If my family had a crest, it would have to contain the latin words for “Look, a bunny!” It’s a standing joke, at our house, how often we fail at linear thinking (or speaking, or action…) In other words, we’re “highly distractable”.
For instance: this morning, with no students on my calendar and nothing scheduled until after Thanksgiving, I got a big cup of coffee and set about the long-avoided task of sorting paperwork. There were days of mail stacked on the counter, boxes and stacks and files of paper on and under my computer desk, kids’ school papers, glaze recipes, grade books, unpaid bills, coupons, artwork, syllabi, glaze recipes, scout papers, and general mess.
I began in a pretty organized fashion and spent a couple of hours — piling by category, filing (one file says, no joke, “tax bewilderment”), filling clipboards with priorities, sending some paper through the shredder to become pet bedding, and setting aside one-side-still-good paper for scrap. I kept at it until lunchtime…
…then it occurred to me (look, a bunny!) that my computer should go in a corner of my kitchen that had been a homeschool area in the past, and could be reclaimed if I just cleaned out the cupboards and shelves. So I wandered away from a our dining table (covered with piles and files and sticky notes), and started the cupboard project. Books, tools, kitchen gadgets, canning supplies… I worked on it until I had made some headway, moved in the computer, set up the printer, tucked in cables, sorted cupboard contents… and then I found (look, a bunny!) …
…an old plastic cutting board that I didn’t need anymore. Perfect for cutting an extruder die! So I wandered out to the garage, and found a drill; drilled a hole in the board, and then with a jig saw, cut out a long slot like the cross section of a tile, complete with zigzags on the bottom to make grout grooves. I found some C-clamps, clamped the cutting board (now with a mouth and teeth) onto the end of my pugmill. ( A note to non-potters: a pugmill is a giant meat grinder like machine with an auger, that eats clay scrap and squirts out a thigh-sized tube of clay ready to use.) I stuffed soem clay in the hopper and turned on the machine. Sure enough, it started to spit out foot after foot of tile through my little slot, like an oversized pasta machine.
I couldn’t be at one end stuffing in clay and at the other end easing the long strips out onto a board, though, so they were shortish strips and I was running back and forth. This is the kind of problem I love in the studio; it reminds me of the cat batting a gum wrapper under the couch so she can enjoy trying to reach it. Creative problem solving is rewarding, even when I keep making up my own new problems.
I leaned a long, wide board under the little tile-squirting mouth, sloping away toward the floor, and then cut a long strip of dry cleaning plastic; the idea was that as the wet clay tile strip emerged, it would rest its front end on the front of the plastic, stick, and thus drag the strip underneath it on its way down the board-runway. It worked — I got a nice long strip with a plastic backing that I could lift toa drying board without deforming. But it still took too much fussing on my part to feed and straighten the plastic strip as the tile got longer.
So the next idea was to roll the long plastic strips around a rolling pin — (picture toilet paper) — and then put the whole works under the extruder’s mouth, with the roller’s handles held in place by two big nails, and the middle free to turn. It was beautiful. The clay strip emerged, touched the plastic, and it unrollled itself like a red carpet at just the right speed, so the clay slithered down the board on a smooth snake-belly of plastic and I never had to touch it until it was done.
I intend to cut them in the morning, and have everyone in the family design a little inch-square bisque stamp to press in the middle of each tile. Over the holiday break I hope to tile the stair risers and the back landing.
Now, though, I have a paper-stacked table, a not-quite-finished cupboard sorting project, a quarter mile of uncut tiles, and I’m going to bed. Unless I see another bunny.
Tomorrow’s coffee will start the process all over again…