Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally dipping pots

Got all my little batches of accent glazes and decorating slip mixed and sieved yesterday and finished assembling a couple more pots, waxing, etc.  All glazes and slip had been sitting quite a while so it took a while to finish that job. As usual I didn't get to do everything on my "to do" list.

This morning I  mixed and sieved a couple of my flashing slips and started dipping pots.

It looks like I  have enough pots to fill the kiln with room for some  test tiles and the few re-fires from the Energy Exchange wood kiln maiden firing, which didn't get enough soda. Now it's just a matter of spending a few days slipping and decorating and then I'll have to make up a couple of batches of my liner glazes.

Time to head back to the studio to cover a few things,  call it a day and enjoy the rest of my wine while I go through my decorating notes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Before and after desk organization



The studio and cooking have kept me very busy lately. Yesterday I moved my desk and everything on top including the glass, reorganized all the tidbits of info and charts under the glass, cleaned the glass and got it back on, cleaned out and organized the file cabinet  and cleared off the slab roller. There are a lot of file folders  to go through in the quieter winter months; but for now, everything is a lot tidier. The slab roller is clear of papers and test tiles, and ready to do some slab work next week. The old computer and monitor are leaving to be replaced by the new laptop when needed; but right now I don't want the distraction and temptation of Internet access in the studio till I finish this cycle of work.

In addition to getting the desk and slab roller tidied, I  got most of the current batch of pots waxed, assembled and trimmed a couple more, mixed what was mercifully a small batch of one of my slips that had settled like concrete, and unpacked my order from Bailey - all in all a good, busy, productive day in the studio, rewarded with another lovely dinner at the Knife and Fork in Spruce Pine.

Today I'll mix some of the other slips and trim and wax the last couple of pots.  I've been up since 3am and hope I don't fade half way through the work day. My sleep patterns are certainly changing lately. Maybe it's time to learn to take naps like Jim.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bread making and studio time

Finally got those 80+ test tiles cataloged, made followup notes, loaded some of them into the tiny C10 electric kiln to fire tomorrow, set some aside for re-firing in the larger soda kiln and put the rest away. That was it for studio time other than filing some paper work.

Bread needed baking and thank goodness for the bread machine. The first loaf was our stand by oatmeal bread and then I decided to try a loaf of light rye (the one in the photo).  I also made a mushroom bisque for the freezer, but held some back for us to have as a first dinner course. 

After breakfast, if the fog lifts, I'll pick the apples off the 3 year old Liberty apple tree. It finally has more than 2 or 3 apples on it; and then I'll be back in the studio to throw more test tiles and mix up some slips and dip some pots.

This liberty apple is a new, somewhat disease free variety. Our couple of ancient apple trees have a lot of apples, but they don't look pretty because we don't spray; but they do make good apple sauce and pies,etc.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oatmeal bread and studio day

Have oatmeal bread rising, took care of some email, wrote out some new bread and other recipes and now getting ready to head to the studio to catalogue the slip and glaze tests that were  supposed to have been done yesterday;  but by the time I took care of some household things, got an order in to Bailey's for some tools, etc and spent what seemed like forever trying to find someone who sold replacement infinite switches for the kiln sitter on my little C10 electric test kiln, it was already past one o'clock.

Then there was a search for grandsons birthday present and by then it was too late for any studio time since we had  to go to Spruce Pine to shop for groceries, followed by another great dinner at the Knife and Fork..

Heard back from Aim kilns this morning with a price for the infinite switches. Every time I order one they seem to have gone up another 40-50%, so this time I ordered two!  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Test tiles unloaded first thing this morning

Yesterdays firing of the little Olympic gas kiln was certainly filled with some drama. At the lowest setting it kept shutting off, so I eventually got the pressure up enough to keep it going for a while. I wanted a fast firing because I knew I'd had to finish early so I could unload this morning because of the thunder storms arriving around 1 o'clock (current weather report). Then the fluke pyrometer stopped working; but fortunately that happened once the cones starting moving. I had a back up thermocouple and attached it and it still wouldn't register above 90 something degrees F. I got the manual out and nothing in there seemed to address the problem, so  I'll have to play with that and test it in the cone 10 small, electric test kiln in the next few of days.

The kiln is currently on a cart and was fired, surrounded with metal roofing pieces that  I cut and used to keep the wind out, but the problem is that the cart length is longer than the kiln, making it difficult to totally protect the burner system, so around C 9, the slightest breeze kicked it off. Fortunately I was near the kiln when it occurred. Working quickly I got the the kiln re-lit and continued firing and salting. The 7 gallon tank seemed to have enough gas left; but I opened the gas on the other 5 gallon tank that was manifolded with the other one, just in case that was the problem. I had to re-light the kiln 3 times at top temperature; but managed to get all soda solution in before it shut down again around 3 o'clock. At that point I just called it a day. I figured I'd have the information I needed. Since this kiln is so small (around 3.95 cu ft), I only 1 1/4 lbs of salting material -  a combination of equal parts soda ash and sodium bicarb and a 1/4 lb salt combination. I wasn't aiming for heavy salting just enough to liven up the slips.

This morning I unloaded around 7am. The top shelf had a flat cone 10, 11 starting. Slightly above the middle was cone 10 starting, and unfortunately I did not have a cone pack at the bottom but all the slips on the bottom shelf are very dry, so I think it might have reached cone 8 and certainly not any more. I'll re-fire those tiles in my tiny cone 10 electric kiln in the next few days.

The shelves were staggered well, lots of space above the tiles, so there was nothing to keep the heat from distributing fairly evenly other than  the fast firing. Having fired an old 7 cu ft California kiln, and hearing about other updrafts, uneven temperatures seems to be a problem with many updrafts. If anyone is firing this little Olympic kiln and getting even temperatures I'd love your input!

This morning I have to order a part for one of my tiny C10 electric test kilns and this afternoon I'll go over the tiles, make followup notes ,and  set aside the ones for re-firing. The re-fires should bring up more color on some of the colored slips. A couple will need to have new tiles made and fired in my regular soda kiln in November.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Firing after a shaky start

This is the first firing of this little, Olympic, gas test kiln. Yesterday I changed my plan to take it easy, when I remembered that I had purchased a diamond blade. So I headed to the studio and put the blade on my ancient, way too heavy, circular saw. It took a while but I was able to make two cuts on an old 5/8" thick silicon carbide shelf. Now that I had two more shelves, I decided to batch up a few more tests. Needless to say there was no time to rest my aching back.

At 4 o'clock I came in to get started on dinner and after dinner and a Netflix movie (The Greatest Game Ever Played), went back to the studio to put some things away. I covered the kiln for the night and went in to play with kitty, and read for a bit. I wound up falling asleep a little after 9, woke at 10, stayed up about 10 minutes and went right back to sleep. I was up a bit before 4am, so I worked on  the glazes notes and a bit before daybreak went out to turn on the kiln. The kiln kept kicking off after a minute or so and I was afraid that something was wrong with either the regulator or the pilot; but after about 6 tries and turning the gas up a hair more it stayed on; but that kiln is running away. At 8am it's over 850F; and those two small burners don't seem to be on that high.

Once it seemed to be holding, I came in to make breakfast and then went back out to the studio to get my soda/salt mix ready. At the rate this kiln is climbing it will be done before dinner! If it were pots instead of test tiles, mostly slips, in there I'd be worried about how rapidly this kiln is firing!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kiln loading

Just finished loading the little Olympic gas test kiln. I couldn't get all the tiles in because I was short of shelves. If I could figure out how to cut just one of my old silicon carbide shelves, I'd be able to fit everything in there; but I did get the most important ones loaded.

Firing will be tomorrow when I can start it up very early. This way if I run into a shortage of gas I can refill while the dealer is open.  Olympic says it can fire to cone 10 on 5 gallons of propane but of course that may not be for a prolonged firing. I have a 7 gallon tank and have the plumbing set up with a manifold, so I can also hook up the backup 5 gallon tank at the same time. Each, of course, has it's one on/off switch and hose., so I think I should be OK.

The rest of today is going to be spent doing some glaze math and catching up with a lot of snail and email to give my sore back a rest. Dinner is going to be margaritas and a chicken, onion, garlic, tomato, and serrano chiles stir fry with re-fried beans.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Informative video on Zuni pottery

There's some nice information and examples of early Zuni pottery on this video.

I'm down to the wire with these glaze tests. Yesterday I batched a few more and will batch the last couple today. My plan to load today and fire tomorrow is now on hold due to the weather report. I will load today but firing this this gas test kiln may have to wait till Tuesday or later.

If it's ready, I'll also be siphoning the terra sig. I'm not sure that the old Calgon is doing the job and I may have to add some Darvan 7 to those last 4 gallons. I'd prefer to have them settle out with the Calgon, so I'd have a good comparison between it and the Darvan 7 batch.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Terra Sig and test tiles

Heavy duty studio morning yesterday making two different batches of OM#4 terra sig. Four gallons on the left are done traditionally with the old Calgon and one on right it supposed to be a 3 hr version done with Darvan 7. After 4 hrs I didn't notice any difference, and haven't checked it yet this morning.

My back went into spasm after days of straining it with all those tests and then making and cleaning up after the terra sig, so I didn't get to make the other batches of tests on my list. After a short rest to let my back quiet down, I opted to pick all the ripe cherry tomatoes and make a pasta puttenesca sauce for dinner. Puttanesca was named after the ladies of the evening in Italy, who made this quick, tasty, easy sauce between clients. While sauce was cooking I mixed up a batch of no knead sourdough which I'll be baking  once it's finished rising in the next 1/2 - 1hr.

With an osteo treatment this afternoon I may not get any studio time today unless I can squeeze in an hour after the bread is done. There's always so much to I'd like to do and not enough time and limited energy to do it all!

Good thing I didn't fire the kiln yesterday. It poured last night and into the early morning hours, which would have been a disaster with a non covered, cooling kiln in the driveway. Next week the forecast is sunny most of the week, so I have plenty of time to finish batching those tests this weekend and may even manage to get in two firings - one with just test tiles and the other with re-fires from the pallet kiln that didn't get enough soda.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

45 test tiles and more to go

Test tile marathon should be finished by tomorrow. Each test is on 2 or 3 different clay bodies. I thought I might have room for some re-fires in the small, gas, test kiln, but it looks like there won't be room for them by the time I finish batching the rest of the tests.

Time to sit back and read my snail mail, then give Bonnie Kitty some play time. She has decided that she would like to be a studio kitty if I leave the studio door open and she can come and go at her own convenience. That won't work in another month or so; but by then she might be satisfied to stay put for a few hours. So far we've only have one kitty mug casualty - not too bad a start.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Driveway firing

Finally got a two day sunny forecast so I could do the maiden firing of this little Olympic, gas test kiln. I'm bisquing it to season the ITC100 coating. It's firing empty other than two  shelves and a few pieces of  ITC 100 coated kiln posts.

It took off really fast even on what I thought was the lowest setting, so it looks like it may be done by dinner time at this rate as long as there are no wind gusts to blow it out.  Right now it's over 800F. My makeshift metal and kiln shelves surround seems to be doing alright under these no wind conditions.

Think I'll change the days studio plan and make up some glaze tests so I can do a soda firing in it tomorrow or the next day if weather permits, with some re-fires and glaze and slip tests. I've designed a couple of alkaline base glazes in the hopes I can get those lovely alkaline copper colors without crazing. Problem is when you add enough silica to lower expansion, that acidic nature of the silica changes the alkaline quality and you lose the colors; And even with enough silica, sometimes the alkaline content is too high and you still get some crazing  Therefore,  I keep testing. I probably should do some of Ian Currie's grid testing one of these day if I could only find more hours in the day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Waxed pots and Sunday dinner

Got this small batch of porcelain pots cleaned up, waxed and covered and ready for slipping tomorrow. After some studio clean up, I came in to start on a roast chicken dinner. I made honey ginger carrots and mashed potatoes with the potatoes from our garden - an heirloom variety called "Bintje" - very tasty, big, all purpose potato. I'm not sure it will replace my favorites - Red Pontiac, but I wanted to try a couple of other varieties this season.

At my grandmothers house, Sunday dinner was always around 2 o'clock; but I couldn't make it that early today; but we were sitting down and eating a little after 4. Now I'm going to rest this aching lower back, drink my Cakebread chardonnary, and  make some glaze/decorating notes and maybe read some of the Gail Nichols "Soda, Clay and Fire" book. I perused the book when I first got it but didn't delve too deeply. It looks like a wealth of information  with great charts on clay body tests, her firing methods, etc.

I'd love to be able to get in the studio later but I think my back is voting for sitting still for the rest of the day, and maybe watching the men's final of the US Open if the rain in New York stops soon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shane Mickey TRAC show Burnsville

Here are a couple of pictures of my friend Shane and his wonderful pots from his opening last night at TRAC in Burnsville. Great new work Shane.

Got studio time yesterday trimming and pulling and attaching some handles on a few of the porcelain pieces  and throwing a bowl with the last piece of this current porcelain reclaim. The little bit of reclaim left is too wet to use, which is fine because I eager to get back to stoneware. Hopefully the couple of pieces left to trim will be dry enough to trim t and then I'll can do a bit of clean  and maybe even get around to mixing some slips to be ready for slipping and decorating tomorrow.

I'll get good studio time today since dinner will be easy -  Indian food that I took out of the freezer this morning. This damp, rainy day is perfect for Indian comfort food - cauliflower and potato curry, dhal, rice and Naan. Rice is the only thing I'll need to cook. The nice thing about cooking for two is that most of the time there are leftovers for busy studio or garden days.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Oh what a night

I'm not sure how well I'll fare today with only 3 hours sleep. It was one of those nights - wide awake at 2am and not able to get back to sleep. Today was going to be a studio day; but I have no idea how I'll function on so little sleep. Hopefully, a nap will be on the afternoon agenda.

Yesterday morning I ordered some casters for that little Olympic gas test kiln and a new spray gun with a built in compressor from Harbor Freight. Someone on Clayart recommended this high volume low pressure unit a while back. It was either that or buy  a third compressor. My little 1/2 hp one is fine for light spraying and my big one is just too big to haul around, so this self contained unit sounds like a good choice.

Pots were still not ready for trimming yesterday morning which was fine since friends invited us to join them for a play day. So we caravaned to Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway with their two classic convertibles - me in the very comfortable Jaguar with Laura driving and Jim in the more sporty Corvette with our friend Jim driving, then lunch at 12 Bones and a quick peek into Curve studios and garden, across the way. Twelve bones wasn't good as our first visit. The ribs were overcooked and dry. We all decided we wouldn't be rushing back there any time soon.

We took back roads ride home with a quick veer off through the charming town of Marshall. Jim and I had never seen the town and we will definitely go back some time for a longer visit.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Moving at a snails pace

Woke up with chills, headache and explosive tummy, so I'm moving at a snails pace this morning. There's a bunch of tomatoes that I need to blanch and skin, make a batch of pizza sauce and get that in the freezer. After that's done I'll head to the studio to put together and trim and sign the  few porcelains pots I had time to throw yesterday.

Yesterday morning I used some heavy duty tin snips to cut the pieces of metal roofing to protect the small gas test kiln from the wind. Unfortunately, I could only get enough from that big piece to cover 3 sides of the kiln, but I figure I can lean some bricks and a kiln shelf near one side; or maybe get the piece of scrap metal friend Shane offered me the other day.

I was hoping to bisque that little kiln  this morning; but not feeling well has put that off till the next free, sunny days with no possible rain in the forecast. Water is boiling - time to blanch all those plum tomatoes.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Fork Mt Pottery sale

Headed out early yesterday morning for another great potter show/sale at Fork Mountain Pottery, Bakersville,North Carolina. Here are a couple of pictures of the exquisite work of Suze Lindsay, Kent McLaughlin, Gay Smith and guest potter Silvie Granatelli.

Even though I felt there was no room in the house for any more pots, I bought 4 of them - a square dinner plate and salad plate of Suze's, the white basket in the photo with Gay Smith, and a small bowl of Silvie Granatelli.And miracle of miracles, we actually found suitable space for them! There is a huge selection of rather spectacular work there and if you can get over there today, you would be treating yourself big time!

I got a bit of studio time in the afternoon to trim a couple of porcelain dinner plates, get more porcelain reclaim drying and  threw a test yunomi with the slightly firmer porcelain. This clay is very well aged and if firmed up enough is throwing well. I was back in the studio at 7am this morning, (it was 45 F out there this morning), getting some of that soft porcelain into a few bridges to dry some more. Today, I'd like to finish up this clay so I  can start dipping and decorating some of the leather hard pots and later in the week get back to stoneware.

At some point this morning I might just get that gas test kiln out on to the driveway, load it  and do a bisque while it's on the metal wheeled cart. After researching the current Olympic models with wheels, I see that getting casters on those legs is a bigger job that I originally thought. The legs on those newer models have extra metal pieces on the base and one side so the casters can be welded to the bottom. I'll have to find a metal shop that can cut and weld similar pieces and the casters.

Friday, September 03, 2010

7 am studio time

At 7 am I headed to the studio to make a few more porcelain bridges with the Helios reclaim. Hopefully it will dry enough to at least throw a few plates or shallow bowls later. In the future if I'm tempted to work with porcelain, I'll batch some with some ball clay to make it more of a porcelainous type white stoneware.

Time to hit the shower, have a light breakfast, check the garden and harvest the days veggies before it gets too hot, and then head to the studio for a few hours work; but after lunch I want to get the ratatouille sauce made for tonight's pasta dinner, then I can get back to the studio for a couple of hours before dinner. I find that if I work to the last minute, I'm too tired to stand in the kitchen and food prep and cook for an hour, so getting all, or some of dinner prep done early works well for me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Throwing cream cheese - oops, I mean porcelain

Jim suggested we put off taking the little Olympic test  gas kiln apart until I get the casters and find someone to do the welding, so instead I managed a couple of hours of studio time to throw some cups, mugs, and a small teapot with the too soft, porcelain, reclaim.  It was so wet that I was practically throwing dry. I'll throw some plates and shallow bowls with the remainder twenty five or thirty pounds and then get back to stoneware.

Kitty Bonnie, decided for the first time, to actually spend more than  a minute or two in the studio and it was only when she found the papers on my desk intriguing enough to start knocking them down, that I literally showed her the door. Next time I'll be ready with the squirt bottle to zap her when she starts looking for mischief.

Time to feed kitty, hit the shower and get ready for dinner.