Monday, June 30, 2008

good newses

Ron had a great sale last weekend. Doug had a great sale last weekend. Wow. So much for the bad economy. Isn't is great that good work is recognized, appreciated and supported in good times and bad.
On the home front there is good news here too. Jim got my glaze booth installed this week. I can't wait to use it. It is in a small room (closet really) with an exhaust fan to the outside. Now if I can get my air compressor to work I'll be in great shape!
And, equally important, Jim has the small air conditioner for the studio in his car to carry to the repair shop tomorrow. It was in my studio before we moved. In the move, a coil was broken and all the coolant leaked out. It has been intolerably hot in the studio the past couple weeks--in the 100s--so that even in the mornings it is too hot to work out there. I had a repairman come to fix the A/C a few weeks back but the way our contractor installed the A/C it could not be removed by the repairman. Today the contractor came over and took it out so that Jim could take it in to be repaired.
I am taking a class at the Southwest School of Art and Craft this summer. It is a Majolica class. I am a bit ambivalent about this style of ceramics. We have dishes from Mexico in this style that we have collected over the last 28 years and greatly enjoy using. So maybe it is something I will enjoy making. We'll see!
Truth to tell, I've had some big adjustments to make this year. I have a whole new schedule which is not mine to dictate. I don't like talking about it since is sounds like complaining when what I am feeling is incredible gratitude that I am in a position to make these changes that I believe make such a huge difference in Kenny's life. At earlier times in my life I could not have done this without sacrificing other parts of my life that would have been hard to do. Now it is a joy to be available to him for this time. At earlier times, Kenny was experiencing such incredible independence that had I taken on 'caring' for him it would have inhibited what he was able to do for himself. He was doing things that no one could imagine he could do. He has lived a very full life in spite of his limitations. I should start a blog just about Kenny--more appropriate that inserting it here. But then, we are sharing the studio--he is very much apart of my ceramic adventures!

Friday, June 27, 2008

slow reporting in

As of Wednesday I've known that the kiln did fire successfully after Tony changed the breaker. However, I feel only partly secure that the failures are behind me. The test fire I ran after Tony worked on the kiln the first time was successful but the subsequent firings were not. So until I fire the kiln another time or two I won't be totally certain that all is well.

As to the pots that were in the successful firing...they were an awful mess! They had been in 3 or 4 unsuccessful firings. So that may have played a part in their destruction. But there may have been another more significant factor. I was so tired of loading and unloading the kiln that I decided to 'test' fire with all the pots loaded AND I decided not to program the firing as I ALWAYS do. Instead, i set it to automatically fire to cone 6 at a medium rate. In my book, it overfired. However, cone 6 is set to fire to 2236 F in this mode. I never fire higher than 2190 F--usually to 2185 F. I had 3 cone packs containing cones 5-6-7. All of the cones were down. Cone 7 was down touching cone 6--it still had a slight arch but it was riding on the back of cone 6.

So what was the effect? I had several shallow bowls in the firing. The glaze popped off the upper area of the outside and fell in pools on the (new) shelves. The glaze did not run down the side of the pots--it blew off the pot and landed a few inches away from the foot of the bowls. On the inside of the bowls it did look like it flowed down the inside of the bowls. There were probably 8 or 10 pieces that were thus affected.

On the other hand, I had about 18 test tiles in this firing. Only one or two looked like they were overfired--like they had been burned. The others look good--exciting in fact. I just hope it does not mean that these glazes have to be fired this high to be successful. This was the high point of the firing. I had mixed up 5 different base glazes and had made 3 or 4 variations of each. It is the first time I have done this and it was very interesting to see the similarities and the differences in the variations. I have not made photos of the glaze tests. I am discouraged by how hard it is to get good color reproduction from my photos.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

not so fast

I was excited that the problem had been discovered, repaired and I was back in business. But again my kiln cut off mid-way through the firing again last night. The test fire, empty kiln, ran through the complete cycle. But the following re-fire, loaded again, shut off before any movement of the cones. How terribly discouraging. My service man suggests that the fault is the breaker and that I should replace the one I have. I think I should also get a higher amperage breaker--if that is possible. As one of my favorite literature characters would say, "Oh, what a bother."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

kiln update

Tony, our most knowledgeable kiln repairman, came to our house today to check out my kiln (bless him!) He checked the kiln from tip to toe. It is a relatively new kiln and it checked out very well. The only 'possible' trouble maker that Tony could find seems to fall into my lap--you remember that I bragged a bit about changing out the elements on the kiln. Well, Tony thought that perhaps we had not crimped the connectors tight enough thereby creating resistance that caused the tripping of the breaker. Since I really don't understand electricity, electric current and such I may be misrepresenting what Tony said! Right now I am running a test firing--empty kiln. If it completes the cycle, tomorrow I will reload the pieces that did not get fired earlier. I will report back in later. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Later update: The kiln just completed a test firing successfully! Yeah, tomorrow I will re-load the kiln with the un-fired ware and hope it gets fired this time!

so discouraging

I mentioned that the last firing was terminated before it completed the cycle. I thought perhaps running the dryer tripped the breaker (even though they are not on the same circuit). So, I loaded the kiln for another glaze firing on Tuesday--determined to have some samples for our 'Cone 6 Club' meeting Wednesday evening. I fired overnight to insure there was no competition for the current supply. But when I check the kiln Wednesday morning, it had been terminated again and this time none of the cones had moved at all. So now it has caught my attention and I spent a good deal of time talk in the manufacturer trying to determine the source of the trouble. They recommended a local kiln serviceman--who I am waiting for now. I know NOTHING about this kiln except how to turn it on and program the firing schedule. And I am learning that that is a mistake! Margaret Brampton wrote today about all the non-clay jobs a potter must perform--and I am poorly prepared for most of them!

We moved here in January and I've been gradually getting the studio set up--for me and for my son to share. It has been a funny process. I have all this 'stuff' to organize in the space--equipment, tools, books, etc--and that was not too hard to do. But then as I began to work I discovered that I needed to have arranged for 'processes' too. So at each stage of production I have to stop and figure out where that process will take place and what I need to have at hand. I think I have worked through most of that now (still waiting for someone to put in a counter and install the small spray booth). But I have now realized that in all my planning I have no place for finished work! I have a rolling cart for greenware and one for bisque ware--but nothing for finished ware! Back to the drawing board!

A small group has been meeting to discuss our experiences with cone 6 glazes for almost a year now. We fluctuate in size from 3 participants to 8 at one time. We have not accomplished a lot but we have enjoyed the society of the evenings. Originally there was some resistance to having any goal or structure but gradually there have been frustrations expressed regarding too much chit-chat. So we are trying to move toward a bit of focus. Currently we select a color to focus on and each member brings samples of their work in that color. We share recipes where requested and discuss problems and solutions. Last night we focused on 'blue'. There was a small turnout (only 4 of us) and we wondered if that was caused by the price of cobalt these days! I am interested in trying to find a way for us to focus on the materials. Comparing similar glazes with one significantly different material. Haven't figured that out yet. We have not had luck making assignments. Everyone is so busy with the rest of their lives that being required to make up a defined test has not worked. It seems we can't dictate where there will be a bit of extra time to meet outside demands. So we stay pretty loose and enjoy the time to talk about glazes, pots and ceramic experiences.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

long time, no posts

It seems that each step takes so much longer than before--even the r&r takes more time! I am amazed to see that it has been 10 days since my last post.

The last firing had some hitches. I had planned to make this a 'red' firing--everything would have my 'red' glaze because that glaze requires a special firing schedule that other glazes don't profit from. However, we had the children's hand-print plaques that had to be fired right away so the firing was not exclusively 'red' and I had a set of test tiles to fire that do like that kind of schedule. Otherwise it was all 'red'. I get excited about my red glaze--but it is frequently pointed out to me that I don't really have a red glaze--I have a brown glaze! I know what my critics are talking about--but to me it is a gorgeous red--OK brick-red if you insist. At some point during the firing cycle the circuit breaker was tripped turning the kiln off early. I don't know how early. I know that the kiln did reach the top temperature and start back down. The schedule calls for a soak at 1880 F for 30 minutes. I checked the kiln as it was about to reach the 1880 F point. When I next checked--a couple hours later--the kiln had been shut off. So I don't know how much of the soak it got, if any. It seemed to me that I did not get as good a 'red' as I have in the past.

When I take photos of the pieces in the studio they look VERY red. But that is the camera/lights/settings/computer? And I don't know how to adjust it.

Here are some of the pieces--but remember they don't really look this red:

This vase (remember the punch'ong design from long ago?) is more the color of the baking dish--not so red as in this photo.

Monday, June 02, 2008

shaping up

Things are beginning to shape-up here. I made a small square baking dish following Ron's instructions--looks good to me.

But most things look good while still green!

I am about to make up a bunch of glazes in test batches so I've made up about 3 dozen test tiles--so irritating not to have test tiles ready when you need them! I rolled out some slabs to cut out numerals for our house numbers--they are still green, too.

But the most fun was making "Father's Day" gifts with 2 of my youngest grandchildren. It was their mom's idea--make plaques with the little ones hand prints stamped in the wet clay. Reed is about 3 and a half and baby Jack (the leap-year-day baby) is 3 months old. We had lots of fun. But it was surprising that no matter how are we pressed the little hands into the clay we could not get a good heel-of-the-hand print--the fingers came out great but you can barely see the end of the palm.

Of course, Reed loved the whole adventure--Jack was patient at first, but quickly lost enthusiasm!