Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This Morning

This happened------

in the corner of my kitchen

don't look at the dust.

Monday, March 29, 2010


The Springboard
This is a length of beautiful indigo batik.
I lusted after this fabric, but it was extremely expensive.
I kept the jpg.
I made a little palmetto shaped tile with a raised rim on one side. It sat around in the studio for a while. I put it in with a bisque firing, still not knowing what I would do with it.
I got out some deep blue underglaze to trim some bowls.
I got a sharp pencil, printed off the jpg. Used the design as a springboard to decorate the tile.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Chilling Brush with Fame

One last episode.

While we were living in Bahrain, we could take short trips to nearby countries. Once, we spent a week in India. Of course a visit to the Taj Mahal was included in the plans. I had read that seeing the Taj at night was an experience not to be missed. We made special plans to be there at the rise of a new moon and prayed the sky would be clear.

We had visited the monument that day; admired the beautiful marble inlay, the carving of lace-like stone screens. It is undoubtedly one of the world's masterpieces.

The evening of our return was comfortable, the gardens were fairly empty of people and the air was still. It was perfect. We made a bee-line for one of the stone seat about mid-way down the terraces.

The location presented the classic view of the Taj. The moon was just appearing over the shoulder of the monument and seemed to be a single, pure musical note. You could almost feel it. The whole scene had an ethereal, blue-white, shimmering, floating appearance. It was stunningly beautiful.

As we sat there memorized by the view, we became conscious of a commotion behind us but ignored it, wanting to not break the mood. None the less, as it got louder, we finally had to turn around and see what the source was. Especially after someone had just said, "Cut off their Heads. HA! HA! HA!"...... There seemed to be a vortex of large Africans dressed in suits, uniforms and brightly-colored robes, all attentive to one exceptionally big man who, we assumed, must have been a general or some high rank, judging from the mass of metals on his chest. He seemed unhappy, but sat down behind us on a stone bench. After a few minutes, he stood up and he and his entourage left in another fluttering whirlwind.

We recognized the group immediately. We had crossed paths with them all day long.

While checking into the hotel and on our way through the lobby en route to the room with our luggage, this group nearly ran us down. We heard them coming up fast behind us. The clicking of heels on the stone floor heralded a whirlpool of official looking uniformed men, Indian civil servants in suits followed by a clutch of substantial-sized African ladies who sailed like galleons through the lobby. They commandeered all the elevators and left us standing in the dust.

The next day, beginning a day of sightseeing, we stepped through the hotel entrance and before we could ask for a cab, a police escort swept up and a huge limo with diplomatic flags flying and other cars stopped in front of us. We thought some great personage was arriving, so stepped aside. The doorman became very agitated and furiously waved the whole parade away. Muttering, he hailed us a cab and held the door open, waving us inside. We noticed the limo and company had circled around the drive and sat poised to sweep to the entrance once again. As we were driving away, we could hear the entourage storming the lobby and assumed the limos and escort was had been waiting for them.

We headed out for the Red Fort, the Taj Majal and the Agra craftsman's villages. By afternoon we were in a fantastic jewelry shop, about to leave when a man rushed in, whispered something in the owner's ear and rushed out again. The owner seemed to change from a rather passive, drowsy attitude to one of intense interest in us. He urged us to look at more items. He pulled trays of treasures from display cases and laid them on the counter tops. When I admired an antique Mogul skirt, spangled with gold embroidery and jewels on display, he presented it with a flourish onto the top of the glass case. He went into the safe and came out with a tray of fantastic antique museum-quality enamel and jewel encrusted bracelets which he urged me to try on. The whole glass counter top was suddenly full of rare treasures.

Quickly, the reason for this renewed focus became clear. We heard a commotion outside. Dust swirled into the door from as limos came to a stop on the street. You guessed it, here came that same mob, like a flock of large, colorful and very noisy birds, flowing in through the doors. Suddenly, we were dropped like a hot potatoes. The owner was literally rubbing his hands together in anticipation with a smile from ear to ear at the new customers. In a flash, that smile fell to the carpet when they all the women asked only to see all the 'beggar bead' necklaces. (Semi-precious agate type stones.)

We had been willing shills.

Muttering, "Thank you", we quietly slipped away..........

We thought no more about any of this until some years later, back in the States in our house in Virginia, a loud voice caught my attention. It was booming from the television in the living room. I recognized it as the one I had heard behind me at the Taj. This time the whole world was hearing it, riveted to their TVs watching the airline hostage situation in Entebbe, Uganda. The big man was speaking on camera. He was the same man we had seen in India But this time we realized him-- Idi Amin!


Monday, March 22, 2010


Normally, I never reglaze and refire work. However.

I did try some transparent dribble on the purple bowl.

It certainly made the inside of the bowl much more interesting.

Along the rim, the Eggplant begins to separate into small particles of glaze. This could be investigated more....

The Copper Blue platter with thick Eggplant overlay was an interesting result. The Eggplant was dribbled on from a jar, so it's very thick. I like the result, but it is sort of a waste of the Eggplant glaze...

I'll probably fiddle with this platter more later on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Glaze Tests

I tried out some new Coyote glazes in the last firing.

I don't worry too much about how perfect my test tiles look.....They are cut out of trash clay with a hole punched in the top so I can string them onto a twist-tab loop. I turn up the bottoms to see how the glaze pools and lay a bamboo skewer over the lower part to see how the glaze breaks. Sometimes these little tiles get tied to the bail handle of the big glaze bucket for quick reference.

Five new glazes with extended combinations were tried. I marked the tiles with underglaze abbreviations, then went back after the firing and labeled them with a fine-point Sharpie. Also made note of the glaze that shouldn't be used with food vessels.

I also tested some little bowls to see how the glaze behaved on vertical surfaces.

As with most of these kinds of tests, there were a lot of things that just didn't work out. But there were also some intriguing results.

It's also a bit of a chore to photograph the glazes, process the pictures through a computer program and adjust the colors to mirror the true colors of the pieces. But now I can take the jpgs and print them off, file them as references for the next time I want to use these glazes.

Here's Fire Opal on a bowl. I've tried this one before, and I find it interesting, but I'm just not sure what to do with it.

There's another Coyote glaze called Rhubarb that is very much like it. You really have to be careful with a pink-ish glaze. It can come off as being frivolous. It will be interesting to combine it with eggplant or a tan glaze.

Eggplant is a very intriguing glaze. Here it is applied thickly to a bowl. The color is very rich. It turns out matt and pretty well covers everything.

Here is Eggplant applied to a small bowl. The green is the result of a thinner layer than the purple, which is two layers thick. This glaze will be one that will either wow you or drive you crazy.

Creamy Matt fires rather thickly, gives a uniform matt finish. It might be a good base to bounce other glazes off of. I will try some shiny transparent on it and see what happens. It holds it's own up against Copper Blue, which is runny.

The Iron Matt is also good covering and a pleasing brown, but cannot be used for food surfaces. I'll probably go back to the plain Iron Tan from Seattle Pottery Supply I have been using because of that.

Eggplant over Creamy Matt could be an interesting combination as well as Eggplant over Iron Matt.

And Copper Blue looks good over Tan Matt. Almost turns into lizard skin where it's thick.

I am really interested in the result of Eggplant over Copper Blue. That could be a real winner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Little Bowl

This little bowl just came out of the kiln. It measures 3 1/2 inches wide and 2 inches tall. It's as light as a feather.

It's an experiment in throwing very thin walls, using underglazes and a new transparent glaze. And a departure from a lot of the kinds of things I do. Whatever THAT is.

For a while I worried about establishing a 'style'. My conclusion: I don't have a style. I just do what works at the moment. My style is impulse.

Anyway, first, I must say the photo looks better than the real bowl. The yellow doesn't read this strongly. Should I fiddle with it more? The jury's still out. I'm tempted to add another glaze and refire, but that's kind of silly. Those kinds of things sometimes are disasters. I'd be better off just making another bowl and going from there, I think.

I think I'll call it "Egg".

Kiln Wash

Kiln Wash I

Calcined Alumina (EPK) 50%

Kaolin (China Clay) 25%

Silica 25%

Kiln Wash II

Alumina Hydrate 50 Grams

EPK 25 Grams

Silica 25 Grams

Once, when I was a new potter, I bought some kiln wash at a pottery supply, slathered on my shelves and after firing a glaze kiln load, found that everything - I mean everything - stuck to the shelves. After much puzzling, I finally decided the kiln wash was at fault. Nothing I could prove, but ever since, I have mixed up my own wash.

Kiln wash is pretty simple. The above are two mixes--I use the last one usually. I mix it up, put it in a large Yogurt tub and mark it with a black Sharpie. The consistency should be about the same as really thick cream--Thick enough to cover well, yet thin enough to spread evenly.

When I apply it to a new kiln shelf, I use a soft, goat hair brush, apply it on in one direction; then when the first layer is thoroughly dry, lay down another layer in the opposite direction.

Before firing a glaze load, I dust the shelves lightly with Alumina. During the unloading, I tap the empty shelf over a large bucket to reclaim the powder.

All this may seem elementary, but these are the little things that new potters have to learn along the way. It's good to share.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Remedy for Flying Slip

I dislike throwing with a wheel pan, but in my current small studio situation, I have to be neater than usual, so I've modified my old Rube Goldberg arrangement for catching flying slip from the wheel into a modification that works inside the larger wheel pan I have now.

The old way was to remove the pan and substitute this bucket/sponge/catch pan on the table of the wheel head. It's a bit messy, but allowed me to get closer to the wheel.

Get a smallish bucket with a bail. A plastic paint can works well.

Get a big sponge and slip it under the bail.

Get one of these shallow food pans--the kind you're supposed to microwave food in, but I don't relish the idea of baked plastic in my lunch, so I put the food in glass or clay and zap it. The tray should fit underneath the wheel with no interference.

Move it so the sponge touches the rim of the wheel, but doesn't interfere with the movement.

Fill the bucket with water to give it stability and weight.

When the wheel turns, the sponge catches the water flying off the rim, drips into the shallow plastic pan and keeps it out of the wheel-pan.

Empty the food tray once in a while when it gets close to full or when you finish throwing.

You can dispense with the food tray, if you wish or if it won't fit under the wheel. Then clean out the pan as usual.

Monday, March 1, 2010

One Dollar Wheel Table

"Himself" is so well trained.
The other day, he went to pick up some groceries and on the way back happened upon a garage sale.
He bought this wonderful child's toychest/step (??) that's just the right height to sit alongside the wheel for my water bucket. This way, I won't have to lean over the wheel to rinse my hands.
I love the no-slip top to lay my tools down onto.
It's great to scrounge for stuff.