Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fresh Pots for Catawba Valley!

I just unloaded the small kiln on Wednesday and have had a day or so of rampant packing and pricing! Took some photographs of a few pieces that are heading with me to the Catawba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival this weekend!
This piece with the blue decoration is one of those pots you really wish you could just hoard, but I like for my pots to find good homes, so it is going. It just means I have to make more of them like this!
The ash glaze did decently in the hotter parts of the small gas kiln. The jar above has a little dry spot on one side, but I'm not too worried about it. I like how the white slip came through!

And the teapots and slip trailed dishes that were fired in Joseph's small wood kiln turned out well. It is nice to have some fresh new pieces to take to a show!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Decorating Frenzy!

Slip-trailed design on the interior of a dish
 It has been a wild and woolly time over the last few weeks, so I apologize for my absence! I have been making a lot of pots, working at Joseph Sand's, and working on the kiln/machine shed! A lot of my time has been spent decorating and glazing pots. I both love and dislike single-firing. It is awesome and convenient to be able to glaze a piece once it is set up, but that means it has to be decorated before you glaze it, then that sets up, and THEN you glaze it! I guess I have been spoiled by bisque-firing my pottery for so long and not having to glaze until after the bisque firing!

Since the necessity to glaze the piece requires the pot to be slipped and decorated first, there has been quite a decorating frenzy going on!
Decorated dishes
  I've also been making and decorating vases, which is not something I have been particularly fond of.
Decorated vases. Some of these will have an ash glaze over the decorations.

Decorated vases. The piece on the right was a happy accident, and I think I am going to intentionally try to make a few more of them. I like the neck and shoulder of that vase.
I say "not fond of" because I have not really been satisfied with a good vase shape. Joseph showed me how he makes vases in two sections -- the body and then throw the neck off of the body -- and I kind of like it. They seem to have better movement and curve, and I am getting better at bringing the foot in.

Kiln loaded up for firing
 This weekend I am firing a kiln in order to get a few more pieces done before the Catawba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival next weekend!
Check out the "Liberty, NC" stamp on the side of a pot behind the cone back!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kilns Gone Wrong

Earthenware separating bars, Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum
There are archaeological sites where evidence of the production of stoneware and earthenware are found. Often these sites are called "transitional" with the implication that the potters were moving from working with earthenware to stoneware. However, my thoughts are that many of the potters, particularly in regions with less potters, or with higher levels of competition, met the market demands by making both either simultaneously or attempting to make both at some point in their production. For example, the William Rogers site in Yorktown, Virginia was making both stoneware and earthenware. There are certainly numerous sites where the potters did in fact move from earthenware to stoneware, such as the Thompson potters in Morgantown, West Virginia (on which topic I highly recommend an article on these potters in the 2011 Ceramics in America).
REALLY overfired bar used on the top of a jug -- the ring in the middle was the top of a jug! Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Closeup of the melted bar. Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum
The (nerdy) humorous thing is to see archaeological evidence that potters who may have been more familiar with one material (i.e. earthenware), may not have been familiar with the other (i.e. stoneware). Which explains why sometimes you read about potters being brought in for their expertise in one material or another. For example, when I was recently at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, I saw a collection from the Piercy Pottery site. This was primarily an earthenware production site, but there was some evidence of stoneware production as well. I should say that there is speculation that because the amount of stoneware wasters are so low, the attempts at stoneware production were made in the late 18th-century when the site was rented by another potter who went on to make both earthenware and stoneware. Either way, the wasters revealed that at some point their stoneware attempts went horribly wrong! The stoneware separator bars they made are also some of the thickest bars I have seen yet, which is not surprising after seeing their earthenware separator bars (first photo at top). 
On left, bisque stoneware separator bar and fired salted separator bar on right. Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Their method of stacking the stoneware pottery seems more precarious, too. Typically, one wants to balance the weight of the pieces over another, placing rims, bases, and other points of weight on top of each other.
Bar adhered to base of jar, with indentation showing where the rim of another jar rested during firing. Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum

How the base of the jar rested above the rim of the other vessel-- off center! Piercy Pottery site. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Museum
I said that this was humorous because I reflect on these pieces both as a potter and as a scholar. As a potter, I can only imagine the horror on the workers' faces when they opened the kiln and their experiment had gone horribly wrong (been there, done that!). I chuckle sometimes because I think there were a lot of "oh, poop!" moments historically, just like there are in contemporary potters' lives. And as a scholar, I reflect on the attempts of pottery production sites to challenge an import market, a growing population of potteries, and the changes in the uses of utilitarian vessels and forms.
For more information on the Piercy Pottery site, be sure to check out Barbara Magid and Bernard K. Means' article in the 2003 Ceramics in America. You can read the text here, but you miss the beautiful photos!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Counting Posts

When we put one more post in the ground this morning I could not help the Sesame Street kid in me and thought, "Two posts, ah, ah, ah!" Just like Count von Count. One step closer to the kiln/machine shed! And in case you are wondering, the tree branches sticking out of the center two holes are for liability to keep someone from stepping in the holes!
Two posts in the ground!