Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Farm!

It's official, we bought a farm! I wanted to share this exciting news, as this new development will hopefully lead to a flurry of events, including a kiln building! Our new 12 acre farm is about eight miles north of Liberty, so don't worry, we're not going far! When I get a more permanent address and shop set up, I will let you know so you can come visit!
Front pasture
Back pasture
Happy farmers (and potter!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dish Camp

Things have been crazy! I am surprised I have had time to make any pottery! This past weekend I flew to New York where I attended and presented at Eastfield Village's Redware in America, 1650-1850 seminar. Each year, this is more fondly called "Dish Camp." I presented on the topic of my Master's thesis, the Moravian potters Pennsylvania. Johanna Brown from Old Salem Museum & Gardens presented on the Moravian potters of North Carolina, which made for a great dynamic and perspective on production.

People bring items and archaeological fragments for show and tell
People come from all over to attend and present at this workshop. There are different themes each year. There were quite a few archaeologists attending this year, which I thought was fantastic!

Between presentations there is a flurry of discussion and conversation over items brought in

Don Carpentier, who owns and runs Eastfield Village, is in the background
Greg Shooner, a potter from Ohio who reproduces lead-glazed (yes, real lead), often wood-fired pottery, came to present on the Shaker pottery of Union Village, Ohio, and do some demonstrations.

Greg Shooner demonstrated making slip-decorated, drape-molded dishes

This is his demonstration of applying slip-trailing on a wet ground
On Saturday evening everyone is provided a period meal cooked on the hearth and served by candlelight.

Flash photograph taken to show the delicious food!

Supper by candlelight
This year, Dr. David Barker from England (who presented on refined red earthenware bodies of England) brought his fiddle with him, I sang a few bawdy tunes and murder ballads, another attendee sang a German song, and we went up to the ballroom where we had a dance by the light of an 1830s Argand lamp!
Dr. David Barker playing the fiddle

Here are some photos of Eastfield Village:
The lane approaching Eastfield Village

This is a 19th-century church where the presentations are held!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Virginia Inspirations

I had the pleasure of attending a stoneware seminar at the Jeff Evans and Associates auction house in Mount Crawford, Virginia this past weekend. There was quite a turnout of people for some great presentations by Scott Suter, Kurt Russ, Jeff Evans, Rob Hunter, and Marshall Goodman. The setting of the auction house was just perfect, surrounded by the fabulous items in his upcoming auction.

Jeff Evans giving a presentation
Some amazing pieces were brought to show and were talked about during the presentations.

I was grciously hosted by Jeff and his wife Beverley at their lovely and amazing restored stone home nearby.

My dream house!
I also had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with the Mid-Atlantic Pottery Society.

Show and tell with the Mid-Atlantic Pottery Society, a great group of people

I particularly liked this design and might have to give a better try for making a similar decoration
Inspired by all of the cobalt decorations I made some flowerpots this morning and put cobalt decorations on them. I rather enjoy the heavy rims and the shape.
Little herd of flower pots

I put cobalt on the rims on only two of the pieces as I do not know whether my slip-glaze will melt and stick with the salt

My chains and loops at the top part are a little wonky, I will give it another try!

I think the floral decorations turned out well

Monday, June 13, 2011

90-Foot Long Kiln

Morning light on the hilltop kiln site
A quick post from South Carolina:
You read the title correctly: 90 feet! The kiln here in Pottersville is approximately 90 feet long. The ware chamber is 9 1/2 feet wide and an estimation of the interior height is no more than 4 1/2 feet. There appears to be a slight rise from the firing chamber to the chimney, but I have not looked at the elevations yet to compare them. If you think about it though, the dimensions would not leave a lot of room but for about 400-600 pots, and if many of them were large-capacity storage jars and jugs, the number may have been a lot less. With four documented potters working at this site, producing daily, I think they could have filled and fired the kiln once or twice a month easily.
At the front of the kiln there are approximately six course of brick supporting the side walls

The base wall rises only several feet before the large arch bricks begin

The arch bricks are not red clay brick, and measure approximately 8 1/2 inches square and 3 1/2 inches thick

Here is where I need some input: Has anyone come across really long tunnel-style kilns (groundhog-like) in Gemany or France? While I realize that right off the bat the first thing which comes to mind is an Asian design, I am keeping in mind Terry Zug's (Turners and Burners) comparison of the groundhog-style kiln to the Cassel kilns in Germany and the Newcastle kilns of England, but I do not know whether the lengths of those types of kilns have ever been recorded at 90 feet! I am also looking at the prospect of kilns used for firing brick which may have been used for pottery, or could have been used for pottery. There are numerous designs patented in Germany and England from the mid-19th-century for tunnel kilns used to fire bricks which are quite large.

This is a rim or neck and shoulder of a vessel with a large piece of wadding, or possibly crumbled arch brick
While these styles of kilns do not have a lot of kiln furniture like saggars or setters, there is some evidence of wadding between or underneath vessels. I am not one-hundred percent sure of this, but hope to see more of these pieces in the coming days!
Interior of vessel piece as shown in previous photo

Many of these pieces show the profile of what appears to be a base of a vessel and some fingerprints from handling

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gone Digging!

Sherds surface collected in the Edgefield, South Carolina area
I will be taking a break from blogging this coming week. I will be in Edgefield, South Carolina for the next week at an archaeological excavation of an 19th-century kiln! I will likely be sifting dirt mostly, but I'll be happy! This is the first full-scale excavation of a kiln in the Pottersville area of Edgefield, very exciting. I'm also excited to see sherds and kiln materials from an alkaline glaze kiln as I have thus far seen mostly salt-glazed kiln materials. I'll try to be on top of things and get photos posted when I get back! In the meantime, here are a few intact pieces which show the kind of pottery excavated in the area.

Alkaline glazed jug
Alkaline glazed storage crock with four lug handles-- I love that decoration!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Earthenware Kiln Firing

I know, I know, "what's Miss Stoneware looking at an earthenware kiln for?" While I may be impartial to stoneware, I also happen to like wood-fired earthenware, and this was more an adventure into the world of experimental archaeology! And, I like kilns.

I went to Old Salem yesterday and visited with the potter, Mike Fox, who interprets the Moravian pottery shop in the historic Single Brother's House. They built a kiln several years ago based on the archaeological excavations in Salem. They have figured out how to make it into a downdraft after a few trial runs. This firings is their first glost (or glaze) firing. Glost is an older term which you see historically used here in America, occasionally still used in England, and definitely in the records of 18th and 19th-century potteries in England. At least that is what I have gathered, correct me if I am wrong!

The front firebox had a grate inserted. I do have to wonder whether there was actually a patterned brick layout which formed a grate rather than a metal grate. Mo Hartley, the archaeologist at Old Salem told me that they found no evidence of a metal grate, but as Mike Fox pointed out, that could have been removed.

I did have to wonder whether the ware chamber was larger, and since an archaeological excavation usually reveals only the floor, I wonder whether the original kiln was not larger. It did not seem to hold that many pieces of pottery, which would surprise me to learn that the Moravians would fire so little so frequently in order to supply their market.
To start the kiln Mike was putting shovels of hot coals onto the grate. This is a good idea I think, as opposed to starting a fire in the kiln. This would distribute the heat better and create a more consistent temperature rise. Eventually he will add wood to the coals once it reaches a certain temperature. While it was in the hsitoric area, he did have some pyrometers hooked up so he could keep record of the temperature climbing. He said he made some cones of glaze -- not clay with glaze on it -- in order to see when the glaze fluxes and starts to melt. I will be very interested to follow up with him in order to see how that turned out.

I also took a moment to go back through the Art in Clay exhibition, which I highly recommend if you have a chance to see it before it leaves in August!

Monday, June 6, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

Compost crocks!
Last week and this week was and will be some prep work for getting a jump on inventory for the summer.
The title of my entry today is a nod to one of my favorite childhood authors, James Herriot. I completed ten compost crocks bringing two new shapes into the design and widening the opening on the original design. I also chose to make the knobs a little taller and with a little more clay on top for handling.

I widened the opening on these, but made an effort to keep the same shape

Straight-sided crock in the center. I especially enjoy the lids on these pieces.
I decided to not make the below shape into a compost crock because the lid requires a larger amount of clay to make and therefore would change the amount of material going into the piece. I'd like to keep all of the compost crocks at the same price and made with roughly the same amount of materials. I am thinking this might be a design I will modify for mixing bowls though because I really enjoy throwing this shape, and I think the handles look great on the sides.

The vessel shape denied a lid. I am still cotemplating a casserole, but have not decided just yet.

I also have been doing a few commissions for artist Ricky Lindley. I made two more roughly 22 inch tall lamp bases for him last week. These are sometimes a bear to duplicate, but it's fun to be challenged with big pieces. I also enjoy making forms outside of what I usually make

Large decorative lamp bases
I have also been contemplating small items to sell for the broader purchasing market. I thought these small dishes would still fit nicely in with my other pieces and function as a small individual serving-size dish or salad dressing dish if desired. They also fill those small spots in the kiln really well!

Wee dishes

And finally, I did a sale this past Saturday in downtown Liberty for their Rediscover Liberty: Customer Appreciation celebration. If you have not been to Liberty recently, you should stop in and see the new businesses in town. Liberty Stoneware is for sale at the new Off the Vine wine and cheese shop, which also has their beer license now to sell North Carolina craft brews by the bottle!
My little booth set up