Thursday, January 31, 2013

New pots from the kiln

I fired a load of pots Tuesday, opened the kiln Wednesday morning. Lots of simple bowls for the Cape Cod Potters' Soup Bowls for Hunger event in April, a small batch of handled chowder bowls, a dozen or thereabouts teabowls, some vases and odds and ends. Sarah Caruso put ten cups in the firing, using my glazes and her clay body. First time she's fired to cone 10 in years, she says. I think she was intrigued by some of the results. And there was a single tiny vase by Kim Medeiros, just so I could say she was part of the firing. Her pots have brought good luck the past couple of months.
I had unexpected results from the rutile glaze that I tried for the first time. It's Kim's recipe; she gets a milky blue/white on her pots, a color I thought I would try out. But for some reason the glaze fired to a deep purple for me, only showing that blue/white when it was poured over or otherwise overlapped another glaze. Too much reduction? A different grade of rutile? I don't know.
I did like it splashed over my usual Shinos. It supplied a bit of color where the Shinos tend toward black-and-white or a caramel brown or tan.
Anyway, more studying to be done, I guess. And I think I'm going to fire again next week, to clear out some of my bisque before we get to some remodeling of the studio area.
The photos, top to bottom: Tall jar of mine, small vase of Kim Medeiros; then six small faceted Shino teabowls, some with rutile or ash celadon pours.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kiln loaded for firing ... and a card from France

The first firing of 2013 will happen tomorrow. It took a couple of days, with several interruptions, to fill the kiln for this firing. Lots of Shino in this one, plus several pots glazed in a rutile recipe that came from my colorful friend (Dan Finnegan described her as "spangly and sparkly") Kim Medeiros. I'm getting a bit more colorful, apparently. I'm hopeful, but it's a little frightening to add color to the palette. We'll see what things look like Wednesday morning.
This firing is also a larger test of a new clay body. I borrowed some T3 body, made by Sheffield in western Mass., from Kim when I was temporarily out of B-Mix. I like the way it throws and the way it looks as it dries. It appears to have more iron in it and should give a bit more color to the Shinos. It has done that to Kim's pots fired with my Shinos in this kiln. Again, we'll see, but I have great hopes for the T3.
Also, I received a tiny envelope in the mail today, postmarked from France. It was from the bloggers of Le Blog de MHAD, who are in Brittany on the coast. I've never spoken directly to any of them, but sometimes comment on their blog in college freshman French from 1964. They create lovely, simple and colorful graphic art, usually of the French coastal weather, shop signs, lighthouses, local landmarks. My French is poor, so I don't fully understand what is offered, but it appears that you can buy posters from them. Or prints. In any case, they make cool art and are generous people, judging from the card they sent all the way from France. This card says, I think, "Blackbird Dreamer."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A couple of days in Washington

Dee and I drove to Washington, D.C., last weekend to be on the Mall for the second inauguration of Barack Obama. We went four years ago and were part of the crowd of two million (more or less) facing the Capitol on a very cold day.
This year we again stayed with potter friend Lorraine Colson in Alexandria and rode the Metro into the city to be there when the swearing-in happened. I remain amazed that this country elected an African-American man twice as president. Politics and individual issues aside, that fact alone is a measure of how far we've come in my 65 years of life. We're clearly not perfect ... never will be, in fact. But it seemed to us that the day was worth celebrating. And there were about 1 million spectators who felt the same. Many of them were also African-American, men and women much older than us, young couples with very young children, there to show their kids and to be able to say they were there. It was pretty cool, in spite of the malfunctioning Jumbotron at our standing spot near the Washington Monument.
Many thanks to Lorraine, who cooked great meals for us, helped consume more than a few bottles of Prosecco and Cava, talked pottery and potters, tolerated a losing Patriots' game and generally was her usual gracious hostess.

(Oh, and we ate a great lunch Sunday near the Museum of the American Indian, prepared in a truck by someone who calls himself, immodestly, "The King of Lebanese Cuisine.")
Photos: Abe Lincoln, always our favorite monument; two British visitors meeting Abe's memorial; in the crowd Monday; a Japanese Buddhist temple Daiko drum group at the American Indian museum; a West African dancer, at the same museum.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Slowly focusing kiln design ideas

Dan Finnegan flew from Boston last week, leaving Kim Medeiros and me here on Cape Cod, contemplating the kiln design discussion we had with him over 48 hours. (Oh, and we had a pretty damn good vegetarian potluck dinner party here with a number of local potters, many of them already FOFs ... Friends of Finnegan.)
Kim and I were left with some immediate homework: First, find wood. I mean, it seems like a given, but finding appropriate fuel for the kiln is a fairly crucial first step. Fortunately, I've lived here long enough to know the kind of people who know those kinds of people. That means we've got a line of a couple of sawmills not far from the Cape who create lots and lots of pine offcuts. OK, that's a start.
We also need the shelves around which the kiln will be built. Our initial decision is to use 14x28-inch shelves, configured to basically create a square and, vertically, a cube. We know we can buy the shelves new, but we're on the lookout for used silicon carbide. Anyone know of any? We'll travel to pick up, within reason. Lemme know.
The same goes for brick. I have about 800 used soft and hard brick, but we think most of the hard brick will go into the chimney. Again, we'll probably buy new, but are not averse to saving money. Lemme know.
After talking kiln with Dan for about two days, what we came up with - perhaps not remarkably - will look a lot like a single-chamber version of his two-chamber kiln outside Fredericksburg. A photo of that kiln is attached, as is one of Dan in consult mode. Dan led us through options for capacity, arch, firebox, etc. and something like this really seems to do what we want it to. Big enough to fire with others, not so big that one or the other of us couldn't do a single big firing if need be.
So, we're on the trail of all the details that need to be done before the planned June start date. Anyone who has advice, feel free.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Finnegan brings woodfire ideas to the Cape

Kim Medeiros of The Barn Pottery and I will be in Boston tomorrow morning to pick up the traveling Daniel Finnegan at the airport. Dan's coming here for a couple of days of wood kiln consulting with Kim and me. We fired the Truro train kiln of the Castle Hill art center last fall and fell in love with woodfiring; Kim for the first time, me resuming a longtime relationship with the fire.
I've got bricks, Kim's got space ... and of course there's more to it than that. But we think we can make this work, and Finnegan will sit down with us for a couple of days and look at kiln designs and help us make some decisions. Pretty exciting.
Regular readers know that Dan and I worked together years ago firing the kiln he and Bill Van Gilder built in Maryland. I was the nearly ignorant stoker, of course, a pottery student of Dan's. But I learned a lot in firing that kiln and later kilns in Pennsylvania, Colorado and here in southeastern Massachusetts. Then I got my gas kiln working and for five or six years didn't stoke wood.
The plan Kim and I have started to put together would create a kiln with roughly 45-50 c.f. of stacking space, allowing us to fire together or separately. We both make pots fairly quickly. But a kiln that size will also allow for guest potters and for sharing the space with the numerous potters here on the Cape. Other than that ... we're not sure about specifics. With luck, when Dan leaves Friday for his Michigan workshop we'll have a much better idea.

The photos: Top, the fire; Mr. Finnegan in a Cape Cod teaching moment, this time in Chatham.