Friday, March 30, 2012

Scrap Clay Sculpture

While cleaning up my studio today, I noticed this in my scrap clay bin.

It was a teapot body pushed too far. (Yes, I have that problem) with the additional blops and rim trimmings dropped on top at random.

I hadn't noticed it until now. But, as I looked at it, I realized it was really interesting.

Especially since I have been seeing photos of pieces very similar to this, glaze fired and mounted, placed on stands and displayed in galleries.

What do you think? Maybe a nice white semi matt? Black square base?

Maybe I'll stick it into the next bisque fire.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kiln Firing Programs

So, after the last firing, which went very well by the way, I've decided to edit my preset computer program. I think I'm being 'way too cautious and can speed it up a bit.

I also noted that the kiln is firing a bit cooler this time, so that's another reason to speed up the ramps and temps.

The old schedule was:

Ramp Temp To Temp Hold Time

1 50 200 2 hrs (2.00)

2 80 350 2 hrs (1-6) depending on dampness and pack

3 90 1200 0.00 kiln will go until timp reached

4 250 1944

Alarm 1000


New Schedule will be:

1 50 250 2 hrs

2 80 500 1-6 hrs

3 90 1200 0.00 (until temp is reached)

4 250 1944 0.00

Alarm 1000


*I have to put this in to be sure I hit that start button to begin the firing--can't tell you how many times I didn't do this and couldn't figure out why the kiln wasn't firing. heh

Kilns are always evolving. I have noticed that this kiln is beginning to fire a tad cooler, so I can up the ramps and, if it fires again to 05, I will increase the target temps to compensate.

This is why it is really great to keep good notes about each firing--this was a loose pack kiln this time--so I know that if I fire a load that is really full and tight, I should up the final temperature to make sure the ware gets bisqued well.

It can be critical when it comes to a glaze firing because of those glazes you know only work well at certain temperatures.

With all the variables that come into play with clay work, it's a wonder we even pull it off sometimes!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Firing Program

Yesterday was the first day I fired my kiln since the big repair and house reconstruction. I had tested it to see if the elements lid up, but had not run it through a complete sequence until now.

This was a computerized bisque kiln firing of a Skutt 1018. The program I entered ran through it's sequence, but the firing took over 16 hours. Much too long. Granted, it was a very slow ramp sequence, but I'll reprogram the temperatures for a faster fire next time. I think I can up the temperature range and judging from the witness cones, the kiln fired a little cooler than it has previously.

That's the thing about kilns, they are always evolving. So even though you may think you know how it will fire from one time to the next, it's a really good idea to load it up with cones to make sure you know whether it has begun to fire cooler or hotter.

I record everything I can about the firing, the cones, the size and composition of the load, whether the greenware is really dry or maybe a bit wet. If I suspect there is still a little moisture in some pieces, I will program in a hold at the lower two temperature ranges.

Everything came through fine, no cracks, no explosions, no problems. Whew!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Loom Story

A lot of us work in other media. It isn't unusual for an artist to combine two dimensional work with three dimensional work or to cross over from fibers to jewelry. Many of us have trained in painting or drawing.

While we were in the UK, I studied weaving for some time. I had always had an interest in fibers. I made baskets, learned how to hand-cane chairs and worked in making ethnic clothing and fiber conservation.

I have owned this antique loom since the early 1970's. The loom's beater section is mounted on rocker bottoms which makes it unique. And it wasn't until recently that I discovered how unique when I found Phyllis Dean's website:

It's totally hand made--actually hand hewn from pine--the tool marks show on the timber. All the wood has a wonderful patina, warn smooth by many hands and years of use.

Here's what it looks like fully assembled. Unfortunately, it's in sections now, stored in various places around my house. The largest pieces are the two upright pieces that have the arms on the side to hold the counterbalance beam at the top.

The warp beam is a modified log. The rod that serves as a break (see right side of the picture) can be inserted into the holes, looped through the rope that holds it from rotating (see the right hand side of the loom) Quite effective, really.

The reddish colored heddles are made of string tied in linen thread. They work just as well as wire heddles; actually even better because they have a bit of forgiving 'give'. It's not hard to replace a broken one, just tie up another thread.

The original reed is made of thin slivers of bamboo held down with strong cording wrapped around two round rods that measure the width of the interior of the loom. I still have it. It looks like the cord has been shellacked to give it strength. I'm sure the bamboo worked fine as a reed, but some of it was missing, so I inserted a metal reed in it's place. The cloth beam has a wooden feed dog and a rocker brake on the side. (Not showing in this photograph).

Not much to the tie-up or treadles here. I suppose I could add two more harnesses and a couple more treadles and have a 4 treadle counterbalance, but I was happy to do rag rugs and tapestry type weaving on this old beauty. The rhythm of the weaving and heft of the beater was a real work-out.

I bought this loom from a lady who was sitting in an old mill in southern Missouri, doing a demonstration of spinning wool. Just on an impulse, I asked her if she knew of anyone who had an old loom for sale. She said she had one at her house that she used to use, but hadn't for quite some time.

She said it was at her house, a short distance away, so we went to have a look.. I could hardly hide my excitement when I saw it. I asked her if she knew anything about where it had come from, etc. but she didn't have much information to share.

When I asked her if she wanted to sell it and how much she thought she wanted out of it, she began to query me about just WHO I was, who my family was related to. I got the distinct impression that she just wasn't going to sell this loom to the first person to come down the pike.....I felt like I had to give her my pedigree first.

And after about a half hour or more (these things take time, you know) talking with her and my giving her almost my whole family tree, I suppose she decided I was 'okay' I because we agreed on a price and began dis-assembling the thing to load it into our car. I paid very close attention to how it all went together so I wouldn't be stumped when I wanted to set it up. It would be several weeks before I could reassemble the loom in a new home.

I have spent many happy hours working on this loom, but the time has come to find it another home. I can't say goodbye to weaving all together, though, I have two other looms at my house--one I saved from the bonfire and another multiple harness table loom for complicated patterns.

So, either it will go to a private party who loves it and it's history as much as I do or to a museum or historical reconstruction exhibit where it can be shared. Interested parties can contact me through the comments section of the blog.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Art Sales

According to the latest edition of Crafts Reports, American crafts is taking an upturn.

Shows are coming back and artists are seeing an slight increase in sales. The reason given is that consumers are searching for American-made items to buy.

Just last week, I was talking to a neighbor who is planning on revamping her kitchen and she was complaining that it was difficult to find replacement appliances that are totally made in America. I think she has her work cut out for her, although I admire her idea of supporting American business.

As far as shows go, I'm a bit dubious about that. I haven't seen the entry fees going down. And, according to the article, jewelry and photography are still doing well.* Finding a good gallery for your work might be the better solution for now.

*And I always thought the food booths were the ones who made the killing. But is it art?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Me, No More


The last workman has left the building.

Even though we've been back in the house after the flood,* there were still things that needed to be tweeked.

The mystery flickering lights in the bathroom and the occasional whiff of gas from the cooktop, to mention a few.
Both we and the electrician (who is now talking to himself even more than he did before) have racked our brains to try and figure out why our bathroom lights flickered at unpredictable intervals. It was like trying to shave or wash your face in an old movie theater. The mystery was finally solved when a new separate outlet was installed.

Our gas cooktop emitted a slight whiff of gas every so often and investigations by the installers and finally a gas company expert pinpointed the source under the cabinets at the regulator coming into the house. He immediately 'red tagged' the line and shut everything off. Which condemned me to cooking once again with an electric skillet. I should have never bought the thing. Instead of meals out, I have had to become an expert in one-pan meals.

Although I do have the microwave and the oven, I don't like microwaved meals and there's just so much you can bake. I'm more of a 3-pans going at the same time kinda cook.

But now I'm free, Free, FREE of the skillet, the workmen showing up every day, the bottling-up of the rabid Schnauzer who wants all their guts for garters.

Yesterday, I reinstalled my big tables in the garage, sorted my glazes and tools, rehabbed my clay and threw two big platters and a big bowl.

It's nice to be back to undisturbed studio time.

(Maybe I should have put the "Me" sign on the person on the top of the pile.)

*In June of this year, the water filter connection under the kitchen sink failed and flooded the house with about 2 inches of water. Luckily it was discovered quickly and a professional disaster team was on the scene with fans and rescued most of the furniture. Our insurance covered most of the damage, but attending to the aftermath has taken every bit of the time from the initial disaster until this last week. Everything is repaired, restored, and we essentially have a nearly new house, BUT I wouldn't recommend this as a plan for remodeling.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

5000 Year Old Pottery

I monitor a website that has a daily round-up of archeological news.

This article caught my interest because of the location of the site and the long history of digs that have gone on there.

The "Burnt City" was a place crossroad of cultures and trade and the habitat of artists of many disciplines.

The pottery is as fresh and beautiful as work done today and has been amazingly undisturbed due to the location of the dig is now a far more harsh environment

Who knew dice were this old?