Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sunny Hunny.

Spent the day demonstrating at the Le Strange Old Barns in Hunstanton, or Sunny Hunny as it is colloquially known.  I had a bit of a panic this morning, as I had to pack up a load of pots to take with me.  Here's the display:

This is the space I get for my pots.  It isn't as big as I'd thought it was - which is just as well because when i packed up the pots, I found many had blown their glaze or peeled.  Even the black slip is showing signs, which suggests I haven't actually fixed any of my problems.  This is all pretty demoralising.

Anyway, it wasn't very busy, but I did talk to some people, including a couple of fellow Anglian Potters members, which was great.  Everyone was friendly.  I sold one pot, which was good, although the cost probably didn't cover my petrol costs in the end.  But who knows what'll happen - it is only Wednesday, and it was raining.  The pot I sold is heading to Boston, I think.

I'm there again next Wednesday, then the Wednesday after that, then the following Sunday.

Here are a couple of big jugs I made the other day:

Trying to make some that are less like Doug's jugs.  The top one is pretty heavy, the next one...

has a scroll which I pulled off the bottom of the handle.  It's slightly less fat than the first, but uses less clay, so it feels better.  Anyway, I've slipped them - fat one got a pattern, the second one will get oxides blown on to it - something I'm enjoying doing.

Here's the one from the other day:

All leafed up, with stuff from the garden - dead nettle, clover, creeping cinquefoil and some member of the apiaceae - probably just cow parsley.  A bit plain, but it'll do.  Of course, they have to get past drying out (S-cracks) and bisquing next.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

I was supposed to be making stock...

... and I have been.  Here's three 3 lb mixing bowls I made yesterday and slipped today.

and today I made three 5 lb mixing bowls - bigger and flatter.

But then the clay came out in big chunks and it just seemed right to do something bigger.

Well, i think this is better than my last effort, but it still isn't right.  I didn't belly the body out as much as the last one, but also, i threw it without ribbing the living daylights out of it, so it has some nice throwing rings.  It's about 18 inches tall, so the throwing in two parts thing really does work.  But that transition where I added the neck still is slightly wrong.

I quite like it though, but, as I said before, it is very like the ones Doug makes - or it is to me - and that worries me.  I will deco this with leaves, but try and find a take on it that Doug hasn't used.  It's difficult - I know it's all about the tradition and all that, but I don't want to tread on toes.

Of course, it might not survive.  I blew the last one up when i bisqued it!

Spring is underway here, and we're now on British Summer Time, which means that although it's 7.30pm here, it is still light outside.  My garden is an absolute mess, but at the same time, it is packed with flowers, from tree blossom and daffo-down-dillies, to mouse ears, bugle and speedwells.  Lots of insects and spiders about.  Nice.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Hankering for a wood firing.

Today has been a bit of a dead loss really.  I woke up really early, then went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until after 11.  And then, as I was eating cereal, I had some visitors - John Whately (spelling? - sorry John) and his wife appeared at the gate, from a holiday in Felixstowe.  Lovely to see them - they bought with them a pot that I made that was fired in Nics kiln last April, but which had ended up with them somehow.  Set the day up nicely that did.

Then, I had a kiln on overnight with a cider jar in it - black slip, deco through glaze - and a re-fire of a mixing bowl that had a single burst bubble inside.  Well, what a waste of time and money.  The big jar popped - looks like a lime blow out - and the deco was just about gone.  It wasn't a nice pot anyway, really.  And the re-fire was even more bubbly and worse than it was before.  So that'll become a flower pot or something.

Anyway, i should be making stock for Hunstanton, but I have no prepared red clay.  But I did find a mystery clay - nice and wet and ready to go.  I think it is one of the bags of clay I mixed up last year, based on Nics clay recipe.  I wedged in a load of sand - and I mean a load - and then thew some pots off the hump - tea bowls, open tea bowls, some rice bowls and a couple of vases.

I must admit, it was lovely to throw compared to the red earthenware clay.  Much more open and much much softer - almost too soft so some of these bowls might be a touch heavy.  I am going to have a go at turning some of these with a sharp stick, like I've seen Ken Matsuzaki do on a video that I have of him.  The feet are nice and soft that way.  But possibly only on the two tea bowl shapes - so they probably won't survive.

I am really hankering to do a wood firing.  I think I have two participants to share in the cost and hopefully some of the work involved in preparing the wood I have.  Not sure about time scales just yet, but anyway, this'll be my contribution hopefully.  We'll see.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A quick update.

After spending the weekend with Hannah at the Scottish Potters Association conference, and visiting Andy Priestman, I have struggled a bit to get back in to things.

But today I went, with a friend, to visit Le Strange Old Barns, a craft centre in Hunstanton, about 35 miles away.  Anyway, the short and the long of it is, I'm going to be demonstrating there once a week - making pots of some sort or other, and there'll be a space where you can buy my pots too.  It's a friendly place - the people there are very nice and I think that's what sold it to me really - it just seemed like a no brainer to say yes to it.

I'll be starting, all being well, next Wednesday.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Some pots and stuff.

Some time ago, I made seven jugs.  As ever, some time ago I handled six jugs and slipped six jugs.  I have two jugs to fire tonight and three jugs out of the kiln - that's five jugs.  One that I fired last night had pinging slip again.  The slip was very thick though.  In the end, I went with the 50/50 china clay/hyplas mix, as I liked the effect it gave the best.  I added to this some of the body clay - about 10% probably, in the end, as I used 'dirty' water to mix the clays.  Here's three jugs:

My favourite is the one on the right - I like that bold pattern on that straight jug.  I'm sure, you know, this isn't the shape of jug I threw - on the wheel they felt more bulbous at the bases, but never mind.  The one on the left has cobalt blown on to it.  I like it, but look:

It's very rough to the touch - not one to use for your water, or small beer.  Anyway, i await to see if any more slip pings off (I'm sure it's the body absorbing water from the air that does it.)

Here are two dark tankards - two of four.

I couldn't work out why some of my pots were coming out so dark.  The glaze is the same batch as that above.  Why would it do this?  Then I remembered that I'd put a load of black slip on everything, as the pots were drying out and I didn't have the slip test results.  So that's why.

These two three pound bowls are ok:

Unfortunately, they're a bit rough on the outside, because like the beakers I made, they have some exposed black slip at their base.  I like them though.  One of them, unfortunately, has a small burst bubble on the inside, so I might have to re-fire that one.

Well, I hope you've all ordered and received your copy of Nic's book:

It's an excellent read and some of it is quite funny, although that might be because I'm reading it with Nic's voice in my head.  I can't think of/find any book that describes in so much detail these methods of making big pots, which makes the book pretty unique really.  As Nic says, it isn't about strength or muscles, and he seems to use, in general, lumps of clay of about 7 lbs.  Also, I think in this context, 'Large' is a relative term.  Even if you normally only make pots that are six inches high, you could use the methods described to make pots of twelve inches high, or so (in fact, Nic makes that point.)  So it's well worth buying, in my opinion.  Plus it has tons of fantastic pictures in it.

Anyway, I've tried all the methods in the book at least once (well, the ones that Nic describes in detail - I haven't tried the Korean onggi method yet.)  I haven't really succeeded with any of them, although I did make some bigs pots in two halves last year.  From looking at the book, I think I know where I've been going wrong, now, so I'm going to have another go at them at some point.

Today, I tried Doug's method of making big jugs:

Essentially the neck is thrown first, upside down and with a flange.  Then a round body is thrown with no neck (no neck being an important detail.)  The neck section is then added and the whole thing is finished.  This is the first time I've managed to make the body and neck join together well enough for them not to tear apart.

However, I haven't really managed to blend the neck and the body together very well.  In fact, it's a pretty awful pot, and it's funny, but large awful pots look more awful than small awful pots!  I know how to fix it though.  I'll keep it and slip it, before scrapping it, but I think I might leave the big jugs to Doug. 

But one of the things I like is that the pot has no weight to it.  Concentrating on the body only allows you to stretch the clay a bit more, I found.  Anyway, I might do this again but next time, add a doughnut of clay to make a bottle.

Ho hum.  Well, I made some mugs and beakers today and the parts for a couple of tea pots.  That's all for now.

[I've just heard a big PING from downstairs.  That's more slip gone, I'm sure of it.  Bugger!]

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Nic Collins at the Goldmark.

Here's a little preview about Nic Collins' show at the Goldmark, opening on the 2nd April.  I've heard the pots are stunning.  It's going to be good.


Ah, catchy blog post title, eh?  This is what happens when honey goes wrong.  It goes a deep deep orange, or brown as it's otherwise known.  Think it went on a bit thick.  Mugs are ok, in brown.

I like these beakers with the black slip on the outside, revealed.  It didn't flux like I'd hoped it would, so it's quite matt and a bit rough - like a brushed steel or aluminium - which I don't mind but I know that puts people off.  Not sure if it's going to come off or not.  I lost one of these due to a grit stone in the base.  More of the woe later.

These bowls are a disappointment.

Anyway, the slip on these is AT based, but I didn't have the test results, so I added some china clay and then didn't mix it well.  Result?  Ping ping ping ping ping.  So far, 3 have peeled a bit - one stone in base.  Out of 13 pots in the firing, that's a 30% failure rate.  Not as bad as wood firing (when you'd get about 30% good pots!)

I have a few old pots that have now pinged on the body due to lime or something in the clay.

Anyone want to buy an arm or a leg?  I have two pairs for sale...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Two posts in one day.

This is what happens when I throw without a guage.  Each one getting slightly larger and thinner, until at the end, i make one that's stupidly thin.  I don't like making jugs anyway - other people make them much better than I do - i don't really like these at the moment - still, done it now.  Each one is 3lbs of clay - about 10 inches tall.

And ovalised planter - quite large and heavy - bit of a mess though.  White slip over black.

Plates drying on top of the car.

Plate and a 5 lb mixing bowl.

Small footed dessert bowls, mugs and more beakers, plus a few bigger pieces.

Glaze/Slip Test Results.

Unpacked the kiln this morning, from a very quick glaze firing yesterday, back to the old temperatures though (1080 on clock at 150 an hour, with 20 min soak, usually yielding cone 02 half down.)

So far, so good.  Usually, a set of beakers like this would be mostly showing the peeling (or the snail trail sign of it) and all would be gone after a day or so.  So far, no signs on any of them.  Not unexpected - these are all much lower silica slips and fit much better.

First up, the 50/50 hyplas/grolleg mix isn't as harsh as I'd thought it was going to be, but it is pretty white.  I like the middle one of these, which was lower down in the kiln and obviously got hotter.  The slip has melted in to the glaze a bit better, which is nice. 

Next, the AT ball clay slip, which, again, is nice.  This was the easiest to use and has shown consistency through out the firing.  Not sure i like that it's consistent though.  The clear glaze (the one with all the china clay in it) has gone cloudy again.

The last one is the strange mix of 1 part china clay, 2 parts hyplas and some red clay.  This went pink in bisque, and so I'm surprised at what came out.  The clear glaze is nice and the others I thought would melt in to the glaze but it hasn't.  Well it has on one, but I still like it.

In fact, i've just remembered, on one of each test, I watered the slip down a bit, and on each slip test there's one that has sort-of disappeared a bit.  That's ok.

Anyway, I have to decide which one to use.  I have already used the AT slip as I desperately needed to slip some pots, so I mixed a little up, in anticipation of preferring that one.  But actually, it's the one I like the least, probably.  The first is a bit harsh but the last was awful to decorate through.

I was lucky enough to visit chez Cullum at the weekend (thankyou) and saw the awesome collection of pots (in the awesome house.)  They have quite a few old Winchecombe cups by Sid Tustin and it was nice to see those.  Mine are no where near as nice - they're too big for a start, massive in comparison - but that last slip I think comes closest.

Right - well it's a beautiful day here again, but we had one hell of a frost last night.  I dare not check the pots in the shed for I think I know what I'm going to find...

Saturday, 5 March 2011


So here's another jar with the black slip and drawing through the glaze.  I made a new tool, which has one larger digit.  I thought the bolder strokes would make the deco stand out a bit more, but i didn't know what to draw and in the end it was a bit difficult to use.

I tried a slightly different firing this time.  Only went up to 1060 but increased the soak to about 30 minutes.  The slip is blacker than the last one anyway as it had more oxides in it - they've come to the surface a bit more and it's now a bit metallic, which I don't mind.  Overall, it's not as nice as the other one.

However, it has this:

Looks like shelling but it isn't.  It's a blow-out.  Small but enough to ruin a pot.  I keep finding small bits of gravel in my clay.  I'm not sure whether it's me that has introduced it, or whether it's from the supplier, but it's annoying.  I'm sure a few bisque explosions have been caused by it.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Slip tests - desperately needed.

Well, these are my slip tests.  I have a whole load of pots that desperately need slipping, but by the time these are done, I think they're going to be past that stage, unfortunately.

So, there are three tests.  I have worried a bit about what to try, and I settled on these.  Three left are 50/50 china clay and hyplas, three middle are 100% AT ball clay, and the three on the right are 50g china clay, 200g hyplas plus 100g thick but wet throwing slop (ie red body clay.)

You're probably thinking, what the hell is he doing?  Well, I don't know what I'm doing, really.  The continued use of hyplas is because it's what I've got, and at the moment, I have no money to replace it.  I have a little AT clay and thought I'd use it.

So the 50/50 is an attempt to bring down the silica and reduce (?) the thermal expansion of the slip.  The AT is because the old potters used ball clay as their slip and it is just lovely to use - much nicer than the other two.  The third is sort of half and half an attempt to temper the silica, and to follow Kemps advice of one part body clay to some parts of ball clay.

Alas, each is mixed to some unknown consistency, and, by the time I'd got to the second slip test, the pots had dried considerably in the sun.  So the last six pots got a wipe with a sponge, where as the first three didn't.  I'd rather everything had been the same, but I was a bit concerned that I was putting slip on when they were too dry.

Anyway, I hope to have these through by Monday.  I have two bigger pots with black slip that i've bisqued over night, so they're going to get a draw-through glaze treatment in a minute (after a cuppa.)  They are too big to fit in my little kiln together, so I experimented and took the lid off and built the wall up using K26 bricks and some fibre stuffing.  Seems to have done the trick, although the firing was quite an anxious one (lots of steam from the bricks - and it was dark and late and quiet - fun :)

Right, that's all.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Black decoration on a black background.

Another 'experiment' - I liked the last one with the blown oxides, but not sure anyone else did - but this one I'm not so sure about.  The jar is a heavy old thing and not sure the shape is the greatest - I trimmed around the bottom, but could have taken a lot more off, but never mind.

Decoration is through the glaze, over a black slip.  I've added some more manganese and cobalt to the slip since I did this one, and not sure it needed it.  It's quite a rich dark brown at the moment. 

I haven't got much variety in terms of decoration - I'm liking this overlapping arches pattern, but I can't use it on everything, and I don't always get it right.  It isn't quite right on this pot.  Anyway, it's quite subtle as it is, black on black.

Well, I have a couple more jars that have black slip, so I'm going to have to do this again unless I make some just plain black jars.  I think the Cardew pots I'm basing this on were bigger and had bolder decoration.  But as I've done it, it seems a bit pointless.

Good point, though - no peeling.  Different slip, of course - body clay with added oxides - would have been disappointed if this had peeled.