Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thunder Cake

My daughter and I have been doing "pre-school" lessons together. This week, the sound was "th" and the theme was thunder. While reading "Thunder Cake" by Patricia Polacco about a grandmother who helps her granddaughter overcome her fear of thunder, we found a fun recipe to try. This is a rich, chocolaty cake with a somewhat random secret ingredient (tomatoes). We mixed it up today and tried it out. The only thing we were missing were some fresh strawberries. Instead I flaked dark chocolate on the top. Mmmmmm. I've added the recipe below, but I thoroughly recommend getting the book to read the story, too.

Grandma's Thunder Cake

Cream together, one at a time
1 cup shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, separated (Blend yolds in. Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in.)
1 cup cold water
1/3 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup dry cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry mixture into the creamy mixture.
Bake in two greased and floured 8 1/2-inch round pans at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Frost with chocolate butter frosting and top with strawberries.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Designing a Dish Set

My big project over the last month or two has been putting together a coherent design for a dish set. I've had several goals. The biggest was that the set needed to be reproducible for me on my current schedule with a potty-training toddler with inconsistent naps. That meant no wheel-thrown components. Don't get me wrong, I love to wheel-throw--but I'm finding it nearly impossible to do lately as I can be interrupted at anytime with "Mama, I pooped and have yucky stuff on my fingers!" Second, bowls and plates needed to be stackable and consistent sizes. Third, all pieces needed to look work with the few cone 6 glazes that I have fiddled with enough to be reliable in my kiln. Fourth, they needed to have carved components to match my current work.

Because throwing wasn't an option and I wanted pieces to be consistent in sizing, I figured molds and slab-building from templates were the best way to go. I decided that if I was going to move away from wheel-thrown, I wanted to move away from round, too. If I couldn't throw, I might as well go for a look that couldn't be thrown. I created a model and plaster cast of a square dinner plate with slightly rounded corners. For the salad, I went triangular. Cups were slab-formed and squared.

My biggest issues have come from the bowls. After playing around with slab-bowls made from a circle with three long darts to make a triangular bowl, I realized that the resulting bowl was not very consistent and took quite a bit more work than they were worth to get them to stay together. I made a mold only to find that the lip never quite worked because if I cut down into the bowl to make the rim look clean, the resulting form was too short. Then I tried adding a slab rim to the top. This made an aesthetically nice bowl, but was way too large to fit well with the salad plate. Finally I placed a coil on top of the rim and blended it down into the bowl--viola, a bowl that fit the set and looked clean on top.

For carved accents, I decided to go with an organically tweaked geometric line pattern to match my geometrically themed dishes. The cups and bowls got a repeating zig-zag line with a bit of a curve and the plates received a modified version of the same pattern around the rim.

I'm still tweaking the glazing, but my first batch of full sets are firing up in the kiln right now. I've attached some pictures of prototype pieces below.

Triangular salad plates --detail of carving

Dinner and salad plate together

Salad bowl prototype--the rim makes the overall bowl to large to fit with the set.

Cups--slab built, squared, and carved.