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Extrude It! Getting the Most from Your Clay Extruder, Vols. I-III, by David Hendley

David Hendley has recently published three DVDs devoted to extruding: Extrude It! Getting the Most from Your Clay Extruder, Vols. I-III. The DVD’s and the music CD’s can be ordered from www.farmpots.com or by calling Dave directly: (903) 795-3779.

Reviewed by Charles Moore

The three volumes of this fine set make up a fairly complete course of instruction in extruding clay. The language of the back cover sums up the quality of the videos: “This professionally produced video features many camera angles, close-ups, and a soundtrack of original music.” In addition, Dave brings to the endeavor the thoroughness that he always provides in his workshops. One has to admire his resourcefulness as he makes from scratch his extruder dies and even his extruder. We should note that Dave is known throughout as an extruder specialist. Curious why Dave Hendley has chosen to use the extruder so extensively, I turned to his website (www.farmpots.com) and found a section called “Creative Use of Hand Extruders” that explain his thinking: “When I use the extruder, in most cases I do not want the finished product to ‘look’ extruded. Clay right out of the extruder has a hard-edged, tooled look, and a twist, or turn, or distortion can soften that extruded look and make it more expressive. A sign of success, for me, [occurs] when another potter sees something I've made using the extruder and can't figure out how it was made. Producing pots by extrusion is one of those things that sounds like it will enable one to make dozens of items in a short time. Of course, compared to a skilled potter at the potter's wheel, just the opposite is true. Because of all the measuring, cutting, and joining, an extruded pot requires more time to make than a similar thrown pot.” Dave has a remarkable ability to create tools to serve special functions. And he seems able to build these tools from a variety of sources: wood, various kinds of metal, Plexiglas, fishing line. For example, he has used wooden molding attached to plywood to match the shape of a hexagonal extrusion to make a foot and a top for his tall, extruded vase. If my description is not clear, check the video.

The viewer of David Hendley’s DVDs not only learns a lot about extruding, but enters a world of simple rural pleasures. Dave’s studio, The Old Farmhouse Pottery, and his home are located near the East Texas community of Maydelle. His friends and neighbors help to open and close the videos.

The first video opens with a front porch serenade: a quartet of string players: Dave on acoustic guitar and friends on a fiddle, a banjo, and a small eight-string guitar. Some of these players seem to be part of the “Extrudinaires” who provide background music—“Music to Extrude By”--for the three videos. A couple of musicians, the fiddler at the opening and the harmonica player on Dave’s “Cobalt Blues” at the end of the video set, are truly fine players.

In the middle of the second video, Dave drives his truck into town and follows along the Texas State Railroad a slow moving older steam engine driven train. Once in town, he goes to Big Bertha’s Café for a hamburger. At one point in the first video, while waiting for an extruded foot ring to set up, Dave disappears and returns to let us know that he sat on the porch and enjoyed a Dr. Pepper.

But the folksy atmosphere does not indicate a casual approach to clay work. Dave is most scrupulous in his attention to detail and to aesthetics. For example, after he has extruded several large square and curved extrusions to be used for vases, he discards all but one, which offers the best—to his practiced eye—possible proportions and line of curve. The fine detail of his work shows his respect for clay and for pride in all his work.

He employs a number of trade-mark features that distinguish his work and show a fine sense of design: “ice cream cone” feet and arms, small dots of dark clay at the base of handles, and specially sculpted-looking bases of clay pressed into wooden molds.

Dave first shows how the basic extruder works; it is through a principle of compression of clay. Having made his own dies to perform specific jobs, he shares with his audience the techniques for making his various tools. He carefully explains that the top of the opening of the die is beveled so that the clay is first pushed gently through the opening, while to bottom of the opening of the die is crisply finished to produce a clean cut in the extruded clay.

Dave calls attention to a variety of oddly shaped dies that are not full-sized dies. The center is carefully cut to a specially designed shape and then the small die is placed on what he calls his “donut die”—a full-sized die with a large opening. The smaller die simply rests on the donut, held in place by the force of the clay passing through. These smaller dies are quite useful in that they do not require the careful outside cutting of the full die.

Volume 1 is devoted to extrusions that are attached to thrown ware: handles, feet, and decorative features. Dave first throws a mug to which he adds four extruded feet and an extruded handle. It is worth noting that Dave explains a principle that guides his extruded work: he chooses to work with extrusions that do not look as it they were machine-made; he wants to be sure that hand-work is just that. So the extruded mug handle is not simply attached to the mug; the handle is first tapped at one end to thicken it so that it seems to grow naturally out of the mug.

I should mention that Dave’s throwing skills are pretty remarkable. He uses very little water and does not even need a splash pan since the water never reaches the outer rim of the bat—when he uses one.

Because the mug that Dave illustrates is so perfectly straight-sided, he adds a swirl from the bottom to the top to give the piece a more fluid line and more character. Again evidence of the potter’s interest in creating a harmonious work—even though it is the lowly mug.

The rest of the first video is devoted to creating a bucket and a foot ring for a plate. The bucket, basically a thrown, straight-sided cylinder, receives a “twisted rope” top and clay handle, held in place by copper bails. The twisted rope is created by using a die with a cluster of three drilled holes. As the clay is being extruded, Dave twists the extrusion, which looks for all the world like a twisted rope. The tool that Dave has created to make the bucket handle is so complex that it would be best to see for yourself how he has designed this device.

The foot ring for the plate makes some good sense. When most of us throw a plate intending to trim the bottom, we need to allow for extra clay for a foot ring. By omitting the thrown foot ring, Dave is able to check for exactly the depth of the plate as he is throwing. Later he is adds a thin coil of extruded clay, allows that to set up, and then lightly trims the added foot ring. Dave notes that if you throw only one plate, using the extruded coil would probably not be worth the extra effort. But you when throw multiples, the added foot ring begins to make sense.

Volume II moves to “Hollow extrusions made with two-part dies.” Dave first explains how two-part dies work. The smaller inner die is a solid die; the outer die is an open die. The space between the two dies determines the shape of the extruded clay. The outer die, for example, might be an open square; the inner die would then be a smaller solid square. The clay so extruded would look like a hollow square. The two dies are held together by means of two or more u-shaped bolts. As the clay passes over the u-bolts the clay is divided, but as it is pushed further through the opening between the two dies, the clay is “healed” again.

Dave urges the potter to use clay with about the same amount of moisture used in throwing. He has invented a cut-off tool made of a fishing line—once again, best seen in the video to catch the careful detail in cutting off extruded clay.

Dave models a round extrusion, which he cuts into sections and sets aside for use later in the demo. Then he produces a long square extrusion, which he alters as it leaves the extruder by twisting the square hollow clay. While the clay sets up for further shaping into specific forms, Dave takes us on his trip into town for lunch at Big Bertha’s Cafe.

Upon returning to the Old Farmhouse Pottery, Dave demonstrates “throwing” tumblers from the round extrusion. In addition, he shows how he textures the round extrusions with embossed paper. During Vol. II, Dave uses the round and square extrusions that have been setting up to make a variety of forms based on the two types of extrusions.

Volume III of “Extrude It” is sub-titled “Extrusions as handbuilding components [and] the expansion box for large extrusions.” In the first part of this video Dave demonstrates how a variety of extruded forms can be used to create what he calls a “rectangular dish,” 13” long and 7” wide and about 3” deep, with specially extruded feet.

His final display uses the expansion box, an adapter that attaches to the bottom of the extruder and allows for extruding much larger forms than the diameter of the extruder. Dave produces a number of large, square extruded forms, which he shapes into “S” shape curves as the clay exits the extruder. Dave selects the form that best meets his needs to create a tall vase with a “window.” As in all his work, Dave articulates aesthetic and craft (or practical) principles that guide his work. He has created a wooden form made to exactly the dimensions of the square vase to give a most unusual base for the piece. Then he cuts a round window near the top of the vase and installs a delicate lattice feature in the window.

Extrude It ends with a recital of “Cobalt Blues,” Dave Hendley’s song that he has sung at clay fests about the country. He is joined by the Extrudinaires once again and this time with an audience of Maydelle neighbors, many dressed as if ready for farm labor. Dave is shown singing in a variety of performance outfits.

As I noted at the beginning, David Hendley’s three-DVD set, Extrude It, is a complete course of instruction in extruding. Dave takes us through some relatively simple uses of the extruder through some very sophisticated forms. His instruction is always clear. The videos are of fine quality, especially some very effective close ups of Dave as he works. And you are introduced to Dave’s world of clay work in Maydelle, Texas. You should have a great time and learn a lot from these videos. I recommend this DVD set most highly.

www.farmpots.com


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