Monday, November 30, 2015

Missing in Action

My own kiln, recently fired, November 2015
 It is sort of embarrassing to see the date of when I last made a post! Dear Readers, I thank you for bearing with me. I promise there are some great photos to come, and of course, perhaps a baby update (with photos)!
Freshly-thrown pieces of pottery.
I have been intermittently making pottery  and finally fired my own kiln this past month. Firing my own kiln was an amazing experience just from the standpoint of filling the kiln with all of my own pottery and doing an activity that I so thoroughly enjoy. 
Porcelain ornaments in the recent kiln firing.
I have a show coming up on Sunday, December 6th at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. That is always a fun show with great crowds and vendors. Come by for a visit!

Below are some photos I made of pottery I hope to get listed on Etsy this week. Stay tuned.

One of my conclusions after taking the above photographs was that I like the Farmall tractor as a background. I like the color contrast and the linear features. 
Facebook photo from the MESDA Facebook page. Robert Leath installing the Edgefield ceramics section,
Facebook photo from the MESDA Facebook page. Cases not yet on the pots in part of the gallery. 
My work at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) continues, and I moved into a position in the research department. Installation of the William C. and Susan S. Mariner Southern Ceramics Gallery at MESDA was completed about one month ago. When MESDA's director, Robert Leath, said that this is the leading exhibition of historical southern ceramics, he wasn't kidding. 

Completed installation and photo of the opening for the new gallery. Facebook photo from the MESDA Facebook page. 
 People who attended the opening of the gallery were in tears to see the gallery, and stunned by the breathtaking display of the South through clay. It really is a sight to behold and I am fond of visiting the pots during my work day just to say "hi."

My son, Mattias, testing out the space in a cardboard box.
My son, who is getting SO BIG, has taken a liking to cardboard boxes, and I foresee him wanting to help with all of my packing for holiday pots! Thanks to all of my readers for sticking with me, and I hope to get back to writing about some more of my research and pottery adventures!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Little Kiln Christmas

A very kind person with a kindred interest in pottery history and kiln furniture sent me a wonderful package recently. It contained sherds and kiln furniture from several pottery sites in Missouri.This is like Christmas for a nerdy person like me.
 What's even better? Nearly every piece in the box was individually wrapped!
 There's an assortment of pieces from two creek banks on the eastern side of Boonville, Missouri. As I understand, there were a number of potters working along the creeks including Marcus Williams, George and Nicholas Valrath, Nicholas Lauer, H.W. Valrath, J.M Jegglin, and August A. Blanck. These potters worked at various times, but between the 1830s and the 1890s. The pieces from these various potters' operations tell so much about their kiln firings and their pottery production. Here are a few short highlights:
 Who wouldn't be excited about a brick?!
 It's not just any brick. It's likely a brick from a kiln as several surfaces on the brick show layers of wood ash and likely salt fumes.
 In the photo above, check out the cross section of a thick layer of salt and wood ash built up on one side of the brick.
 The above piece seems innocent enough, but it is so incredibly exciting to me.
 It was a piece of kiln furniture that was at the early stages of its life going to be cut up into smaller pieces of kiln furniture. The cut pieces of kiln furniture that I was sent tended to all be about the same thickness.

 Above is a rim showing the mark a small square piece of kiln furniture left on a piece when it was used in the kiln firing. In the roughly 35 different pre-1860 stoneware kiln sites I have looked at I have only seen small square pieces of kiln furniture used at 3 or 4 sites, and have observed it on some pieces of intact pottery. It's a tedious process making small squares (I know because I use them!), but they seem to serve a good purpose of covering a small area on the surface of the vessel, which makes it less likely that the pots would stick to one another along with the kiln furniture.
 I was almost giddy when I saw the piece above. Can you guess what it is?

 Hopefully the two views above may give you a better idea. It's two rims that got fused together with glaze. However, they were two rims from two bowls that were stacked, nested inside one another!

 These bowls were similarly glazed to the bowl above- the underside of the exterior rim was dry, allowing the bowls to be nested inside of one another during the firing. I suppose if the base did not come in enough though, or the dry section of the underside of the rim was not wide enough, the glaze would fuse the pieces together. I sure hope there was not a large stack of bowls that suddenly became one giant stack!

 The two photos above are great to see because it tells me something about the kiln firing. On the rivulets left by the wood ash and salt you can see tiny crystals. Crystals don't typically form on the surface unless the kiln has been cooled very slowly. When my kiln was first built and a little tighter, I recall having this occur just once on a few pieces after a heavily-salted firing. The kiln took a few more days than usual to cool and I got some crystals.
 Though most kiln furniture was likely made during the loading and rolled and shaped to fit each various piece going in the kiln, the plethora of rim shapes and various shapes of kiln furniture made up never ceases to amaze and amuse me.
 This particular piece just happened to nicely fit onto one of the rims in the box, so though it probably was not used together during a particular firing, it is possible that the two shapes came from the same pottery shop, so the kiln furniture would not have varied much from firing to firing.

Though not made ahead of time like the flat, cut pieces could have been, the little barbell-shaped pieces below are always great to handle because you often get to see a lot of fingerprints on them.
 Check out this post from a while back about making this shape of kiln furniture.
 Jug stackers are always fun to find because it definitely gives you an idea of what the jugs would have looked like as a result of using them.
 In other notes, we are avidly getting ready for our farm open house and pottery sale in a few weeks, so come visit if you are in the area!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On the Farm, New Pots, and Motherhood

The farm is in full gear as the weather has heated up and our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is into its fourth week.
 Mike is working on developing beds for permaculture which will enrich the soil with perennial vegetables, fruits, trees, and bushes, and help retain water on the farm.

 We split two of our beehives recently and now have 5 hives if all goes well. We are really hoping that for the farm open house in June we will be able to harvest some honey to sell again this year!
Joseph, Matthew Kelly, and Curry at the front of the kiln.

 Joseph's kiln firing went well and he had a great pottery sale with some beautiful pots. I was pleased with the work I put into the earlier part of this year getting things made and into Joseph's kiln. Here are some new pots for the spring:



Compost Crocks

Wine cups
 I was reflecting this past weekend as I celebrated my first Mother's Day (Hallmark holiday, I know, but it was still sweet), and realized I have a lot of pots in stock and my little person is growing VERY quickly. There's a saying that the first three months of child's life is sometimes called "the fourth trimester" and I believe it. There's still a lot of soothing, cuddling, bouncing, some fussing, and a lot of development for your arms and back with lifting (he's sleeping well though, I promise!). We've just passed the three month mark, but much of my days seems to be spent like this:

Don't get me wrong, I love it! However, it does make you step back and assess things. So, I am going to not push myself to work like a crazy person and fire my kiln in June, but rather get a few things done and in a few other kiln firings with other potters, help to get projects on the farm going/done, and watch my son change daily in front of my eyes! He and I both will be at the Pottery Fair on the Square this weekend at Old Salem, we will have our June open house and pottery sale, and he is at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market most Saturdays, so come visit!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Clean Tools

Clean tools
I keep thinking, "where have the past several months gone?", and then I remember that I have a small person in my life! Maybe shooting for a post once each month is a good goal for now! Time does seem to be flying by. I have had better chances at uploading photos to Facebook, so if you want more frequent cute photos of Mattias, and updates on work, be sure to keep your eyes out there.
 My weeks have been largely measured by how old my little man is and how big he has been getting! However, he has also given me the chance to clean my tools, get in the studio, and start making some pots.
Sometime in February I got back in the studio and started making pots. Luckily, my little man did not mind sitting and either sleeping or watching me work around the studio.

 I focused most of my energy on getting a few gaps in my inventory filled and fluffed up for the Pottery Fair on the Square show at Old Salem in May.

Decorated mugs
 Making a lot of pots meant that it took me several days (plus several extra days of wrangling a child) to decorate all of those pots.
Mattias overseeing me making wadding for Joseph's kiln firing

Me spotting large pots being placed in the kiln
I was hoping to fire my own kiln, but have decided to push it back to June. So my pots went into Joseph Sand's big monster kiln. I have been on a few adventures lately and have gotten a few fun new historic pottery acquisitions, so I will try to do some more blog posts in the not-so-distant future! Stay tuned for photos from the kiln firing, too!