Hm.

I seem to be falling waaay behind in my blogging this month. Bad blogess; no cookie.

I’ve been spending all my free time in the studio, but most of it’s been as a volunteer, not working on my own things. So there hasn’t been a lot of progress done there. I am, however, one day away from really totally definitely finishing up the work for the wholesale show.

Even the folding business cards, which have cost me a month of frustration. (Next time, I’m asking my husband to do this stuff. He knows stuff about graphic design. And doesn’t end up screaming at the computer, wanting to hit things after an hour of Things Not Going Right.)

Oh, and the last of the Small Comforts sold today! A man came into the shop to buy some earrings, and mentioned seeing “some interesting little teapots” in the gallery a few weeks ago. He wanted to know if the show was still up. (Technically, no, it was being packed up, but the door was open today for just such customers.) He bought my favourite one: the round one with the feet, the swirly spout and the tall swirly lid.

Aw, crud.

Pottery is such a calming, meditative experience. Except when it’s not.

Today it was decidedly not.

The Small Comforts, which I wanted to have in the gallery’s Christmas show, and which were already a few days behind deadline for submission *anyways*, but which were going to be fired over the weekend and snuck in at the last minute before jurying started for the show… didn’t get fired. I’m kinda crushed. This is the… what, second? third?… group show I’ve had plans for but didn’t get into thanks to technical issues.

I loaded and started the kiln Saturday evening, partly with my stuff and partly with general studio stuff. Heather was going to come in Sunday and turn it up, and there was going to be happy fresh pottery to unload Monday morning, ready for jurying. But the kiln sitter[1] went off prematurely (it looks like it cracked or shifted somehow, after only an hour or two), and the kiln didn’t get any warmer than about heat-up-the-leftover-potatoes temperature. I wiggled in a new bar and turned on the kiln on my lunch break. I’m home now, making spaghetti for supper[2]. I’ll head back to the studio in an hour or two, and make teacups and sit up with the kiln until Oh Gawd O’Clock tonight. Guess the Small Comforts won’t make it into the show, but they might get into that Gallery Shop thing they’re planning for this Christmas. We’ll see.

[1] Safety feature on most kilns. Basically, there’s a lever held up by a little bar of material that is engineered to melt at a certain temperature. So, when the kiln hits the right temperature, the bar melts and sags, the lever comes down, and the kiln switches off. It’s supposed to make it impossible to forget about the kiln/overfire your work/burn down your studio. They’re wonderful, useful things, except when they don’t work, which is an annoyingly frequent occurence.

[2] Spaghetti is my father’s favourite meal, and a favourite of mine and my brothers’ now.[3] It’s my comfort (ha!) food, and I really, really wanted some after looking in the kiln this morning…

[3] My mom got pretty damn sick of it after the first ten or twelve years, though.

Out of the Kiln

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The Small Comforts are out of the kiln!

I wound up pouring clear glaze inside, as a liner, and spraying the aqua glaze on the outside. The lid of the tin can teapot also had a little piece of glass (the kind you get at the dollar store for the bottoms of aquariums) left on top of the knob. That’s the crackly blue stuff. I was expecting it to bubble over and pool around the base of the knob, but some serious surface tension kept it contained.

As I don’t have a lot of experience with spraying, and didn’t quite get the glaze even, there are some almost-bare spots around some of the nooks and crannies in the handles. I’m thinking of reglazing those areas (and maybe adding some drippy bits going from the rims down the sides of each pot while I’m at it). Otherwise, though, I’m pleased as punch.

Always make an extra…

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The lid I made to replace the one that got broken turned out to be too big. Buggeration. I was going to put on a mask the next sunny day and sit outside sanding it down to size, but then I noticed there are cracks in the bottom. Either the bottom was too thin or I didn’t compress it enough while throwing; either way, stress cracks developed during firing. They only would have gotten bigger in a glaze firing, so I heaved a sigh and hove the teapot out. It was my second-favourite one, too. Oh well. At least there are three others….

Picspam!

So many things have been happening! Here’s some of the highlights:

My glaze tests came out! Layering the matte glaze over clear does indeed change the texture… it’s now all smooth and glossy, with a little bit of speckling. Cool. Glaze test 2 (the second glaze with chrome and tin for colourants) didn’t come out pink, or even purple, or even grey. It’s a nice variegated white, but there are cheaper ways of getting white. I think that bit of experimenting is a dead end. The third glaze didn’t substantially change colour, except in the area layered over clear (where it looks really faded and weak, unfortunately), but so far there’s no cracking, so I’m leaning towards using this one on its own, with maybe a few different colourants, on the Small Comforts.
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The next bit of news is that the latest batch of Bug stuff was bisqued, and most of it got glazed. Here’s what the black stoneware looks like when bisqued (when it goes through its first, low-temp firing):
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Aaaand here’s what it looks like after the glaze firing:
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This particular kiln load was overfired, which means the blue came out darker than usual, and some of the pieces even have brown highlights here and there. My theory is that the brown comes from the high iron content in the black clay. Normally, it doesn’t affect this glaze (except to give it a dark background), but when you fire clays higher than they’re formulated to go, they melt, offgass, and otherwise get more reactive than they should. I think the iron leached out of the clay and into the glaze, creating the brown patches.

Speaking of overfired clay, here’s what happens when you overfire waaaay too much:
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That puddle used to be a couple of test tiles. Someone accidentally used low-fire clay instead if high-fire clay to make them, and they completely melted away, off the shelf, and into a puddle at the bottom of the kiln, taking the glaze with them. There’s no way to remove the puddle without an angle grinder and a lot of elbow grease, and *then* the bottom of the kiln needs to be cleaned up. If we fire the kiln again without cleaning up the mess, the puddle will re-melt and, very probably, eat a hole through the insulation brick and drip out the bottom of the kiln. Ack.

Testing, testing….

Mixed up some tests for the teapots this evening. Glaze tests are small batches (usually 100 grams plus colourants) of whatever recipe you’re planning on testing. You mix up all your minerals, add them to water, sieve the whole shebang a few times to get a homogenous mix, dip a small bisqued tile in your new sludge, and fire the tile to see what the heck the recipe looks like when *you* mix it up (because, thanks to the wonderfully varied natures of mineral deposits and tap water, the exact mix of moleclues is never the same from one studio to the next, and what the other guy says is a varied green/brown glaze breaking blue over edges could, for you, come out a plain muddy mess breaking muddy).

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I’m playing with two of the recipes I came up with from the glaze chemistry course a few months ago.

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The first one is mostly good (that particular tile there is a chrome/tin mix that came out a nice pale lavender colour, and there’s another test tile with nickel that came out almost lime green), but I want to see how it behaves over a clear glaze. I’m hoping it’ll change the texture a little–if not, I’ll have to fiddle with fluxes and refractories and try to make it melt more smoothly–and I also want to see if there’s a colour difference.

The second one is my favourite in terms of colour and feel (soooo glossy and smooth), but it started developing cracks the second it was out of the kiln. This is a sign that the glaze and the clay don’t have a good “fit”–they are expanding and contracting with temperature and humidity changes, but not at the same rate. The stress caused by the different expansion rates causes crazing. All pottery crazes with time, especially clear glazes, but it’s considered bad technique to have something craze this quickly[1]. I added some silica to the recipe, which should reduce the crazing and, as a happy side effect, reduce the epic runniness of the glaze[2]. I’m also layering this one over clear and, just for shits and giggles, doing an extra tile to see what we get with chrome and tin as colourants instead of the original copper carbonate. I’m hoping for pink or purple.

[1] Unless of course you *want* that look, like with crackle or crystalline glazes. But I don’t.

[2] Runny glazes are prone to dripping or, in bad cases, sticking their pots to the kiln shelf. Sometimes, chisels and angle grinders are involved in trying to save the kiln shelf (the pot is usually a lost cause). It’s bad.