I worked really hard the last couple of weeks to get ready for our first party that we’ve hosted as a married couple (aside from our wedding reception). I’ve been gradually moving my stuff in to our home which had already been Tom’s home for quite awhile. In preparation of getting married, Tom gave away some of his old furniture so that we could combine our furniture and use what was most useful and most to our taste. We both have a lot of hand me down furniture so whatever we do is going to end up pretty eclectic. We both have a fondness for Mid-century Modern design and that is the base style of Tom’s house so we are gradually going to go more in that direction as we decorate. We haven’t moved any larger furniture pieces from my condo yet so a couple of rooms are a bit empty for the time being. That worked out well for the party because there was space to set up card tables and TV trays to make a game area.
Eventually we will add bookshelves, my aquariums and perhaps bean bag chairs to make this kind of a reading/writing/meditation room. The plants really help get the right mood started.
We plan for this alcove to eventually hold a Mid-Century Modern storage and display shelf unit. We haven’t decided yet whether to custom build it or buy parts, but what we have in mind is something that looks mod and takes the place of a china cabinet with both open and closed areas for storage and display. For temporary use, I put up a couple of card tables to use for a food overflow and game table and used metal display racks that I use for craft shows to display banners that I sewed together a few years back. While making those and two related table runners I rubber-stamped some of the fabrics I used. I set up my lava lamp and made some small floral arrangements here and there to try to tie the colors together. One of the guests gave us the lovely pumpkin full of candy as a housewarming gift. We love it! The serving tray was my Mom’s from the 1970s – it’s a souvenir from Rockhome Gardens, a tourist attraction in Illinois that we visited when I was very young on one of our many Sunday drives. I’m going to blog about how I made the faux clock candle sconces soon so stay tuned for that!
Here is the main food table. I put together a simple veggie and dip tray and the guests were starting to fill the rest of the table with food they brought. We were blessed with lots of food!
Tom and I love the 1970’s-looking nature mural on the wall and we are not planning on changing it. I displayed some felt crows I made last year with some faux flowers and Colonial Candles from Schnarr’s Hardware.
I made some turkey chili with black beans and butternut squash. I set up a cheese fondue in my rice cooker set on warm (since I don’t have a fondue set) and served it with bread cubes and cut up sausage kept warm in an electric skillet. In this photo you can see a couple of pieces of the retro glassware I like to collect. That was a hobby my Mom and I shared – she loved looking for Mid-Century ceramics and I loved looking for Mid-Century glassware. Neither of our collections was particularly complete or cohesive because we just bought when we saw something we liked for a bargain price. More items from our collections will appear in our house as Tom and I work on it. My collectibles inspire me a lot in my design work and I like to have them around me and put them to use if I can.
I set up fondue chocolate in my potpourri crock pot and served it with dunking cookies, grapes, marshmallows, pineapple and strawberries.
My photo of the drinks table didn’t take – a shame! But I’ll get it next time. I want to show off Tom’s really cool Mid-Century punch bowl!
Over the last couple of weeks I designed and cut a number of stencils in a Mid-Century Modern style that I plan to use in home decor and in art projects. While on a Modern STL house tour this past weekend, I noticed that several of the homes featured color schemes that go well with the theme to my blog, which was intended to be temporary. Inspired by the recent tour, I decided to use my new stencils to create a header graphic for this site and only modify a few parts of the theme as I see fit.
First I took my new stencils and sponged black rubber stamping ink through them onto white paper. I scanned these designs and brought them into Photoshop where I colorized them and added other digitized textures to create the four compositions above. Then I selected sections of these designs to make my new header graphic. I’m excited about possibly using these as studies for art pieces I may want to do someday.
Some raku pieces of mine were recently fired and I’m pretty excited about the results. Raku firing as practiced in the studio where I take classes is an adaptation of an ancient Japanese method that can yield some very exciting glaze effects.
Most ceramics are heated and cooled slowly during firing to prevent breakage. Raku firing is different – the pieces are subjected to extreme temperatures during firing. They are heated rapidly then yanked from the kiln red-hot with metal tongs and placed in a pile of sawdust on the ground. More sawdust is heaped on top, which catches fire instantly, then a metal trash can is inverted over the pile to hold in the smoke and create what is called “reduction”.
Reduction creates an oxygen-starved environment by overloading the air mixture with carbon. Any exposed clay surface will turn black from the carbon, wonderful effects can be created by leaving areas of the surface unglazed to take advantage. The carbon will also bring out unusual effects in the glazes. For example many glazes containing copper will be green in an oxidation environment but turn red or metallic when reduced. One of the best things about Raku pottery is the unpredictability of how the glaze will turn out. The sawdust covering is variable and random and causes striking “flashing” of colors on the finished piece. There is usually a sort of carbon haze over the glaze after the piece is fired so the next step is to decide how much of that patina to remove. Most pieces look better with as much scrubbed off as possible, some look better with minimal cleaning. Because of this, the patina on Raku pieces can sometimes be fragile and that is one reason why Raku pieces are not recommended for uses that require a lot of washing, such as for food and drink.
Another factor that makes Raku pottery unsuitable for food and drink is that the rather violent firing process usually results in cracking or crazing in either the clay body itself or the glaze or both. The cracks are greatly enhanced by black carbon deposits that bring them into prominence. In Raku pottery, such cracks are not considered a fault unless they threaten the structural integrity of the piece – they are a desired decorative effect that helps instantly give an aged and venerable look. It is not desirable to store or consume food or drink from such a container because the ability to hold liquid might be compromised and the cracks can collect dangerous bacteria. Raku glazes may be softer and thus more prone to leaching chemicals into food than other glazes. Even if there is no lead in the glaze there may be metal oxides or other substances present that should not be consumed. Also, handles and other parts may not be able to withstand the loads that more functional pottery can take and you don’t want to risk burns by filling such a container with hot liquid.
Due to the temperature extremes in this firing process, ordinary clay bodies normally cannot be used in Raku because they will shatter. Raku clay is usually more porous than most due to additives added to withstand the temperature shocks and can be more fragile. Raku pottery should be considered decorative rather than functional, although Raku vessels often make very good planters. Most potted plants thrive with good drainage and porous clay is a good quality in that case rather than a problem.
Here are a few articles to look at if you want more information about Raku: