Interview with Giselle No.5 part 2

This is part 2 of our Interview with Giselle Massey from Giselle No.5. Read part 1 here.
Giselle No.5 is an artisan studio that offers a wide range of handcrafted stamps. The stamps are made of ceramic clay or polymer clay and could be used on all sorts of clay, ceramic clay, polymer clay, even metal clay, but also on cookie dough to create one-of-a-kind baking creations.
Visit Giselle’s Etsy shop Giselle No.5

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Ifeelcrafty: You are one of seven sisters. How do you usually come together in the summer?

My parents have a big, landscaped backyard with a big flagstone patio and a barbecue that my dad built. My immediate family alone is 22 people, so family dinners are noisy and they can be pretty intense. I never realize how loud we are when we get together until I go out of the room; coming back in is an absolute blast of sound. Try to imagine seven women in my mother’s tiny kitchen, all trying to talk a little louder than everybody else, laughing at inside jokes and listening to music, bumping into each other and setting out enough food for 50 people while sending the kids back outside so the guys (and anybody who is outside for peace and quiet) can watch them out by the barbecue. And the poor kids have seven mothers telling them “go wash your hands, no hitting your cousin, ask your mom if you have another cup of soda before dinner”. I don’t know how other families are but I can’t imagine life without all the craziness.

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Ifeelcrafty: Your advice for crafters starting to work with ceramic clay.

I think that if I had started out alone I would have been so overwhelmed, intimidated, and stuck on the details that I would never have considered pottery a viable option. I think that how broke I was at the time actually helped me because I was always looking for ways to save money and I was forced to find an inexpensive way to pursue it.

In the two years since I first started visiting my friend Christine in her studio at least once a week, I’ve gained a good general knowledge of pottery, mainly through assisting her and observing her at work. This would have taken me years of costly trial and error to accumulate alone. For example, I’ve never had any reason to use a dipping glaze on my own little pottery items; but she uses them on her dinnerware. So I’ve not only helped her mix the glazes, but sieve them, and I’ve watched them in use. So I have a head start for the day I make larger items and decide to purchase an expensive dipping glaze myself.

If you’re truly interested, I would recommend either taking a class at your community college or finding a productive local potter whose work you admire. Ask them if they would be willing to exchange a couple hours’ help cleaning the studio or performing other tasks in exchange for some lessons and allowing you to experiment with making, firing, and glazing a few little items in with their kiln loads. Ceramic clay is fairly inexpensive. A box of 50 lbs of the Moroccan Sand I use to make my bisque stamps is $25, while an 8 lb box of the white Sculpey I use for my polymer clay stamps is $50. If you’re making fairly small items at first, you’ll have enough clay to keep you busy for a good long while. In the beginning I would sometimes work for a couple of hours to trade for a bag of clay, so I didn’t have to spend any money at first.

Another option is buying some clay and finding someone who is willing to fire your items in their kiln for a small fee. Christine fires my stamps for me; the fee is usually one stamp per firing. But she’s been my friend since I was six, and she’s always happy for another stamp. You might not come to an arrangement like that with another potter.

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Ifeelcrafty:  What do you like most about working with ceramic clay?

There isn’t much I don’t like about it. I love the way it feels; gritty and silky at the same time. I love how a crack or flaw can be gently smoothed away with a drop of water and a gentle fingertip. I love carving a design into my stamps that will create a relief design that “pops” out of the clay. I love coaxing the clay to become the complicated final shape I want. And I love the fluidity, how the centrifugal force of the pottery wheel turns the clay into almost a moldable liquid. Then once it’s been transformed in the kiln, you have a permanent, stone-like result still showing the shape of your hands. Most of what I make stays unglazed, of course, but when I take some of my glazed beads or little sculptures out of the kiln I always feel like I’m cradling a treasure in my hands. There’s nothing  like it.

Ifeelcrafty: Thank you so much for this great insight interview, Giselle.  It was a pleasure having you!

I hope you all enjoyed the article as much as I did & start your own clay projects soon!

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