Friday, January 30, 2009

Uncomfortable Animals


Oh, so sad. Oh, so cute.


Something I have been working on for a few months - Uncomfortable Animals - are beginning to get my wheels turning again. I am thinking about branching out to grumpy monsters, or something along those lines. But right now I have five different depressed creatures lurking in the corner of my studio, including a soggy bat, queasy snail, dizzy giraffe, hungry cat, and chilly bird.

These little tiles came about because there are hundreds of little spots in the kiln that were not being used. So I thought I should make something to fill this wasted space, and began to make ornaments. Then my work kept shrinking until now the tiles are tiny, tiny, tiny. Maybe they will shrink into nonexistence.

Today I am working on getting my small porcelain tiles turned into jewelry up on my etsy page. (http://www.obrienobjects.etsy.com/ ) It is pretty cool thing, that someone with limited computer skills can get involved in selling and buying handmade stuff online with minimal strife.
Plus it makes me work on my photography skills. Although most of the photos of the ornaments were taken by Justin Munter - a way good photographer & friend - check out his work at http://www.justinmunterphoto.com/ . I have web site envy.




Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life Skills


If you ever have had a conversation with the billing department of your phone company, well, you know exactly how frustrating it can get. Today I discovered that I have a new talent/skill. I am going to it, "phone call complaint perseverance and oral argumentation techniques" just so it can be a very long title, to match up to the very long time I was put on hold. Alas, if only there were more hours in a day that could devote to calling people in customer service, I really could hone this latent skill to perfection. And I am sure they would love to hear from me to. Again. And again. And again.

As guide to help others through their own customer service journeys, I thought I would share somethings that I discovered today.

1. Just keep pressing 1 on the automated phone answering service until you actually speak to a living entity call a "human".
2. The first person you talk to in customer service is a practice run.
3. When you go through the recycling to find the very important tiny bit of paper that came with your bill, do not dump it out on the kitchen table, the floor works much better.
4. When you go through the recycling to find the very important tiny bit of paper that came with your bill, but make sure the cat is locked in another room, or big trouble will result.

5. Think of being put on hold, like an extended coffee break. Tape the phone to your ear, make some cookies, read the paper, wash the floor, do the laundry, etc.

6. The hold music was designed to make you want to hang up. I am sure there are subliminal messages in it, coaxing you to do this. It is trying to be like The Borg. But by listening to your own chewing and swallowing of cookies and coffee, you can resist the temptation. Maybe it is time to invest in some gum.


And now our bill is actually correct, or at least the version in the company's computer is supposed to be corrected. There are about two hours of my life I will never get back, but oh the joy of getting ones own way.
And I wonder why I have not been making art lately.....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3


Testing of the slip trailing method has now commenced.


After first rolling out and drying out some clay (5 lbs to be exact), then rehydrating it with water gram by gram, then mixing it with some washing soda, then trying again, and again, and again, to get a nice slip, I realized I had no clue what a nice slip is supposed to look like. So being the good little students that we are, we (Chester too!) have been doing research on the correct proportions of water to clay to deflocculant. And have come up with a bunch of conflicting results. Everyone has their own method and preferred kind of slip per application. The expert in my life (Chester) has informed me that maybe we should play it by ear and see what happens. So that is what is going on.


Currently, I have a slab cut into 4" tiles with various kinds of slip mixures and slip trailing designs all starting to dry. The test will be to see if the tiles warp, the slip lines fall off, etc. etc. etc....


It is actually a pretty fun way to create a design on a tile. Once you get a slip that is working, that is. The trick is to get a slip that does not flatten out when you apply it, so your lines stay crisp. I am using a pretty watered down slip from what I started with. Because I am using a applicator that has a really small opening (as to make very narrow lines), I need something that will squeeze through the hole. If I use a bigger applicator, I might go for a thicker slip, but playing it by ear is working out better then using the triple balance beam.


Although I really like measuring things to be able to get the same results, sometimes it does not work that way. Cara "Flexibility" O'Brien, you know......

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oh yeah, I have a blog....

Oops. That was a long intermission between posts.

Well, since the last post much has happened, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, the end of the ground squirrel, and oh yeah, we got a kitten (now more like a little cat).
Plus I was hired to do a tile mural type thing for Resurrection Cemetery in Grand Rapids. Which is something I need to get started on pronto. In case your wondering, the design is based on an icon of the Catholic church, The Infant of Prague. Usually dressed up in fancy robes of gold and crimson, holding a world and signing peace, The Infant of Prague is generally blond haired and blue eyed. My infant distinctly resembles our 2 year + friend Iris. The older icons I looked at while researching this design featured babies that were kind of on the skinny side. So I thought I would make the infant a bit more chunky.

My plan is to create the 2'x3' mural out of porcelain clay 6"x6" tiles. I am going to try my hand at using a "slip trailing" technique. This means the design will be outlined on each tile using a liquid porcelain slip. The slip lines will be raised causing each area to look like little a pool. Glaze will be put into each pool area. Kind of like color by number with raised lines. Since I haven't done this before, it is all in my head right now. So onto testing.

Right now I am learning about deflocculating. No kidding. It is not some S & M thing. Deflocculating is making clay particles repel each other. And then this helps make a slip with less water. Slips that have as little water as necessary will shrink at the same rate (hopefully) as the clay that they are applied to. (well that is what I am understanding right now....I could be wrong.) So then the thought is that the slip lines will stick to the clay tiles and not dry at a different rate and fall off.

So now you know as much as I do about deflocculating. Yeah!