Friday, February 26, 2010

A light firing ... sort of

I fired yesterday. This was a kiln with only about 30 pots in it, most of them tall vases or wide plates and bowls. Many two-to-a-shelf pots. So glazing took about a quarter of the time it usually does to get a 100-pot firing together.
And I mixed a couple of new glazes - a Leach White Ash (90 percent Cornwall Stone and 10 percent wood ash) and an Ohata Kaki. Had to substitute yellow ochre for about a third of the iron oxide in the recipe, which made the glaze not as satisfactory as I would have liked. Not as glistening, crystally iron red as the tests, that is. Ah, well. There was no more RIO to be found in the studio. My fault.
But the Leach ash is an interesting glaze, and a breeze to mix up. It takes my iron oxide trailing slip really nicely, the slip showing up as an iron red when it's applied to the glaze. That one tall bottle with the iron splashes is what I'm referring to. It also lets a white slip hakeme show beautifully under the ash, and it does nice things when poured or dipped over temmoku.
Otherwise, the trapping shinos worked well in this one. As did the temmokus.
Now, on to a couple of writing assignments, both from blogging friends.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I need to develop glazes like this ...

We've just returned from our second weekend in Vermont, this time up north in the little town of Underhill, where we stayed with friends Peter and Cindy. It appears that there's a state law that requires snowfall north of Montpelier, so we were in snow of one kind or another most of two days. We skied at the Smuggler's Notch Nordic Center for three hours of up hill and down Sunday morning. In a lovely little snowstorm, among trees already well-coated in snow.
I came away thinking I ought to be able to come up with Shino glazes that carbon-trapped in images vaguely reminiscent of a snow-filled winter forest. Wonder how that would work?
Back to glazing ...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flying over the Shino landscape

This big (maybe a foot tall), two-part vase came out of the firing late last week, glazed in layered Shinos that made it look a bit like the landscape of an alien planet. In the past six months or so I have been pouring Shino over Shino on many of my pots. Usually the base is a carbon-trap Shino attributed to Malcolm Davis, then a Bright Shino is poured over, then perhaps my regular ash celadon glaze. No order, not much forethought. Where the glazes overlap, they usually crawl unpredictably. Sometimes I'll pour ash glaze over the crackling Shinos as a way of blanketing them and keeping them from wildly crawling off the pot. The ash fills the gaps in the crawling and crackling Shinos and sometimes pools in the centers of the individual crackles. ... If any of that makes sense.
These glazes in this firing were newly mixed. I know that some pottery teachers and texts say we should always test our new batches before trusting them to our pots, but ... well ... I don't. I don't necessarily want the new bucket of glaze to look exactly like the last bucket. Consistent inconsistency is what I'm looking for, at least with these combinations.
The two detail photos at bottom are from two smaller vases in the same firing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Non-pottery weekend watching young people fly

While the national team members were ski-jumping in Vancouver at the Olympics, some pretty damn good jumpers who didn't quite make the teams were flying off the 90-meter hill in Brattleboro, Vermont, this past weekend. Jumpers from across the United States and from Slovenia and Austria competed at Harris Hill, just a few blocks from Brattleboro's lively downtown.
We took a weekend away from Cape Cod to see these young folks fly through the air Saturday and Sunday. Pretty cool. Above at top, Nick Fairall of Andover, NH, and below him (but with everyone on the side of the hill looking up at him) Stefan Klade of Austria.
Now, back to making pots.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Powerless kiln-opening

I opened the kiln yesterday morning in the dark. More or less. There was no power here in Hatchville, after the big wind and heavy snow took out several electrical poles on Route 151 nearby. We were without electricity for about 24 hours, which is fine during the day (sort of), but makes things kind of dark after the sun goes down. Oh, and cold. And computerless. So I'm a day late getting these new pots up on the blog.
This was a good firing, with lots of carbon-trapping in all the right places and some good results among nine or ten new glazes I was testing. I'll post a photo of that in a day or so.
Lots of squared bottles in this firing, mostly of them in Shino, but with a fair amount of crackle slip underneath. Also, a new batch of ash glaze, made entirely with our friend Mie's woodstove ash. The brown stoneware vases with white slip brushed underneath the ash did well. My pots are getting darker, for some reason. Winter, maybe. But I seem to be glazing things in either complex, random patterns under carbon-trap Shino or on brown stoneware with white slip that barely shows through the dark, greenish ash glaze. Hmmmmm ...
Maybe I should do more copper red, eh, Finnegan?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kiln fired, snow goes on and on and on ...

I shut down the kiln this afternoon about 2:45, about six hours after lighting it at nine this morning. This time the bottom pyro probe was running about 20 degrees hotter than the top one. That's about 180 degrees opposite what I expected, since there was a much tighter and taller pack in the bottom than in the top. Maybe that means that once the pots and furniture got hot down below, they just radiated that much more heat than the empty top several inches. This thing's always a mystery of one kind or another ...
So it's still hot in the studio, with the glow coming from inside around the plugs in the peeps. I'll open tomorrow morning around 10. As always, we'll see what we've got. I never know. This time, there are several tests of new glazes in there. That will be interesting.
Meanwhile, outside, the heavy, wet snow continues to fall. We're predicted to get another eight inches overnight, but also to get winds upwards of 50 or 60 miles per hour. So there could be power outages here.
This shot shows the back yard here, with the shed gallery closed up tight and still decorated with a wreath from two months ago. That bird house in the left foreground was made by my father years ago. It decorated my parents' house on Martha's Vineyard and is now slowly and with dignity deteriorating in the Cape Cod weather.

Soda ash and snowfall ...

I always love the look of my Shino-glazed pots after they've sat for a few hours and the soda ash has migrated to the surface. They look like just a little bit of snow has fallen on them while they sat in the studio, awaiting the kiln. Coming into the studio in the morning after glazing late into the afternoon is always a bit of a surprise, especially when I'm using a freshly mixed batch of the carbon trap Shino. The pots were a drab tan the evening before and now show that alternately shadowed and white look. There are a lot of those pots in this kiln-load, which as I write has just had its first turn-up and is somewhere in the 1000F range right now. Another turn-up is due in 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, snow began falling this morning as we left the coffee shop and headed home about 8:30. It was light at first, but is coming down more heavily now. Predictions are for anywhere from five to 15 inches today, with northeast winds gusting to 50 mph later in the day. It's what's called a nor'easter around here, the wind coming from the northeast and driving the snow ahead of it. With luck, the firing will be done by the time the winds start to blow.
I'll spend time between turn-ups painting primer on the knots in the upstairs barnboard walls. We're taking the big room above the studio and dividing it into a guest room/work area and a slightly more upscale gallery space than the shed. The hazy plans right now are that I will use the new gallery space for the best work that comes from the kiln. White walls and ceiling, nice north and south light from the windows, taking up the carpet and putting down a linoleum floor to be more friendly to pot-holding pedestals.
Right now, there's a pile of junk in the center of the room while Dee primes the window frames. As it gets more photogenic, I'll post some pictures.
Onward ...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sifting ash ... and other glaze requirements

I got down to the bottom of the barrel - literally - with a number of my glazes after the January firing. So, with an inch or less of glaze left in several of the buckets, I knew I would have to do a marathon ingredient-weighing session - and a similarly long mixing and sieving and bucket-washing session - before I could glaze the pots for this next firing. (I hate this part of the process, by the way ... hate it.)
Hence today's photo of the cinders and ash in the sifter. I get wood ash from Falmouth friends Mie Elmhirst and Diane Salter, and from Dee's sister Ellen in upstate New York. All the ash comes from their woodstoves and is mostly the result of burning hardwood. I sift out the cinders, bent nails and door hinges interspersed with the ash (Ellen's husband Russ will burn just about anything falling apart on their farm). If I do it in the studio, the place fills with a fine fog of ash, so I try to do it outside, where the wind will take away the lightest ash. That's what I did today, freezing my hands.
The ash is mostly used in my version of Phil Rogers's "Standard Ash Glaze" from his first book on ash glazes. Phil washes most of his ash, or at least he did when that book was released. But I found that washing ash was an aggravation, so I've been using it unwashed for more than 10 years. It runs a bit more than washed ash, but I double the amount of China clay in the recipe and that seems to keep the running under control. The glaze makes a lovely transparent celadon over my white B-mix stoneware, and a green and runny glaze on the more heavily grogged brown stoneware.
Onward to the Shinos ...