Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life's Little Irritations

Since I've been nailed to the couch hacking my brains out for a while, I've been bereft of quality entertainment like sitting in a lawn chair listening to golfers cuss, (the house is on a golf course--is there a house in Arizona NOT on a golf course?)

So, I've been restricted to watching TV. And, not feeling so well to boot, my irritation level has developed a trigger switch. Consequently, my sights have rested on weathermen, or "Weather Presenters", "Meteorologists" as they like to call themselves these days. And maybe they are meteorologists, but grammarians, they ain't.

Like Zeus, they take possession of the weather as if they have some control over it. "We're going to bring the temperature down to the lower 30's tonight." or "We'll be bringing in the damp air from an off-shore flow."
..........It seems to be a confusion between the actual weather and their visual toys.

AND who decided weather men should yell at you and act like buffoons? Feh!

It's the Weather, for pete's sake.

I used to be so amused at the British weather reports. Very low key. Very brief.

I mean, predict the weather in Britain? Britain? sitting up there above Europe? Adrift in the north sea? Riddled by mountain ranges? Hah

So, it would go something like this:
"It might be a bit breezy today and overcast with some sun-breaks and rain here and there."

No barometric pressure, dew point, isobar map, Doppler radar.

You could walk out the back door, sniff the air, squint at the sky and come up with an about the same thing.
No yelling. No fuss.

Monday, January 26, 2009


"Under the weather" would not describe it--more like "In a subterranean toilet" would be a better description of how I've felt for the past oh, 6-7 days.

It started with sneezing like a AK-47, then runny eyes and sinuses, morphing into a hacking cough that got nowhere, on to face-and-ear-aches which became full blown body aches and muscle spasms. A low fever developed and hung around for days. Appetite went out the window and I had to remember to drink liquids. Even tea tasted awful.

The next assault was a head that seemed to inflate and hurt every time I coughed which led to a burning, aching throat and the feeling that my sinuses had been peeled. I wanted to be able to reach down my throat and scratch my lungs. My whole upper body was sore from coughing.

After spending my days on the couch watching a marathon House Hunting Overseas and my evenings laying in a scalding tub with the bottom of my nose swabbed with Tiger Balm, I decided to break out the antibiotics I had been hoarding for something else. (since the low-grade fever was still hanging around.)

I will confess to my doctor of my sins when we return home, but drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, as they say. Better risk a doctor's scowl than pneumonia, I figure.


A wan, weak wave from me, finally vertical again and looking at climbing Everest to get to the grocery store and lay in some fresh veggies and fruit to go with my chicken soup.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Influence of Clays

It is so amazing to me how different something as basic as clay can be.

And just as amazing the kind of response I get and give when exploring it.

I've been making test tiles from three Laguna clays: Hawaiian Red, B3 Brown and Hagi porcelain.

I cut out 2" x 4" glaze tiles, smoothed them, cut hanging holes in the top and labeled the backs with the clay name and the cone temperature. And, since I hate monotony, after I've done those, I just HAVE to do something different with each clay sample.

So I listened.

With Hawaiian Red, a small constructed house was called for.

The black /brown B3 Brown demanded an oval cup.

The Hagi called for a medium sized free-form vessel. Very thin, very suave.


I wonder. If we wrote about clay like we write about wine, what would we say?

Hawaiian Red: The very essence of earth. Rich, red, robust, Adam-esque and basic. Elemental and strong. Muscular, robust. Stands on it's own two feet. Get down and dirty with it, make it shout it's name.

B3 Brown: Warm, mailable, responds luxuriously to your hand--nearly purrs. Pliable, but shows bit of spirit. Virtuoso abilities, but handle with care, could be a flash of temperament. Sassy yet holds the promise of a soft, rich surface. May change in texture and pliability if overworked. Understand it and the rewards could be stunning.

Hagi porcelain: Schizophrenic aristocrat. Resistive and aloof at first, relaxes and offers incredible surfaces after worked for a while. Has the promise of elegance, but must be carefully handled. A mystery clay to be understood, handled gingerly, babied and respected or it will pout, then flounce out in a huff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Whoa! What happened to my visitor counter? It just disappeared.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Three Clays; Two Glazes

I picked up three different clays from the supplier when I got the kiln. They're all Laguna clays. One is porcelain, the other two a red and a very dark, nearly black clay. It will be interesting to see how they handle and fire.

I also got a couple of fairly neutral glazes to experiment with. And I'll include some underglazes into the mix to test how they perform.

Sounds fairly simple? I began brainstorming about how I can find out the most with just these elements.

I think best with a pen in my hand and a piece of paper. And this is what I came up with and this is what I came up with. I make test tiles that are curved on the bottom so I can see how the glaze pools. I use a bamboo skewer to impress two lines to see how the glaze breaks. Later I'll make a hanging board so I can see all the glazes at a glance.

I'll bisque 3 samples for clay reference: On to remain bisqued, one to fire to cone 5 and one burnished.

Three will be a sample of one glaze: All three dipped two times with one dipped a third time and held as an example of just that glaze. The other two will be held in reserve for further tests of that glaze.

These test tiles are 4 inches long and two inches wide. The clay and cone are incised on the backside of the clay.

The same applies for the other glaze. With the third set of tiles, I'll dip an over/under test with one glaze, then reverse the test for the other glaze. The 2nd and 3rd tiles will be held in reserve to use with a third glaze in the future.

And I'll make sure I label the backs of these tiles, take notes and photograph the results.

I will also make one 6" square tile of each clay and do an underglaze test plus an over/under glaze test.

I toyed with the idea of making a square vessel that could show the two glazes and how they reacted on a vertical surface with indentations and with relief elements, yet integrated enough to make an inti grated piece. After I roll out all that I need for test pieces, I'll see if I have enough room.

Always nice to have two references for any glaze.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Minimal Studio

So, I was thinking about how I could find a place to work while in Arizona.

I "took a class" at the local county community recreation center last time. Independent work was allowed for advanced students during the session time, but I found it really didn't suit me.

Too frustrating. Limited access, limited time, no control over the rhythm of the work, cramped facilities, people with 'issues', noisy work area, finding my work moved, with finger pokes. It absolutely drove me crazy.

I know.

It's me; not them.

I like a quiet, peaceful workplace. I don't want conversation. Even though I LIKE people, I don't want them around while I'm working. I find I'll spend more time talking and joking than working and come away feeling like I haven't accomplished the goal I'd set up to achieve.

I want to concentrate on the work. Persnicity? YES!

I want to be able to work whenever I feel like it, not on a schedule.

Sometimes I like music, sometimes I like absolute silence, but I want to control it. I like classical music when I throw or build pieces and ZZ Top, Wagner, Rossini, Queen, the Beach Boys, or a mix I call 'Smokin" when I glaze.


We went to the local clay company to check out the price of kilns and supplies.

The possibility of setting up a kiln in half the garage had been considered. Earlier that week, we had looked at a used kiln for sale and found that it had been stored outside, was partially dismantled and there was no way to plug it in to see if it functioned. The price was 50% of a new kiln. Iffy........

The supply place was having a sale. The 2009 prices hadn't kicked in yet and the model I was interested in was already discounted plus they were running a discount on top of that. I had a gift certificate. The stars were aligned.

The new kiln is now installed in my garage. Instead of a stationary kiln-stand, I was able to buy a steel one that is on rollers, so I can move the kiln against the wall when it's not in use. Sweet.

I had brought my portable slab roller with me and had located a large folding table.

We checked out Craig's list and got a set of steel shelves from a company that was going out of business.

After running the kiln seasoning firing, I'm now happily putting kiln wash on my shelves.

Bliss awaits.