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.