Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Where am I going in 2018?

It's a new year, it's wet and windy here and the ground is sodden.  I have spent 2017 plodding along at a glacial pace and now find I am struggling again cash wise and not quite sure how to proceed.

Work on the workshop went ok - I got a concrete floor down, but didn't build any other infrastructure, so it's not usable through the winter.  I put in an extra door though.

I also started on the new kiln - a ground hog kiln based on the one we used to fire at Nic Collins pottery in Devon.  It's a bit taller than that one but it'll step up inside so won't be as big as it looks.  Current progress is shown here:

It has some issues, mainly with the iron work and the concrete base.  I started the base on my own, before calling in a ready-mix concrete company.  What I should have done then is dug up the bit I'd already done, but I left it.  This means the front two upright beams meet a cross point where two bits of concrete meet (if that makes sense).  Also the iron work isn't straight.  It looks great, but needs fixing:

I also purchased straight bricks for the arch, with a view to cutting them myself.  Alas, I should have learned from the gas kiln, as this is a really horrible job.  And I don't have the £1100 to buy the proper arch bricks.  I also need more hard bricks for the floor, and kiln shelves.

Wood has also been an issue.  I've finally made contact with a forrester, through the forestry commission, but it'll be green larch or pine, which'll need six months to season at least.  I can't help but think that wood firing in the UK is going to die out soon.  With the government also looking at emissions from wood burning stoves, I wonder why I started out on this at all.

Anyway, the options now are to make some more soda pots, but I don't know where or how I'd sell them.  I have built the chimney up on the old gas/soda kiln and bought a fancy new sprayer, but whether I'll get anywhere with it I don't know:

The other option is go back to the IT world.  Good for money but not the soul.  I found working and making pots almost impossible to do, so that'd be the end of it.

So that's it.  It boils down to whether I dive forward, risk my savings and bankruptcy, or finally give up and go back to work.  Difficult.  Wonder where I'll be at the start of 2019.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Is anyone there?


Nearly four years?  Crikey.  I haven't made a pot since April 2014, after which I decided pottery was a stupid game that makes no money and no one was interested.  Three years later... I am resurrecting the Gatehouse Pottery.

The barn now has a 36 square metre concrete floor.  I have the parts for a kick wheel partly made but not assembled (desperately in need of perpendicular drilling facilities.)  I have bits of a kiln shed made.  And plans for a large-ish wood kiln in place, for four day firings.

Who knows if I'll keep up with this blog.  Does anyone blog anymore, now we have Facebook?  We'll see.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Next firing.

I've been thinking about the next firing.  The shelves of pots are filling up a bit.

There are a few things there that I wanted to make more of.  The oil bottles and the hanging vases, for a start.  After the last firing, I knew some clays worked better than others.  The Svend Bayer clay worked very well.  Here's a mug, with a wonky rim - I've made another five, although they aren't as wide as this one.

I made a couple of large-ish jugs.  I am still a bit unsure about whether these are good or not.  I put them on facebook and some people said they're fine.  But fine isn't good enough.  I need to make money or won't be making any more pots, and there's no point in firing things that are just 'fine'!  But they'll probably make the cut.

I've also been making these jars.  They don't look much in the photos and are better in real life.  They are thrown out cylinders, and some of them have a texture added before I pull them in to a shape.  I quite like them.  I think the texture should take the soda well.

I have also mixed a clay body based on a slip I used in the last firing, that took the soda in ways I quite liked.  I threw a few small bowls and cylinders as test pieces, to put through out the kiln.  It's nice to throw with - looks alarmingly dark grey but should bisque to white.  I has the magic silica to alumina ratio of 2.7.

And the firing itself will consist of one of these two large pots (which I have bisqued already), the two jugs, and whatever else will fit.  It'll be a bit loose, but I don't mind at the minute.  Whether this is a good plan, I don't know, but it's what I've got.  None of the above pots are anywhere near dry, so it'll be weeks before I fire, probably.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Soda Kiln - first firing.

It's fair to say I've had some issues with the new kiln.  I did one bisque firing, which went well, then started a soda firing, but had to abandon it as the temperature wouldn't rise past about 1000 degrees.

Well, on Tuesday, we started another one.  It struggled.  But eventually I got the temperature guage to read 1250 degrees, and I added 3kg of soda and soaked for an hour before calling it a day, tired after a 14 hour firing that had used an awful lot of gas.

Anyway, below are some results.  Reds and oranges were forthcoming from various slips - the high nephaline slip being the best probably.  It was hot at the top, cool in the middle and hot at the bottom.  I reckon much of the flame went into the kiln and then straight out the flue, with some travelling up to the pots at the top and then straight down the middle between the stack and into the flue, bypassing the middle shelves.  Put it this way, I have lots of new cat bowls!  But also lots of positives to work on, and a few things to discard (crank clay, even tempered with porcelain, isn't my thing - all those spots!)  Well, there will also have to be some kiln fixes made and some rethinking done.  But first, will need to make some more pots.

Tea pot with grolleg slip - not pretty but best lid I've ever made.

Bowl with shino liner - I like this one.  Toasty on the outside, soda on the rim, coolish shino inside.

A bowl I hadn't meant to put in, but which took the soda quite nicely.  I like the white dots from the molochite grog, and the liner glaze was the blue celedon, which went green, but hey ho.

A beaker, using the Svend Bayer clay.  This clay worked quite well.

Mugs - some better than others.  Spotty ones are crank - the really red one is the high nepheline slip and is lovely - favourite pot, probably.

 Another vase with the Svend Bayer clay.

Big pot with the grolleg slip.  The slip was peeling off though.  Shame.  I made this to make sour kraut.

This tea caddy is quite nice, but where the soda and the slip met, there was a green ash deposit which was starting to come off the pot.  I've seen this before.  Possibly too much soda on this pot.  It was on the bottom shelf, and I think bore the brunt of most of one burner as it entered the flue exit.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

New kiln.

Well, it's here.

With much help from my friend, Jon, who cut most of the bricks in to arch bricks,

we got the arch completed and pulled out the former.  It was a nice feeling to see this.

The iron work is holding nicely and hence the arch is staying up - I've put 4 inches of ceramic fibre as additional insulation.  It looks good.

We gave it a test spin, just because we could, really.

And here is the door in place.  I have numbered all these today, and now I have to mix a mortar to paint the brick work with, and to fit the bag wall inside, and I also need to find and clean kiln shelves.  Hopefully I'll do a bisque firing next week.  I think I have enough pots, although it is a lot bigger than I thought.

Finally, here's a little video of us removing the arch former.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Some woodfired big pots.

At the firing course, we fired Sabine's soda kiln and Nic's groundhog kiln.  I have already put up pictures of the pots from the soda kiln, but I couldn't get down for the opening of the groundhog last weekend.  Fortunately a friend took some photos and has allowed me to use them.  So here are three of the big pots that I made.

The one above was in the front, and I pulled it over in to the embers when we had finished the firing (the pot was still hot and probably sticky at that point.)  I like this one a lot, from the photo, but of course, I haven't seen it in real life.

This pot above fell over during the firing - and I tried to hook this one back up at the end of the firing but couldn't get a grip on it.  On the way down, two of the big pots lost their rim, and so there was nothing to get a grip on really.  So it is stuck to the kiln shelf.  This one was also at the front of the kiln pack, near the firebox.

And the one above was underneath the side-stoke at the back of the kiln.  The lump of wadding stuck to the side was used to keep another pot from sticking to this one if it got knocked.  I quite like it.  It might come off, but again, this one has a broken rim, so might become a garden pot at the Gatehouse.

Well, that's the only news I have of the pots - there are some smaller fry but I don't have pictures of those.  I will have to arrange to go and collect them at some point.

I have also listed some pots on etsy - some of the wood and soda pots from Sabine's kiln, and some others that were fired in Matt's kiln.  See the top left hand corner for a display that'll take  you to the site.

That's all for now - I am busy trying to get the new soda kiln finished, so more on that later in the week hopefully.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Some new pots!

Well, I have just spent a very enjoyable week at Nic and Sabine's, for their firing course.  Two kilns fired - Sabine's soda kiln and Nic's groundhog.  The soda kiln is a 30 hour firing or there abouts and is ready to open on the Saturday we go home, so here are my pots from there.

They're ok - I like them more when I look at them.  They are subtle though, and a bit uniform, but I have learnt a thing or two.  There are five cut-sided cups, with feet or simply bevelled bottoms.  Two are in tact but a bit pale, but nice, and the others were on their sides on shells, but have cracked.  Usable, though, so they'll go in the kitchen somewhere.  I think they were the Svend Bayer clay body and have produced some red on their sides, and taken the ash and reduction well.

This bottle is very brown but has lots of small purple-ish dots everywhere.

The above is a close up.  This is lesson one.  The clay I am using isn't so great.  It's clearly high in iron and the grog in is some sort of fire clay I guess.  So out with that one.

This is the same clay but with a slip over it.  I can't remember which slip though - titanium I think.  It's a wall vase for flowers.  Again, I like it, but it's plain.  But lesson two: slips are worth trying out on a pale plain body in the first firing of the new kiln.  Sabine uses a few different slips, each different, each producing lovely results.

And this is one of the big pots.  Again, with the high iron clay.

I also have pots in Nic's kiln, which will be opened next weekend, although I probably won't be there.  It'll be interesting to see how that clay copes in the long wood firing.  Two of the bigger pots were right at the front - I pulled one in to the firebox at the end, but the other fell back against a kiln shelf and couldn't be retrieved unfortunately.

Anyway, huge thanks to Nic and Sabine for putting up with us.  I've had a really great week.  I can really recommend the experience - book now for next year!