Sunday, December 27, 2009

burning off those extra calories... with some throwing

It is "warm" today, up to 41 degrees. There was some serious fog early that filled up the whole valley. I could just see the tops of the ridges on the other side and you can just make out the barns and house of my neighbor Tom through the trees.

Then the sun came out. I took the dogs out for some exercise, me throwing the ball, they bring it back and we repeat again, and again and again and... See, they have me trained well. A lot of the snow has melted and we are due for single digit temperatures tonight. Gotta enjoy this when we can. I've got some neat pictures of them, Buddy you have met and the white one is Jake. He's 9 now.

Here is some of the other throwing that I'm doing to burn off those extra holiday calories... Looking forward to a "long-underwear firing" in the near future (as Jack Troy told me he calls it when they fire the Pixiegama in the beginning of February.) I have a lot more shelves to fill before I'm ready for the wood kiln. Better get burning those calories.
I hope everyone had a great holiday and has a Great New Year!!
Our Best to you.
Mary Ann and Bill

Sunday, December 20, 2009

... watchful eyes and warm buns

Buddy likes to keep an eye on me. He is watching me grinding off wads without his safety glasses on. I've told him about the need for eyewear but for some reason he doesn't wear them. Dogs.... He does watch carefully doesn't he? Talk about intense concentration!!

Then it was picture time for my beautiful wife and me. Posed, but nice. We needed a new pics for avitars, web sites, photo albums... and the fire was going and our buns were getting very warm.

Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, December 4, 2009

And the good...

I showed some of the bad that happened with the last firing. Now I want to show some of the good... There is a new style of landscape yunomi, more abstract and suggested than my other ones. A few nice bowls too. I am definately getting a feel for where the zones are for differnt pieces/glazes.

The Aftermath...

There's some good news and some bad news... I'll give you the good news first. I had some of my best pieces yet come out of this firing. :-] The bad news is three pieces blew up and shattered shards all over the place. I had 12 bowls get ruined with "uninvited visitors". I've got a few guess's as to why. The research continues. Update at 11. I did get a beautiful firing asfar as kiln control goes. I looked in the spy hole and saw the color along the floor not as yellow as the rest, so I opened the chimney's shelf dampers more and let 'er rip for an hour and a half. A stronger draft makes the flames path go in a straight line... from the fire box across the floor directly to the flues. A slow draft allows the lazy flame to rise up along the top and across, then down to the flues. And don't forget some medium draft time. This gets all the pottery hot enough. I have been taking the front to cone 12 these last couple of times (the cone on the right in the cone pack picture is 12) and the back to 10.
Then the grinding... need to get those wads off. The turquoise bottle was right up front and the oribe started to run down and onto the wad, showing why we wad them. It soaked up the extra and kept it from sticking the bottle to the shelf.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kiln is Done

I reached cone 12 in front(the arc on the right)in the first picture. I also was able to get cone 10 over in the back. You can see it just to the left of the center brick in the second picture. I told you about Buddy in the first post and wanted to show my kiln god, "Buddy", made for me by fellow ceramist Ruth Apter of One Hundred Horses. He has brought me nothing but good luck.
The next morning, I was able to get a peek inside. I tried wood firing some beads for my wife to sell on her etsy site. ( They look ok, as do the rest of the oribe pieces and others.

Next Firing

I thought I would show some of the firing process. I have a picture of the front of my kiln, showing how I "candle" for about two and a half hours. I use small sticks, approximately one inch by one inch. I keep the fire small and slowly build up a bed of embers. This starts the snowfall of ash and slowly warms up the kiln. I then moved the fire "on" the grate. I slowly built up embers, ash and heat. If I needed more embers I used bigger pieces of wood or mixed a big one or two in with the smaller ones. I stoked the kiln for about 9 hours and then I kept it between 2100 and 2260 for about four hours to even out the kiln, meaning I wanted the back of the kiln to get hotter. I have included a picture of the mirror propped up against the house where I can watch the flame that's "above me" so I know when to get ready to re-stoke when the flame retreats into the chimney.

If I get too hot in the front, too fast, the front will get up to cone 12 before the back gets to cone 10. If I keep going to get the back hotter, the front will over- fire. This might help potters new to wood firing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Big Bud"

I just had to write again to tell you about our (my) rescue dog Buddy. When we first saw him, he lived in a circle of dirt about 10' across. He was on a heavy, five foot chain, that was attached to a metal jungle gym. His food was spilled in the dirt and he would patiently wait for one of the many shoeless children to walk by with food in hand, that he could "relieve" them of. He weighed about 60 lbs. and was skin and bones. Today, he has put on solid weight and looks great! I throw the ball for him daily with this "Chuck-it" that is like a throwing stick, and he loves to retrieve it again and again. He is a Lab/Rottwieler mix and is a fantastic, loyal, loving, gentle dog. If anyone is considering a dog in the future, don't forget the endless supply of "rescue" dogs out there just waiting for a second chance.

He ran away for a week when we first brought him home. After that, we only saw him a few times, like Sasquatch sightings. We would see him run across the opening to the lower meadow or dashing through the woods surrounding our country home, complete with his new red collar and leash in tow. We finally hid in the barn where we were feeding our vanishing dog, and rigged up a rope to pull the door closed behind him, when he came in to eat. He grew to trust us and enjoy his new home.

I bring him up, because I bonded with him at the kiln when I was building it. He had obviously been mistreated and was very afraid of adult males. I noticed he was getting closer and closer each day as I worked on the kiln. I spoke softly to him and eventually he was laying next to me. I named my kiln "Big Bud".

Retaining wall

I finished putting in a small retaining wall and some berming to keep water out from under the kilns' foundation. Next spring, I'll add some color out there, but for now I'm busy getting ready for the winter. I think the kiln will last a lot longer if the winter freeze doesn't get under there. ;-] I also added some more adobe mix on the back of the chimney. I fired last Saturday, my ninth firing so far. I finished building this kiln a year and a half ago, in July '08. I like the smaller size, as I am firing it by myself. I can get cone 12 down in 9 1/2 hours if I wanted to, but I like to slow it down to around 13-14 hours. It gives the pieces more time for ash build up and there is less problems with the firing. I am firing bisqued, glazeware in case my firing times were making you wonder... I like ash accented shinos, glazes and oribe.