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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tools and Tips

 Since the first of the year, I have sort of developed a studio routine (except when friends come to play with me). Gerry gets up every morning and makes a press pot with this amazing coffee he buys at 3 Cups here in Chapel Hill. It has a low acid content because we have cut acid out of our diets as much as possible. So I start the morning with a cup of coffee and I have lots of favorite mugs, so that is my first decision of the day. This mug is by my good friend and mentor Barbara McKenzie. It has a very perfect handle for holding just right. I turn on my heat as soon as I get up and by the time coffee and breakfast are over and I check email and blogs, the studio is warm and I am awake. I kept the tiny white lights up from the studio tour and my studio always looks so warm and inviting when I open the door. Turn on NPR or some music and start the day!
After I cleaned yesterday, I thought it would be nice to point out to you some of my favorite tools. Here are some I use all through the day. The ribs are from Michael Sherrill, tool inventor extraordinaire. I cut one of them up for tight places that I can't get to with the larger ones. The metal rib has a jaggy edge (technical terminology) also cut in half, the big ones don't get where I need them to. I use this for scoring, and for smoothing surfaces, sort of like you would use a rake in your garden. The blocks of wood are multi purpose. I use them to elevate a piece that has a roof if I need to turn it on it's side to work on it. I use them for propping things up, leveling, pounding, lots of uses. The rasp tool (shure form), also a Sherrill tool is for getting edges straight, I use it for the bottoms to take off uneven edges and square things up. Beside the yellow rib, is my most favorite tool ever. It is my Dolan knife. Amy Sanders turned me on to this knife. Before I was using a fettling knife and my cutting was never precise. The blade of a fettling knife is just too fat. This knife is the perfect cutting tool. Get one, you will see what I mean. Amy calls hers her precious. Exactly! I don't know what you call the wooden tool beside the knife but I use it constantly. I poke holes with it, smooth seams, do detail work, write my name, lots of uses for it. Beside that is a pin tool I picked up at a John Britt workshop, forgot the man's name, but I blogged about him when I did the workshop. The handle is a beautifully carved piece of wood and it is just nice to hold. Next are two sizes of rubber tipped tools. I run these up a seam to sort of form a trough and then add coils for a solid connection. I also use them for detail work, the soft rubber tip works much better for some things than a wooden tool. The triangle is for measuring and getting straight edges and cutting. I also have a metal ruler for longer cuts. I use the printer's brayer for firming down the seams to make a solid connection. These are the tools I use every day. I have lots of tools, but these are my go to, never let me down ones.
 I use a paddle from time to time, not always, but sometimes I need it. I always have a bucket of water and a bucket for clay scraps. When the scrap bucket gets full, it goes into a bucket of water and then I recycle it.  When I cut out my initial pieces, I try to do it when the clay is wet enough that I can ball up the scraps, re wedge them and roll them out, but near the end the clay gets too firm and I just have to recycle. The little bits go into the small cup for slip. I keep this small cup with a brush in it replenished all the time. As I work, the shavings go into the cup and I add water as needed. No vinegar, no magic water. I just use the right consistency of my clay and water for slip and it holds the seams just fine (now that I figured out I was being lazy and not rolling my slabs properly, I don't have any trouble with the seams coming apart).
 I bought this shimpo banding wheel for my birthday with money from my mom. I got it after attending a Kari Radasch workshop and watching her use it like a potter's wheel. I don't know how I ever made anything without it. I have it placed in front of a mirror so I can see what my piece looks like at different angles, checking the balance, making sure things are straight. It gives you a different perspective. A mirror is a must have in a studio, I think. I have it placed so that I can see what is coming up behind me too. I can see my driveway and my door, so I'm not surprised by a visitor! You can also check to see if you have clay in your hair or on your face, from time to time :)
 These are the main four tools I have in my hand all throughout my day. My little friends....
I like to burn a candle when I am in my studio and I light some incense. I like this candle I buy at the Dollar Store for, well, a dollar. If I forget to blow it out, which I do, it is pretty safe and I won't wake up to find my studio engulfed in flames. I like the flickering of a candle while I'm working, it makes me feel like it is a more sacred space somehow.
 I have also started the habit of cleaning my studio at the end of the day, period. If I walk in to a messy space I just turn and walk back out. It does not inspire me to have to start my day searching for tools and clearing a space. When my deck was my work space, it was just depressing, I had a constant mess because I did not honor that space. I was just dealing with my circumstance and not loving one minute of it.
Now I have a real place to work and it makes all the difference. It is small and efficient. My work tables are set up in an L shape configuration with another table in the middle of the floor. I have two pieces of loose canvas that I work on. That way I can just take them out and hose them off when they need it. I tried using sheet rock but it deteriorates so fast I gave up on it.  I have lots of ware boards that I have picked up along the way, lots of stamps and texture tools that I don't use so much anymore, and I keep a tool box in my studio now for easy access to a hammer or pliers or a screw driver, you just need those things from time to time. The one thing I don't have is great lighting. During the day, when the sun is bright, it's fine, but at night or on a cloudy day, I really need better light. So that's pretty much it.
Let's see your tools!

10 comments:

Anna M. Branner said...

I've got to get myself a Dolan Knife. I use a 99 cent paring knife but the blade is really too long.....I LOVE my shimpo banding wheels. I have two becuase they were so cheap at the place I ordered them it was like 2 for 1!

My current studio has become quite a mess. It makes me sad. I have clay everywhere that needs to be recycled and only one real workspace, which of course is covered with "stuff".

You are so right about honoring your space (that energy is definitely pushing along your success!) My next space is going to be perfect, maybe not because it is shaped or furnished well, but because I will take care of it.

Great post Tracey!

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Anna, I used to use one of those paring knives too. Get a Dolan, you won't believe the difference! I had the most miserable working conditions ever until I built this studio. I worked in freezing cold community studios with lots of chit chat going on, unloaded kilns full of other people's work and mixed buckets and buckets of glazes, cleaned, mopped, all in exchange for space to work, I finally got tired of that and moved home to work, which meant an upstairs bedroom, carrying boards of work up and down three flights of stairs, then I moved out on to the deck in the summer, fought the wind and rain and leaves! Seven years of this. So I guess I am so grateful for my little studio now that I treat it kindly and it does the same for me!! You too will have a peaceful space sooooon!!! It brings good energy if you treat it right :)

Dennis Allen said...

Couldn't agree more that a nice place to work makes all the difference.When I was about to turn 60 it dawned on me that I wasn't getting any younger and things weren't getting any cheaper.If I was ever going to build a barn it was time to do it and enjoy it.It was an excellent decision.

Michèle Hastings said...

Dolan tools are the best. I have an assortment for carving and trimming. Once you use them everything else seems inferior. I also swear by Mud tools ribs, I think I have them in most shapes and and varying flexibility.
I need to work on being neater in the studio... it's a goal I am working on!
Isn't it funny how most of us collect all sort of tools but when it comes right down to it we use the same few over and over?

Linda Fahey said...

I have so many tools and end up using the same 5 tools everyday, all day. The shimpo banding wheel is one of them...dreamy! and the mike sherrill should be given an oscar!

inspiring post, Tracey - thank you!

Kelly said...

I've never tried that Dolan knife. Sounds awesome.. I have found useful some cake decorating tools in the baking section at Michael's....

And I plan on keeping a "fairly" clean studio too- whenever I get it all set up!

Lori Buff said...

I learned about that knife from Lana Wilson. She said she liked it better than an x-ato knife so I tried it and never looked back. I use the x-acto for paper only now.

Maria said...

Hi Tracy! I have lurked on your blog for evah but never posted- had to when I saw about the Dolan. I used to be exacto knife poster girl, then switched to the highly superior Dolan, but then....have you ever tried the kemper knife!? Love at first cut. Thanks for this cool sneak peak into your toolbox...

Tracey Broome said...

Hey ya'll, I have been out all day, slacker here for commenting back, but thanks for all the comments. I think Dolan may have to give us all a little discount for the big promo today! Maria, thanks for commenting, I have not tried Kemper, maybe if and when the dolan wears out I'll check it out, might be a long wait though :)

JUDI TAVILL said...

Tracy. Took a red eye last pm and have 2 hrs asleep so forgive typos... About to crash. I am a tool whore, but that knife may need to replace me crap exacto blades. Dunno...i will say more later