Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Carols

Last night I led the Christmas Carols in the Temple and for some reason I had left my guitar in "G" tuning instead of standard tuning. So when it finally came time to start playing, something was really wrong. I strummed the first chord of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and it sounded terrible. My friend Mark Billman was playing the cello and I just looked at him like I was in deep trouble. 

There were probably 75 people there and I was on the spot and at first I did not realize that I had chanted our daily morning hymm, the Sri Atma Gita, and that I always play that in this special tuning. So obviously I had to retune the whole guitar and it reminded me of one of my favorite poems, especially with so many people waiting.

The Guitarist Tunes Up

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conquerer who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.

Frances Darwin Cornford

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wieland Pug Mill -- Part 2

Here are the rest of the pictures. 

This is not a pugmill for someone who has no mechanical aptitude. I have had it apart and while I don't think that it will ever need to happen again, there is no guarantee. It is very, very sturdily built. 

This should go to someone who does not need a whole lot of clay at any one time, but who wants and will appreciate really nice clay. Again this is not a good pugmill for a large production studio because it is very slow. 

I am asking 2000.00 for it FOB Alachua, FL. 

Wieland Pug Mill

I have an old Wieland Pug Mill for sale and it will be an incredible pug mill for the right person.
It is a very heavy duty mostly stainless steel pugmill made by a small company in California. Charlie Wieland was kind of a genius/mad scientist who designed and built these pugmills and other pieces of pottery equipment. He is now retired. I think this one is from the 80's and I have had it since the early 90s. It cost 6500.00 when new. 

It has a 2 hp motor and it's very heavy and powerful. The clay that it makes is, in my opinion, better than the clay that I have gotten out of both my Bluebird and Venco pugmills, and is the best clay that I have ever used. It's very compressed and throws very well. You can wedge it but you don't really need to. 

The Wieland however pugs very slowly. When the 4 inch nozzle is on the pugmill, the clay comes out at about 12 inches a minute, so this is not a high volume pugmill. You get incredibly compressed clay but very slowly. 

The pugmill is on wheels so that it rolls around easily. There was a vacuum pump that came with it but it stopped working really well and I bought a  vacuum pump to replace it. It is virtually brand new. 

The clay comes in at the top, is extruded towards the chamber, and then falls through the  vacuum chamber and is finally extruded through a nozzle at the bottom. If you have a good vacuum, the clay is very compressed.

The augers are stainless steel and a material that Charlie called tabular alumina. I never got any rust stuff in my porcelain but there is one place where the clay could touch regular steel.

I could not get all the pictures of the pugmill in this one post so I will post the rest of the pictures in the next post. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bison Tools

It has been a long time since I have posted and the flu is one of the main reasons. It just has hung on for so long. Hopefully it is mostly gone. I do feel better and energy is returning.

There is also the fact that Christmas is just around the corner and I have not really done anything in the way of shopping. Fortunately I have been the target of some Christmas shopping but less than the last few years.

Ever since sometime in the 80s I have been using Phil Poburka's Bison Tools. Here is a photo of my first pair which lasted about 12 years. They are on their way back to Phil to have new blades put on them so they will be good as new. 

The bottom photo shows what happens if one of these babies is dropped. Fortunately this one can be fixed, or at least I hope it can. 

There is another one on its way that will not be able to be fixed and will have to have a new blade altogether.

These tools are expensive but they save so much time because they stay sharp even when working with porcelain. You can use them for years before they need to be sharpened. 


Thursday, November 27, 2008


Here at the Temple we have a vegetarian pot luck Thanksgiving dinner beginning at noon. Today the weather was beautiful and there were about 200 people in attendance. 

I however, was at home trying to recover from a really nasty cold. With the Holiday Show next weekend I don't have time to be sick but yesterday and today was not a choice. 

Tonight I draft a schedule and then try to keep to it so I can get everything done. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

26th Annual Holiday Show Invitation

I would like to invite everyone to our 26th annual Holiday Show. Directions are on the card. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Warm Throwing Water

Here in north Florida we have already a few nights in the high 20s and one night in the high teens. A nice chilly morning, a nice chilly bucket of throwing water. 

My solution is to put one of those coffee heater uppers in the water when I get to the shop, and by the time I am ready to throw, after my normal putzing around, the water is nice and warm. 

Meghan is holding the coffee doo dad. Be sure not to let it get near the plastic of the bucket. I hang mine over a throwing stick. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Books for Crystalline Potters

Finally the computer allowed me to copy and paste this information into the post. I had to switch to "Edit HTML" view, and then it just posts fine. 

OK. Here are some of the books you want to own if you want to learn how to make crystalline glazed pots. I have them all and I think they are all important, but I would say that the first four are essential. 

Don Holloway's book is also full of information and, if you are serious, you need this one too. (address: Crosscraft Originals, 18 Jana Dr., Monroe 71203; telephone studio (318) 343-9220 or (318) home 343-7658).

The last of these books, Nature as Designer,  is not just about crystalline pottery. It is a book about inspiration and it has many photographs of wonderful seed pods and natural things that will really inspire your sense of form. It's out of print but you can find it and it is really nice. 

Macro Crystalline Glazes by Peter Ilsley
Crystalline Glazes by Diane Creber
The Art of Crystalline Glazing by Jon and Leroy Price
The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes by John Britt
Contemporary Porcelain by Peter Lane
Contemporary Studio Porcelain 2nd Edition by Peter Lane
The Art and Craft of Crystals by Don Holloway (Self Published)
Contemporary Ceramic Formulas by John Conrad
Ceramic Glazes -- The Complete Compendium by John Conrad
Glazes for Special Effects by Herbert Sanders (Out of Print)
Nature as Designer by Bertel Bager (Out of Print)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Main Street Pie -- a Pizzeria

Our little town of Alachua has grown a lot in the 30 years that I have lived here. It used to be that you could not get any food at all but now there are a few restaurants, and a really fine place to get salad and pizza. It's called Main St Pie and it is run by the Langes -- pictured here are Brittany, Kristen, and Annette. They make a really fine pizza with great quality ingredients. 

We were in for lunch today and you always leave full and happy. The atmosphere is very friendly and, by the way, they are less than one mile from I-75. So if you are going through Alachua, FL, and you have a hankering for a really good pizza, you know where to come. 

Copy and Paste

Whenever I try to copy and paste from an application on my computer such as Word or Pages directly into my blog, Blogger draws two lines below the text box that I am typing into now, and puts the text between those lines. There seems to be no way to get the text into the blog post without just typing it in. 

Can anyone help?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


A friend of mine gave me a bucket of stuff that was labeled spodumene when she retired from making pottery. The stuff looks like a gray talc -- I was suspicious of it and so piled up a teaspoon or so of it in the middle of this glaze catcher and fired it to cone 10 in oxidation. It's very brown and unlike what I hoped it would be. 

I know that for awhile there were some high iron spodumenes going around. Could this be one of those? Any other ideas. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alain Fichot

Alain Fichot is a potter from France who is working with zinc crystalline glazes and the reduction process.

Click HERE for a link to a few slideshows of his work. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

John's Photography Setup

Here are a couple of snapshots of my photo setup. It has worked well for me for years and it's easy to set up and use. 

The lights are strobe lights and they are bounced off the ceiling. Normally there would be large pieces of Foamcore between the lights and the pot, but then you would not be able to see what is happening. But it is important that the direct flash of the strobes be protected from hitting the pot to be photographed. It's also important that the lens of the camera not be able to see the direct flash of the strobe and this means even more ballasts of Foamcore. 

The ceiling, in my case, is slightly magenta so it's important to set the "white balance" in the camera before shooting or the photos will be slightly magenta.

There is a frame hanging from the ceiling and it is adjustable because it's counterbalanced by four plaster cast Dixie cups which are suspended from the ceiling. The Dixie cups have round eye hooks cast in them so that they are easy to attach to the rope which supports the frame, and there are two eyehooks in the ceiling for each corner.

The frame is of 1 x 2, and there is Foamcore stapled to each side, and it is painted black and the edges are taped with duct tape. It's easy to move up and down. 

Finally the background is Formica and it's a piece that started out 5 x 9 feet. These have to be special ordered but they allow you to photograph larger pieces. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shipping FedEx -- Insurance Wake Up Call

I just had a show returned from the Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University and there were two boxes with broken pots in them. These boxes were insured -- so I thought -- for the full value of the pots, but, in fact, FedEx will pay no more than 100.00 for a loss of porcelain pottery or other art works. 

I ship with FedEx a lot. It's really easy to just come over to the computer and print out the labels and drop the package off at FedEx. I'm also a good packer having done it for almost 40 years so I have not known about this particular problem; It just has never come up. 

But the person packing the show got some things too close to other things and the boxes must have really been thrown around, and here we are. 

Here are some photos of just the inner box. It is a 16 inch cube and it was inside a 2o inch cube and well packed with peanuts and egg crate stuff. The first photo is of the box with the pot, the second of the box without the pot, the third is of the pot wrapped still somewhat in bubble wrap and the last one is just the shards. 

So my question is what do you do about this? Do you have separate insurance? Do you ship with another carrier? Did you even know that you were shipping without any recourse to the full value of your work?

The pot, before it's last voyage, looked like THIS. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Possible Fronts for Holiday Show Invitation -- Part 2

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on the Holiday Show invitations. I must say that the one person who did not comment was my wife Anne, and she did not think any of them were good enough. 

So I spent a couple of hours on Saturday and another couple on Sunday photographing some new pots as possible images. The following two were the ones we liked and we decided on the first one last night because we felt that it sort of jumped out of the background. So we were done. 

Except that today, I made an executive decision and decided to go with the second one. There is just something intangible about that pot that I like. It's one of the new satin matte glazes and I wanted to feature one of those on the cover. 

Again, thank you for your help. Will this be any better? I don't know but things are quite peaceful around here. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shelves -- For Michael Kline

Since Michael is just finishing up the inside of his studio, I thought I would share a shelving system that has really worked well for my shop. 

In the older days, you could buy at Lowe's a system called Spur Shelving, in fact that is what is shown in the photos. They sold uprights, brackets, and a few doo dads which we would mostly not use. These shelves are really strong -- will hold up hundreds of pounds and they are also very adjustable -- if you need to change the height you can do that instantly. The double holes for each bracket make them really seem sturdy. You can get the uprights in different lengths and the brackets in several different lengths too. 

Today Lowe's sells a similar system and they are compatible with the old Spur shelving. They are similarly heavy duty. 

You can buy something that looks much like this system at Home Depot, but it is not as well made and is not as heavy duty. It's not compatible with the old Spur shelves. It's slightly less expensive. 

Lowe's also sells fiberboard shelves which are covered with melamine and these are what I am using in the shop for the most part. Before installing these shelves I always paint the fiberboard so that it's more water resistant. 

It's a great system. If you ever have to move, you can disassemble them quickly and they don't take up much space. Nothing touches the floor. The whole thing looks very neat. It's not too expensive. They are really easy to install.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

When I'm 64

When I get older, losing my hair, 
Many (nanoseconds) from now. 
Will you still be sending me a valentine, 
Birthday greeting, bottle of wine. 
If I've been out till quarter to three, 
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, 
Will you still feed me, 
When I'm 64.


Sorry for this little indulgence but it only happens once in a lifetime. 

And my friend Marsha Silverman, who makes the most wonderful porcelain pots, is 65 today. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Porcelain Clay Body

Back in the late 80s I was working with Miller 550 porcelain and it worked very well for me, except one little thing. It's really a cone 9 clay and if I trimmed too thinly near the bottom of a medium sized piece, it would sag if I fired it hot, which I usually did. 

I contacted Karl Miller, who was at that time involved in the daily operation of Miller Clay, and he suggested Miller 570, a clay with higher firing temperature but still based on Miller 550. It was a step in the right direction, just not a large enough step. 

So I asked Karl to help me design a porcelain formula which could be fired to cone 12 without sagging, but still based loosely on 550, and this is my final iteration, some 20 years later. 

Porcelain Formula

Grolleg  55
Custer Spar 15
200m Silica 28
Bentolite L 1.5
VeeGum T 1.5

Plus add 44 grams of Epsom Salts dissolved in hot water for each 100 pounds of dry mix. 

I do not know the amount of water that is added to the formula, but if I were making it myself, I would determine the correct amount of water. And it would be pure water. 

Notice how this clay differs from the so called "Equal Parts Body", which is 25% each of Kaolin, Ball Clay, Silica, and Feldspar. It has way more clay, more silica, and less feldspar. 

My celadon glaze, the 4, 3, 2, 1 glaze from Leach, does not craze or shiver on this body.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Possible Fronts for Holiday Show Invitation

Here are 4 possible fronts for my holiday show invitation this year. I would like to know which one you think I should send out.

Lead Based Crystalline Mattes

Here are some of the lead based tiles I got out of the kiln yesterday. I plan to also post fire these in the large gas kiln in the next week or so. 

To me, at this point, the glazes do not have enough contrast between the light and dark and hopefully this post fire reduction will help them along a bit. 

Right now I am working on 2 different kinds of matte crystalline glazes. These, which feature a lead based frit, and the satin mattes, which are softer and more sensual to the touch. I really like them both. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Glaze Micrometer in Action

Here is a photo of the glaze micrometer being used to measure the glaze on a test tile and giving a reading of almost .0017, or seventeen thousandths of an inch. 

You can see how the plunger rests in the pad of my finger - It's right up above the 25 on the gauge - I'm using pressure to hold the needle against the clay body as the shoe rests on the top of the glaze. 

The knurled knob that you can see closer to my palm, is used to set where the needle is with respect to the background. As the needle wears down you have to make this adjustment. 

I have had this thing apart to work on it and it is really a very nice machine. Nothing about it is cheaply done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Glaze Micrometer Revisited

I would like to address some of the comments on the original Glaze Micrometer post.

First of all, when you are doing crystalline glazes, or any other type of glazes, the thickness is really important, but particularly for crystalline and other "art" glazes. 

You can buy a Starrett 643JZ at MSC Industrial for 319.97 and there are 35 in stock. You will have to grind the shoe down to a size so that it sets on top of the glaze -- mine is 3/16" x 7/8" and Bill Boyd's is 1/2" x 1/4" so it is not absolutely set in stone what size the base of the shoe needs to be. Mine does not work well on the inside of bowls and Bill has fashioned his for that purpose. 

You have to keep pressure on the needle while you read the thickness on the pot or tile. I had hoped to get a picture of this today but no one came into the shop to visit -- and press the button on the camera while I make the measurement. I will try to get a photo tomorrow. I do have a way to let the top "thingy" that you press down rest in the middle knuckle of my index finger so that it keeps the pressure on naturally. 

You also need to get a reading just after the glaze is dry enough so that it won't come off. You can wait 5 minutes but if you wait an hour, the reading will be off because the glaze will have dried, and it will be thinner. 

This tool is nothing like a hydrometer. If I understand correctly, a hydrometer is a tool that you put into a solution and it measures the specific gravity. The problem is that glazes are not solutions, they are mixtures of chemicals and water, and maybe electrolytes too. So while the hydrometer can be helpful in that you can, if you use no electrolytes, measure the amount of water to the amount of chemicals and get that right every time, what if your water changes? Say all of a sudden your well water has lots of sodium. Your hydrometer may not give you the answer you want.

Most glazes that are used by crystalline potters need to be adjusted with either CMC, a flocculant, or both.  The hydrometer does not seem like a good tool for this purpose. 

There is another way to measure the amount of glaze on a pot and it is used by industry a lot. They just measure the surface area of a pot and put on a specified amount of glaze, so you might see the amount of glaze expressed in grams/square inch. My friend Phil Hamling, uses this method and you can see some of his efforts Here.

If Burlon Craig could read the glaze thickness from a shard, and I'm sure you could get that good, he would also have to make the interpolation from a wet glaze to a dry one. The shard is dry and the glazes are wet. The early folk potters were really in tune with their materials. 

My friend Darrell Adams, who is the grandson of Bill Gordy, told me that he used to go out to find materials with his uncle DX and DX would tell him about the spirits in the rocks. I bet DX did not have a glaze micrometer.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't need one. It's been a very powerful tool for me. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Crystalline Matte Test Tiles

Here are a couple of crystalline matte test tiles which just came out of the kiln this week. I plan to refire them in a post fire reduction in my large gas kiln but wanted to get a nice photo of them as they are before post fire reduction. 

Just recently, I've been labeling my glazes with a number and a letter so that glazes are called 0-A, 0-B and so forth. It would be more efficient to use letters for both -- A-A, A-B, ... but I started this way and was too far along to change. Instead of running out at 256 combinations, you would have, by using all letters, 676 combinations before you have to add a digit.

The mixing notes are carefully kept in order so that all I need to write on the bottom of a tile is the number-letter and the thickness of the glaze. So a tile might say 1-R   15, which means it is glaze 1-R located in order in the notebook, and the thickness is .0015, as measured by the glaze micrometer. After the tile is fired, I write the firing it was in on the bottom in permanent marker. The kilns are hooked up to my computer by a program called KISS, and so the firing cycles are named and duplicable. And I keep the cones in a ziplock bag for reference. 

Probably waaaay more than you want to know.

26th Annual Holiday Show, Dec 6th and 7th 2008

Our 26th Annual Holiday Show is just 5 weeks away and I am busy making some utilitarian stoneware. While I mostly concentrate on porcelain and crystalline glazes, making stoneware is an opportunity to go back to my roots and make some things for customers who may not appreciate the porcelains. Stoneware clay is also a fine break from porcelain.

Here are some bisqued mugs and bowls -- and some porcelains in the background. I really have a lot of throwing to still do and the time is short, as always.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Terrified of Writing

As a freshman at the University of Florida in 1962, we had to take a reading and comprehension test and I made the 15th percentile of all freshmen. I had not written much in high school and I did not want to write much in college either so I majored in Electrical Engineering. We had to take subjects like Humanities and American Institutions which required a lot of reading and I struggled mightily with those. I just could not read fast enough and my comprehension was terrible. I was determined to not write any papers in college -- quite stupid as I look back on it, but this was a real fear for me and I gave in to it. 

My first course in Electrical Engineering was early proof that I was not going to be a successful engineer either so I switched to Math, a subject that I was good, very good, but not great at. I did make it through college without writing any papers and stayed for graduate school in Math. I took every course but one for the PhD but somewhere in here I discovered Ceramics, got my Master's degree in Math, and began to study Ceramics. I did have to write a Master's thesis -- On the Structure of Pre-P-Rings -- a subject that I could not tell you one thing about today. Well maybe one but not much.

I went to graduate school in Ceramics at The University of South Florida in Tampa and got an MFA in 1972. I had to write a thesis -- Some Structural Possibilities for Smoked Raku -- and so I got 3 degrees writing only two papers. Ten years of college -- combined writing under 40 pages.

As I look back on this attitude I find it to be incredibly short sighted. It's very difficult for me to sit down and express myself and organize my thoughts in a cogent way. I also struggle with organizing my workday and the overall management of my time. It's about seeing the "forest" and the "trees" at the same time, and I tend to see one or the other, but not both. I think the two things -- that is: the inability to write and the inability to manage my time and resources -- are linked to a place in the mind which is just underdeveloped.

My wife Anne has a degree in English -- actually the subdegree is called "Creative Writing and Linguistics" from UF here and she is quite a talented writer. See an Example. She is also a good organizer and manager. 

This blog is my first attempt to overcome this shadowy past. Hopefully the writing will improve as I become more practiced. But mostly I hope to achieve a new level of organization and consciousness through written expression. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tapping to Center

Tapping to center is something every potter should know how to do. It was taught to me by Steve Jepson when I was just a sprout. It's easy to learn. In fact many of the people who have worked at the shop have learned it and they were not even potters. Here's how to learn it. 

Take a coffee can and fill it with about 1/3rd sand. Get a bat with some sort of foam or a bat with something that will offer friction like surf board pads. Place the coffee can on the bat, start the wheel slowly, and start tapping the can with your left hand (if you are right handed) until it goes to center. Then place it off center and start tapping again until it gets to center. At no time are you to try to understand with your mind where to tap the can. You just tap it and when it gets to center you move it off and start again. Do this for 5 or 10 minutes and then stop. Do this every day for 3 weeks and you will be able to do it like a pro. 

The reason you want to use your left hand is that you will have a trimming tool in your right hand and you don't want to have to put it down. 

Tapping to center is way more flexible than using say a Giffen Grip. A Giffen Grip is a very useful tool and I would not want to be without it -- I use it to trim mugs when the bottoms are too soft to hold at center after tapping, but tapping to center is so versatile and quick that it is the best solution the vast majority of the time. It will save hours in the course of a year for almost anyone who makes pots.

Say you have a pot which needs to be trimmed in a chuck. (I sign my chucks "Charles" because they are very formal). You tap the chuck to center and then place the pot in the chuck and make sure the bottom of the pot is horizontal and then you have to center again because the chuck is not quite round and neither is the pot. So you tap the chuck to center again. It's not the chuck that you center but the pot.

Now you can trim the pot and if something goes off center you can just tap it back.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Katy Rush to SOFA

This afternoon Katy brought another of her sculptures to be fired. She doesn't have a kiln down here yet and I'm firing a kiln load for her. They are going to be shown at SOFA in Chicago -- Katy leaves next week to drive up. 

This last one is going to have to dry for a few days -- it's much better to move them at this stage of drying than when they are absolutely dry. 

They are hand built porcelain with no glaze. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jeff Zern to Berkeley, CA

Yesterday was Jeff's last day working here. He has been helping me the last few weeks and has been invaluable. He is very thoughtful and methodical in his approach. 

He is a very talented ceramic sculptor with a degree in Ceramics from the University of Florida and he is moving to Berkeley, CA next month after a time with his family in Pensacola, FL.

He wants to work and check out graduate schools on the west coast. If you are in Berkeley and need help here's a guy who works hard, is fun to be around, and is serious about clay.

According to Jeff, "There is no strong coffee, only weak men." He takes his black.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Glaze Micrometer

It's also important in glazing crystalline pots that the glaze thickness be checked as the glazes are very sensitive to how thickly they are applied. My answer to this problem was to take a Starrett JZ 643 Dial Depth Gauge and modify it so that it works as a measuring tool for checking the thickness of a glaze. The base of the shoe is 7/8ths of an inch by 3/16ths of an inch. This gauge will measure the thickness of a glaze to the nearest half thousandth of an inch. 

To use the meter you press the button on the top and a needle like point comes out and you stick that point through the glaze until it hits the bisque and then, while still maintaining pressure on the point, you allow the bottom of the shoe to rest on top of the surface of the glaze. 

This is one of my most valuable tools. I would not glaze without it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


My friend Bill Schaaf took this picture of me in a full yawn. I'm about that tired now. Time for bed. 

Mixing Glazes for Brushing

One thing that crystalline potters must be aware of is that certain crystalline glazes do not store well. If they are zinc oxide based, they could develop actual crystals in the wet glaze in just a couple of weeks. These crystals change the formula of the glaze and make it not so good.

So it's prudent to not mix up too much glaze, especially if you are working alone or in a small studio. When you are only mixing up enough glaze to apply to the pots immediately, the problem of how to apply the glaze comes up. Basically it comes down to whether you want to brush or spray your glaze. For many reasons, I decided to brush the glazes on my pots.

So what is the best way to prepare that glaze for brushing? It's pretty complicated but I'll try to explain it here and also let you know that I am still tweaking the process. Here is how I mix up 300 grams of glaze, my normal amount. 

Be sure to wear a mask and rubber gloves. You can get the purple ones at Sam's Club for cheap and just throw them away every time. 

Add the dry glaze ingredients to a one quart yogurt container. Be sure to have a check off system so that you don't make a mistake. I always make a check mark on my glaze mixing notes when the yogurt container that I am using to weigh the chemicals is on top of the yogurt container that is holding the glaze. That way I know what I have done and the materials have a chance to settle a little. It's good to have a slight breeze away from you too. 

When you have all the ingredients in the container take a dry heavy duty plastic fork and stir them until they are homogeneous. You don't have to go overboard here, just make sure you don't have large clumps of single materials. 

Add a measured amount of pure water. Don't use tap water as it will change over time. I usually add between 250 and 300 ml of water to the glaze, but this will depend on how you like your glaze. All I am saying is that water is one of your glaze ingredients and you want to know how much you are using so that when you get it right, you can add that amount each time.

Allow the glaze to sit for a few minutes so that the water can penetrate the dry ingredients.

Add about 3 tsps of CMC solution. 

When I mix CMC I put hot water in a blender and add CMC powder until I can't add any more -- the powder is not going into solution. I let it blend for a minute or so and then pour it into yogurt containers and let it set for a couple of days until the clumps dissolve. My solution is kind of thick -- not real thick like honey but sort of thick like maple syrup. 

Mix the glaze with a hand blender until you have dissolved all the clumps and it is ready to pour.

Pour it through a 100 mesh sieve and then back through the sieve into the original container, which has been washed out so that no granular stuff is still there. So you sieve it twice. 

At this point your glaze should feel somewhat watery because you have deflocculated it with CMC. You don't want to leave it like this or it will settle.

Bentone EW is a suspender that works much better than Bentonite or V-gum-T or Macaloid. I got some years ago from a paint chemist and I do not know where to get it now. I'm still playing around with the amount to add to the glaze but today I added one gram of Bentone EW to  300 grams of glaze and it thickened it and suspended it a lot. After adding the Bentone EW you have to blend it into the glaze and let it sit for at least a half an hour.

If the glaze seems perfect then you are done. But I usually add a few drops of Calcium Nitrate solution to help with the fluidity of the glaze. You will again want to use the hand blender (I just got three of them on sale at Macy's for 19.99 each).

If you get the right amount of Bentone EW you don't need the Calcium Nitrate solution. 

At this point, your glaze should be ready to brush. You may have to adjust the water so that the glaze is to your liking. 

Mixing Calcium Nitrate:

Add 5 pounds of Calcium Nitrate pellets to a gallon of water and blunge until the pellets are in solution. There is all this crap in the mixture and you have to get it out somehow. Some you can get off the top and some you will have to wait until it settles and then take the clear off the top. It will take you a few days until your solution is totally clear. You just keep decanting the clear. I have tried pouring it through coffee filters but even the very fine stuff  -- probably EPK -- goes through. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lap Wheel

Today we prepared pots for a post fire reduction. 

The first thing you have to do is fire the pot in it's normal firing and this one just came out of the kiln this morning. After separating the pot from it's pedestal and catcher it is wet ground on this lap wheel until the bottom is smooth and the glaze which might be on the bottom is gone. This is quite easy with this tool, which is actually a Crystalite Crystal Master Pro 12 with a 120 grit diamond pad. It is a wonderful but expensive tool -- if you do a lot of grinding of crystalline glazes, this baby will save you an enormous amount of grief and time. 

We have the kiln loaded and candling for the firing tomorrow. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lennie Kesl

I have been making collaborative works in red earthenware with my friend Lennie Kesl for over 28 years now. For a time we both taught at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville and one day I asked him whether he wanted to paint on some pots and he did. Here is Lennie at the ripe young age of 82.

This is one of the platters from the last batch. It's about 25 inches in diameter and is glazed with underglazes and glazes, used in Lennie's somewhat unique manner. He doesn't know anything about ceramics so he just uses the materials like paints. He might have an underglaze a half inch thick, or he might take dried up underglazes and crush them into little pieces and build little mountains. He really loves the glaze crystals that you get from Amaco.

During the time we were working on this series of 8 platters, our friend Rusty Hammer was making a video and you can watch it by clicking here.  It's called Making Plates.

Pottery Shop

I have lived in a spiritual community north of Gainesville, FL since 1978. 

This building has been my workspace for over 30 years. It was originally intended as a storage place for a construction company and I was given a small space in the corner, but over time my "Empire" expanded to include the whole downstairs.

When I first moved to the community I lived upstairs in a small room. Everything I had could fit into the back of a pickup truck. It's not like that anymore. I still like to keep my stuff to a minimum, but it would now take a  semi to move the shop. 

If you look to the right you can see the kiln room out back.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Porcelain -- My Favorite

Here is an example of the porcelains. This is a pot that was fired in the gas kiln and reduced during the final growth cycle of the crystals. It's not a type of firing that I do often because my kiln is not quite suited for crystalline glazes. Kilns for crystalline glazes are ideally nimble, and my gas kiln is anything but.