Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cold and Clear

Wednesday morning. It's beautiful out this morning although very cold, some where in the 20s with a bit of a wind. Nice and brisk which makes me feel alive. It will be several hours before I can crack the door to the kiln. I peeped in last night with the flashlight and things look good. I noticed one test slip that had crawled badly, but no worries as it's a test.

I had a good night teaching last night. I am really trying to share all I can with my students. I did and extensive demo on bowls and cutting feet. I see lots of pots out in the world that could use improvement and so I want to do what I can to help my students on their way to making the best pots they can. In turn, I learn a lot about my work and how I do things. My way is not always the best way or the "right" way. I tell them this and I tell them to try things, to look, to see, to explore, to not get attached. I tell this to myself too. Teaching is helping me become a better potter, a better communicator, one who listens and talks, and helps, and nutures, both the students and my inner student, me. Anyhow, I see that they are getting it. They are trying, and responding and asking questions and looking at what they are doing. That is rewarding. I got home last night alittle after 11pm, tired and ready for bed.

We are expecting a wintery mix of precipation tomorrow morning. I would love some snow but can do without the ice and freezing rain. I hope you all have a good day. Check in later for some pots.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I finally fired yesterday. All went well so I am hoping for some good results. I cut back on the amount of sodium I introduced into the kiln. I went with 3 lbs of salt and a little over 3 lbs of soda ash and baking soda combined. I went with the Gail Nichols method of soda introduction where the soda ash and baking soda are combined with calcium carbonate (whiting) and water to produce a paste. This begins to set like plaster and you break it into chunks. This is then put into the kiln on angle iron, just like I do my salt. I have never liked spraying soda in the kiln. It's a pain in the neck to heat the water and use the pump up sprayer. I want things to be as simple as possible and not involve any extra apparatus, like a sprayer or compressor or whatever. I will unload late Wednesday or early Thursday. Keep your fingers crossed for some good pots.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

South Mountain

Sarah and I went up to South Mountain State Park yesterday and hiked 2 miles up to the Chestnut Gorge Overlook. The elevation is about 2200 ft I think. You could see the Charlotte skyline on the horizon. It was a beautiful day and a good hike up and back.

Why change?

I have had a couple questions as to why I changed my burner position. I have wanted to try this diagonal position for a long time but haven't gotten around to it. I have also thought it would be cool to have 4 burners firing in from each corner. It seems the diagaonal placement is big in the UK on salt and soda kilns. I am thinking this comes from Peter Starkey who wrote a very good book on salt glazing back in the 70's. I had checked it out for a while from the ASU library. Starkey's kiln design had this diagonal placement. (I think). Boy, I'm not doing very well with my facts. Who cares...okay, to continue...more recent books like Phil Roger's Salt Glazing and Rosemary Cochrane's Salt Glaze Ceramics show lots of UK kilns with this arrangement. My kiln with the burners in the back, firing towards the front, has always been cooler in the back. Also lots of the salt/soda gets blasted up towards the front and so those pots get hammered. (I cut back on my gas pressure when I salt but this doesn't seem to help a lot). So my thinking is that the diagonal placement would help with evening up the heat, and also distrubuting the sodium better. Or at least in a different way. I haven't seen this arrangement in the US , except at Clary Illian's and in the four burner case at Blair Meerfeld's pottery in Colorado. Gail Nichol's in her new book on soda glazing favors the four burner set up. Ruthanne Tudball, the Queen (in my opinion) of Soda, has the diagonal set up. So anyhow that's my reasons for wanting to try the diagonal setup.

However it seems I will not be doing so on this firing. Yesterday upon further inspection, and after moving the burner back to the back, I found the problem to be with the burner orifice, not necessarily the positioning. The flame was burning out around the mixer which must have became loose or wasn't properly seated. I fixed this easily and now it is burning properly. I have disconnected my line up to the front of the kiln and do not feel like going to all the trouble to reconnect it. (I just want to get this firing over with). So for now I'll be back to my old setup.

What a long, not very concise answer.
I'll fire tomorrow, (keep your fingers crossed) and will post results soon.
Best, Ron

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mission Aborted

I loaded the kiln yesterday and was finished by 1:30. Prewadding everything made it go quick. I lit the burners last night at 10 pm and went to bed. I got up at 12:30am to increase the gas pressure. When I cut the gas up I noticed that the burner in the front of the kiln was firing on more pressure than the one in the back. Remember this is a new burner arrangement, instead of having both burners in the back, I moved one around to the front, opposite of the other burner. Well this isn't going to work the way I have it set up. I need to regulate the gas pressure to each individual burner. Evidently the long leg is getting more gas than the short leg and so I was going to be in trouble. So I shut down the kiln and went back to bed. Today I am moving my burner back to the original position. I will fire on Monday.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mooving On

I am all set to load tomorrow. I went ahead and prewadded everything I could this morning and mixed one more test glaze. It was really windy today, but sunny and beautiful. The cows in the pasture behind our house were up on the ridge for a while until the wind got up.

I got my kiln shelves all scraped and then I hung a big tarp up in the front of the shed so that I can be out of the wind tomorrow. It's cooled down a lot today and the wood stove is all stoked up for the evening. Nice and toasty.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tearing down the walls

I had a lot going on today. I unloaded my last bisque and got those pots all glazed this morning. After lunch I worked on my kiln for a few hours, getting the bagwall back into place, working on the floor some more, and clearing out the kiln shed.

My dad came over around 5pm to help with my renovation. My neighbor Tracy showed up too and my brother in law Ronnie. What a good crew I have. I am fortunate to have generous people in my life. Anyhow we worked for a while and discussed getting the header in place and what's to come. I am going to be busy for the rest of the week getting my pots loaded into the kiln and fired. So I probably won't get any major work done in the house until the weekend.

That's it for now. Sarah is working late and won't be home till after 9 pm. I've got to go scrounge up something for supper in the kitchen.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Week

Monday morning. It's very soggy outside, not terribly cold though. I am looking forward to spring already. I'm not much of a winter person.
I got my bisque loaded this morning, I had some pots that were still damp so it will be a long slow firing. I wish I had one of those computerized electric kilns that I could program and just forget about. My little bisque kiln is fired with gas. I have to write a "X" on my hand in ink so to remind myself it's going.(Kinda like the string on the finger idea). I tend to forget about it for hours at a time.
I will probably spend part of the day glazing and later work on the renovation. I am hoping my dad will come over to help out and give me some advice. He's really good at this sort of thing.
I am hoping to fire my salt/soda kiln at the end of the week.

Weekend Recap

I spent part of Saturday tearing out this wall between the kitchen and what will become our new living room. The new space is what used to be my pottery workshop. I was very anxious doing this just because I guess it means a commitment to getting that space finished. Lots of work to come, money to spend, etc. I am sure I'll be really happy once it's done and maybe it won't take as long as I think. I'll try and keep a little construction log here as we go.
Sunday I met with the Circle of Eight. We talked about our upcoming exhibition at NCECA in March in Louisville Ky. We also hashed out some ideas about galleries we want to approach this year. We will be having a sale in Charlotte on April 28. If you don't know, Circle of Eight are eight potters from NC and SC. We have come together as a group to promote our work, to help and support one another and because we all really like one another and it's fun.
Sunday night we had supper over at Sarah's parent's house. It was good to see them and have a visit. They mean a lot to me and I am lucky to have such good in laws.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Pottery Roundup

Yeah it's Friday! I had a productive day, more on that in a minute. Here is a shot of the pitchers. I got them handled and slipped yesterday. I am pretty happy with these, the handles are a challenge. Below is a picture of a group of home schooled kids that came out here yesterday for a little demo and pot talk. They are all taller than their teacher, Libby (far left). They were a good group, some have been out here before.

Today, like I said was a good day. I started off taking the household trash to the landfill, after cleaning out our deep freeze and some other junk I needed to haul away. Then I made a quick trip to the grocery before getting home and to work in the studio. I have finished all the pots for my next firing, I slipped a board of yunomi, some vases, and candle holders, and unloaded my bisque from Monday. I was a bit overwhelmed with all the pots that came out of the bisque, once they were inside along with all the stuff I made this week it's quite a lot. I have probably a load and a half. I sure hope this next firing is better than the last. I am trying some new slips and a new burner arrangement. Risk is good right? So the plan is another bisque on Monday, then fire at the end of the week.
Oh right, I also worked down at the kiln some. I fitted my new door in place, brick by brick. It went well but the door opening has moved over the years and of course it's not square anymore. That meant I had to 'custom fit' two bricks in each course. This involved rubbing the bricks against a cinder block to make it a bit smaller so it would fit. That took a while, and was a good way to end the day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I made this board of pitchers yesterday along with some mugs and a teapot. These pitchers take awhile as they are made in two parts and I like to go ahead and get them done in one go. I throw the bottom and stiffen it up with a heat gun, then I partially throw the tops, add them to the bottoms and finish shaping the top before pulling the spout. I'll get the handles on these today I hope before I have to go teach. I made some square mugs and the teapot was made on a whim after I saw that I liked the shape of the bottom of these pitchers. I thought it would make a good teapot body so I tried it out. I'll let you know if it makes the cut.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Get Going

I've gotten a bisque loaded and going this morning. I am hoping to fire the salt/soda kiln on the 25th so I'll probably get another bisque fired early next week. I have plenty of pots but there are a few things I want to get made this week like some owl candle stick holders and some yunomi. Oh and some small bottles. And some pitchers. I better get busy.

We had a good weekend. Sarah and I celebrated 7 yrs of marriage on Sunday. I have a wonderful, beautiful wife and I look forward to many more happy years together.

Friday, January 12, 2007

End of Week

Today I worked some in the house. We are starting renovations on our downstairs area. This was orginally my pottery workshop. We are turning it into more living space now that I have the new studio all set up. So I didn't work on pots today other than slipping a few things and well that was that. It's going to be nice to have this new space. We are planning on building some closets and adding a bathroom too. We have no closets. Crazy huh? I'll be working tomorrow on moving the water heater and maybe some other small stuff.

Okay so that's it for now. I'll write more later. Here is a pic of my animal jars with all the critters attached.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Feeling better

I am feeling more like myself this morning. I hope to get some feet cut on some bowls and finish up my animal jars today. I'm not planning on overdoing it though.
I spent a good amount of time journalling yesterday and had time to call one of my favorite potters, Clary Illian, to ask her some questions. It was good to catch up with her. Here is a link to an article from 1999, read that and I won't have to say anything else about Clary. Except...she rocks!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On Hold

I've been under the weather for the past couple of days. I have flu like symptoms, fever, achy body, headache. I am doing better this morning, but still plan on taking it easy and not getting in the studio. I took this photo when I went to out to feed Karma this morning. Everything is on hold, wrapped up in plastic until I get to it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Rain on our tin roof.
Laying on the couch.
Reading...Anne Lamott &
newly arrived Ceramic Review backissues.
Hot cocoa in a handmade mug.
Karma bouncing around.
Fire in the woodstove.
My kind of Sunday.

22 Beginners

On Saturday, Clayworks held 'Muddy Fun Day' in a effort to get folks interested in signing up for classes this upcoming session. I was asked to lead two, 2 hr. sessions which would introduce people to the studio and allow them some time on the wheel. We had 10 people in the first session and 12 in the second. Thank goodness I had some great volunteers to help me. It's a lot of work trying to coach someone through stages of making pots. Everyone had a great time and I think we definitely will get some to sign up for the beginners classes.

I really take for granted how far I've come in my own potting. Of course there is much to still learn, but I can still remember how frustrating it was not to be able to center the clay on the wheel head and how long it took to get the basics down. Some days it's still a struggle.

I am looking forward to getting back in the studio tomorrow.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Food, Tea, Pottery, Travel

I somehow found myself at Harris Salat's weblog last night. I don't know how, but I am glad to have found it. I love food, cooking, travel (and the idea of traveling more), pottery, tea, and all these things are found on Harris' site. The story of the olive oil touched me. My dad loves fried eggs too, over easy, but cooked in butter, LOTS of butter.

I love the image of the guy holding that big round of bread. He looks like he's thrilled to have his picture taken. And the size of that oven rocks!

I recently ordered some tea from Uptons and they included a free sample of darjeeling. Low and behold there is a story of tea pickers harvesting what will become a darjeeling tea on the weblog.

If you look on the side bar under catagories you'll find a story on Japanese potter Shiro Tsujimura.

I haven't explored Harris' site more yet but its a good start.

As far as traveling goes I have high hopes. I have a list of the places I'd love to go. It includes: Japan, China, Italy, Indonesia, Australia, England, Wales, and more. I have specifics but won't go into them. I don't know if I'll make it around the world but it's a dream worth having. I regret I didn't travel in my 20's. I have time left but need to get started. Sarah and I are talking about going to England this year. We also talked about Greece recently.

Okay that's it for now. Time to get supper on the table.

Rob Barnard

Rob Barnard is a potter living in Virginia. I have been visiting his website lately checking out his new work and reading some of his essays. I have to read some of his stuff twice before it sinks in, but it is well done and gives one something to chew on.
If you have trouble reading against the white background, click on 'printer version'. I found this helpful.

Today I got some pots packed and delivered for an exhibition coming up next month in North Wilkesboro, NC. It is a show featuring potters from the clay guild I belong to, Claymatters. After lunch I made some cups, tankards, and small jars. I realized that I have quite a lot coming up in the next two months and need to really start focusing on what I want to make. I jotted down a 'to make' list. I should have plenty of time over the next two weeks to get it finished and bisqued. I will fire at the end of January.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I got a late start but managed to get a few pots made today. Here's the 'Before' and 'After' shots.

These will get handles, feet, etc. tomorrow. I also finally got some test slips mixed too. I am looking to expand my palette a bit. I am the worst at mixing stuff up, I actually started doing it yesterday and botched up a recipe that only had 3 materials in it. That's pretty bad, need to pay better attention. This is one reason I am not a 'glaze person'.