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.