our process and studios
When Cal asked me to collaborate with him on his ceramic pieces, I was delighted, but a little nervous. He asked me to help him glaze the good luck charms and other tiles. This seemed easy enough- but I am a perfectionist, so I knew it would be tedious work. Luckily, I enjoy that kind of work. So Cal makes the tiles out of fresh, wet clay. He smacks the mounds down on his work table, which I can hear while I am in my adjacent studio.
Oh, let me mention our studios: They are in the back of the shed, and were mainly used for storage. At the beginning of the pandemic, we decided to sell many of the objects stored in there, or donate them. What was left was reorganized so we could have these two rooms as our personal studios. Cal's studio was freshly built- we worked on it, not as a studio, about two years ago when we first became romantically involved. I was happy to work with tools and help him build this little room. It had become a "Mini Rubber Soul," because it was decorated with many remnants of Rubber Soul Yoga, a yoga studio he once owned and brilliantly operated for over a decade. It had meditation cushions, spiritual books, bells, singing bowls, and the iconic orange "O" light that was actually an "O" from a Honda dealership. Now, the cushions are gone, some of the books remain, a large table was built by Cal, and shelves were installed that house glazes and other supplies The room still glows with a bodhisattvic warmth, and Cal can be in there for hours, either shaping wet clay or filing the rough edges of the pieces that have dried.
My studio was purely a storage room when we started. Once we moved everything out, we realized there was a wasted use of space between the two rooms. It was a strange corridor about 2 feet between them, which was an awkward place to store anything anyway. So Cal took down my wall and extended it so that we shared a wall, which allowed me to gain around 2 more feet. It doesn't sound like much, but it was really a wonderful decision. On that wall, we installed a built-in desk, which I heavily varnished to make a very smooth and pleasant surface. I built shelving, which resulted in a terrible accident in which I cut my left thumb knuckle with a power saw. It is still numb to the touch and I may never regain feeling there again, but I figure, its just the knuckle, so it's fine. I recovered a nice, modern white table from our attic and a perfectly sized orange chair for free off of Facebook Marketplace. Our friend, Cooper, took a look inside and he said it reminded him of a therapist's office. I do feel like this space has been very therapeutic for me, as I've also used the space for meditation, yoga, and journaling. Mainly, I've used this space for my watercolor art, and started an art page for myself, aptly named @half.door.studio, as my studio has a door that splits in half, allowing for the top to be open while the bottom is closed. It is wonderful in times when there are no mosquitos and cool air breezing in.
Now, I spend late nights in my studio glazing away. Cal built me another shelf to store all the glazes. There are about 25 of them. The first late-night I had, I stayed up until 5:00 AM. I have a portable speaker that I use, and I mostly listen to all the Tame Impala albums on repeat. Once I get in that zone, it is hard for me to stop. I layer the glaze on very thick and aim to have 3 coats of glaze. This makes for very rich colors once they are revealed after the glaze fire. The only thing about this is that the glaze could run down into the negative spaces of the piece. Sometimes, it is not a big deal, but occasionally we have to put a few in the "to-be-tiled-on-a-floor" bin. The worst thing that happens is that I glaze too close to the bottom edge of the piece, or it runs down, and melts onto the kiln shelf. Then the piece is stuck onto the shelf, and the shelf is tarnished, but with some chipping and more shelf paint, it can be salvagable. Luckily, Cal has an immense amount of patience with me and values the work I do, so these errors aren't taken badly.
The hardest thing for me with my new glazing role is simply getting started. There is something intimidating about having to open up all the glazes, getting the brushes dirty, and having to decide how I will glaze each piece. When I write it out, it sounds silly. I will say once I get going, it is a pleasant flow. I enjoy working into the night with no distractions. The music helps me focus on my mission. Eventually, I intuitively select the glaze colors without much thought. I like to come up with different combinations of colors and take chances. I never really know how they will turn out because the kiln has its own mysterious process. When the kiln is finally loaded to the brim, we fire it and wait for about a day and a half for it to cool down. Cal and I like to take the time to unveil each shelf with interest and wonder, and take a close look at each piece that comes out. He holds them in his gloved hand under a spotlight, turning them over and seeing how the light reacts at each angle. We compare it to Christmas morning. We store the hangable pieces on nails that have been pounded in to the wall space surrounding our front door. One goal is to have a giant wall of hanging good luck charms, completely covering large areas of our wooden exterior. I think this would be very eccentric. Luckily, Cal and I have extremely similar tastes, and I can hear him pounding the nails outside our kitchen wall right now.