Friday, November 14, 2014

Kiln Results, Farm Open House, and Pottery Sale!

Be sure to make it out on Sunday, November 23rd for our annual fall farm open house and pottery sale! We'll be doing a walking tour of the farm at 2:00 p.m., but general tours will likely take place all day!

Small mugs

Small pitcher

Lidded Jar

Decorated square bottle
I recently fired my wood-firing salt glaze kiln with wonderful results. I am really quite pleased when the blue slips turn really blue!

I made a few mugs with a glaze I developed from clay excavated at our farm. It's a really beautiful green glaze and I decorated it with a lovely little slip trailed wheat design on two sides.
We will also have some of our fundraising bottles and bags of wheat if you would like to support our efforts to finish my studio and the barn workshop!
Of course there will be lots of beautiful porcelain ornaments to peruse! The colors turned out particularly well on those in this recent firing.

You can also come out and see the wild development of my small person that is due in January! I hope you can come visit!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Life Lessons

The last month has flown by! I gawked when I saw that I had not posted a blog since August, and feel remorseful. What has been going on? Well, the biggest adjustment is certainly the small person developing inside of me. Fatigue seems to be my biggest hurdle I have had yet, and though I am about halfway there, the energy levels do not seem to be returning! Appointments and classes have been going on, which keeps me away from the computer and the studio, but makes for a pleasant reflection on this big change! Everything that has been going on has certainly been teaching me one of life's lessons- don't sweat the small(er) stuff.
I am happy to share that we had our first ultrasound, and the small person is healthy and quite a wonder to watch moving around on a screen!Above is my favorite image of all of the ultrasound images- look at that TINY HAND!

Squared fundraising bottles
I got back in the studio and have been rampantly making pots for a kiln firing in early October. I have high hopes to fire another kiln in early November, and then that will probably be the extent of making for this year. Anyone with holiday requests better make them ASAP! I also started teaching at Salem College this fall. I am teaching a course on Gallery and Museum Management, which is an enjoyable experience to work with engaging students and gain more teaching experience. It's a lot of work, too!
An exciting upcoming event is the Alamance County Artisan's Guild Studio Tour. I am participating on the weekend of the 11th and 12th, so you can come out to the farm, see my studio in progress, and We'll also be out at Rising Meadow's Farm Fest next weekend, Sunday, September 28th from 11-4:00. 
I fully intended to post a whole bunch of things on Etsy, and relist items every day- make my presence a little stronger, and have great pieces available for sale. I got some things listed a little while ago, but everything else went by the wayside.I'm hoping to get back on that soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
Berea College mug I picked up while in Kentucky
I went to Kentucky at the end of August where I did some research at two archaeological labs and had a great (though fast) weekend visiting with collectors, friends, scholars, and Berea College! There have also been some sad things going on, such as the loss of Don Carpentier of Eastfield Village.I have a commemorative post in progress and will try to get that up soon.
Sneak peek at the earthenware firing results
So, my life lesson right now is to try not to stress the smaller things that don't get done. My apologies that this does include blog posting, but I definitely want to update you on the earthenware firing, and some more historic pottery tidbits. I have not abandoned you, dear reader, just bear with me!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Earthenware Experiment- What Went in the Kiln

As I mentioned in one of my earlier sporadic blog posts, I have been playing with earthenware in the studio lately. It's been something in the back of my mind for years to try earthenware in a wood kiln. This is mostly because through my kiln furniture research I knew that many early stoneware potters were also making earthenware, but all in the same kiln. So, the biggest quandary I had was what would earthenware look like in a salt kiln environment?

After spending a day cleaning the kiln and shelves last week, the kiln got loaded up last Friday and the fires started on Sunday.

I used the marbled technique that I recently made a post about both on lids and on the sides of some mugs. All of the pots in the photos to come have been bisque-fired, so these are not the finished products.

I ended up having an issue with a white slip that I tested. It may have been a reaction to the clay I was using at the time of the slip tests (Highwater Lyman Red), but either way, I ditched it because I could not keep it from cracking and flaking. I did fired several bowls that had cracking just to see if the flux (3134 Frit) in the slip would heal with a glaze in the kiln. We shall see.

I switched to a very basic white slip and started using Highwater's Earthen Red clay, which I thoroughly enjoyed throwing with. I kid you not, it's like chocolate pudding between your fingers. The switch proved worthwhile and I had a smooth slip that dried well and played nicely even after the bisque firing.
I am testing several clear glaze recipes. One recipe uses mostly white clays as its base, so it turns a very white color after glazing. The other is basically 3134 Frit and Redart, making for a brown-looking glaze.

I played around a little bit with some manganese, by sifting some raw manganese on top of the glazed surface, and sponging it after mixing it with a white slip. The mugs above have lines of sponged manganese and green slip. I anticipate a deep purplish brown/black, but will wait to see what actually turns out.

Other decorated wares included a few squared bottles and some slip trailed and marbled dishes. I was really excited to see how those turned out in the bisque kiln, and am hopeful for their survival in the firing.

You might think I sound a little pessimistic about how this all might turn out. I'm not pessimistic as much as I am hesitant. There's not really a lot of people wood-firing earthenware here in the states and I think it has a lot to do with our restrictions on lead usage. Lead and lead variants like galena are very forgiving in their fluxing and melting temperatures. They don't craze a bunch, or have major reactions like pitting, flaking, or pin-holing. Those things are what I have heard can happen with earthenware in a wood kiln, particularly if it reduces. As one potters once told me, "it's hard to keep a wood kiln out of reduction" and my kiln has that very issue. We didn't seem to have a lot of reduction during the firing this go-around, but will not really know until we open it up.

So, fingers crossed, I teamed up with Anne Partna from Blue Hen Pottery and together we made enough pieces to fill the kiln. Here are some photos of the stacks in the kiln:

I did an overnight gas preheat, which I have found heats the kiln up to around 225 (F), dries out the interior, and starts to heat the brick up. Heating the brick up seems to be what takes the longest with this kiln because I used all hard brick. The more the brick is heated up, the faster the kiln will roll to the end. The firing proved to be a little lengthier than we were anticipating, but it was still not as grueling as a stoneware firing. We are unloading later this afternoon, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Decorating Technique- Marbling on Lids

I've always loved marbled paper. I vaguely recall making some when I was younger, and always love to open really old tomes with marbled paper on the interior of the books.
I made these lidded jars that were similar to the lidded jars I started with the 52 form project (not totally defunct, mind you!), except these jars are earthenware. I'm working toward an experimental firing this month with earthenware in my wood kiln (that has heavily salted walls!).
White slip in bowl

Dots of colored slip on surface

For these jars, I thought it might be fun to see if I could marble the lids. I took a shallow, wide bowl and put about 1 inch of white slip into the bowl. I then dotted the surface with red and green slip.
Bamboo skewer

zig-zag dragging of the bamboo skewer through the slip

Taking a bamboo skewer, I dragged the skewer through the slip in order to create a marbled look (I basically moved the skewer slowly across the surface in a zig-zag pattern).
Greenware lid

Going for the dip
Then I took the lid, flipped it over, and dipped it into the surface of the slip, pushing slightly until the slip reached the edges of the lid. The lid and the body of the jar were in the green state- so not bone dry, but not wet, just right in the middle.
Ta da!
Voila! It didn't pick up the marbling as I thought it would, but it made for a really fun pattern! Here is another attempt with just red and white slip:

With one bowl of slip I found I could do about 4 lids before the slip became too muddled and needed to be refreshed. I am excited to see how these might turn out in the upcoming wood-fired kiln!