Monday, February 21, 2011


I was commisioned by a couple from Melbourne, Australia to create a teapot and pair of his and her cups as a house warming gift to themselves. They are moving into their new home in mid-April. After several conversations about size, shape, color... and a sketch, we had a plan.  I did warn her that the kiln has the final say and I would do all I could to make it work. She understood and off I went.
I started with throwing the body, spout (not shown), lid and a pair of cups... plus an extra. I'll make/pull the handles later. I let these parts stiffen up a bit to what we call leather hard. What follows is a rough tutorial on teapot making, adding a few techniques and tricks I use to create one. I hope you like it.

Now I'm cutting and test fitting the spout to fit the profile/curve of the body. You can see my chamois on the edge of the bucket is attached to a cork so I don't lose it in the water and that's the top of a fish aquarium heater in my water bucket so my water isn't cold during the winter. I also use a mirror to see the profile of what I'm throwing so I don't have to bend to the side all the time. I had a bad auto accident many years ago and my lower back needs a little help.

Once the spout fits well, I traced around the spout so I would know where to put the strainer holes.

I started to drill the holes and I'll smooth and bevel the holes later with this tapered "plug".

Now I'll "score and slip" the two pieces together using a piece of comb and slip/wet clay.

I add this tapered coil of clay under the lip of the spout and smoothed it in place. This creates a lip that will stops drips from ... well... dripping. The drips won't go "uphill".

I put a vent hole in the lid and added a pulled handle, adding a coil to each side as a decorative feature. It also gives the handle the needed thickness to look balanced visually.  I have bent the handle to compliment the swirl I added to the body of the teapot. I also filled in the juncture of the handle and and spout so there would be a nice "flow" from one into the other. I like how the undulated foot compliments the swirl and handle angle. I could have made the opening of the spout a bit higher, adding a couple of ounces of capacity to the teapot, but I like the looks of it where it is. Also the angle of the spout opening compliments the angle of the back of the handle on the right side. These are some of the considerations I think of when designing the piece. It's like a sculpture to me.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of this teapot in future posts as I go through the glazing, firing and finishing of it.  Cheers...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


We had the Syracuse Ceramic Guild's Winterfest-ivities today. Folks from all over Central New York came to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia, N.Y. for a day of snow filled activities. There was lots of sledding down the big hill that the Art Park sits on. Inside the barn was hot chocolate, coffee, snacks, etc. and Denise and Sheila helping visitors with the un-frozen raku glazes.
There was a core crew of four of us, braving the blustery cold winds to fire our almost new, wood-fired raku kiln. "Double D" Dave, Dave "L" and me on the right, are prepping for the start while Sabrina took a minute to help prepare things inside. Wood splitting, unthawing and pre-heating the bricks took a bit of time to do.

Here's "Double D" Dave ('cause his last name starts with D and the other Dave's last name starts with L) splitting some wood in anticipation of the high temps we needed later. We fired to approximately 1850* F

Here's two of the kids glazing, I think the lens fogged up coming in out of the cold, as a few more rest in the background, and when the pots come out, we preheat them a couple of minutes to finish drying them, as they're freshly glazed pots.

Now the firing takes about fifteen minutes to get to temp, then I remove the door, we take the still glowing, orange - hot pots out with long tongs and place them in a trash can that has a few inches wood shavings in it, throw a big hand full of shavings on top of the pots and then Sabrina quickly pops the lid on while the shavings are still burning to create a smoke filled can. The glazes are molten at this time and will be affected by the changes in the atmosphere. We are reducing the amount of oxygen (why we call it "reduction") and increasing the amount of carbon particles, which in turn affects the looks of the clay and glazes (creating surface lusters, crystals and keeping copper and iron from returning to it's oxidized state which would change the color dramatically).

Maybe I should have titled this post " A Raku Tutorial - Winterfest Edition "

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This is for the birds...

It really IS for them.  I  like birds and almost all animals for that matter.  I enjoy it when we get cardinals at the feeder, along with the blue jays and other assorted birds of the winter.

Then there are the eagles, no... not at the feeder, but on the shelf drying in the studio. Last post, I talked about experimenting with a slipped version of my clay body. I had this cool eagle mold that looks like an antique, and I like antiques, that I have always wanted  do someting with. So I cast a couple of them and slab built a base for one with some patriotic American Pride, emphasising the American " I can " attitude.

Then there's some more birds again!  A woodpecker/duck character with a big mouth and a duck that thinks he's an elk, or reindeer or something. That reindeer costume he put on isn't fooling anyone. He will be pulling a dog sled with the woodpecker/duck in it for that one.

 I realized I needed to get serious again so I made a modified batch of "Tully clay" and made some things with that to try in my next firing. I added a little more stoneware and fireclay to hopefully relieve some of the small bloating and sagging issues I am still having in some zones of the kiln.  I have a good cone 9 body but I want a "Tully clay" mix for cone 10 too. I have marked these pieces with a "T".

 I get throwing a few mugs and find myself wanting to try a new combination of castings again.

A turtle with a mohawk (I have a couple of students with mohawks lately- one student, Dimitri, with orange-red hair, jelled straight like the turtle has), a masked mice hobo, another confused identity, reindeer/duck for another wheeled something... but no birds. Not for the moment, anyway... I have two more bird characters under construction... This IS for the birds. I have pottery orders to fill.