Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mary Barringer Demonstration

Mary Barringer fires her ware in an electric kiln to Cone 6 like Ben and I do, so the workshop was especially pertinent to us. Mary hand-builds all her pots, Ben and I hand-build only a small percentage of our pots, and the slip-decorated surfaces are something we will probably do on a very limited basis, but it was fun to watch her and to have the weekend to associate with a roomful of potters.

Most of the bases of Mary’s pots are press-molded slabs of clay, as are her plates and trays. She doesn’t use a slab roller, but takes a wad of clay and slaps it down on the table top or the floor at a slight angle to extend the slab. After peeling up the slab of clay and slapping it down again and again, she lays it on a piece of cloth (something called Pellon {sp?} that Ben is familiar with, but I am not) that looks like a very thin layer of artificial felt and rolls it out a bit further with a rolling pin. She said one of the main reasons she doesn’t have a slab roller is because every flat surface in her studio is always covered with stuff and she would have to clean it off every time she wanted to roll a slab. Both Ben and I could relate to that . . .

When the slab is the right thickness and large enough for the tray or base she wants, Mary presses it into or onto a mold. One of the molds she used was one she made earlier in the day by laying a slab of clay on a piece of wadded up newspaper shaped to form a convex oval, then she let the slab dry until it was leather hard. After she pressed the pot slab she made over the leather hard mold slab and let it dry and let it dry enough to handle it, she picked it back up and built a pot on it with coils.

I was surprised she used coils to form her pot rather than with slabs, since it takes so much longer, but she prefers to take more time in the state of mind she’s in when making the pot to let it tell her, by the finished shape and texture, what the surface color and thickness should be. And Mary is never in a hurry when she’s making a pot. So, then when the pot has dried a bit she scratches and scrapes texture patterns on the surface. When that stiffens up enough that she can clean the debris out of the etched subsurface areas without gumming it up, she paints a first coat of colored slip over the entire outside surface. When that dries, she adds a second color and sometimes she adds a third.

While she is laying the color on the pot, she is also deciding which areas should have which base colors and starts forming a pattern with the colors.

Okay, so this is boring to anyone who isn’t a potter, but it was very exciting for Ben and me to watch. We were surprised, too, when we visited the Red Lodge Clay Center gallery, since Mary’s pots weren’t nearly as expensive as we had imagined they would be. No, we didn’t buy one, but we certainly did admire them all.

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