Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anniversary dinner

We celebrated our 52nd anniversary yesterday, with a lovely, elegant dinner at the Eseola lodge in Linville. It's a beautiful drive up to Linville and the lodges' gardens are always a visual delight.

The dead Dell laptop was packed up first thing this morning and Jim will drop it off for me after breakfast. The repairman was here the other day and did his best, but they forgot to include all the parts needed to repair it.

I still have to do more trimming and marking on the test tiles I threw the other day - an average of around 60 tiles for each of the 3 clay bodies. I cut them yesterday and got the holes in, but they were still too wet to mark the bases, so I used the little studio time I had to throw a few small test pots for the cone 6 firing, using the Little Loafers Glory clay which throws pretty much the same as the cone 10 version. The fresh clay was hard. I guess they make it that way because it has very little vertical strength if it isn't, and if it's softer, you have to throw practically dry. It's definitely not my choice of a claybody I'd want to work with all the time. My feeling is that you might as well work with straight porcelain; but unfortunately, they've been out of their cone 6 porcelain for weeks. In the meantime I'll work with what I have until I can get back to Asheville early next week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do your glazes respond to music

Do your glazes respond to music West Virginia potter, Jeff Diehl's crystalline glazes pots do. Check out his video.

We were hoping to have breakfast while watching Wimbledon womens quarter finals but our cable is out. AARGH! This Charter cable goes out way too often.

It looks like there will be blueberries to pick this morning. I'm seeing a lot of color on those bushes and the birds are visiting them, so I'd better get up there after breakfast and get our share for the day.

Scattered showers are in the offing starting early afternoon, so I'll head to the studio with all my cone 6ox project notes,throw some Cone 6 test tiles and then do some slipping of my cone 10 soda pots. Dinner is good leftovers, with just the last of the garden spinach to cook, so I should get a full afternoon of studio work.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cone 6 project

Finally finished all my cone 6 oxidation research - at least enough to make a good start. Steven Hill is making great work at cone 6 ox, using matte glazes as a base with the addition of ash and other accent glazes, using a firing down schedule. That schedule, the right choice of glazes and spray application of the glazes creates an intriguing, rich palette with great depth, that I think will work well with most of my forms.

I'll batch some of those glazes and fire them in a fire down schedule to allow crystal growth with the mattes. I'll also put some of mine and other cone 6 glazes which I've already tested in a conventional cone 6 firing, in the new, firing down schedule. So,there are lots of tests tiles and small test cups and glazes to batch in the coming weeks.

Now that I've got all my cone 6 information and notes together, I'll get an early start on tonight's dinner - rack of lamb, roasted garlic, rosemary potatoes and spinach salad, and chocolate granitas topped with whipped cream for dessert. Jim has already been down to the wine cellar and retrieved a Bremer family zinfandel - good choice for the lamb.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Computer hell the past couple of days

It's been a couple of days of computer hell with computer constantly freezing up, crashing and then refusing to open; but finally got it running this morning - at least temporarily. I had to reinstall Itunes which somehow got messed up during all those crashes. I'll spend the day moving important data files and doing a lot of cleanup to free up some memory. I think it's overheating, which is the only way to explain why it suddenly opened enough overnight to allow me to hit F12 and let it start up.

Needless to say there's been no studio time - just time to harvest and clean my spinach and put meals on the table. In the meantime I'll keep Wimbledon in the background while I continue this cleanup and backup, make a spinach and strawberry salad for lunch and porch sit with friends tonight. If the computer behaves itself, I may get some studio time tomorrow.

Time to make the poppyseed dressing for the spinach salad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Asheville day

We headed out to Asheville early. It was a heavy duty shopping day with 8 stops which included a stop at Highwater for some clay and new thermocouples and some other raw materials and a bunch of small buckets, and stops at several food stores, including Sams club, then a great lunch with niece Andrea at Chai Pani.

We brought home some sushi from Earth Fare, so I didn't have to cook. After all that shopping, driving and unpacking the car and getting all the groceries put away, I was ready to just sit and relax with some sake and sushi.

I got a some cone 6 clays for my planned, experimental cone 6 soda firing and cone 6 oxidation firings. They were still out of the P5 porcelain, but I got some Little Loafers glory and a light buff stoneware. Those along with the BW white stoneware I have on hand should give me a good idea of how these cone 6 glazes will perform on a range of bodies and I have a few leftover bisqued Helios tiles which will give me an idea of how they'll work on a pure porcelain body.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Koryo celadon eye candy

These Koryo dynasty forms and glazes are exquisite; and when you consider some of them are close to 1000 years old, makes it even more remarkable.

The past couple of days I've been catching up with my planting and garden care. Normally I would have reached this stage weeks ago. Yesterday was more of a kitchen day after spending some morning time picking raspberries. Jim's Fathers day pate is made, and that was all he requested for tonights dinner. So I'll just make a nice tossed salad to start.

It's raining hard at the moment, so it looks like I'll be able to get in the studio after breakfast instead of my planned hour of garden time. There are pots to slip and decorate which have been in the old fridge which is now doing duty as a damp box. Getting all this planting finished and getting on top of garden maintenance has really been consuming all my creative time and energy. Fortunately I'm caught up enough to now give minimum morning time to the garden when weather permits and get on with making and firing pots.

My next firing is going to be cone 6 soda in the small Olympic kiln; but I need to get to Highwater Tuesday and pick up some cone 6 clays before I can start on that project and the cone 6 oxidation project after that.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ken Matsuzaki

Check out the wonderful work of Ken Matsuzaki at the above link. If it doesn't work just copy and past this:

The gardening marathon continues; but I should be finished with the majority of my planting this afternoon. This morning I had to clear some virgin areas to create more planting space and got watermelons, parsley, and another Anaheim pepper planted, thinned and transplanted some corn seedlings, planted some large purslane (yep, the edible weed that seed companies have worked on to get a bigger plant), harvested some lettuce and picked some black raspberries. As soon as I have lunch I'll be back out transplanting the last couple of tomatoes, some lacy marigolds, and planting some 4 o'clocks and bachelor buttons if I can find space.

Some of the seedlings I temporarily planted closed together need to find new homes which is going to be a challenge unless I pulled out a bunch of volunteer perennials. I have another problem - identifying two groups of seedlings, so I'm going to have to go through this years seed packets for some clues as to what these mystery seedlings are.

Tomorrow I'll finally get back to a studio schedule after an hour or less of morning gardening maintenance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Elusive Teabowl video

This video "The Elusive Teabowl" from a workshop at Harvard, is a lovely peek into the making of these traditional,ceremonial and other tea bowls.

My personal preference in pots, those I always gravitate to at any gallery or shop, are the earthy pots which reflect the wood, soda or salt that have contributed to their rich surfaces,, so I will continue as long as I can firing my soda kiln; but probably firing it less often while I explore these cone 6 oxidation firings. I keep reminding myself, as I'm doing the planning of this cone 6 oxidation work, of a quote I once heard "You don't have to make pots you like, you just have to like the pots you make".

We're enjoying a coolish, cloudy morning which will be great to finish my planting once it warms up a bit. With the good bit of rain we got yesterday, the ground is going to be wet and cool, so I'm spending this morning, sketching some potential pots for the cone 6 oxidation experiment. I think a lot of my forms will work very well with the brighter glazes I want for Cone 6 oxidation.I'm not interested in trying to mimic reduction glazes in these lower fired, oxidation pots, but rather, want mainly brighter colors as a contrast to my soda/salt fired pots.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden clean up and planting

Another no studio day; but I knew that would be the case today. Instead of getting to the planting straight away, I spent a lot of time on rose trimming, dead heading and a lot of weed and volunteer pulling in the morning. Then I came in to make a fruit salad with almond cream for lunch and after lunch I was back out planting more peppers and a dozen cucumbers.

One hole took a half hour to dig. It turned out that the nearly 1cu ft hole had about 1/3 or more cu ft of rocks that had to be dug out. The little knoll next to my gallery was part of the old gravel driveway parking area and I've been planting there for 5 years and just when I think I've hit all the bad spots, I find another one. I also picked some more snow peas so tomorrow I'll be doing a snow pea and chicken stir fry for dinner.

When the thunder started I thought it was a good idea to take my shovel and head for the house, so I didn't get as much planted as I would have liked. Since then, we've had a couple of thunder storms pass through and we're getting a good amount of much needed rain. It's always nice to get a good rain right after planting. It saves me the time and it's easy on the well.

Since I didn't finish up the planting, I guess the studio will have to wait one more day. The forecast is good for planting tomorrow and there's winter squash, French pumpkin, a few more pickling cucumbers, a few more more peppers, two of three more tomatoes and watermelon to plant and some feeding to do, as well as the ever present weeding here and there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gardening morning

It's a beautiful, coolish morning, so I'll be out transplanting some peppers and tomatoes this morning and some other feeding and weeding. Some critters ate most of my corno de toro frying peppers, so I need to get to Walmart this afternoon to see if they have some similar replacements.

Tomorrow I'll get back in the studio if we put off the trip to Asheville. I need to call Highwater this morning to find out if they have all the cone 6 clays I want to try for those glaze tests, or at least find out when they are expecting them. With all the clay business they have it makes you wonder why they don't buy another mixer. It seems to happen too often that they are out of clay because of lack of enough equipment to keep up with the demand. I've learned to call first!

We could use some young, ambitious person to fill that void. Wouldn't it be great to have someone local mixing great clays run through filter presses. One can only dream. :-)

Here's the C6 porcelainous recipe, that looks like it would be a good throwing body from my recipe files that I'll try. I have other reicpes but I have these ingredients on hand.
FORBES Cone 6 Porcelain (not a true porcelain because of the ball clay)

36 EPK
14 OM#4 ball clay
22 Silica
24 Neph sy
4 Bentonite (I'll probably add 2% V gum T that I'll slake overnight before adding.

I'll make a very wet mix of the body, let it drain in some old pillow cases, the let dry it on plaster bats till it's throwing consistency. With a little addition of some vitamin c, or beer, it would be ready to throw in 3 days. The vitamin C trick is something Angela Fina came up with years ago. It works if you're going to use the clay within a short period of time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day after the TRAC tour

The last day of the tour was pretty slow - just two cars in the afternoon; but I sold six pots with those two cars and got an order for a teapot, so the day worked out fine. Since I had a lot of non interrupted time, I decided to retrieve a big rubbermaid box of cone 6 glaze test batches from the basement and went through a couple of buckets of cone 6 tests tiles and selected several possible glazes that would work for a firing I'm planning, possibly later next month. I added a bit of water to all these containers of dried glaze and these will all have to get remixed an sieved later; but first I need to get some cone 6 clays to test, throw and glaze test tiles and see how they work in a slow, firing down schedule in the larger electric kiln. My initial tests were fired quickly in my small test kilns.

I'm not planning on giving up my cone 10-11 soda/salt firings but rather, want to add a line of cone 6 oxidation pots which can be priced more reasonably than the soda/salt fired work. Since I'm basically looking for brighter, summery tones, which will be a nice contrast to my earthy soda/salt pots, I'll probably settle on a porcelain or white stoneware. Highwater has 3 possibilities - a white porcelainous stoneware - Little Loafers Glory, P5-6, a porcelain and a white stoneware. I'm hoping one of them will give me good glaze results as well as be suitable in soda/salt and be able to be used for small slab pieces.

Right now it's time to cut some spinach for tonight's simple ham steak dinner, then make more follow up notes on these glazes. I want to check the formulas and see if any are suitable for testing as liners and exterior glazes in cone 6 soda, which I will be exploring as well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

TRAC tour last day

We have a large selection of pots still available and there's smoked salmon dip and black bean and pineapple salsa and cookies for munching. Come and enjoy the gardens which are looking great after the good rain last night.

Keeping busy during the tour and enjoying the relaxed flow of friends and customers stopping by. My new square charge gizmo wouldn't work yesterday, so customers paid cash or will be sending me a check.

I checked the Square help site this morning and have a few possible fixes; but they did admit that once in a while a dud unit gets past them. I'll test it with our charge card later and if it doesn't work I'll have to request a new unit.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The minute I got up, I was in the kitchen chopping fruit and veggies for the black bean, pineapple,salsa for the TRAC tour. It's a very refreshing salsa with a lot of attitude. After breakfast I'll make the smoked salmon dip for the non spicy food lovers; and there's always cookies and pretzels if they don't like the salmon. I'm glad I didn't make those for the first day of the tour yesterday. Other than a friend who stopped by on her way from town, I only got one car that arrived about 15 minutes before the 4 o'clock closing and they made a purchase.

With over 100 studios on the tour now, they've extended the tour by the half day Friday; but it looks like tour goers, wisely hit particularly areas since these 100 studios are very spread out over two counties.

This is the first year they got my location right on the map so it will be interesting to see if I get more traffic. Fortunately I usually get a good ratio of sales per car; but with the economy as it is, and rain in the forecast we'll just have to wait and see what the rest of the weekend brings.

I'm already chomping at the bit to get back to work in my very clean and tidy (for me) studio.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day one of the TRAC tour

Yesterday I was able to get in some good garden time, since I figured the studio was in good shape for the tour. I mainly dead headed roses and other flowers, pulled some weeds, and cut flowers to make some arrangements for the tour. After I got the flowers done, I spent the rest of the time doing last minute extra clean ups and putting more things away. Tour time is always a great opportunity to do a major studio cleanup.

There wasn't time to get to my desk, which I'll start on today. Right now I need to get up to my office and print out new gallery and studio signs, then on to the studio after breakfast to do any last minute things. Since the tour is only noon to four today, and I don't think I'll have a lot of visitors, I'm not going to put out more substantial munchies till tomorrow - just cookies and apple juice today.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Square arrived

My little Square connection arrived yesterday and I unpacked it this morning and checked it; and it looks like it's linking fine to the Square app. I had to link it to my checking account and I'm ready to take charge cards, using my Ipod plus with the Square App and connector. I just have to get back on their page to watch the demo again with the page up on my ipod plus.

Got a bit of studio tidying very early this morning and after breakfast I'll be back in the studio to continue organizing, particularly my desk. The studio is clean and ready for this weekends studio tour. The only other things I need to do are do some flower arrangements today, and some food prep tonight or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Studio is tour ready

I'm pretty well ready for the TRAC tour which begins at noon Friday - 100 artists studios in Mitchell and Yancy Counties in Western North Carolina will be open through the weekend. The hours will be noon to 4pm Friday and 1- to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.

Today with my helper Betty, we got studio floors, buckets and tables cleaned. I got the wrapping and hospitality tables ready, and the studio display area is all set up. Tomorrow I'll do just spend time doing some re-organizing of small things and Jim will, as always, take care of the separate gallery, which just needs a quick dusting and vacuuming.

We got the tiniest bit of rain mid afternoon - not enough to do much; but it looks like the neighboring towns of Spruce Pine and Burnsville got quite a bit more.

Well, my potatoes are grated and drained, time to mix up the rest of the ingredients for tonight's potato pancakes. We're planning a relaxed evening with a Netflix PD James mystery. Life is good!

Two days till the TRACstudio tour

Here's a young racoon we spotted at dusk, munching on the cherries on the Japanese cherry tree right off our front porch. Our presence didn't phase this little guy one bit!

The TRAC tour, here in Western North Carolina, starts Friday afternoon, so I've been busy the past two days getting the last pots sanded and priced, redoing my studio display area and a lot of studio cleanup donkey work that I'll continue this morning.

After doing yesterday's hand watering, Jim helped me lift and dump several hundred pounds of reclaim kiln I'm no longer using. Hopefully that clay will halt a bit of erosion we have on the other side of the bedroom garden area. After I scrubbed those buckets, I moved the pots from the studio A frame display and got the frame washed down and turned around, so the pegs for hanging mugs and small pitchers were accessible. After setting up the display, I tackled one wheel area - washed all the tools, re-organized them, swept that front area of the studio and put away a lot of odd bits and pieces. By 4 o'clock I was wiped and come in and do some early dinner veggies prep.

After dinner and Jim's generous pour of wine I wound up falling asleep and missing the end of the Hercule Poirot mystery we were watching, but the nap perked me up enough to stay awake for the PBS Pete Seeger 90th birthday celebration which went on later than I usually stay up. It was a day well spent.

I picked a lot of snow peas this morning, some of which will be stir fried and served as a side dish with the potato pancakes I'm making for dinner. Time now to start breakfast, hit the shower, then head to the studio.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Mish mash kind of day

Bad night - wide awake at 2am and tossed and turned till after 5am before getting a little bit of extra sleep, so I've been dragging myself around trying to get little things done. My clay trap needed major cleaning, the studio needed to be cleared of a lot of junk pots, which I and the hammer took care of, the pug mill towels needed to be re-moistened to keep the clay from drying out, the little gas kiln and tanks had to be moved to the back of the kiln room, and the few salvageable pots from this last little re-firing needed to be sanded, washed, and priced. Our handyman came over to take care of my house "honey do" list and I cleared a corner of a table in the kiln so he could bolt my vise to the table.

I could have taken Saturdays firing a bit higher; but I thought it was high enough to get the extra salt on the pots, which it was, but some of the re-fired, pinholed liner glazes just didn't settle down, in fact they were worse which was a puzzlement.

This little firing was worth the time and trouble though. I had some soda slip and glaze tests in there that I was happy with. I've been trying to get a warm, satin, ivory glaze and some known ones I tested were either too white or grayish, or too yellow and I finally came up with one of my own that is very promising. I'll have to test it a bit higher next time. It looks great at cone 10 around 3 o'clock. I would post a picture; but the picture I took doesn't show the true, warm color and I couldn't figure out how to use Paint Shop Pro to get the color right.

After those studio chores, I came in and got a loaf of whole wheat started in the bread machine and made us a lunch of hummus, tomato, avocado and salsa in pita bread. Then after lunch I went through the clayart archives making notes on various peoples firing tricks for the Olympic updraft kilns. Seems people have had a lot of problems firing these kilns before they were able, through trial and error to get them to fire properly. Some of the suggestions were interesting, like the one to correct back burning by wadding up screen mesh and stuffing it in the burner tube, but away from the orifice. Some said it fired best with shutters wide open, others said it fired better with shutters at 1/8". Some said no baffle shelf, others said baffle shelf but keep it only 1 1/2" from the lid, and so it went with lots of different approaches to solving similar problems.

I bought this kiln 6 years ago mainly for glaze and slip tests and maybe some refires; but had not fired it other than to seal the ITC 100 coating, until about a month or so ago. That first time, it turned out, my regulator was the wrong type for the Olympic kiln and the kiln kept kicking off. And that wrong regulator also killed the solenoid valve - an expensive replacement after only one glaze firing. So for this firing, I was starting with all the right plumbing and the speed of firing went well (no stalling issues), but the temperature top to bottom was uneven even though I was firing slowly. Next time I'll follow some of the other suggestions like raising the first level of shelves a bit more,(Olympic suggest 3" and on person said 4" worked better) and creating a goal post against the kiln wall, over the burner ports, using narrow kiln posts, to get more flame to the bottom. I'll also stagger the shelves more, even though Olympic says you can use all full shelves on this size model.

I'll be eager to give it another go when I have the time and a bunch of smaller pots. Right now I still have a lot of studio cleaning and organizing to do to get ready for the TRAC tour which starts this Friday.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Firing day

Got the small Olympic gas kiln started at 7am and it's now at 1150F. The new plumbing seems to be working but still getting some back flame from the burners, even though the orifices were cleaned right before firing and the shutters are opened to the recommended size. The burners are a bit tilted, making them off center coming up in the to kiln and I just didn't have a strong enough wrench to try to turn the pipe that they're attached to. I'm going to have to deal with that before the next firing.

It's a pretty calm sunny day; but as you can see, I've got this kiln well protected with a crazy assortment of corrugated metal pieces, metal can lids and kiln shelves,to prevent any wind from blowing out the burners. If I'm happy with this firing, I'm going to have to look at the possibility of getting a vent and putting it indoors with the larger soda kiln,so I don't have to deal with waiting for a sunny day to fire.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bread baking morning studio afternoon

A loaf of no knead bread is in the oven. When that's done, the rest of the day is going to be spent in the studio. I was too wiped after the planting the other day to load the re-fires; but did manage some after dinner time to do a bit of studio cleanup. Continuing computer woes, cooking, having to do a lot of hand watering during this hot, very dry weather, as well as other household things have been eating up my time as well.

Tomorrow is the only day with no rain predicted so I'm planning on firing those re-fires in the little Olympic gas kiln. As soon as I get the bread out of the oven, I'll get those pots wadded and reloaded.

We desperately need rain. I've had to do a lot of hand watering the past few days. Every day for the last ten days, there's been possible thunderstorms in the forecast and we haven't gotten a drop. With temperatures in the high 80's and over 90 for many of those day, a lot of the garden is under stress- good thing I used a lot of straw to mulch the vegetables. Even so, I'm still giving a little water to some of them.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Warren MacKenzie video

If this doesn't work just copy and paste this URL:

I've finally got the old laptop to start backing up files - I hope! I'm just leaving it be until the back up is complete. In the meantime I'll finish email on the newer laptop, then head out to the garden to plant a couple of roses before it gets too hot. It's going to be another scorcher today, so I'll get into the studio later and load those re-fires in the Olympic and get load some pots in the bisque kiln, which I should be able to fire as soon as I get this latest group of leather hard pots slipped, decorated and dried - hopefully by the weekend.

In the meantime I'm going to get my potatoes on for potato salad to go with tonight hot dogs. It's too hot right now to spend too much time in a hot kitchen.