Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gettin' Close...

That's 08, just beginning to bend. I don't use watch or guard cones in the bisque anymore because, what for? I can tell by the color when it's getting close, and once I know a kiln, the bisque always takes the same length of time, anyway; and even if it overshoots, it's no big deal. I could miss by 3 cones and still be fine. I fire my bisque to the lowest temperature that will not cause problems in my glazing. I used to bisque to 010, but then I started using B-mix, with which one glaze blistered and pinholed when bisqued to 010. Not alot but enough to be annoying. A slightly hotter bisque solved that problem.
Lots of potters I know bisque to 05, but that seems like wasting fuel -- and for fuel, read "money" -- to me. Plus if either of my stonewares gets to 04, the body starts to get too tight to take glazes well, so I have a much narrower margin of error.

Anyway. It's climbing fast now, so my cone may be down, even in the time it took to type this. I hope so, because I want to get my PJs on.

Someday  -- oh, far-off someday, glittering in the distance like an oasis -- when I've got the kiln all figured out, I'm gonna skip firing in the winter, Just pass on it. Spend January, February, and March making, making, making, and then fire it in the spring. The rest of the year can be full-cycle.

I loaded a bisque this morning, in the snow. It was actually quite pretty and pleasant, exccept for ever-present danger of slipping. So that was all fine until it came time to brick up the door, and I discovered that my blocks were not just under a pretty snow cover, but caked with ice as well; so I had to melt the ice of of each before I could brick up the door. Needless to say this slowed the porceedings down a bit. The kiln was candling all the while, though, so it probably won't slow the firing any. 

This firing is (as all will be for a while) an experiment; I haven't had the propane refilled since the last glaze firing. That was a super-long firing, and the gauge is at 50, but I certainly hope I can get a bisque out of what remains in the tanks. If not, well, I'll have learned something. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Topsy Cake Stand, Take 2

Back in the ring to take another swing! Plan B: instead of cutting the pedestal into three diagonal sections and reversing them. I am just going to cut a smile-shaped dart out near the bottom, and the replace it near the top. Like so:

Will post more photos when the stands are assembled.

Now THIS is a Cake Stand!

Not mine, unfortunately. I had cake stands all on my mind, and then this wonderful link arrived in my inbox! You can see more wonderful pieces at Kristen Keiffer's blog. Go, look, now! It's amazing.

Topsy Wishes

When Doug & I got married in 2006, I sort of got my heart set on a topsy cake for our wedding. He didn't care much -- his wish was that our ceremony include a dip in the river, in our wedding finery, which he got. Also, he's not much of a one for sweets, although a bite of the wedding cake was all he did have to eat that day, as I recall. Anyway, the topsy cake turned out to be crazy expensive, considering our shoestring budget, and my practical side won out. Our cake was chocolate, and lovely, and quite delicious -- but I never forgot the wedding cake of my dreams.

Today I am on the studio making, among other things, cake stands. Topsy cake stands to be exact. 

So, let's see how that topsy thing is workin' out...Not that good, tell the truth! My first effort looks more like one of those novelty mugs reading "I got smashed on Bourbon Street!" or where ever. Not what I had in mind.

In my enthusiasm, I started too wet, and lost the freshness: an occupational hazard of altered work. Of all people I ought to know that clay is all about timing! Not that this one is a lost cause, I'll still tinker around with it, add the plate part, see what happens. but it's time to step back, do something else (I'm thinking, get a whoopie pie. I saw some double-chocolate ones at the grocery yesterday, and all this talk of cake...), and come back to the second one once it has firmed up a bit. 

So, this sort of turned into a live-blog. Live-blogging the cake stands! I like it. Back later with some better results. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Doesn't This Sound Yummy?

#1170 Temmoku
Cone 10
It will go amber/gold in salt firing, black in soda.

316 Kingman Feldspar (can use G-200 or Custer)
204 Silica
75 EPK
133 Whiting
71 Red Iron Oxide

And there are a whole bunch more at Wikiclay. Here's another:

#2311 Sandra Johnstone Pumpkin glaze C10

44 Kingman Potspar (try Custer of G200)
12 Whiting
10 Barium carb
10 Kaolin
3 Silica

Add: 1 Red Iron Oxide %
6 Rutile
2 Bentonite
*Base is in grams and doesn't total 100%

Ooops, though: barium. I don't keep barium in the studio; can't spare the neurons. What's that barium/ strontium substitution? Hmm, googling... Found it: .75 parts strontium in place of 1 part barium.

This one claims to be a shino for Soda/salt. I've never had good luck with that; I always get a washed out result. But wouldn't it be great! It's got Chris Gustin's name on it, which makes me more optimistic:

#2807 Gustin Shino (good liner, apply thin, particulary if you use it on bisque,or it will crawl).

45 Neph Sy
11 F4 soda spar
15 Spodumene
15 Ball Clay
10 Calcined kaolin
4 Soda ash

Oh, okay, one more. These are better than bedtime stories!

#3165 Amber Celadon C9-10 Dark treacle brown

(lighter on porcelain or white stoneware). You can use it very thin for reddish accents in soda.

36 Albany slip (try Alberta slip)
22 Custer spar
3 Gerstley borate
14 Wollastonite
8 Whiting
14 Flint

I always have a psyche myself up a bit to mix glazes, as I find it tedious. But I'm inspired now!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blizzard Babies

It will be entirely consistent with my history with automobiles, if the hearse breaks down on the way to my funeral. I have dreadful car-karma, and it has been manifesting itself with a vengeance this winter. Two major blizzards, two concurrent breakdowns, plus a bum alternator and a minor accident to keep things interesting.

Lemons became lemonade during my most recent misfortune, however: my fuel pump quit in the midst of a terriific storm, but fortunately it did so just a couple blocks from Portland Pottery, where I am on the faculty, and where, also, I could not only use the phone to call a tow, and have a warm place to wait, but I could also get clay and use a wheel. And what else was there to do? So I made mugs, to fill a recent order from Phil at Bay View Company.

In related news, I've been noticing a used Ford Ranger for sale, that I drive by often in my travels. I asked after the cost and found that I almost afford it...and it might be worth to have automotive back up, given my history. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome, 2011: Goal-setting for January

The promise of the coming year has me quite giddy; setting goals seems too earthbound, too mundane for a year of such magnificent potential. Nevertheless, like all things, magnificence is achieved with baby steps, and baby steps are what monthly goal-setting is all about. So:

1) Speaking of mundane, the first of my goals has to be to pay the nice folks at Augusta Fuel for the propane I burned during the three more-or-less unsuccessful firings. The December checks from my consignment outlets should cover this, but until it is out of the way, I can't do any more firing. But I can:

2)Make enough pots to fill a bisque. I already have enough bisqueware to fill a glaze firing, but I want to do a glaze first, and see how even it fires to 08.

3)Mix up 3 test glazes. Just because I am still tweaking the kiln doesn't mean experimentation should stop.

4) Here's the dreary part: I (or more likely, Doug, if I ask him really nicely) need to get up on the shed roof and remove two layers of brick from the stack. Then I need to raise the bag walls by two layers, or more (haven't decided.)

5) Glaze firing prior to the end of the month. Shooting for...Let's say the 21st.

I haven't yet completed my annual navel-gazing, during which I plan strategy for Fine Mess Pottery for the next annum. I don't expect it to reveal any surprises, as my path seems clear. That in itself is a good feeling.