Sunday, June 30, 2013

A decisions been made

After almost 3 days of mind boggling, scratching my head, frustrating, digital camera research, I finally ordered the Panasonic Lumix dmc-fz200 from BH photo. It has all the features I wanted except being what they call "travel size"; but it's about half the weight of my Nikon D100 - good thing. It has a great zoom lens, video, stereo sound, great battery life, takes photos in raw or jpeg mode, as well as a load of other features. The down side is an inferior, incomplete manual, and a pdf manual that is also sub par. Fortunately one camera owner mentioned some great you tube videos done by another owner called "the missing manual".

We celebrated our 54th anniversary yesterday with a great 5 course dinner  at Cucina Biazzi in Ashland and tonight we're having dinner with the family and friends. Pizza party Friday added to the weekend festivities, and studio work will have to wait till tomorrow. - maybe!

With all the time for camera research and partying, my emails have skyrocketed, so I need to deal with those and a few other house hold things. The garden is looking OK after an emergency watering on some of the plants this morning. This 100 degree weather is making extra hand watering necessary even with the drip system going on twice a day. I would have lost several of my pepper plants if I hadn't checked as I do every morning. Seems one of the drips was knocked out of the pot.

Grand kids are coming over tomorrow to swim and get some nanna and papa attention, but I'm hoping to squeeze in a few hours of studio time in the morning. One can only hope.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

Time to look for a new camera. The love affair has ended with my old Canon Powershot. Lately it's been distorting my photos, making whatever pots are at the end of a short row look lopsided. They're not! My guess is that the lens is damaged or just worn out or????

I'm actually grateful that I've had to resort to using the tiny test kiln for these test pots. It's allowing me to refine the slip, under glaze and glaze applications. What I've learned so far, is you'd better get all the white slip off the areas you want to leave with raw color. Even the slightest shadow shows up. Some of the under glazes have to be applied a bit thicker as evidenced by the thin areas of the yellow trim on the handle mug on the right. I call this pattern the birthday cake,  because that's what it looked like to me after I decorated it. It does make me smile.

Found out happily, that my glazing all the way to the base stayed put - no grinding needed. The combination of a stiff glaze and bisquing and glaze firing to the same cone seemed to do the trick.

I also got these few pots decorated yesterday and will glaze them today. This process is taking a lot of time - deciding which under glazes colors to use, mixing the colors (some brand new ones were very thick and lumpy), doing the actual decoration and then making copious notes on each pot. It should get easier once I get more familiar with these colors. My next testing is going to be mixing some of these tests for a wide color range. So far I've only added white to tone done some of them.

Some garden work and making dinner (this perfect hot weather Nicoise salad), topped off the work day, which these day usually ends after dinner, or an hour later. Then it's time for some lean back TV or movie watching, reading and email - sometimes two or more simultaneously.

Time to head to the studio for a bit. It's pizza night at our sons ranch so I'll only be getting four hours of studio time; but tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Earthenware eye candy

Tiny test kiln is firing again and I'm holding my breath on this one. I'm so used to soda/salt firing with slips and wadded pots, that I have to get into an earthenware mindset when I make and slip this new work - something I didn't do with some of these first pots.

 Love this piece by Johannes Peters. He brings looseness to a whole other level - not so much with this piece, but with most of his other work that I've seen. wish I could have an iota of that kind of relaxed throwing.

I'm firing the tiny test kiln again with a few pots. Glazing yesterday, I suddenly was faced with a pot with white slip and glaze all the way to the base.  So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my clear glaze is stiff enough to not go walkies on to the kiln shelf. I guess wadding is an option in the future, but today's risky firing for one or two of the pots is for information.

At this point, I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to just go ahead and decorate the rest of the pots and fire them in the large kiln since the kiln repair guy has been a no show for a couple of months.  I fired it once in this condition and the kiln made it through OK,  but I'm concerned that because there's so little brick left in one area at the very base of the lowest ring, that the lack of insulation may be problematic on the casing.

Yesterday I also did some organization with my jewelry and lapidary supplies. That only came about because I was searching for a part for my Foredom drill, which I never did find; but at least one box got emptied, some things sorted and others put away. It's time to think about selling some of these rocks and and casting equipment either locally or on ebay. Time to join the local rock club.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blessed rain buys time

A couple of rainy spells have freed up a couple of hours each day. Our daughter-in-law and the grand children arrive tomorrow, so she will be taking care of their veggie garden for the next couple of months. With house guests gone and the rain yesterday and this morning as well, I was able to get studio time to decorate these pots and put more things away, and will be in the studio right after breakfast for a change.

Dinner prep called, so I put off glazing those few till this morning. The mug leak test passed fine. That's always a concern with these earthenware bodies which have a high absorption rate; but it looks like my clear glaze is doing a good job. I'll still going to put terra sign on the pots without a raised foot.

Time for scrambled eggs and croissants - potters fuel.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Few of the latest test pots

Turned the little test kiln on early yesterday morning and emptied it this morning - one of the lovely things about low firing in an electric kiln. That tiny kiln can only hold these 3 little test pots.  These are the front and back views. These little tests are showing me a lot - not just the colors of the under glazes but what I can get away with, with the slip application, etc.  I didn't glaze or apply terra sig on the bottom of the mug, so I'm now testing it for leakage. My clear glaze look good and tight, so I'm hoping it will be OK.

We had a great time with our North Carolina friends who are now headed to Napa for more good wine and food, and it's time for me to think about what I can do in the studio other than more organizing. Our son and daughter-in-law have re-decorated their living room and  gave me a beautifully made, sturdy coffee table. I put it under the slab roller and moved a bunch of things around for a tiny bit more added storage. I moved a lot more things around yesterday, but there's still more refining to do to make this smaller studio space work efficiently.

I had the upper G.I. test last week and got a call from the surgeon later and the news wasn't the best, but not unexpected. The hernia is a paraesophageal hiatal hernia which is going to require the more complex surgical procedure. He leaves for vacation tomorrow and won't be back till July 8th; and I need to figure out when I should schedule surgery. Mercury is retrograde till the 26th of July, and I hate to think of having surgery with that happening. And at the same time, I don't think I want to be his first surgery after he gets back from vacation; but my symptoms have gotten more acute since the test which seemed to really aggravate everything and this type of hernia can cause the stomach to collapse and emergency surgery in that instance only has something like a 50% survival rate - not good odds.

So I'm being super careful about how much and what I'm eating, avoiding heavy lifting and doing a lot of Reiki on myself while I bide my time.

Post surgery will entail 3-4 days in the hospital and a month of being very tired during recuperation (according to the surgeon).  With this hernia in such a critical state, I'm obviously not going to be  centering any clay, or at least nothing more than a pound, if even that. I have a bunch of bisqued and ready to bisque pots to decorate, glaze and fire, so I may just continue these mini firings in the tiny kiln, since I'm still waiting for someone to come and repair my big kiln.

Time to head to the studio now, and glaze a couple more pots and batch some slips, and as always lately, organize a few things.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Don't stop the world. I don't want to get off just yet.

It took a while but I finally found an on line supplier that carried two of the mason stains I wanted to buy - pea green and buttercup yellow. By the time those arrive, my house guests will have headed home and I will get down to serious work. Our son and family will be up for the summer next weekend and they will be taking care of their garden, freeing up more studio time for me.

Yesterday I planted the last beans and eggplant for them,did some hand watering, harvested their peas and did some weeding.  That takes a couple of hours out of my day, and my own garden chores steal another hour or so a day. Lunch out, some grocery shopping, shopping for some herbs and a container for them, then planting the container when I go home pretty much took up the afternoon. With prepping meals and household chores, it doesn't leave me a lot of studio time lately; and my lower energy at 73 just doesn't make late night studio hours reasonable any more. I still miss the good old days when I could work till late in the evening, using the  Tonight show's theme music as my signal to call it a day. The strange thing is that I feel frustrated and a bit guilty about it, which I know is really silly.  I should just gracefully accept the limitations of this body and my age; but instead,  I try to alleviate the guilt by spending after dinner time sketching pots, working on my notes, revamping glaze recipes, etc.etc..

After today's usual morning chores, I'll be heading out for a Costco run, then back home to spend a couple of hours making pate for our friends who arrive Friday.  

The surgeon scheduled me for an upper G.I. series tomorrow morning to find out how bad this hernia is. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's just a hiatal hernia which is an easier surgical procedure and not the more complex one. It's always something. That's life in this crazy and wonderful reality called third dimension; but I'm not ready to scream out "Stop the World I Want to Get Off!".


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A non stop day

Enjoying a lovely Frank Family Chardonnay after dinner. It's been a non stop day - turning on the tiny test kiln to re-fire some cone 03 glazes. They were too dry at 04, so I want to see how they'll do one cone higher.

I'm still wary about a cone 04 body and it's leak potential - the only reservation I have with this switch to earthenware.

After breakfast I got my watering done and prepped some of my dinner vegetables. There were garden chores to be done - pulling out some old lettuce and arugula and planting new lettuce starts, side dressing some veggies with more fertilizer and spraying some blossom set on the tomatoes. I've never used that before, so it will be interesting to see if I get more fruit. The birds were fed after that.. It took them a while to find the feeder and now they're coming in droves. Word got around fast.

Made some guacamole for lunch and then got the veggies cleaned that I use as a bed for roasting the chicken, got the chicken stuffed with orange wedges, apple, onion, garlic, herbs and seasoning, and back in the fridge.

Jim wanted an early dinner, and since it's Father's day, his wishes today were my command. So dinner was ready by 5:15.

Time for me to check the kiln, It should be off my now. If not I'll turn it up to high, then do some email. After the game is over we'll watch Inspector Morse. I bought two dvd's for Jim for Father's day. There's a very happy husband on the premises tonight.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Test tiles and garlic

After testing, testing, testing and a bucket full of slip and soda tests, I've thinned down to this small bowl. Some of these colors are what I want like the yellow on the left which is a richer slightly orange when double dipped. Problem it's a glaze with 8% stain and I'd really like it as a slip, preferably using either no stain or maybe stain with some rutile. Another possibility is to test a glaze with a smaller amount of the stain over a rutile slip to make it more cost efficient. So I need to explore those. The bright green is intended only as an accents in small doses on the exterior of some pots. Anything with that much copper is definitely not a food safe glaze, even more so in a low silica earthenware glaze.

Other than my clear glaze, I wanted a colored  glaze that I could use on my spiral mugs, and small spiral jars, buds vases, small creamers and sugars, etc. So the tealish blue one is a definite keeper. There are a couple of soft greens in the mix and I have to pick one to start, as a background slip for mugs and other small pots that will have sgrafitto, and underglaze additions. I also want to add a bit of copper to those to see if that will make them pop a tiny bit more.

My sketches are ready but I still need to finish these "have to" gardening chores today. I harvested most of the rest of my garlic this morning and got those cleaned up and as soon as I finish these buckwheat pancakes and shower I need to mix up some organic spray for my tomato plants and the ones at our sons house, and plant more pole beans for them.

By the time I get back from there I should get a bit of studio time to glaze and decorate a couple of pots before I start on dinner. I need a longer day or more energy. Come to think of it - both would be lovely!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Some eye candy Art Deco

Clarice Cliff did her "bizarre" ceramics, her term for her ground breaking designs at the time. Her career, starting in the early twenties, spanned over forty years. She was definitely unique and broke the rules of her time. Her use of color was fabulous.

As for me, it's been three days of doctors appointments, gardening and cooking. The water problem is still not solved, but after a meeting this morning with the fellow who maintains this system, I'm having him put in another valve - hopefully no later than Wednesday. That should increase pressure on the right side of the back so I won't have to spend all this time hand watering.

Yesterday after my gardening and watering chores, we drove to our son and daughter-in-laws where I planted some lettuce and another cherry tomato - a new variety that's the color of a dark bing cherry, hand watered, pulled some weeds and pinched out suckers from all the tomatoes, added compost and more soil to the leeks and harvested the peas. When I came home there were peas to clean, shell and then dinner to make. That took care of the day, other than some after dinner time for emails and sketching pot ideas.

My own garden needed some attention this morning - had to deal with little critters chewing up my potato leaves. Then I had to do a bit of research on what is attacking the tomatoes at our house and our sons place. Fortunately I have an organic spray material on hand that was recommend for this fungus, so after dinner I'll get mine sprayed and get over to their place tomorrow to do theirs.

I got in the studio for a few minutes this morning and yesterday morning to sort some of those test tiles and put a few things way. It was easy to eliminate many of the test colors from consideration - too light, too dark, or just plain "YUK". Now that lunch is over, I'll get back in there and cull some more. It's time to be heartless since I have no desire to have 30 buckets of slips and glazes, nor would I have room even if I wanted them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Finally the last underglaze test

These are the last of the under glaze tests. I got a great deal on these Duncan under glazes on ebay a while back and didn't realized that I hadn't tested them. So now, with this last tile done, I have a large color palette to play with between these and the Amaco Lug and Velvets.

Not much time for the studio after the soda firing other than to clean shelves, sand pots, get the kiln covered, and do another C04 firing of a couple of small tests pots in the tiny test kiln, along with the last slip tests. I'm really happy with my clear glaze.  It was nice to see it on a pot and not just a test tile.

Hopefully our water pressure will get repaired tomorrow and I won't have to spend all this time hand watering . I only have a couple more annuals to plant, but that too will have to wait for another morning. Today I have a meeting with the surgeon and get some information on my choices to fix this huge hernia that has caused this acute  gastritis that I've had for well over a year.

I'm hoping to squeeze in some studio time by mid afternoon. Even though there hasn't been much physical time in the studio, I have been doing a lot of sketching of pot and decorating ideas. Today I want to decorate and glaze a couple more pots and fire them in that tiny test kiln tomorrow or whenever they dry. I also need to continue sorting through all the slip test and pull out the yellow I want and get that batched. I figure I'll only make small batches of a couple of others that I can brush on. I like the look of the red clay coming through, like a blush, when the slip is brushed rather than dipped on some pieces. The stains seems to create a very flat look on some of the slips which I don't fine too appealing, at least not on the test tiles.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Return of the blob

 This is the lovely mess the brass nozzle from my sprayer made when it took a high dive from one of the top peep holes and landed on the floor of the soda kiln and melted into this interesting blob of black and intense blue. A new wand and a couple of new nozzles are now on their way. Lowes didn't have them - said they stopped carrying them a month ago. Well, then, Lowes, why are you still showing it as being available on your web site.

Since we were already out, I did a Costco run, got some steamers for tonight's dinner,  did a bit of other pick up grocery shopping, and had a lovely, high carb, comfort, pasta dinner that I didn't have to cook.

As soon as I get my hand watering done, I'm heading to the studio to get the last 2 earthenware slip tests and a couple of other small pots glazed to fill the tiny test kiln for a firing tomorrow or the next day, and sand those soda pots. If I have enough time I need to make a small batch of a liner glaze for the other soda pots.

I already have  half a kiln load of soda pots ready for the next firing, and just need to line a few more to top off the load. As near as I can figure, I have at least 3 or 4 more firings to finish up these soda pots.

Time to stop chatting and get my hand watering done.  I've been moving slowly this morning and enjoying it too much; but hey, it's called retirement. :-)

Friday, June 07, 2013

Not bad tor a toy kiln

These little Olympic gas kilns (mine is 4cubic feet, which was fine for test tiles), are a bit of a challenge when you have enough bisques pots  from your old 36 Cubic foot kiln that need firing and this pipsqueak of a kiln is the only firing option.

Everything that could go wrong yesterday did; but 38 years of experience got this little baby fired high enough for my blue celadon liner glaze which has a Cone 8 to cone 11 or even higher range. Even when it's not reduced as well as the serving bowl in front, the liner resembles a  light shino or cream glaze.

Everything was prepped well for the firing - my gorilla sprayer motor and back up were charged, except, it wouldn't work. No big problem since it can be hand pumped. It took 15 hrs of playing with burners, and pressure to get this kiln to fire to cone 8 and cone 9. I had drilled out the orifices for natural gas, but the problem is that my household pressure isn't enough. Olympic says it should be 7 lbs and around here it's only 6, but I thought a long enough firing should give me results I'd be happy with, if not the optimum. After all - what other choice did I have at this point.

Once I started spraying, it was going as well as could be expected, firing a kiln that long ion the south facing side of the house in 93 degree weather with no cover. Just as I was finishing the second round of spraying, the tip of the sprayer fell off and into the kiln. The melted tip certainly made an interesting and colorful mess. The only good part about this under insulated, uneven firing toy kiln is that it was cool enough to empty, less than ten hours after I shut it down.

I couldn't see my cones until the very end when I just used the color of the kiln and my level of exhaustion to call it quits, and put it into soak mode and clean the atmosphere. Oh, I forgot to mention, that my thermocouples were giving me crazy readings the entire firing, so knew I just had to go use the color in the kiln as my guide. It was an interesting day. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Before I fire it again, I'm going to see if the gas company will up my pressure. For now, I'm off to Lowes hardware to buy a replacement brass tip and new o ring.  This firing was like childbirth, so I will need another week or two to forget the pain before I fire the next load. Meantime I need to mix up more liner and accent glazes and get those other pots finished and wadded.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Firing day

Turned the little Olympic on at 6:30 this morning, trying to candle it for an hour; but it shut off with that low of a flame, so I had to up the gas a hair. I have no idea how even it is or isn't since one of the thermocouples seems to be lagging behind. When I switched them, the temperature top to bottom reversed, so I guess I'll be firing by the seat of my pants and cones. I'll know better once Cone 08 starts moving in a couple of hours.

The WC pressure gauge is not showing any reading either, and giving it a few taps didn't do it either, so this is definitely doing to be an intuitive firing. I guess this little baby didn't like being outdoors all winter with just a tarp cover.

Jim's back was hurting him, so I went in the studio to get my magnetic belt for him (they really work); and when I pulled it off the shelf I couldn't see the little block of wood and another tidbit which came falling down on a couple of mugs on my wheel which were ready for decorating. They are now in the trash. Interesting morning. Hoping for a smoother afternoon and evening.

Time to check the kiln then catch up some snail mail.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Free pottery photo app

I'm enjoying a fairly laid back day. Got my Fluke pyrometers ready to go, did some garden and household chores and caught up with snail mail.

Someone mentioned this app on Facebook and I just downloaded it; but haven't explored it's uses. It's supposed to let you put photos of pottery with notes that you can print out. I'll play with it later. Right now I'm still trying to get ITunes to download photos on my Ipod touch, something that just hasn't been working lately. I may have to get on the phone with them again.

Free pottery photo app

Time to order some vitamins and harvest some lettuce for tonight.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sweltering day for kiln loading

Just finished loading my little Olympic gas kiln for a soda firing. It was 93 degrees out there and not a fun job. I re-vacuumed the kiln and  tested the burners this morning and they looked fine, except for the pilot burner which has back fired from day one no matter how I adjusted the shutter, the gas, cleaned the orifice, etc. etc.

The only thing I have left to do before firing is to put my Fluke together, test it and get it installed; but since it's going to be in the 90's again tomorrow, I think I'll put this firing off till Thursday when it's going to be partly cloudy and a cooler high of 86 degrees.

It would have been better to do this work in the morning, but I had a lot hand watering to do and a new rose to plant. The pots had already been wadded for a while, but I had to make more wadding for the posts. By then it was time for lunch and after lunch I decided that heat or not, I was going to load that little kiln

For now, I'm going to make myself some spicy, cheesy popcorn  and orangeade - too tired to cook or eat anything heavier.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Liquid wrench and woman power solved the frozen burner shutters

It took hours yesterday, but thanks to a couple of applications of liquid wrench that friend Shane Mickey (master kiln builder and all around great guy), recommended, and a cold chisel and hammer, I got the burner shutters on the Olympic kiln unfrozen. My biggest wrench and the new biggest needle nose vise grip the local hardware store had, were just not big enough to do the job; but my ancient little cold chisel came through once again! 

First thing this morning I emptied the tiny test kiln and did my hand watering. Between us, we had three doctors appointments today, the first at 7:30 this morning with gaps between a couple. So we drove to Ashland for breakfast where Jim without any guilt, indulged in some Eggs Benedict. He smiled through the entire meal, so no words of praise were really necessary, but I did hear "Oh God, these are soo good" more than once.

After breakfast I did some pick up grocery shopping,then stopped at the pottery supply store to find out why the fellow hasn't been out to replace the bricks on the Skutt and picked up some cones. I was assured that I'm next on the list as soon as he gets back from Seattle. There were also a couple of stops at nurseries to find a red knockout rose, which took a few stops this time of year; but I got a small one which was on sale half price, so that paid for all the gas I've used searching for this rose.

After the last appointment we drove home, picked up our little furry kid, our Jack Russell Bodhi and headed out to our sons place to check the watering which is still screwed up, so I turned off a couple of the beds that were flooding because the timers are not turning off, and then planted some more pole beans, pulled a few weeds and harvested some snow peas for tonight's dinner.

It was after 4 when we got home and I got the veggies prepped for our Yaki Soba noodle dinner.  I'm definitely having cold sake with dinner tonight. The oil is heated, so I guess it's time to start stir frying.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Test kiln on and frozen burner plate needs solving

Turned the tiny test kiln on at 6am, then sorted some of the soda pots that have been wadded and decorated for months, just waiting for the rainy season to end.

With that done, I got out and uncovered the little Olympic gas kiln that I converted for soda firing, only to find the movers didn't set it over the burners, so I had to play with that to re-seat them.  Thank goodness it's their smallest kiln, so I could do it myself.

The burners are working OK, but one of the plates won't move, and I'm still getting back firing on the pilot burner.  I have no idea how that plate got opened so much, but I need to close it down to about 1/4". So I need to get to a hardware store and see what they recommend. Any suggestions anyone???

All I could do was vacuum it out and put off the firing to another day. I was hoping to do it today because the next couple of days it's going to be in the 90's; but if I can get that plate moving, heat or not, I'll fire it if I can unfreeze that plate.

Time to turn up the little test kiln and get my first cup of morning tea.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Finding ones voice

I love, love, love, Ann Van Hoeys work. Ann is a Belgian potter who after years on and off as a hobby potter, at one stage decided to make it her life's work and boy, did she make the right decision. Her large forms are simple and so elegant, and her porcelain mugs are exquisite. You can check out her work at the link above and watch her process on some videos on you tube.

Finding ones voice was on my mind this morning as I was loading my tiny test kiln. Life's circumstances which caused us to move cross country and give up my big studio and soda firing, after finally finding my voice in ceramics, has been huge. Choosing to still work with clay, albeit in a retirement schedule, and opting for earthenware and electric firing out of necessity, it has me wondering if I will live long enough to find my voice again in this new direction.

The test kiln is filled with the final slip tests, which are just tweaks of the many tests I've done in recent months. Tomorrow the tile I dipped this morning should be dry and that little kiln will have the last of these tests only firings. Then I will have to decide on a narrow range to work with.

Right now all the pots I'm in the middle of decorating, only have a white slip. Some pots have simple sgraffito decoration, and some just the slip with some under glazes. Decorating these is agonizing. Lack of confidence in using new materials with no idea of the outcome has me almost frozen at times. I know I could just leave it simple, pick some colored glazes, and that may be a choice at some point if I come up with forms that can stand on their own; but for now I just want to be able to sit down, put those under glazes in front of me, take a brush in a hand that has no experience or talent for drawing and some how find a way to put dabs, dots, and swaths of color on these pots and see what happens. Whatever the outcome, I will continue on this road with its unknown destination, but maybe I will meander a bit slowly and settle for picking up some speed as I go along.