Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gift Ideas!

Holiday gift package
 Have a foodie who is hard to shop for on your holiday list? We have the solution! Emmaus Farm and Liberty Stoneware have teamed up to bring you a very special holiday package! The package includes one handled mixing bowl, one bag (1.5 pounds) of NuEast Hard Red Winter Wheat flour from the farm, and a handmade cherry wood mixing spoon made by the farmer (who is conveniently a woodworker)! The bowl is the perfect size for mixing a batch of pancakes or muffins and the freshly ground flour is delicious!
We have wrapped the packages up in red and green cellophane, so you don't even have to mess with wrapping! Each package is $48 (cash), a great deal and unique gift for the holiday! Your purchase of a gift package will help us construct a barn this winter for our workshops!
 We also have hollow, round porcelain ornaments still available as well as some gorgeous flat ornaments from the recent kiln firing.
Flat decorated ornaments

Flat decorated ornaments
Contact me ( or come visit us at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market on Yanceyville from 6:00 am -12:00 pm this Saturday, December 22nd!
Ornaments on display
Happy holidays from Emmaus Farm and Liberty Stoneware!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fourth Firing Lessons

First peek into the kiln
I may have gotten a little carried away by packing my kiln with so many pots. My efforts to try and sort out some issues I was having did not include the assessment that packing my kiln the way I did would make it reduce much harder than I thought it was. The reduction of the kiln, when the oxygen is cut off, causes the iron in the clay body to be drawn to the surface, making the pottery look darker. The porcelain ornaments remained white because porcelain has no iron in it. How do I usually know it is reducing? Usually I have gotten back pressure in my front firebox, which I did not have as much of this time, and that falsely made me think I was doing okay. Sometimes I will also see little black wisps of smoke coming out of crevices at the top of the kiln when it is reducing really hard. I also did not see as much of that this time, but because the shelf was so densely packed in front of the flue, I think it was naturally reducing away the whole time!
Dark and shiny pots
On the plus side, I had little to no dry ash in this firing, and the cool corner was closer to the rest of the kiln than it has been in the last firings. I ended up starting to salt around cone 8, continuing through cone 10, and soaked the kiln for an hour after the final salting. All of my glazes fluxed smoothly and the salt coverage was pretty profound in a few places. We reached cone 11 in most places and the total firing time was even a little shorter than the last one! Here's to looking forward to firing number five!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fourth Firing Packed Up!

 For me, loading a kiln is like designing an exhibition. I see the pieces I have and the space I need to fit it into, and then have to figure out the spacial relationship and configuration just so in order for everything to work well. My mind works a lot in pictures, so when I was standing in the midst of all of the pots I needed to get into the kiln yesterday, I pictured the interior of the kiln and then said, "oh, crap!"
Rest assured, everything except for a few small pieces did not make it in. Lots of bigger pieces in this load. For this firing I put the larger shelf in the back with the half shelf in the front. Only by necessity did I put in another couple of shelves in the front in order to get the rest of the pots in. I'm hoping that with everything several inches from the walls and doors, and with the shelves being fairly far apart from one another, that there will still be good air flow. I am also hoping that with the larger stack in the back, that it might soak up some of the heat that comes from the front fire box and seems to escape out the chimney. 
Kiln furniture AKA flattened blobs of clay
 I'm playing with some more kiln furniture in this firing, so I will try to post something this week on my adventures in making and using kiln furniture. I'm off to bed soon for a long day tomorrow!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Missing Potter

 I apologize for being so lax in my blog posting. I thought I would share some photos of what I have been up to. Where have I been?
Lidded pickling crocks, a cooler, and compost crocks!
Mixing bowls for our farm/pottery holiday package
and here
Flat ornaments
and here
Lidded pickling crocks
I haven't traveled far from my pottery wheel, but I have been away from the computer! It is great having my own kiln. The only downside is that I have not had much inventory and have been working like a mad woman to fire as many kilns as possible for the holidays. Fourth firing is this weekend!
I did get a chance to see the local Liberty Christmas parade after the Farmer's Market this past weekend, and even got my tree decorated!

Fresh pots (cross our fingers) at the Farmer's Market on the 15th!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I bake regularly during the year, making sourdough bread usually every week and an assortment of other things with some frequency. When the holidays gear up though, there are certain recipes I dust off and it brings me to thinking about people in my life who have taught me about food and cooking. For example, my grandma Hornsby who taught me (though I didn't appreciate it until after she passed) that lard truly is the best ingredient for things like fried apples and pie crusts. I use my grandma Creamer's recipes for a lot of things such as her pumpkin pie (although, sorry Grandma, I use REAL pumpkin!) and her famous chocolate chip cookies. Every Thanksgiving I am sure to make these amazing pumpkin cookies one of my "second moms" from my childhood always made with the fond memories of watching her in the kitchen and sneaking a few cookies from the refrigerator. I always use my marble rolling pin that a dear friend who has since passed gave me as a wedding present, and I think about the times I had with her and a group of other friends who taught me to appreciate ingredients, the process, and the equipment used in modern and historical kitchens. I am thankful for people in my life both past and present who have given me so many fond memories to think about during the holidays.
Fresh pumpkin pie!
This year has brought many new horizons for me and I am incredibly thankful for all of the support I have been given from friends, family, customers, and other potters who have provided recommendations and support. I was thinking the other day that I have never felt truly attached to my work because I have never had my own kiln to fire in. Now that I have my own kiln, my pots are taking on the shapes, designs, and look I have been working toward for all of these years, and it tickles me down to my toes. 
Holiday gift package with bowl, wheat, and mixing spoon

I am also excited to share that Mike and I are teaming up for the holidays and have created a gift package. It includes a handled mixing bowl made by me, a cherry wooden spoon made by Mike, and a bag of fresh whole wheat flour from our farm, ground from heirloom wheat and grown sustainably without chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. We will have these at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market through December and I am listing a few on Etsy. E-mail me for more details and prices (there's a variation between Etsy and the Market) as there will be a limited amount of these.  

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tired, but Grateful!

Grandma's cookies with beans, wheat, and beautiful flowers!
 The kiln opening and farm tour yesterday went well! We had a great turn out for the pottery sale as well as the farm tour and people generally going on small farm tours all day! I made my grandma's chocolate chip cookies and crackers from our fresh ground wheat, which I am sure is what lured people in! We were exceptionally surprised by relatives from Ohio who showed up in the morning to surprise us! Thank you to all of our friends, family, neighbors, and customers who made this possible and support us! We are incredibly grateful!
Ornament Tree
Ornaments on the tree
 The ornaments were nicely displayed on a little tree, I even dug out the tree skirt for the occasion!
New pots on display!

Brenda talking about her kiln - thanks April!
I was really happy for the opportunity to share about my kiln and even have the chance to talk about some historic kilns and how different drafts work (and I didn't even put anyone to sleep!).

Brenda suited up for the bees - looks like a total wuss compared to the pros!

Baby aprons!
Today was filled with checking out our hives with Jerry Routh from Bee Ready Bees and sewing baby aprons for a friend's baby shower! Hoping to excavate Mt. Laundry soon and get back to making pots this week!
Here are some photos from the farm tour:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Pots

Cobalt blue decorated ornaments
 I am excited to be debuting some new pots for the kiln opening and farm tour this Saturday.  It's very comforting to be sharing my new pieces from my first kiln and to be sharing about our farm with our customers, neighbors, and friends. I'm feeling more confident with my pots now that I have a kiln to focus my energy on!
Cobalt blue decorated ornaments
Last year I played around with throwing stoneware round ornaments on the wheel, but had some difficulty getting them thin enough so they wouldn't weigh the branch down. This year? Slip casting. I'm slip casting porcelain for the time being, but having a grand time decorating them and they turned out so well in the wood firing and took to the salt really well.
Decorated teapot
I've never been terribly inclined to make teapots, but had a burst of inspiration recently which led me to make a small herd for the opening. I'm excited to try some scratch decoration with cobalt blue and a few different lid styles.
Teapot dipped in brown slip
Should teapots and ornaments and other pots lure you out on Saturday, I made a double batch of  Emmajean Creamer's famous chocolate chip cookies! My grandma's recipe is DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wood Firing Questions

 The kiln firing went well, but there are definitely some noticeable kinks I need to work out. Anyone with wood-firing experience, I would greatly appreciate your input. I'm thinking to switch up my stacks - put the larger set of shelves in the back where there seems to get more heat and ash and the shorter stack in the front on the side. I'm afraid to put glazes on the pieces in the front corner since this has been my coolest area because the ash will cling to the glaze and ruin the pots.
Brown ash run that was a little matte
The last time I fired the heavily salted mugs had a green surface. This time around the ash runs had a brown color that was a little matte. The salt I used this time was cattle salt from the feed store, but is supposed to be pure salt. So I wonder whether my using sea salt in the last couple of firings made any difference. Has anyone else noticed a difference in their salt choices? Table salt vs. cattle salt? I opted for the cattle salt because it was cheaper and came in large amounts. That, and it doesn't have scary additives like prussiate of soda which turns into cyanide. 
Coating on the ash on the shelf

Ash settled in the bottom of an ash-glazed dish that did not flux out or melt

Dry ash on the edge of a decorated dish
The ash is still piling up even though I brought the shelves several inches away from the door and the wall with both sets of shelves. The biggest problem I have been having is that the ash doesn't melt down in all places, and it is settling as dry ash on some of my glazed surfaces. I'm afraid that crash cooling the kiln has been having this effect on the ash as it is not giving it enough time to heat up and soak. This most recent firing cooled as slowly as the other firings (about 2 days).
Spotting in the glaze

Glaze separation/split in the bottom of a dish
The other issue is that my ash glaze liner has been appearing to be thin (but I have skimmed water and it goes on thick) and in this firing showed spots from reduction or cooling and the glaze split in the base of a few pieces - not the clay, just the glaze. If I'm only firing to cone 10/11 should I not use an ash glaze as a liner? Do ash glazes inherently need a higher temperature in order to truly flux out?

So here are my questions:
Should I salt earlier in the firing and then soak the kiln to cone 11 in order to flux out the ash?
Should I not crash cool the kiln?
Should I insulate the kiln even more in order for it to take longer to cool (more than 2 days)?
Why is the ash not melting out on the glazes or remaining in dry patches on pots?
Should I use a different liner glaze? If so, does anyone have any recommendations that isn't an ash base for single-firing?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kiln Firing for Kiln Opening

Kiln loaded up!
In getting ready for our farm tour and kiln opening I worked really hard to get another kiln fired. I made some special pieces for this firing including some teapots inspired by a recent accession at Colonial Williamsburg:
Raw teapot paint decorated with blue slip

Raw clay teapot with a scratched design and cobalt blue decoration
As well as some ornaments:
Small herd of decorated ornaments

The ornaments I am really excited about because they are slip cast porcelain, making them hollow. Next year I hope to have time to modify my stoneware clay in order to slip cast with my own clay and have stoneware ornaments, but with the limited time I had this year I went with pre-mixed porcelain. I did make some pieces of kiln furniture to prop them on, and when they come out I'll explain more about this. Here is a photo of a few shortly after finishing the kiln firing:
Here are a few other shots of the inside of the kiln while I was crash cooling:
Ashy salty wine cups!

Decorated stoneware mugs through a haze of flames

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Culinary Question

Small mixing bowl
 We are planning a holiday gift package that will include a small, handled mixing bowl, a handmade wooden spoon (made by Mike, not me!), and a bag of wheat from our farm. This morning I made up a batch of pancakes (the recipe we are thinking to put with the package) in one of the prototype bowls from the last firing. The bowl measures about 6 inches across the top and is about 4 1/2 inches tall.
Room left at the top of the bowl with completed recipe inside
Everything went in well, nothing really splashed or "foofed" out of the bowl while I whisked the ingredients in, but I wondered whether it needed to be wider at the top or perhaps a smidge taller. So my culinary question to those who like to play in the kitchen - would the1 1/2 or so inch space left at the top when finished mixing bother you, or would you typically want more room for mixing in a bowl? Thoughts? Suggestions? The catch is that we'd like to keep the price point down, so I cannot make a giant bowl, and I don't think small handled mixing bowls should really be that large anyway, but any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!