Craftsman / Artist

katrina piechnik • saggar pottery

Posted on

Our local library entrance begins with a long upward-slanting sterile hallway.  Terrazzo, stone, and plaster.  All white. Glass-fronted recesses, locked against the well-heeled vandal and thief.

Two years ago we visited garden-themed mosaics displayed in this same hall.  Today, the spotlight falls back to pottery.  Americans love their crafts.  So important in colonial America, the tradition of turning clay and glaze into objects of beauty and utility remains vibrant.

Katrina Piechnik is a local instructor, practicing a centuries-old skill of saggar pottery.  Packing materials against pottery as it is fired to produce color and texture. From her creativity another generation of artisans are born, thrive, and continue.  She opens our imagination.

Borrowed from UpInSmokePottery.com, a partial list of colorants:
Copper Carbonate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
Copper Sulfate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
Cobalt Carbonate – blues
Ferric Chloride – reds, yellows, oranges
Steel wool – blues, grays, pinks
Banana peels – greens, grays
Copper wire – can be red, black, blue, green, whites, depending on wire, thickness, and temperature of the fire
Sawdust – black, gray, blue-gray,
Cow pies – depends on what it ate; blacks, yellows, greens, grays, browns
Bacon Grease – brown/greens
Sodium Chloride – Orange, yellows, salmon, peach, gold
Coffee Grounds – browns, greens, blues
Nails – Neat blue/gray dots with halos
Leaves – brown/greens
Grass clippings – brown/greens
Red Iron Oxide – browns, maroons, rust

Juzek Bridge Jig

Posted on

With a bridge firmly grasped in my hand and a small rectangle of 220 grit scratch cloth carefully laid on the supine violin, I move a delicate piece of carved maple upon the paper, sanding the feet into the curved shape of the violin top.  Sometimes one foot wants a little more off than the other.  I compensate.  Tradition says the rear is to be 90˚ to the top.  The front appears pitched, as it is cut to 87˚.  Christmas Day we worked upon a beautiful mid-1960s German violin set up by a Reading shop.  Their luthier’s trademark?  He set up the right angled side forward.  A second bridge in the case from the same shop was identically cut.  Further reading indicates bridge orientation has no bearing on sound though tradition (and superstition) reign.

We work in fractions of a millimeter.  Fairly precise work.  Five seconds, about one distracted thought away from disaster.  No speakerphone calls, please.  Cello bridges, there is more room for error.  But getting the bridge shaped to sit plumb on the cello top?  A bit more work.

After doing a few by eye, I lust for an edge.  A third hand.  A bridge jig.  When the right job came in, we turned, naturally, to Juzek, the American manufacturer of fine luthier tools.  Off to the Performing Arts high school for summer session with a dozen cellos.  Juzek again turns out a valedictorian performance.  Our cello bridge feet come out square and plumb.  Quite the time saver!

That other tool?  A leg spreader.  Not used with violin bridges but for the cello bridge, quite necessary.  The leg spreader simulates what happens to the cello bridge when the pressure of the strings are upon it.

Manual Woodworkers & Weavers

Posted on

SINCE 1932, if you can visualize it, they can make it.  When the Frank Lloyd Wright organization wanted to reproduce their Waterlilies Art Glass as a tapestry throw, they turned to MWW, Inc.  You’d think custom woven would be expensive?  This is what MWW does, they do it efficiently, beautifully, and the product ends up priced to be bought, not languish on bookstore shelves.  From Hendersonville, North Carolina, MWW brings textile, home decor, and gift solutions throughout America and across the globe!


Taliesin West

Posted on

So much information in 90 minutes.  I was not taking notes.  It was more like watching a movie.  The life of a visionary.  His home, workspace, thoughts, time.

There are no pictures on the walls.  A smile from our guide.  Yes, Mr. Wright thought the architecture, the wall itself, was art enough.  Expansion, contraction.  Counterpoint.  Music in geometry.  6th Century poet.  Welsh ancestors.  So much information, flowing like water.

Frank Lloyd Wright practiced his trade up until his last year (d.1959), leaving several projects to his apprentices.  Five of those apprentices still live onsite in dorms built when Taliesin West (pronounced “Tally-essen”) was the western hub of Mr. Wright’s practice.  This is where he worked six months a year.  Where everyone lived.  If you take a 2-week or 2-month course of study at the School of Architecture at Taliesin, this is where you will live.  Heck, go full boat.  The comprehensive program towards a professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch).  Have a family?  No problem.  Onsite apartments for the husband (or wife) and kids are available.

I took the basic Insights Tour.  The first tour of their new 8:45am time slot on a Friday.  A perfect May day in the desert.  Bees enjoying the spray from tumbling water.  A heck of an informed, passionate tour guide.  The eastern horizon dropping below the sun, just as Mr. Wright saw it.  The surrounding few hundred acres looks just as it did in FLW’s time.  Beyond, much new construction.  Viewing the Papago Mountains and Camelback, power lines obstruct our view.  What would Frank have said?  He did say, actually.

Of the nearby power lines, which so disturbed Wright that he wrote to President Truman requesting that they be placed underground. When Truman refused, saying it would create a precedent, Wright replied: “I have been creating precedents all my life.” – from an article by Thomas Swick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 

Jim Sudal Ceramic Design

Posted on

Returning to Jim Sudal‘s pottery gallery in Old Town Scottsdale, we find a fresh line of creation.  Pine trees in his signature style, his mastery of line and movement, across bowls.  And vases.  Candle holders and more!  We immediately recall parking the RV beneath towering pines of The Arboretum at Flagstaff.  The sight and sound of these towering creatures.  As Jim intended.  (See The American Road Trip)  Thanks for bringing it back, Jim!

His new design was created to adorn a wedding gift to friends marrying in Flagstaff.  So, the very pines I imagined were the inspiration for the new motif?  Yes!  Naturally, everyone wanted a copy.  The agaves are not gone, nor pushed aside.  Complemented?  Naturally!

JIM SUDAL CERAMIC DESIGN

U J Ramelson

Posted on

Micro Woodcarving Tools

Since 1937 U.J. Ramelson of Newark, New Jersey, has been satisfying a niche unassaulted by cheap copies.  They make perfectly engineered micro-chisels at a reasonable price.  Good steel, reliable handles.  East to sharpen, easy to customize.

The prize-winning carved mallard decoy?  That amazing dollhouse display in the church basement?  Lifelike figurines for your nieces and nephews?  Ramelson likely had a hand ~ in giving you a hand.

While most instrument makers may consider a ½” or possibly a ⅜” chisel as small as they’d require, these Ramelsons are made far smaller.  My 2.0mm and 3.0mm sets have proven themselves, scraping and shaving me out of a jam, adding just the bit of grace for which customers look.

RO-ARK Leather

Posted on

Romance, Arkansas  From the beginning Man has used animal hides to improve his life.  The Art of Tanning is developed.  Jerkins, leggings, boots, gloves, satchels, and iPhone cases quickly follow.  The best of crafters are elusive.  These crafters bridge income disparities, turn trade to hobby and back again, set down needle and thread when returning to a previous career or duty.  Full-time production shops?  Not the same as a one- or two- person operation.  When you find a stand-out product, stock up for a lifetime of gift-giving!

A year back we covered the work of Michael Hicks Design, when they created the perfect minimalist wallet.  A business card case which accommodates my DL & CC, CIA ident’, and all-hours White House Pass.  Very handy bit of stitching, thin as a whisker.  Now a year old, hardly broken in at all!

With growing nephews sprouting like summer corn, I figure to start them out right in their early teens, and present another favorite after college.  Stack’o’leather, please, Mike!

Ro-Ark Leather obliged and made me eleven different bifold card cases.  I chose seven.  The fun is just beginning.  I’ll get the two boys to choose their favorites in turn.  Years down the roads, these adolescent decisions will come back to them as milestone gifts.