Sunday, February 19, 2012

Frozen Studio

Last weekend we had a cold snap here in North Carolina and the temperatures dipped into the teens and twenties (Fahrenheit) with high winds. Joseph made a fire in the wood stove on Saturday, but with the winds the fire went out and the wind whipped into the studio. When I got to Joseph's on Monday, he met me at the car (first sign there was something wrong), and told me that the studio froze over the weekend, and I bravely tried not to picture all of my pots destroyed.
Frozen clay on the side of the splash pan surrounding the wheel
Frozen clay is rather fascinating to look at. It is like looking at the ice crystals that form on windows, just that the beautiful patterns are on top of the clay, or inside of it, made by the moisture in the clay. My big bowls (pictured above) apparently were the worst off of all of my pieces (luckily). Joseph said it was "cool" (not funny!) how the pots were basically opened up where they started freezing.  When I got there on Monday, the large gaps had closed back up, but the pots all needed reworking in order to smooth out the lines, make everything round again, and get the bubbles out that formed when the gaps closed up. It was a nightmare! Here are some images of the inside of the bowls. Where the fine, raised lines are, that is where the pots opened up in large gaps when they froze:
Lines where the clay froze and opened up

Lines and bubbles where the clay froze and opened up
 I wondered, what did potters do historically to keep things from freezing? Did they have to keep a fire going constantly, or was a kiln going frequently enough in the vicinity of the drying room to keep everything toasty, or to dry things out quicker? I have read about potters having holes in the ground beneath the floor of their studios where they stored clay to keep it from freezing, but what about the pots? What do potters who do not have their studio near their home and do not have heating systems other than wood do? Any readers who could weigh in on this, it would be greatly appreciated. I am looking to move my studio to our farm, and don't want frozen pots next winter!


Dennis Allen said...

Brenda, So far this year I have kept a well insulated 6oo sq ft studio above freezing with a small ceramic heater at night and warmed it to comfort level in the day with a propane heater for 2 or 3 hours.I also have a "hotbox" which is a shelf 8ft x 16in x 18in well insulated and fronted with a piece of styrofoam. A light bulb keeps fresh pots warm and dries them pretty quickly if needed.It also helps to time firing for the coldest nights.I have also considered an electric blanket over the clay supply but haven't done it.

Liberty Stoneware said...

Hi Dennis, thanks for the info on how you keep your studio warm. The "hotbox" is a good idea and that may be just the trick since it does not get that cold that often down here. I might have to invest in insulating even the temporary studio just to avoid cold drafts attacking my pots! Also, I think in reading about your pottery studio and its name coming from TN, I assumed you were from TN, and then to find you're from Lebanon, Ohio! I don't think I have mentioned it, but that is where I grew up! My parents still live there too! Small, small world!

Dennis Allen said...

Small indeed.You could probably build a 6x6 closet, insulate like crazy and heat with a floodlight.