Thursday, January 29, 2009

Uwharrie Pieces Help Break New Ground

Finished pieces for Uwharrie Mountain Run 2009

As I write this, I'm worried about the final 12 plates that are finishing their firing cycle in my electric kiln. I had to push the last six plates before they were ready to fire. The race isn't until next weekend, but Mary and I are leaving for Ireland tomorrow. I turned up the heater in my shop to help dry them out and preheated the kiln for several hours at 150 degrees F before ramping it up.

I'm pleased with the plates that have been fired so far, although they're a bit dark maybe. The clay is Highwater's Earthen Red fired to a hot Cone 6. The slip is porcelain.

I took a piece for the 8-milers, 20-milers, 40-milers and winners outside to take a group picture and decided to shoot them in the spot where I plan to build my first wood-fired kiln. I grabbed my shovels and dug a flat spot in the hill, leveling it off to create a shelf for the pots.

I wonder what the pieces would have looked like if fired in a wood-fired kiln.

I'll have to wait.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Raw-glazing Plates Successfully

Film Clip Below

I raw-glazed more than 300 cups successfully recently. Today, I raw-glazed 12 dinner-sized plates, and I'm confident that they should fire successfully. There was a period of time - more than 10 years ago - when I was doing a lot of raw-glazing.

I enjoyed the challenge of dipping a large pitcher into a bucket of glaze, submersing it with fingers on the bottom and fingers on its lip. One needs to keep in mind the fragility of raw clay when forming pieces to be raw glazed. I've got a large pitcher in my workspace that didn't survive the dip. It busted and plopped into the glaze bucket. I think the neck of the piece was too thin.

My plates that I glazed today have been drying for at least a week, so I knew they were dry. I brushed wax on the bottom and glazed them like I would glaze a large platter. (It's difficult to use glaze thongs on large platters, and you certainly can't use them on green pots.) I placed two fingers on each side of the plate, dipped and let the glaze run off, turning the plate like a steering wheel to allow the drips to even out before laying it down. I then brushed on some glaze to cover the finger spots.

I'll fire some tomorrow in my small kiln, then fire the rest later this week after they finish drying. Everything's coming down to the wire as we prepare to go on our annual visit to Ireland to visit Mary's folks. We're leaving Friday, and I have to get this order done soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Film: Throwing a Plate and Slipping it on the Wheel

Film Clip Below

I spent the morning working with iMovie, messing around with a short film of me throwing one of the last plates for the Uwharrie Mountain Run awards. These plates are for the winners (First, Second and Third) of the 8, 20 and 40-mile races. Sorry about the poor quality of sound at times. My Canon S3IS just doesn't work right at times. Thank you Moody Blues for the words.

Now, I need to get to work on cutting the plates off their bats and letting them dry for the decorating I'll do later.

P.S. Here's to a long life of creating happiness, Tom.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ticamus and BC Enjoy some Sun

Ticamus enjoyed the sun today as the snow melted

'BC' enjoyed the sun, too, but found a spot away from the snow. Typical cat.

Ticamus wanted BC to play, but BC wouldn't have any of it.

Inauguration Day freeze

Monday, January 19, 2009

Salted Lumber Available to Potters?

According to a news story by BBC News, there's more than 1,000 tonnes of lumber floating off the UK, resulting from a mishap at sea. I'm wondering what happens to all that lumber as it washes ashore. It might make for some nice fuel for potters. Photo at right is from BBC News.

Someone from the Coastguard said the wood might wash ashore between Brighton and Newhaven beginning on Tuesday. Flotsam or jetsam?

Here's a link to the article.

In other news, Mary unloaded the first big load of cups for the Uwharrie Run, and now she's cleaning up some more cups so I can glaze them and reload. I've got to throw six more plates for the winners of the race and decorate six that I threw yesterday. But first, I want to glaze and load the kiln.

For those of you interested, here's my kiln room: two 10-cubic-foot and one smaller
electric kilns. As you can tell, I use the one in the back for a shelf most of the time.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Watching Spooks while the Kiln Fires

Yesterday, I glazed - bend, dip, straighten, pour, pour out, bend, dip, shake - a hundred or so cups, and, as they were still green (unfired), I had to wait until today to fire them. So, my kiln is now firing a large load of cups for the Uwharrie Mountain Run. Mary and I are going to crawl under our duvet and watch our latest Netflix movie, Spooks. I'll be checking the progress of the kiln throughout the movie.

Pouring out the glaze

Dipping the cup in the glaze

Venting the kiln at the beginning of firing

Friday, January 16, 2009

First Crack at Plate Design

Levi has to take off to college before getting to carve some of his beautiful trees on the plates for the winners of the Uwharrie Mountain Run, so at the end of the day - after glazing a hundred or so cups - I decorated one of the plates. Following are three pictures which shows me carving, and then the finished plate.

Using a loop tool to carve the "Uwharrie Mountains"

A sgraffito tool creates the trees

The finished design


Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke of Bulldog Pottery recently were given an award as Artists of the Year, not Business of the Year as I stated in a recent blog. See their blog for more information.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pure White Slip a bit Daunting

After a trip to a chiropractor in Southern Pines, Mary and I got to work on cleaning up some pieces to be glazed for the Uwharrie Mountain Run. My son, Levi, was adding trees to some cups, Mary took some cups outside to blow the dust off with compressed air, and I stained a large tree platter (not for the Uwharrie Mountain Run) to place at the bottom of my electric kiln.

Levi did some great trees, so I asked him to decorate the "last Uwharrie cup" that I blogged about the other day. He did a big tree and joined the limbs around the back of the cup.

By 4:30 Levi had enough and took off to Asheboro for a workout at the YMCA. Mary finished what she could before her hands began to freeze, then warmed up by my gas heater in the workshop before going upstairs to our home to read some more Spiritual Nutrition by Gabriel Cousens for the masters degree in nutrition she's working on.

I took a look at six plates I threw yesterday afternoon for the first, second and third-place winners of the race, and decided they were dry enough to carve letters into. The pure white slip on top of the dark red clay was a little daunting. After carving hundreds of trees and runners into the cups, I was actually apprehensive to begin work on the plates.

I'm going to ask Levi to decorate some of the plates.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hats off to Bruce and Samantha and Seagrove

When I read about Bulldog Pottery (Seagrove potters Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke) being honored recently as Artists of the Year, I decided to honor them with a cup of tea, using a mug they gave me for my 50th birthday during the first sales day of Celebration of Seagrove Potters. The mug's simple design and understated elegance exemplify their work; it's became a favorite to drink my morning coffee from.

Speaking of Celebration of Seagrove Potters, there's a news release on the website about donating some of the proceeds from the 2008 Celebration to two community schools and the Seagrove Library.

Speaking of Seagrove, there's a reception this weekend at the North Carolina Pottery Center in honor of the Owen/Owens family traditions of pottery making in Seagrove. I've heard that there may be some good musicians coming down from the mountains to play. Click here for information about the reception and exhibition.

Hats off to the potters of Seagrove!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Last Cup Presentation

I've finished throwing the cups for the Uwharrie Mountain Run!

Please excuse my mess in the video. My workshop needs a cleaning.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tree Vase on my 'Desk'

I spent the afternoon cleaning my virtual desktop and came across this photo. I think it was a publicity shot of some sort. I can't remember the context.

The trees are stamped on a cylindrical form and then the form is shaped. The clay is 100 percent local clay. You can see some cracks that were beginning to develop while I was swelling the belly.

I think there's a coat of terra sigilatta brushed on the raw clay.

Now, I've got to figure out where it goes.

Back to organizing....


Obama's Irish Ancestry

My wife, Mary, and I are going to her hometown of Murroe, County Limerick, Ireland at the end of the this month. This will be my sixth visit to Ireland, and I'm excited to share in the Irish enthusiasm surrounding our recent election of Obama as president of the United States.

Perhaps we'll hear the latest song about his Irish ancestory in the local pub. Who knows?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loading the Awards

Today, I'm loading my small kiln with some of the awards for the Uwharrie Mountain Run. In putting in some of the medallions into the bottom of my small Paragon electric kiln, I spotted a medallion that my daughter decorated. This one's a female runner I believe, and if I'm not mistaken, there's a bird in the tree.

Chelsea's gone back to college. I enjoyed taking her and her brothers out to dinner the other night. We ate at the Romano's Macaroni Grill in Greensboro. Lots of garlic. I'll finish loading the kiln and then I've got three rows of cups to decorate for the run. Maybe I'll have time to throw the remaining 35 cups later today.

I'm looking forward to the plates for the winners of the races.

The second photo I'm sharing is one of three medallions decorated (in order of appearance) by Chelsea, Levi and me. Three different people. Three different trees.

Refractory Bricks or Old Oak Logs

In the past two days, I've spent my time away from the shop looking at two separate piles - one pile, a stack of hand hewn oak logs from a barn built in the 1800s, another pile, kiln brick. Both for sale. I couldn't afford both, so I decided I'd rather build a wood-fired kiln than a new log cabin workshop. The kiln brick, though, consist of a lot of wedges, and I'm wondering if anyone has experience using wedges for arches on a kiln. I figure they will work fine if I'm careful in placing them in a consistent pattern on there edges. The difference in thickness between the two ends of the wedge is slight, less than 1/8" inch. I'm thinking of standing them on there long edges. I drew a crude drawing of what I'm trying to say by laying them consistently. The angle of the wedge is exaggerated. This would be looking at the arch from above the kiln. If anyone has experienced anything similar to this, I'd appreciate any advice or knowledge.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Levi's trees

Some of Levi's trees

I was going to wait and share some photos of Chelsea and Levi, my son and daughter, who have been helping me with decorating the awards for the Uwharrie Mountain Run until today so that I could get some pictures of my daughter working. However, I didn't get any photos of my daughter today. I was too busy working myself. Perhaps tomorrow, I'll find an opportunity.

Anyway, Levi has a little different technique for his trees than mine. I like his trees a lot. They seem to have a little more character. Maybe I'm just tired of my trees, having drawn more than a hundred by now.

I worked on throwing some more cups today, while Chelsea and Levi, worked in another of my workspaces on drawing runners and trees on the medallions. I noticed a flock of birds in one of the trees that Chelsea did, and every once in a while, one of her trees has a unique Van Gogh-ish look to it, if that makes any sense. I'll take some pictures tomorrow.

Below is a video of Levi's technique:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

Medallion Slap Down

Clay medallions ready for
slapping down (see video below)

I started my morning off decorating some more cups for the Uwharrie Mountain Run, this time moving on to the larger size cups. I had a bucket full of 1 1/4 pound balls of clay I was planning to turn into more cups when my youngest son, Levi, showed up ready to work. So we went over to the "slab room" and started working on medallions for the race. These are small roundish slabs of clay that will be fitted with string to hang around the necks of the 8-miler finishers of the race. I need to make 195.

Levi rolled out a large slab of clay using a full bag of Highwater Clay's Brownstone, and, using a plastic bottle with the top cut off, started making the medallions, using the bottle like a cookie cutter. I took the medallions from him and smoothed the edges then slapped them down on ware boards. Slapping down the medallions takes good aim and consistent pressure as you guide the medallion of clay toward the ware board with just enough force that it "slaps" down on the board aligning the clay to keep it from warping.

We worked so well together that we had most of the pieces done, but I was behind on smoothing edges and slapping down. Levi had to go to the grocery store and pick up some food for he and his sister. They were cooking dinner tonight at their mother's house.

I caught up with the smoothing, then took another hour to brush porcelain slip (two layers) on each one. I had four ware boards with slapped medallions, so I slipped one layer of slip on the slapped clay on each board then went back to the first and slipped again. I think I slapped and slipped some 160 medallions by the time dinner was ready.

I thought I'd share a little clip of my slapping technique. Notice the position of the thumbs, which help guide the slab of clay, preventing one side from hitting unevenly.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

One Hundred and Ninety-five Cups

I've not posted twice in one day, but I couldn't help myself. Here's a picture of the 20-mile awards - 195. I need to throw a couple of extra ones just to be sure I have enough.

'Happy Indian' New Year, Other Thoughts, and a clip

Mary and I watched a British television program with Netflix last night - MI-5 - while in bed. This particular program ended on a positive note: two lovers were reunited after one was sent away forever with a new identity because of some nasty political and legal issues. So, after the movie we looked at the clock and it was just after midnight. When my daughter was very young she used to call a movie ending that ended happily a "happy indian."

So, Mary and I wished each other a "Happy indian New Year."

Happy indian New Year, Chelsea Rose.

I got up this morning and cooked pancakes for Mary. It's a vegan recipe I made up consisting of cooking a half cup of oats in rice milk, adding some coconut oil to it; mixing some oat flour with some baking powder and cornstarch, a few pecan pieces and a pinch of salt; mixing the cooked oats with the flour mixture and cooking on a slightly oiled iron skillet. You can think of the cornstarch as the egg replacer, I suppose.

Today, I'm working on the 40-mile awards for the Uwharrie Mountain Run. Below, I've included a clip of me throwing one of the pieces and figured I'd narrate as I threw. I tend to be a better writer than speaker, so please excuse my sloppy speech: "not, not porcelain slip...." "...leave a little area on the bottom that I could lift it off the piece.. off the.. the wheel with...."

When I started throwing this morning, I listened to Last.FM.Com where you can type in an artist's name and listen to him and others that fall into that genre of music. I typed in Jackson Browne and the song was "The Road." I believe it's a song about Jackson Browne's life on the road as a musician early in his career. I related to it this morning in a more general context, as being on the "road" in life. Just prior to tapping into Jackson Browne's world, I was listening to Martha Stewart on TV, and she was talking to people who were successful bloggers.

Sometimes I'm drawn toward plugging into this cyber world of communication in a big way, keeping up with the goings on around Seagrove and North Carolina, writing pieces about other potters.... Sometimes, I'm drawn toward using it to share my own experiences as a potter. Sometimes, I think it's a great resource to share things in an artistic way.

And then there are times when I think I'd like to remain "unplugged" because when I plug in, I get sucked in, and why did I become a potter in the first place?

At any rate, here's a clip of me working this morning: