Friday, January 27, 2012

Making the News!

An exciting thing to share! An announcement for the presentation I am doing tomorrow at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum made it as the feature photo for the weekend guide in the Washington Post! Granted, it's a photo of the kiln furniture, but check out the caption! I feel honored! And now, a little nervous...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making kiln furniture

Squatty separator. Pawley Kiln site, Baltimore, MD. Courtesy, Maryland Archaeology and Conservation Lab.
 I am getting ready for a presentation on my kiln furniture research this weekend in Virginia. In doing so, I have been thinking a lot about how to visualize how the furniture was made. It helps having access to clay! One of the most fascinating pieces of kiln furniture is a separator, often called many things, but in following the most commonly used term, and Georgeanna Greer's terminology, we're going to call the shape a spool.
My hand around a separator, showing my fingers over the hand print on the separator. Webster kiln site, Fayetteville, NC. Courtesy, The Museum of the Cape Fear
 This piece of kiln furniture was likely made as the kiln was being loaded as the sizes and lengths often vary, and the nature of its use would make it necessary to be made while loading. As seen in the image below, the spool separators were likely used in the context of stacking jugs (seen in yellow and red below) and were also used to separate straight-sided vessels which were stacked on top of one another.
Conjectural drawing of kiln furniture in use. Drawing by Mike Heindl.
I made a few photos of how I am pretty sure this piece of kiln furniture was made. First, a bit of clay was rolled out. This rolling is evidenced by broken examples which show the spiraled pattern of the clay on the interior.
Rolling out the clay


Rolled clay
Then the rolled section was grasped in the palm of the hand. A fascinating aspect of this project has been to see the various finger and hand prints left behind by the workers making the kiln furniture. Some of the fingerprints have been very tiny, like children's, and some of them are very, very large.
Grasping the rolled clay

Then the ends were smashed flat. These flattened areas would then fit to the edge or side of whatever vessel this piece was applied to.
Flattening one side

Flattened end

Flattening the other side
Ta-da! Quickly made kiln furniture, with the same impressions as found on the archaeological materials.
Kiln furniture, ready for use!
If you are in the Alexandria, Virginia area, be sure to come by the Alexandria Archaeology Museum this Saturday, January 28th, at 10:00 for my presentation. Should be informal, and hopefully informative!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Necessary Evils

Pile of reclaim clay ready to go through the pug mill
One of the necessary evils of making pottery, especially in a production setting, is putting clay through a pug mill. The clay is put into the mill where rotating discs push the clay to the front of the pug mill.
Clay getting ready to be pressed in to the mill
When the clay is pushed forward in the machine, it is compressed through a fine screen and then compressed again into a tube of clay.  

Reclaimed clay coming out of the pug mill
I am not a huge fan of putting clay through a pug mill, however, I intend to own one someday and appreciate the utility of the machinery.

The reclaimed clay was then used to make flowerpots in the afternoon. Joseph said that my small 1 pound rounded flowerpots looked like chamber pots. I have yet to decide whether that was a good thing or not. I am just thankful that we have advanced beyond the horse or mule-drawn mills which potters used to pug clay with. I'd hate to have to buy a mule too!
Warm puppies gathered by the stove all day

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decorating Bowls

 I mentioned making a new form this week and I finished up a few yesterday. I have based the shape off of 19th-century American milk pans. Because I have not put a lip on the rim though, I am not going to call these milk pans, and will just refer to them as bowls. That is, unless someone has a better idea! I wanted a shape that could be versatile either as a bowl for mixing, for putting apples or other items in, or for flower arranging. I think this shape might fit the bill.
I put big handles on the sides:
And then put some decorations on:

I made sure on most of them not to cover up the stamped letters. However, historically, most potteries that stamped their wares and did cobalt decorating did not seem to let this get in their way. Is it an aesthetic faux pas to cover up your shop name? Here is one bowl I did cover up the lettering, and I kind of like it. I also this this gives more room for larger designs.
Getting back to making some videos, here is a video of me stamping the bowls:

And here is a video of me painting the bowls:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back at It

Pile of clay for throwing

I have been getting back into the swing of things since getting back from the conference and research trip. I have about two hundred pounds of clay left in my studio down in Siler City that I want to try and use up soon(pictured above). I am plotting a few new forms (new to me) which are in the works below.

I also started at Joseph Sand's as an apprentice this week. On Monday we had a work day on his new gallery space. I had some assistance from one of Joseph's dogs, Franklin, installing insulation.
Franklin, or Frank, being not-so-helpful and cuddly

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On the Water and Back to the Moravians

I have been on the road attending the Society for Historical Archaeology meeting and doing research in Maryland. I participated in a panel on Southeastern Pennsylvania, which I plan to put a synopsis up about because it was a great discussion panel. It was great to go back to looking at my research on the Moravian potters of Pennsylvania.
 I felt very official at the Maryland Archaeology Conservation lab where I have been researching an early 19th-century Baltimore kiln site. I do not know whether the room just happens to have "Visiting Scientist" as an old office sign, or whether I get to consider myself a "scientist" and have my own room! I'm going to go for the latter! When I get the permissions, I will put some photos up of very exciting pieces from this kiln site!
The Maryland Archaeology Conservation lab is located on the water, where I saw this beautiful vision as I left the lab on Wednesday.
Retired archaeologist and ceramics scholar George Miller was awarded the J.C Harrington Medal in Historical Archaeology at the Society for Historical Archaeology meeting. Congrats, George! This is a photo from a panel about George's work and his influence in the work of other archaeologists and scholars. I feel honored to know George and gotten to spend time with him while at Winterthur.
George was the discussant for his own panel!