Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pots and Eggs

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Celebration of Seagrove Potters this past weekend. It was a great show. And special thanks to my wife Mary who worked her tail off to organize the show and keep things organized around here as well. She's truly an angel.

Levi threw some more little bottles. They sold well at the show, and he wants to test some with our "salt shino." He also threw a nice two-piece pot and tried his hand at coiling and throwing a pot, a method used to make large pots. I can't wait to see what he comes up with in the coming year.

We've got the Uwharrie Mountain Run order coming up, so we'll get busy with that soon, and I'm working on some lidded jars stamped with my trees for a special occasion next year. I'll take some pictures soon.

Mary discovered where our hen has been laying eggs. See the picture below.

Levi throwing and coiling
a large pot

About two dozen eggs beneath the
table saw where the sawdust collects

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Year's Booth Layout

Most of the pots I brought to the Celebration of Seagrove Potters were from the latest wood firing plus some of my large platters and a few pieces of cone 6 glazed pottery.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Salt Shino

I posted recently a picture of a tree mug with a "salt shino" glaze that looked terrible after unloading the wood-fired kiln. I had a couple of mugs left that didn't get in the kiln, so I decided to put one right up front by the firebox during the next firing.

Well, the mug fired beautifully. So, I haven't given up on the glaze yet. Perhaps this is a glaze that likes a lot of hot flame? The glaze is one taken from John Britt's The Complete Guide to High-Fire Glazes:

Neph Sy 68
Kaolin 9
Ball Clay 14
Red Art 4.5 (I used local red clay)
Salt 4.5

Here's two pictures of the ugly mug and the beautiful mug.

This one reached cone 13

This one may have been underfired below cone 9

Monday, November 15, 2010

From the Latest Wood Firing

Small Bottles by Levi

Soul pot with ash/rock dust/local clay glaze

Large jug with natural ash

Lidded jar with terra sigillata

Tall bottle, natural ash

Teapots by Levi

Inside the Kiln

We've unloaded the kiln and are very pleased with the pots in this firing. Nice color from flashing, a bit of natural ash buildup and only one pot that we think we'll refire. I'll take some individual pictures today before the rain starts and post some later.

Oh yeah, we decided not to fire another load in the wood kiln again this week. I've got a couple of loads to fire in the electric kilns and then a lot of packing and getting ready for setting up the booth at this weekend's Celebration of Seagrove Potters.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

View from the Top

First Pictures of inside the Kiln

Top front shelf. My wife likes the color on these pots.
Being red/green color blind, I don't see them as well.
The two pieces up top on left are relatively large pots.

The bottle on left is a "teadust" glaze made by Levi.
The broken lidded jar didn't want to be fired a 3rd time,
especially right up front.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Loving wood firing after eighth firing

Our eighth firing in the wood-fired kiln feels like a good firing. After 16 hours, we reached the highest temperature yet on the back shelf (cone 9) at 10:15 p.m. last night. We peaked inside a few times this afternoon and saw some nice pots, but it was just too hot for pictures yet. I like being able to stick the camera inside the kiln when it's too hot to unload but not hot enough to melt the camera. I can upload the pictures on my computer and expand the photo and actually see the pot better than with my naked eye.

We might get to unload tomorrow, and we hope to fire again in a couple of days.

I've really been loving firing with a wood kiln, although it's a lot of work. There's a lot of preparation, some intense heat that can burn body parts quite easily, early mornings and/or late nights, quite a few disappointing results and cracked pots, a lot of guessing and considering....

There are moments during the firing when I feel enthralled by the atmosphere inside the kiln. Last night, we shut the kiln down by allowing the white heat to slowly dissipate after our last stoke, then we set a few wet pieces of wood into the firebox. I walked to the rear of the kiln and peered into small hole after pulling out a brick near the top of the kiln. I could see to the front of the kiln through the motionless pots. The kiln was totally quiet, and everything was orange except for this bright yellow flame swishing around on the other side of the kiln from where I stood. The flame danced around the first few pots on the top shelf and then disappear, then reappear a second later. I was entranced by its softness.

We all checked out the fleeting yellow flame and then sealed everything up and got some sleep.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Upcoming Seagrove Show Looms as We Prepare for another Firing

Loosely packed in the back of kiln

Levi and I are packing the kiln for our eighth firing in the wood kiln. We hope to fire twice for the upcoming Celebration of Seagrove Potters.

I am in charge of this next firing and Levi is in charge of the next firing. For this next firing, I've decided to return to the very first method I used in firing, following the kiln designers' recommendations for firing this particular kiln. While this kiln might be fired for an extended firing, it's designed to fire quickly. We've been attempting to slow down the temperature climb in some of our previous firings, especially when the pyrometric cones, used to measure temperature gain, begin to melt.

We've also been packing the kiln tighter and tighter with pots and shelves. I'm packing this kiln looser, especially at the back, where we've not had sufficient temperature gain in recent firings. I've also put some glazes in the back of the kiln that will melt at lower temperatures than the front of the kiln - an ash/local clay/stone dust glaze and an Alberta Black.

Levi and I threw some tall thin bottle shapes to place on each side of the shelves to fill in space there. I've got quite a bit of my local red clay in this kiln, as well as a bit of Okeweemee Cone 10, a dark local clay mix from STARworks Ceramics. The majority of the pots are STARworks White, cone 10, which flashes nicely.

I'm feeling a bit frustrated lately, not knowing what kind of pots I'm making, not knowing which ideas to follow - where this new kiln is taking me. I wish I was a little further on in my discoveries. There are just so many options right now, and I've not yet decided on which ones to focus my attention.

This frustration is exacerbated by anxieties surrounding the upcoming show in Seagrove. The Celebration of Seagrove Potters, and Seagrove Pottery Festival before that, have always been an important show for me, not just from a business perspective, but from a persona perspective, if you will. It's a unique show because it's a unique area, Seagrove.

Maybe I take things too seriously, but I always get uptight at this time of the year, preparing for the show, where many of the other potters in Seagrove - many of whom I respect and admire - see my work, and where I stand in front of my pots and try to enroll people in the idea of buying another piece of handmade pottery made by Michael Mahan (and his son Levi).

Some new work by Michael

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pottery Demonstration well received

Many of the members of the Triangle Potters Guild last night got a kick out of my "gizmos" that I use to create some of my pottery. I demonstrated to a room full of potters for the first time ever at the NCSU Craft Center - interestingly, the first place I took a pottery course back in the 1980s when I attended State.

They chuckled when I pumped air into my little inner tube to supply the pressure needed to hold together the clay slab, the plaster form and the particle board sandwiched together in my "large platter fipper-over" (made out of an engine stand) and thought it humorously ingenious when I explained how I set up operation to make 200 stamped mugs using a stamp I made mounted on a paint roller and attached to a threaded rod secured to my wheel next to a lit halogen light bulb underneath to keep the stamp from getting too wet.

I enjoyed sharing my ideas and techniques and look forward to doing it again. Thanks for having me.

Stamping trees into
a large platter

Working with the stamp
on a jar

And a small cup

Guild members