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.