I want so badly to begin working again, but the studio is not ready for me.

I usually get back to the barn studio in late April or early May, but this year, I just couldn't hold off any longer. Yesterday, I spent the entire day sorting through boxed-up supplies and stored equipment from barn-side". I got the finished pottery piled into condensed areas, and organized my glazes. By the time I finished, my hands were frozen, but my heart was happy knowing that soon I would begin.

My plan is to jump back into wheel throwing next weekend. I am not sure how comfortable it will be out there since March days can still feel like winter in Maine, even when the calendar tells us otherwise. I will begin with "warm-up" production type projects like mini pots and rice bowls. I like to begin with items that I know I need to stock for summer sales, then I feel mentally freed to begin the scultpural pieces that come from a deeper space in my soul.

2 comments:

Onedia Hayes Sylvest said...

I enjoyed this post. I have been away from jewelry for too long in particular using fine metal clay. When I work with silver clay (powered silver in clay that can be sculpted, dried, and fired into sterling silver) I think of myself as a sculptor in miniature.

I have often wondered about potting..My hands will eventually shake too much for fine detail work so I will need a new direction...?

I look forward to seeing your sculpting work emerge this spring.

SHANNA WHEELOCK said...

Most people are hooked once they work with clay, Onedia!

I noticed today that I was in a very mellow mood at school - I think it is because I finally got my studio ready, and worked out there a few hours yesterday. I get very "out of sorts" when I don;t get my art time, so yesterday was good medicine for me.