Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Clay Experiments

I returned to the Tully Mudslide Friday after work. Back in April, 1993, there was a mudslide that covered a long stretch of road. The land was supersaturated with water after a snow blizzard and heavy rains that spring. Along the base of a mountain, the soil gave way and several homes were destroyed. There was 15 feet of clay and silty soil over the road. The dotted line shows where the underlying road is.  Between the red arrows are where the springs are.

I drove by and grabbed a handfull of what looked like pretty pure red clay many months ago. I did some initial tests with it, made a coil that wrapped around my finger and didn't crack, etc. I mixed it with my cone 10 stoneware in various percentages looking to lower my clay body by a couple/few cones, hoping to come up with a suitable clay body for the cooler back of my kiln. I have gotten a full cone 9 in the flues. I also knew that the "impurities" in it would give my clay some more character.

I stopped and talked to a few people, hoping to find the access to the posted land where I saw the tall "bank" of what looked like where the clay was. I stopped at this one house, and was greeted by some friendly dogs and Mike. We were joined by his brother Erik and they even grabbed a shovel and bucket for me (I had planned on returning later if I had gotten permission to dig). They were very generous with their time and met me down the road at the spot with their 4-wheeler and guided me to the sweet spot. We found a drumlin area that had mixed amounts of vegitation, and I liked the looks of this one barren, reddish clay looking spot that contained a "slippery when wet" clay. I filled the bucket with very pure looking clay.  It looks like it will take a minimal amount of preperation time to create test clay. I have a tray full of pieces drying so I can pulverize it and screen it.

 I will then mix it in various percentages with my clay and put it in my end of June firing.   I hope to end up with a clay body that matures in the cone 8-9 range that will be suitable for sculptures and pottery for the back of my kiln and in the secret chamber in the base of the chimney. I am also making some slips to try.  I have a 50/50 mix using both mixed hardwood ash and also pure poplar ash for a different color. Then there is a 40/60 and a 60/40 mix for starters.  Also in Jack Troy's book, Wood-Fired Stoneware and Porcelain, there's a great looking recipe "Jane Herold's glazes for once-firing". I'm trying #2, 

75 local red clay
15 ash
10 whiting
4 bentonite

Says it will make a dark celadon, amber over a white slip. There's a possible brine content in this clay, so it will be interesting to see the results. I'll keep you posted, or would that be blogged?  ;-)

Thanks again Mike and Erik Young! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I haven't blogged in a long time, I have been getting a ton ready for my next firing at the end of the month. I have made an extra effort to create more and accurate tea ware.  What I mean by accurate, is making teapots for instance, just the right size. I was making "nice sized ones" but I was not aware of the specific sizes desired by tea drinking connoisseurs. I now know that they like 3-4 oz tea pots for making 2 oz of high quality tea (gyokuro) and these small ones are called kyusu or a houhin. Then they get big for sencha, like a  9 oz tea pot is nice. This will make two smaller pours or one bigger one. 

A completed small one on the right and a 9 oz one "scored and slipped" on the left ready to join. Parts in the background to choose from. A little more practice with composition in this scale and I'll know what size to make them. I made a total of five tea pots for starters.  I want to see if they shrink to the right size.

This is a close-up of the prep work. Don't make the holes too big or they won't strain well and not too small or it will pour slow and continue to steep the tea (too long).

Then you press them together with wiggles to make the slip ooze out. Then you know it won't crack under firing stresses. Clean it up with a bristle brush and voila!

A completed small kyusu. It will hold about 5 oz when done.

The tea bowls are good to have half again to twice the size of the serving. A 6-8 oz capacity tea bowl holds 4 oz of tea nicely and so on.  I have gotten most of this tutorial from a good customer of mine named Brian that lives in Colorado.  Thanks Brian!  He doesn't know it (until now anyway) that he will have a little thank you in his next order. Here are a few I threw "off the hump".

This pic has a shui fan for a custom order and some tea caddies.

Shui Fan opened up.