Saturday, February 28, 2015

On Second Thought...

While scraping and grinding kiln shelves, I turned on a burner to melt the snow out of the kiln. I bricked up the door to hold the heat in a bit, so the burner could do its job; and in doing so I was reminded: my castable blocks are in rough shape.

I've got a pail of refractory cement right here, and a trowel; I guess now is as good a time as any to make these repairs. It feels like I just did this, but actually it's been three years or so. It's gritty messy work, but kind of satisfying in a way. Leaves me feeling like I dun good. And bricking up will be so much easier when its done.

Since I am doing gritty messy work today, I might as well add "mix up door mud" to the list.

It doesn't change my firing schedule, because I can squeeze loading, candling, and firing the bisque into one day if necessary.

ETA: Yeahno. It's 10 degrees outside; if I wait until Wednesday I can load in 46 degrees. Call me a big baby, but I'm holding off. 

Winter In the Rear View

Someday, I would like to post some pictures of stoneware instead of snow. To that end, I'm going to have to fire. And to do that, I had to clear the kiln of drifts that were shoulder-high in some places. (Of course, my shoulders are lower than some people's!) 

I didn't mean to let it get so deep! After the first snowstorm in January, I thought, Well, I haven't got a kilnload yet anyway. I'll just stay snug, make pots, and wait for a thaw. Then we got four - or five? I lost count - major storms in a two week period, and just shoveling out the mailbox became a full-time job. And no one was waiting for these pots, so I put off firing. And it snowed. And snowed. And snowed.

Last Sunday we got the first day that was remotedly like a thaw: a single day in the mid-thirties. I grabbed the chance to clear the snow.
Unfortunately some - a lot! - had blown into the kilnshed as well, and had to be cleared carefully, so as not to break firebrick and kiln shelves. Some of my shelves are Advancers - a little treat for myself and my back - they are very light but also more fragile, and they do not like being exposed to the weather. Or rather, they do just fine in the weather but need to be thoroughly dried before firing. So I cleared out the kiln shed, scooped snow out of the kiln, and discovered that I hadn't scraped the shelves after the last firing. UGH I HATE ME DON'T YOU???

So, on my list today: Shovel a path to outdoor work table. Scrape kiln shelves. Load & candle bisque.

These are the last damn snow photos, I promise!! Tomorrow is March. Some years we have crocuses up by now. (For all I know they are out of the ground now, just buried.) Soap is a fine outlet for creativity but I am feeling antsy to fire, so it's time to get back on schedule. Because it's winter and I can't load in advance, I can only fire when I have two whole days at home, so the schedule looks like this:
  • Sunday: fire bisque, clean studio
  • [Monday & Tuesday, teach classes]
  • Wednesday: wax pots, check glazes, set up studio for glazing
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday: Glaze like a fiend
  • Wednesday: Glaze some more, make cone packs, get soda mix ready
  • Thursday: Load kiln, candle
  • Friday: FIRE! At last!!
Just by weird coincidence, I've received several invitations to apply for co-op galleries in the last few weeks. All of these are good opportunities, but I wouldn't be able to participate in ALL of them, should I get accepted, so I need to decide. Whichever one I apply for, I am going to need POTS to show them. Good pots. It's time to get outside and make that happen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Harlow is Gettin' Fired UP

This will be of interest to local clay peeps: The Harlow, a little gem of a co-op gallery in Hallowell, Maine, has issued a call for entry for a show of ceramic work. Fired Up opens in July; the entry deadline for work is June 15th.

OPEN CALL for Maine artists working with ceramics. The Harlow Gallery is seeking submissions of ceramic work, both utilitarian and sculptural, for an exhibition entitled “Fired Up” on view July 31 through August 22, 2015. Submissions will be reviewed by a curatorial committee to include Barbara Loken of Loken Pottery, Marie Sugden of the Center for Maine Craft, and Allison McKeen of the Harlow Gallery.

Deadline for email submissions is 11pm on Monday, June 15, 2015.

Eligibility – Artists should be residents of Maine at least part of the year or otherwise have a strong connection to our state. Artists submitting from out of state are responsible for the costs of shipping work to and from the Harlow. Please note that return shipping will be actual cost plus $20 to cover staff time.
New, Original Work Only Please – Work previously shown at the Harlow is not eligible.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I get knocked down...

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down

I get knocked down
But I get up again
No you're never gonna keep me down
I just finished reading Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. Linda was the lady who wrote the amazing Kinja post, Why I make Terrible Decisions, or Poverty Thoughts. The book is an expansion on the theme. It came at a good time for me, having a pity party as I was, because I had an expensive car repair for the third time in as many months. Tirado makes a good point: getting ahead when you are poor depends on everything going right for an extended period of time. Which it never does, not long enough, anyway. And then I get depressed because DAMN IT. No matter how hard I work, no matter how frugal I am, something always comes along and knocks me back to square one.

It was good for me to read the book for a lot of reasons; one of them was to remind myself that we are not really poor, not compared to many people. We do live an extremely tenuous economic existence - if Doug or I got ill and couldn't work even for a few weeks, we'd be screwed. If the car had died this time instead of just needing approximately a million small repairs (exhaust system, oxygen sensor, tires, plugs, wires, coils, some other little shit) and I couldn't get to Portland for my classes, I don't know what we would have done.

And then I remind myself - I have had these thoughts before. Something always works out. There is nothing stopping me from putting on my interview suit and getting an office job, and then I wouldn't have these worries; but I never do it. It helps to think of it like this, to remind myself that not only did I chose this, I am choosing it every day.

And anyway, it's only credit card debt; I ring it up in the winter, I pay it down in the summer. It is always like that. I get knocked down, but I get up again.

Never gonna keep me down.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Little Indulgence to get through the Winter

One nice thing about making soap is that I don't have to go outside to do it, unlike loading the kiln. I meant to have these posted before Valentine's Day, but, well, indulgence takes many forms.

Heavenly Soap: Fresh, Musky, and Floral

Mochaccino Soap: Is there a better combination than coffee and chocolate?

Smells like freshly laundered sheets drying in the sunshine

Pink and Grey

I think grey is a very underrated color, don't you? It has a great range: can be pastel or somber, masculine or feminine, goes with everything. Like foods, I can get cravings for certain color combinations, and lately I am just dying for some pink and grey pots. First, a little story:

Now, kids, when I was your age, we couldn't get a true red at ^10. We got some great cranberry tones and ox bloods and watermelon shades; I personally got more than my fair share of that awful battleship-mauve that comes over over-reducing a copper red glaze. But true red, fire-engine red? That was a low-fire thing, and even then they sometimes went brown, unless you popped the kiln lid as soon as the sitter fell. Quick cooling, that was the trick.

Well, grasshopper, technology is a wonderful thing! I bought me a hundred-dollar flashlight that can also tell the time and temperature and play pretty music. And, now red underglazes stay red at ^10, reduced or not.

I'm not much a fan of commercial glazes - although I've seen potters who use them to good effect - but underglazes...well, there are just some things that it's better to let the professionals handle. Underglazes are like eggrolls. You can do homemade eggrolls, for sure. You can spend all afternoon chopping vegetables very fine, rolling and pinning the wraps, you can smell up your kitchen with an immersion fryer...and when you are done you'll have egg rolls which, if you are very lucky, are almost as good as the ones you can pay somebody five bucks to bring right to your door. A lot less cleanup that way, too!

I've had good luck with Amaco's velvet series, both Bright Red and Radiant Red.

Pink, though...I started out talking about pink. Pink underglazes, in my experience, go kind of beige. Beige is a nice color, for sure! But beige is not what I am jonesing for.

My issues with these underglazes are two. One, under a clear ^10 glaze, they can act as refractory ingredients in the glaze, and create a drier surface, and two, in the soda kiln, they don't attract much soda so by themselves are rather dry. Porcelain slip, though...that stays a bright white and gets very shiny, with added glaze or just with soda glass.

See where I am going with this?

I mixed Amaco's Radiant Red with my porcelain slip, two great tastes that...well, don't taste great, not that I know of, but I am hoping they will look great.Clear glaze over an iron-bearing claybody in reduction will give me my grey; hopefully the slip/underglaze mixture will give me a bright candy pink, like ya see in the pictures. No, really: these pictures! I am hoping the fired result will be close to its wet color:

I am thinking the rims will just be flashing slip, so, earth-orange. Pink and orange don't immediately sound like the best combo but in my head it's amazing. I'll post the photos after the firing....though who knows when that is going to be? I mean, technically I could fire any time. I could load a bisque today! But realistically that is just not gonna happen. It's seven degrees outside! Nobody is waiting for these pots, except me. I'll just keep throwing and decorating, throwing and decorating, until we get something resembling a thaw. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Cup Sale Contribution

Have I mentioned I am going to NCECA? Oh. Well, I have I mentioned the NCECA annual cup sale? It supports the NCECA Fund for Artistic Development - scholarships, residencies, fellowships, shit like that. It's also it's own kind of awesome, walking in to the Hall of Cups (I just made that up, but that should be the official name of it) full of cups and mugs from NCECA members, the famous and the obscure alike.

In the obscure category, here's the cup I am planning to donate:

In addition to just being a nice thing to do, each donated cup will be considered for a “Cups of Merit” Commission Award, and each on-site donation get the donor an extra NCECA 2016 Conference/Membership drawing ticket in addition to the ticket in the conference packet.

So, pretty much all around awesome. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

NCECA for Real!!

I just purchased my membership and conference registration - a more complicated process than one would think! For instance, why does NCECA need to know if I am deceased? Do we expect a lot of deceased persons at the conference? (If so I might have to rethink this.)

Anyway. I'm not deceased, and I will be in Providence! I am posting this now to remind you all that in order to get the early bird discount rate - a difference of $50 - you need to register by February 6th. That's tomorrow! Get on it.

So excited! See you in Providence!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yeah, More Snow

The kiln yard, from my studio window
My foul-weather friend
Because you haven't seen enough snow photos this week. This was how the kiln yard looked before the most recent blizzard, which we got yesterday; I haven't even looked out there this morning. You probably can't even see the kiln!

I've postponed the firing I was planning to do this week. There's no urgency about it, so why kill myself?

Shoveling, now: that's a different story. There is indeed urgency about shoveling, which I am procrastinating even as I type. I need to get to Portland this afternoon, to teach my classes! We've had to cancel several classes, so I'll be in Portland more than usual over the next few days, to teach the make-ups. I shudder to think what parking will be like.

I'm the first one to say, we live in Maine. Snow happens. But damn: maybe snow could not happen, for a week or two? Just until we figure out what to do with the snow we've already got?

Alright, putting my boots on. It ain't gonna shovel itself.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Slip Slop Oops

The poets say into every life some rain must fall. In mine you can add to that a whole shirtload of snow, and now a bucket of porcelain slip. Everything happens to me.

What I was trying to do, before I was so rudely interrupted by the great slip tsunami of 2015, was make a platter with a slip spiral. I'd just made some porcelain slip so I had plenty (no not more!!) and I can get seduced by the lusciousness of slip, and want to do something more than delicate ladylike dots and curliques.

I start by pouring a puddle of slip into a leather hard plate.
Then I rotate and turn the plate (still on its bat) to spread the slip round. There will be extra; to prevent a layer so thick that it cracks, I then pour the excess back into the pitcher. I have to shake the pretty hard to get all the excess; that is the point where I bumped the full pitcher and tipped it all over my table and tools.

I just left the puddle there while I made the spiral, though; it seems to work best if you work fast. Using the short end of a kidney rib and starting in the center of the plate, I spin the plate (on a banding wheel, in this case, but a potter's wheel would work as well) and bounce or tap the end of the rib into the slip. It removes a bit of slip wherever it touches. If you move the tool out from the center with each bounce, you get a spiral pattern.You can cover the surface or be selective where the marks land.
So! that was fun. Now where's my sponge? I've got a mess to clean up.
Here's another one.