Wednesday, February 29, 2012

100 Mugs in 100 Hours

Holy cow, tomorrow is March 1! My dedicated stretch of playing is at an end. Not that there won't be plenty of playing going on in the studio, but I do have to get busy with production.
And what do I always, always need more of? Why mugs, of course! To kick off my shift in focus, I am planning to spin out 100 mugs in the 100 hours between 8 am Thursday and 12 noon on Monday. Unlike the original 100 mugs challenge, I will not be trying to make each of these unique, not more than the natural variations of the process. I have 4 designs in mind, although I will feel free to veer off plan as the mood strikes me. I'd like to start today, but I really need to grind, sort, price, pack, etc, all the work from last week's firing.

It doesn't sound like much: I know potters who can make 500 mugs in a day, but I am not one of them. On the other hand it will definitely be a challenge to my discipline more than to my skill. Like a weight-loss program, making this resolve public provides additional motivation.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Pots!

Pots from the last firing!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shino Experiment Results...Sort of

I tried a new technique in the hope of achieving some nice iridescent shinos without glazing two weeks in advance. It worked, and it didn't. These bowls were side-by-side in the kiln. I have known that one side of the chamber gets heavier reduction than the other - I can tell by observing the back pressure - but I have never seen a noticeable effect on the glaze results before. Holy wow, what a difference!
It doesn't really answer the question of whether keeping the glazed pots under plastic improves the results, but it does serve to remind me how very, very sensitive shino is to differences in atmosphere. I can try to keep all my shinos on the west side of the chamber - yeah, right - or I can maybe toss some sticks in the soda port periodically, on the east side.
Anyway. Interesting. now I have to return to the not-interesting task of editing all these photos. Why do I take them, again?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm Taking a Poll....

Here are a couple of shots from the Thrown, Altered, Assembled workshop at Portland Pottery yesterday. I only hope the students had as great a time as I did! As I usually do, I demonstrated and talked for the first two hours, and then opened it up for students to try some of the shapes.
And today I had a thought. I always like an interactive workshop, but maybe people would prefer to see/hear more from me, and then try the techniques in their own studios? I could easily fill three or four hours with demos. What do you think? I promise not to take it as criticism; I am just always looking for ways to improve the workshops, for next time.

I've created a poll, in the right hand column; or feel free to respond in the comments.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drinking Plenty of Fluids

And now we come to the downside of self-employment: there's no calling in sick. Well, you can; you can call in sick every day if you want to, but you won't get paid. In this way it reminds me of a caveman's life: get out there and pick berries, or you don't eat. In theory, this is part of what appeals to me about sole proprietorship: the direct connection between effort and rewards. No more of this once-a-year chance to persuade my boss I work hard. I either work hard and it shows, or I don't, and it shows.
In practice, that translates to, I've got this crap virus and I am right about ready to cough up a lung, but I've invited people to join me for the unloading, so the show must go on. Every time I unload, I think, "I should invite people to join me for this part." And then I don't because the unloading date is a shifting target. But I did this time, having decided that I just won't let it shift.

I know in a few days I will be glad I persevered, when I am unbricking on Sunday. Right now it kind of sucks. Luckily I have been plugging along a little at a time with glazing, so most of that is done.

So. More raspberry tea, and back into the studio.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Glaze for Sweet Life

Remember I said I have yet to choose a glaze for my currently-gestating line, Sweet Life? I have a candidate in mind, although it will need some tweaking: I have here Ingrid Bathe's Clear recipe. I don't think I am revealing secrets by publishing this recipe, since Ingrid hands it out at workshops. Here's the glaze in its original form:

custer feldspar 51%
whiting 9%
zinc ox 8%
strontium 21%
om4 10%
neodymuim 5%
This glaze is rather matte, and blue in the pools, as you can see in the image of Ingrid's plates. I am looking for something icy and with a bluish cast, but maybe not as blue as this. That is fortunate, as the ingredient which is contributing most of the hue is neodymium, which goes for around $60 a pound. So, scratch the neodymium.

Second, I will need to make some adjustments for the soda, per some sound advice I was given recently. So, let's increase the whiting to 15%; at least in one test. In the other I will add 6% dolomite instead. My expectation is that the additional-whiting test will be shinier, and the dolomite-variation test will retain the more matte surface.

And, because I need some source of boron, let's replace the missing neodymium with 5% gerstley borate in both tests. This will have the effect of making the glaze more fluid at the same time it helps protect against the soda vapor. (Which, by the way, quit hating on gerstley, all you gerstley-haters out there. I have had none of the problems of material irregularity that people are talking about...maybe it's a low-fire thing, and I wouldn't understand.)
These changes make our recipe:

custer feldspar 51%
whiting 15%
zinc ox 8%
strontium 21%
om4 10%
gerstly borate 5%

Or, alternatively:

custer feldspar 51%
whiting 9%
dolomite 6%
zinc ox 8%
strontium 21%
om4 10%
gerstley borate 5%
I know those batches don't add up to 100%; I will worry about re-balancing the percentages when I know which one I will be using.

Watch for result 2/26!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shino Trick

Many people have noticed that their shinos come out better if they glaze a couple of weeks in advance; unless I am mistaken, this is due the the soda ash having additional time to migrate to the surface where it can do its good, carbon-trapping work.

Due to some family stuff, I have delayed my upcoming firing until Thursday the 23rd, unloading on the 26th, but I glazed my shinos first. That allows a week of ash migration, which is less than ideal.

So, how to encourage the ash migration in the time alloted? I covered the pieces immediately after dipping, so the coat of glaze would stay damp longer, allowing the soda ash freer movement.

I'll let you know if this works.

Thursday Inspiration: Suze Lindsay

See lot's more of Suze's work here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Well, That Sucked

I just unloaded my bisque, and every piece that was thrown with B-mix Sand cracked, save two small salad plates. Not s-cracks or cracks along the foot ring; these cracks started at the rim and meandered. Sadly, the casualties included the vessel sinks. Was I raving about B-mix Sand before? I take it all back. Doesn't matter how easily it throws if nothing survives the bisque.

I didn't dry or fire especially quickly, and every other piece in the kiln survived just fine.

Good thing I am so very mild-mannered, or I'd be really aggravated right now.

I think I'll go have a drink. Maybe do some yoga, or something.

Bowls for the 'Shed

It's time once again to make bowls for Watershed's Annual Chowder Supper Fundraiser. These will be glazed "by committee" and be fired in time for the event at the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club. For $15 get all the soup, chowder, and bread you can eat, and keep the bowl.

The date is not yet up at Watershed's website, but it'll be at the end of March. I'll keep you posted!

Any Interest in Pinterest?

I hate to be such a cliché, but I find myself somewhat addicted to Pinterest. Technically, I suppose it is a social networking site, as you can share with other pinners, follow them, comment on their posts...but it's all - for me, at least - image-based.
It reminds me of the pre-internet days, when we kept scrapbooks of ideas for the homes we'd have one day, or style ideas, or party themes, or inspiring images - whatever. Except it's easier and doesn't involve notebooks, scissors, glue, or clutter. I've been using it to mollify if not satisfy my deep yearning to be in the garden again, and to help reify my vague ideas of what I'd like to do with my home interior. I also sometimes pin images which would have made the Thursday Inspiration post, except there weren't enough good images online.

I keep seeing jokey articles and tweets about how Pinterest is "catnip for women." Someone took the trouble to construct this mildly amusing graph:

...which implies a zero-sum game: anything she enjoys is a distraction from the rightful object of her attention, which is him.
Ooops, sorry! Who let the feminist out? Actually, if you want to read a good feminist assessment of the tech world's reaction to Pinterest, check it out here. MarySue does a much better job than I ever could.
Anyway, that's all a sidetrack. What I wanted to say is, come play with me! I am betting the readers of this blog would create share some amazing images.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday Inspiration: Liz Smith

See lot's more of Liz's thrown-and-altered Cone 6 porcelain work here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sweet, Sweet Life

One of my winter projects has been to design lines of work. I originally conceived it as a marketing tool, but it has turned into a delightful creative challenge: to create well-designed functional shapes which communicate a consistent sensibility. My plan was to design two, Cottage and Lodge, but that has morphed to three (and a fourth percolating...this is getting out of hand!) The third is Sweet Life, and is related to some sundae dishes and banana split boats I was making last summer.

With Sweet Life, I am focusing on special-occasion, celebratory pieces: a punch bowl, a cake stand, wine goblets, latte cups. Also some bowls and plates, of course. I am looking for a festive and somewhat formal feel: think summer-wedding-reception. I haven't selected the glaze recipe yet, but it will be an icy clear, with greenish tints where it interacts with the soda.

My plan is to launch it with a gallery show of the bigger pieces and sets - I have a place in mind but haven't asked yet, as I feel like I need to go in with at least a few finished piece before making the approach.

The Lodge line is coming to me fairly easily, facets and tenmoku and flashing slip. The Cottage line I am having a bit more trouble with: I can see the glazes - iron yellow, oribe, and soda-cobalt - but though I've tried some shapes for bowls and mugs, nothing gives me that jumping-up-and-down feeling when you know you've got it just right.
If it seems like I have a different project every week, well, I guess I do. ADD is a blessing and a curse! I definitely haven't abandoned vessel sinks, for example; there's just not much more to say about them until they are at least out of the bisque.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kiln Peepers

Guess what came in the mail today? I finally bought myself protective eyewear, for cone-peeping. I know, I know, this is decades late; but admit it, you have your doubts about the harm, too. I've been peering through spy holes for 25 years, and my distance eyesight is still 20/20; I started wearing reading glasses when I was 43, but so did everyone else. (I hope all this doesn't catch up to me when I'm 70.)

And! If I'd known how very cool they'd look, I'd have bought a pair a long while ago. These I bought on Ebay, I think it was $17 for two pair, including shipping.

The leather jacket was a $20 Goodwill find. The only drawback is I can't stop saying, "Aaaayyy!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday Inspiration: Lorna Meaden

I love, love, love this little condiment jar. See lots more of Lorna's work here.