Saturday, December 29, 2007

windows for Gay

I did not realize how discouraged I had become until yesterday when I got excited about the windows going into the garage-becoming-studio. It gave me such a lift I suddenly saw how low I had fallen. This packing business is a very tedious job. In the first place it is hard work and makes a mess of our home while we are still trying to live here. And furthermore, it is discouraging to see the result of a life time of acquiring 'stuff'--mostly books. Now I have to handle each book or other 'stuff', decide if it is a keeper or not and where it is to go in either case. Too many decisions, too much physical work and too much emotional stress!

But the windows are going to be wonderful! From the outside--even from the living room--it makes the studio look like an inviting and interesting place--no longer a garage!

Pardon our mess while we are constructing!

From the inside it is even more exciting. My wheel will be sitting right in front of the window, so that I look out on the wonderful terrace while I am throwing. I can even see into the living room directly across the terrace from the studio. Today a mess, tomorrow (almost) a dream come true!

I recall seeing Japanese potters sitting where they are facing out the window--the wheel set up right next to the window. That seemed like such a luxury. What a lucky lady I am!

This is where Hamada sat to throw pots at his home studio in Mashiko.

The other potters in his studio also sat in front of a window. Keep in mind that these potters are sitting cross legged at the same level as their wheel. Oh, the aching back and legs!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

on practicing your art

Ben has a thought provoking post on his blog that I think some of my potting friends might find interesting. In fact, I'd love to hear reactions from those who would be willing to share.

Justin, son number 3, sent me a photo of myself taken at the Christmas gathering at his home last week. He suggested that I exchange it for the one I was currently using on my blog--he thought it a better picture. Ben agreed that it would be an improvement! So you have it--an updated photo for my blog! A new me for the new year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

We've been trying for years to cut back on the commercial side of our Christmas celebrations. We have made some headway in that direction over the years, but this move, happening right in the middle of the holidays, has given our quest a real push forward. Traditionally, we gather our children, my sister and her family together on Christmas Eve for a Mexican-food dinner. This year that was out of the question. The only decorations in the house are the lovely cards from family and friends that line the mantel. One daughter-in-law, Sara, jumped in to fill the gap and had us all together at their home last night. A lovely evening with all my children and their children. We have moved from drawing names to "Chinese Gift Exchange" and finally, last night, to no gifts at all--just a wonderful celebration of the season and what a great family we are!

Today Jim and I are pushing each other to pack boxes--books mostly--since that is mostly what we own to pack! Years ago, when Ben was 5 or 6, someone broke into our home and took every electronic thing we owned. When the policeman was here taking inventory of what was stolen, Ben expressed his surprise that they had not taken any of our books--our real treasure! The policeman said to Ben, "Kid, those guys don't know how to read!"

We don't have a moving date yet--it depends on the completion of the work at the house. We are thinking we may actually move on January 11--a day after my birthday. But in the meantime we will be putting our household goods into cardboard boxes! I probably will not have much to write about in the coming days.

In the meantime, I send wishes for your joyful, peaceful, healthy and happy holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2007

my RED bowl

Well, here is my red berry bowl. The only really nice piece to come out of the last 2 firings!

The refire did change the other bowls, but did not transform them. They are still ugly ducklings. The kiln is reaching the target temperature on the top but the bottom shelf is underfiring. I probably won't try to fire again before we move. Time to pack up the studio.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

on second thought

After the firing reflections. I had loaded only the top two sections, leaving the lower 2 sections empty hoping to get this one last firing to ^6. I made cone packs with ^4, 5, 6, 7 so I could see exactly how the firing went. ALL the cones were flat in both of the top sections. I had four glazes in that firing: Tenmoku, Gay’s Green, Floating Blue, and Rusty Bronze Satin Matt. I GOT RED. But, I did not get anything else! All except the Tenmoku suffered from over-firing. Gay’s Green and Blue Hare’s Fur have been such dependable, successful glazes it was a huge surprise to see what a sorry mess they came out. Quite a learning lesson. One other time I was very disappointed in some pieces with Blue Hare’s Fur and did not understand why. Now I am sure it was from over-firing.

I got the over-firing because, in my determination to get one more good glaze firing from the almost spent elements, I set the top temperature a bit higher than usual, soaked at the top a bit longer than usual and then soaked again on the way down—as for a red firing. It just got too hot for everything except the Tenmoku.

So, lessons learned: 1) when I want red I should have a whole kiln full of pieces glazed with the same glaze; 2) when I want glossy, I need to let the kiln cool naturally without a hold on the way down; 3) I have got to know my glazes better than I do now. I have been firing all the glazes in pretty much the same way—and always pretty slow.

It was great to get such a nice red bowl! But a great disappointment that the other pieces are unusable. I feel like I understand the glazes a bit better now and that I can probably get the red again when I want it again.

As we reviewed the bowls just out of the kiln Jim suggested that I refire them--they are nicely formed pieces. I said, "NO". My last attempt at refiring was totally unsuccessful, I'm not going to do that again. Well, on second thought I AM going to try to refire! There was a suggestion that if you heat the pots before applying the glaze you can get the glaze to adhere. So I will test out that suggestion. Well, what do I have to lose? Can't (won't) use the pots as they are. And after all, the mantra of the potter is, "Test, test, test", or "experiment, experiment, experiment" and keep good records! Think I can get 'one more firing' out of these elements? Yeah, I think so.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

back on subject

But first a little digression. It seemed I was being very paranoid, when even after we had a day and time set for our closing, that I was still anxious whether we would really close the next day as scheduled. The rest of the property would not close for another 10 days. I was greatly relieved when we left the title company with final sale papers in hand. The closing on the rest of the property (30 acres and 5 families) was scheduled for December 7th. All involved parties arrived at title company on the 7th eager for the closing. BUT there was NO closing that day. Due to an error at city hall it seems it may not close before mid-January or February. Talk about being grateful! I really am!

Now, back on subject. In the midst of all this confusion and uncertainty I have tried to do a little potting. On Friday I did get the kiln loaded and firing for a bisque load. It seemed to go OK--with only one mishap, see below--but the cone packs tell a different story. I filled 4 shelves and put in 4 cone packs (generally I only put in 3 but I know the kiln is not firing consistently and I wanted a good check.) Here is what I got: top shelf: ^06 & 05 down, ^04 @ 2:00, and ^03 no movement; next shelf: ^06 down, ^05 @1:00, ^04 & 03 no movement; next shelf: ^06 down, all else no movement; bottom shelf: no movement in any of the cones. I set the kiln to fire to ^05 (1880 F) with no soak. It took 12 1/2 hours to complete (electronic kiln). I knew I need to replace the elements as soon as we move the kiln, I don't want to replace before the move. What I want to do is to be able to glaze fire some of these pieces. So, the question is can I just put pots in the top to glaze fire? Do I leave the lower areas empty? Or do I put kiln furniture there to even out or hold some heat? I think that I could do everything I need to do now in two runs of the top shelf. Any suggestions?

The one little disaster in the bisque firing was a glazed pot I put in to refire hoping to smooth out a scratched area where I had to grind off a bit of kiln wash on the bottom of the pot. It did smooth out the scratched area but there must have been some trash flying around in the kiln and some of it landed inside the bowl leaving two ugly spots inside the bowl--an otherwise smooth, even glazed blow. So that lovely bowl is now a 'second' which we will enjoy using.

Monday, December 03, 2007

a bit of an oupdate

Yes, Andrew, all is well. The closings went very smoothly--finally! We have signed a 60-day lease, at no charge, on the home we currently live in while we do the major work--roof, floors and studio--before we move in. I expect that we will move mid January. Actually, 'we' are not doing the major work--we have a wonderful contractor who is doing the work for us!

We have spent a lot of time running back and forth between the two houses since the closing and I expect that we will be doing a LOT of that for the next month or two. When I'm not there I am trying to think through what needs to be done, what I want to do, and what we can afford to do!

Clay work is suffering. I intended to load the kiln this morning--have some work I want to do before Christmas. But, instead, I have spent the morning drawing plans for the studio to give the contractor when he comes by today. I have the 'whole' garage for the studio--but am discovering that that is not a lot of room for what I need to put in there. And, since Kenny is sharing the studio with me, I have to allow some space for his easel and painting paraphernalia! He and I spent several hours yesterday working over the plans to be sure what I have imagined will work for him. He is a dear person and is so happy about the move that he agrees to anything I propose. But he does come up with questions and suggestions I have overlooked.

I have the feeling that with the demands of the move and the holidays coming up I will not get to do much clay work and probably will not feel that I have much to share on the blog. I don't know how to put the blog on hold...I hate to be absent-with-out-leave and thereby to loose the friends I've made via the blog. So I'll try to post a bit from time to time.

Thanks for asking, Andrew!