Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Best Soda/Salt Brick


Saving this here so I can find it again.

best soda/salt brick i have found

updated tue 19 dec 06


shane mickey on mon 18 dec 06

hey all,
just was cleaning up around my anagama and was seeing all the type of brick around. when i came into my glorious brick purchase back 3 years ago, i was very very fortunate to recieve several pallets of a AP green brick with the name UFALA XCR, i believe the xcr stands for extra creep resistent. i sold a few to a client i built a soda kiln for, gave some to a buddy for his wood/soda kilns bagwall, and have tested a few here and there. The good news is these bricks show very little salt build up and in my gama show now woodfired effects or ash deposits! the bad news is when i called ap green to get a price qoute they were like $5 bucks a piece. but they are clearly the best brick i have ever seen. they are a high fire super duty class brick with a 64% alumina content (i could be off on the alumina) the key is their density. i have talked with refractory folks and they agree with me. density is the most important factor in salt/soda kilns. a more dense high duty will outlast a
more porous super duty. the only other brick i know of that i have personally witnessed totally resisting salt is one called a crystar or crystalite? linda macfarling has them as abagwall and they show no discoloration or glassing! just two more cents.
shane mickey
shane mickey pottery and kiln design services

Sunday, February 28, 2021

There's Something Happening Here

 About a year and a half ago - seems much longer; I guess because so much has happened in between then & now - I introduced Dotopia, a line I designed specifically for wholesale. The design is easy to replicate (well - "easy" within the limitations of soda firing, which is by nature a bit random) while still communicating the joie de vivre I want my pots to impart. Because the shapes are simple, and the decorative elements consistent - throwing lines, stamps, rib cuts, slip trailing at leather hard; flashing slip, glaze dots, interior glaze either white or yellow - I can make these relatively quickly, and charge a bit less for them than a more elaborately decorated piece. 

I'm still making Dotopia, and expect a majority of my orders to be from this line. It's the one I offer to wholesale accounts, with a product sheet & samples. But my love of excessive decorating has not evaporated, and predictably, it's back! Check out this new work I am making. 

I made a bowl like this, a couple weeks ago, with a frieze thick with sliptrailing. I have sometimes told students that sliptrailing is a two-person job; one to do the work, another to bonk em on the head when it's done. But there was nobody there to do the bonking so I just kept decorating. I think there are the makings of another line here! It'll have to have a higher price point; it just so happened that I was keeping track of my studio hours this week, and between wedging, throwing, handles, and decorating, it took 6 hours (wetwork only)  to make 10 mugs. They'd have to wholesale for ...idk, $20? Maybe $25? OK, that's not all that much, in the world of handmade mugs. 

I also will save a little time on the glazing end, as these - I think - will not even need flashing slip. I am hoping for the peachy-grey of Bmix + soda glass for the background, and the porcelain slip to be a somewhat-glossy white. Probably white inside, although my mind keeps tugging me towards a pale iron-chromate grey. Not a glaze I currently have but easy enough to alter a recipe. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Postcard is Ready!

One of the most fun duties of organizing the Maine Pottery Tour every year is creating the postcard. I took advantage of my gallery sitting turn at Monkitree to get that done. Lots of great photos this year! I am always tempted to squash in as many as possible, but I have learned from past experience to be more selective, and let the images have their space. 

The artists, clockwise from the upper left: 

Josh Rystad, Bethel

Jeffrey Lipton, Litchfield

Fine Mess Pottery, Augusta

van der Veer Studios, Lincoln

Jody Johnstone Pottery, Swanville

Tyler Gulden Ceramics, Walpole

Delany Arts, Yarmouth

The Pottery Tour Road sign!

Friday, February 19, 2021

♫ We're S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, We're Shopping! ♪

 Reminds me of old times! Today I am shopkeeping at Monkitree, a fine crafts store in Gardiner which carries Fine Mess Pottery. The owner is ill - recovering! but still not quite back on her feet - so needed some help to keep the store open. When you are self-employed, you don't get sick time! 

Anyway, here I am, behind the register at Monkitree. The first sale of the day did not go that well! I am lucky that the customer was very kind and understanding, and we did eventually get the deed done, but because the register system and item codes are new to me, it took longer than it should. Anyway, I think I've got it figured out now. 

And in between customers? I'm shopping! So many lovely things to covet. Let's have a look! First, so cute things for the house: 

I mean...tea towels! Is there anyone who 
couldn't use tea towels?

Then there are the clothes! And jewelry! 
Ok this? Is SO me. Purple, floral, fancy but cazh, stretchy, comfortable. Want. 

I could wear the hell out of these! 

I might not actually be able to resist these fingerless gloves. 
They're only $24!
And finally, reading mateial!
Mostly interested in this one for the "Chasing Frozen Waterfalls" headline,
which is not a thing I would have said before I started Hiking with Yowie, who has all the good equipment! 

I *really* need a new book. How many times can I read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms? Maybe one by a Maine author! This one looks good!  

Sadly, I will (probably!) not buy any of these things. 😞 Between cancelled classes due to snow and vicious oil and electric bills, this month is a bear. It won't last forever & we'll recover soon enough by while we're in it I really can't indulge myself. Luckily Monkitree will still be here!

And now it's 2:30, my retail day halfway done! 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Year of the Ox

 I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that the Year of the Rat was a rough one. Rats have different meanings in the modern world than when the Chinese zodiac was created more than 2000 years ago, but after all we do live in the modern world! I am hoping for better things in this, the Year of the Ox. 

The Ox is a symbol of diligence. hard work, and reliability. That seems at least promising! Things have already begun this way, as I have more orders in February - mostly not due until spring - than I have ever had before. Clearly the sellers of fine handmade items believe this will be a good year. I will need to be diligent, hardworking, and reliable to get these orders out on time. What I will need to avoid is waiting until a month before they are due & then scrambling to do them all at once. 

I am doing pretty well with this - yay me - which is, I hate to say, unusual for me. My more typical mode would be to tell myself, Plenty of time, that's still months away! and then go into panicked, 12-hour-workday mode when I realize it's actually only 5 weeks away, barely time for a firing cycle. My plan is to make a couple kiln loads of pots while the weather is wintry, then bisque-glaze-fire, bisque-glaze-fire, 2 firing cycles in succession. 

Wishing everyone a successful Year of the Ox. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Decorating Day


While I love every part of the making process, I do love decorating best; followed closely by throwing & altering. Slip trailing is my favorite form of decoration. My only trouble is timing. I am trailing porcelain slip (no alterations, just water) over a white stoneware clay. The stoneware needs to be quite soft, or the slip will shrink too much & pop off during drying or firing. (Yes, slow drying helps with this.) If I trim a little too late, the slip won't fit. If I trim a little too early, I risk trimming disaster. 

But when I hit the moment just right - firm enough to hold shape easily, soft enough to accept slip, with plenty of time to spare - I really go to town with the pointy-squirty (what regular people call the sliptrailing bottle.) This is one such bowl! 

More trimming & decorating to come today, and a virtual meeting with the owner of a new store that will (hopefully!) carry my work; and answering a few email queries about the Maine Pottery Tour. 

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Skill of Letting Go

I put off unloading, because Friday & Saturday were so bitterly cold, and because no one is waiting for these pots. Today warmed up to a near-balmy 23°, sunny and perfect for unloading. Right off the bat, I suffered the traditional unloading nick, which bled like a mad bastard until I finally gave in, went inside & got a bandaid. 

As inevitable as the nick is the loss of a few pieces. Some firing processes demand more sacrifices to the kiln gods than others; these pots got some bits of wadding crumbled into them from between the bricks of the door. (Not sure why there was more crumbling than usual. I'll have to think about that.)

In the past I might have argued with myself that I could dremel out the bits, apply more glaze, and refire; or that I should save them for a magical someday when I will have time to make a mosaic with my broken pieces; or that I should place them between plants in the perennial garden. Now I'm just like, Nah, toss 'em. The sooner they are out of my sight the sooner they don't matter. If I saved all the pots that didn't work out I'd be surrounded by now, obstructed in every direction by buckets & boxes of unusable pots. Letting go is a valuable skill, for a potter. It's one I teach my students, when their handle separate or their rims crack: let it go. Take the lesson & let the piece go. Make another one. I try to live my own advice. 

Otherwise the firing was pretty good. The very bottom layer was a little pale - I stacked differently, and it affected the way the soda vapor moved around the kiln. (I don't have to let go of those, because they don't require any additional work from me - just load em in the next kiln as if it were the first time.) Mostly mugs & pasta bowls, a few dip dishes & berry colanders. Bread & butter ware, so to speak, although no actual butter dishes. 

Speaking of actual butter dishes, I have some in progress that need assembling, so that's where I'm headed now. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Let's Try This Again: Maine Pottery Tour 2021


It always seems too early to think about it, until suddenly it's way late. In two days it will be February, and I have started putting together the Maine Pottery Tour. I am well aware - well aware, thank you very much! - that like last year the pandemic may cause its cancellation, but I am cautiously optimistic for May 1 & 2. 

I started putting out feelers last week, and got a good response! Not everyone has replied, but so far only two "no" responses. It looks like the tour will have about 40 stops this year. I'm encouraging studios to hold their events outside as much as possible this year, because pandemic. Mine is always outside anyway. 

If you are a potter in Maine & you'd like more information about the pottery tour, give me a shout at info[at]

Looking forward to a great year. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cone 6 Falling


I restarted the firing that I had to give up on  due to wind last Sunday. It's been one damn thing after another with this load! But it's chugging along now, cones falling inside the kiln while snow falls outside.  My 6 cone is falling, but this time I am firing to ^10 - those are the 8, 9, 10, & 11 cones you see still standing. 

In a conventional stoneware firing, the 6 is just a watch cone - it's there to judge how evenly the kiln is firing (answer, always, with my kiln: not very) For the soda firing, the six falling is my signal to mix up the soda salad. Some firings I start adding the soda right after 6 falls; other times I wait until the 8 is falling. I kid myself that I can see a difference: that I get more even application if I wait, more directional if I start early. 

This time I think I'll wait. I'll do up the soda mix now, but apply it when 8 falls. We can judge the results together on Saturday!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Stupid WInd

 I candled the glaze firing overnight Sat/Sun, but when I got up in the morning it was pretty windy! Because I am 1 part stupid + 2 parts stubborn, I decided to try to fire anyway. Bad plan! Not disastrous, but, you know, annoying & expensive. The wind was supposed to be only around 17 mph - quite breezy, but not crazy - but every time there was a powerful gust it blew out one of my burners. 

This isn't a safety problem - that's what baso valves are for, to turn themselves off if the flame goes out - but it was hella annoying. The 10th time it happened - after ^012 had already fallen, unfornately (see above, stupid + stubborn) and after I had already burned a boatload of propane - I called it off. I'll fire Wednesday instead.

Silver lining? I basically have today off. I'm catching up on some cleaning & reading a book, and fiddling around with my new (used! but still) iPhone. 

One of these days I'll have some new pottery to show ya, I promise! 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Yeah so... bubble of energy last week? Got abruptly popped when a rightwing mob invaded the US capitol, intent on killing the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. I thought I was back, but no. My productivity is the least of the problems with this, of course, but THANKS ALOT, RIGHTWING MOB. I saw a post on social media asking something like, "Am I the only one having trouble focusing on anything other than the deadly pandemic and the imminent threat to democracy?" No, anonymous poster; no you are not. It's wreaking holy ol' havoc with my professional life. 

If everything really does have an equal and opposite reaction I am about to have my most amazing year yet - as is America. 


I finally got the kiln loaded - a little loose, but I often get better pots that way. I went to candle the load but discovered that I need new thermocouples (well - I knew that. I kept putting it off, & now one of them doesn't work at all) and the burners are loud & flame more orange than blue - the burners need a good scrub with a wire brush. Thermocouples are easy to replace, and burners are easy to scrub, but it does mean the kiln is still not firing! Luckily nobody is waiting for these pots...yet. 

My list today:

  • Order three 36" thermocouples
  • Take burners apart & clean them
  • Pray for America

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Loading Tuesday & Wednesday

 Firing Friday. All of a sudden I desperately want to make pots.