Sunday, November 21, 2021

No Pots Yet, But...Cookies!

 I think I mentioned last year that I watch a lot of cookie decorating videos. I get new ideas for slip trailing, and I find it relaxing. It's been a stressful couple of years - more than that, really! I feel like we had been hovering at DEFCON2 since 2016. Cookie videos take my mind off all that. 

Eventually, of course, I want try the things I see. Last year I did & it went surprisingly well; maybe because of that, I got a little overconfident. Even though my design this year was a lot simpler; the process was messy, & skirted the ragged edge of disaster. I wasn't careful with the consistency of my "flood" icing, and as a result it flowed off the cookies & onto the counter, the decorating board, the cookies beside it...basically everywhere. I was able to make them look ok - good even - but clean up was a bear. 

Anyway! I've promised my mom cookies for a Christmas luncheon she has planned with some friends, and I have an invite to a cookie decorating party next month, so this is just the beginning of Christmas cookies for me. 

Pottery will hopefully begin again soon...It's just really hard to get into the studio & make stuff when the shelves are overflowing with greenware, and nowhere to fire it. The plumbing probably will not get done this week - the holiday & all - but maybe next. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hofstadter's Law

 Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Never has Hofstadter's Law seen so much exercise than with this kiln building project! To think I thought it would be done in July. HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA [stops to take breath] HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Today's iteration of Hofstadter's Law saw the propane tech arrive for his long delayed visit - I scheduled this back in September! - only to discover he did not have the parts to install my set up. This isn't really the tech's fault, or mine, or anybody else's; he just didn't have information that I didn't know he needed. 

Anyway. I sort of expected this would happen, so I'm not terribly upset about it. It is, as they say, what is it. My one point of stress is that I owe many people a mug from the first firing - that's how I financed the rebuild. Those people might understandably be upset given that I expected to deliver their mugs in mid-August. SO SORRY FUNDERS! I did send them an email as soon as I knew about the further delay. 

Anyway. I guess I can keep piling up greenware. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

So, I applied for a Grant

Towards the end of October, the Maine Arts Commission announced a grant opportunity: the Arts Jobs grant. Usually grants have some very specific parameters, and though I always read through them, usually by the 4th sentence I'm thinking, "Well, that lets me out." Not so the Arts Jobs grant! 

I've decided to apply for funding for the Maine Pottery Tour. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right? Give it whirl, shoot your shot, pay ya money & take ya chance, right? No harm in trying. 

I mean, that's how it ought to go, but I can only do it if I do it with my whole self. I can only find the confidence to apply at all if I am 100% convinced that I should win this grant - no wait, I will win this grant, because it's an awesome project and I deserve it! I have that electrified feeling like when you are about to ask your crush out on a date. 

I have to keep reminding myself that the worst thing that happens is, my project isn't funded, and that's exactly what happens if I don't apply at all. Things will just go on as they have been. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not: Win & you get the money! Lose & it's into the shark tank with you! 

Now, it's been decades since I applied for a grant and it's fair to say I didn't know what I was doing, even then*. But I am remembering: I did win that grant. Actually I won an earlier one, too, a tiny undergraduate grant. HEY Y'ALL I AM BATTING 1000 ON GRANTS! So far. 

After approximately ten million rewrites & reviews, I have submitted this application. Deadline is Thursday - hey, I made the deadline, so far so good! - & I don't know when the notification date is, but the award cycle is December 1 of this year, so the notification must be soon. Wish my luck! Or break a leg, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. 

In other news, the propane guy is coming tomorrow! Although I can think of several things that could delay it further, assuming all goes well I could be loading a bisque by this time tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

World's Oldest Profession - One of them, Anyway!

Fingerprints point to 5,000-year-old Orkney pottery class

Fingerprint on a fragment of potteryIMAGE SOURCE,JAN BLATCHFORD
Image caption,Analysis suggests the fingerprint was left by a 13-year-old boy

Archaeologists believe fingerprints on fragments of clay found in Orkney were left by experienced potters and their young apprentice 5,000 years ago.

Experts have newly identified a print left by a 13-year-old boy.

Previously finger marks left by a young male, possibly the same boy, and two adult men were discovered on fragments of pottery at Orkney's Ness of Brodgar.

Archaeologists suggest the prints were left as experienced potters showed novices how to shape a piece of clay.

They have been excavating at the complex of ancient buildings at the site in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site since 2003.

Only a small number of fingerprints have been discovered so far.

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, which leads the excavations, said the latest fingerprints were found by ceramics specialists Roy Towers and Jan Blatchford while they examined the site's huge collection of sherds - fragments - of pottery.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, MainlandIMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
Image caption,Orkney's Neolithic archaeology have World Heritage status

The institute said it was possible to work out the age and sex of a person from a fingerprint.

It said the distance between ridges, for example, increased as an individual grew, while male ridges were usually broader.

The latest prints were examined by Prof Kent Fowler, director of the University of Manitoba's ceramic technology laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada.

By measuring the density and breadth of the fingerprint ridges, and accounting for the shrinkage of the clay during drying and firing, he could determine two adult men aged about 19 along with one, or possibly two boys aged 13 and 14, had left finger marks on the Ness of Brodgar pottery.

Prof Fowler said: "The presence of younger and older prints on all the Orkney sherds so far is interesting and might relate to teaching and learning the craft."

Nick Card, the director of the excavations, said: "This is yet another exciting discovery at the Ness, and although it is early days we could be seeing the emergence of a pattern developing for the production of pottery in the Neolithic, which would have implications for the division of labour and tasks."

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Thursday Inspiration: Taylor Sijan

 It's been a while since I've done a Thursday Inspiration post! Ever since Mr. Business Guy gave me hell for spending so much working time on things that don't actually make any money, to be exact. He's not wrong - my business has definitely made more money since taking his advice - but he is kind of a killjoy. Anyway, I have a new clay crush: Taylor Sijan. This work checks all the boxes for me: 



✅Wonk embraced

You can see lots more at @taylorsijan on Instagram. If you want to follow me on Insta, you can find me @lorikwatts. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Up On The Roof...

Took a break from making pots for the far-too-far-off first firing of the new kiln to address a leak in the roof of my summer studio. The shed that serves as the studio was a half-assed affair 13 years ago when Doug built it out of found materials, but it has served well enough. Earlier this summer I noticed some water was getting in when it rained hard, and then when it rained at all. What with the kiln rebuild, my classes, making ware, &, the repair kept getting bumped to the bottom of the to-do list but I finally made it up the ladder, and good thing, too! 

The asphalt paper we used for the roofing material had been torn, maybe in a windstorm. A big flap of it was loose, letting water in under the remaining part. That got wet & stayed wet in our massively rainy summer & fall, and became host to an extremely yukky nest of black ants. The wood got punky in some spots & the ants just chewed highways in others. 

I'd have taken a video of the ants boiling up out of the wood, but I was too UUUURRRRRRGGGGHH while pinwheeling away in revulsion & also trying not to fall off the roof. So, maybe video next time. By a weird coincidence, you know how Amazon occasionally screws up & sends you something you didn't order? Just a couple of weeks ago, a spray bottle of clove-based ant & roach killer arrived. I don't have roaches & didn't know I had ants, but I saved it anyway. It came in handy! I brushed away all the nasty ants & as many of their nasty eggs as I could, then sprayed the whole area with this clove spray. 

I've covered the whole thing with a heavy tarp - it rained last night & will rain tomorrow, & that patch of roof needs to dry completely before I shingle over it. If I can't get more than a one-day stretch of no rain, I may go up with a heat gun & try to dry it while hopefully not setting anything on fire. What it really needs is the roof pulled off & the plywood replaced, but that is not in the cards this season - maybe in the spring. 

This calls for a song: 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Potters Plan, God Laughs

Check out the snazzy new pivot-hinge door tho! 

Ok, let's play Good News, Bad News:

Good News: Construction on the kiln is completed! We finished up on Wednesday, with Tyler welding the bolt mechanisms for the door, while I glazed the interior of the kiln & brushed the protective coating on the inside of the door. I still need to wash the contact wall of the opening, but other than that...we've done all we can do. 

Bad News: I can't fire until mid-November. The holdup? Getting the propane connected. It has just generally been hard to schedule...well, basically anything home or building related for like a year now. (Last spring when I was trying to get my house painted, I left messages with maybe 7 companies before anyone even called me back. Most were scheduling for 2022 at that time. I did manage to get the job done, though.) Fall is also a busy time of year for those in the heating industry! So it'll be mid-November before Suburban Propane can come out. 

I keep reminding myself, this is more of a nuisance than a crisis, & that despite being eager to fire, this will only cause me to have a crap holiday season - which sucks but I can be a little frugal for a little while; it will be fine. 

Those of you who have pre-ordered mug from the first firing: thank you so much for your patience! I do have all the mugs, plus many extra, made & waiting to be bisqued. If you would like to pre-order a mug from the first firing, you can do so at this link. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Neat Trick!


I learned a great trick fromTyler, while we were working on the kiln! If there's a horsey person in your life, you recognize this: it's a curry brush. It's also a great tool for shaving softbrick, when you need to remove just a little bit, to fit an odd shape or to flatten the face of a softbrick wall: 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

With My Freeze Ray


Just kidding - this is actually one of the snazzy new burners for the kiln. I just thought it looked more like a sci-fi weapon. 
We didn't quite get these positioned today, but we did get the door completed! I am so excited to have a door on this kiln. You know that moment when you place the last pot on the shelf, & think "Whew, I'm done! Hot bath here I come" followed immediately by "OH &#%@ I STILL HAVE TO BRICK THE DOOR?" Well, those moments are done for me forever. 
The door is on a pivot hinge, to accommodate the space between the kiln & the shed. 
Probably not a lot more progress will happen this week, until the bolts arrive for the door. I do have to make a few changes to the stack - or more correctly, I have to swap out some brick. There are a few brick from the old stack that I am not 100% sure are superduty - & I do need superduty for the bag wall. I should have used the dubious brick in the stack, where it won't matter, because (obviously!) it doesn't get nearly as hot.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Stack, The Arch, & More

Achievement unlocked: the stack is up! As is the arch. 

Tyler built the angle iron frame & laid the brick for the arch on Monday. Sadly I was not able to be here for that! Trying to work around my teaching schedule was going to delay construction, and I really really need a kiln. I have orders piling up! Anyway, I came home Monday night to a completed arch, with a blanket of insulating kaowool. We removed the form in the morning & laid a layer of Quikcrete. I had a brief moment of wishing I hadn't discarded the boxes of broken pottery bits I used to save, thinking one day I might make a mosaic! I decided a couple decades ago that I am probably not going to make a mosaic! & even if I wanted to, there are plenty of shards in the world. But I am kind of enjoying the sleekness of the plain concrete finish. If I change my mind I could always add another thin layer of concrete & lay buttons & mug handles & porcelain doll heads in that. 

We built the stack yesterday as well. There was a little design question to resolve: what material to use for the upper portion of the stack. Technically, to fire, the stack only needed to reach the top of the arch, because this kiln will utilize forced-air burners. (More on that later, but here's the scoop from Ward Burner on the differences.) But in order for the hot gas escaping the kiln to vent above the roof of the shed, the stack has to reach that high, and do so without creating a draw that would interfere with the firing. 
Options: a piece of culvert, elevated above the last brick layer to let air in (ugly, will need to be replaced every couple of years); a double-walled stainless steel tube, also elevated, made for kilns & such (less ugly, more durable but spendy - maybe $300 for a 3 foot length) or...hey, we've got all these brick! 
The stack could not be solid, like a conventional stack, because of the draw issue, but Tyler had an idea: we could build it in a checkerboard pattern, leaving gaps between the brick to pull in air. So that's what we did & it looks so cool! Can't wait to see it firing - I am hoping to see a bit of light thru the gaps. 

Next, the door, the burners, the plumbing - that last bit will be the hold up, since it will happen just whenever the propane tech can get here. 

If you'd like ot support this project or just want a great new mug, you can pre-order a mug from the first firing at this link

Friday, September 10, 2021

Walls UP!

 We made a lot of progress on Wednesday! Next is the angle iron exoskeleton, then the back wall, then the arch, then the rest of the stack. Last will be the plumbing, and that will require a licensed propane technician to complete. The timing for that is out of my hands, & unfortunately it might take a while! It was going to take a month for him to come un-plumb, when I was in the deconstruction phase. I begged & pleaded & they did finally accommodate me, but that probably won't work a second time. So, we're probably looking at mid to late October before the kiln will be serviceable. 

You can see the burner channels in the back, & the soda ports. We placed these ports higher than in the old kiln, as I am planning to switch to the spray-in soda method. Previously I was using the Gail Nichols soda-salad application method, which I enjoyed & got good results, but I've been doing that for 11 years & I am up to try something new. Not 100% new - I have used the spray-in method before, at Watershed, & gotten good results - but this will give me an opportunity to play around with it some more. 

Right now I am not able to be much help - Tyler is cutting the angle iron that will make the frame. We got a massive amount of rain last night here in Augusta, so everything is soaked & there are puddles everywhere, so he's not going to be using the arc welder! We can get the pieces up & clamped in place this afternoon. 

In between classes & this I have been able to make a few things! Lots of mugs, a few bowls, some small lidded jars for an order. During the deconstruction I just couldn't motivate myself to make anything - some kind of psych block, I guess - but now I'm thinking OMG I NEED POTS! 

I've mostly been making my floral slip trailed ware. I have a couple of other flowers I want to work on rendering in slip in a recognizable way, but I can feel Dotopia calling me as well. 
If you would like a mug & to help support this project, you can pre-order a mug from the 1st firing at this link. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Hold On & Power Thru

 I feel like everybody has a lot less in the tank these days, with the pandemic stress piled on top of all the usual stressors, and the political hostility cranked to 11 these last few years. In Maine this summer we've also had to contend with multiple heatwaves with over 90° temperatures. I'm aware that other places had it far worse at times! But this is unusual, for us, and they just keep coming. Today it will be over 90°, I have to teach an extra class in an un-air-conditioned facility (for a co-worker who has covid) where we will be firing the gas kiln. 

I keep telling myself, just power thru. It won't last forever, it won't kill me, just hold on & power thru.

I've never been more delighted to welcome pumpkin spice. 

The heat will probably be over today (though there is still plenty of summer left for another one, or more!) but covid won't be done until either almost everyone is vaccinated, or almost everyone gets sick. Plan A seems like the obvious better choice, but some people don't see it that way, so that stressor is not going away any time soon. 

In addition, the kiln rebuild has hit some snags! The big one this week came from the delivery company, Estes Express, which was supposed to bring the brick yesterday. 

They did not bring the brick yesterday. 

What's more, they did not tell me they weren't bringing the brick yesterday, even after I contacted them in the morning to ask if they could narrow down the delivery time. I didn't find out until 4 pm that my brick weren't even loaded on the truck. 
I know mistakes happen, but this was multiple, compounded mistakes. Then when I called this morning to reschedule the delivery, they told me the brick would be coming today - a day when I can not be here to receive them. Which I had already specifically told them. 

We sorted it out, & rescheduled for tomorrow, but at this point I'll believe it when I see it. In the end it's a minor thing...just power thru it, Lori. 

Updated to add: Estes Express really is a clown show! I just got an email that they have scheduled my brick delivery for today, when I have specifically told them both by email & by phone that I will not be available to take delivery today. I think I got it straightened out - again - but who the hell knows at this point. Maybe they'll show up today anyway, & I won't be here! Maybe it'll come tomorrow, or maybe I'll wait around all day & then they'll say "oops!"
So frustrating. 

Updated to add: The eagle has landed! The brick arrived today around noon. LET THE BUILDING BEGIN