Friday, February 27, 2009

for tracey part 2

Sorry my hand is in the way half the time, it's the best I could do with no cameraman!

I don't know why this is upside down.

I like fat handles.

lets have some fun.

It's time for another rousing game of name that potter by the bottom of their pots, but there is a catch this time! Represented here on the top shelf of our dishwasher are 9 different potters. I'm going to throw in some incentive, the first person to guess all nine correctly will get a free yunomi. I'll give you a hint: represnted are potters from the UK, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina and Texas. Good luck!

This is the wheel I've been pretty much exclusively throwing on for the last few months. It's an OLD Thomas Stuart kickwheel. None of the students have taken a liking to it so I've claimed it. The height is different than the lockerbies and forces one to work with a little bit better posture, which is just an added bonus. I've really grown quite fond of it and hopefully can find a way to take it with me when I leave here(legally of course), whenever that may be.

I have my advanced students working on thrown & altered pieces so I've decided to take up the assignment as well. I make it a point to work out in the classroom with them because it seems to help them grow and mature a little faster and it forces me to try things I normally wouldn't. So here are some square-ish teapots I made. The body is made as a cylinder with no bottom or top and pushed into a square shape, then slabs were added to the bottom and top on the two on the left. The lids and galleries were made seperate, squared and then added. The spouts are round but are cut and pieced together to give a nice edge so that they work with the piece better. These are very time consuming and I don't know if I'll make them again any time soon. I like the finished results but unless I can find a faster way to make/assemble them I won't be able to put them in my standard production. The one on the left is easily my favorite, with the one on the right being least-that lid just doesn't work, but you have to try things. Well, back to work.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

for tracey

ignore that gut trying to take center stage.

for bryce

Here is a drawing of the way it should be braced. it's a crap ton of work to save 15 minutes every firing. find a good welder!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

boring slip cracking technical jibber jabber.

Ok, here is what I am hypothesizing: I use a fairly thick layer of kaolin slip, so it is almost like a thin layer of porcelain on the surface of the piece. This "porcelain" is not as shock resistant as the stoneware and is pretty much dunting in the cooldown. It is fused to the piece yet cracking independently, weird right? I noticed this morning that a few pieces near the flue had slip cracks as well so this leads me the conclusion that it is definitely happening in the areas where there is the most chance for thermal variance in the cooling(firebox and chimney). So one obvious solution is to make sure that the kiln is sealed up like tupperware, I think I can handle that. I cool for 36 hours but this next time I'll mud every crack and wait until I can touch the pieces on the top with my bare hands. I thinned down my slip just a bit today, I like the surface thick slip gives vs. thin slip so I don't want to go skim milk thin. Joe(Cole?) had a good idea of increasing the silica, much like you would to reduce crazing. I think I'll save this solution if my previous doesn't work, I don't want to change too many variables at once(thank you sixth grade science). Thanks to Joy and Joe for their suggestions, much help. Does this sound ok or completely ridiculous? I wouldn't call clay and glaze chemistry one of my strengths.

Monday, February 23, 2009

working toward the next firing.

Here are the pots I threw yesterday all finished up. I'm really excited to get to the next firing.

I've been making this style of plate for several years, so I decided to put a rim on some.

I've had this fascination for a long time with tall-footed bowls. Maybe it's a teabowl thing. The board furthest away are based on a teabowl by hamada. The bowls on the nearest board are more shallow, I like to call them Lucie Rie goes to Korea bowls.


Here are a bunch of shots of pots that I thought turned out well. There was just over 200 pieces and I really haven't had a chance to look closely at all of them. I took shots of these and didn't even get a chance to get over to the stacks of bowls and bakers, so maybe I'll post some of those later. Sorry for the mediocre photo quality, my point and shoot doesn't do so well in the barn.

Dessert plates, I took some inspiration from some kyle carpenter pots. Maybe I'll give him a cut of the net profit off these pots, watch out kc, you might have a $1.50 coming your way.

Dinner plates.

Fingerwipe mugs.

I tried to take some photos of some of the ash glazed pots but they are so dark and glossy they didn't come out. This batch of ash glaze has altered a bit over it's few months in the bucket. It's gone from a dark celadon to what now is almost a blue-black toned green.

This sat right behind an opening in the bagwall, blasted!

This is what an oxidized pot looks like, though this isn't too bad.

Here is the slip-cracking I was writing about in the previous post. I hope the photo isn't too hard to see. It's only the slip cracking, not the pot-almost as if it were crazing a bit. I noticed that it only seems to happen on pieces that are reduced more and near the bagwall. The reduction might just be a coincidence from being nearest the firebox. My theory is that since I can see white in the cracks(no salt/ash) that it must be happening in the cooling? Maybe the slip is too thick/bad fit? But why only near the firebox? Flame impingement from too early in the firing? I had about 25 pots do this, hmmmmm......
Hope you enjoy the photos. Cheers!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

pb&j and iced tea it is.

Firing #1. Overall I am extrememly pleased with this firing. I had 3 or 4 pieces that cracked and about 80% that are firsts and even a few(racers as tony clennell would call them) that will be set aside for a gallery show I'm participating in this summer. The top door-side oxidized a bit on the top and near the flue but all the way down on the first stack were some beautiful yellows, they look bland cream in the photo but they're actually quite nice. I had several pots(the remaining 20%) near the bagwall that have what I call slip-cracking. It's a strange condition that rears its ugly head from time to time. I'll post a photo of it tomorrow and maybe someone out there in pottery-blog land has a solution.

The stack.

The aftermath.


Some pots.

I had a bag with some wadding in it sitting in the house. One of the dogs got it down and opened it up, know who it was?

I'll get some better shots of individual pieces tomorrow when I get a chance. I have a crap-ton of pots to work on tomorrow-I spent all day at the studio throwing to keep myself from peeking and fussing around the kiln.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

i'm stoked. no pun intended.

I didn't get off to a very good start this morning. I awoke early to perform my pre-firing ritual, mcdonalds sausage biscuits and caffeine, and discovered I had left my keys sitting in my wifes car, she was already long gone to work. Feeling a bit disgruntled I resigned myself to some peanut butter and jelly(consider this my mental note to go grocery shopping) and some iced tea. I'm slightly superstitious about my rituals so I fought with myself about wether or not to fire and decided to man-up and get it over with. I started at about 8:30am and it went fairly smooth for a first firing, though not without its hiccups. I had what I thought to be enough wood for what I call pre-stoking(small wood to get up to about 1500 degrees) but it turns out that this kiln has one heck of an appetite, not just in volume but also how fast it burns it up. So at about 1200 degrees I was frantically trying to chop small pieces of wood and stoke and yelling and getting mad at anything that was frustrating me, but after that it was smooth sailing. That being said this was my first firing using a passive damper which could've slowed down the rapid burning in the early stages, lesson learned. The only other major hiccup was not having enough salt. My old kiln used maybe 4 pounds and since I was reusing all the salt coated bricks I thought 12 pounds would be sufficient. After the 12 pounds was up I pulled the last test ring and it was still pretty dry. I ran into the house and came up with about 2 pounds of salt and found a couple 4 pound boxes that had gotten wet and were solid, beggars can't be choosers. I broke up the solid chunks and used them but with no test rings I'm not sure how well it is salted, we'll see! I ended up with cone 10 3/4's down on the top and 10 down on the bottom, slightly over fired due to the salt fiasco but over is better than under I suppose. Getting it up to temp means that at the least I can sell them for something. Overall firing time was 8 hours almost to the minute with less wood than my previous kiln. Unloading monday morning. Cheers!

Friday, February 20, 2009

finally, geez.

My apologies for the lack of recent content. I haven't had much going on in the studio lately and this week was the first week on the wheel for my ceramics1 students. It can be a bit exhausting between running around and helping them and making sure that there was enough clay prepared for 25 students to make zillions of cylinders. I'm not complaining, just stating that it can take a lot out of you.

I was supposed to fire today but upon laying in bed last night and stressing about wether or not I had enough wood prepared I decided to go scrounge up some pallets this morning and fire tomorrow(saturday). Luckily for me I found 3 truckloads of wood, I guess pushing it back a day was a good decision. I also discovered that the builder that I used to get most of my wood from has 5 houses going up in the next couple weeks, that's a load of my shoulders, and maybe 2+ firings of wood. I'm excited to finally not have anything left between me and the firing. I'll report back tomorrow evening and let you know how the firing went.


Friday, February 13, 2009


This kiln is taking me forever to load, I may very well be the slowest kiln loader in the world though. I have the back two stacks done and the smaller shelves near the flu. When I was designing this kiln I originally was going to have only 3 12x24 shelves deep. I acquired a bunch of 10x20 shelves and by slightly modifying the chamber I was able to use them and gain several cu. ft. of stacking space with a minimum of extra brick expense. They are the shelves on the bottom right in the photo. That area is a bit awkward to fill but I kind of like the idea of making pots to fill that specific area, maybe some tall bottles or something.
Well, one more stack of shelves to go then on to the firewood....then on to the firing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

stayin alive.

I've been busy this last week. I've finished all the little details on the kiln and built these fancy stairs seen below. That's not the permanent placement for the door brick, it just happened to be where they are right now. I spent the morning cutting posts for stacking and after my class this afternoon I'll be grinding some shelves and then it'll be time to start loading this evening(with a break for lost of course!)

Critique my pots.

I've had some free time while teaching my advanced class so I've been tinkering with squaring my pots. I've done lots of square pots but always have paddled them and ribbed them so I lost much of the surface gesture. I really wanted to keep the ribbing marks because they sort of take on a whole new dynamic when you square the piece. These three pieces are the ones that I felt are the most successful, though the far left is a clear rip-off it'll prove useful as a jumping off point for future pieces. Feel free to rip me a new one if you like, I can take it.

I'll post some photos of the loading when I get a chance.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

tools of the trade.

I don't have anything terribly interesting going on right now so I thought I might share my kiln building tools for anyone who's thinking of building their own kiln.

I use both a 4' and a 2' level, the short one is easier for small walls and the stack. The tall one is useful for longwalls and as a stright edge to make sure your wall isn't bowing.
The hand saw is for cutting soft brick, I haven't found any better tool than a plain old carpenters handsaw. They dull quickly though, this is my second one on this build. I also like to use the saw blade as a sureform type tool to shape softbrick, it works great!

For cutting hardbrick there are a few options. Hammer & chisel is the cheapest, but not the cleanest or most accurate. Renting a wet saw is the safest, quickest, and most accurate method but can be quite expensive. In the middle there is the option of buying diamond blades for either a circular saw($20-40) or an angle grinder($15-25). The last two kilns I built I used a circular saw with the guard shimmed up to make cutting easier(disclaimer: this is VERY unsafe, be careful). The brick dust will wreak havoc on your saw quickly so it's probably best to buy a quality used saw rather than a cheap saw. On this kiln I've opted to use an angle grinder with a diamond blade. I had lots of bricks that needed edges ground down or mortar ground off and I didn't have money to buy blades for a saw and the grinder. This blade is a cutting blade, not a grinding blade but I find it to be far superior for shaping and cleaning edges than a masonry grinding blade. I feel that this is the most dangerous option as far as safety goes. Notice there is no guard on this grinder because it tends to get in the way. That means there is nothing between your hand/wrist and the blade which I'm sure could cause some serious damage. I am comfortable with a grinder and have lots of experience, if you're not comfortable with this then it is probably not the way to go.

These are probably the two most used tools for me. The brick rub is used to take junk off bricks, if you're using new bricks then this tool isn't as necessary. The other is a small drywall knife/scraper that I used for pretty much anything. I used it mostly to scrape mortar off bricks, it can also be used to help shape soft brick. I also used this as a trowel for mortaring joints.

I made this custom mitre box for cutting soft brick with the most common cuts. half,1/4, and longways. It was also useful to help mark hardbrick before cutting.
I also use several other basic tools that aren't pictured.
-Hammer, for tapping bricks into place, i use an old framing hammer which has straight claws that double as a brick hammer type chisel.
-Tape Measure
-Speed square, for marking bricks with straight & square lines.
-String line, this is useful if you have a long kiln to keep your floors and walls in check.
-Respirator, bricks are clay, clay dust is bad, when cutting wear a respirator. Ceramic fiber isn't too fun to breather either.

I mixed up some clay yesterday. We drop below freezing in the evenings so I set my racks in my studio. I didn't think about all the moisture, I hope it doesn't get too musty smelling in there.
I placed all the ceramic fiber on the kiln last night. I guess the bagwall is all I have left, well that and LOTS of cleaning.
I suppose I should get started on that.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I finished up the stack today. I actually may need another foot so I'll have to scrounge up some brick for that. I came up way short on brick so I've laid them edge-ways instead of flat once I got above the dampers. There is some sort of taboo against this sort of thing but I would have never even made it through the roof otherwise. This will require some sort of bracing because it's not as structurally stable as if I'd laid them flat.

This is how I transport my bisqueware back home. I just lay the ware boards in the back of my truck and hope for the best. It is about a 4 mile drive so it isn't too bad, a couple yunomi took a tumble there but they're ok. All the bigger stuff and pots that wouldn't be stable enough are packed into the cab. I had two full trips to bring home and I have a full bisque cooling right now. Most of this work is glazed already, it's easier to do it at the university. My ash glaze bucket is at home so pots like those bakers and some other pots will get glazed here. I also do any decoration work at home so it doesn't get compromised during the trip.
The reality of a firing is getting closer and closer. Only a couple weeks behind schedule, that's not too bad right?