Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas gifts

I unloaded the last kiln load I will fire at my soon to be ex-studio. Bitter sweet. I loved the time I had there but I am happy to be moving to PNW.

Here are some of the pots from the last load, matched sets for Christmas gifts. Remember the salt and pepper shakers I posted how to make? Yeah, I paired those up with similarly glazes main pieces, a large bowl and a large plate.

A chrome / tin pink with a blue highlight glaze. Cone 6 electric. Porcelain.

Lorio ash (modified) with Seiji nuka (modified). Cone 6 electric. Porcelain.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A new pottery home

Well, after my very frustrating time with one studio I had a very pleasant time with another.

I will be leaving the studio I currently belong to and moving to Pottery Northwest. I met with Wally, the director, and he was awesome as ever. I have taken a class from him and while we may not be drinking buddies we're certainly on friendly terms. I explained what I was looking for - a place to get my hands dirty without predefined limits. He eagerly listened and laid out how I could accomplish my goals at Pottery Northwest.

The next month I will be transitioning out of my existing studio, finishing all my pieces, moving my glaze chemicals, tools. I begin at PNW in Jan. I am soooo looking forward to it.

PNW is a great place, take a look. Many electric kilns, several gas kilns, three if I recall correctly. One is a soda kiln. I've never fired soda before. Frankly never had a desire to but at least it's an option. They have a great glaze set up. Some fairly cool in house glazes. A great low fire tea dust. They have a spray booth. I would be lost without my spray gun. They do a lot of raku and have a nice raku set up.

Wally is great to work with. He allows and encourages experimentation. We had a number of interesting conversations about glaze development in the past. Really he's a great guy.

I'm very happy with how things turned out. I know it sounds dopey and cliche but everything happens for a reason. The studio that treated me like I was some kind of bum to be shooed away is a distant second to PNW when it comes to Seattle area studios. I am very happy this is where I landed.

The down side is leaving the studio I have been at for three years. They rock. I have learned from them. And at the risk of sounding arrogant I know they have learned from me. I will miss them. We all got along great. We all worked together well. We had regular Friday night parties at the studio. For a time we did raku firings with a lot of wine (ok, maybe not the brightest idea but it was fun).

Monday, November 30, 2009

A punch in the face

So I finally got to meet with the director of the studio near my new house where I was hoping to become a member. And like the title says it was a punch in the face.

I walked into the studio and was met by one of the resident artists. A real nice guy. We chatted for about 10 minutes waiting for the director to show up. The friendly guy mentioned they like to run the studio with 20 resident artists. I mentioned I am not really an artist but a hobbyist. The friendly guy said not to worry there were no professional artists at the studio. It is too small to accommodate real working potters. They're all hobbyists I was assured.

The director showed up and quickly escorted me to an office. He asked if I had brought samples of my work. The director and I had emailed back and forth and he never mentioned that I should bring any work. I told him no I hadn't brought any. He asked if I had brought pictures. No, he hadn't mentioned those either - he had said to come by for a visit. I told him I had some pictures posted on my blog - I guided him to this blog. He quickly scanned the blog and I mean scanned, he just scrolled through so fast I couldn't describe any pots before they were off screen and he certainly wasn't reading anything. He turned to me and announced I would be required to take several classes offered by the studio prior to being made a member. My work needed more work. And I guess this douchebag could tell by his nano second scan of my blog.

He then started to lecture me about not bringing a CD of my portfolio of work. The CD he never mentioned in his emails. I quickly stopped him and told him I am not a professional potter. I am a hobbyist. I am not creating a body of work. I am having fun. He grew even more condescending. Clearly I didn't understand what it took to work in a group environment - forget that I have been doing so for years and my current studio is doing things like cutting my dues to $0 in an attempt to keep me there - I would be expected to contribute to the studio. Something the director had in his literally less than 5 minute interview of me he had decided I was not capable of doing. He had decided I had nothing to contribute without having asked me a single question, other than if I had brought samples of my work or a CD. He needed to let me know my perceived deficiencies.

I gave the condescending prick an opportunity to atone for his rude treatment of me - "Any questions?" I asked. Nope, his lecture of me was enough to stoke his ego. No questions about about me at all. As I got up to leave he mentioned that they currently have 15 resident artists - 5 short of what the friendly guy said is their preferred run rate.

Your studio is not a gallery. You're not curating SAM, you're not making admissions decisions at an MFA program, you're running a pottery studio. Stop being so arrogant. Freeze out hobbyists at your own peril. In a down economy turning your back on those of us who can afford a fairly expensive hobby is one sure fire way to run short of money. Don't be rude and abusive to customers - and yes, I was a customer you moron. I was going to pay you money every month. Now I will find somewhere else to pay for my pottery fix. The loss is yours.

Before I got home I had an email from the director. His tone tells me he knows he fucked up. I have not been treated with such utter disdain and lack of respect by anyone in the arts since I got back into pottery. Not once. Not even remotely close to the level of naked contempt this guy had for me. How dare a hobbyist think he can share studio space with the likes of you.

Oh, and your iron reds and copper reds suck. But hey what do I know? ;)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Step by step salt and pepper shakers

So I saw these little beauties on someone else's blog. I wish I recall where I saw them so I could give proper attribution. These aren't my idea. I just don't recall where I read about them.

I don't give a lot of space to pottery except for glazing. So I thought I would take this opportunity and concentrate on throwing technique.

Step one: Center a small ball of clay, then open all the way to the bat face.

Step two: Using one finger form the start of the inside wall.

Step three: Carefully pull up the inner wall and form it into a cone. Be sure to leave a small opening. I use the blunt end of my needle tool as a guide.

Step four: Start pulling up the outer wall.

Step five: Pull up the outer wall.

Step six: Collar off the top.

Step seven: Clean up the form with a wooden rib.

Stepeight: Using a wire cut the shaker off the bat. I hand trim these.

Step nine: I use tooth picks to make hole for shaking out the spices.

The most important step... glaze!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Latest results

My favorite from the latest batch.

SCM / Obsidian 3 (modified)

I used a smallish spray gun to apply three swathes of SCM followed by an overcoat of obsidian. There are nice little gold tea dust crystals in the glaze. I like this platter.

This mug has a palette I have been using for awhile.

SCM / lorio ash (modified) / seiji nuka (modified) / bailey's red

This mug has the new combination I was trying;

SCM / Lorio ash (modified) / Seiji Nuka (modified) / Cornell Iron Saturate

I love the colors but the application was wonky and parts came out very stony and rough. I will try this again but with a thicker coat and/or a coat of clear over it.

So this is what happens when you lean your bat over to check out the profile of a pot you just got done throwing. Oops.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Possible changes on the way

So as I have mentioned I moved from Everett to Seattle. With it comes a re-evaluation of my studio situation. I visited a potential new studio this afternoon.

A big beautiful and busy studio. There were half a dozen people there on a Tuesday afternoon. Still a lot of space to work.

There was a nice glaze room with a full assortment of chemicals. A great board showing all the house glazes over a variety of clay bodies. Lots of nice traditional glazes. No evidence of a spray booth or equipment though.

I went into the two kiln rooms. One had maybe 6 electric kilns. All digital. Then I went into the gas kiln room. The large gas kiln was firing. The thing is a monster. It's taller than me by a few feet (I am 5'10") and it's square. So this is a HUGE kiln. The four burners are about 6 inches in diameter. The other kiln was a little bit smaller but not by much.

I really hope I get accepted to this studio. It looks like a great place to take my game to the next level. I saw the electric kilns with the digital controllers and immediately thought oil spots. The gas kilns had me drooling because I have never gotten to fire in reduction. Shinos, copper reds, celedons, oh my.

I am hoping to know next week if I get in. In the mean time I have a week off from work. I will be spending a lot of time in the current studio - which still rocks because of the uber cool peeps there - this week. I am planning on spending 8 - 10 hours there tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get some decent pics to post.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A pleasant surprise

I finally got back to the studio today. I got spend about 3 hours there. I spent most of it glazing some bisque ware that had stacked up. Among the pots I glazed today were 5 mugs. I tried to make some mugs with handles made in a style that I love but have had problems with the handles.

I started with eight mugs but dropped one while trimming. Down to seven. While drying two of the mugs had the handles pull off the mug. Down to five. They got bisque fired. All made it through the bisque firing.

I glazed two with clear inside the mug, strontium crystal magic (modified), lorio ash (modified), cornell iron saturate, and seiji nuka (modified). I am not real sure how these will come out as I haven't used the cornell iron saturate outside two test tiles that I didn't really like. I did the other three with the same layers of glazes except I used bailey's red instead of the cornell iron saturate. I have used that combination with success several times. I also used the clear/SCM/lorio ash/bailey's/nuka on a large bowl.

I glazed two platters. One platter was really nice, one sucked. Both got SCM with Obsidian 3 (modified) over the top. I have high hopes for these. Well, for the one that doesn't suck. I have used this combination many times and it's probably my favorite. It gives a wonderful deep floating blue type glaze... but deeper blue than a normal floating blue.

Lastly I tried a new combination on a vase. I put a fairly thick layer of modified lori ash, this batch had 3% copper carbonate added. It yields a deep forrest green ash. Under the ash is a layer of SCM. The bottom half of the vase has a layer of obsidian. I am pretty eager to see how this combination works.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whew, move complete

Well, it took a couple weeks but the move is complete. That means I will be back in the studio. It looks like I will be spending Saturday finishing up a set of 7 (was 8 until an unfortunate trimming accident) coffee mugs.

I can't wait. My head is full of ideas. I need to get my hands muddy again.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Still away from the studio but not away from ceramics

I am in the middle of moving. I have zero time to go to the studio. But that didn't stop me from shopping for an old HP laser printer to use for decals. I found one on Craig's list and should pick it up this weekend.

It will still be two weeks or so before things calm down enough for me to get back to the studio. I am already excited to get my hands muddy again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An interruption

Again, I try to keep the non-pottery stuff off this blog however some times other things leak into my pottery. This is one such time.

I mentioned in a prior post that my wife and I recently bought a house. Well our closing date is rapidly approaching. As a result I am spending all my time packing and cleaning. I haven't been to the studio in almost two weeks. And it's going to get busier. After the sale closes we have to replace the fridge, build a fence to keep our filthy dogs at bay, and paint several rooms before we move in.

I probably will be out of the studio for a month. It's the longest I have been out of the studio since I started. My head is swirling with ideas but no time to execute any of them. And I know myself well enough to know that by the time I get into the studio a lot of those ideas will be gone.

One of those little things; I was looking at an old mug I made. The mug has an octopus on the side. The mug is floating blue but I put a tin/chrome red on the octopus. While I was washing it I noticed I had the two glazes overlapping on the bottom of the octopus. I had never noticed this before. It looked good. I may try this combo on some pots.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Yeah, sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

I forget that less is more. At least in my view. Especially when it comes to pottery. Keep it simple stupid.

I tested a cone 6 crystal glaze that used mason stain as a colorant. It came out pretty cool. So I mixed up a batch with orange stain. Put it on a pot with my tin/chrome red. With some strontium crystal magic. And some highlights of a crystal glaze with cobalt.

All the colors came out as I expected. Unfortunately I failed to realized before firing what an abomination those would be together. The pot looks like a teen age girl who doesn't know how to put on make up but wants to put a lot on. It's garish and ugly.

I am going to put it in our "free" pottery garden. Some fool will take. I will concentrate on limiting myself to two or three glazes per pot.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Three new pictures

Three new pictures.

Oh and I tested a new turquoise. Came out Ok but not too stunning. I am going to keep tweaking it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oh my

The woman who owns the studio I go to was asked to provide some work for a charity auction. She in turn asked all of the studio members for a couple pieces of work. I gave her two bowls. They were nothing special. In fact I really don't remember what they looked like.

Last night she told me that one of my bowls sold for $120.

I was shocked. I have sold a lot below $50 a piece, but nothing over $50. Now granted it was for charity which inflates the price so I am taking this with a grain of salt.

I also take heart from the fact many of my studio mates have begun using my glazes regularly. So I feel like the glaze aspect of my work is starting to mature a bit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A lightbulb moment

Sometimes I have my best ideas in the shower. No idea why. I had an idea this morning. A simple one but one that has me excited.

I find my most satisfaction from the interaction of glazes. Nothing is better for me than seeing two or more glazes melt together to become something greater than either glaze alone. Mixing or layering glazes is fairly easy with a spray gun - which I have. And I have found some glaze combinations I really like. But something was missing, I wasn't sure what.

In the shower this morning I was thinking of the work of Fetish Ghost. I really love his stuff and will be buying some to add to my collection. He does not layer glazes, he uses paper stencils and brushes on slips. Then as the hot water poured over my head I realized that I can use Fetish Ghost's paper stencil technique to enhance the glaze layering I do.

Now granted this isn't ground breaking. I am sure many many potters already do this. But I had never done it and never thought to do it. I expect adding this technique will be a nice new tool for me. I will be designing and making some stencils over the next few days. I have about a dozen pots waiting for a bisque fire and will be using stencils on several to test this out with my glazes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Line test of SCM with yellow iron oxide

The results of a line test of strontium crystal magic with yellow iron oxide 3-12%. The results were meh. Shades of brown and tan. I get much better results with an iron red over SCM. Though I think I will mix a batch of this with 5% YIO and use it under an iron red.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New lorio ash recipe

As promised the new version of lorio ash. Samples pictured in prior post.

Alberta Slip 43.5
EPK 5.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Grestely Borate 8
TiO2 6

Reworking a glaze for testing

So I have a version of strontium crystal magic I had some decent success with and want to line test it with yellow iron oxide to see if I can coax a good orange out of it.

First thing I want to do is normalize the recipe to 100 grams. This is done by getting the total weight of the ingredients ... I'll call that W then dividing each ingredient by W. I'll call each ingredient's weight x. The result of this equation is the normalize weight I am after, I'll call that number... R. The equation is pretty simple:

R = x/W

Keeping in mind that R will be a decimal, less than one. It can best be thought of as a percentage. I set up a simple spreadsheet template to handle this for me.

Here is my initial recipe:

Strontium Crystal Magic

Custer spar 120

Whiting 45

Strontium Carb (type D) 33

EPK 39

Fr 3124 12

Lithium Carb. 12

Titanium dioxide 36

Bentonite 6

Yellow Iron ox 6 for orange

Now I did one other thing to get this recipe ready for line testing. I pulled the yellow iron oxide out of the recipe. I did this because I want the main recipe, the recipe without colorants to equal 100. I can add colorants later. Here are the R values I get for this recipe:

Custer spar 40
Whiting 15
Strontium Carb 11
EPK 13
3124 4
LiCarb 4
TiO2 12
Bentonite 2

Add it up and you get 100. Which is much easier to work with when testing a glaze. Now because I pulled the yellow iron oxide out and it was initially 6 I know that it was initially about 2%. So I am going to start my line test at 3% and go to 13%.

For line tests I use 100 gram batches mixed up in the plastic beer cups you get when you go to a party. I'll mix up 10 identical batches of dry ingredients then drop in the correct amount of colorants, add water, drip or brush my tiles (spraying them is a hassle) and wait for the next firing to see the results.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The new version of Lorio ash

A couple pictures of a vase with the new version of Lorio ash I made. I really like how it turned out. Again the glaze doesn't run past where it was applied.

The recipe is at the studio on a piece of paper. I will post it when I bring it home.

Rule Number 1 of Glaze Club

I have some new glaze test results.

I tried a new version of strontium crystal magic that I got from a cone six glaze group.

Strontium Crystal Magic
Custer spar 120
Whiting 45
Strontium Carb (type D) 33EPK 39
Fr 3124 12
Lithium Carb. 12
Titanium dioxide 36
Bentonite 6
Yellow Iron ox 6 for orange

I was very excited to get this recipe. I have a working version of SCM but I couldn't
for the life of me get the signature orange color of Steven Hill's SCM. So here is this group that Steven Hill is involved with and I have high hopes for this glaze. Here's
the result:

The result is promising but not exactly what I was looking for. I forgot the first rule of glazing... glazes don't travel. To give you an example of why glaze tweaking is so important and how badly some glazes travel I give you my own story. We have three electric kilns in the studio I use. I have one glaze that looks different depending on which of the three kilns you fire it in. One kiln is beautiful, one I get teadust crystals - this is not a teadust glaze, the third never fires it to maturity. So I was foolish to rush out thinking that someone else's version of SCM would magically work for me. Developing a glaze is a very personal and individual quest.

The reason I got a pale peach color instead of the vibrant orange could be any one or a combination of several factors. As always someone else's gaze recipe should never be anything more than a starting point.

So the next thing for me is to start pulling the levers to adjust this glaze to produce the color I want in the kilns I have. One thing to note is that I will only adjust one factor at a time. If you change more than one item at a time you will have trouble determining what worked and what didn't. The first thing I will tweak is the amount of yellow iron oxide. I am going to do a line test - 3% - 13%. I expect to get the color I want somewhere in that range.

I have 3 other new glazes but I am late starting dinner I will post those later.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I have been pretty busy looking for a new house and haven't spent much time in the studio.

I did get a chance to make some pitchers. I have 3 drying. Not a lot but I don't do pitchers very often.

I am hoping to get some of the bisque ware I've accumulated glazed this weekend. Try out that new version of lorio ash.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Test results

Opened the kiln this morning.

I had two test glazes in the kiln, a very modified lorio ash and a modified Leach Yellow Seto.

The modified lorio ash came out exactly how I expected and what I wanted. Yellow with darker rivulets. As importantly to me the glaze ran but not too much. The amount of run I am looking for is a pronounced but controlled run. Sound confusing? Not really, my criteria is simple; No running past the application point. So on a vertical test tile the glaze runs no further down the tile than the brush/dip line. This glaze didn't. The runs stopped right at the brush line. I am extremely happy with this test. Now the next step, putting on pots.

The yellow seto came out strange. Very matte. I suspect it didn't melt. But the thing is... it came out purple. Yeah, freaking purple. A dry matte purple. While certainly not what I was after it's interesting nonetheless. I am debating next steps here. Not sure if I fork the recipe keeping a small batch of the recipe as is or just bagging it and working on the recipe to get the result I was after.

Lastly my very dark blue glaze - I had three pots glazed with this glaze, all three developed tea dust like crystals. Not what I expected. Not sure if this was an application issue (too thick) or the kiln under fired. I didn't load or fire this load so there were no witness cones, normally I always use witness cones. Without the witness cones I can't say for sure what cone the kiln fired to.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back at it

So the house thing fell through. The house had dry rot, insects, and a bad foundation. We're looking again but in the mean time.... back to the studio!

I pulled a couple tumblers out of the kiln that came out very nice. I used an iron bearing stoneware to make these. I normally use porcelain but once in awhile I like to switch it up and use an iron bearing clay just to keep things interesting.

Well, these tumblers had clear liner inside, the outside had a thin coat of strontium crystal magic (mod), then a coat of an iron red, then some highlight stripes, grestley borate/rutile and a copper saturated nuka. The combinations worked really well.

One of the glazes I am missing from my palette is a reliable yellow. To that end I mixed up a modified version of Leach Yellow Seto today:

Wood ash 48
Yellow Ochre 25
Neph Syn 25
Lithium Carb 2

We'll see if it A. Melts B. Doesn't suck.

Oh and in the same kiln load I am firing a test of the modified lorio ash I mentioned a couple posts ago. I replaced the rutile with RIO and TiO2 and bumped up the flux to increase the run and smooth out the bubbles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some changes

I try to keep non-pottery stuff out of this blog but sometimes other topics bleed through. This is one such post.

My pottery is on hold for awhile. In the next 30 days I will be getting married and moving.

This impacts my pottery because I will be moving away from the studio I currently share. I will still be close enough that I can go but it will no longer be a quick trip, instead about 30-40 minutes each way. I know myself well enough to know this means a lot less time in the studio.

But it's not all bad news.

The new place has a half an acre with two free standing sheds. One is already configured very close to how I would set up a studio. Lots of shelves, skylights, good ventilation. The only thing missing is running water.

The other shed? It's a tear down... and rebuild as a kiln shed.

So my pottery efforts will be slowing and shifting focus. But in the end I should have a home studio as well as a fuel fired kiln. Reduction glazes here I come =)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Modified Lorio Ash tests

I unloaded the kiln this morning and saw my modified lorio ash glaze. It had the colors I was after but man did it blister. Tons of bubbles and blisters. It wasn't pretty.

So let's rework the formula.

Alberta Slip 43.5
EPK 13.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Rutile 10

I suspect the rutile is causing the issue. So my next test will lose the rutile, replacing it with RIO and TiO2

Alberta Slip 43.5
EPK 13.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Tio2 6

I also want it to run a little more than it is currently running so I am going drop the EPK down and add more flux.

Alberta Slip 43.5
EPK 5.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Grestley Borate 8
Tio2 6

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Working on a palette

So as I was working up yet another ash glaze today I got thinking why am I doing this? I seem to be driven to mess around with glazes but hadn't really stopped to think what my goal is.

Once I thought about it the goal became clear quickly. I want a diverse, reliable glaze palette. Pretty simple.

To that end I started taking stock of what I have:

Basics, base glazes

An iron red. And iron red should be a in every potter's inventory. Mine is really more bronze than red but I like it.

A green nuka. This is a wonderful green that will develop black crystals where thick.

A blue/black. Love this glaze.

A matte white. I never use by itself, rather something I use to alter other glazes. Mine is a version of the ever popular strontium crystal matte.

A clear. Yup, everyone needs a clear.

A tin/chrome red. Wonderful little red.

Accent glazes

A green ash glaze. This is a modification of Aerni Ash that has a truck load of copper. Very nice, very green.

A very good cone 6 crystal base. I sometimes use cobalt in mine. But this reliably develops crystals at cone 6 without a controlled cooling. I use this dripped, stripped or poured as an accent or pooled in the bottom of pots. I get .25-.30 inch crystals without a controlled cooling.

A grestely borate/rutile wash. 75/25 mix that I use for highlights on a lot of pots. Works well with every one of my base glazes.

Now for what I am missing....

A reliable black/ very dark ash glaze. To this end I have been playing with barnard slip ash glazes. One of the glazes I tried today was a modification of an iron saturated ash from one of Michael Bailey's books in an attempt to get a good dark ash.

A yellow ash. Something that looks like Lorio ash in cone 6 oxidation.

A true black temmoku. I use VC's temmoku gold but really don't care for it. When it's used on the inside of a bowl it will completely cover with yellow crystals giving a mate effect that I don't like. My dark blue/black uses cobalt and I want something that will break red as a good temmoku should, not break blue.

A cone 6 oxidation chun or jun glaze. These are breath taking glazes. I really want to add one to my palette. This one will be tough to develop.

A white nuka that I can use as white or add colorants to. I have a green nuka but haven't tried it without the copper or with other colorants. I may already have this glaze and it just awaits testing to confirm. Or I may have to start from scratch here.

A cone 6 oribe. I love the look of a good oribe. I suspect once I start work on this it will be fairly easy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some recent results

I had some unexpected results from a recent kiln load of pots.

I put a strontium matte under the alberta slip glaze I have been using lately. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting what I got. I got a beautiful floating blue type glaze. Check out the plate below.

The dark stripes are drips of a blue crystalline glaze.

Here is the same combo, strontium matte under alberta slip glaze but this time with barnard slip ash glaze on the rim.

The pale stripes are a grestley borate/rutile wash.

I had a couple other nice pots, some nice mugs but as you can see I haven't yet spent the time and money to get a good photography set up for my pottery pictures. The pictures of the mugs came crappy so I will not up load them.

I have a bowl that I tried something different on and it worked. I used the alberta slip glaze on the bowl expect for a circle about 2.5 inches in the bottom. In that circle I put in a thick coat of blue crystalline glaze. The pool of crystalline glaze came out great. Nice crystals without a computer controlled kiln. Beautiful color. I am going to mix up a batch of clear crystalline glaze and pool it in a bowl letting it overlap a little with the alberta slip glaze. I expect the edges to have blue crystals giving way to white crystals.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A day spent glazing

I had the day off work and spent a good part of the day in the studio.

I had stacked up a pretty healthy stack of bisqued ware. Four or five large bowls, several large platters, a bunch of mugs and one of the tentacle vases. On all of the I used the obsidian 3 modified glaze. That's the very very dark blue.

I also put a coat of strontium matte under the obsidian on several of the pots. I am not sure how it will come out but I am hopeful.

I used several different accent glazes; a crystalline glaze with cobalt, a gerstely borate / rutile wash, a wood ash and barnard slip glaze, lastly some Aerni ash (modified) with cobalt.

One glaze I used today was new. I wanted a yellowish ash. I dug out John Britt's book and set my sights on Lorio Ash.

Alberta Slip 43.5
EPK 13.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Rutile 10

I fire at cone 6, not cone 10 so I have to change it up. Just a little though. I have never used this glaze but the pictures of it at cone 10 show a runny glaze. Well, I want it runny at cone 6 as well. So I sub out the EPK for a flux.

Alberta Slip 43.5
Gerstley Borate 13.9
Whiting 29.6
Wood Ash 13.9
Rutile 10

I put this on a couple pots but pots I really don't like. We'll see how it comes out. I didn't have enough time after mixing and glazing to fire so that will have to wait until later.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Still too damn hot to spend time in the studio but I did have a nice little victory today.

John Britt (who rocks) posted on his blog that Clay Works, a clay store in Tacoma WA has low melt spodumene in stock. Well, my folks live about 2 miles from that store. I called and they picked me up 25 lbs of it. Not too much as I think it's best used in high fire glazes, and I fire at cone 6 electric currently. But I am going to hang on to it until I relocate to a studio with a nice cone 10 gas or wood kiln.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm melting....

No, not my glazes.

It's like a mile from the surface of the Sun here. We set an all time record high today. 103. The studio does not have AC.

I don't want to throw because even if I cover the pot it will still be at risk of drying out before I get back to trim it.

That leaves glazing and firing the kiln. And it's 103 and no AC. Firing a kiln? No thank you.

It's funny, the extended cold snap messed with my studio time because my clay froze. Now it's too dang hot. Oh well, can't change the weather.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some glaze results

So as is always the case, as soon as I feel like a master of all things pottery, I unload a kiln that nothing turns out.

My beautiful black that I love so much... yeah that doesn't play nicely with the red I love. I glazed 3 cups and 2 bowls with the combination of the obsidian and the tin chrome red. I expected the black to darken from the interaction with the chrome. But that's not what happened. The black/blue glaze washed out. It lightened up considerably so that's it's a middle of the road blue. Where the glazes transitioned to each other I expected a purple. Not such luck, it turned white. Yeah, a blue so dark it's almost black +red equals white. Go figure. I assume the tin is the wild card here. I think the tin is what's responsible the unexpected result.

Next was my line test of barnard slip/wood ash/F3134.

Results are pictured below.

Left to right:

I wasn't really happy with any of them. While with 10% frit the glaze melted well it ran more than I wanted. It didn't give me that webbing of a good ash glaze either.

So at 20% I got the webbing but the color vanished. And it ran. A lot.

The other samples had the same issues as the 20% test but more pronounced.

I might work in the 10% range some more. I want the color. Also I am going to try the black/blue glaze with all the different iron glazes I have. I expect it to play nicely with iron glazes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The freedom to not care

It's street fair season in Seattle. Every weekend during the Summer there is a street fair somewhere in the Seattle area. This weekend it's Bellevue's turn to host those braver than I who have chosen the less safe route of creating arts and or crafts for a living. As I strolled through the booths admiring the works in all manner of mediums I was jealous. Until.

I was jealous until I noticed a pattern. Nearly every artist, regardless of medium, had a large amount of safe, salable work. But they also would have a couple pieces that were much grander than the utility pieces. A couple pieces that let you peek at the artist's vision. These were the pieces that always drew my eye. Beautiful oversized teapots with multiple elaborate faux cane handles or a wall hanging made of tiles, some porcelain some raku that formed a kimono. These were accompanied by an army of bowls and mugs. Mirrors with whimsical porcelain frames glazed with multi-colored crystalline glazes the crystal as big as 50 cent pieces surrounded by small reasonably priced plates.

I may be dead wrong here but I don't believe I am. When I am in the studio my thoughts go to my ambitious pieces. The pieces I have never tried before or more often the pieces I have tried but failed at. I only make mugs when I need them or plan to give them as a gift. I only make bowls when I have broken too many at home or someone asks me for one (still have a backlog I need to get to of requested bowls). I never go to the studio thinking about "Will other people buy this piece?" Never. My sole concern is do I like the piece? Am I happy with it? I took this freedom to not care about marketability for granted. I never thought about it until yesterday.

Those of us who do not make art for a living, our livelihood is not tied to the acceptance of our work have a freedom to do whatever the wind whispers in our ear. It doesn't matter who else likes our work. I don't need to produce a stack of bowls with floating blue to go with my gaudy tentacle vases. Suddenly, I am less jealous of those I will see at next week's street fair.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting back in the studio

After taking some time off to spend time with my daughter I am hitting the studio again. Pottery is a slow hobby. I have a bunch of pots drying but so far nothing bisqued or completed.

I have a couple large bowls, a set of mugs with twirly handles, and a new tentacle vase. The tentacle vase is a "pillow" vase, semi-spherical, very narrow mouth. The vase was about 10-12 inches tall before I started messing with it. All my tentacle pots have extruded additions, this specific pots has three tentacles added pointing straight up. They were attached along the mouth of the vase. I really like this pot. I hope it makes it through the whole process.

The tentacles I add to these pots are extruded. I extrude anywhere from 3 inches to 12 inches. I then pull the non-attached end close. Then the closed end I gently pull like a handle. After I get the general shape and length I want I cut the tube/cone off with a wire. Then I move the piece to a board, putting it down resting on the end I just cut off. I let it dry a bit until the vase that it will be attached to is trimmed.

In addition to the pots I have drying I made a line test of barnard slip/wood ash/F3134. I am seeing what it's going to take to make my barnard slip/wood ash glaze to melt.

I'll post some pictures as things get further along in the process.

Lastly, I made some behind the scenes updates to my glaze db. Nothing too major, better internal logging. Actual tagging support comes next.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Found the root cause of my ash glaze issues

I did a simple melt test.

My ash is not melting at cone 6. Thus all my recent batches of ash glaze look like poop.

So my next step is to find some more ash. That actually melts at cone 6.

And then remix all my ash glazes.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weird stuff

So I expected to have to learn a lot as I took up pottery as a hobby. I have learned about glazes, throwing, firing, chemistry, design, selling, all sorts of stuff. One thing I never thought I would have to learn about is stealing. But here I am learning about stealing.

There are 12 members at the studio I use. That means a lot of pottery is produced. a lot of bad pottery. A lot of kiln disasters. A lot of glaze mishaps. A lot of crappy pots. So we got tired of these accidents laying around the place and started a shrine to the kiln gods. Well, we really just started putting our crappy and or broken pots in a small garden outside our studio door. We stacked the pots, hung them from the fence, put them on rebar we drove into the ground. We just decorated the garden with these throw away pots. It was a little abstract and cool.

I was throwing about a week ago and someone pulled up to the studio and parked. This lady got out and walked over to the shrine and stared for awhile. She got back in her car and left. Strange I thought. A few days later I noticed one of my favorite pots in the garden was gone. I stared looking thinking someone had moved it. I realized many pots were missing. Someone was stealing our pots. I was angry and amused at the same time.

These were/are pots that are total crap. And yet someone was stealing them. I was angry - how dare someone steal this stuff. Yeah, it's crap but it's MY crap. Keep your dirty hands off my stuff. But I also had to laugh. Really? You want to steal the vase that had the bottom blow out in the bisque firing because it wasn't dry? Really? That's what you're gonna steal? Are you high?

So I chuckled to myself through grinding teeth.

Yesterday I was throwing again and some lady pulled up, parked, walked over to the shrine and loaded up her arms with three pots. A vase that had a barnard slip glaze that didn't melt on it (horrifically ugly), a broken plate, a broken bowl. While I was watching. Got back in her car and drove off.

Seriously people. WTF.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Test results

So the new black came out beautiful. But a really really deep blue. Not really black. Still, I love it and will be keeping it in stock.

Alberta Slip 75%
F3134 25%
Cobalt Oxide 5%

I tried it with several of my normal accent glazes. The combination of this glaze with a rutile/grestly borate accents came out awesome. It produces bright gold/orange crystals with milky pale blue streaks.

On a separate note I have had problems with my ash glazes the last few kiln loads. Maybe I have a bad batch of glaze. Something is funky. They are not melting. I use witness cones and the kiln is firing perfectly but the glazes that used to melt are not melting any longer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some new glaze tests

I got some time in the studio and mixed up a couple glaze tests.

The one I am most excited about is a modification of Richard Aerni's Obsidian 3:

Albetra Slip 91%
Cobalt Oxide 9%

My version:
Alberta Slip 75%
F3134 25%
Cobalt Oxide 5%

I am hoping for a deep glossy black with a lot of character. I tried this in combination with a number of my normal glazes.

I also mixed up batches of wood ash/slip glazes. I had tried these before but after a few test tiles didn't yield god results I shelved them. I always felt that I didn't give them a fair shake. So I mixed up new batches and applied these in combination with my normal glazes. I *hope* to get good results. I used these on a number of bowls that I had lying around the studio.

Barnard Slip 50%
Wood Ash 50%

Alberta Slip 50%
Wood Ash 50%

One important note is that I did not sieve these glazes. Initially when I tested these I had sieved these glazes. After talking to potters more knowledgeable than me I realized that the secret sauce in slips, especially Barnard Slip, is in the stuff I probably sieved out. Barnard has a lot of "sand" in it. This "sand" is high in Mg which even in small amounts can have a large impact on glazes.

Lastly I also did a test of just wood ash. I mixed straight wood ash with water and applied on a bowl. On areas that were both bare and covered by other glazes. I have seen this done by other potters with good results. I want to see how it works with my glazes, kilns.

I expect to fire these tests over the weekend. I'll post pictures if they're any good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An adventure at the center of the known universe

I spent part of my past weekend at the center of the known universe. Or as those of us in the Seattle know it in Freemont. They have a great street fair and I spent an entire day there. And yeah, I saw naked people walking around in the crowd. Freemont is full of freakin' hippies.

I ate too much junk food as I tend to do at these types of things. I spent too much money as I tend to do at street fairs. I saw some really cool stuff. Some pottery, some not.

I had a great talk with Sarah Parent. Her work was really quite beautiful. I bought a small bowl. I don't need it nor really have room for more pottery but I want to support people doing good work, and she is doing what I consider good work.

I bought this design on a tee shirt. I didn't catch the guy's name and his web site is pretty bare but I was just hypnotized by his work. Something about them, I can't explain. I just had to keep looking.

I spent time at Matthew Patton's booth. I have always liked his plates. He has wide glaze palette. I find Matthew's work inspiring because nearly any color you can name he has a plate with that color glaze (I think the sole exception is true tweety bird yellow). When I was having a hard time believing that a good food safe red could be produced I saw some of Matthew's plates in a local gallery. Bright red. Looking at Matthew's work reminds me that nearly anything is possible with glaze.

There were many other potters. Most were boring. Same hard core craft - craftcore - pots. You know what I am talking about. The same mugs everyone makes. The same strainers. The same plates. The same bowls. The same glaze palettes.

I spent a little time in the studio. Not nearly enough. I threw a decent vase. Nothing special. A wide shoulder guessing 10-12 inches, narrow mouth, about 3 inches in diameter. I attached 7 tentacles. All 7 were covered in red slip. I am letting this dry a tad as working with the slip was messier than I thought it would be. Once things are a bit drier I am going to add some black slip spikes to the tentacles.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not enough hours in the day

Things have been going pretty well. As I posted earlier the sale went great. Sold lots of stuff - including a bowl I threw that we brought hummus to the sale in. We washed it out (sort of) put it on the shelf and boom! it was gone. Now I am running into trouble. I don't have enough time to get the stuff done I want to do.

I am trying a new technique to throw bowls. It will take practice. Time. I want to keep making the tentacle pots. Time. I have a tin of glazes to make. Time. I have a bunch of glaze tests to do. Time. And again I am a weekend potter. On top of the weekend potting my daughter is in town for a month and a half and I am spending most of my spare time with her, so much less time than normal potting.

I was in Seattle Pottery Supply and they have a bookcase with back copies of Ceramics Monthly for sale. I was browsing when one issue caught my eye. The cover had a geeky looking potter in front of a half dozen large beautiful pots with stunning ash glazes. I am a sucker for good ash glazes. I picked up the issue and thumbed through to see who the potter is; Richard Aerni. I wrote about him in an earlier post. I modified his ash recipe to work at cone 6 and freakin love it. Well, here he was on the cover of Ceramics Monthly in Dec 1994. The article goes into detail about his ash glaze as well as some other glazes of his. He has a slip listed that I am going to try to modify for cone 6. What really caught my eye though was his black slip glazes:

Obsidian 1
Albany Slip 91%
Cobalt Ox. 9%

Obsidian 3
Alberta Slip 91%
Cobalt Ox 9%

Now those recipes are interesting to me. First, he seems to use them as a liner... and that high cobalt ox would freak me out. I am going to read up on cobalt leeching. Second, just slip and cobalt? How cool is that? I don't have any Albany slip but I do have Barnard and Alberta slip. I am going to do some line tests and see what I need to add to get those to melt completely at cone 6. Then work in the cobalt. I am hoping for a good black liner glaze.

I haven't had a good black since I moved from cone 10 to cone 6/ I know... how the hell do I get by without a black? I had a great iron based black, mirror gloss, smooth, beautiful. I haven't found a cone 6 black I really like.

Now, I just need to find the time to do the line tests... and read up on cobalt levels... time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The sale was interesting

The sale today taught me a lot.

I brought roughly 30 pieces to sell. About 15 good and 15 crap I just wanted to get rid of. I sold every piece but 3. One of the left overs was one that I thought would sell right away. My favorite pot was the second one to sell. The lady who bought it raved as she told me exactly where it would go in her house. She had the "perfect spot" for it.

What I learned;

1. Glaze colors: My favorite glaze, an iron red, is not everyone's favorite glaze. I have not sold a single pot with this glaze. Not one. On the other hand I sold every piece with floating blue. I sold all but one piece that had the tin/chrome red. Watching what sold for others - bright colors sell. 

2. Be interesting: I saw a lot of pots that were made by professional potters. Most of the made me go "meh". Why? They weren't interesting. They were the same shapes, forms I have been seeing at arts and crafts fairs my entire life. Interesting pots sold, traditional pots sold less. I'll post more about this later. I thought a lot about it today. I don't want sound arrogant. 

3. You gotta sell: Pots sell better if you try to sell them. I would like to sit back and let the pots speak for themselves. But reality is that it's still retail sales and treating your customers like ... well, customers helps sell more product. 

The studio sold a grand total of 4 pieces last year. This year we sold over $400 worth of pots. No pots was over $30, most were under $10. We're going to do another sale in Oct. We hope to be better for that sale.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ready for a sale

Several of us from the studio I play in worked this afternoon to set up a booth for a sale tomorrow. I had my daughter with me, it was a lot of fun.

One thing that struck me was the number of people I saw from last years version of the same sale. This sale is the only one I have been in and this is only my second year - but already I am seeing there that the craft and arts people who sell here are a pretty small community. 

What's cool about that is that the two women who had booths opposite our booth last year have the booth opposite us again. As we were setting up our booth I was looking at their work. I can see the progress of their work from last year. Similar styles but with new elements, new colors, new textures via some nice crawl glazes. Similar style but more complex, more interesting. I bought two pieces from one of the women last year and will probably buy a couple more this year - her work is noticeably better.

This got me thinking; has my work grown since last year? How? Is it really better? I don't think I can answer the question. I think my work has changed. I know I have gotten better at throwing, better at glaze creation and application, better at firing. My work is more predictable to me. But does that translate into "better" work? Will the people who saw my work last year think "he has grown"? I don't know. 

The lack of clear feedback makes me want to go back to school to get objective grades. Maybe sales can be that gauge of "better". I think maybe I can use sales as a substitute for a teacher giving that critical, unbiased feedback. Last year I sold two pieces. This year I have probably 30 pieces for sale. About half of them I like, I consider good examples of my work. I expect them to sell. The other half are crap. I am basically donating them so any cash they generate folds back into the studio. 

Tomorrow will be interesting. 

Monday, June 1, 2009


So I couldn't help myself. I bought some decal paper and read up on laser toner decals. Even bought a book about it. The decal paper is not cheap either, $4 a sheet.

I only forgot one step - to check my printer to ensure it's a laser printer, not an ink jet. Yeah. I have an ink jet printer. 

On the plus side I refired a bowl I had written off as a lost cause. Not so lost now. Not really stunning or anything but sellable. I also ran a couple of glaze tests and got a nice result with a Mg crawl over a black glaze. My only beef is the black glaze reacted to the Mg and it turned a chocolate brown when it's normally pitch black. Oh well. Still looked nice and had a nice texture. 

I bought some under glaze pencils. My SO, finance, wife, girlfriend, whatever label you wanna put on her, is quite an artist. She paints beautifully. She's been asking to draw on some of my pots. This is how I am going to glaze the platters. She drew a really nice poppy with a black underglaze pencil on one. I will spray it with clear tonight and fire sometime this week. She'll have red, blue, yellow, and green to work with for the next couple platters. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Learning to throw platters

I seem to have been taught the secret sauce of platters. Platters are something that have confounded me until this past month. My platters were always small in diameter but thick. Way too thick. I just sucked at throwing these.

Well, one of my studio mates, Evelia the studio owner, went to a class taught by some Italian potter (who is super hot according to Evelia) and he taught her all sorts of things including how to make better platters. I asked her to show me, she did. I immediately threw the three best platters I have ever thrown. I was in the studio last night and the platters are dry now and I was moving them to the shelf for items ready to fire and found myself amazed at how light they are. And that’s the holy grail for me – a piece should be lighter in your hand than you expect. And these are not just a little lighter these are like feathers but large platters, larger than normal dinner plates and still MUCH lighter than a normal dinner plate.

The little tweak to my throwing that Evelia showed me? Don’t open a platter like you would a normal pot. Use the heel of your hand and push the clay down and out. Compress the clay with the heel of your palm at the same time your pushing it out. It works. At least for me.

That’s one less form I have to obsess about. Now back to teapots… and mugs… and bottles… and….

Oh and I still trying to figure out how to glaze these bad boys. I am thinking of using an accent glaze, like 90 Neph Syn, 10 F3134 +10 stain, dripped in lines then covered with my normal clear. Maybe some black and yellow drips. Maybe red. The new season of “Dexter” starts soon =)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting ready for a sale

Well, I lost the race with the ugly teapot. I will speak of it no more.

Now I am getting ready for a sale on June 6th. Trying to get everything I have ready glazed. 

I have a couple platters I need to glaze but realized that all the glazes I have been working with only get interesting when they are on vertical surfaces. Ash glazes, runny glazes. If they aren't designed for vertical surfaces, they aren't food safe. So these platters are kind of a puzzle for me. I Have no idea how to glaze them. Clear with some colored drips? Find a good food safe color? I want them to be cool, not boring. And I have very little time to solve this little puzzle. Oi.

And just a tiny follow up on something I posted waaaay back in the dead of Winter. I had some greenware that froze. I got a ton of strange cracks in those pots. At the time I was pretty sure that the cracks were related to the freezing. Well, I promptly forgot about those cracks until a discussion I had with one of the other potters at the studio this past week. Neither of us have had the tell tale "S" cracks in a pot (from bad compression) for literally years. After the freezing I haven't had a single pot crack. Not one. So, yeah the cracks I can safely say were due to the freezing. Seems funny talking about freezing clay when I got a nasty sun burn yesterday.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Racing the ugly teapot

I was wondering what comes next, well I think I have my answer. At first I thought it might be decals because they seem cool, and challenging. But no, that’s not it. 


As I have semi-ranted about in the last few posts I made a teapot that I really REALLY didn’t like. And before I could really do anything to stop it my SO snapped some photos and emailed them out. Then proceeded to literally – and I swear I am not making this part up – snuck the damn thing out of the house so I would destroy it.

Now I am on a mission to as quickly as possible make several much better teapots and ship them to the relatives that asked for the ugly teapot. Ship them something that’s not embarrassingly bad. My edge here is while my SO has hidden the ugly teapot from me she is also infamously slow about doing things like shipping stuff cross country. I figure I have a couple weeks to a couple months to finish.

So I threw 2 teapots; one very tall, semi- narrow, one very short, very wide. I am experimenting a little with shapes for the body of the teapot, looking for one that really grabs me. I put on some handles (the new style I have been using) and didn’t really care for either. So, I am starting to obsess about teapots. Shapes, glazes, handles, spouts.

Teapots are what’s next for me. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Back at it

Well, I mentioned in my earlier post that I made a tea pot that I hated but nearly everyone else liked. I really do think this pot is ugly. I am embarrassed by it. My SO decided to send pictures of it to her family, and they all want it. 

So I am back to the studio to make tea pots. That don't embarrass me, that I can send out to family. I have all day and about 200 lbs of clay. I will probably do 3 or 4 teapots then get antsy to do something else.

I am pretty excited because I have gotten some glazes stable and the throwing has been going well. Plus I finally figured out a technique to do the handles I like. So I *hope* these tea pots come out nicely. Otherwise I take a hammer to them before anyone else sees them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A good kiln load

Ah, so last time I was at the studio I glazed a bunch of pots, like 12. Which I realize is not a lot for a normal potter but for me it was a record. Well during the week one of the folks at the studio loaded my pots up and fired 'em. I got a text tonight on my way home about how nicely they turned out and what a stud I am... really.

So I dropped by to see what came out of the kiln. 

I had 4 bowls. Nice sized, light, mostly the same size and shape. Mostly. Glazed inside and out with a tin chrome red. Outside had stripes of a blue glaze. The blue stripes turned purple white-ish. I really like them.

I had 2 matching vases. Bottles, straight sides, small mouths. They're about 14 inches tall. Same red with blue accents. I like these two because they're nearly identical. I have been working to be able to replicate items and these two are pretty darn close but they are not simple shapes to throw (for me) and the glazes are predictable.

I had three plates. Decent plates. Glazed in floating blue. Meh. These were an exercise in repetition. The plates came out nearly identical so success. 

I had one large bowl. Again red and blue. I got carried away.

I had one pot that was a nice sphere bottle. The glaze came out great. Iron red for a based. Lithium saturated glaze over that. Then the top third was a fake ash. Came out great. Unfortunately the pot cracked ... in like three places... I cried a little. 

Lastly the dreaded gnome tea pot. I hate this pot. But everyone else seems to love the freaking thing. I can not describe how ugly this little thing is. A tea pot. Iron red with the lithium saturate over it. Glaze is Ok... the pot itself is Ok but the lid... oh so horrible. I need eye bleach after looking at it. I am going to put it away until the studio sale then dump it. I guess what I don't get is really, I swear other folks really seem to like this pot and I absolutely loathe it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What next?

One ... I dunno... issue I have is as soon as I am satisfied I have figured out how to do something I tend to move on. So now I am looking for what to do next. I had been working on making these weird handles, I finally figured out how to do and have lost interest. 

Now I am thinking about image transfer. A lot of ceramic artists do it and I have no idea how. What's worse is I don't really have any thought to what images to transfer. I just have this itch to investigate the process and train myself to understand it. 

Our studio has purchased a booth in a local arts and crafts show in June. I am working to have 25 pieces ready for that show. As a weekend potter this is harder than it sounds. I only complete on average 2 or 3 pieces per week.

I am working on v2 of my glaze database. Rewriting it as OO. I am old school and wrote it in a procedural style. I will be adding extensive logging. I used javascript for most functions so the page tracking doesn't tell the true story of the actual traffic. Also adding the tagging functionality. Some folks have been using it. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I finally published my glaze data base.

I pulled the tagging capability because it was taking too long to finish.

I've also had some luck throwing lately. Tossed a couple tall bottles as well as a really nice fat round bottle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Progress on all fronts

I picked up a new book, "The Penland Book Of Ceramics". It's full of very cool techniques. I adopted one to create my long sought after handles. And it worked.

Basically I extrude a tube. While the clay is still in the extruder I started to pull it like you would a normal handle. This closes up one end of the tube. I work the closed end to be the size and shape I want for my handle. Because it's hollow I don't have the issues I had been having. I have done several handles like this now and it's worked every time. I am spending more quality time with the extruder now.

I also had some glazing success. I ran a small test with a lithium saturated glaze over the top of an iron red. The test was promising so I glazed a pot I liked with that combination. The entire pot with the iron red, then I sprayed the lithium glaze over the top half of the pot. The top half came out a really nice leopard like finish. black with yellow spots. The transition area the iron red went green, the finally it went to iron red. Something in the why it fired or some other variable caused it to go metallic. Came out very nice.

I also started using a tin / chrome oxidation pink-ish red glaze. I saw a photo of a cone 10 copper red, reduction of course with some beautiful highlights. Swirling gold, white, purple. Really stunning. So I tested a grestely borate wash with titanium oxide and a touch of cobalt carbonate. Success. Mostly. It bleaches out the red under the wash but the purple/white streaks drip down from the wash into the red. I am using it to highlight some red handles.

G.B. Wash for use with oxidation reds
Grestely Borate 100
TiOx 1
Cobalt Carb 0.5

Lastly, I am nearly complete with my web site. I know, I know, I have been saying it for months. But now with the new laptop I have made a lot of progress. All that is left is under the covers tweaks, changing config settings for publishing to my ISP, stuff like that. Plus I want to put it in SVN prior to publishing it and I have never used it. I have been a CVS kind of guy up until now. Not a lot different but enough that I am reading the manual. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

More handles, more frustration

So the mugs I made that FINALLY had the perfect handles… yeah they “popped”. By popped I mean that they dried too quickly and one end of the handle popped off the side of the mug. I kept this batch under plastic wrap for a week then removed the plastic to allow them to dry for firing. I assumed a week would be enough to even out the moisture and allow these handles to survive. I was wrong.


I have had this “pooping” problem with my handles for awhile. I like handles that tend to be thick on one end and thin on the other. This is what causes the popping issue. At least that’s what I think causes it. The two ends dry at different rates. The thin end is bone dry and the thick end is still relatively moist. So the thick end is still shrinking and the thin end is done. This leads to a change in shape, which leads to the thin end pulling off the side of the mug.


I am still looking for a better way to do this.


I ran a batch of crappy pots I didn’t really like for glaze tests. Not new glazes but combinations of some of my existing glazes. They mostly sucked. Hard. But I had two interesting interactions. One was an iron red with a lithium heavy glaze over the top. It went black with very  bright defined orange/gold crystals. I hope I can duplicate this on a pot I like. The other cool result was a crawl glaze with some cobalt over a strontium base glaze. I got this heavily crystalled light green. Very cool and unusual looking.

No updates on my glaze db. It is at a stand still. I am waiting. I am planning to buy a new computer in the next ten days. I stopped dev work until I get my new machine =) 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of handles and frustration

One of the other potters at the studio I go to observed that both her and I tend to like what we’ve created for about five minutes then next time we see it we’re no longer satisfied. I think this never happy with what I’ve made can be productive. It is the drive that keeps me going, trying to do better every time I sit at the wheel or strap on my respirator to make a glaze. That kind of restlessness can also kind of suck. It means I am rarely if ever happy with what I make.


Lately the object of my “I need to make this better” attention has been handles. I love making handles. I developed, purely by chance, a technique for making fairly unique handles. But I rarely make these handles up to the standard I expect of myself. I am almost always left looking at a finished piece that I would love… if it weren’t for that crappy handle. So I decided to start concentrating on making handles. I’ve been kicking out mugs. Not a lot, again I am a weekend potter. I do four mugs per visit to the studio.


My last trip to the studio I finally got the handles to look how they do in my head. Now I need walk these mugs through the entire process. Sometimes the pots dry too quickly and cracks develop at the handle base. Sometimes I screw up the glaze. I also want to make sure I can replicate the handle forms I created. It doesn’t do me much good if it was a one time fluke.


My glaze db is coming along nicely. The web front end is pretty close to complete. The search functionality works. The details pages work. The pagination works. My time in web development has taught me 80% of bugs will be in the pagination. And I think mine is pretty solid. I am still adding some functionality. Plus when I mentioned the project in a clay based google group I had a well known potter ask me to include his recipes – about 1,000 – in my db. I need to normalize them and write a script to insert them into the db. While it’s delaying me a tad the benefit is worth it in my view. I’ll have close to 3,000 recipes on launch. Not too shabby. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Raku will be the death of me

I swear I will never raku again. 

I have sworn this before but this time I swear, never again.

I don't know what it is about raku that pulls me in but it does.

I rakued this weekend. I destroyed two pots I liked. I tried the copper matte with alcohol reduction. Yeah, it didn't work. It sucked. And the pot cracked. Then I tried the stannous clohride fuming, yeah that sucked too. And smelled like death. It just wouldn't stop fuming. The book I read said oh ya know just drop in 3 tablespoons and let it bake for 1 minute then open the kiln and let it air out. Well the shit just kept smoking and smoking and smoking... and drifting all over the damn neighborhood. I am surprised I wasn't arrested. Oh and the pot... yeah sucked. Not a sign of the magical fuming.

Maybe I need to go to a workshop or something to learn what I am doing wrong. A very frustrating weekend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Wednesday kind of update

My throwing success has continued. Maybe not a big deal to most but definitely a personal victory for me. I have been able to at will throw most any shape I want and when I pull the bat off the wheel head it’s lighter than I expect. That is perfection to me. I have been striving to throw like this since I was 16, I am 45.

Last night I threw a large bowl, about 16 inches in diameter and a nice melon style pitcher. Tonight I trim and attach a handle.

My db is gaining momentum again. The middle tier layer (the portion that talks to the actual data base) is looking better and better. I did find an odd bug where some glaze recipes have the same comment entered two and three times. Also a very small percentage (so far I have only found one!) recipes have no ingredients listed.

I will have to find and correct these errors in the perl script I used to dump the data into the db. Then drop all data from the db and repopulate it.

Still I am getting very close to making it public.

And speaking of which I decided to make the whole thing open source. Once I publish the site I will upload the code to google code, a good place to share code, so anyone can poke around in it. I am going to talk a couple developer friends (not potters) into helping.