Saturday, November 28, 2009

Go Gators

I know this is a pottery blog but tonight I watched the number one ranked Florida Gators defeat the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Grifin Stadium. It was a beatdown...37-10. Beating your rival is always enjoyable!

It was Tim Tebow's last game at home and I was there to see it. After the game he walked around the field shaking hands with fans. 30 minutes after the game ended 90% of the crowd was still there. He is the greatest college football player in history and makes me extra proud that I'm a Gator. Not only is he amazing on the field but he is just as special off the field.

It's great to be a Florida Gator. It's the SEC Championship game next Saturday against Alabama and then, after beating the Tide, the National Championship game! Go Gators!

Tim Tebow, #15. Resume includes: one Heisman Trophy, two SEC Championships, two National Championships, and playing for thirds! Oh yeah baby!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reduction Firing Video

Here is a video I made while firing my kiln for the first time. I will post more pictures as soon as I have time. Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Celebration of Seagrove Potters

This past weekend was spent attending the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival in Seagrove, North Carolina. This is the fifth year in a row I've attended and the quality of pottery (and people) is unequaled. The first year I attended I found a bed and breakfast in nearby Siler City named Celebrity Inn Dairy. It's a working goat dairy farm that is also a bed and breakfast. The place is great - super nice people and wonderful animals. Here are few pictures I took while there:

We attended the Gala on Friday night at Luck's Cannery. This was an opportunity to meet the artists, enjoy some food, listen to the band, and be the first to preview and buy pots. It was well attended!

We returned Saturday and walked through again. I bought a few more pots but was quite content with what I purchased Friday evening.

Friday night was spent in nearby Pittsboro having dinner at the General Store Cafe. This place is amazing and it was quite a find. The atmosphere is great and the food is amazing. The Gravy Boys rocked the house for over three hours. The Gravy Boys are a semi-local band that plays Americana music (like that in the movie 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou?'). These are some of the finest musicians I've had the pleasure of hearing.

After a great breakfast at Celebrity Dairy on Sunday morning we headed over to Mark Hewitt's. Mark is such a nice person and we spent about an hour chatting with him and looking over his pots. I bought a few and will upload pictures of them soon.

After leaving Mark's we drove up to Creedmoor, NC to the Cedar Creek. While strolling through the gallery I spotted a Melon Pitcher by Steven Hill. I couldn't leave without it. The picture I took (with my cell phone) isn't that great. Here it is:

It's blurry and this photo doesn't do it justice.

It was a great four-day weekend of pottery! Unfortunately it's back to work tomorrow!

Well, that's it for now. I will post more pictures of new pots I bought once I photograph them. I also finished firing my gas kiln last weekend (firing #1). I will be posting photos and a video of that adventure soon. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Trimming Tool

Yesterday I received my new Bison trimming tool.

My friend John Tilton has used them for years and has nothing but great things to say about them. The tools are made by Philip Poburka in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are made from tungsten carbide and stay very sharp. I love the rounded wooden handle. The shape keeps the tool firmly in your hand as you trim. The Bison tools website is located here.

If you have used these tools please share your feedback.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting Centered

This evening was spent throwing a couple of new forms. I have never made 'chips and salsa' platters before and decided to give it a try. I was happy with the outcome:

The walls of the bowl in the middle is higher than the walls on the rim of the platter. After throwing them I stood there trying to determine the best way to trim the bottom. Any suggestions?

Over the past couple of months I have been working with larger amounts of clay on the wheel. As I increase the amount of clay I have found that centering can be quite challenging. As part of this process I have spent considerable time thinking about my technique and paying very close attention to every movement I make (in preparing the clay as well as centering it). This has helped me learn a valuable lesson - DON'T HURRY, TAKE YOUR TIME. I used to try and get the clay centered quickly and had a lot of trouble. It works on two pounds of clay but not on ten. Once I slowed everything down I found that clay is much easier to center on a wheel. Another lesson I learned - PREPARE THE CLAY PROPERLY BEFORE PUTTING IT ON THE WHEEL. After kneading the clay I spend some extra time shaping it into a nice cone. A nice cone shape does so much to simplify centering.

Tonight I felt like I reached a milestone. I was able to center twenty pounds of clay - by far the largest amount I have ever attempted to center. Now when I look at ten pounds, which used to be very intimidating, I have the confidence to know I can handle it without a problem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Test Glazes

After months of procrastinating I finally made up batches of test glaze. All glazes are cone 10 reduction glazes and are best fired using the R1 firing profile in John Britt's book The Complete Guide to High-Fire Glazes. The glazes I will be testing are:

  1. Malcolm's Shino
  2. John's Red
  3. Rutile Blue 1
  4. Winnie Blue
  5. Choy Celedon
  6. Penn State Shino
  7. Leach Clear
  8. Ice Trap Celedon
  9. Hamada Temmoku
  10. St. John's Black
  11. Tilton Gator Skin
  12. Hanna's Fake Ash
  13. Haynes White
Here is a picture of my scale and empty cups on the new table:

The scale at work:

All the glazes have been mixed and the cups sealed:

I need to fire at least one more bisque load (in the electric kiln) before I'm ready to fire the gas kiln. Trying to find a day on the weekend to fire it has been challenging. This weekend I will be attending a workshop at St. Pete Clay with Elmer Taylor. The workshop is a throwing and trimming workshop with concentration on lids, spouts, and handles. I'm missing the Florida Gators football game vs. Arkansas to attend this workshop. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I must love throwing pots...because I don't miss Gator football games!!!

Just a quick note before I sign off - I've been captivated lately by soda firing. I've looked at a lot of soda fired pots online and I find myself amazed by the colores and textures. I'm starting to educate myself on the soda firing process. In addition to testing the glazes above I am contemplating mixing some slips and having them fired in the soda kiln at Atlantic Pottery Supply in Jacksonville (about an hour and a half away). More to come...


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Table

This past weekend I constructed a new table for the studio. The old table, built mainly as a wedging and kneading table, was just too small. I needed some table space upon which to work. I lowered the height of the new table (compared to the old one) to make it more comfortable to knead clay. It's now less stressful on the arms and lower back. I bought a wooden stool to sit on which puts me just where I want to be (height-wise) when sitting at the table. I added two sheets of white, thick canvas on the top. Here are a couple of pictures:

I've been throwing lots of porcelain cups and mugs lately. I haven't thrown with porcelain for some time but lately I've been really enjoying working with it. I will post some pictures soon! Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Raku Firing

Here's a photo of a piece from todays raku firing. The glaze is called Holly Red.

I will post more photos in the next couple of days.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why Are My Plates Exploding???

I bisqued a load of pots a couple of days ago. When I opened the kiln this afternoon I noticed several of the plates had literally exploded. These plates were ones to which I applied slip. I threw the plates using Highwater Raku clay and then put Highwater Helios porcelain slip on the inside of the plates. I'm 99.99% sure the plates were completely dry at the time of firing. They had been sitting on a shelf in the studio for over a week (in Florida with no central AC).

Has anyone experienced such a problem? Could it be a difference in shrinkage rate? Could it be that some moisture was still present?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Stuff

I finally got the studio organized the way I want it. To be more specific, after lots of trial and error, I have discovered how much stuff I can get in there and still have space to work. I now have most of my tools located within 'reaching distance' of my wheel. No more walking across the studio with clay-covered hands to get something

I recently bought a large metal shelf with wheels. Very useful:

I liked the large cart so much i bought another, smaller metal cart to hold slip, terra sig, and miscellaneous other items:

Here's a closeup shot of the small cart. It holds slip I made for each type of clay I use: Zella Stone, Loafers Glory, Raku, and Helios (all Highwater Clays). Additionally, I created a mixture of Helios porcelain with red iron oxide (8% RIO). On the bottom shelf is terra sigillata as well as some Magic Water I use to connect clay (mainly for handles).

I recently ordered some new tools from Kentucky Mudworks. They carry a line of tools made by 'Dirty Girls Pottery Tools'. I have found them to be very well made. I bought two sling shot tools, one is a straight wire and the other a wiggle wire:

The other tools I ordered were the 'Great Big Facet Tools'. Again, one straight wire and one wiggle wire:

I love the roller on these facet tools. I can't wait to use them.

I have some more things to post, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. It's getting late and I can barely keep my eyes open. Goodnight!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Terra Sigillata

Today I made a batch of Terra Sigillata. To be accurate, I made it yesterday and harvested it today.

I've been wanting to test some slip on raku ware. I made some small test plates with slip in the middle. My plan is to cover the slip with a copper black glaze and put a copper/green glaze on the remainder of the plate. I hope to fire this in the next couple of weeks. I will post my results.

I threw a stoneware plate and once again put some slip in the middle. This time I put a layer of helios (porcelain) slip with red iron oxide around the remainder of the plate. Not sure which glazes I will use on this one.

I've discovered when applying slip a little thick (as in the photos above), you must do the following:

1. The slip must not be too watery, and
2. You must dry them very slowly

Otherwise the slip will crack.

I recently purchased a couple of paint sprayers and I am about to get into spraying glaze. Until now I have only dipped and brushed. My friend John Tilton is going to give me a few tips this week at his studio. I'm looking forward to it!

That's it for now but there are currently a lot of things taking place in the stuido. There should be more postings very soon. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Upgrading the Command Center

I decided it was time to alter the setup around the wheel. I need tools to be closer while I'm throwing. Until today, if I needed a tool while throwing, I would have to get up and walk over to the shelves on the north wall of the studio. Well, no longer! I added space for tools:

I have various tools on the left

...and wooden, metal, and plastic ribs, as well as sponges on the right

For the past eight weeks I have been taking an Advanced Throwing course at Atlantic Pottery in Jacksonville. It's been a great experience. This Wednesday is the 'Pickup Party'. The last regular class was two weeks ago and we glazed all the pieces we made in class. They have been fired and we get to take them home this week.

I have one more load to bisque in the electric kiln before the inaugural firing of the new gas kiln. I plan to bisque fire mid-next week and then fire the gas kiln a week from this Sunday.

It's been a while since I've posted and I apologize. Things have been busy lately but I promise to do a better job in the future.

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tile Results

I fired the tiles to 1580 degrees F. It was a good opportunity for me to test out my new Oxyprobe. At the end of the firing I decided to do some reduction. The reading on the Oxyprobe was between 0.01 and 0.1 indicating an oxidizing atmosphere in the kiln. I reduced this to 0.65. I didn't do enough to drastically affect the tiles. It was more to see how the Oxyprobe worked before firing my new gas kiln. Here are all the tiles:

Here's a closeup of a few...

That's all for now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tile Testing

For some time now I have wanted to experiment with various chemicals applied to tiles and wrapping them in aluminum foil (fuming). Today I made the time and prepared the tiles for firing. In addition to ferric chloride, I applied the following substances to the tiles:

Cobalt Oxide
Copper Sulfate
Copper Oxide
Copper Sulfate Solution
Chrome Oxide Green
Red Copper Oxide Solution
Cobalt Oxide Solution
Copper Carbonate Solution
Cobalt Sulfate Solution

In total I prepared twelve tiles. I grouped the tiles into sets of three. Set one contained one coating of ferric chloride, set two was given two coats, and so on. Each tile was divided into nine sections (like a tick-tack-toe pattern). I put a substance in eight of the sections and left one with only ferric chloride. Here's a picture of the entire group of tiles:

I had two tiles left over so I coated them completely with some solution. Here's a closeup of one tile...

Each tile also has a few sprinkles of sugar and rock salt.

I will be firing it to approximately 1500 degrees Fahrenheit later today. I will post my results whether they are great or horrible!

Talk with you soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Studio Day

I spent most of today in the studio. It's been a busy weekend. Friday I took the day off and spent a good part of the day in the studio. Saturday it was the Cedar Key Arts Festival and then dinner with friends, and today it was an 'all day studio day'!

Lately I've been going through a sponge phase. I've been trying to find sponges that I like to use while throwing. I've tried several types and still not totally satisfied with any particular type. While in Cedar Key yesterday I noticed a guy selling bags of sponges on Dock Street. They were sea sponges that were harvested right off the coast of Cedar Key. I bought two bags and tried them out today. I have found my sponges!!! I love the way they feel while throwing. Furthermore, they seem to hold just the right amount of water! Here's a picture of two of them:

My cat, Moose, has been hanging around the studio a lot lately. I'm not sure if he wants to spend time with me or he's bored and has nothing else to do (probably the later). He was hanging around today so I put one of his beds in the studio. He immediately got in it and stayed there for hours...

When I was done working I started to close up the studio. He wouldn't get off the bed. I picked him up and set him down outside. As I closed the door he shot back in the studio and got in the bed. So I left the door open and I'll go out later tonight and lock up. I just looked out the window and he's still lying on his bed.

Today I put handles on some cups I made Friday. Even though I had them covered a few got a little dry. Hopefully the handles will stay on. I have them heavily covered now.

I threw a bowl and wrapped the edges back underneath and attached it to the walls. This is an experiment. Not sure if I like it but it's something different...

I finished the day by making a vase. It stands about 12 or 13 inches tall.

I hope to have enough pots to do a bisque firing next weekend. I would like to fire the new (gas) kiln within the next couple of weeks. I should have enough to fill it soon. I have a bunch of test tiles ready to go for the firing. Now I need to select some test glazes and make small batches of glaze. I've been procrastinating because I hate mixing glaze. But, it's something that has to be done. Perhaps I'll get to it this week.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cedar Key Art Festival

I intended to get up early this morning and drive out to Cedar Key. I didn't get up until later in the morning, however, thanks to Naked Ed! Before you start getting crazy with your thoughts I will explain. Last night Tina and I went to the Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs. My friend Mike Gianikas' band County Road was playing on the patio. We sat outside, had an appetizer, dinner, and I had a few Naked Ed's Pale Ales! I had just a few too many! It made the morning come around earlier than I expected.

This afternoon was spent strolling through the Cedar Key Art Festival. I have been enjoying this festival more and more over the past few years. During the past decade or so there tended to be more and more 'crafty' people there and less and less 'art'. A few years ago the committee that oversees the Festival decided to focus more on artists. They did this by no longer allowing 'crafties' in the Show. The first couple of years after that decision was made the number of participants dropped significantly due to the 'crafties' no longer showing their work. I'm glad to say that the number of artists participating has risen and exhibitor levels are approaching what it was before the change.

Today I purchased a platter from Bill Colby and I've already hung it in my foyer

I also purchased one of his bowls

It was nice to chat with my friend Brenda McMahon. Her booth was located near the main entrance to the Festival. I attended a saggar workshop last year in Sarasota that was taught by Brenda. I encourge you to checkout her website.

Enjoy the remainder of the weekend!

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Mug

Yesterday I received a cup I bought online from ceramic artist Kim Westad. I've included a picture of it below. Very nice!

I took today off work to spend time in the studio. It's been a lazy morning - I slept until 10, had a bagel for breakfast, and now I'm spending some time online. I'm about to head out there now.

Lately I have been throwing larger pots - 8, 10, 12 pounds of clay. This is above my normal comfort range but there are times where I just do it. You can't improve unless you work in that 'can I do this?' zone. To my surprise I've been able to work the clay the way I want at these weights. Throwing two or three pounds of clay seems like nothing when you've thrown several twelve pound pots in a row.

I wish I could get out there more. I know my skills would improve faster if I spent several hours a day out there. If I only didn't have my day job.

I've been thinking a lot recently about potters (as well as other artists) and day jobs. It depresses me to think about income in relation to talent. What I mean, specifically, is that I know many artists who posses unbelievable talent and skill. They produce amazing work. Their craft is what they have chosen for a profession and it shows in the quality of what they produce. They put in numerous hours every day and frequently don't take the weekend off. Most of these artists barely make a living doing this.

One potter I know in Pennsylvania recently removed her work from most of the galleries she was in. It just wasn't selling. She is now working part-time jobs to get by. I was told that another potter in that area, Jordan Taylor, was thinking about giving up pottery full-time to get a 'regular job'. Jordan produces fantastic work. It's a shame that someone like Jordan may have to give up his full-time devotion to clay in order to pay the bills.

When it comes to fiscal matters I am super-right-winged-conservative. I believe that Government should be involved in the economy as little as possible. I believe the Government should play the same role in the economy that the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) plays in college sports. If a college wants to participate and compete in athletics they must be a member of the NCAA. The NCAA basically says, "Here are the rules, follow them, and if we discover you are violating the rules you will be punished." That's what the Government should do with the economy - set up the rules and monitor compliance. Otherwise, get out of it and let businesses run the way they determine is best for business.

With that being said, I am a supporter of letting the market determine supply and demand. Obviously there is not enough demand for quality art and thus artist income suffers. There is one other component, however: most buyers of art are uninformed and uneducated (about art). They don't know what it takes to produce the work and how much effort and devotion it takes to develop those skills.

While at the Spring Arts Festival one year I stopped to look at some watercolors at a booth. They were stunning. I spoke with the artist who informed me that he had been painting for forty years. While looking at a painting I noticed two women standing next to me looking at the same. The price for the painting was $2,000. One woman turned to the other and said, "...$2,000?! I can get a painting like that at Wal-Mart for $25." It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. With much of the buyers market consisting of people like this it's no surprise that talented artists barely scrape by. Thankfully there is a small part of the overall buyers market that appreciate fine art and don't mind spending the money to acquire it.

Well, it's time to head out to the studio. I've vented enough for one morning!

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Gas Kiln

After attending the Reduction Firing Workshop at John Britt's Studio back in Feb/March I decided to purchase a gas kiln. I didn't have the room nor time to build one. I checked with some companies that made downdraft kilns but in the end I didn't want to spend that much money (since this is a hobby). The models I wanted ranged anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. Tom Turner and John Britt both recommended I look into Olympics Torchbearer kilns. I did some heavy-duty research on these kilns. They are updraft and aren't the simplest kilns to fire. After speaking and emailing tons of Olympic Torchbearer kiln owners I discovered two things:

1. Most people who were having serious problems had no idea what they were doing.
2. The people that did know what they were doing had some issues when they first got the kiln but made (and recorded) changes such as shelf positioning, damper settings, flame redirection, etc. It didn't take most of them long to get consistent results. One potter I spoke with last week said he can fire his to less than a 10 degree difference between the top and bottom shelves. Not bad.

Here's the kiln:
I built a small concrete foundation to hold the kiln. Olympic now offers casters on the kilns so it rolls easily.
I added short walls to keep out any breeze that might come along.

The gas company come out this week and installed the tank and line.

I fired it up today and opened up the gas. It reached 1000 degrees in about four minutes. So, I would say that I have enough pressure. It didn't come with a pressure gauge so I installed one

I keep the kiln covered with a tarp and roll it away from the studio to fire.

I plan on firing a bunch of tiles with test glazes in a couple of weeks. I will post the results from that firing. That's all for now!