Studio Savvy with Wayne Cardinalli

On May 27, 2017 I joined a group of Guild members on a journey into the dragon’s lair.  Ok, not really a dragon, and by no means scary, but fire was at the heart of it.  Nestled in the heart of Port Credit is the studio and home of Wayne Cardinalli.  He opened his wings and let us bask in his knowledge and creative space.  

His former garage is a wonderful and well equipped potter’s dream.  The doors open to a store front gallery which leads you into his work space.  The efficiency of his space left us envious and in awe. He utilizes his carpentry skills to create whatever he needs to keep an efficient flow to his work.  

His glaze chemicals are stored safely in labelled buckets within a wall shelf and a swing hinged and wheeled cabinet door with additional shelves and weigh scales that closes up when not in use. He cleverly has all his glaze recipes posted within.  His glaze tools include a kitchen blender, emersion blender, and his prized possession - the power drill with an antiquated and inefficient paint stripper attached to an extended rod that he uses to mix his glazes so well that he does not have to sieve his glazes.  Other handy tools around the studio include a hair dryer, a dremel, a table saw and an assortment of other power tools.  

His sink is ingenious. A large pipe drains into a large bucket which sits in another bucket that overflows into a mop sink and finally a drain. Each sink only overflows water and the silt gets cleaned out every six months even though he goes through two tonnes of clay and make over 1000 pots a year.  That sink is incredibly effective to handle that amount of creativity.

I can just see the type of student he would have been, hugely creative but always wanting to test the limits.  He has taken that attitude and put it to good use in his studio practice.  Anytime he was told there was a limit to something he would test it, to see what the real limit was.  A case in point was his gaining knowledge so he could open his kiln at 400 degrees.  He knows his clay and glazes and knows by trial and error and pushing the limits what his limits are.  His kiln room was build with a fire retardant wall and a metal door.  He has a large fresh air vent and a down draft exhaust with a thermostat.  His ten cubit foot kiln is equipped with heavy duty elements and he only uses half shelves in order to stagger the flow of heat throughout the kiln.  It is also probably nice to not use the heavy full-sized shelves.   He has utilized an ingenious stilt height/kiln shelf system that holds his transportable ware shelves.  The wall had horizontal lines that easily allow him to determine the stilt height needed for the work created.  What a time saver that must have been over his career.  The final great piece of advice in the kiln room was that he labels the top of each kiln shelves with a pencil as it comes out so that in the next firing he flips it over to keep them flat.  He cautions against looking into the kiln unless you are wearing the correct type of eye protection as he himself damaged his maculae which affects visual acuity.  As a result, he now has to spend additional time lining up spouts to handles.     

Wayne’s work-in-progress fills any of the three double sided removable ware shelves on wheels. His wedging table is set at the height of his knuckles.  He reminded us of the three purposes of wedging clay: takes water out of clay, creates a homogeneous mix and removes air pockets, all of which creates the right consistency for throwing. Wayne equipped his potters’ wheel with a surrounding workspace that both stores his self–made tempered masonite bats and bat inserts within reach and provides a place to store the work as it is made.  His adjustable and cushioned stool is always set at the same height as his wheel head to ensure that he uses his body not his arms when throwing.  The consistency of his production work is controlled by his floor flange and science laboratory clamp and dowel system which allows him to set a specific height and width per vessel. He has been working in clay for over 50 years and has never had back problems and feels this is due to the ergonomics he has employed as well as the regular rhythm in his creative process.  Unlike other potters who either wedge all the clay they need for a few hours of work, and then throw continuously for hours, he wedges a piece and then throws and then thinks and wedges the next piece and repeats.  The repetition from standing to sitting and throwing prevents his body from becoming overly stressed.  He also uses warm water to throw with as he unnecessarily earned his hard knocks as a young man cracking the ice off his bucket with his bare hands in an unheated studio.      

His aesthetic in his work is to emphasize the joints and to repeat notches using the geometry of the wheel head bat holes. He decorates with slips that are saturated in oxides while using semi-transparent glazes.  A lesson in the multiple facets of callipers was given and Wayne demonstrated how he adapted his own time saving tools based on them specific for his production work.  He showed us a shrinkage chart with 4 images that contained a 12 inch ruler and three clay rulers made by impressing the ruler within, those three rulers were one each at bone dry; bisqued to cone 06 and high fired to cone 7.  For his clay, there was a shrinkage rate of 16% which he determined by using a photocopier and enlarging the high fired ruler until it became a true 12 inch ruler again.  He explained how he uses the data collected when working back and forth from soft clay to completed work.  So complex yet so simple!  Ask one of us for more details on this tip!  Another nugget, before wiring and removing a lidded item from the wheel head, he places and secures a piece of newspaper on the circular opening to ensure that the circle remains true and peels it off once it is place on the ware board.  He signs his work before he attaches the handles but intentionally lines up the handles with his signature, a little but significant detail that allows the handler to see his mark easily.  When attaching spouts, knobs, lugs and handles he uses a banding wheel screwed to a wooden box designed to be exactly the right height for this purpose. He uses a 50/50 blend of water and vinegar in his spray bottle and uses that as his slip.  Wayne uses “banana box” plastic which he sources from his local grocery store.  The ½ inch holes in the plastic allows his work to dry evenly and quicker than regular plastic.   

Wayne had so many other great teaching moments and efficient ways to work as a potter and to be fair to him, you will simply have to meet up with him some time or take the next workshop with him or take a his class at the Burlington Art Centre on Thursdays.