Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Camera, New Rims on an Old Shape

My first picture with my new camera seems to lack some detail, but it could be the lighting or my lack of familiarity with the new camera, a Canon SX30 IS. My old Canon S3 IS finally bit the dust after falling off the roof of our car several months ago.

Anyways, the picture above shows four six-pound preserve jars for the winners of the this year's Uwharrie Mountain Run in February. Levi and I made 210 3/4-pound jars, 195 1 1/4-pound jars and now I'm finishing up 95 1 3/4-pound jars while Levi is away on a trip up north. I'm also throwing 18 jars like the ones in the picture.

The shape of these is a traditional preserve jar that I used to make for Humble Mill Pottery (Jerry and Charlotte Fenberg) back in 1985. I'm adding lugs onto the larger pieces. I think I like the third one from the left best.

I can't remember where Jerry found the shape, whether it was a photo or a pot he had. I think it was a photo. I've searched online and in many books that we have here, and didn't find a piece that was similar. I'll have to ask Charlotte Fenberg if she remembers the shape. Maybe my rendition has changed over the years.

While searching books and online, I saw a lot of jars that were either ovoid in shape or straight up and down. It's a difficult shape for me to get it just right. I also worked on getting the rim a bit thicker than I usually do. The pot on the left in the photo above is how I usually do the rim (just fold the clay over). The other rims are compressed to create the perpendicular lip, which would traditionally serve to tie off a covering of some sort. Brenda Hornsby Heindl of Liberty Stoneware sent me a link to a YouTube video showing how to cover a similar preserve jar with the bladder of a pig.

I'm planning to fire all these jars in my wood kiln, stacking some of them rim to rim. I am thinking the larger pieces need a more substantial rim to survive firing them rim to rim, so that has lead me to alter the way I am making the rims. I actually like the thicker rim. I'm still working out the technique to make the new thicker rim. I'm sure there's a trick to it. It's just not something I learned to do.

Hopefully, I'll be blogging with more pictures once I get this new camera figured out. There's so many options to choose from when taking a picture with these new digital cameras. Sometimes, I miss my old Pentax 35mm.

Here's a picture of "Red," our Old English rooster, taken with the new camera, and tweaked in Photoshop:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Uwharrie Mountain Run Awards on Schedule

We finished up the small preserve jars for the 8-mile runners in the Uwharrie Mountain Run, and we're onto the next size for the 20-milers. It's a great help with Levi throwing pots. I took advantage of the warm weather today (50s) and cut up some pine slabs for the firing. We plan to fire all the awards Feb. 9, using some wood gathered from the Uwharrie National Forest.

The preserve jar shape is ideal for stacking in the kiln. With more than 500 awards, there'll be a lot of stacking in this kiln.

We need 210 of these.

Here's Levi working on the awards for the 20-mile runners.

Here, I'm making "logs" that will be sliced into 1 3/4-pound balls of clay for the 20-mile awards

A board of 8-mile awards drying

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keeping Busy

It's time again for the Uwharrie Mountain Run awards. I got the go ahead for this year's design, and I started right away making 3/4-pound balls of clay for the jars for the 8-mile runners. We'll be making more than 500 pieces.

This year, I'll be loading all the awards into my wood-fired kiln, stacking them rim-to-rim, maybe three high. This traditional preserve jar shape should stack well in the kiln.

Here's a couple of large vases with tree decorations. This is my local clay with a porcelain clay brushed on the outside. The trees are carved through the porcelain. Again, for the wood kiln.

I moved these three large tree platters into my workspace near my electric kilns to help them dry completely. I'll fire these in the next electric kiln firing.

Tucked into the corner of my glaze room are a variety of pots waiting to be bisque-fired and loaded into the wood-fired kiln.

These are some sweet bowls that Levi made for the wood kiln. They're stacked two-high, one inside the other right now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Coffee Obsession Leads to New Product

I'm a bit obsessed with my coffee. I buy organic green beans and roast them myself in my i-Roaster. I used to use a french coffee press to make my coffee, but after breaking two of the glass containers for the press, I gave up and started making "cowboy coffee," brewing in a metal stove pot and pouring through a metal sieve. But I'm always left with mud on the bottom of my cup, and my last sip of coffee is often spat back into the cup. I have a big electric drip coffee maker, but it's too big for just one person. So, I finally made a coffee carafe out of clay and ordered some Chemex filters, the kind used in those glass carafes where you pour the boiling water manually into the top of the carafe. I brewed my first cup this morning, and it worked like a charm, making a wonderful cup of coffee.

I'll be selling these in my shop.

The twine is made of hemp and insulates
against the hot surface for comfortable pouring

Full of hot coffee and ready to pour

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ninth Firing: Some of the Pots

Firing number nine. We seemed to get more ash buildup and more sheen on the pots in general. Levi did a lot more stirring in the firebox between stokes, and we think this might be one reason for the increase in ash buildup and sheen. Our firing time was very similar to firing number eight, about 16 hours. Levi prefired the kiln the night before we fired for three or four hours up to about 500 degrees F. As usual, we stoked with more hardwood until we opened the passive dampers (partially), at between cone 7 and 8 in the front of the kiln; then, we used mostly pine. Our pine this time was fresher than last time.

I do wonder what the results would look like had we allowed the kiln to cool naturally. We chose to stoke heavily on the last stoke and seal the kiln up slowly. I glazed a few pots with my ash/rock dust/red clay glaze and the glaze turned a very matte green with a very velvety texture. Many of the unglazed pots in this load developed a light sheen on areas that didn't get a lot of ash buildup. Flashing was more subtle. Cone 13 down flat in the front. Cone 8 (bottom) and 9 (top) in the very back.

A tree jar, unglazed with nice ash buildup fired on top shelf in front, Okeeweemee 10 clay

Tree Bowl, glazed inside with 'Purple Haze', unglazed outside, fired on floor next to firebox, StarWhite 10 clay

Tall, skinny pitcher glazed on top with blue ash glaze

Ovoid jar thrown with my local clay, glazed with rock dust/ash/red clay glaze

Large jar by Levi with shino glaze over local clay

Lidded jar, unglazed and fired on floor in front of kiln, Grogeeweemee 10 clay

Four carafes, left one glazed with rock dust/ash/local clay glaze

Tall, thin pitcher made of local clay and glazed with rock dust/ash/local clay glaze

Bottle, Aurora clay

Tree jar made with Grogeeweemee 10, unglazed,
fired on top shelf next to firebox

Friday, December 10, 2010

More Ash Buildup this Time?

A couple of quick snapshots of the inside of the kiln after unstacking a few bricks from the door:

The two jars on top are glazed only on the inside. Clay
on the left is StarWhite. Clay on the right is Grogeeweemee,
both from StarWORKS Ceramics.

Piece on the lower right is a Ben Owen piece made of
porcelain. Jar in middle is Levi's made of Grogeeweemee.
Bowl on bottom has Kottler's glaze inside (I'm not sure
I like the effects the ash has on this glaze). I love the natural
ash buildup on the pot to the right of the jar.

We seemed to get more ash buildup in this firing, at least in the front. I'm expecting more flashing in the shelves behind the front.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last-Second Reduction Cool

Heavy stoking toward the end of the firing

I think we finished up firing last night shortly after midnight. Levi and I decided at the last second (as is usual with the Mahans) to do a heavy stoke/reduction cool. This is quite exciting and nerve-wracking: stoke as much wood as possible into the firebox and slowly shut the kiln up, so much of the potential combustion is held in check and the kiln cools slowly as the wood and embers are choked from lack of oxygen.

On my kiln, flames find their way out of cracks and crevices in the brick work, licking and "dripping" and flickering upward toward the kiln shed roof. I kept an eye on things for about an hour until the flaming subsided some, and then I went to bed. I was spent from the cold, windy weather we've had for the past couple of days - zapped of energy.

We plan to unload the kiln Saturday, so if anyone wants to come out and share in the experience, come on out. I've also got a good selection of pots from previous firings in the shop to browse; lots of bells, lots of soul pots....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Wadding Froze, too

Chiminea is keeping us warm
during early stoking

I read about a potter who was loading his kiln yesterday, and he said it was so cold his wadding was freezing before he could attach it to his pots. Wadding is material (which includes clay, sand and some kind of combustible material usually) that is placed underneath pots in a wood-fired or salt-fired kiln. It protects the pot from sticking to the shelf, basically.

Well, Levi and I loaded the wood-fired kiln today... ...and my wadding started freezing toward the end of the day. It was cold and windy. I'm exhausted. But Levi is out there now, stoking away under the fire grate so we have a head start when we get up in the morning.

Levi had a great idea early in the day: Bring our chiminea over where we were working to help keep us warm. It worked. Now, he's out there sitting next to it, the flame licking out the top.

The pots in the kiln: