Hello everyone! I'm glad to have some time to sit and post something. School is over, both schools(4.0 for me...just sayin.) The homesale was mediocre at best but at least we made some money. I sold a giant pot which saved the weekend.
I have a few weeks off and have turned my attention to testing some new clay bodies. I am attempting to come up with a decent clay body that contains little or no fireclay. Fireclay has been my nemesis for awhile now and I would like to do away with it altogether. The only available fireclay here is Hawthorn which used to be fine but now I'm having too many problems with impurities and lime pops(and yes, I'm using the 50 mesh.) Fireclay is mined to be used in bricks...in fact many fireclay manufacturers have warnings not to use it in plastic clay bodies. It is typically ground to 10-30 mesh, not fine enough to render the impurities moot. Fireclay is all around just nasty stuff. The difficulty is that fireclay generally makes up the majority of most stoneware bodies. The solution? Well, I don't know. Right now I'm testing a couple bodies made up primarily of stoneware clays, I'm not too fond of goldart so I'm using Kentucky Stone and Foundry Hill Cream, both of these sort of straddle the line of ball clay/stoneware clay. I've also been including additions of pyrophylite to reduce shrinkage and for increased resistance to thermal shock. I've also been using multiple grades of sand/grog(80/60/50) mixed together for better particle size distribution since eliminating fireclay eliminates most of the coarse particles. It's a work in progress and I'll let you know how it goes.
While I have the free time I've also been making lots of brushes. I sold out of the last bunch months ago so I'm going to try to make enough to last awhile. Who'd have thought these would be so popular? Here are some I've made over the last couple weeks, these are all to eventually be posted on etsy(though not at the same time!) My aim is to keep them simple so that they can be affordable. There are many brushmakers out there who make exquisitely beautiful brushes but they're so darn expensive that I'd be afraid to use them everyday(kinda like pots?) They start at $15 for the smallest and go up to $28 for the largest, packing & shipping included. I'm going to attempt to have some of these up on etsy by Monday(along with a few new pots!)
This is the university's circa 1978 Bluebird clay mixer. While I give Bluebird credit for the durability and longevity of it's mixers I will say that I absolutely hate these things. The problem with these mixers is that they don't really mix on their own...they just push the clay up onto the sides and you then have to push it back down into the blades. The newer mixers have a swing open hatch on the top(with auto shut-off) making this process a little easier. This old gal has to be stopped and then swung open OR you can shove your arms in that little gap between the barrel and the top to push the clay down, this is the route that I and most of my students have taken. Before you ridicule me for advising my students to do something so stupid I'll let you know that I tell them not to but I don't stand over their shoulders and watch them...and I can always spot the telltale wrist bruises. Stupidity at your own risk. Also...it's almost impossible to get your arm stuck in the blade this way...we've tested it, you'll have to trust me. The worst that can happen is getting your had crushed against the side of the mixer, losing a little skin.
The powers that be have decided that after 33 years of use with no serious injury...this machine is not safe(it is possible, though unconfirmed, that I played this up a bit to get a new mixer.) We live in a society that has no concept of personal responsibility so from time to time why not take advantage of rather than be angry about it? So we're getting a new mixer this summer, hooray! We were going to get a Soldner mixer, I'm a huge fan of soldners, but there are several hurdles that we can't overcome. I thought about getting another Bluebird but the voice in my head responded with a resounding "Hell NO!" So we are going to get a Peter Pugger mixer/pugger that does 250# batches...almost twice what this bluebird does. In celebration of this I decided I'd had enough of dealing with this mixer and chopped the top off. One of the most liberating moments of my life. Mixing is a breeze now, though a tad more dangerous. For you worriers, have no fear, I'll be the only one using it until the new one arrives.
Side note: I still blunge all of MY clay. Blunging is for winners. ;)