Friday, February 28, 2014

More Kiln Stuff and Tiles

Glazing and firing is progressing with some good and some not so good results so far - some of the iffy results are due to firing and some due to glaze choices. Hmmmm, will I ever get this right?! I think that's why I say my favourite part of the work cycle is when my pots are leatherhard.

My Coneart kiln has a 3 zone controller with 3 thermocouplers. For yesterday's firing, I put witness cones in all 3 sections and as I suspected, I have uneven firing - slightly off up top, bang on in the middle and more than slightly off in the bottom. I am guessing it might also account for my controller error that keeps cropping up when I use my cool down cycle. I can program offsets for each of the thermocouplers to compensate for the unevenness but I think I am going to run a Power Test tomorrow to check out how my elements are doing. I am heading off to the big city next week with a planned stop at my Potters Supply outlet so if new elements are in order, now is a good time to get them. Yikes! .... element change out time .... a new experience to be had!

Tile Installation at Kwantlen University Library
Tile works contributed by various artists
On the good news front, I had some good glaze results with tiles.  I made relief tile molds as part of a final term project at university. Some of the molds were used to make tiles for this fantastic two storey installation at the Kwantlen University College library. The project was a thank-you to the college for it's many years of supporting the Fraser Valley Potters Guild (started by Kwantlen ceramic program alumini many years ago) by providing meeting space in the ceramics facility. Third and fourth term ceramic students teamed with FV Guild members to make tiles and molds. Since I belonged to both groups, I had double the fun! Unfortunately I had moved before the big installation took place but I sure was impressed when I finally got to see the finished result!

I'd had some bisqued relief tiles hanging around the studio for ages waiting for glaze. These tiles were made with 3 of the molds from my final school project, which I titled the Sandwave Series. Since I had some small glaze loads this week, I decided to tackle the tiles and get them in one of this week's firings. Now, compositionally the three shown here don't quite work together, but from a 'what if' glaze perspective, I was quite happy. Yeahhh! Now that I have some glaze possibilities to work with, I will have to put more tiles from this series on my in the future to-do list.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday morning electric kiln conundrum

Yeah, I know many of the fuelled kiln afficianados think us electric kiln firers have it easy ... just push a button and wait for the same ol' results. Well, in my experience, limited as it is, I find I am constantly having to monitor and tweak my firings (and btw, I love, love, love my Cone-art kiln and it's Bartlett controller, which allow me the flexibility to make those tweaks). Thank goodness, for this round of glazing, I had the common sense to say "hmm, haven't glaze fired red clay for awhile, maybe I should run some tests first" (see .... old dogs can learn from their past mistakes;)). Last night, after unloading a small load of pots done with no fuss glazes, plus tests for the glazes for the remainder of the pots, I found my normally satin semi mattes were a tad on the glossy side. And one of them, for which I had to make a new batch this go round, isn't even in the same ballpark as far as colour goes. Cones are over as should be. Program ran as usual, minus the now frequent cool down hiccup, for which I have a programmed work around (note to self ... gotta talk to the Bartlett guys). So this morning is going to be spent scratching my head ... was it the load size?, the red clay?, was it the texture accents I added?, should I try an older version of my cool down ramp? .... finally, does it really matter? .. can I work with these results? (there isn't really anything wrong with them, it's just they didn't produce the expected results). The good news ... testing for texture accents were bang on! as were some of the tests for new glazes, an older glaze using an alternative firing schedule, and a new clay trial with all of the above. All yielded some possibilities for the future. I pinch myself sometimes, that I can go to work every day and have this much fun!
... PS ... I'll update this post with pics when I'm done pondering ;)
... PPS .... see Glaze Pics post below ....

Glaze Pics

So here's what I've been up to in the world of glaze testing this past week or so .....

Some background ... I make all my own glazes, save one commercial glaze (Spectrum's Textured Autumn), which I use because I love the way it breaks over texture on my white clay. When I set up my studio in 2008 and had to figure out what glazes I wanted to use, I turned to the book, Mastering Cone 6 Glazes. Given that my goal was to make functional pots to be used in the home, this seemed like a good starting point as I needed to be sure I was using safe glazes. As I've moved forward in my studio practice, I've continued to use the base recipes from this book for many of my current glazes and in new tests. The captions in the pics labelled HCSM and GB are references to the High Calcium Semi Mattes and Glossy Bases in the book. In addition, I use some older well known glazes such as Opal, Barry White, Nutmeg and Cream Rust. I also have buckets of Randy's Red and my 'effin' nemesis, Freakin' Floating Blue, with which I have had not much success with but continue (for reasons unknown to me, other than I am stubborn), to revisit periodically, like again this past week. And just to add another element of complication to my usual practice of doing a round of glaze tests each production cycle, I am on the hunt for a rustic looking clay. Meet Laguna's Speckled Buff (WC403).

Round one of tests .... going old school and eliminating the programmed cool down cycle in hopes of getting some remembered results from some old glaze recipes ... Barry White over Randy's Red, Opal and Floating Blue (not shown as it was a no show AGAIN!).

Ahhh, there is some red in Randy (a controlled cooling makes it muddy brown) .... not too bad. Even better on the new clay

Might be a keeper ... I like it better than it's brother shown on the bowl below

I have customers who love the light version of Opal obtained by using my cool down cycle

Me ... I prefer the darker blue

Nutmeg and Cream Rust. Not bad on the trial clay

Round Two of tests ... back to the regular practice of using a programmed cool down cycle ...

These are 3 of the semi mattes (HCSM I base) I use on a regular basis. The purpose of the tests was to try Mason Stain 6600, Tenmoku Brown (GB2 base) and Licorice Black (GB2 base) as accents on the texture.

Not a great pic nor a great outcome ... tile on the left is a variegated grey semi matte I call Aspen. The new batch of same glaze on the left turned out much darker and glossier. The Mason Stain on the accent was ok but not great

A good result with the Tenmoku Brown accent under the semi matte glaze. I think it's the accent that has upped the glossy quotient on the left

A good result with the Licorice Black accent under the semi matte glaze but it too is glossier than usual

Years ago I bought my first kiln from a elderly woman who was retiring from pottery. She threw in everything, including the kitchen sink, and all her glaze materials. I still have much of the older stuff I got from her including gems such as Albany Slip. I've been doing some research and here are some results .....

I also added some new glazes to the testing cycle. Most of the results were disappointing (I will try them again when I fire with my white clay). This Oilspot was the best of the bunch ....

Not the best pic and it doesn't accent texture as much as I'd like but it turned out to be a nice variegated blue/green

Finally .... just so you know I actually do make some pots .... here's a couple of mugs from the few pots I fired with the test tiles ....

Saturday, February 22, 2014

.... Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper ....

.... wax off? you say ... and how do you go about removing those unwanted wax splots and finger smudges? (it never fails ... I do it every time!) Here's a tip .... have a spray bottle of isopropyl (aka rubbing alcohol) and sandpaper on hand. Spray the wax on the wax spot and rub vigorously with sandpaper, repeat as needed and ... voila ... wax begone!

See those little cut up squares of cone box sponge. I use these to apply the liquid wax resist (I colour my wax with food colouring - altho' it's more effective on white clay than red). Dip the sponge in warm water, squeeze the water out, dip the sponge in the wax and squeeze out excess wax and apply. The sponge rides nicely on the edge of the pot, leaving a clean, straight, line of wax. Periodically, rinse the sponge in the warm water. I get a much better result with this method than I do fumbling about with a brush.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Oh, thank goodness, I am done with the red clay! When I am working in my white stoneware, I look forward to the once or twice a year when the red clay comes out but now that it seems everything in the studio is covered in a lovely coat of red ... I am done .... I am so done!

Today is bisque kiln loading day. Hubby built me a handy dandy sanding box that hooks up to my shop vac. We're all hooked up and masked up ..... let the loading begin.


 and speaking of everything being red ....
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

It ain't pretty (except maybe the toes;))

On Sunday morning I read the Whistle Creek blog post on karma and how life can throw you a curve in an instant. Later hubby, grandson E and I headed out for a dog walk along the beach. Encountering some slippery rocks E took a little tumble but was ok. We gave him a warning about watching where he stepped. Yuuup! .... not 3 minutes later over I went! ... or at least my body did while my foot stayed stationary. A day later I'm sporting some colourful bruises and a sprained ankle. It's not limb or livelihood threatening, thank goodness, but Dennis's words were ringing in my head, for sure. I guess I'm going to be left foot pedalling at the wheel 'cause I have some trimming that won't keep for long. Stay safe, my friends!