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!