Saturday, January 29, 2011

Glazed Pots

I spent a better part of the day yesterday airbrushing these bowls and plates. What you see here is the pots glazed, but before airbrushing. There are 2 coats of the tan glaze, 3 coats of the blue glaze, and a brushed coat of a glaze I call Gatorskin, which is a slip based ash like glaze. I also airbrush Gatorskin so that the effect of it is very subtle and feathered, rather than hard edged if it were brushed at the end. This first photo is looking from the front to the back of the shop, north to south.

The photo below looks from west to east and you can see the dinner plates ready to be airbrushed. Perhaps you also notice a water purification system on the wall in back. We have very bad water here in the woods, and this system is an attempt to get good water. It works very well. The water has less that 10 ppm dissolved solids, and tastes wonderful. I also use it for glazes, and mixing clay too. I have started mixing all my own clay.

The old refrigerator gave up the ghost a couple of months ago, and I have not wanted to buy a brand new one, and have not checked Craigslist faithfully for oldies as I will have to have help loading it into my truck, and I am just so busy with the commitments of these pots. But soon a "new" refrigerator will appear. Perhaps the one at our house which is now just 20 years old.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I have slides that are over 40 years old and it is time to digitize them, especially since NCECA is in Tampa/St Petersburg this year and I'm involved and will need to make a couple of presentations. So I sent 30 slides off to ScanCafe to see what they would do with them. I am happy with what they did and now I am going through all the slides I have from 1968 to digital, which is about 2002, I think. There are thousands.

This is one of a close up of one of my second year graduate school works. It is a slab built round pot, and you see the top. It was lightly rakued, a process I called "Smoked Raku." Its diameter is 16 inches. I will post some of the other ones from that period, including the firecracker pots and the flocked pots, as soon as the scans come back.

ScanCafe is inexpensive if you get lots of slides scanned, but the shipping is expensive for just a few. That said, it was worth it to just see what their quality would be and not commit hundreds of slides only to be disappointed. This image is clear, faded for sure, but I think it can be helped with Photoshop. It did not have much color anyway.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fuzzy Yellow

I have been trying to get this glaze to work for a couple of years and it has been an incredibly difficult one. I call it Fuzzy Yellow; there is also a Fuzzy Green, which is difficult too. This one came out yesterday and it is what I'm looking for. It's extremely matte and very smooth to the touch, really nice to hold in your hand.

I have another pot which will fire tomorrow night with the same glaze and the same firing cycle and hopefully will be as nice. These glazes are finicky and even though I do the same thing and fire the same way, I do not expect the results to be the same. But hopefully doing the same thing will make for a successful piece.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kiln Disaster

Here are a couple of photos of the kiln disaster. It was a copper red firing and the bottom octagonal shelf just melted with all the weight on it. This first photo is before anything was unstacked, and you can see that the bottom shelf appears to be missing. It's in there somewhere.

This next one is of a piece of that bottom shelf. Hard to believe it was rated for cone 10, but I have fired those shelves to cone 10 many times, just not with so much weight on them.

This final photo is also of that bottom shelf, the largest piece of all the ones I chipped out. It's stuck to the kiln post, and there is major glaze running.

The shelves above the copper reds were fairly OK. The pots all need to be refired, but they did not collapse as they might have. There is lots of pinholing on the glazes, but I have seen worse come out beautiful in a second firing.

I fired the kiln yesterday to red heat just to make sure the patching was dry -- it has been a month -- and the new target brick, a 12 x 12 x 1 inch slab of alumina, would be able to withstand a burner about 10 inches away and not crack.
The alumina slab came from a friend and it weighs 22 pounds. When I picked up the package I was really surprised by the weight. I was expecting maybe 8 pounds. I've not unstacked it yet so don't know whether the slab is OK.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Graduate School -- USF -- 1971

I went to graduate school in Ceramics at the University of South Florida in Tampa and since NCECA is in Tampa/St Pete this year, I just had some slides scanned. Both of these slides are of my work at the end of the first year, which would be the early summer of 1971. We had to display our first year's works to see whether we would be accepted to continue and this was my setup. Casual. The whole place was casual. But effective as all the professors came out to see it, and I was allowed to continue.

USF was a very new college at that time and the view you see here is long gone, with buildings everywhere. Almost all of the professors were under 35 years old, so it was a young place and very stimulating. New, progressive, confrontational. We had people like James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg making work down the hall from us in the GraphicStudio, and the place was teeming with energy.

I'm not sure how these pieces relate to my current work; I had only been interested in Ceramics for 3 years at the time, and so these were some of my early pieces. This was also before I decided to become a potter so I was not trying to make pots. Pots were not looked upon as a valid direction for a graduate student at USF. I had shelves in my studio and kept black plastic over them and made pots on the side all my way through grad school. Fired them on the weekends. So I really had two bodies of work going at the time and the professors knew about the pots, did not seem to mind much, but they never saw them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Night Firing

This is a picture of a firing that we did just before our Holiday Show. It's just getting dark and the kiln is very hot at this point. I wish I could say that every thing turned out well, but it did not. One of the bottom shelves warped badly and the whole stack fell. We had to chip a lot of stuff out of the kiln and then repair the brick with a castable refractory, and, as of now, I have not fired it again while waiting for the refractory to dry completely, but it's ready to go now and I hope to fire it soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dinner Plates

Well it's not all porcelain around here these days. At our Holiday Show people kept asking for dinner plates and here is the first half of them. I made 25 altogether, including ones for our home that Anne asked for. Never hurts to order when everyone else is ordering.

While I love to make porcelain, I also love to make pots that people can use every day. A mug that someone might cherish gives me great satisfaction, and I love to see lots of pots all lined up neatly, ready for the next step, whatever that is. There were also orders for bowls and I got all of them in except for 4 hiding on the table in the photo below. They are lined up in a square, but even 4 makes me happy. It's 25F here in North Florida this morning and the large electric in the photo, Papa Bear, is firing to go off around noon. We are going for heat today.

Here is what the plates will look like when they are fired, well, except that they will be plates instead of pie plates. I use two different matte glazes and then spray an ash like glaze in the interstices of the glazing process. Each piece is glazed with many layers which require handling the pots several times before stacking them into the large gas kiln, where they are reduction fired to cone 10, around 2350F.

I do have to say that these pie plates bake incredible pies. Anne makes an apple pie every Thanksgiving and a cherry pie every Christmas and the pies are always wonderful and crusts are always perfect. They are a bit larger than the traditional pie, but, what the heck, it just means more pie. Yum.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Owen and Nadia

The other days some folks came out to choose a present for a friend and their two kids each got a little sample of clay to play with. I was just amazed by the little pieces that they fashioned. Owen made this little dog and Nadia made the standing figure. I find both of the figures humorous and gesturally wonderful.

I'm not sure whether Owen meant for the dog to have his leg up, or if the piece just dried that way, but, as you can see, he is definitely a male.

The pieces got loaded into the bisque kiln this afternoon and they will be fired tonight. I found myself being much more careful with these pieces than with my own as I do want them to come out successfully.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Well here is me making the first pot of 2011, a small bowl in a set of 8 which will be used for pasta. I usually don't make dinner plates but several people wanted from 2 to 6 plates and the total I am making is 25. I don't think I've ever made 25 dinner plates at one time so this is a nice project. There are also several sandwich plates, bowls, and even a spoon rest to make.

The shop is quite disorganized at the moment and I hope to get some real work done on that tomorrow. There is 33 years of accumulated stuff laying around and it's time to begin to cull the stuff I will never use again. There are thousands of test tiles that could be digitized and turned into a wall or thrown away. Boxes and boxes.

Something weird is happening in my hand and I think it might be a Dupuytren's Contracture. It is like someone stuck a needle into my hand going up the little finger and there is a hard something inside the hand. It is beginning to pull the finger towards the hand.