Help raise funds for Hurricane Odile victims in Cabo San Lucas

Since Hurricane Odile ravished Cabo San Lucas there are thousands of people living there with no fresh water and no electricity. Their homes were wiped out. My friends at the Solmar V have set up a fundraiser to support the delivery of donated water purification systems to the area. You can donate here: http://www.wavesforwater.org/fundraiser/hurricane-odile-baja-relief

I have decided to put three of my stoneware plaques on ebay for the cause. 100% of the proceeds of these auctions will go toward the Hurricane Odile Baja Relief fundraiser.

CLICK HERE TO BID: Hand-made stoneware tropical fish wall plaque

CLICK HERE TO BID: Hand-made stoneware sealion pair wall plaques

CLICK HERE TO BID: Hand-made stoneware shark wall plaque


About the plaques

Each plaque is hand-made by me and each piece is one-of-a- kind.

The process starts with a chunk of clay. I like working with Black Mountain, because it has a lot of iron in it and fires really dark. I’ve also been playing with porcelain, which fires white.

I roll it into a slab and let it sit for about a day. When the slab is leather-hard I start decorating. Most of the shapes are from photos I’ve taken, but some of my older designs are from stock images or just freehand drawings.

The patterns are created using small shells that I have collected from the tropical beaches I’ve visited around the world. I look for texture and have a nice collection of favorites. I roll the shells into the clay until it is completely decorated. Then I cut the outline and let the piece dry. After smoothing down the rough edges the dry clay (greenware) is fired the first time.

Stoneware

Bisqueware

The Black Mountain clay is now a warm brown color. In most cases I’ll immediately put the piece into the kiln for the second firing. I don’t glaze these pieces, because I want to keep the detail the small shells create. The second firing is done at around 2700 degrees for a couple of days. The finished piece is very hard and dark brown.

Then I apply a colored underglaze to the surface and rub away the top layer leaving color in the deeper areas of the texture. The next firing is low fire in an electric kiln. This fixes the underglaze so it is permanent.

For a porcelain piece I sometimes will use oxides, underglazes, and glass frit on the top surface texture to get a colored glass finish.

Porcelain detail

On a porcelain base I applied two layers of underglaze and a top layer of glass frit.

One of the deeper Truk Lagoon Wrecks – The San Francisco Maru

One of the highlights of a Truk Lagoon trip is to dive the San Francisco Maru. Some divers skip this wreck because it is so deep and you’ll spend as much time in deco as you do on the actual dive. It sits on the bottom at about 200′, but most the diving is around the deck at 170′. For those who have the diving skills and experience to do this dive, it is well worth it.

The shot is of one of several tanks on the deck of the San Francisco Maru. There are fantastic photo opps on this wreck, so I’ll have more images coming in the next week.

Famous Robots of Truk Lagoon

One of the shots every photog who visits Truk Lagoon has to capture is “R2D2”. It’s not really a robot, but just looks like one, so he’s had that nickname for as long as Star Wars has been around. He’s really a compressor that can be found off the engine room of the Fujikawa Maru at about 100′. There are a few tricks to getting this shot. It took me several trips to Truk before I got one that wasn’t full of backscatter. I’ll teach you what you need to do when we go there in February 2014.

There are other mechanical personalities that are much harder to find. I didn’t find “Bart Simpson” until my fourth trip to Truk. He resides deep behind the engine room of the Rio de Janiero Maru (don’t go there without a guide).

…and his friend “Milhouse” who is close by.

The eerie engine room of the Yamagiri Maru

Another shot from the Yamagiri Maru, this time from inside the engine room. In a very dark, very tight space you need to roll over on your back to see this human skull wedged into a hole in the ceiling. The dive guides have all kinds of stories that go along with this, but those I’ll save for them to tell you.

Amazing Soft Coral on the Yamagiri Maru

A lot of people think that Truk Lagoon is only about shipwrecks, but many of the wrecks have an amazing abundance of soft coral growing on them. Here my dive buddy captures video of a large branch of soft coral on the Yamagiri Maru.

The first of many Truk Lagoon images

I’ve got another amazing trip to Truk Lagoon scheduled for February 2014 and still have several spots open. This will be my fifth trip aboard the Truk Odyssey, which is one of the best run dive operations in the world. I’ll elaborate on that in future posts. For now, I’m starting my series of Truk Lagoon photography with the Betty Bomber.

“Betty” was the code name for the wreck of a Mitsubishi G4M that now sits on the sand in about 45′ of water off Eten Island. It’s a very easy dive with plenty of photo opportunities.