Shots of Pots on the Cheap and Low Tech

 I’ve been shooting images of my ceramic works for the last 20 years. I learned out of necessity, simply because, I wasn’t going to pay the high prices that “professional” photographers wanted for less than expected results with strings attached. I tried working with several photographers but I was really never happy with their results and the whole “who owns the negatives” thing was always a problem.

I teach a workshop for artists titled, “Photograph Your Work”, several times a year at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA. The two day workshop covers a lot of ground relative to the proper way to shoot images of 2D and 3D works of art. The ridiculously simple and cheap set-up in the images below will give you an idea of the concepts of how to use the gray background paper, how to set-up the lighting using a bounce board and how to create the classic gradient using a background sweep.

I use this set-up for small guinomi sake cups all the way up to my larger sculpture pieces, some as tall as 60.” If you understand the principals in the images below, you will be able to exploit this set-up’s flexibility.

I use a Nikon D40 Digital SLR with an 18-55mm lens

I use 2 – 500 watt, GE PhotoFloods (Tungsten), color temp. 3400K

I use a Neutral Gray or Dove Gray PhotoPaper Background (I don’t use a gradient paper, the gradient is created by the light being “cut-off” by the back of the “bounce Board.”)

I shoot on Manual setting at f25 with the exposure set using an 18% Gray Card. Then I disregard my light meter, as it will indicate a different exposure for every different piece, depending its lightness or darkness.

Remember to set you camera’s white balance to 3400k or tungsten or incandescent, whatever your camera uses.

As I think a picture is worth a 1000 words, please view the images below and ask me questions. Please consider subscribing to my blog, that way you will receive emails of other’s questions and my responses.

A sample of an image taken with this set-up. Also, the images in the header of this blog were also shot with this method.

Posted in Glazes and Techniques | 35 Comments

Collecting Nuka…

Here’s today’s Ash Tenmoku and Nuka glazed Matcha Chawan from last week’s firing. I was fired to ∆10 (2345F) in reduction in my small kiln. It measures 3″ h. x 5-3/8″ and feels real nice in the hands. I never seem to tire of this combination, while it’s only two glazes, every piece fires differently and I’m learning to control the flow of the nuka a bit, by using ridges and marks put in the clay when the bowl is made to “collect” the Nuka as it flows. The pattern on this bowl is a result of collecting the nuka in deep throw rings. Please let me know what you think and/or let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks for visiting…

Tenmoku and Nuka Matcha ChawanTenmoku and Nuka Matcha ChawanTenmoku and Nuka Matcha Chawan

Posted in Glazes and Techniques, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

I Got Interrupted…Redux

In my previous post “I Got Interrupted”, I talked about being interrupted when mixing a shino glaze and making mistakes in the batch which resulted in unusual and interesting results.

I fired the small kiln a few days ago and thought I would throw in a piece glazed with the “I Got Interrupted Glaze” to see if the previous results were repeatable, they weren’t. What I did get, was again, a complete surprise. This time the glaze had turned a Smokey Rose with a similar Dry Matte finish on the exterior with a Pale Cream interior. This glaze has no colorants or oxides added, not sure where the color is coming from(?) Is it possible that the volatile copper from the Chun Red and Oribe glazes in this firing might have caused this color…not sure.

I’ve posted images below as a comparison of the two different effects. I would be interested in any ideas as to how this color was achieved.

Front of Cup

Back of same cup

Result of the first firing of the “I Got Interrupted Glaze”

Posted in Glazes and Techniques | 4 Comments

I Got Interrupted…

The past holiday season was quite busy around the studio and gallery, with lots of people coming and going. It’s one of the drawbacks of having your work space adjacent to and in combination with an art gallery (SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts). I’m not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact. I’m almost always happy to welcome visitors to my studio and the gallery, after all, that’s what we’re here for. Having said this, there is one particular time that I don’t welcome visitors and that’s when I’m mixing glazes. I generally try to reserve this task for those times that I think will be slow, early morning, late afternoon or after closing. Against my better judgement, because of a looming deadline, I set about to mix several batches of glaze, mostly shinos, in the middle of the day…not a good idea, I got interrupted…

Somewhere in the middle of mixing a satin crawling shino I was “interrupted” by an, at that time, “unwelcome” visitor. I marked my place in the recipe with a Post-it note and attended to the visitor. Twenty minutes later I’m back to mixing my shino. The next ingredient on the recipe to be weighed out was the felspar, but I reached for the calcium carb. instead. I didn’t realize the mistake until an hour later when a strange sense of.. uh oh! came over me. I replayed, in my mind, the addition of the last few ingredients and that’s when I discovered my  mistake.

The glaze had been mixed with water and sieved twice and was otherwise ready to go. I thought, calcium carb and feldspar are both fluxes so lets see what happens, so I test the batch on several small pieces including the sake cup pictured below. I fired the pieces in my last glaze firing to ∆10 in reduction, boy was I surprised by the results. What surprised me the most was the stoney like surface finish and the charcoal grays to lavenders and the golden hues on the inside. There were no oxides in this batch, this I know for sure, the iron rich clay body added some. I really like this glaze, a lot. I will test some more to see if it’s repeatable…It’s very possible, on that day, I got more than one ingredient screwed up and this glaze is just a short lived, one-of-a-kind.

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Around My Studio

As for me, I’ve always been interested in seeing where artists work. With that in mind, I thought I would post a few images of different views around my studio. I teach classes in my studio so some of the work on the shelves is that of students and a few studio members. There is also some overflow storage for gallery ceramic artists, like Pat Crabb, Randy Au, Brad Schwieger, Jeff Pender, Larry Phan and me.

My wheel area…

Looking toward my work area and the teaching wheels…

Overflow gallery storage (top shelf)…

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Tenmoku Glaze Recipe, ∆10 reduction

Tenmoku Yunomi 

  • Whiting   16.00
  • Custer Spar   44.00
  • OM-4   10.00
  • Silica   22.00
  • Wood Ash (unwashed)   7.00
  • ADD:
  • RIO    9.0

Notes: This is a ∆10 Reduction glaze that will fire to a dark brown to black and will break on edges with a shiny  finish. Will run if applied too thick and/or over fired.  As always, test for your ingredients and firing conditions. Note: This glaze adds up to 99% not 100%, that’s how it was given to me many years ago.

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First of 2011

I fired the small kiln yesterday and thought I would post a group of Yunomi, the first of the new year. Here’s hoping that this year goes a little slower than last. 2010 was, by far, the fastest year of my life. Scary…

A group of new Yunomi

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