Friday, December 31, 2021

Packing Day in the Studio!


At long last, I can ship out the mugs to the folks who pre-ordered them way last summer. I spent the day wrapping, packing, & addressing, listening to podcasts: Hidden Brain, The Daily Beans, & the Savage Lovecast. 

By the time I was all packed up it was too late to go the the post office, so these won't actually fly until next week. So grateful to everyone who purchased a mug, you are the reason I have a new kiln at all. 

Happy New Year to my friends, online & IRL. I hope your 2022 is filled with joy. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Lessons from the Firing!

  1.  I definitely didn't have to worry about not enough soda! It was plenty and more. There is a lot of pearl gray in this kiln. Don't get me wrong, I like pearl gray! But I was hoping for more variation. 
  2. On the plus side, every pot save one is saleable! I wanted more variation in the load but each individual pot is quite nice. When has that ever happened? Only a few even need to be ground. 
  3. When I turned the kiln off, ^11 was soft. When I opened the door ^11 was flat. This kiln is so tight it sorta kept on firing after I turned the burners off. Good to know! 
  4. During the firing, I noted that the back pressure looks different than I am accustomed to, due to the power blowers. It was more turbulent & also a different color. This made it hard to determine how deep the reduction was. Again, I needn't have worried! There was plenty of reduction. Could do with a little less, even. 
  5. The top back got the lightest soda & the lightest reduction. In future - since I will be decreasing both - I should remember to put glazed pots there, or pots that will do well with paler colors. 
    Some peachy pots up under the arch. 
  6. I can't wait to fire again! I have about...idk, maybe 30% of a load ready to go. 
  7. Despite heavy soda on the pots, the shelves are only very lightly affected. I will grind them, just as a best-practice, but they don't really need it. The post-firing of this kiln is going ot be a lot less work than the old one! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

First Peek into the First Firing

Last night, long after the kiln was off, I lay in bed worrying - as one does - about soda. Did I use enough? I used less than I did with my old kiln, because I switched soda application methods. I have read that more of the soda finds its way to the pots using the spray-in method than with the Gail Nichols soda-salad approach. I adjusted accordingly...but A) it's a new kiln. I can make an educated guess as to the right amount, but I won't really know until I have fired it a few times. and B) because their interiors are not yet coated with soda glass, sometimes kilns need more soda the first few times they are fired. I thought that probably would not be true of this one, because we pre-glazed the interior with a feldspathic liner glaze, but again, who knows? Not me, because it's the first firing!

My fears were unfounded (for once.) It looks like more than plenty of soda glass - if anything maybe a bit too much? Too much is better than not enough, all day & twice on Sundays. Looks like I got some good carbon trapping, too...again, maybe a bit too much? But this is nitpicky refining I didn't expect to have the luxury of until the 3rd or 4th firing. 

Anyway, unloading tomorrow! More pics then. Stay tuned! 


Monday, December 27, 2021

Firing Blind

 You always have to learn a new kiln. The sound of the burners, the length & color of the back pressure, the reduction smell - all those things re going to be different in a new kiln. This kiln is notably different, as it has power blowers, which have their own sound & affect the appearance of the flame. 

I am firing without any of that gained intuition.


The first part of the firing went ridiculously fast. I got up early, not knowing how long the firing might take, but 012 was down by 6 am. I stalled it out a bit during body reduction, trying to get a flame from the low spy, & spent an hour or so monkeying around with the burners, the blowers, & the damper, trying to get it to climb without re-oxidizing the load. Eventually 05 fell, & I could back off the reduction again (although, who knows? Reduction itself looks different) & it began to climbing startlingly fast - ^3 has fallen up top. At 8:30 am. 

I pushed the damper in a bit, to try & push some of the heat downstairs, which has had the effect of slowing the climb. That is probably a good thing! I might try backing off the burners a bit & pushing in the damper a bit more. So many moving parts!

Ok, did that...I'll pop back out in a bit to see the effect. Normally I clean the house & the studio on firing day, but today the kiln needs too much of my attention. 

^6 falling at 11 am...

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Joy of Door


The last pot is in place, and - oh joy! - I don't have to brick the door shut! I just swung it into place, bolted it, and I'm done! Later tonight I will light the pilots & the first glaze firing of the new kiln will be finally commence. 
Earlier today I dug up the sprayer & made sure it is working, & checked that I had enough baking soda & soda ash. I didn't, so I popped over to Hannaford to get them. I think I have everything I need.

It's been such a long tome coming, I can scarcely believe it's happening. 

This firing is mostly already sold: a lot of pre-ordered mugs, a couple of big bowls, and some cat urns. 

Hoping to unload on Wednesday. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Wadding said WADDING, not waddling. I am pre-making the wads for Monday’s firing, because making wads during the load means garpy hands …which means either garpy pots , or repeated rinsing - not fun for a winter load.
I chose Monday to fire so I can load tomorrow , the warmest day forecast of the week . 
I am also- if you can’t tell- trying out a blogging app for iPhone. The sideways photo was probably a dead giveaway.
Monday firing means unloading Thursday! It’s happening!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Things to Not Do in 2022

 Following up on my last post: in 2022, I might need a not-do list more than I need a to-do list. 

Things to not do in 2022: 

  1. Give anyone COVID. This is - obviously! - closely related to not getting COVID myself, but I am less worried about myself & more about elderly people, medically vulnerable people, little kids, and, yes, the unvaccinated. (People don't deserve to die for being gullible or stubborn.) 
  2. Twitter This is not so much a don't-do than a do-less. A lot less. While I have managed, via the Fitdesk, to transform my twitter time into workout time, it's still not great for my head. I don't want to give it up entirely - I follow a lot of people who break down the news of the day into understandable bits - but doomscrolling is a bad habit. 
  3. Vegetable Gardening? This is a toughie. Doug was originally the vegetable gardener - I'm more interested in perennials -  but he lost interest a few years after he built raised beds. The beds were already there, and it is a nice experience to walk out into the yard to pick tomatoes or peppers for a dish, so I kept it up. But it's either a lot of work or it looks like crap - I'm a visual person, I hate when things look like crap! - or, as last year, you get blight or something, in which case it's a lot of  work, looks like crap, and doesn't produce any tomatoes. I know now why people stick to lawns. 
  4. This one is really hard, & needs some thinking one but maybe...Art fairs?  When I lived in St. Paul, art fairs were my primary source of income. I have great memories of this - it was so exciting to pack for the show, to be on the road, not knowing what was going to happen. Setting up & selling are hard work, of course, but also very satisfying. Each fair had a community of people I only saw at art fairs. And then there's the counting of the money; back then I usually did well, & I would treat myself to dinner in the different city before driving home. Fun! But. Art fairs have changed, or I have, & my location - very far from any top-shelf fairs - has definitely changed. I have had mixed success at art fairs since moving to Maine, & a couple of outright flops. My display is in need of repair & refresh, which will cost some money, so it seems like a good time to think...maybe I just won't. 
There might be more don't-dos, I'm not sure! That's all for now/ 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

We Interrupt This List-Making

 I got partway thru my "22 for 2022" list when a lightbulb went off: making a list is useless if I don't address the reasons I haven't done those things already. Also, making that list is hard, because there aren't really that many things I want to change! For now I am setting aside the cute device and thinking about what could change & how. 

There's not that much that I want to change about my life! (Not counting external things like idk THE PANDEMIC. ) I do fall short of the 2 commodities everyone wants more of: time & money. Time, of course, is the tricky one: despite centuries of admonitions to do so, no has yet discovered a way to make time. There's only as much as there is, so the question is how one utilizes it. Depending on your definition of "enough," I have enough money - if enough means there's always food & the bills all get paid. But there's not really enough to do anything extra; not to mention I am 57 years old & I need to be saving. Clay is not really something that you retire from, but one day I will not be able to stand on cement floors for 9 hours a day to teach classes; one day beyond that, I will not be able to lift kiln shelves. Eventually throwing may be beyond me. 

Anyway. What I need to think about isn't more things to do; I need to think (among other things) things to not do. Things that I do out of habit that don't generate much joy, or things I can automate, or devices I can utilize to shorten tasks. For example, a couple years ago I bought 3 devices that have been so useful! I bought my Fitdesk, which both limits my noodling around online & transforms that wasted time into workouts. I bought a Roomba & a robot mop - both about $200 - so worth it! I like to say I am neat but not a freak; when mess gets to a certain level I find it distracting. Having the 2 robots do their good work every day keeps down the general level of crud in the house all the time. I wonder if there are other devices that could take on other tasks for me. 

Finding ways to claw back time would (sort of) solve the money end of things, too: I'm fairly confident that if I could make more things, I could sell more things. 

Today in the studio: more glazing. Might be loading on Xmas day! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

6 thru 10...oh wait, no

Six thru ten on my list of 22 for 2022 are things experiences I want to have in the New Year! Some of this will depend on what happens with the pandemic - obviously if we go into hard lockdown that's going to affect what I am able to do. Also, some of these cost a bit; if the pandemic screws with my income much at all, they are gonna be Not In The Budget. 

Things I want to do:

6. Ziplining! This looks like a world of fun. 

7. A White Mountains hike For me that would mean renting a cabin for a couple of days, because driving for hours on both ends of a strenuous hike sucks the fun right out of it.  

8.  The Black Rose Pandemic permitting of course! I have been there once before, & the patrons sung along with the Irish band. I have two friends who - 

You know what? All of these things, everything I can think of for this list, costs either time or money or both, and I never have enough of either. If I did, I would have done these things already! I think I need to put this list on hold. There's a different list - two in fact - I need to make first. 


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

22 for who am I kidding

In December 2018, I made a 19 for 2019 list of things I wanted to do in the upcoming year: experiences, habits, & purchases I thought might improve my life. And they did! Or at least they started to: at the beginning of 2020, I had a new body of work, a string of new stores planning to carry that work, I was healthier & more productive. All kindsa good stuff was happening. It worked so well I made a similar list: 20 for 2020. 

And then...well, you know the story, You're living it, too. 

Anticipating an end the the pandemic (because: vaccine!), at the end of 2020 I made a 21 for 2021 list but, well, the end didn't happen. Too many chose not to get vaccinated, and the pandemic raged on. We all did good if we stayed afloat. (LOL, yes I know: Superman does good; we did well.) None of that looks likely to change in 2022, but I still plan to make a list - kind of a reboot. Most things will be the same, but the priorities may be rearranged. Home stuff, outdoor stuff, online stuff; let's see how much I can accomplish with those guiding lights.

22 is a lot, & I'm not gonna try to come up with them all today. Here are the 1st 5.

22 for 2022 (some of em anyway)

  1. 5 miles a day or 50 miles a week. I find I have a much better day if I spend some time on the Fitdesk in the morning. I know this, but sometimes I still skip it. Gonna do better about that. 
  2. 15 hours a week in the studio. I spend a lot more time than that on my business, of course, but a lot of things count as business activities. I want to make sure I spend at least that much on actual making. 
  3. Add fruit or vegetables to everything. The benefits are obvious, but this is harder than it sounds! I can make it easier but chopping up veggies ahead of time, so I can just toss them in whatever I am making. 
  4. Hiking at least once a month Or, you know, snowshoeing, biking, kayaking. I love that stuff, and it makes my life happier. It's important. 
  5. And, overlapping that, one social thing a month. I'm pretty introverted - no, strike that, I'm super introverted -  and I burn a lot of my social resources teaching clay classes. Without a conscious effort I might never see anyone outside of work except Doug & my family. Maintaining friendships is important, too, though, & I know I will be glad I did. 

Got all the prep work done for the glaze firing yesterday - mixed kiln wash, washed all my new furniture, mixed up some wadding. I don't need door mud - YAY - because there will be no stacking of the door - also YAY! 

Here's the furniture. all dressed up & ready to go. Well, Half dressed up. I took the photo before I dipped the 2nd end. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Eat the Frog

If you look closely you can see the sliptrailing!

The first bisque in the new kiln is humming along nicely. There's a lot I still need to figure out; I don't have an intuitive sense of how the burners should sound, for example, or what the right damper position is for maximal efficiency & even firing. This kiln is a rocket! I will need to rein it in a little bit, I think, for future bisques. I candled it overnight & turned the burners proper on around 7:30 am; 08 is falling as I type. 

Since my Christmas season is a null set this year - the plumbing just happened too late - now seems like an excellent time to being my traditional year-end rumination. I call it the Week of Reflection & usually do it during the week between Christmas & New Year's, but any time is a good time to do some reflecting. 

I recently heard a phrase that stuck with me: eat the frog. I mean, ew, of course, but that's why it's memorable. It means, do the thing on your list that you really don't want to do first, & then it will be done. This is very good advice for me, as sometimes I can fritter away a whole day & get nothing done because I so much don't feel like doing one particular thing. Usually it's the most important thing! So, my new mantra when I am feeling stuck in that mode of procrastination: Eat the frog! Get it over with, & then it won't be hanging over the rest of your day. Sometimes I'm not even conscious that I am doing it, so when I find myself with lots to do but getting nothing done, I can ask myself: What the frog?

Today's frog is carrying my glaze buckets inside & upstairs to the winter studio. 

Time to peek at the bisque again - I'm guessing it will be time to shut it off. I'll unload Friday & start glazing...maybe if I'm lucky I'll be firing the glaze next week at this time. Stay tuned!! 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Very Good News & the Slightly Bad News

The bad news first: the quick-connects are on back order, so the propane guy will have to come back out to install those, & the pipe is a major trip hazard. Like, if you were trying to create a trip hazard, this is how you would do it. The ground was frozen, so he could not dig down to install the pipe. 

But the really, really good news? My kiln is plumbed! I can fire. I expect to bisque on Wednesday of next week, & the glaze firing to happen the week after that. 

Looks like great weather to load & fire!!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Maybe This Time

🎵It’s gonna happen

Happen sometime

Maybe this time I’ll win🎵

The propane tech is coming (again) today to plumb the kiln. Maybe this time I'll win! 

Saturday, December 4, 2021


 I've been maintaining a pretty good attitude about the whole kiln/propane debacle, up until now anyway, but the frustration hit me all of a sudden, like a load of snow off a roof. It's been months. It's been one damn thing after another! According to the original plan I should have been firing my new kiln in July. 

I still don't know when it will happen. The window has passed for me to have a fun, enjoyable first firing, with a kiln opening event - it's well & truly winter in Maine now, I will be loading in the 28° weather, and shovelling out to unload. IF I'M LUCKY. I mean who the hell knows, maybe it will be fucking JUNE before the kiln is plumbed. OK, that's probably a bit of catastrophizing on my part but still. I don't know when it will happen. Nobody knows. 

Anyway, what's a blog for if you can't occasionally vent? 

I'm gonna go make some more pots that I have no way to fire. 

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

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Progress! Slow, but progress

The kiln project is not very photogenic at this stage! But it is coming along. The old kiln is gone - or rather it is in stacks of (mostly reusable!) brick in pallets in the kiln yard. The plumbing is disconnected, the rubble brick (mostly) in my truck waiting for a dump run. 

One bummer note: I cancelled my participation in the Common Ground Fair. I thought I could squeeze in a kiln rebuild & still have pots for the event but...well, maybe I still could have! But there were too many things that had to go exactly right for that to happen. The big one that loomed for me is that the burners are scheduled to be delivered the first week in September. There's like an 8-week lag between order & receipt. The kiln itself will be built by then but obviously I won't be able to fire without burners...and then it will take some time to get them plumbed, and I can't schedule the propane guy until the burners have arrived...and what if they come a week late? That's something neither I nor Tyler can control. I decided to cancel out of hte fair while they still have plenty of time to fill in an alternate. 

To my surprise, they offered me a booth refund! I think this might be a pandemic thing but either way it was very generous. That money will go directly to the kiln project. 


Back from my dump run! As always I saw lots of bald eagles, including this guy: 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Begun Is Half Done

 ...or so a wise friend once told me! By that metric I am done the deconstruction of the kiln. 

I took down the stack, down the the level of the shed roof. I stopped there because I am going to need some pallets to put the soft brick on, rather than the wet ground; and also because it seemed like a good place to stop. I am not crazy about heights, so I am relieved to get all the roof-of-the-shed work out of the way. 

Next steps:

  • Get some pallets! I think Portland Pottery has some, or sometimes hardware stores give them away; in a pinch I could always buy pallets
  • Take down the rest of the stack
  • Borrow some post jacks to jack the arch form up under the arch. I need to lift the weight of the brick so I can remove them without destroying them. 
  • After that it's just brick by brick until only the angle iron frame is left. That'll be fun, getting that to the dump. 

Here's all the brick I unstacked, tossed down & restacked today! No wonder I am exhausted & smell like a goat. 

This is happening! If you want to support this project, or just want a new mug, you can order a mug out of the first firing here. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Nice Day to Start Tearing Down a Kiln!


Yesterday, not so much! It was a deluge of rain among the last shreds of Hurricane Elsa. I drove to Belfast, to deliver pots to Mainely Pottery, a lovely little gallery & studio who started carrying my work just as the pandemic descended up on us. 

(As a side note, Mainely Pottery is for sale! 5 waterfront acres in Belfast, Maine - a shopping destination - with a long-established business. There are 2 buildings - a full pottery studio & the gallery - and plenty of room to put up a little house or a yurt, if you wanted to live there or supplement pottery sales with AirBnB. As you can see, I have given this some thought! If you have a little money or are the kind of person banks don't laugh their collective asses at,  this is your chance to live the dream: make & sell pots on the coast of Maine. Me, I'd have to win the lottery a little to make this work but you? Maybe you could do it.)

Ok, back about me! After weeks of talking about it, today I am taking the first steps in the kiln-rebuild process: ordering the shelves & beginning the arduous task of taking down the old kiln. I'll start with the stack, which means (EEK) a ladder on the roof the get to the highest courses of brick. Not sure how long this will take but the answer is "forever" if I don't get started. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Law Of Old Kilns


Are you familiar with the Law of Bad Hair? That refers to that phenomenon that happens when, after weeks of hating your hairstyle & wanting a change, the day of your appointment finally comes...and on that day, you wake up & you hair looks perfect, exactly as you hoped it would when you chose that style in the first place. 

Call it the law of old kilns: my last few firings - all of the ones I have done since scheduling the rebuild - have been amazing. This one is no exception. I used about 6 lbs of soda (1/2 ash, 1/2 bicarbonate) in a 20(ish) cf kiln. 

The very first piece I unloaded sold as soon as I posted it. It's unlike my other work - mostly I was determining how the underglaze decals from San Bao would perform in soda. Answer: like a champion! I don't expect to use decals in most of my work, but they are a fun change. This one was applied at leatherhard. There's no glaze on the exterior, so all the color you see is just the Bmix clay interacting with the soda vapor. 
Also in that kiln, work for the upcoming group show at Monkitree, Exploring Maine: A Maker's Journey. Here are the pieces (probably!) for that show. 

Just about everything in this kiln was spoken for, headed to a store or gallery, right down to the gap-fillers: these minis are on their way to Maine Local Market, a new store in Hallowell. 
Additionally I have pots for the Portland Pottery Café, pots for Bayview Company, pots for Mainely Pottery. 
One of the reasons I need a new kiln - aside from the ever-flattening arch - is exactly that: when I unload a firing, a few days later all the pots are gone! Not what you would call a problem, exactly, or, at least, a nice problem to have; but it meant I can't take on any more shops, and I can't build up inventory for shows. My kiln capacity is the bottleneck to how much work I can make. 

It remains to be seen if I can budget the time to fill the new kiln in a timely manner; I mean, I will, because I'll have to, but whether I can do it & still keep all of my classes is the question. 

Anyway! Usually when I unload I have a few pieces to list in the online shop, which I offer here, but this time I don't think I will, once I sort out which pieces are going to what shops. Sorry! 😞 If you'd like to order a mug out of the first firing of the new kiln, you can do that at this link

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Goodbyes are Hard...Even this One


The last firing of the old kiln is loaded. I'm feeling, as the cool kids used to say, some kind of way. 

I built this, with my own hands. I laid out the plans & placed each brick. It served me well. Could I have done better? Why, yes! But it worked, and it changed my life. 

Since I left SIUE in 1992 I always planned on building a salt or soda kiln. I didn't know it would take 18 years to make it happen! And when it did, my work could come into its own. 

I am excited, of course, for the new kiln: a hinged door! tice as much stacking space. It's an investment but so worth it. Not to mention: check out that ever-flattening arch. I could fix it again, but I'd have to keep fixing it every year, until I couldn't anymore, and then I'd be desperate. If I have learned one thing as an adult it's to deal with stuff before it's a crisis. 

Anyway! One last voyage. I've spent 11 years learning this kiln, & it gives me good results every time now. Here's hoping this is the best ever.