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