Friday, April 30, 2010

Prototype #2 'has promise'

I'm not playing the drum, but my tipper for
my bodhran made a nice tool to tap the
bottom of this large bowl onto the other section.

Later in the afternoon, I righted the
bowl and added a couple of small coils of
clay for extra support at the join. I sent the
photos to the client and they said it looks
promising. Tomorrow, I'll make prototype 3,
the perfect foot-soaking bowl.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Prototype #1 Rejected

Foot-soaking bowl prototype #1, 18" dia.

Well, the prototype was rejected. The shape wasn't right. But I love the shape, so I'll fire it and put it in the shop. And meanwhile, I will be working on prototype #2 using the same methods as used in making #1. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Very Strange Bug falls from the Ceiling, and other stuff.

This one's for Samantha of Bulldog Pottery
who's always going on about bugs. What
the heck fell out of the ceiling in our workshop?

It's about the size of a honey bee.

A few jugs. The two in the front are by me.
The ones in the back are Levi's. I like his on
the left. It's tall and dignified.
The jug in the
foreground has a dent where I pressed too hard.

The jug on the left reminds me of an old Clorox
bleach bottle. Levi's bringing a few of these
to Asheville to fire in the fast-fire wood kiln
with his sister, Chelsea.

My latest version of a foot-soaking
bowl. Platter at the bottom of picture
is actually the bottom of the bowl, which
is on the wheel head in top of picture.

I placed a bat on top of the bowl section,
and that's where the bug was when I took a
picture. I forgot about the bowl and pressed
too hard, causing the bowl to slump.

And finally, a video of a finished foot bowl:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Bit of a Break

Today, I'm taking it easy in the workshop. I need to give the body a rest. I've had this nagging left shoulder/neck crick bothering me, a result I believe, from lifting and positioning a 22-inch square inch thick silicon carbide shelf inside my wood kiln while bent over.

A large bowl that was brought about as a result of
working on this large foot bowl order

I'm watching for "pooching," the bottom rising
above (below) the foot of the bowl.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Foot Soaking Bowl a Challenge

I've been spending most of my energy these past few days on an order for some foot bowls. Twenty inches wide at its widest and about eight inches tall, the shape has challenged my limited proficiency with large pots. I started off with 20 pounds of clay, then 25 pounds, then 30 and then approximately 40 pounds for the last one I threw. I say approximately because the last bowl I made by first throwing the bottom with 12 pounds of clay and then adding a huge coil of clay (I estimated it to weigh 30 pounds) for the wall of the bowl. I learned that it takes a lot of clay to bring a 20-inch cylinder up a few inches in height.

The design for the foot bowl (for soaking your feet in) calls for a sloped rim. So after the bowl is thrown, it's got to dry enough to run a wire through it using a guide to get a nice sloped rim.

Levi and I place the bowl
on a table set up for cutting
the rim.

Two boards cut for the slope
of the rim.

A little sawing action got the
wire through the clay.

And there's your foot bowl.

I've got to trim the bowl, so I'm going to lay a wooden bat on top of the clay that was cut off at an angle (already on a bat) and lay the bowl upside down on top of the bat for trimming.

I used my Peter Pugger to make the coil, so it was quite a large coil, but it worked. When I joined the coil, I did a sloppy job which caused a bit of a bump in the bowl, which made throwing the rest of the bowl a bit sloppy, but I'll be trying a different method of joining next time.

Levi and I slammed the coil down a few times to flatten it. He had the idea of using my slab roller to flatten it next time.

I'll share more as I get better at it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Great Day Today

Today's weather was fantastic. I spent the morning setting new pots out on my garden wall. I started a fire in the chiminea. And this afternoon, I sat down by the fire and played a few tunes while the shadows and the light danced on my pots, customers wandered around with slices of Mary's chocolate bread slathered with chocolate butter, and my son Levi shared his enthusiasm for pottery by demonstrating on the wheel outside. Thank you.

Pictures of my last two firings

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fractured clay has me Puzzled

If you look closely, this pot (fired on its side)
apparently has two vertical fractures in the clay.

Tall vase at the right has what appears
to be a similar fracture on the shoulder,
and the dish peaking out from under
the shelf on the ware bed has some cracks.

I'm about to open up the wood kiln completely and unload it, and I am excited and dreading it as well. In peaking inside, I've noticed several cracks and structural failures in some of the pieces. I'm wondering what I did wrong. Did I fire too quickly? Was my idea of firing up to 600 degrees one day and sealing it up and continuing the next morning from 470 degrees the reason? Did I begin reduction too early? Did I not seal up the kiln well at the end of the firing? Am I firing too high?

Anyone have any thoughts?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fifth Firing Complete, feeling Good and Tired

I love this mug despite the fact that
it cracked in the fourth firing. It was up front
near the firebox, placed on three shells.

We loaded the wood kiln Tuesday directly after unloading it from the Friday firing, hoping to take advantage of the heat retained in the kiln. We bricked it up, and got a good night's sleep, and when I checked the temperature the next morning, it was 126 F. We fired all day until 11 p.m. and we reached 630 F., then we let it burn off some of the fuel and sealed it up at about 600 F. We got up Wednesday and began firing at 7 a.m. The temperature had fallen to 471 F., so we got a nice head start.

Yesterday's firing went extremely well. I felt Levi and I were paying more attention to the flame and coals, and we began to get a better feel for the kiln. We reached 1,600 F. at around 6:45 p.m. and after some of Mary's wonderful vegetable curry, we spent a couple of hours with the passive dampers pulled out. At 8:15 p.m., with cone 9 beginning to bend, I decided to push the active dampers in a few inches, replacing the passive dampers. This allowed us to soak the kiln for four more hours, finally getting cone 9 to tip a bit toward the back, and cones 12 and 13 both tipping in the front (I don't know why this has happened to me twice). We stoked one more regular stoke and sealed up the kiln.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A few Pictures from Latest Firing

Some of the pots were dark and spooky

Soul pots

Some bowls of different shape and color

More to come later. Thanks for looking.

Results from Latest Firing

(Scroll to the bottom for a summary of the firing)

Ash accumulation on the left shoulder
is a dark matt green.

This was one of my favorites out of the load.
It's about a six-pound bottle made of my
local clay with a couple cups of sand wedged in.
I dried it a bit with a heat gun before stretching
it out toward its bulbous shape. It was fired in
the very back of the kiln.

Lots of dark clay and dark ash. I think
we succeeded with a heavy reduction,
especially at the end, when we chucked
it full of hardwood and sealed it up. It
was the first real reduction firing I've
ever fired, since I've fired in electric
kilns for the past 20-some years.

Front (lesson learned)

Front of Middle

Rear of Middle


We had a goal of reaching cone 9 in the front of the kiln and soaking for four hours to even out the kiln. Cone 9 never tipped toward the back of the kiln, though. At 7:30 p.m. - 16 hours into firing - we had switched from stoking with hardwood 2 x 3s to split pine and oak logs and shot from 1700˚ F. to 2,052 in the next hour. At 8:15, cone 9 was down, and we took out one brick from each of the lower four dampers and slowed the kiln down. We had hoped the back would increase in temperature, but I was concerned that the smaller stokes wouldn't send the flames back to the the back of the kiln, so I stoked a bit more wood. At 11:30 p.m., it looked like cone 13 was down in the front. For some reason (I noticed a slight crack in cone 13 after unloading) cone 12 and 13 started tipping at the same time and cone 13 leaned onto cone 12. Cone 9 hadn't moved toward the back of the kiln. Levi suggested one big stoke of our 2 x 3 hardwood (cherry?), followed by a huge stoke of the same wood, then sealing everything up. So, that's what we did, and then watched the kiln closely as flames popped out of every available crack, finally calming down an hour later.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shelf break

We had a slight mishap at the front of the kiln.
I'll be unloading tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Levi was inspired to throw this two-piece
bottle with some Craggy Crunch from Highwater.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Firing Number Four Complete, hoping....

Cones 9, 10, 11 and 12 stood poised and ready
to bend throughout the entire firing, near
the back of the kiln. We're hoping it was a cold spot.
That's the corner of a square platter directly behind
the cones with the flame bending over it.

Levi's skull got plenty of heat. We placed it
in the front of the kiln right before we bricked
it up. This was shot early in the firing.

We only shoveled coals once during the firing,
only stalled once early on, but it looks like we
got an uneven firing, more so than the first
three firings.

I'll unload Monday and post pictures late in the week if I get a chance. We're planning to load another kiln the day after unloading and firing the next day. I think I'll put more cones in next time, maybe some lower ones to let me know what's going on earlier with the heat, front and back. Maybe I should get another thermocouple, too.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Early Stoklng Going Well

The morning sun illuminates the heat billowing out of my chimney this morning, as we stoke small chunks of hardwood in the ash pit at 8:45.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Where - and when - to handle

I've never gotten into making multiple-sectioned pots. I've made a few, but they just seem to take too much energy or something. However, I threw a few two-piece pots yesterday, and today I spent the morning figuring out if handles or lugs would improve their overall shapes. I enjoy this part. I like to make temporary handles and set them on the pot here and there and see how it changes the piece. I decided the vase on the left didn't require anything, and decided to place lugs on the middle vase and then spent close to an hour tinkering with the piece on the right, as shown below: (the last picture is what I decided on.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fourth Kilnload Stacked and Ready to Fire

I used a lot more shelves in loading my fourth kiln load. The width of my shelves is 22 inches, and the width of my ware bed is 32 inches. In the past I've used the extra space to place a tall piece or stack a large platter sideways. I didn't have a lot of tall pieces or platters, so I chose to work more shelves into the space, overlapping some shelves a bit. The picture at the right is one of the more complicated stacking arrangements.

I don't know how this will change the way the kiln fires, but I'll find out when we fire later next week. We're thinking of firing Friday and after the kiln cools, fire again so we'll have a kiln to unload for the Celebration of Spring Kiln Opening April 17 and 18. It's nice to have it loaded and ready to fire and know that I don't have to get up at 5 in the morning to start firing tomorrow. Actually, Mary's volunteered to take that shift (we're actually thinking 3 a.m. this time, hoping for a longer soaking period once we reach temperature.)

My son, Levi, and daughter, Chelsea, went to NCECA last week and Levi told me he attended a couple of wood-firing lectures. So, I think he'll be psyched to make some pots for the second load. Here's how I stacked this time:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Not Good Craic

There are times when my focus is on too many things at once - that's my current excuse - and I break something. We're getting ready to load the wood kiln, and I'm still thinking of making pots for it, or the next firing I'm planning in my head, which I'm thinking of doing the day after we unload this kiln. I made an experimental clay body with 50/50 local clay and Cedar Heights bonding clay, threw a pot with it day before yesterday and today, decided I could get it in the first firing and decorated the outside with terra sigilatta over wax resist and glazed the inside with my ash glaze.

Ten minutes later, I turned from a conversation with a customer inside my workspace and saw the crack.

Of course, one of the first thoughts that popped into my head was, "Don't fall in love with your pots until they're fired." This is something spoken to me 20-some years ago at Montgomery Community College in Troy, NC, by a woman from New York City. She was taking classes at MCC as well and eventually opened up a pottery shop on Old U.S. Hwy 220, the road you normally would take to get to the old J.B. Cole Pottery.

My first thought was that it was the fire clay. Five minutes later, I remembered that I had raw glazed it, and I thought maybe the glaze was too thick or the combination of several coats of terra sig and glaze caused the fracture. Or maybe it wasn't through drying completely. Then I remember having shown it to some customers prior to glazing it, but directly after applying the terra sig. I carried it out to the showroom and held it in the palm of my hand.

But being a large pot, it got heavy, so I put my hand inside and held it sideways supported on the inside wall. I think I might have even tossed it lightly a couple of times to turn it on the palm of my inside hand.

It was if I was courting the pot with my customers.

'She's lovely, isn't she?"

I don't think I fell in love with it, but love is mysterious, isn't it?