April 29, 2011

Owl Issues

So let me tell you a little about my owl crisis. I have been struggling with this for a couple of months now.  See, my local clay supplier was out of my regular clay in March, and then the company was sold and moved and is slowly setting up to start producing clay again. I am very pleased that I will still be able to get the clay I have been using for about ten years and the new management has been really great in getting back to me and keeping me as informed as they can probably about the changes.  Nevertheless, it has been very frustrating to be without my clay for the last two months.  Not to mention that I am looking toward another month maybe until I can restock.
I was able to find a replacement clay from another company that feels and looks just like my old clay.  It is a very close match in many ways.  Most of my glazes look similar.  But some glazes are way off.  For example, above, you can see a happy owl in my old clay on the left.  On the right is another owl, a little less happy, made the same way, fired to the same temperature with the same glazes.  It's just not right.  The leaf green bellied ones are worse, as both the brown and the green are reacting differently to the new clay. 
Above, yet another test in a clay that is my brother's casting slip made into a solid clay and made into an owl.  The color is much better, but there were running issues.  This is likely because the clay was really hard for me to use and I couldn't get defined impressed lines like I get with my old clay.  The clay felt like it wanted to keep reverting back to a liquid, if you can imagine that feeling.


As a way to try to get a better match for the old owls in my new clay, you can see the picture at the very top.  I made some quick owl wings and applied a different brown to each one.  Clearly, I have a lot of variations of brown!  I take pride in my ability to produce consistent results for my catalog of beads... my business depends on it. It takes a long time and much experimenting for a ceramic artist to get a palette of glazes that are just right.  When one element of the process changes, everything can be thrown for a loop.  
 
I like to show the ups and downs of my process and business, and this is a definite down time.  Hopefully it will be short lived and I will not take my clay suppliers for granted again.
 
 This is also the long answer to the question "do you have any of those cute owls in stock?"  Hopefully, it will be soon!


Melanie is an artist, blogger, writer, and ceramic beadmaker at Earthenwood Studio. Her beads and components can be found at her Etsy shop and her jewelry can be found in her Etsy Galleria. To comment on this post, visit the original post at the Earthenwood Studio Chronicles Blog.

9 comments:

  1. How frustrating! I hope you can get the new clay soon.

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  2. It amazing how one thing can change everything! How frustrating but a very interesting post - I am sure most of us never reealize how much goes into each piece! Good Luck!

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  3. The chemistry and trial-and-error aspects of ceramics aren't something I think a lot of people realize or consider when they buy anything ceramic. Also, I understand what you mean about the clay wanting to revert back to a liquid as I've tried using casting slip similarly in the past and it just feels weird, like the clay has a mind all its own.

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  4. I hate when that happens! I feel your pain and know how frustrating it is when a tried and true supply is busted! And yet they are all so beautiful!

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  5. I can understand your frustration when you are trying to produce a consistent product. For me, the beauty of ceramic glazes is the inconsistency. Most people apart from you would not even notice.

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  6. Good luck! I know it's frustrating, but at least you're learning all kinds of things about the new clay and the glazes. Perhaps these boo boos will inform a later project.

    Anyway, in a few months a magazine is going to be published with one of your owls in it in a design I made. Just giving you the heads up!

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  7. wow there is a big difference in how your glazes are reacting to the subsitute clay..wonder what the differences are in recipes..more tin in the sub? hope the original clay gets to you soon..

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  8. I can see how frustrated you are but I also see that you are able to overcome them with these gorgeous owls ( I happen to love owls) and I think it is ok to have slight differences in your beads that is what makes them special.

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  9. Very interesting post. I do love the little owl bellies :)

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