Monday, August 27, 2012

A very long day at the studio

I loaded the kiln with all the pots for the crystal glaze firing on Friday night. I loaded 3 shelves, and each shelf was pretty loose. Even still, I think it should have been looser. Perhaps only 2 shelves next time? I set the kiln to start firing at 8am Saturday morning and figured, at the least, I should be there by 11:30 am. When I walked in, the kiln was beeping at me. It didn't tell me why, it was just beeping. I think it was not heating fast enough. I had left the top peep out, so I plugged it up and it shut up and continued on it's way. I am not sure how long it sat at 1300 degrees F for, but I think the firing was delayed quite a bit. It then took until 6:30 to reach top temp, so perhaps too much stuff was in the kiln. I had set it for 2204 F. I don't know if that was hot enough though. Some glazes melted completely, but some others seemed to be a bit too satin, but then it could have been the application? Once it reached 2204, I pulled all the peeps and blew a large fan perpendicular to them to pull the heat out as fast as possible. The temp dropped very rapidly. It only took about 45 minutes to reach 1875 F. I then put all the peeps back in and held at that temp for 4 hours and then shut off. I left after putting all peeps in, I had been there for almost 9 hours at that point. I opened it up on Sunday to find that most of the pots were pretty hideous. There was some decent crystal formation on about half of them, but even then those pots seemed to be patchy. I had a nice little bowl come out OK, but of course, the bottom filled up with glaze and is a crusty ugly at the bottom. The results on some of them were encouraging enough to make me want to do it again, but on bigger pieces where the glaze has room to flow and form crystals. So I glazed 4 larger bowls with 2 of the more promising glazes. I waxed the bottoms on the inside then applied my first coat and proceeded to gradually wax up the sides after each application to get a really thick layer at the rim and then gradually get thinner and thinner towards the bottom. I may even attempt a large bottle. I will use a ring of wadding between the foot and the catch basin to hopefully make removal a little easier after firing.

This has some promise...

This one not so much...

Here are some of the results from the last firing

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wine, dinner, conversation & cleaning up slip cast cups

A friend of mine, who I met through the studio a couple of years ago, is getting married in just under 2 months. She is from Medicine Hat and is having the wedding at the Medalta Historic Clay District. They have a brand new museum and events space that they rent out for just such an occasion. She decided to make all of the cups for her guests that they can take home and she wanted to cast them all out of porcelain. She is braver than me, that's for sure. The learning curve was steep, as she had virtually no knowledge of how to make a plaster mold or how to properly cast etc. But, with many an hour spent watching YouTube videos on the process, and reading everything she could about it, she almost has the 170 cups she needs. The tricky bit was that she only has 2 plaster casts, she works during the day, and just doesn't have the extra time to clean the casts at the right time. So, a few of her friends and I met her at her house last night and started sanding the “almost dry” greenware that she had been making since March. Imagine a cup, left to drain out over a rack on top of a mixing bowl on a kitchen counter for probably longer than recommended. You get a cup with very uneven rims. It was tricky, but we did it. With a little 80 grit sand paper to remove the uneven rims and fine steel wool to sand down the surface to a very smooth finish, we did it. There were some losses, I'm not going to kid you. One wrong move and the cup would be in pieces. Some of them you just had to look at the wrong way and they would crack.

I volunteered to make her 8 small Medaltaesq crock pots for her as she is quickly running outta time. I won't have to fire them, just throw them, trim them and put her “logo” in blue underglaze on them. She will be taking all of her cups and crocks down to Medalta to fire at the Shaw Centre, where they have many many kilns. So she should be able to get them done quite quickly. The only tricky bit will be transporting 170 very fragile green ware cups for the 3 hour drive. There are train tracks and I am sure some speedbumps along the way, so my fingers are crossed for her. She will need to have them all done and down there by Thanks Giving if she wants to get them done in time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

getting stuff done

I managed to get a few things done this weekend, despite the heat. It managed to get up to at least 29 degrees with no breeze or a cloud in the sky. I started the day on Saturday at 9:30 by going to the mall (I know, I know, I hate the mall too). I needed to go see a man about a power cord for my macbook. Lately the cord has been kinda flaky and not charging properly. I took it in, saw a “genius” and got a new cord. Works like a charm. The mall is on the way to the studio, and after the apple visit, I toddled on over there, but splurged on a venti caramel latte before I left. My theory was to try to get to the studio as early as I could to beat the heat, but it was pretty toasty inside anyway, there was a kiln that had recently finished firing and was doing a good job at heating up the joint. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were hundreds of cars parked in every conceivable space in every lot, along the road (except ours thank goodness). There is a motor cross track at the end of the road and normally all you can hear is the annoying whine of dirt bikes flying around the track. Not so on Saturday. There was a Spartan race going on, and if you don't know what that is, and neither did I, it is an obstacle course that involves crawling under barbed wire in the mud, running up hill, running down hill, etc. I saw a lot of very muddy racers walking to their cars when they were done.

Anyway, I mixed 3 glaze tests, fingers crossed, glazed a billion pieces, and loaded a kiln. Ok, probably not a billion, but there was a lot of stuff to glaze, and not knowing exactly what will fit in the kiln, I try to make sure I have enough glazed to be able to pack it as efficiently as possible. I managed to get the custom “fire” bowl in, about 24 mugs, some tall stuff, a large platter and 4 smaller square plates, a couple of casseroles, and teapots, as well as all the test pieces. As I had mixed 3 tests, I had the 3 test cups in there, plus one where I poured all 3 in an overlapping manner around the outside, and then for giggles, I dumped all 3 tests together and tried that out on a couple of small cups. The base glaze was identical, but the oxides were different in all 3. One had just copper carb, another had copper carb and iron, and the 3rd had cobalt oxide and iron. I am hoping for a mottled green/brown, a pale mottled green, and a dark mottled greenish blue and all will hopefully have a lovely satin feel to them.

I am hoping to get the crystal firing loaded this coming friday night and then program it so that I can be there during the critical cooling and holding phase to ensure that the temp. drops as fast as possible by opening up all peeps and running a fan across them to draw as much heat out as fast as possible until the hold temp is reached.

When I was unloading the student glaze load yesterday, I became quite aware of how little people actually pay attention to anything. I sent out instructions about what to do when glazing with the crystal glazes and where to put them when finished to avoid confusion with regular ware etc. But in spite of that, I pulled out a spectacularly horrible pot yesterday that had a dry and ugly surface on it (glaze not thick enough), but where it was thick, little spiky, poorly formed crystals were evident. So, not only did they not read or follow the instructions, or ask for advice on how to glaze their work, they then put it with the standard cone 6 work. Thank goodness we limited it to the inside of bowls only or there could have been a huge mess.

Here's a pictoral rundown of my Saturday and sunday

This is some of the bisque I had to glaze

Here is a close up of a couple square plates

The ware cart starts to fill and then move into the kiln. This is the 1st shelf.

Then the second, third, and a half. My fingers are crossed right now. I'm hoping for some good tests.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digging in the Dirt

I am off to go dig clay this evening. A bunch of us from the studio have this crazy idea to go out and dig up a few buckets full of clay to see if we can get a trhrowing body, a glaze and a terra sig out of it.


After that, I am off to Sooozin's to book our flights for our Kentucky trip. Better to do it in person than hope we are on the same page to later find out we are flying on different planes, at different times.

Then tomorrow I am off to get my passport photos taken. Friday I need to get the forms delivered to the passport office, but they close at 5:30, so i will really have to move it to get there in time. I may duck out of work a wee bit early to do that.

On top of all this, there is a plumber coming to look at my pipes on Friday, so that means I need to do a bit of a clean up tonight and tomorrow, like the dishes, sweeping, mopping, or at least stack and shuffle to make the chaos appear somewhat orderly.

The kilns are finally back up and running full tilt, so this weekend will be spent glazing all the stuff that I have been making for the past couple of months. I have a zillion little square plates with various slipped, shellacked and abraded patterns (very anxious to see how they come out), various jugs, teapots, pitchers, bowls etc. There will be at least 2 kiln loads full. May as well get it all done now, and then maybe I wont be in such a rush for the winter sales.

Lexington, KY or Bust

I will be Kentuky bound in 9 weeks to attend a Potters Council workshop. My buddy Susan and I are going to fly to Ontario (either Kitchener Waterloo, or London) to meet up with her friend Jan and then all 3 of us will be driving down to the Bluegrass State for a little fun with mud. There won't be any hands on, but there will be 6 different presenters, over 2 days, discussing and sharing their work and methods. The workshop is titled “The Ceramic Voice: Narrative Works in Clay”. From my experience with these types of events, the title usually is not always relevant. The last one I attended was called “Surfacing” and dealt with the things potters/artitst do to add texture, colour, etc to the surface of their work. However, there were artists there, ie: Mark Hewitt, who did not really focus on that at all. Mark threw a couple really large vessels, and talked about his life, kilns, methods, etc, but the “surface” part was not the main focus. I am just looking forward to seeing how different people approach the medium, what influences them etc. There will be a pottery exchange on the last day, so that should be cool too.

We even managed to get free accommodation. Susan's husband travels a lot for his work and has donated the points necessary for us to get a room for 3 nights for FREE. I like FREE. My only other expense after flights and the workshop fee will be the gas for the trip. Not sure how much that will be, but split 3 ways, it shouldn't be too horrific, especially since gas is much much cheaper in the US compared to Canada.

Usually when I go on a road trip, it involves the rocky mountains that hog the sky. This will be a newish experience for me. The eastern states in late October should be beautiful. I am thinking flaming fall colours, not the yellow poplar that quickly turns to brown out here, but real “fall” colours. You never know though, when I was in NY in early October it was still very very green, so this might be too, but perhaps being farther inland will cool things down? Then there was the heat/drought this year, so it might just be brown. It appears that the average temperature in that area in October is in the 20 C range with lows of 8 C. I guess I will dress for cool, but potentially warm. No bikinis or parkas, but anything in between.