Wednesday, October 29, 2008


the rafters are up and all the sheeting is done. i'm going to try and get the plywood on the roof tomorrow, if not then friday. the soffit, fascia, outside trim and siding come next and sometime this weekend i'll put in the permanent posts for the porch. things may slow down a bit after the roof because i'm going to need an extra set of hands from here on and those may be hard to come by. i'm amazed i've gotten as far as i have by myself(my wife helped me square up the floor and raise the first wall, credit where credits due) but the finish work can't be fudged so i'll need someone to help so it looks nice.

i've opted not to have a flat ceiling on the inside. this may look like a jumbled mess to some, but the rafters that don't go all the way to the peak are half of the ceiling in the showroom. this took me awhile to figure out, i've never done a ceiling like this on a hipped roof before.

i get antsy when i'm not doing claywork, in case you couldn't tell. i have a clay batch drying in the racks now so i can get some work out before the homesale. i think i'm going to end up doing one more firing in the wood kiln because it won't get rebuilt in time, i think she'll make it.

so long for now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

well on its way.

here, i am proud to say, is the beginning of our new showroom. i poured the footings and laid the floor last week and today i put up the walls and porch beams. i've had a bunch of lumber for a year or so now and originally we were going to add another bathroom on to our house and we decided it was going to be too costly and then i was going to replace the roof to the workshop but the workshop is in such poor shape that it really needs to be torn down and rebuilt, so we decided against that as well. i don't have tons of customers locally but i'm starting to have enough that its too much trouble to unpack and repack all the pots everytime someone stops by.

this is going to be pretty small, 10x14 inside with a 4 foot porch bumping out on the front. certainly large enough for my work though. we are penny pinching big time with this guy but i think it will turn out pretty nice. all of the larger lumber was in decent shape but half the 2x4 studs i had were all twisted and warped so i had to buy some new ones, other than that the plywood flooring and concrete are the only investments we've had to make so far. we picked up some nice windows from some folks we know that just replaced theirs and we scored a nice door from my wife's work. i have two stacks of different types of siding, one will go around the sides and back and the nicer stuff will go in the front.

i'm building this without a permit for a couple reasons. i am just over the square footage for needing a permit for a shed so i think i can play dumb if there's a problem. we also have some weird setback laws here that include driveways. thats right, you can't have a structure within 12 feet of a driveway except at its termination, weird right? same setback for the property line, so according to the city rules i couldn't have any structure on this little strip of land thats deeper than 5 feet. i'm building the whole thing to code though anyways(except for my floor joists which are 6" too low but come on its almost 2 feet off the ground already), its how i learned as a carpenter so its in my nature to do things right. in fact for a shed i'm overbuilding it, so i'll just try and fly under the radar and hopefully there'll be no problems. enough blither for now, i won't be making any pots for a week or two so i'll keep you up to date on the showroom.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

home, at least for awhile

we arrived home monday afternoon after a nice weekend in houston. the show this weekend was hands down the best show i've ever done. we came home with several empty bins and i'm wondering if i have enough work for our home sale after thanksgiving, guess i'll have to make some more! thank you so much to all the people who came out and supported us, it was nice to meet new folks and travel to a new town to show my work.

i was worried about this show because of all the financial doom i hear about on npr, but it didn't seem to effect this show. although we only sold two large pieces(imagine the volume of mugs, cups and bowls one must sell to have a killer show, guess i know whats first up on the making list) we saw several painters with originals and expensive sculpture going out the door so i think this show was good for everyone which i find very encouraging. we have had to raise some of our prices this year and while i always cringe because i'm worried people will think they're too high we didn't have a single person complain about the pricing, which might be a first.

i've been wanting to set up a way to sell on my website but have never had the time to build it so within the next couple of weeks i'll be putting some stuff on etsy until i can get the site going.

i cancelled my classes today because i'm feeling a little under the weather, so i'm going to go home and rest a bit. i'm leaving friday to go help my father redo their master bath as a surprise for my mother so i'll be gone for a few days.

so long.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

new pots

i'm happy to say that this is my 100th post, and to mark such a milestone i suppose it's appropriate to share some pots from the last(and best) firing of my wood kiln.

every year the art center that my wife works at holds a fundrasier called "little masterpieces." all the artist members(100+) paint a small 5x7 canvas and they're sold for $50-100. last year i donated some small capjars but they were the only 3-d pieces and felt out of place so this year i made a couple 5x7 tiles. i "stole" part of the design from kyle carpenter.

i built myself a fancy new soft box to light my pots, i found the information via john glick. i built a cheapo version of his and i have to say it works quite well. i shot this real fast as a sort of test but they actually look better than most of the photos i've taken before.

we're leaving thursday morning for houston so you probably won't hear from me until next week. for now i'll leave you with this quote:
"To me the greatest thing is to live beauty in our daily life and to crowd every moment with things of beauty. It is then, and then only, that the art of the people as a whole is endowed with its richest significance. For its products are those made by a great many craftsmen for the mass of the people, and the moment this art declines the life of the nation is removed far away from beauty."
name it. the author i think is pretty easy, but kudos to whoever can name the original english source of publication.

Friday, October 10, 2008

my kiln.

i've never written too much about my kiln so i thought i would take the time to do so before its gone. i built this guy over the course of a few months last summer and had the first firing in december of 2007, and will have the last firing(#9) in a couple of days. the design is based on peg udall's kiln in jack troy's "woodfired stoneware and porcelain" book.

my intent was to coat the whole kiln with a clay/cement mixture to help seal it and protect the fiber but i knew i wanted to build a bigger one so i never coated it. i incorporated a swinging door for the chamber and the stokehole. there was some fancy steelwork to support these but my welder died in the process so the door is only held tight to keep it from falling back away from the kiln, there was nothing to keep it from going side to side. that orange strap there is what keeps it from falling to the chimney side and i extended the top tierod to keep it from falling to the firebox side but because of that it can't open any more than you see here which means that there is only about a 20" opening to load, a huge pain in the butt. it has been nice but i won't put one on the next kiln because of all the steelwork involved. there is a whole in the door there that accepts a pyrometer that i use to monitor temperature gain so i don't go too fast. this kiln will fly at the beginning if you let it.

the first major mistake i made was to only have a stokehole on one side. this means that it potentially draws more air on the stoking side resulting in oxidation and a cool spot on the stoking side bottom. in this photo you can see that the opposite side of the kiln is only three feet from the wall(which seemed ok at the time?) so there was no room to add a stoking port to the other side. i've learned to rectify this with stoking and the damper but it took several firings to figure it out. mistake #2 was that i made the base of the stack into one chamber instead of the 2 that were in the plans. i thought that with such a small kiln i didn't need them. i was wrong. having two chambers below the dampers(1 for each side) can help modify if you have any unevenness in temperature, oops.

here is the bagwall after 8 firings. you can see on the left two places where the bricks are actually falling apart. the bagwall gets the most intense heat and salt of any spot in the kiln and has completely melted into one solid mass, coatings and kiln wash did absolutely nothing to help here. i hope it will make it through one more firing. the brick in the body of the kiln is holding up ok, i used hardbrick for the arch, floor, flues, and wall above the firebox. the rest of the walls are 9" of insulating firebrick which are amazingly in better shape than the hardbrick. go figure.

here is the floor, its kind of nasty but i've seen worse. the stack here is 2 12x24" shelves. the first few firings the bottom opposite the stoking hole fired about 2-3 cones hotter than the rest of the kiln until i learned how to control it. one time i put a cone 12 in the pack here and it was flattened melted when the rest of the kiln was between cone 10-11. so you can see the bricks in the floor there are actually melted from those early firings, kinda neat, kinda scary.

this shot is looking down into the firebox from the top of the bagwall. you can see the stokehole on the left. i've actually gotten burns similar to sunburn on my face from clearing the grates for stoking when the kiln is near peak temp. i always wear protective eyewear so my eyes stay safe.

the next kiln is going to be a larger version of this one. this kiln has been a great learning tool and i have never had a bad firing as far as surface goes. the kiln has always responded well and its relatively easy to fix mistakes from stoker error. i can prepare enough wood for a firing in just a few hours and aside from my face and arms near the stokehole it could be fired in shorts and sandals.
i hope that wasn't too boring to anyone.
now i've gotta get back to loading.

lots and lots of pots.

here are some shots from the latest wood firing and farther down are some of the porcelain work i've fired at the university.

i mixed up a new batch of the black trailing glaze and made a mistake somewhere because it turned out gray, which i actually really like. it also breaks to white on the edges which gives it a nice halo effect.

large vase, finger wipes. this technique has promise.

sorry its blurry.

small vases.

bakers, i thought these turned out pretty sweet.

inside of the bakers. i have a couple different patterns i use along with this one.

cereal bowls.

new yunomi. i placed one on every corner on the bottom stack, so you can see the variation i get within a 2' x 2' area.

porcelain pots! my intent with these was to try and really capture the surface gesture. i really love the look of freshly slipped stoneware pots so i thought it might be interesting to try to capture the essence of that surface with clear glazed porcelain. this idea was moderately successful, but i like the pots all the same.

dessert plates, there are dinner plates that match these as well.

teapots, this is a new-ish shape for me. i've never done this type of lid on teapots before, i put a little flange on the inside that keeps them from falling off when pouring.


i lost about a dozen mugs, a dozen cereal bowls, a few yunomi and a couple cap jars to this nasty crawling(or philbeck's disease as i like to call it, just kidding ron). strange thing is that it happened only on vertical surfaces. it's easy to blame the glaze in a situation like this but all the tests i did were fine so i think there may be some user error here(dirty pots). i think i can touch these up and refire them but i may just sell them as seconds as some really aren't that bad. this one was one of the worst but i brought it home to try it out and i've really taken a liking to it. overall it was certainly better than my first wood firing. there may be some potential here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

burnin burnin

i finished the wood firing yesterday at about 6:30pm. i peaked in the kiln just before lunch today and it looks ok. not as stellar as the last firing but a perfectly good firing anyways. i'll unload late tonight or first thing in the morning.

i loaded most of the gas kiln on tuesday and arrived this morning to finish loading and start it up. it looked as if the sculpture students were doing a bit of stone carving this week so i had some dusting to do in the kiln. the kilns going now it'll be done later this evening. its all porcelain work and mostly just a large experiment for me so i'm trying not to count on it too much. a lot of the pieces aren't too far from my stoneware forms but i did try some new teapots that are pretty cool.

until later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

kiln loading

i loaded the wood kiln today and was hoping to fire tomorrow but the weather has other plans. we're having a nice shower now so i'll postpone until wednesday.

i'm ready to get these pots out of here, i've grown tired of this "stage" that i've been stuck in. i've been stuck in this phase where i am emulating work from other people that i really admire. this is the pottery way of learning and growing i suppose but some of my work has been stuck here for a couple years. some of my pieces have become my own but others seem to just be taking their time. its frustrating and frankly can be embarrassing at times. i'm looking forward to a little time out of the studio to pursue some woodworking projects, hopefully that will help clear my head. enough of that garbage for now. moving on.

embarrassing headphone shot. this bowl i'm wadding was 23" and took some kiln stacking genius to get the 24" shelves over it in a stable fashion. i put shells on the bottom and stacked it on top of that platter thats sitting in the kiln, they had the same size footring so i'm hoping there won't be any issues with that.

loading kilns isn't very glamorous. especially when you've been having too many sodas and donuts lately. ouch.

i'm not that fond of texas(which probably means i'll be here forever) but do i have the right to complain when we can sit on our front porch and see this? my wifes the photographer.

i'm going to be pretty busy this week. the schedule looks like this:

monday: finish gathering/chopping firewood
tuesday: teach classes, glaze porcelain pots and start loading redux. kiln
wednesday: fire wood kiln
thursday: teach classes, fire redux. kiln
friday: unload wood kiln/load wood kiln
saturday: fire wood kiln
sunday: pass out.

now that i've mapped it out something is bound to go wrong so i've left 5 extra days(3 potential firing days) before the houston show, i'm thinking ahead this time. if i get it all done this week, so much the better. these will be the last firings for my wood kiln, i'll be rebuilding a larger version sometime this fall/winter. it is just too small for the effort but it is what i could afford at the time. it has been a great learning tool with the small loads and quick turn around, but now i feel i'm ready to commit to something larger. i have another project that needs attention but i don't want to speak of it yet so as not to jinx it. it has something to do with our homesale in nov. or dec.(suppose i should settle on a date), i'll leave it at that.

so long!