Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Two of our grand kids are ready for Halloween. McKenna is going as a zombie (real popular choice this year, I'm sure) and Aidan is going as bacon - too funny!

Finally got a few good hours of studio time yesterday. I spent time sorting through bisque and finished pots and re-organized them and got them stacked as well as I could to free up much of my only work table which is also my big, Bailey slab roller.  The other job was to make a bunch of cone packs and draw tiles for future soda firings. Since I hadn't used the pug mill for a while I got it working again and pugged enough clay to throw a teapot which out daughter has requested.

She gives these amazing and elaborate tea parties for her girl friends and needs more teapots. I'm trying to get those parts dry enough to finish today. The garage studio is pretty damp, so it may take another day to get it to the right leather hard stage. Meantime,  I have some of the slipped and glaze earthenware pots which need finishing. 

The younger trick or treaters will probably be showing up early like last year. Last year we got well over 100 kids. One of our neighbors counted 135.  Thank goodness we had enough candy and we're loaded again this year. When we lived in the mountains of North Carolina we never had a single trick or treater in the years we were there. Looks like we're making up for it now! BOO!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Miracles do happen

Wonder of wonders - Jim loved the brussel sprout dish, and this from a self described brussel sprouts hater. I guess the added bacon and shallots made the difference. Guess what vegetable we'll be having more often!

The sun is shining and I got after breakfast to thin out my over abundance of plastic planting pots. I still can't gear down from having 11 acres of potential planting space, to living in a golf community, on a postage stamp sized, lot. Today was the day to come back to reality and leave only enough (well maybe a few extra), plastic pots for next years seedlings.

My overnight email is done, I've saved the world on Facebook, or so I like to tell myself, and I'm heading to the kitchen to make a half of a leftover, pork cutlet sandwich lunch and then on to the studio to do whatever gets catches my first! I know that I have at least four choices that could use my immediate attention.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tonkatus night

I promised Jim a nice dinner, so I'm making tonkatsu tonight, which is a pounded thin pork chop, dipped lightly in flour and then in beaten egg and coated with panko crumbs. It's one of our favorites.  I'm also making a dish I found on line and one that I hope he'll at least tolerate - roasted brussel sprouts with a bacon, garlic, shallots and a wine vinaigrette. He's not a fan of brussel sprouts but the recipe got raves from people who said they've never liked them either, so I'm hoping for the best.

It's a beautiful day and if I didn't have this cooking and paperwork to do I'd be out front planting the last 3 perennials; but that can wait a few days when we'll have an even warmer day than today. I did get out for a few minutes just to plant some Japanese maple seeds that I've been collecting around town.

We're expecting a freeze tonight so I've got one of my raised beds covered to protect my winter lettuce and arugula.  I'll get out there before sundown and pick the last of the tomatoes. If they don't ripen, I'll just make fried green tomatoes in a couple of days.

The studio is calling but I just have too much to do around here right now. Yesterday I spent the entire morning on the phone re-dialing forever before the lines opened up. I was calling the U.S. government office of Personnel Management to find out what I have to do to claim a small life insurance and annuity that my late uncle left me.  I'm absolutely sure, it's a very small amount, but the paperwork that is needed to make the claims isn't. Yesterday Jim drove into town to get  multiple copies of death, birth and marriage certificates. Now I just have to fill in some of the copies for us so we can get the originals in the mail tomorrow.

Time  for me to get a piece of cheese and fruit for lunch and get my blood sugar up before I start reading the small print on those legal papers again.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Warren MacKenzie at the Leach Pottery

Here's a nice little of video of Warren throwing some bowls at the Leach Pottery in St.Ives, England. St.Ives is on the Cornwall coast and that Cornwall Coast is without a doubt my favorite part of England.

Yesterday was my first day doing some gardening since my surgery. I was a bit sore around my incision after I had to do a bit of hard digging through rock, clay and weed cloth to plant  five perennials. I'm a bit tired this morning but not sore anymore. I also planted three dozen cloves of garlic and transplanted some arugula and kale. With a hard freeze in the forecast  for tomorrow night, I'll be covering my raised beds with some heavy duty remay today to protect my late lettuce. I did this last fall and we were eating fresh lettuce well into December.

This afternoon I want to do some burner cleanup on the little Olympic gas kiln. The rest of the day will be continuing computer cleanup of all the duplicate photos which are somehow residing in two different photo folders. When I deleted one of them, it deleted all the photos in the other folder, so what the heck is going on. Good thing I didn't empty the recycle folder after deleting! One folder says MyPictures and the other one is Pictures. Maybe I just need to delete MyPictures instead of Pictures, after making sure the same pictures are in both folders, since they weren't before. Sometimes I really hate computers!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cone 6 stoneware as possible sub for earthenware

The past couple of days has been spent resting up after the soda firing and getting out and about for grocery and  other shopping, and doing some Cone 6 research.  We had the exterminator here for the whole day on Thursday and the handyman here yesterday and he'll be coming back again tomorrow. I picked up some liquid wrench, so maybe I can get him to access that pilot burner that's back burning so I can check it out and clean it out.

One of the things I did the other day was get to the pottery supply store and pick up a few things and look at their fired clay samples. Here's the Georgie's cone 6 clay body Cinnamon, which looks like it could be a good option for cone 6 to give the look of earthenware, but making it a more sturdy body, less likely to weep, leak or pick up mold. This clay looks even redder and nicer than this photo.

This morning was for ordering some vitamins and doing email and the never ending computer cleanup. with the Women's tennis championship semi finals in the background. I also have some of the last plum tomatoes to skin and make into a quick sauce for the freezer.This afternoon I'll be getting out to plant some perennials - my first time digging in the garden since before the surgery. We're coming to the end of a warm spell, and the night time temperatures have been getting too close to the freezing mark, so it's time to plant these few stragglers and some garlic  today and if my energy holds, do some cleanup of the containers and raised beds.

By Monday I'll be ready to get back to the studio and switch to the earthenware pots which need glazing and decorating.  By mid November I'd like to get some pots up on Etsy; but first I'll need to find a place to set up my light box and lights. I'm starting to think that there is no such thing as retirement for potters and gardeners.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

These are all the pots you can fit in a 4 cu ft soda test kiln; but since it's all I have these days, it's better than none at all. I'm still finishing up the bisque I brought from North Carolina and it's going to take me a long time to get them all fired since I can only fire when I have 3 guaranteed, clear, no rain days. And here in Southern Oregon that pretty well limits me to the summer and early fall.
I finally got this little Olympic to fire evenly, but the firing was not without problems. I really babied this kiln throughout, which is why I didn't get anything else done yesterday. I'm still getting back burning on the pilot burner, but it didn't seem to be problematic with the firing.. It's been that way from day one, so I'll have to see if I can remove that burner and figure out what's going on.

The firing was going great. I was dead even on temperature, top and bottom, and started the first round of soda spraying when Cone 8 was around 2-3 o'clock. I did two rounds of spraying, and toward the end of 3rd round, the kiln just uttered a horrible, burping sound and shut off. The temperature dropped like a rock. It took me a few minutes to turn it back on, but by then it had dropped about 200 degrees! OK, a pain in the butt glitch, but I got it back on  up to temperature. Then I  decided to do a final, light spraying and the darned thing  repeated the burping scenario and turned off again. This time I just surrendered and closed it down. Cone 9 was down flat with 10 starting and I know my liner glazes are fine at cone 9.
One of the good things about these portable, single IFB lined kilns is that they cool fast - really fast!  I checked the kiln around 9am this morning and it was already down to a hair over 100 degrees. So I unloaded, taking photos of each layer. After getting this thing to fire evenly, I was definitely going to get a photo record before I shrouded it in it's bright blue tarp, and rolled it under the eaves till the next firing,

In the next couple of days I'll get those burners cleaned out and wire brush the horizontal bar and see if I can find what's causing the back burning on that pilot burner.I just hope I can get those burners off. I'll probably need to make a trip to Lowe's for spray to unlock them, since I don't think I have any on hand. 
I'm not sure why those burners shut off other than perhaps the soda caused some back pressure to blow out the pilot, but why didn't it do it the first two rounds of spraying which were as long as the third and  twice as long as the fourth???? It is a puzzlement. I'm just wondering if the regulator is going; but they usually last more than 3 firings! Next firing I may just depress the red button with a C or similar clamp before I start spraying, or just get Jim out there to depress it and be there as an extra set of hands in case it happens again.

The pots came out well, but not as reduced as much as I  expected, based on how early I started reducing and reduced till the end.  In fact, I was concerned that my oribe accent on one of the pots might go livery red, and was amazed to see a bright, beautiful oribe.  My blue green celadon liner was reduced enough to be pale green but not the deeper richer color it can be with a stronger reduction. The flashing slip wasn't as rich an orange that I can get with the addition of a bit of salt to the mix. It looked more like it would without the soda, but no real problem there.
All in all I'm happy and very relieved that the pots survived those two shutdowns. Only one of the small bowls had a tiny piece of kiln wash find it's way in the bottom. I'll need at least a week before I even consider another soda firing; and it may be longer since I don't think this lovely, sunny weather is going to last this time of year.
Meantime I need to get to the pottery supply for the few things I need to batch up my other liner and accents glazes. Other than that, the rest of today is going to be a day of rest and paperwork and make a clean chart of the firing that I can follow next time.

There's not much work to show for the time spent firing such a tiny kiln, but the win for me was getting this kiln to fire dead even, and of course, freeing some space on my ware cart in my current, limited, studio space helps as well.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Soda kiln firing

Yesterday was another woman/man plans and God laughs studio day. After a big breakafast I headed to the studio with the intent of making my bright blue, celadon base liner glaze and a tiny batch of my amber celadon accent glaze. Unfortunately, after getting buckets labeled, and recipes in hand, I found that I didn't have any Alberta Slip. No problem, since I knew I had some Albany slip. Oops, spoke too soon. Unfortunately the Albany was nowhere to be found. I doubt if I would have given that away, so where did it disappear to????

Since the pottery supply store is closed on Sunday, I had to go back to square one. Fortunately I found a couple more glazed pots that just needed some accent glaze. So I batched a tiny bit of my oribe for that, unloaded the the partly loaded kiln and started over with a new group of pots and some of the originals. By four o'clock the kiln was loaded and shut and ready to fire today.

I also manged to get a lot more pots wadded for another firing before I called it a day at 4 o'clock and came in to do the veggie prep for the pizza and make a batch of margaritas. The new pizza dough was a hit with Jim. It was the closest to what I've been looking for which is a New York style crust - thin, slightly crispy bottom, yet foldable.

I had the kiln turned on low before 6:30 this morning. Firing is the job of the day other than wadding more pots and making draw rings and cone packs for the next firing  - good sit down jobs on firing day. Jim will bring home some Chinese take out for dinner. I don't cook when I'm firing and Jim can't cook, but he gives good takeout.. Time now to turn the kiln up.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jane Hamlyn video

Here's a nice video with Jane Hamlyn, featuring her beautiful salt glazed work as well as the collection of a very well known British collector.

Well, I'm happy to report that after yesterday mornings funk, I lit a fire under myself and wound up having a very busy and productive day. The sourdough starter got fed, pizza dough was made for tonight's dinner, breakfast made, overnight emails read and answered, etc.etc..After lunch I headed to the studio and uncovered the little soda kiln and vacuumed out the mice poop and shelled sunflower seeds. How did that mouse climb up into a stainless steel covered kiln on a stand with wheels. He would have had to vertically climb up the metal legs of the stand and then come up through one one of the burner ports in the base - pretty athletic little rodent! After dinner I did some computer work and before bedtime I did the first step prep for this mornings sourdough pancake breakfast.

I got the kiln 2/3rds loaded after cleaning and checking the burners. Since I  needed a couple more pots to top it off, after dinner I got a small batch of a blue accent glaze weighed out and decorated a mug. Because I didn't have any liner glazes made, and was fading a bit, I called it a night and wound down the evening with some computer work, while Jim was blissfully, engrossed in football.

Today I need to make a small bucket of my bright blue celadon liner and  find a couple of small, low items to top off the kiln. I'll head to the studio right after breakfast, instead of using that time to do some early dinner prep.  

If I can get those pots lined and dried overnight, I'll be able to fire tomorrow. If not, Tuesday, will work just as well, since the forecast for the whole week is sunny and in the 70's. Life is good!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

North Carolina memories

Southern Oregon is lovely, but it can't match the fall splendor of the mountains of western North Carolina and the New England states. I still miss North Carolina - dear friends, the beauty, and the ability to do the soda work I so loved.

It takes a long time to find one's voice in clay, and I found mine in my soda/salt fired work. I've been in a bit of a funk after the surgery - maybe had too much time on my hands to sit and feel a wee bit sorry for myself with what I had to leave behind. As a result, I'm finding it very difficult to get my passion up to get into the studio and get to work. The thought of giving it up altogether has cross my mind more than once; but in the end I knew I would miss it terribly so it was time to analyze my current situation with a clear head, and get beyond this momentary self pity, which has not contributed anything positive to my life. It's time to analyze where I am and focus on the possibilities of the future rather than the losses of the past.

I don't feel the earthenware is what I want to do, although I love the look; but don't like the delicacy and limits of the body. My tiny soda kiln is not a viable choice for anything more than a once or twice a year firing of a few pots for myself or the family. So where do I go to find my mojo?  This is what I've been pondering during this healing process, since I've been healing more than just my body. My age and it's limits are another consideration. One of the possibilities is switching to a cone 6 body that I can use for Cone 6 oxidation in my larger Skutt kiln as well as for soda. But what kind of cone 6 work do I do? My forms would translate to both but a white or light stoneware body would remove the things I love about the red earthenware, which is the use of the body color as a decorating element.  I am absolutely sure that I do not want to always have two different clay bodies in the studio as part of on going work.

So here are the options:  Down the line when I catch up with the current  earthenware and soda pots which need firing, I can switch to an earthenware colored cone 6 body for oxidation (we have two very good possibilities here on the west coast), and go against my own "only 1 clay body in the studio". Since I would do so little work in the soda which would make it workable, and I could use some of the same slips and some of the same glazes for both.

Next option is to forget about the quest for the lovely look of earthenware but in a stronger, less problematic cone 6 body, and just use a white or light stoneware that would be suitable for both the Cone 6 soda and cone 6 oxidation.

Third option is just to hang it all up; but I've already decided that I wouldn't be happy with that.

Now that I've put it down in black and white and re-read it, and contemplated it a bit more, I think I'm leaning to the first option. At least it will be worth a try. I can use the red body the way I've used it at cone 04-03, but I can also come up with cone  6 glazes for over the white slip, and not use the body color as part of the decoration, giving me two looks for the Cone 6 oxidation.. I already have a lot of cone 6 oxidation glazes of my own and others creations, that I tested years ago, And,  I can focus on form more than glaze colors so I don't have to have twenty glaze buckets to deal with. I once had 30 and that is never going to happen again - no desire and no room for them.

To that end I will be focusing on two liners, a temmoku, and a bright blue cobalt colored celadon that would work for both..  A clear for the oxidation earthenware look, and an  oribe green or teal which would suit some of my smaller functional pieces and work for both soda and oxidation, and also work as an accent glaze as well. 

I can use the current earthenware slips for the oxidation pots and would just have to make one flashing slip for soda (I had several before).

Now that I think I've got that figured out, it's time to get tomorrows pizza dough started and get my sourdough starter fed for tomorrow mornings sourdough pancakes. Then I'll be off to the studio after lunch and take with me a more positive, and optimistic attitude. I need to check if I have enough lined and decorated soda pots to fill that tiny soda kiln and get it fired in a couple of days. My draw rings and cone packs are made and dried and I just have to make a tiny batch of wadding and batch a cup of my blue accent glaze for a couple of the pots. It's all doable before the end of the day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mountain splendor

We had a fabulous drive to the mountains and I thought I'd share a couple of photos of this amazing waterfall in Prospect, Oregon. I took these photos from the bridge. Fortunately not many cars came over while I was in a somewhat precarious position. One side of the bridge has the falls view and the other side is this amazing, massive rock formation and the rushing water from the falls as it continues  on its way.

Jim and I got our pine forest fix, stopping a few times to walk among them and soak in the amazing scent of pine and balsam fir. We had a nice little lunch and brought home some very tasty pie. By the time we got home we  were more relaxed than a couple of overcooked noodles. We were so tired after all that good mountain air that we had to fight to stay awake until 9:30 p.m. when we both gave up the fight and turned out the lights.

Today I'm dealing with household and those never ending computer chores. I just put together the potato au gratin casserole to go with our leftover fish sticks for dinner. I couldn't figure out how to use my new mandoline so I had to slice the potatoes the 1/8" required thickness using my ancient, wobbly, unstable,  downright, unreliable, and older than dirt, slicer. My duh of the day - You Tube has a detailed video on how to use the Bron Mandoline.  I should have checked that out before I gave up and cut them with my ancient, dangerous tool (I have the scars to prove it). I must have enjoyed complaining about it for the past 50 years or so, since it's taken me that long to break down and buy the Bron Mandoline with a nice protective handle so I will no longer have to risk making a blood sacrifice every time I need to slice these veggies.

I will bid a fond adieu for now while I see if I can find my missing Safari web browser on my iPod touch. I googled the problem and there's a possibility it is hidden in there, deeply hidden in the settings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nice little decorating video from Ben Carter

Here's a nice little decorating video from Ben Carter.

Never made it to the studio yesterday. My bread took forever to rise. I suspect my sour dough starter had gone a bit too long before feeding.  It  took twice as long, but it finally rose and was pulled out of the oven by the time we were sitting down to dinner. That's a long rise!

I got involved in other things (mainly computer related) while I watched the political craziness coverage, and never made it to the studio and won't today either. With so few, good, warmish days in the forecast, Jim suggested we take a drive to the mountains, have lunch and smell the pines. Sounds good to me!

The drive toward Crater Lake has some lovely scenery along the way, and a there's decent little mountain restaurant that has a passable menu. They're also noted for their great pies. So we'll have our big meal of the day there and share one portion of pasta with bolognese sauce when we get home. I'm still using up some dinners I cooked and froze for Jim before my surgery, so today's big lunch paves the way for one big serving of the pasta for us to share for dinner. We won't go hungry because we'll probably bring a piece of pie home for dessert. My choice will be Oregon wild blueberry if it's on menu. It won't be like my grand mothers, but it should be good if they live up to their reputation.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alfred University unveils a new Ceramic museum

Alfred University unveils a new Ceramic museum. Here's the link if you want to peek.
Alfred University Ceramics Museum

I'm going at snails pace but I'm going. Got a wee bit of studio time yesterday to make some cone packs for the soda kiln, went through some paper work  and labeled  some small containers for wadding, liner and accent glazes for soda pots.

After breakfast I have to make our favorite nutty fruity breakfast breakfast bread and after lunch  I'll start weighing out those glazes. I still have one ware rack of bisqued soda pots to fire. Between needing to have 3 non rainy days in the forecast to fire that kiln and the minute size of the kiln, it's going to take me forever to get these all fired.

At some point I need to check my garden. Our night time temperatures have been hovering a couple of degrees above freezing and around 70 during the day, so I'm keeping a sharp eye on those last big, green, tomatoes. 

I took some beans and corn bread out of the freezer for tonight so I'll be able to get a good block of studio time before I have to head to the kitchen. It feels so good to finally be able to get some semblance of a balanced routine of house and studio chores.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Here Fishy Fishy

 My beautiful son Sean treated me to another tour guided fishing trip on the Rogue with him yesterday. We had the most amazing time. The weather was perfect, the steelhead were biting and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we drifted down to the next likely fishing spot. We saw deer, a heron, and a lot of ducks and well as hundreds of spawning salmon. Since they removed some of the man made dams, there are a lot more salmon making it up the river.

The river was very generous yesterday. Here's our guide Curtis holding one of the big 3 steelhead I caught. This one had to go back since it was a native; but I have a couple of others that were hatchery, therefore, legal keepers, that are in the fridge and freezer.

I'm holding up 2 fingers to indicate this was my second catch. For some reason the other photos just won't load straight up. I even rotated them a couple of times - a suggestion I found on google. It worked with this one but not the others. It's very weird that Blogspot doesn't have a rotate option for photos after all this time and all the complaints.

With our son here for the weekend I'm not getting any studio time, which is probably just as well.I was pretty sore around my incision after mixing and sieving a bucket of clear glaze and  white slip, glazing a couple of pots and then cleaning up. Afterwards, I realized that I should have stuck with my initial plan to mix up some cone 10 liner glazes. Instead, when I got into the studio, it became evident that I needed to at least glaze a couple of the decorated, bisqued pots and free up some table space. Sean leaves on Sunday afternoon , so I'll be back in the studio then for a couple of hours before dinner. 

Right now I need to start on potato salad for tonight's pulled pork barbecue dinner.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Computers and generators

Still not quite finished with the photo cleanup on my old Dell laptop, so I'll continue that this morning and when and if that's completed, I'll try to get the iPod touch and iPad synched. Completed or not, after lunch, I'll head to the studio to batch up a couple of liner glazes. 

I've also been doing research the past couple of days on generators and we finally made our choice this morning - the Honda EB6500S. At our age, the extra cost for the electric start with the manual back up is the way to go. Some of the lesser priced ones produce pretty dirty energy which can fry your flat screen TV's, computers, etc. And we have several dealers only 15 minutes from our house who sell and service these which is also a consideration.

This Rogue Valley has had long outages in the past (I'm talking 5 days or so), so going with the more expensive, better rated unit seemed like the best choice. I also found that you can get an electrician to connect it to the main power box so that my almost 80 year old husband nor I,  have to be pulling refrigerators and heavy furniture away from the walls, and running long extensions cords to everything.

As you deal with some of the limitations of being older, it's a blessing to have options available that reduce your physical as well as mental stress levels. As I often say "aging is not for sissies".

Time to make some oatmeal for breakfast on this cold morning. Temperatures are hovering slightly above freezing and so am I.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Back, and almost raring to go

My post surgery  "no studio or heavy work for 8 weeks" ends today. I thought I'd be feeling better before this, but the extent of the surgery and my healing ability at my age, and a couple of other health glitches has prolonged it. A bladder infection and then extreme nausea,  which we suspect may be a result of the antibiotics killing all the good intestinal flora, is now being treated with probiotics and yogurt three times a day. I'll know in another four or five days if these have worked, otherwise we'll have to keep looking elsewhere for the cause.

Fortunately, I only experience that  nausea when I have an empty stomach and  stand for  more than about 15-20 minutes; but am fine sitting or lying down - truly bizarre and not fun at all. So I did most of my food prep while sitting  and we've had some very nice meals since I figured that out. Reading, computer clean up and repair and cooking has been the extent of my activities the past two weeks.

I've been able to clean up all my photo files on one computer and have made a big dent on the ones in this old Dell, which I got up an running after one blue screen of death after another. The computer still has problems; but after deleting some programs the blue screen of death has not showed it's ugly face for the past couple of days, and I got my Norton anti virus software working again and got a full backup on to the new 3T external hard drive. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief  for a while.

Today I'll try to finish cleaning up photos on this Dell and get my iPod and iPad updated with the new software. Tomorrow I'll get back in the studio and weigh out a couple of small batches of liner glazes for the soda pots. Now that we're getting cool weather, it's time to think about being ready for the next 3 days of clear skies for another soda firing in my tiny Olympic kiln. I'm almost raring to go!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Morning Eye Candy

The video link is to Tom Turner's amazing, 40 year collection of pottery. I've seen this collection at his home and studio and it is amazing. It was like being in a museum. He is now selling most of the collection by appointment at his home outside of Asheville, North Carolina. 

As for me, I'm dealing with some new, yet undiagnosed health challenge which is causing extreme nausea only when I'm standing for any length of time. It's truly bizarre. I have some prescription anti nausea medicine which I will start today but often these medications cause other symptoms that put the body in more stress. Old age is definitely not for sissies!

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to find more sit down jobs than just cleaning up computer files and chopping and dicing dinner veggies. Maybe it's time to read some of the unread books sitting in our bookcases.