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  • Writer's pictureLinda Kiepke

"Old School Bad Habits"

This jar was created while I was a student at Arapaho Community College in Littleton, CO

I was bitten by the “clay bug” in eighth grade. I have been compelled to create with clay all my adult life.

At what point do you call yourself an “artist?"

Artist is such a loaded word.

To most it suggests training, exhibitions, and sales. To me, I feel it is the compulsion to create.

When I am creating-drawing, painting, and sculpting-Yes- but also sewing, knitting, etc. Anytime I flex my creative muscle, I function better.

Acting on your compulsions to create, and how those actions effect your well-being, to me, that is an artist.

After my mom passed away in December, I worked with my sisters to go through and empty her apartment. You could see examples of my work over the years scattered among her other things.

My sisters are fans of my work, and I encouraged them to take pieces, while claiming two back for myself. One is the jar above that I made at Arapaho Community College just after high school. My mom stored tea bags in this jar-- it shows some love in the way that the lid has been carefully glued back together.

Arapaho Community College had a fine ceramics program, but I was also taught some "old school bad habits." We reached our arms deep into full-sized garbage cans of glaze to stir them, pulling the heavier elements off the bottom in order to create the proper consistency before taking tongs and plunging our wares into the glaze.

We also had an electric skillet plugged in on the counter with 1/4" of melted wax. A quick dip of the base in the wax masked the bottoms of our bisque ware, blocking glaze absorption.

Glaze is essentially glass melted into the surface of your clay. So glaze on the bottom of a pot is tantamount to a date with the grinder. It will take effort to remove your piece from the kiln shelf.

I don't teach my students to stir glaze with their hands. I prefer a ladle, or, better yet a kitchen strainer that will break apart clumps in the glaze as you lift and stir. Some chemical elements that were common in glazes aren't even allowed in our studio.

The electric skillets with melted wax are a thing of the past. After they were tied to studio fires and irritating fumes, studios switched to liquid wax. It gets the job done, but adds extra drying time to the process.

Among my generation, it's almost auto pilot to say "Do you remember when we stirred glaze by hand?"

It makes me wonder what "bad habits" I've unwilling imposed on my students...

Will they chorus "Do you remember when...?"

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