Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New porcelain and glaze

Last night I opened up the glaze kiln that I fired off on Sunday. It was pretty much full of tests, so I was nervous to say the least. There was a wack of mugs in the new re formulated polar ice body. I had also tested the new Plainsman stoneware clear base glaze. I made a 1000g batch of the clear using 4% Mason Turquoise stain and then a 1500g batch of just straight clear. After all these years of putting it off, I finally got around to mixing up some of Stephen Hill's cone 6 Strontium Crystal Magic (cool version). I sprayed it on all of the mugs and dipped it on most of the rest of everything else. It is more of an enhancer than a good glaze by itself, so I sprayed and dipped a variety of our studio glazes over top of it. I knew that it would make things runny, but wondered just how runny, as the ~5% lithium carb would act to make things a bit matte. I also sprayed the plainsman clear on about 75 or so Christmas tree decorations/gift tags that I made out of the non plastic polar ice version. I am thinking of next year, as I realize that they are a bit late for 2014. Everything came out great. I think a mug kissed the spout of a teapot, so a little grinding and re firing will be required, but other than that, it was all more than I could hope for. I had visions of lakes of glaze coating my brand new kiln shelf, but no, it was all perfect. This is a picture of one of the mugs glazed in the Plainsman clear base on the inside and the bottom 1/3rd on the outside with the Crystal Magic sprayed on the top half and then a blue hare's fur glaze applied on the top 2/3rds. The second image is just a close up of the handle showing how much it can indeed run. Although you cant tell in these images, this porcelain is still very translucent, even with the darker glaze on the outside.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mugs all trimmed and handled

Yikes, it was over a week ago that I was to have had these mugs trimmed. I did get them done last Tuesday, I just neglected to tie up the loose ends of the last post. Anyway, I did get the handles on, as you can see. I also trimmed all the other pots that I threw out of the 2 boxes of Polar Ice porcelain that I managed to get my hands on. Amazingly, Ceramics Canada is all sold out of that clay now. No more until the new year I guess. No biggy, I should probably get a handle on the glazing of this body before I commit more time and money to it. In addition to the pots I have posted from this new clay, I got a couple of teapots out of it, as well as a few smaller serving bowls. I am finding that it requires an insane amount of trimming and I have a full bag of trimmings already that I will hopefully be able to make useable again. The few extra days off from my real job(s) that the holidays create will be spent in the studio loading bisque kilns, mixing test glazes, glazing, loading glaze kilns and crossing fingers. I will try to get into the studio on the 24th, but there are people in my life that don't seem to share the same enthusiasm I have for clay and will probably complain. I won't go on the 25th, I think that would be pushing it a bit, but boxing day is a given, as is the weekend. I will have a whole 4.5 uninterrupted days over the New Year as well. I never do anything on New Years Eve that would require any recovery from the next day, so I am hoping for a lot of productivity. I never make New Year's resolutions, but I think I might cave just this once. I am going to resolve to enter a large craft show next year. I am in no position to think spring, but I should be able to pump enough clay through my hands to be able to have enough stock for a Christmas show. I know, I know, but If I don't start thinking about it now, it will never happen. The show I think I should enter makes their entry info and forms available in February and I think the deadline is in April. Between now and then I need to come up with a booth design, have enough representative ware to fill that booth to take photos of so they can assess the booth, as well as have pictures of individual pieces for the jury process. If all goes well and I get accepted, I will be a very busy beaver over the next 11 months. I think I have the booth mostly nailed down. A friend and fellow potter has a display system that is very portable and she has offered it to me for the sale. I also have some ideas for some wooden crates. My idea is to paint them in milk paint and distress them. The colours will be very pale and muted so as not to distract from the pottery, but they will be stackable which will allow me to create a nice table top display without too much hassle as well as act as carrying totes. So that's it for now, I will be up to my elbows in clay for the next couple of weeks. I will have one glass of nog (maybe, i really don't like that stuff), but other than that, I will be busy busy busy. I have a pile of podcasts downloaded that I need to catch up on/start and the studio is the perfect place to do that. There is also the added bonus of the studio actually being closed on the 26th and the 1st, but I have a key, so it should be JUST ME in there with nobody to else to take up table space. There might be one or 2 other key holders in there, but they don't really count, as they are probably just looking for some peace and quiet too. If I don't post before then, have a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year and we'll see you in 2015. I will probably be putting pics up on Instagram (see link above), but mostly just throwing, glazing and firing. Cheers!

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Translucent Porcelain

Plainsman Clay's new translucent cone 6 porcelain has finally arrived. I picked up a couple of boxes on Saturday and tested it out that afternoon. The previous batch that they had made was not plastic enough and was really only suitable for hand building. It was the body I used to create that little village diorama. Plainsman revisited the formula and doubled the amount of v-gum and now it throws really well. You can get amazing height and it holds its shape really well and doesn't sit back down on the wheel. I probably pushed it a bit by trimming the pots I made on Sunday, but so far so good. These pictures are some examples of what I was able to create with it. The bottle was 2.5 kg, the mugs were 600g each and the large bowl is a whopping 10lbs. It stays on centre without too much effort, but it is really sensitive to touch, so the pressure you apply when shaping should be gentle and done with care. I also managed to throw another 8 large mugs yesterday and then 8 more 400g mugs. I will begin the trimming and handling on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Step away

I know, I know, the scale of that bridge is a little off, but then everything about this is a bit off in terms of scale. I mean, those doors are giant in comparison to the houses, but I am not removing it. I am stepping away from the diorama. Every time I touch it, I end up spackling and patching, so this is it, all done. Now it dries and awaits the kiln.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Almost done

This little "village" started on a whim and was inspired by these:
In turn, these pots with the houses were inspired by Dr. Seuss and his Who's. So I guess this is my interpretation of Whoville. The only thing left to do, if I can engineer it of course, is to build a little bridge and stick it in the middle so that it joins both sides of the river valley. This whole piece was created out of Plainsman Clay's new cone 6 translucent porcelain body called Polar Ice. As it is going to have a high degree of translucency, I bored holes under each house so that I can insert some little electric tea lights to illuminate them from within. my fingers are crossed that this doesn't just crack all over in the bisque, or that the trees don't topple over in the glaze...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Diorama detail carving begins

I have begun to carve in the details on the houses and trees for the little landscape I am building. These 2 pictures show the front and back side of one of the "Who Houses" as well as one of the trees. My plan for this is to build a little bridge that joins both sides over the ravine or river that runs through the middle of the assemblage. I have also made some pillowy clouds that will hang from high temp wire that will be inserted into the tops of either the trees or houses, but this plan is still in my head, translating that into real life might be a challenge.
Front door                                               Back door

The final piece, but again this is still in my head, will have little lights pushed up inside the houses to illuminate from within.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Condo Status and Other More Interesting Stuff

Firstly, for all of you out there that are wondering if I will be home for Christmas, the answer is NO. The engineer report regarding the source / solution to the water that mysteriously showed up in my unit on October 17th just came in and they don't have a clue where it came from. We have theories, but nothing concrete. The next step is to recreate the water testing that occured several days prior to the water appearing in my unit. The plumber was in running water in the 3 units above me to find out why there were drastic temperature changes. It is my understanding that they had all taps open and running, toilets were being flushed etc. In the end, they found out why the temp was changing, but it is my belief, but then again I'm not a plumber so what do I know, that this led to the water leaking into my unit on the main floor. This may or may not reveal a cause, but the solution to prevent any future water issues in my unit is to dig a trench in my floor that leads to the sump pump in the mechanical room, probably several feet down, lay down a perforated drain (aka weeping tile), cover with gravel and then patch the floor and then fix my unit. This should take any excess water that collects and divert it to the sump. When? How much $$? Who knows. I just know that it wont be complete before the end of the year, so my guess is that it will take until at least February. But again, just a guess.

In other non stressful areas of my life, seeing as how I don't have a home to call my own that I can actually go to every day, I have been putting my mental energy into ruminating about the possibility of entering a large craft show for next year's Christmas shopping season. I thought about a spring show, but the deadlines are already coming up for those. I know this will be a lot of work, but I won't know if this is a good fit for me unless I at least give it a shot. So, with that in mind, I am getting a jump on it before the registration deadlines come and go. My biggest concern is that I don't have a real display for my work, I have only ever really done the Fairview pottery show and it is such a crazy show that we could probably get away with just putting it all on the floor in the middle of the room and let the customers dig through it like a discount bin in a big department store (we never would, but you get the picture). So, the hunt is on for an inexpensive and portable display solution and I think I may have found it. I located some basic pine boxes made from 1x2s with solid end panels with routered out handles. As they are unfinished, I need to find a way to fancy them up so they look presentable. Milk paint was my first thought. The big hardware stores don't carry that stuff though. There are some specialty wood working and ECO stores in town that do, but I don't want to buy the quantity they sell it in. I just found a Canadian manufacturer that sells test size amounts that would in fact cover a couple of these boxes, so with the thought that I would be getting at least 6 pine boxes (I picked up 2 last night) I bought 6 different colours in the test quantity and they should arrive in about 5 days. I will use bees wax to help distress and then use a couple of colours on each box to give a weathered / antique appearance. I will then use the crates to create a shelving system of sorts by just stacking them like bricks in various combinations of height and spacing. Now I just need to make, make, make and hope I get accepted into one of these shows so I don't get stuck with too much inventory.
Now for the pictures, I always like a post with pictures. These are some of the things I have been working on over the last week.
This little diorama is a riff on the black and white sgraffito pots with the houses and trees. I plan to incise some detail into this super translucent porcelain in the hopes that I can figure out a way to illuminate the houses from inside (small battery operated tea lights maybe?) I also might add a little bridge and it needs some bushes etc...
I am also playing around with some bottles that would appeal to the scotch, bourbon, whiskey connoisseur, again thinking about possible show stock for next year. Good grief, we have not even had Christmas this year and I am already looking forward 12 months.