Wednesday, April 11, 2012

House finch

What the heck have I been up to lately? Well, let me tell you (since you are already here, and this is a very one sided conversation). On April 5th (the day before Good Friday and all the Bunny related festivities), I went and bought myself a brand spanking new camera. My old one was purchased in 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember exactly. In the world of electronic gadgetry, that is pretty ancient. At the time, it was $469, and was a very good point and shoot that offered a little bit more control of the aperture and shutter speeds, but was not a DSLR. At the time, I think the cheapest DSLR was at least $1500. I picked up a Nikon D3100 with a 2 lens kit (18-55mm & 55-200mm) for $769.99. This of course did not include the memory card, so I had to lay down another $50 for 16 GB of memory. I have not taken it out for any prolonged photography sessions, but I have used it in the studio to film a few videos and take a few pot shots. I also took the picture above of the little house finch singing away in the trees on the golf course behind my parent’s house. On the studio/clay front, I have been a little lax in getting things glazed and now there are only 25 days left before the spring sale. Why do I do this to myself? I should know better. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but because I work in a communal/recreational setting, where student work is always fired on a first priority basis, I do find that I only have weekends to glaze my work and fire it. I can usually do it, and it only requires that I pull a longer than usual shift at the studio on Friday night to get all the pots glazed and loaded in order for the kiln to be cool enough to unload by Sunday. However, there is a glitch this time. There was a load of student work being fired on Thursday night, and when I came in on Friday morning the kiln started beeping and flashing E-1. This error indicates that the temperature is rising too slow in 1 or more zones. In all his wisdom, Dave thought he might give it another go and fired it off again on Friday night, well, surprise surprise, it happened again. So, he changed the thermocouple, as he had one laying around. He was not sure if that was the problem, but when he took it out, the ceramic casing was cracked, and it looked like the probe itself had started to degrade/melt. 3rd times the charm right? Nope, it still did not fire properly. Next step is to change the elements, but if that does not work, then it is probably a relay. Regardless of what the issue is, it has put the firing of student work back by at least 2 weeks, which has put my ability to fire anything back by at least 2 weeks plus however long it takes to clear the backlog up. I do have a last ditch solution, but it will require a bit of effort. Ceramics Canada has a kiln, which I never use, ‘cause it requires that I pack my work up and drive it over there. There are a lot of speed bumps and stupid drivers between the studio and CC. I may try and take a load over there this weekend though if I can manage it. I have also had some results from my shellac and hydro abrasion “tests”. I originally subjected 6 or so mugs, 3 bowls and a vase to the process and so far have had some OK results. I have yet to bisque the vase, but the rest of the first batch have been fired to completion. Two of the bowls were glazed in a translucent amber, and they are pretty good. I mucked the 3rd bowl up by using a glaze that did not allow the detail to come through very much, but I knew it was an experiment, and the bowl was not a stunner anyway. The mugs all had a blue slip on them, that I wanted to come through, so I applied some terra sig based slips to the green mugs, hoping it would reveal the texture a little more and then glazed them all in a clear glaze. I was relatively happy with the results, but the clear glaze did nothing for the texture. I should have used a coloured glaze that would have highlighted the texture more. The rutile slip was very subtle, but I liked it the most. It was not too stark against the white clay. The black one was good, but it showed any irregularities in application too much. I should also note that all of these pots were Laguna B-mix. Part 2 of my shellacking and time wasting involved a different body. Dove porcelain was my next step, looking for a whiter white with more translucency. I threw several medium sized bowls, a couple of mugs and some yunomis. I was still struggling with the application of the shellac in terms of getting the right amount of shellac on the pot to resist the scrubbing, as well as maintaining the clean, sharp edges. It was bleeding a little, thereby making the pattern a little less than perfect, so in response to that, I attempted a looser approach through spattering, loose brush strokes and just splashing it on. I kept on using the black slip and the rutile slips and hopefully my designs took it better, as I think I may have figured that part out. I still need to bisque these pots, and will not risk taking them to CC, as in the green stage, these pots are very fragile. I lost one of the bowls during the washing stage, so I am sure that I would loose more to the speed bumps. The next phase of learning will be using P300, a midrange Plainsman Clay porcelain body. I guess I am just looking for that perfect porcelain that is strong, but washes away easily without having to scrub too much so that the shellac gets washed away too. So far I am liking the process. It makes me think about the shapes a bit more in terms of what will showcase the texture best. I think I will stick to bowls and cups for now, as the porcelains are not cooperating with me to get nice tall vases.

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