Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Wishing all a Happy New Year filled with joy, abundance, more love than you can handle and continued personal growth. After reading a lot of 2014 predictions and astrology reports,  it seems that we may have plenty of opportunity for personal growth in 2014! If they're right, it won't be boring, that's for sure!

My morning has been a bit lazy and boring - watching Mel Brook's Frankenstein, while doing email, looking up some recipes and making out my menu for the next ten days.

Yesterday was a mercury retrograde kind of day with issues not yet resolved on a software issue thanks to Photoshop Elements 9 software telling me I already downloaded it on 3 computers, which I hadn't done. And after a half hour with one tech who said he renewed my license, which didn't work, followed by him saying it's a technical problem and sending me to someone else who after all this time tells me that they no longer support their older versions. So now I'm stuck with only being able to have this software on my Dell which is continuing it's slow death. They referred me to their forum, and of course, more wasted time, since there was no fix on there for this. This kind sort of thing can turn one back into a luddite!

I'm not opposed to getting a newer version but the reviews on version 12 suck because it doesn't handle raw files. Whose dumb idea was that!

The latest apple update on my iPod touch has been another major screw up since it now won't send mail. So I spent time searching out that problem and it seems there's a very long list of that and other bugs tied to Apples new IOS. Steve Jobs is probably rolling over in his grave over what they did with this latest software. At least I'm not getting other peoples e-mails or some of the other crazy issues which some people are reporting!

Got some mixed, but mainly, good health news yesterday, so the day wasn't a total loss even with ongoing software challenges, and breaking my favorite, newly filled, with a great Claret, expensive, Riedel wine glass last night. It was a very interesting day to say the least; and I'm hoping today won't be quite as interesting. LOL I was definitely ready for this boring, quiet day, until we have our celebratory, lobster New Years Eve dinner with family and friends and welcome in 2014. Jim offered me his, but I'm winding down 2013 in prosperity mode, so I just ordered another pair. Wine does taste better in these Riedel glasses!

I re-synched the iPod touch last night and I'll be seeing if that has fixed anything. Meantime, I've got the heat going full force in the studio and am hoping to get in a couple of hours in there this afternoon. I think this will definitely be a better day!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Baby it's cold inside

After spending all morning going through my old vegetable, fruit, flower and herb seed packets, making a list of what I have that is still viable, and what I need to buy,  then going through several seed catalogues (they're arriving in droves this week), and ordering a bunch of things, it was time to head to the studio. But, before I do, I need to voice one of my pet peeves about catalog shopping. Why don't the order forms fit their envelopes!!!! Rant over; and on to the next one.

 I thought that after four hours of having two heaters on, the partly insulated, garage studio, should be warm enough to test the new centering arm. Wrong!

It was still too cold and damp in there unless I wanted to put on another layer of clothes; and frankly, after our latest electric bill was double what it normally is, due to the crazy, record breaking, freezing weather the past several weeks,  I decided to just shut down the auxiliary heater and turned the main heater way down to the low 60's and called it a day. 

Time to head to the kitchen to put together a healthy salad to go with an indulgent dinner of a couple of pates (my own and one very special one Santa brought from France), on buttered toast rounds and a nice bottle of Cab. Oh yeah!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Centering arm

Got this new centering arm installed yesterday. It took a little adjustment getting it put together and getting both parts, centered but didn't take very long - just a bit awkward for these old bones to get down on the floor to keep checking to make sure I wasn't hitting anything under the wheel.  I didn't get to test it out but I think I got it very well positioned. That was about all I had time to do in the studio yesterday. The rest of the day was cooking, backing up files, ordering things like vitamins, and just re-charging after a very busy few days of Christmas celebrating.

This morning we had to get the outdoor Christmas decorations down and stored, and my handyman helper and I did a bit of garden cleanup and finally got all the tomato cages and bean cage taken apart and stored. I also had him put more chain on my light box to lower it a bit. Now I can get the back ground paper up and start taking some photos. We also had the kitty litter/clay, mucky mess near the entry way cleaned up. When we had all that ice and no rock salt, as an emergency measure, Jim used kitty litter. It worked but it also turned into sticky, horribly messy clay when the ice started melting and neither Jim and I were up to shoveling that and carting it away. Thank goodness for George, the handyman coming to the rescue.

After all those and other chores were done and George left, Jim headed to the store for a few groceries and  light bulbs (no more 40 or 60 watt bulbs, and maybe others,  will be made after January 1st), I decided to make a broccoli cheese soup for lunch. It was delicious. Jim made a face when I told him what I was making and after he ate it, he announced "I really, really, enjoyed that". What's not to like - milk, butter, cream, chicken stock, broccoli, sharp cheddar cheese and onion. 

It's dinner out tonight, so I'm taking this blogging break, then dealing with some snail mail and email before getting ready for a lovely dinner with the family and friends. It's will be a good end to a very busy but satisfying day.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wrapping things up

Today is going to be a day of wrapping up a lot of little things. Our daughter flew back to Munich yesterday with suitcases filled with moms pottery and other heavy, canned and food items that she can't get in Germany.  Our son and his family are here in Oregon for another five days, so the merriment will continue tomorrow night with dinner at their country club and later, with their traditional lobster dinner at their ranch, New Years Eve.

We have been wined and dined royally this week, but I'm ready to cook a simple pasta with broccoli, pine nuts in a olive oil, garlic and anchovy sauce tonight; and I think I'll skip the wine again tonight. It's time to go back to counting calories a bit.

Bodhi our little furry family member hasn't been feeling well the past day or two and I've been cleaning up some big messes. He seems better this morning; but last night was not fun for me and certainly not for him. Why do they always have to have these messy accidents on the most expensive, antique, rugs in the house! I suspect people were feeding him way too much people food the past few days. I hope it's nothing more serious than that. This little rescue dog has had enough pain and suffering in his life already!

This morning I'm trying to figure our why my computer is telling me that my backup can't go through because there's not enough memory, yet the drive shows that there is. I'll try to reformat it and see if that will work. Otherwise I'll be looking for a new stand alone hard drive for this laptop. I re-loaded my Photoshop Elements last night and when I tried to load the second disc for editing movies, it said it can't install it because I don't have Photoshop Elements installed; but I do! AARGH! Good thing I didn't upgrade to the newest version 12 since it appears that a lot of people are having problems installing it as well. Plus, the new one doesn't handle raw images well, which doesn't make any sense. Hopefully they'll fix that with the next upgrade. Meantime, I'll stick with my old version 9.

It looks like I'll be spending the morning attempting to solve those mysteries, and ordering some vitamins on line. I did manage to get a huge amount of cleanup and filing  done on these two old laptops the past few days while our daughter was here. She treated us to her wonderful cooking skills and  between  hers and our daughter-in-laws great meals, it gave me  some extra time to deal with these computer issues.I also used that time to find a couple of wooden trays on ebay that I can use either as slump or drape molds and I'm looking forward to using them in another week or so. That's the nice thing about some of the wooden items - many have un-footed, smooth bottoms so you can use them both ways.

My centering arm arrived a couple of days ago. I only managed to get it out of the box and will finally get into the studio this afternoon and get it installed. It's just been too busy around here this week for studio time. Once the rest of the family is back in L.A., we'll get back to our pretty laid back, nesty, retirement lifestyle - just the way we like it. Life is good when you focus on the good!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating

The three grand kids were sitting patiently in their bean bag chairs waiting for the other grand parents to arrive so they could start unwrapping their presents. I have to say that they were very patient indeed! We adults were sitting behind them, with cameras ready to snap some moments of joy as they dug into this mass of abundance!

If Santa's load was as heavy at other houses as it was at our family's, I think Santa is being fitted for a truss right now!

There were lots of electronics delivered as well as an amazing array of clothes, games, football memorabilia, roller blades, helmets, books, wine,  pate and other food goodies as well as books for we ancients ones.

Hope everyone who celebrates this day is surrounded by loving family, friends, good food, good cheer and of course, some lovely gifts from Santa!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How old am I now!

One more year and I'll have made it to 3/4 of a century on this planet. Amazing! Our son Sean  and daughter in law Nicole sent this beautiful, birthday bouquet. I am definitely feeling all the love today!

Jim and I had my  usual birthday celebration last night instead of tonight, since our daughter Erin is flying in tonight. We always go out for a great dinner on our birthdays and last night I chose Sammy's in Talent and it was a great dinner. My squash soup with croutons and pumpkin seeds was just fabulous as was everything else we ate. 

The rest of the family flies in tomorrow and it's going to be a great week with the whole family being here for Christmas - the first time in many years.

My Christmas cooking has started and I have a big popcorn can filled with Chruschiki - my once a year, Christmas ritual. Next will be personalized gingerbread cookies for everyone. I will probably ease back on more cookies making since our daughter will be here and I know she's going to want to be out and about to do some U.S. shopping at T.J. Max and Ross for Less. Germany does not have discount stores. Who knew!

The house is clean, my paper piles have been drastically lessened and the studio will just have to wait until after the holidays. The coming week is for joyous celebrations, remembering all that has been good in our lives and hoping for the best in the New Year for our family and all of the beautiful souls finding their way in this crazy, wild, up and down incarnate experience.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Akira Satake throwing and trimming chawans

Loved his chawans and the technique is something I'd love to try one of these days for soda pots. If I live to be 90, that might be possible! LOL My "to try" list is already too long for what little retirement time I'm giving to the studio these days.

The past two days have been dealing with everything but studio chores. Instead, the fridge is now full, Christmas presents are bought and many have arrived already, some unexpected problems solved and other shopping, like a Martha Stewart designer coat for our furry kid Bodhi has been purchased and tried on.,

Bodhi, our rescue Jack Russell who was badly abused, still suffers from PTS, and anything new or changed freaks him out, so trying to get his little paws through this new coat was quite the challenge. When he gets even slightly frightened he lays on his back in a submissive pose, but not before he pees where he's standing- this time it was on the Oriental rug near the front door! So a two minute job turned into about twenty minutes of repeated tries to get the coat on him and get pee blotted up and the animal scent remover liquid applied and blotted up. You get the idea!

Yesterday we were out doing some more pick up grocery shopping and buying Christmas wrapping paper; and of course a Pet Smart shopping spree for a doggie coat and cat and dog food. The only studio thing I did two days ago was mix up a clear glaze which is still settling because I added too much water. I'll get that on a test tile after lunch.

Three days ago I got an email telling me that my new centering arm was delivered. It wasn't! Seems there was a major screw up and my unit got sent to someone with my name in Fairport, New York- 3,000 miles away!  They had my phone number, name and email right but not my address. I quickly checked their web page but couldn't find an email address so I just filled out a new order form and put the information in the comment box. They didn't get back to me but the next day I got another notice from UPS that my unit was sent; and this time to the right address. It just means waiting another ten days. If it's delivered on time I will have it by Christmas eve.

With our daughter, son and family and other in-laws and friends  being here before Christmas and some staying till after New Year's,  I'm not planning on any more throwing till after the holidays. Right now I'm having trouble just finishing up the last few studio chores with so many unintended interruptions and minor problems that have to be addressed, eating up my studio time.

Right now I'm headed to the kitchen to make piri piri sauce to go with the Mozambique Piri piri chicken I'm making for dinner tonight.  I think a margarita or non alcoholic frozen slurpy (my mixture of mango peach juice and cracked ice blended into a cold delicious, slushy mix), should go well with all the heat from this dish. If I have enough lemon juice left over after making the piri piri sauce, the margarita may have a slight edge.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More Christmas decor

Jim did his usual, fabulous job, with the village setup up under the tree. Here's the farm section, which is my favorite.

Yesterday I managed to get everything on my studio "to do" list done, except one last slip to get on the last tile. This morning I've been busy with things like fileting tonight's steelhead. These fish are delicious but super boney, so after fileting, I got out the needle nose pliers and spent another 15 or 20 minutes removing all the other hidden bones.  I also spent some time placing  a big order for flour and other baking items at  King Arthur Flour which has a rare $3.95 flat shipping fee.

I've been using their Sir Lancelot high gluten flour for pizza and the shipping for flours would cost more than the flours, so I took time to order a bunch of things and got a $10 off coupon because my order was over $60. Nice.

Email, morning chores, some time on Pinterest and the morning was gone. Time for a quick lunch and on to the studio to weigh out a couple of honey and amber glaze tests. I'm hoping to get these few tests fired by Sunday at the latest since everything is taking forever to dry in the garage studio. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So much for clearing the slab roller

This is why I had to clear the slab roller a week or so ago. Since it's my only working table surface it also serves as a temporary repository for freshly thrown pots, test tiles, and just about everything else that is waiting to be filed, dried, finished or stored.

Got  some good studio time to get a lot of those little containers of slip remixed, sieved and on to these test tiles. I also mixed up a green slip with 5% copper oxide. I'm happy with the white slip but want to incorporate a couple of old timey colors like the amber and copper that mimic the old lead glazes.

The studio heat was turned on at 6am, and I'll be back in the studio after breakfast to trim a couple of pots and get them slipped , then  continue mixing up a few more of those old test slips batches and get them on to the rest of the tiles.

 I want to weigh out a test batch of a copper green version of the Fake lead glaze, as well as another clear recipe I found on line yesterday. It's really simple - 88 Frit 3195 and 12 EPK.  I know that high alumina is what's needed to avoid the problem with these low fire, high boron clear glazes and frit 3195 has a lot of alumina and is also high in boron - more so than either 3124 and 3134. The person who posted this recipe raved about it and with only two ingredients  it makes an intriguing possibility.

My clear is very good but I have to be so careful to make sure it's thin enough, otherwise I get that white shadow on the red clay body, which is not pleasing, so I'm still hoping to find one that isn't so fussy about the thickness.

Todays "to do" list will probably fill up the day. It takes forever to mix up some of those older slip test batches. I've been doing it by hand which take a long time since so many of them are a pretty hard, gummy mass after sitting for months. Maybe I should put the old blender to work and save some time; but some of those containers have very little material left and I was concerned about losing too much of it by using the blender. At this point, I'm getting tired of this job so I might just might give up my luddite hand method and make the blender do the hard work.

These old blenders can be purchased very cheaply at charity shops and are great to have around the studio for mixing up glaze and slip test batches, and gums like CMC.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pizza success in between studio chores

The new pizza dough worked out great - crispy bottom, chewy, yet foldable; and the dough was really easy to handle - not super wet like the classic Neapolitan dough I used for a while. Jim liked it so much he even gobbled up the crust. I'm making it again tonight to see if more flavor develops after another day with the cold rise.

Miracle of miracles - finally got a full day in the studio - started late morning and went back after dinner and worked till 8 o'clock. I got a lot of various things done - threw a couple of items, trimmed test tiles, sorted three bowls of test tiles; and pulled the one with the slips I want to re-test with a light amber glaze over, as well as a couple of honey and amber test tiles. Then I got the old test batches out to reconstitute today, got a stoneware buff clay ground down, mixed and sieved to test as a yellowish tan slip, made push handles for one of the texture slabs that I missed, and a lot of cleanup to boot!

Going through the various test tiles I found a nice deep caramel glaze using 10% Turkish Burnt umber that I've had for years. Unfortunately, I only have a tiny bit left and no one seems to sell Turkish Burn umber unless I want to order a 50 lb bag from India. I'll keep searching but so far, no luck.

I like the glaze a lot, other than some tiny black specks, but I'll re-sieve it in a 200 mesh sieve and see if that makes a difference. I also want to weight out another test batch with the other burnt umber I have on hand which is a totally different color than the Turkish, which is a deep rich, reddish brown, as opposed to the greyish colored regular burnt umber. I can't imagine that the currently available material would give me that rich color; but all will be revealed when I can get around to testing it.

This morning I back engineered the material to get a recipe to see if I could make my own Burnt umber in a pinch; but realized immediately that it would be a waste of time and energy.. If the greyish one is weaker,  I can only add a bit more iron to get the right color. Burnt Umber is basically a mixture of iron oxide, some manganese with small amounts of calcium, magnesium alumina and silica. Come to think of it, I can probably just add 5.39 red iron and 1.15 % manganese carb since those represent how much I would get if I added 10% burnt umber. One more test added to the "to do" list for another day. Today is going to be dedicated to dealing with reconstituting those colored slips, getting them mixed and sieved  and on to test tiles.

Time to stop multi-tasking and get back to eating my oatmeal after I remove the blob that just fell on my shirt!

Monday, December 09, 2013

A different idea for a slip trailer

I used to have one of these cow horns but never thought of using it as a slip trailer, as Alex Wilson does. My grandmother used hers as a sausage stuffer. It was one of those things that just disappeared years ago in one of our moves. Pity, it would have been lovely to put it to use again as a slip trailer.

One of our friends is a rancher and our local butcher may be another source for one of these. Our ancestors knew how to make tools out of just about anything. These days many tend to just buy something that may not even work as well as some of those tools made from found items.

Yesterdays cooking went long into the afternoon and by 4 o'clock I knew I was not going to get any studio time. Between some morning Christmas decorating, a nice chatty visit with our son and his friend, my usual morning correspondence and blog, as well as having to deal with a dangerous ice build up near the front of the house, plus the cooking and other things just ate up all the time; but by 4 o'clock I had enough pizza sauce for 8 dinners made and the new pizza dough is in the fridge on it's overnight cold rise. We ate well, and took care of a lot of other chores, so the day wasn't a loss. I fared pretty well on my limited 5 hrs of sleep.

The consistency of my new pizza dough, after mixing and the first rest looked and felt  pretty good; but the test will be in the flavor and the texture. The new pizza sauce tastes really great. If anyone is interested you can check our my other blog ""

We were going to get out today to do some more food shopping but are putting that off till tomorrow since it's not going to be above freezing today and the roads are still very icy. Fortunately the freezer is full and so are the cupboards. The new generator is hooked up to the whole house so we're covered for just about anything this winter.

Time now for a big breakfast and then some computer work, while I wait for the studio to heat up. With the 2 heaters on in full force, instead of just the one built in unit, it should take a lot less than 4 or 5 hrs to make the space comfortable. If there are no morning interruptions and mini problems to solve like yesterday I should be able to get somethings done in the studio today.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Thanksgiving is over, there's snow on the ground and it was 5 degrees again this morning, so it seems appropriate to put a photo of our Christmas tree up today. Jim finished the village scene under the tree last night and I put the swag up on the fireplace after breakfast.

Putting the second heater in the garage/studio did the trick and I got a little bit of time in there yesterday once I pulled myself away from computer and other chores.

The problems I had with my ipod not sending emails after the latest upgrade suddenly vanished when I re-synched the unit. Thought this was a good bit of information to share since I know a lot of people have had this and other problems with the latest Apple software upgrade.

I spent time yesterday looking at slip trailing videos on tube, trying to get some clue as to the subtleties of the process. Sad to say, it didn't help too much. I did manage to throw a large bat of test tiles which I'll slip today. My effort with slip trailing was pretty dismal. This time I put my band wheel on my wheel head, thinking that position might work better. It didn't. :-(

 I did manage to get one little cup OK, just doing one little slip trail design and some sgraffito; but the first effort was a mess of gargantuan proportions and I spent a long time trying to clean it up with a metal rib. GRRR!  I'm doing great slip trailing on a bat, so I guess one might think I'm not far away from even some minor wins on pots that entail more than my success with slip dots!

Another thing I found was that I will have to do slip trailing on a pretty wet pot. Even though the pots were leather hard, albeit pretty hard, leather hard, the slip cracked when it dried. I sprayed the pot in and out and it helped a bit but that is not the way to go. So, I will be throwing more practice cups tonight or tomorrow and trying the slip trailing on a pretty wet pot which is what I've seen Hanna McAndrew and Dough Fitch doing.

Our son and his friend Jimmy stopped by for a visit this morning so I'm running behind. Evidently winter coho salmon are now running which made for a successful morning of fishing. Sean's friend caught a ten pounder. It was a native so it had to be put back. I'm just glad they survived two days one the river in a metal boat, in this freezing weather. Sean brought us a quiche so that will take care of dinner so I can stay a bit later in the studio.I have a fistful of glaze recipes  I created yesterday and am hoping to get at least one sample batch weighed out today.done today; but that may not happen since there still lunch to make.

After lunch I need to make pizza dough and pizza sauce for tomorrow night. I used the on line pizza calculator in my never ending effort for a good New York style pizza clone. All this slip and cooking  research keeps me out of the stores this time of year and that's a good thing on many levels.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


It was 5 degrees F this morning and our impassioned, hunter son, was out on the Rogue river in this  morning's freezing weather, duck hunting and fishing for the second day in a row. He put some duck breasts aside for us after yesterday's venture, so I'll need to research some good recipes for wild duck.

We got a lovely covering of snow yesterday. It looks like about 7 inches - just enough to be pretty but still not too much to deal with - good thing since we don't own a snow shovel. My only shovel is a lady's short handled one and all the others were given away to friends when we left North Carolina.

People in  this part of Southern Oregon aren't used to much snow here in the Rogue Valley, since most of the time the snow starts at the 2,000 foot elevation; and because they're not used to it, we see a lot of accidents even with this little bit of snow. The morning paper says there were over 100 car accidents yesterday. We were very wise to sit tight and stay warm.

My garage studio never got warm enough yesterday and since we were dealing with the electrician and other things, the only pottery related things I did were to use my glaze chemistry program and design a few more clear glazes to try and did some research. I also did a lot of music files cleanup on my smaller laptop. How in the world did I get 4 copies of everything on here! It is a puzzlement. At least now I should be able to do a backup on the C drive which was maxed out before the clean up.

I'll be starting my nutty fruity bread after breakfast, but I'll first put a space heater in the studio which hopefully will get it up to temperature, since my heavy duty heat and air unit just isn't cutting it in a garage studio in this weather, with all the air leaks in the doors. We insulated the ceiling last year, but with this weather, the big heater and the added insulation isn't enough to make us for all the heat loss from the lightly insulated garage doors. The electrician suggested that we leave the heat on low overnight, which we did. I had it on high the night before and it was still cold, so I thought it would be best to just shut it off, but the electrician said it was better to put it down to 60 or 65 and then turn it up in the morning. So that's what we did.

 If I didn't want to finish those test cups I wouldn't even consider going in there today; but I want to get that small job and another couple of things completed today because I want to get a start my Christmas baking later in the week and hopefully my centering arm will be arriving soon and I can try it out. Meantime I have throw some more test tiles today. My new search is for a rich amber glaze that is more reddish than brown - kind of the color of the Samuel Adams beer that Jim sometimes drinks.

Right now it's time to plug in the portable heater and make breakfast. The man of the house has requested buckwheat pancakes this morning, over riding my healthier oatmeal option; but he's cute and he's the one walking Bodhi in the snow three times a day, so he gets extra points when it comes to menu and wine selections.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Let is snow let it snow let it snow

Yesterdays small accomplishments, working in bed, with my portable studio setup. Details below.

We're still dealing with very cold weather, or at least cold for these parts. A neighbor said it was 12 degrees early yesterday morning. Now it's snowing. Nice! The roads are already icy, so we're grateful we can just be "nesty" today.

Our electricity was out from 9am to 5pm yesterday and the electrician still has more to do today. Fortunately our bedroom fireplace was more than adequate to keep us warm for those 8 hours. As I had planned, I brought my portable work table which is just a Michael's plastic version of a bed tray with two deep side pockets to hold tools, etc. into the bedroom with a couple of slip trailers, some slip, a sandwich bag of clay to try my hand at some line and texture rollers. That tray has been a very useful thing. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of  $10 and less with one of those weekly 40% off coupons. I've used it a few times to do some sgraffito work in the house.

It was fun making those little rollers, an idea I got from one of the Ceramic arts daily video samples  and I think I did pretty well for a first effort; but I won't really know how well they work till they're bisqued. 

As I suspected, the thinner slip worked better and I dug up an old slip trailer that I put together years ago after seeing one at a John Glick workshop. I'm sure most know about this, but in case there's a reader who doesn't, you grind down the tip of a football inflator, and insert in a child's ear syringe (the blue rubber one). It was the most comfortable of the one's I've been testing this week and it holds more than those small plastic containers. I have a much  larger trailer that looks like a lot like a syringe used for a whole other purpose, that I've yet to try. Practicing with these smaller trailers, I  have spent more time filling and cleaning them than actually trailing.  I'll try that larger one today along with the one I made with the bicycle inner tube.

Another type I saw on you tube used mylar; but that requires cutting the mylar in 10 inch squares, forming a cone, taping the sides, filing with a syringe, folding the top and taping it and then cutting the tip with a nail clipper. You can't re-use them so it seems like a lot of effort. At least you don't have to clean it out after use and I'm thinking that the softness of the material might eliminate the problem of dragging I've been experiencing. A small zip lock sandwich bag might just work as well by just cutting one of the corners, so I'll give that a go before I rush out to buy some mylar.

The studio heat has been on all night and it's still too cold to stay in there unless I want to dress like I'm driving a team of sled dogs during the annual Iditarod! If it's still that cold after breakfast, I'll just bring the slip trailers, slip and a plastic bat in the house and practice until the studio warms or my trailing shows significant improvement. If that turns out to be the case, I'll bring a test cup or two in the house along with a banding wheel and see if I can actually do more than just one little scroll line and  couple of slip dots on a pot! Where there's a will there's a way, isn't there!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Hiding in the bedroom this morning

This morning the electrician is coming to do the wiring for our new generator which will enable us to just turn it on and have everything working without having to individually plug in everything. The bad news is that the town has to turn off the power which is going to be off at least 4 to 5 hours, so I won't be getting any time in the studio after 9:00 am this morning.

I played with the slip trailing again but didn't have much better success than the day before. Big groans and a few unmentionable expletives were being heard from the studio yesterday! I finally gave in and did a quick sgraffito on one of the cups and just did a few slipped dots on the cup. One of the cups was to test how the pale yellow slip would look overlapping part of the black slip. A couple of the cups I slipped late afternoon were still too soft after slipping, to hold to slip trail, so I covered them after dinner and will try deal with them on Friday.

We're planning on just holing up in the bedroom with the gas fireplace on. I put some new and scrap clay in the pugmill before I left the studio last night and mixed it a bit; but I let it sit over night and was in the studio at 6am pugging, de-airing a couple of batches of clay .

My plan is to bring a little clay and my portable work table into the bedroom after breakfast and make a few texture tools and line rollers, and will definitely practice some slip trailing. I thinned the slip a bit more last night and am hoping that might work better; but first I'll get my email done before they turn off the power.

Fortunately we have a gas stove top to heat water for tea and make some soup for lunch.

My original plan for dinner tonight was to have friends over for some pasta, but we're taking them out to the Mexican restaurant instead. We've been waiting weeks for the electrician to show up to hook up this generator and do a couple of other little jobs for us, and since I have no idea when the power will be turned back on or how long it will take for the whole house to heat back up, going out to dinner seemed like the wisest choice. I'd rather have an icy margarita in a warm restaurant than a hot dinner in a very cold house!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Slip trailing frustration

Found this late 18th to mid 19th century slip trailer photo yesterday. I have some goose feathers coming from China and I think it would be fun to make one of these. Maybe by the time the feathers arrive, I'll be a bit further along with my slip trailing efforts.

Question of the day: How come I can slip trail fine on a bat and screw it up so badly, and repeatedly on a pot! What a frustrating time in the studio. Can't figure out why the same slip in the same slip trailer, a day later, is coming out thicker, on the pot than on a bat a minute before! AARGH!

I finally just gave up out of frustration and decided to finish decorating the tree, ordered Christmas presents for the grand kids, and made a very satisfying veggie and shrimp tempura, and rice dinner. The sake helped me forget the rotten time in the studio.

Jim got the village buildings set up under the tree and today he'll start on setting up all the little figures. It will take him most of the day to do that; but he loves it and does a great job every year. If you see a photo of the tree up on the blog tomorrow, you'll know I had another day accomplishing nothing with slip trailing on actual pots.

Since I'm a glutton for punishment I'll will try again today; but instead of starting on one of the slipped cups, I think I'll start on a plastic cup. Before I step foot in the studio late this morning,  I think I'm going to check out You Tube for some videos showing people actually slip trailing again and see if I can spot some of the subtleties of application. Watching someone like Hannah McAndrew who is so very skilled, made me think this would be a fun thing to learn; but obviously I wasn't watching as carefully as I could have, or should have. So I will look for any subtle parts of the technique and see if I can spot what I'm doing wrong.  I might also try a different slip trailer. A while back I made several of the type that Mary Wondrausch and Hannah McAndrew use, made of bicycle inner tube, a cork and the tips of inexpensive ball point pens.

If you hear screams and groans coming from Southern Oregon this afternoon, just ignore. It's only me having another crappy day teaching myself how to slip trail, and failing miserably!

I'm planning a comfort dinner which should heal any wounds of the day  - an old fashioned tuna, noodle and broccoli casserole with crescent rolls. And since I'm thinking that I might need more solace after what may be another frustrating slip trailing, self training, session, I might just make some chocolate pudding for dessert, since sake would not be a good pairing. Anyway, I finished what was left in the bottle last night, and the chocolate pudding is a better choice for a 60's comfort dinner - don't ya think! 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Testing slip trailers

The first thing I did in the studio yesterday was to take out three slip trailers to test the pea green slip I wanted to trail on some of the black slipped cups.The middle container will be the one to use. The opening was just the right size to make it flow nicely - not too thin or too thick. I wasn't sure of the thickness of the slip, which was like a loose yogurt; but it seems to be a good consistency. The three test pots I dipped in the black slip were too wet and fragile to hold, and tilt so I could do the trailing lines with the pea green slip, so I just used a piece of cut out plastic credit card to make a quick swirl on both sides of the cup to test the cut out and to see how I'd like the contrast of the bit of red body color coming through the black slip. The cut out credit card will work fine, but I have to position myself and the pot a bit better than I did.

Yesterday was a busy smorgasbord kind of day - the usual blog and email chores with my first cup of tea, baking a loaf of no knead sourdough bread after breakfast, ordering a couple of studio supplies on line, and putting more decorations on the tree. After a plowman lunch with the freshly baked bread and some cheese, I headed to the  studio for remixing my black and pea green slips and testing the green slip and stopping at 4 o'clock to make French onion soup for dinner.

Some of the things I ordered yesterday were a small Talisman 120 mesh sieve from Axners, and a  flexible ruler which seems like a handy tool and a lid caliper Bailey's. From U.S. Pigment (they have great prices on stains and other raw materials), I ordered a couple of pounds of black stain and pea green stain. I love those little Talisman test sieves and have them in several sizes. I was happy to find the 120 mesh in the small test size to use for test slips or just when I need a cup or two of slip for trailing.. For larger batches of slip I have a larger sieve but why bother to clean a big sieve for a small test batch.

Tonight I'm making tempura and rice for dinner. l got my veggies prepped and shrimp cleaned after breakfast and was hoping to get a full afternoon in the studio; but dealing with others things like my camera not being recognized by photoshop elements. Still haven't solved the problem but I removed the memory card after several tries and that did the trick.

I have to admit this new slip trailing skill I'm attempting to learn is scaring the heck out of me. This feels like a long learning curve ahead. I'll wisely practice a bit more on a clean bat before I start on the pots; and I'm not looking to do anything precise - just some gestural trailing. A painter I'm not! I have the baby step of making dots down pat, and some small gestural lines, I think! But, it's time to try trailing a horizontal line on a vertical pot. I shutter to even think about what can go wrong! Maybe I should have made those test cups smaller! :-) At least the cup that I slipped in and out didn't collapse, even though it looked a bit touchy for a while!

I remember seeing one of Tony Clennell's blogs with a photo of a bunch of mugs that had melted in a puddle after being slipped in and out, so I was aware of that pitfall and hoping the pot was leather hard enough and the slip the right consistency. It was a little iffy there for a bit but I got lucky this time.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Time for Christmas music

Now that Thanksgiving and post Thanksgiving celebrations are over, it's time to get into Christmas gear. Yesterday we drove over to say goodbye to the family before they headed back to L.A. I helped our daughter-in-law for a few minutes just to put away some tomato cages, but I wasn't dressed for any other heavy garden cleanup. Jim and I had to make a stop on the way home to pick up some grocery items our organic grocery store didn't have the day before.

I'm still dealing with my iPod touch problem after updating the operating system, but that will have to wait to be fixed when I have time to get on line with a tech person. I followed the instructions they gave me the day before  and I'm still not able to send mail from the unit. I can receive mail but it keeps telling me my password is wrong. AARGH!

Anyway, after that frustration it was time to make dinner and after dinner I started decorating our Christmas tree. It's 90% done and I had to quit so I could start on a batch of sourdough bread which I'll be baking late this morning. By then we were both ready for TV in bed and watched a wonderful Nature show on parrots. Who knew parrots could live till they were 90 or that parrot rescue is a big problem because people buy them without realizing how much work they are, or buy a breed like the green Amazon, which possess great talking and singing skills, but which also bring along a pretty pissy, biting, aggressive attitude. So if anyone reading this blog is entertaining a parrot as a pet, please adopt rather than purchase one. There's a big parrot rescue place in Santa Barbara and I'm sure if you google "parrot rescue" you might find one close to you.

My clay supplier was closed Saturday, so Jim is going to run over there today and pick up some clay for me. He's loving the new car so he's up for doing these run around the valley chores for me. I need him to pick up some extra lightweight chain for my light box so I can finish my photo setup and stop at the store for some gruyere for tonight's soup.

 I'll have to juggle my time today - working in fits and starts . After breakfast the bread dough has to be set up for it's second rise, so while it's doing that for a couple of hours, I'll get in the studio and get my slips remixed and test the two trailing slips for thickness and do some test slip trailing before I actually try it on those test cups. While the bread is baking around noon, I'll turn on some Christmas music and finish decorating the tree and the mantle.When the bread's baked, I'll get back to the studio to slip and decorate those tests cups.

We're expecting rain and about an inch of snow, so it's the perfect night for Julia's comforting, and warming, French onion soup with one minor change - I prefer Gruyere to Swiss cheese.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday morning eye candy video with Matsui Kosei

We're still in celebratory mood after Thanksgiving. Last night was leftovers with family and friends at our sons and tonight it's more partying with friends.

Yesterday we go the Christmas lights and wreaths up outdoors and the Christmas tree is on the table waiting to be decorated; but that probably won't be until tomorrow or Monday.

This morning I have to figure out why all the app updating and operating system updating has made my app to connect to the internet with my iPod touch unworkable. So it looks like I will be dealing with that issue after breakfast for a bit.

With a lot of cold and snow on the way in a couple of days we want to get out and do some food shopping. I also got my light box hung up in the guest bedroom, and set the new folding table in place; but I need to stop at Lowes hardware for a expandable curtain rod to attach he background paper. My photography setup is in front of the window and it was the only place in the house where I could it.. Slowly, all these little projects are coming together.

My centering arm should be coming in another week or so. As I thought, the potters were off doing a show and when they got back there were a whole bunch of orders for the centering arm waiting for them. So I'll be picking up a few boxes of clay today. These days with storage being almost non existent I'm just buying small boxes of clay. If they  can't fit under my wedging table, they're not coming home with me. 

Now I just need to find time in between Christmas decorating, getting the photo setup finished, cooking and other chores to get int the studio to finish up and make some more  pots.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Kirk Mangus passing

Just found out yesterday that Kirk Mangus passed away on the 24th. We've lost 3 great potters and teachers in the past couple of weeks - Angela Fina, Val Cushing and now Kurt.

On a brighter note - hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving yesterday. We had quite a large crowd. It took 3 extra big dining table setups and one smaller kids table to fit us all. We'll be doing leftovers again tonight. After all that heavy eating and good wine drinking, we opted for plain oatmeal this morning - a feeble attempt to counter all that cholesterol in the gravy and mashed potatoes and desserts yesterday!

We have the handyman coming over in a half hour to get our heavy boxes of Christmas decorations down from the rafters in the garage and get our tree up on the table. Neither Jim or I can handle that weight or bulkiness alone and Jim is not allowed to lift more than 5 lbs of anything and I can't deal with the bulkiness of some of those big plastic containers while standing on a ladder.

Today and tomorrow are our last tolerably cold days so we'll need to get outdoors and get some of our outdoor lights and wreaths up. The colder weather arrives Sunday night with rain and slow a day or so later, so this is our last opportunity to get any outdoor decoration up for this season. The smarter neighbors got theirs up earlier. We'll remember that next year. Living in a golf community with all sorts of codes and covenants, limits how early and how late you can keep your Christmas decorations up. I really hate living under such restrictions but we didn't have many options when we moved here and at this point, the idea of moving again is not something I can even bear to consider.

On the plus side, I'm grateful that we are close to our sons place, have excellent, nearby shopping and restaurants, excellent hospitals, good doctors and dentist and a one story, newer house that we were able to play with a bit to suits our needs. There is always much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hoping you are all expecting a wonderful day with family and friends, enjoying great food and all in all having a fabulous day!

We are just waking up after partying at friends last night. Our Thanksgiving will be at our daughter-in-law and sons place on the river, along with a lot of friends as well. Last count, there are at least 18 of us. It will definitely be a Norman Rockwell kind of day with a house full of grownups, children and everyone's dogs. I already packed up a fresh bag of liver treats for our furry friends and relations so everyone will all be enjoying abundance on this day of Thanksgiving.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time on food prep. I made two different cranberry sauces just for comparison (the one with the apples was the winner hands down!), and a big batch of cole slaw.  After early grocery shopping, dealing with a frozen USB cable in the new car and cooking, there was no time for the studio. I did get a bit of studio time the day before; but instead of slipping pots I had to switch gears and make handles for the slab pieces that I'll be using to impress small plates and trays. The slabs were pretty far along in the leather hard stage, so the other pots had to wait.

After breakfast I'll get the baguettes for the pate finished baking and get those cut and buttered and ready to toast before we leave this afternoon, and then I'll see about getting some studio time. Our Thanksgiving dinner is going to be a mid afternoon affair so I won't have much studio time, but should be able to get a couple of hours in there.

Our son Sean will be deep frying a couple of turkeys today and our daughter-in-law will be doing the veggies.  I'm bringing my pate to add to the appetizers. Nicole, will have a lot of other good appetizers waiting for everyone. She is an amazing cook, great mom and wife - everything you could ask for and more in a daughter-in-law. 

In a world that seems to be mad at times, I'm thankful that we have a special day to remember and to be grateful for the good and positive things and wonderful people in our lives. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New car ate my usb cable

Since we're going to our son and daughter0-in-laws for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd  try a couple of cranberry sauce recipes to take over tomorrow. The Tyler Florence one with the orange zest and juice is good but the real winner was the one made with sweetened dried cranberries, cranberry juice, sugar and gala apples. I could see that working well with pork or a lot of other things as a side dish - really delicious!

Jim is off to the car dealer because the USB port has taken the USB connector from my iPod touch hostage. It's frozen and won't budge. It worked fine yesterday and went in fine this morning when we went out to do some pick up grocery shopping. What the heck!

Time to take a little cheese and apple lunch and then get back in the kitchen to make some coleslaw for tomorrow. No matter how fancy and far away from your moms cooking you might get for holiday dinners you always have to have some of the things Mom made when you were a kid and coleslaw is that one thing from my childhood that I miss if it's not part of Thanksgiving. The first time Jim had moms coleslaw the asked "where are the raisins". So, I add raisins, because that's what Jim's Mom put in her coleslaw. Gotta make everyone happy happy! I'll be even happier if Jim comes home with my iPod touch cable out of the USB port!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy happy happy

Jim went shopping yesterday and this Highlander Limited is now residing in our garage. The color is Cypress pearl - a guy color. Jim chooses the car, I choose the color.:-) It's a nice green in bright sunlight and medium grey in the shade. He is happy, happy, happy. This is a stock photo, since I'm not up to getting out of under the warm covers into a cold garage to snap a bad photo among all the garage paraphernalia.

Needless to say there wasn't any studio time yesterday. Between half a day prepping and cooking the gumbo and car buying drama with numerous phone calls back and forth and then finalizing the sale, we had to transfer everything out of the old car into the new car. We thought we were so thorough, but found that we left all the CD's in the CD player and Jim left a pair of his glasses, so he'll be retrieving those things this morning as well as tidying up all those things we quickly transferred before heading to our sons place.

The really nice guy who delivered the car spent a lot of time helping us set up the garage door opener, showing us how to enter phone numbers, etc. etc. My sweet Jim, the resident luddite, asked "what's bluetooth?" Oh boy is he going to have fun this week trying to figure out all the things you can do with this car besides driving it. When he got his first not so smart smart phone a couple of months ago, the buyers regret and grumbling could be heard for days. He still hasn't entered phone number in that phone; but the nice guy who delivered the car at least showed us how to enter them in the car. So now Jim can just speak to the car and say "call home or call Sean" - the two numbers that are now in memory.

Once we transferred everything to the new car, I grabbed Bodhi, the gumbo and rice and we headed over to our sons place for dinner and some great wines and great company. By the time Sean retrieved the third bottle of wine from the wine cellar we were all getting pretty happy, happy and very philosophical, except for Jim who exercised great restraint since he was the evening's designated driver.

This morning I'll be processing the last ripened tomatoes and making a puttanesca sauce for tonight's pasta dinner and the afternoon will be studio time which car buying interrupted yesterday. Jim will probably be sitting in the car in the garage reading the manual and trying to figure out all the new toys and I'll be only a few feet away, working  in my studio part of the garage. Hopefully with the car door closed, I won't hear all the grumbling as he tries to figure out what all those buttons are for,  how to set up the built in GPS and what bluetooth is.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jean Nicola Gerard video

Found this new, Jean-Nicolas Gerard video this morning. I just love watching him work; and those amazing platters - WOW! There's something deliciously childlike in the way he throws and decorates. It's seems purely instinctual and so playful.

Got some studio time yesterday. I made a small bucket of black slip. If I had more stain it would have been a bigger batch but this 3,000 + grams is enough for these test cups which I hope to glaze today. I got those pots smoothed and trimmed and waxed yesterday and later realized that I probably should have not waxed them but done some terra sig on the non footed ones, when they were drier.

That and doing a bit of under glaze accents on a slipped teapot and cleanup took up all my actual studio time, but I did studio related paperwork, made to do notes for another day and went through my notes looking for possible yellow and reddish slips not using stains. I'll probably try rutile, yellow ochre and crocus martis in some tests when I finish slipping and glazing the current pots.

I went through about a half a dozen glaze and slip books not only looking for those slip colors but looking for a rich, deep reddish amber glaze not using lead. I may have to resort to stains for that or maybe a combination iron and manganese. There's always something new to test!

The studio heat is on, time for my first cup of tea, then breakfast followed by making gumbo for tonight. Hopefully I'll get a few hours of studio time after lunch. I'm both eager and nervous to try some finger wipes and slip trailing for the first time on those little cups. It will probably be a very good idea to do a little practice run on paper!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Morning amusements when the studio is freezing

This was the only creative thing I did all morning! The studio after 4 hours with heat on, was still too cold, so I did the usual morning chores, made out a shopping list, some computer chores,  email and played with this app my son told me about this morning. It was a lot of fun to do and now I have to dig up a few other animal photos and make a couple more to amuse myself on these too cold to work mornings.

Didn't get studio time yesterday since it was too cold in the morning and the fact that we were going out early to the local Clayfolk annual show and sale and dinner afterwards with friends. I did manage to face the cold studio long enough to cut some pots off bats, recover them and quickly get back into the warm house.

I don't know what's going on with the centering arm I'm trying to order. The fellow hasn't responded to my email nor my phone call, so I'm just assuming that they must be out of town. If I don't hear back in a few days, I'll call again. I don't need it at the moment, so there's no rush.

Our son flies in tomorrow and the rest of the family will be coming a day or two later. Looks like there won't be much time for studio between now and Thanksgiving but I will try to get these last cup tests slipped if the studio ever warms up, before I put my focus on some pre Thanksgiving cooking and house tidying.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stains, slip and test cups

Yesterday was pretty productive for just an afternoon of studio time. Got the little test kiln fired remixed some slip slip and got the last little pot slipped, pugged some clay and rolled out some slabs, and mixed up a 500 gram batch of pea green slip to use as a trailing list. Straining it will be this morning's first job. I love the look of a light green trailing slip over black which Ron Philbeck's been using on his wonderful earthenware pots lately. It's a striking combination; and works just as well over white, cream or yellow I suspect.I tested chrome and Mason pea green stain and I liked the pea green version the best. I think that may have been discontinued, so I should probably see if it's still available somewhere and get a few pounds.

I re-fired a nice little mug and found that the glaze blistered a bit. That's good to know in the future. It needed an under glaze touch up on the handle (that worked just fine); but the glaze wasn't happy on the body of the mug. That could have been because half the kiln was filled with bisque. The firing was slow, so  that wasn't the problem. I may re-fire that mug in an all glaze firing in my big kiln with a long soak and see if that works. There is still so much to learn about this journey into earthenware.

 My other job was to go through all the test  tiles in search of all my black slip tests since the last tests were gawd awful. It turns out that the best one was a base with 15% additions of two different Mason black stains - 6600 and I think the other was 6650, so I'm going to go with that for now. There was not much difference between the two. Both were a rich black and the clear glaze looked fine over it.

As soon as the studio warms up I need to pug some clay and throw some small test cups. I also want to weight out about 5,000 grams of black slip and get that mixed and sieved. If my slabs firm up, I'll make my templates. I ordered a piece of 5" thick upholstery sponge this morning which I'll use for those small trays and dishes. I used to have a piece, but it's another one of those things that went walkies during our move. 

Time to grab my notebook and head to work. We had our first hard freeze last night, so I'm hoping the studio has warmed up enough.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lazy day guilt

Lord, have I been feeling lazy the past couple of days. Jim says he's happy to see me taking some well deserved rest, so why did I feel guilty for such indulgence! Anyway, I did manage to get the little test kiln loaded, touched up a couple of pots, and finally cleared the slab roller and a did a couple of other studio chores. I found an old flash drive and deleted a lot of files from it and did a bunch more computer filing and cleanup - a good lazy day chore.

My first basil seeds are up so I moved them into my office and have the pot under a grow light now along with the lemon grass plant I brought in for winter. Besides being an office it serves as a plant nursery and meditation room now that we don't have a basement which is where I used to start all my seedlings, nor a fourth bedroom which was a meditation room in the old house.

My black slip tests turned out God awful the other day, so I spent a lot of time yesterday on the computer, checking out other possibilities. Does anyone have a good, true black slip recipe that would work at Cone 04-03 that they are willing to share? Some of the recipes I tried came out grey, not black. The glaze bubbled horribly over another one and only one looked like it might work, but I'll have to make a separate test with that one. I'll have to check that one, but I suspect it may be one with a very high oxide content.

After breakfast I have some late tomatoes to deal with. Enough have ripened, so I think I'll just get them peeled and pureed and make a small pot of  minestrone soup which we can have for lunch. Then I'll head to the studio, and get the last pot slipped, and roll out slabs for the templates I made a couple of days ago. Dinner is leftover pasta carbonara, so I'll be able to work a bit later.

I still haven't received a call about the order I put in for the centering arm so I'm going to have to call him this morning. Right now I have to finish my tea and deconstruct a lovely looking caramel glaze glaze recipe I found on line. It has industrial dust as one of the ingredients, but I have the formula for it, so I'm going to see what I can come up with. The problem may be that Edouard, who posted it, says that this Slater dust has traces of lead, cadmium, nickel and chrome, molybdenum, some of which I wouldn't want to be adding to a glaze.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Val Cushing video

Found this Val Cushing interview on you tube. There are some lovely thoughts about his work patterns over the years and some great photos of his work. He was such a master of unique and beautiful glazes - so many still in use all over the world and will be forever.

Got the little test kiln fired yesterday and almost cleared the slab roller. First I had to go through all the earthenware test tiles covering the table and then separate them into the ones mostly liked to be used. Then I went through a lot of paperwork which was really going through scraps of notes and getting some followup notes in a little notebook. There were other things to put away and a few other organizing chores to do, some slip to mix and dip some more test tiles to bisque today if they're dry enough,  and that pretty well took up all of the studio time.

I organized those notes in categories - slip followups, glaze follow ups, slips to batch, glazes to batch, etc. etc. There's a lot more to do with the large piles of other notes and pot and glazing ideas. My brain can think of pot decoration when I sit down with pencil and paper, but when I'm looking at the pot, I'm clueless. It's really bizarre how my brain works.

I'm going to have to figure an organized way to store all these sketches of decorating ideas and group them according to form and get them into a big three ring binder with plastic inserts with section designated for mugs, jars, plates, etc.etc. It will be a good winter evening project. In fact, I think I already have one of those big three ring binders filled with plastic inserts, from my soda/salt firings - just have to replace the data.

Time now to get my first cup of tea and open the kiln and see how those black slip tests turned out. I'll be back in the studio this afternoon to clear the rest of the slab roller and make some slabs. Dinner's going to be easy tonight. Jim requested pasta carbonara - not very heart healthy but definitely comfort food. I'm sure he'll have enough wine to cut the cholesterol. He's good that way. :-)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Studio day

Got the tiny test kiln loaded last night and turned on first thing this morning. Yesterday I got about a half a day of good studio time which is about par for me these days, for what I consider to be a good, retirement, studio day.

One of the items in this firing is a small slab with few black slip tests, with two clear and three transparent, honey glazes over. Most of my time yesterday was spent mixing, sieving and applying those glazes and cleaning up. I also have a small group of pots that I washed yesterday and was hoping to glaze today. That glaze is too powdery and needs some help. I tried to glaze a couple of things but wasn't happy with how the glaze was behaving, so I mixed up some CMC and got that strained and added to the glaze and re-strained the glaze. All these little jobs certainly eat up studio time.

My current frit version of the clear I originally tested is really tricky. It has to be applied very thinly otherwise it can leave a white shadow. Fortunately, I only made a small batch of it, so I'm thinking at this point that I may have go back to the Gerstley Borate version which seems to be much less finicky about thickness; but first I'm going to wait a couple of days until I make some other tests with various specific gravity batches of this fritted version. If I'm not satisfied, then I'll go back to the original, non fritted version of this clear glaze. 

Tomorrow I'll bisque those few un-slipped test tiles and the following day, dip them in a couple of different thickness of that glaze. This  means putting off glazing this group of pots, but there are other things on my "to do" list, like clearing the entire slab roller and rolling out some slabs that I can use for the templates I made earlier this week.  Some of these templates will just be used to outline what will be small trays or dishes and others will be use to make bisqued pieces that can be used to impress dishes and trays. I've done that process using some antique wooden tools that were traditionally used in India to print fabrics. I also have some other wooden forms made to be used as drape molds or to depress a slab, set on a thick piece of upholstery sponge. Here are a couple of samples using that technique.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Thank you Uncle Looie

I just treated myself to this strong arm centering tool, which my ancient, arthritic neck and spine bones will really appreciate. My late uncle Looie left me a small insurance policy and the check arrived today. So I'm treating myself to this Strong arm centering too, and giving the rest to Jim to go toward a new car. 

My day was planned, I thought, then changed and changed again. I was supposed to get a whole day in the studio; but then Jim wanted to go out to lunch and do some shopping at the mall. So I put off studio time this morning other than unloading a couple of mugs from the tiny test kiln. But after being up a while, Jim said that he wasn't really up to the mall, so we've put that off for another day.

Then the mail arrived with my little windfall, I decided to check on centering tools currently available. This one seemed the best from a short list, so I got the ordering process started. Seems I have to wait for a call from the maker to finalize the sale.

It's too late to start on anything in the studio, so Jim suggested we drive over to our sons place and check their garden since it's going to be raining tomorrow and an overnight freeze is forecast. We got lucky earlier this week and skipped the freeze that was forecast, but it looks like it's going to happen tomorrow and the next night. Hopefully there will be a few more tomatoes to pick. If not, at least Bodhi will get a great, chain free run  - one of his greatest joys!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And the winner is

Yesterday wound up to be a half day of cooking among other things. Since I wanted to get my dinner Escarole, sausage, bean, etc. soup, done early, it seemed that making my sourdough nutty fruity breakfast bread as well, wouldn't be much trouble - just a bit more time consuming. I only made 1/3 of the soup recipe, but that was enough for us with leftovers for tomorrow.

Jim went  to Michael's for me after  breakfast yesterday and got a piece of matboard and a package of Xacto blades.  So in between cooking, I traced most of those tissue and graph pepper sketches on to the matboard and I'll start on cutting those out tonight or tomorrow.

This morning I got an email from Bailey's telling me I won a $25 gift certificate for naming the mystery potter (David Leach). After trying unsuccessfully ordering something on the web site, I gave up and called and got myself a couple of 3mm MKM texture rollers. As one of the ancient ones, I still can't get over how much it costs to ship something these days! It was over $13 to ship two little rollers.

Right now I need to get to studio which should be nice and cozy, and  touch up those pots which I didn't get around to yesterday. Mid afternoon I need to get back to the garden and thin and transplant my winter lettuce. We're going to have a freeze overnight, so I need to get that done and pick the last of the green tomatoes. Then it will be time to start on a simple bratwurst, boiled potatoes with parsley butter and roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and walnuts dinner. The days do fly by too quickly lately!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Playing with cut outs

Studio time yesterday was making patterns for some small plates and trays. It felt more like play than work.  I have to see if there are larger sheets of graph paper available so I can make some larger forms.  Now  I have to track down some fairly thick poster board so I can make some sturdy, re-usable templates for these. In recent years I haven't had any luck finding thicker poster board. Everything I've found locally is way too thin. I'm hoping that it's out there somewhere. I did a bit of Internet searching but thickness is not part of the description. Old templates that I made for slab work over thirty five years ago is pretty thick - about 1/16 of an inch and that's what I'm hoping to find again.

I took advantage of the 60 degree weather yesterday afternoon and planted a bunch of saffron crocuses and picked most of the dried pole beans and got them shelled. There were also a few late tomatoes just starting to ripen, so I picked those as well. I'm really going to enjoy a last  heirloom tomato sandwich of the season in a few days! My winter lettuce is ready to thin and transplant, but that will have to wait till tomorrow when this rain has stopped.

This morning is kitchen time. Sourdough starter needs feeding and I want to make the soup I had planned to make a few days ago. It's a cold, rainy morning. In other words,  a great day for a hearty Tuscan bean, sausage and potato soup and parmesan toast supper.

I'll be back in the studio this afternoon decorating and doing some cleanup on a couple of the mugs I sgrafittoed the other day so I can bisque them tomorrow. I pretty well solved the problem of dried slip chipping when doing sgraffito. Spritzing the dry slip lightly with water does the trick as long as you don't over saturate. There are just a couple of tiny spots that I have to touch up where I didn't wet the slip enough; but all in all it works great.

Time to feed the sour dough starter and get some breakfast.

Monday, November 11, 2013

80th birthdays are a big deal

After a couple of days of shopping and celebrating Jim's 80th birthday, and a total vegg out day yesterday going through days worth of newspapers, email  and snail mail, it's time to get back to a "stay at home day" routine.

Jim's sister Pat sent him a "birthday in a box" from Florida, which included balloons, Happy Birthday streamers, candles, candy and even a rum cake our friend Sylvia baked for him. Our daughter who lives in Munich, Germany, called our local butcher and had him send over a whole box of German wurst and other gourmet elk and buffalo sausages, mustards, cheeses and a host of other goodies. Even our butcher Cam, sent Jim a gorgeous, huge steak which I'll be making tonight. Our son Sean surprised us with paying for our wonderful birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant. When the bill came, it wasn't a bill, just a note saying that Sean had taken care of the dinner bill. We do have great kids!

I'll be making Jim his favorite pate in another day or two, continuing his birthday celebration. After all turning 80 is a big deal and should be celebrated for more than one day!

A bag of winter saffron crocus bulbs arrived Saturday. They're already sprouting, so I need to get  out this afternoon when temperatures are expected to be around 60 degrees, and plant them. I'll get some studio time after breakfast and after lunch, in continuation of my slowly sliding  into potters retirement. I never thought I'd want to spend this little time in the studio, but at this time of my life, it seems like the most natural thing to do. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Angela Fina

Cynthia Bringle just reported on Facebook that Angela Fina has passed away. She was such a lovely lady and a wonderful potter and teacher. Here's a photo of her that I got from her web page. You can check it out at:

I took a great throwing workshop with her in Ontario, Canada in the mid 70's, and remember her fondly.  She will be greatly missed.

Jim and I are taking it easy today after our all day celebration of his 80th birthday yesterday. Today is a day to rest and re-charge after all that rich food and good wines!  I have several days worth of newspapers and snail mail to go through while I watch some of the Barclay world Tour semi finals matches.

If I perk up after lunch I may get in some studio time, but I wouldn't bet on it. Right now it's time to make our cheese blintzes breakfast and then start on this big pile of newspapers and snail mail.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Pretty is as pretty does

OK, I know this is one ugly, malformed pizza. Something went awry sliding it off the peel; but there is  good news. This was a great pizza! Jim said these toppings elevated pizza to a new, higher level. So if anyone wants to try it, I don't have a recipe per se. I saw a picture of this being pulled out of an oven on a you tube video and just heard the maker saying what was on it - no amounts, given.  But here's what I did.

To make: get your dough shaped and top loosely with thin slices (about 1/16" -1/8") of quality gorgonzola cheese, then fill in the open spaces with small dollops s of mascarpone cheese. Then top with fresh figs than have been slice in thirds or half and topped with a piece of gorgonzola and a dollop of mascarpone cheese a few hours before to allow the flavors to permeate the fruit. Bake as usual and when done, lay slices of prosciutto over. Let it sit a minute or two, slice and serve. PS: I used halved figs this time, but next time I'll cut them in thirds instead.  

Yesterday I got another bisque done in my tiny test kiln and did some sgraffito decorating on a couple of pots and a few other studio chores.  Since I never have enough fresh basil, I also got some basil seeds planted so I will have a good supply this winter.

The only studio time I got this morning was to empty the tiny test kiln. Now I'm off to buy a folding table for my photo setup. Jim brought back the right sized one the other day, but the top folded in half and when I had one of those before, it made the pots I was photographing look lopsided because it wasn't level. So that's been returned and I'm off to Bi-Mart since they have what I want on sale. By the time I get back from shopping and lunch I have to start on tonight's dinner - a bean, potato, escarole, potato and Italian sausage soup and cheesy garlic bread. Now that my vent is working again, finally, I'm no longer limited with my dinner choices.

There might be a little time while the soup is simmering to touch up a couple of pots and load the tiny test kiln but that will probably be all I can manage before dinner. And after dinner, I go into my new retirement, do nothing, unless I can do it sitting down, mode.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

New bird jar

Got feet on the bird jar yesterday. Our daughter Erins teapot is slipped with the pale yellow slip of her choice, and today I'll add green under glaze to the lid rim. I also mixed up a small cup of blue glaze for a replacement lid I made for myself for an antique Borden's jar I use as my flour jar.

This morning I unloaded the few bisqued pots from the tiny test kiln and reloaded it. I'll be firing that all day in between other studio jobs. I want to get my clear glaze re-mixed and sieved and glaze the decorated, bisqued pots. The reason I'm having to work in these small batches is because my larger Skutt kiln is pretty much the only place I have to store these pots right now until I have enough to do a combination bisque and glaze firing. At this time I'm finding that my test kiln is too small and my glaze kiln is too big. Jim says "Buy a new kiln"; but that just goes against my practical nature, so I'll have to think on that for a while.

Yesterday was a mish mash day of studio work and cooking and hanging around for what seemed like forever for the repairmen to fix the Venta Hood. After a very long time trying one thing after another, they decided to throw their arms in the air and say we just can't figure this out. So they put the covers back on and turned the power back on at the box, after replacing a couple of switches. And, miracle of miracles, everything was working. Seems there is no grounding wire in the unit, and the casing and other parts of the hood are the grounding and it won't work unless even the non working parts arere-installed. Talk about a major design flaw!

So tonight I'll be making pizza without fear of the fire department showing up again. For lunch yesterday I made figs stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and a drizzle of honey. Jim loved  them. So tonight's pizza is going to be a mascarpone and gorgonzola cheeses with fresh fig slices and prosciutto added when the pizza is done. I'm hoping it will be as tasty as yesterday's lunch. 

Time to turn up the kiln, get breakfast and on to the studio.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Retirement pacing

Since I was wide awake at 4:30 I decided to head to the studio and load a couple of small pots in the tiny test kiln and get them bisqued today. After breakfast I have to make some feet for a jar and then probably spend the rest of the day decorating before I have to start on dinner.

The repair man is coming at 3 to hopefully get my Vent a hood working with the replacement switches. Since I don't know if he'll show on time or how long it will take him to complete the job, dinner is just going to be something simple like nachos. We changed last night's dinner plan and went out for Mexican instead and I'm not going to complain about having margaritas two nights in a row.

Jim is going out after breakfast and will pick up a small folding table so I can get my photo setup  started in the guest bedroom soon. By the time the priority mail boxes that I ordered yesterday, arrive in two weeks, I should have enough pots finished and photographed and start listing them on Etsy in time to take advantage of the Christmas buying season.

One of the marketing suggestions I read a while back, was that is was better to stagger your Etsy listings rather than put too many things up at one time. That way your work is seen daily in the Etsy search listing by those shoppers looking for your type of work or product, instead of getting buried deep down in the list. It's a good idea to read those little Etsy marketing hints. From all I've read, it takes a while to build a clientele there. It seems to be a slow but steady process for those who stick to it and promote their work elsewhere and point people to their Etsy store. Having a good customer list is of great benefit. Unfortunately, I'm dealing with totally new work, and my small customer list in recent years consists only of people living three thousands miles away who purchased my soda/salt fired pots and may have no interest in the earthenware.

Since my production in retirement is so meager, especially with our kids and relatives all too happy to take pots off my hands, and do, I'd be happy to just sell enough to keep a few shelves free on my ware cart at any given time. At my age I'm not interested in packing and hauling pots off to shows, so Etsy is a good choice. I haven't checked local shops and galleries so that may be another option. Every time we go to Ashland it's to do food shopping or have dinner and there never seems to be time to check out the galleries, or they're closed when we get there. Next time we go in, I'm going to make a day just for that, and have a list of shops and galleries and check those out before we do anything else.

We have a lot of potters here in the Rogue valley now, but  when I asked one of the members where people are selling these days, she said that a large number of them mainly sell at the big, yearly Clayfolk show at the Armory. I did that and other shows when I was younger, but don't find the idea of working on committees all year to get a slot in the show is something I'm interested in any more. In fact, I get exhausted just thinking of the prospect of packing and hauling pots and sitting all weekend at a show! These days I'm happy and thriving on a much slower pace; and for me it's a very good thing. It's taken me almost 74 years to slow down and I rather like it.

Time to turn the kiln up.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Planning and shopping day

Didn't get studio time as planned. There was grocery shopping to do in Medford and I had to made 3 different stops - two for food and one stop at Lowe's hardware to get a shorter handled, very heavy duty wrench since my big, ancient one is too long in the handle to manipulate well under that little Olympic gas kiln. Lowe's didn't have what I needed, but the sales person told me about another tool store in town which I'll check when I'm in that neighborhood.

After getting all the groceries put away I took an email break and then decided to go to the U.S. postal service and look up information on priority mail boxes. I set up an account and then it took me a while to figure out what size boxes would work for me for starters. Fortunately with Michele Hastings input I was able to settle one 3 different sizes that would work with the majority of my smaller pieces, and some labels. 

I'm hoping to get some pots up on Etsy before Christmas and getting these boxes is part of the plan. I have never done much with Etsy, only put up a couple of pots over two years ago and making a few sales without any promotion, so it will be interesting to see if can make that work with my limited output and if I put some energy into promoting it.

In our old house I had a full basement and had a permanent photo and light set up. After checking out our entire house, the only possible place for me to set this up, is the guest room. And since we don't have a lot of house guests other than family for the most part,  I can leave the setup in place most of the time and it would be an easy thing to disassemble as needed.

Tomorrow, while I'm in the studio finishing up some pots, I'll have Jim  buy me another one of those 4 foot long folding tables which works well for my photo setup.  Right now Mexican food and a margarita are waiting for me at our local Mexican restaurant and when I get home I have a huge pile of backed up snail mail and newspapers to tackle while I have the TV mid term election results in the background.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Out of the Fire video trailer

Here's a great, teaser trailer from a new documentary about Kevin Crowe and his gorgeous wood fired pots. I'm very lucky to have one of his pieces; and wish I had room for more!

Today will be a repeat of yesterday, morning dealing with computer and emails and studio after lunch. There are more pots to decorate and that will probably take most of my studio time before I have to head in and start on dinner.
If Erin's teapot dries enough after uncovering it, then I'll have to re-sieve the pale yellow slip and get that slipped.

It's almost instant Indian food tonight, so I'll be able to work till 4:30. These days I rarely go in the studio after dinner (my new retirement schedule). Evenings,  these days are for relaxation - reading, paperwork and a little TV in bed - usually one of our British shows on Netflix. . And, lest I forget, there's usually a little bit of good wine in the schedule. It's a very good life