Going A-Viking…adventures in mud (and drinking).

Hi,

For a few years now I have been making, what I affectionately call, vegetarian drinking horns. Several of my friends have one. It started as a bit of a joke between me and my bestie. They had suggested that as a vegan, no matter how much they liked the whole Norse thing, they could never drink out of a horn. It would just be too gross. So I made a ‘vegetarian drinking horn’.

We soon found out there are several advantages to my ceramic drinking horn. First off; one can’t put it down! So you drink your mead… and get another. A perfect party cup. The other advantage is specifically around the fact that it is NOT horn; it’s really durable, soap and water washable, dishwasher safe, hot or cold beverages are alright. Anybody for coffee with Jameson? I personally feel like I am ready to take on the world after one (or two) of those in the morning out of my drinking horn!

A number of months back another friend asked me for a special commission for her family for Yule. My friend has three adult children, and each has a partner, and they all enjoy 1) drinking together and 2) the TV show Vikings. Seven – yes, seven – drinking horns, each with a name carved in Norse Runes. I jumped at it, I just loved the thought of it so much.

It was such a great process, start to finish, I would like to share it with you now…

Before I even begin to make the horn shape, I first make the clay. I like to use marbled clay because it’s striations remind me of the natural variations on colour of a horn. I use two different coloured clays, that have very similar rate of shrinkage (how much and at what rate does the clay shrink as it dries) and knead them together – to get the right amount of marbled look. Too much kneeling and the clay colours mix together too much and it’s just a middle kinda colour. Too little and the clay is blocky looking, blobs of white and red. The clay should then sit for about a week at least, so that the two clays kind of settle in with each other. Or get the same moisture content at any rate.

I wanted each one to be unique, but all of them to be roughly the same size. So I made a template or pattern. I took a pint glass – a beer ‘sleeve’ – and wrapped it with tar paper, extending the bottom to a longer pointer shape, slid it off the glass, and flattened it out.

I make the horn shape by rolling out thin sheets of clay, laying the tar paper pattern on top and cutting out the basic shape. Then I rolled the clay slab and ‘pulled’ out a curly ‘tail’ for each one. That means I sort of wet and pull, wet and pull, wet and pull (a bit like milking a cow), until the pointy end of the horn sort of naturally forms a graceful and unique shape.


After these set up for a day or two, I attached handles. Then I let those set up for a week or two. The tricky part is drying slowwwwly and evenly, so that nothing cracks or warps from uneven drying.

After working this marbled clay, making the cup shape and attaching the handles, the two colours of clay have become blurred together on the surface, so after letting the horns set up for awhile, and partially dry, I need to clean up the surface. I scrape and paddle the cups to reveal both a more graceful shape and the sharp colour contrasts in the marbled clay. Let them dry a little more, and sand the surface to smooth out the scrape marks. Dry a little more… and carve!

 My friend had sent me a list of all of the names, and I translated each one phonetically into the Norse runes. An example would be the name Jennifer; in English there are two ‘n’s, but in the Norse runes there is no need for both, one letter for the ‘n’ sound will do fine. The step of carving the runes was nerve wracking for me. It had taken me weeks to make each horn… what if I misspelled something?! Isn’t it funny that I had more fear of a misspelling than I did of breaking, dropping, cracking or smashing these cups at anytime during the process. Ah, the neuroses we pick up as kids, eh?

After carving the names in runes in each one, they must finish drying all of the way, again, slowly and evenly. So they sit for about another week. Then they are ready for the firing – or cooking in a very hot oven or kiln. Typically pottery is fired twice. The first firing is called bisque firing. The goal of bisque firing is to get the clay to a semi-vitrified, still porous state that can safely take the glazing and decorating. That firing can take up to 2 days; between loading, slowly warming it, the main firing at full temperature, and a slow cool down.

After they come out of that kiln, I glaze them. The glaze is really just really finely ground up glass and minerals in a liquid suspension. Once these now glazed cups go back into another, even hotter kiln, the glass and minerals melt together, making a sealed and non-porous cup.

I don’t glaze the outside of my drinking horns for a few reasons; First off, I think it looks and feels cool. I want the full effect of the marbled clay to come through. And I like the stoney texture of the clay. I’m a potter, I think clay feels nifty. Secondly, and totally practically, I have to set it down somehow. As the glass of the glaze melts and then hardens it cannot be touching anything else, or it will melt and stick to that other thing. So when I glaze fire the horns they get propped up, balancing on their handles (with some stabilizing with small bricks and such).

Ta Da! And out they come from the final firing. The colours all came out nice and crisp, and the names a subtle carved texture. Great! But now I must get them to Calgary in one piece. Many a potters dreams have been broken in transit. For months I have been planning this feat of shipping. Do I pack and ship each one separate? Should I pack each one in a box and then all the boxes in a bigger box, or two? In the end my studio mate Linda gave me a very large, very sturdy box and a whole bunch of packing materials that she had been saving up… for just such a moment.

Each horn individually wrapped in bubble wrap with special attention to handles, lips and tails. Then all of them nestled in a bed of (so evil) styrofoam packing peanuts. All that plastic felt really terrible. I could only take comfort in the fact that all of it was re-used (and encourage the recipient to list all the packing matierials free on Craigslist, so it can all be used yet again). Even with all my careful packing I knew I would be on pins and needles until I knew the box had been opened and got the report if any broke in shipping. I had even made an eighth drinking horn, left it uncarved and unfired, in the event that one broke, and I could make another as quickly as possible.

 

The final joyous touch was writing out a card for each with a translation of the meaning of each of the runes, in each of the names. In the photo below, the other side of each card has the names written in English.

 

 

A week or two after shipping I received photos of the family… toasting with their drinking horns! I was over the moon with joy. They all came through! The shipping, the firings, the carving, the drying…

 

Happy Yule everyone!!!

(In the picture above you can just read the name Marissa carved into this cup. Hi Marissa!)

Cheers! I’ll have what the’re having. (Love the Santa and cat/reindeer sweater!)

I hope you have enjoyed my process of how I made this whole clan drinking horns for Yule. I’ve written this out for a few reasons. First off, I was updating my friend who ordered these the whole time, and she said that the kids would probably really like to know about the process too. So I’ve written it out for them.

But I also had such a great time doing them, that I would love to do it again for another clan (or friend, or couple). I thought if I shared this out into the intertubes, someone may want me to make them some too. So if you are reading this and would like to contact me about ordering some, please do! Email me about pricing and timing.

Thank you for your interest in my process and for taking the time to read this.

Blessings,

Ilena

Happy New Year.

Thank you to everyone of you who came to see me at the Make It Show at the PNE. And welcome to everyone of you who signed up for my newsletter. The winner of the platter has been drawn – by random number generator – and an email sent.

Many people really like my stories about learning pottery techniques in Mexico. I’ll be adding a new adventure shortly about my recent trip to the Isle of Wight in the UK. As well as some of my creative adventures with the Norse runes.

This picture is a concept I am working on. It’s a runes necklace. Great looking, and also a means to store runes easily for a reading or casual use. These are fired using the same techniques as Mata Ortiz pottery – in this case on the winter solstice.

But for my next adventure – you might know of someone who might want to join me! I will be teaching a class specifically for teenagers (13-19) at Kensington Community Centre (36th and Knight). The Centre has found some funding to subsidize the youth class and the pottery club is paying for materials, so it is extremely affordable. Only $35!!! There is a limit of only 8 youths for this go round. So register right away if you are interested.

Teen Pottery

Kensington Community Centre

Fridays 6pm – 8pm

January 18 – March 15

Here is a link to registration

https://ca.apm.activecommunities.com/vancouver/Activity_Search/pottery/193233

I hope everyone is having delightful mid-winter celebrations… whatever it is that you celebrate. I enjoyed my solstice immensely!

Ilena Lee

sespursongles: just-shower-thoughts: People who like rocks see cool rocks everywhere. People who…

sespursongles:

just-shower-thoughts:

People who like rocks see cool rocks everywhere. People who like birds see interesting birds everywhere. The tree on your yard could be an exceptional specimen. The world around you could be amazing and magical, but you aren’t enough of a nerd to see it.

I gave my mum Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking: Eleven Walks Through Expert Eyes for her birthday this year, it’s a book that revolves around this idea: the author invites 11 specialists in different things to walk around a boring city block with her one after the other so they can point out to her the things they see, that she doesn’t notice. There’s an expert in typography talking about what the variety of fonts on urban signs can tell you about the city’s history, an entomologist pointing out all the urban insects no one pays attention to, a geologist, a sound engineer…

from rusty wrench https://ift.tt/2AE0Cnf
via IFTTT

It’s getting busy!

I am madly prepping for the upcoming Make It Sale at the PNE, December 13-16. As well as making work for the Wildewood Gallery in New West. You must check them out – I am a fan of every artist in there. Atira gallery in Strathcona also has a few of my pieces. My Etsy page is looking a little sad right now. I’ve got loads of work, but not taken the time to update my page. I’ll get on that soon.

Please consider buying local, and buying art – for the upcoming gift giving season. It’s the sort of gift that ripples out to many, and brings all of us a more beautiful and vibrant community. And who doesn’t want that?!

I was particularly thrilled a few weeks ago when a friend contacted me wanting a very special Christmas gift for their family – six drinking horns, each to have the recipient’s name spelled out in runes down the side. Runes are more than an alphabet, but also a window into a greater consciousness – and can be read similar to the tarot deck. Names are a powerful thing, and so is traditions like raising a pint with your loved ones on a special day! I am so honoured to be asked to create works of art for this family!

The idea that each member of the family will have such a very special and crafted piece of art was thrilling to me. It would bind the family together and be a shared joy. When one asks why we make such objects, I can’t help but think that the answer is ‘for moments like this’.

I am almost complete in my forming of the horns, which then need to be dried and then the surfaces finished with a sanding process.  The moisture in the clay itself has to be reduced, falling to just the right level, and then each one will be fired and glazed. By the time I finish, the family will have a truly unique gift that will bring joy for many years, and likely several generations.

So, as we near Christmas, and I get ready various pieces for sale, I thought I’d just mention that if you are looking for one or more of these very special horns please let me know as early as possible. I just might be able to do a few for a person locally. Because they are individually crafted I would ask you to give me as much notice as possible, as each one can take up to a month to complete.

Blessings to you and yours!

All the Best, and Go Make a Mess!
Ilena Lee