Today was Pottery day :)
Our aunt Jan makes beautiful pottery and so today we spent quite a bit of time in her world. She has a studio here: Omaha Clay Works
It is in the Old Market section of Omaha and if you didn't know what you were looking for, you might think that it was just a big garage-door-loading dock for some warehouse, but inside is this:
...a small showroom, and in back a collection of studios where artists rent space and have access to some great equipment. Jan took us here today and let us play with clay on the pottery wheels. This was a new experience to all of us and although Jan can make something like this in a matter of seconds...
...and although she is a very patient teacher (here are Egan & Cale trying their hands at it)
...we had more than our share of "fails" as we learned. Actually in the end, none of us had pots that were worth keeping. We had a good time but apparently this is not a skill we've been born with. Not to say we wouldn't like to try again sometime but for today....we'll leave it to the experts.
My best, and worst pot.
After the pottery "lesson" we stopped in quickly at the Fairmont Antique mall and Mercantile (ie: Candy store)
Entire walls of antique signs, antique board games, and rows and rows of candy....it was something we could have spent hours looking through but we only had a little bit of time so we kept it short.
Make your own tube of candy sugar....who wouldn't want to shop here??
A gigantic wall of Jelly Belly choices - Mica chose a pound of her favourites.
We had lunch and a little bit of time to shop in the afternoon and then in the evening....more pottery. This time, it was outside Omaha at the most beautiful country property. Hilly and winding roads brought us to this picturesque hidden yard with a double garage set up as a studio, a store upstairs and a gorgeous house. The people (DeDe & DJ - both potters) were super nice and made us feel very welcome at their Raku party.
What is Raku, you ask? Well...honestly, I'd never heard of it before this week either but I can see how it would be totally addicting!! First of all, due to our lack of success in the morning pottery session (and for time reasons), we scored some really pretty pre-made pottery pieces off of a rack in the studio that had been left there by previous potters and never picked up (rejects, really, but compared to what we made - treasures :) ) So...in Raku, you dip your pottery piece into a glaze first. Or paint it on, or drip it on...whatever method you choose. Wherever you DON'T glaze, the pottery will turn black.
This is Jan's - she's pouring on some glaze, letting it dry and the pouring on another colour of glaze in the other parts.
This one is Mica, using big tongs, dipping her bowl completely into a pail of glaze, coating the inside and the outside.
And here she is experimenting with painting on different colours of glaze. This pot looked hilarious before we fired it but after it was stunning.
So, after glazing, and letting the glaze dry, they put the pots into the kiln....this oven-y thing with a lid, lit by propane. The pots baked in here for an hour.
It got dark out while our pots were "cooking" so I took a bunch of pictures of the flame inside this oven. You could actually see down into the oven through that top hole and see the glaze start to get glossy looking on the pots.
When they were done, the pots were removed from the kiln and put into huge barrels full of wood chips, straw and other things.....and then more straw and shredded paper were thrown on top. This is a cooling process apparently although it looked amazing as the red-hot pottery burst into flame when the shredded paper landed on it. This process has some chemical reaction that is the basis of this Raku art. You really never know what colour your pots are going to come out and what variations the colours will have in them. OK, honestly, I don't understand it all - but it was an amazing thing to see!!
These barrels were then closed up again as the pottery cooled in here for another 45 minutes.
When they opened the barrels later, the had to take the pottery out of the woodchips, immerse it into cool water and let it cool completely.
It came out looking like this: needs polishing, but it's all kinds of beautiful colours - reds, greens, blues, yellows, lots of copper and metallic colours.....and quite a bit of soot.
We made it home really, really late so we didn't finish these off but tomorrow we're going to scrub them and polish them, sand off the rough bits and then I'll take better photos of some of our favourite pieces. Oh, and of some of the pottery my aunt Jan made, and also DeeDee - the Raku artist.
But first, some sleep.
Good night :)