Sunday, 16 August 2015

Packing and Firing a Glaze Kiln


Yesterday I packed and fired a glaze kiln. Above is a composite of all four shelves as I packed them one on top of the next - number 1 being the first or bottom shelf and number 4 being the top. These are what the pots look like when they've had glaze applied, but before they've been fired. In other words they should look different by the time I open the kiln tomorrow!

When I pack the kiln I use the same shelf pattern for almost every firing whether it's bisque or glaze. In other words I put the same height supports between the shelves into every firing, so the gaps or heights between the shelves are in the same arrangement each time. The reason for this is because the manufacturers put the thermocouple in an odd place, restricting where I can place the shelves (see old post rant here!)

But now I've come to think this was a happy accident! Sticking to the same layout is a great way to fire a kiln. It means I always know that the bottom and top shelf can take higher pots of a certain size while the two middle shelves take lower or flatter pieces of a certain size. Bearing mind that when I pack a kiln I have to lean over into it with heavy shelves and fragile pots covered in a delicate dusting of glaze, knowing in advance where the pots can fit nicely is a great advantage. So having a fixed shelf system has made planning and packing every kiln much easier.

Of course the hardest bit about firing a kiln is the waiting! And I've got another 24 hours at least before I'll be able to open it and see the results. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Candle Bowls




The women in my family have a thing for candles. A long time ago I bought my mum a candle in a terracotta bowl. I thought it was a lovely idea and I suspect mum did too - because she still has it on display in her house unlit after all these years! Back then I didn't know how to make pots - although of course I've always loved pottery. So when I started making pots, this idea kept popping into my head. Recently I thought it was about time I made some for myself. So here they are!


The thing I like about these candle bowls is that they are entirely handmade. I've made the bowl as usual - hand thrown on the wheel using stoneware clay. I chose to glaze on the inside only using a clear glaze so the natural bare clay shows on the outside. Then I've hand poured the candle too using quality soy wax from Aura. The great thing about these bowls is that once you've burned the candle you can clean the bowl and use it again. It makes them extra unique I think and gives them a life beyond.

At the moment I've only made unscented candles because I wanted to see the response. Already I've had a good reaction to them - so in the future I might consider using fragrances. In the meantime I'm also making a new batch of these candle bowls in a speckled clay and might consider colour glazes too. But I rather like the natural simplicity of them as they are now - they have a very calming feel I think. 

I'm really pleased with these candle bowls. They're lovely to have lit whilst meditating or doing yoga for instance and I've discovered they can be cupped in the hand and feel quite cool to touch too. They come with a little card to explain what they are and make perfect gifts for people who have a thing for candles AND pots!

These candle bowls are available in my Folksy and Etsy shops.



Sunday, 3 May 2015

Spring Things - Making Bells, Jugs and Bowls

The kiln is on again. This time another bisque. It seems the only time I write a blog post these days is when the kiln is on! But I've been taking photos of some of the things I've been making this past month. Above and below are a batch of new bells or wind chimes I've made for an order. As you can see, each one is handthrown on a wheel just like a bowl and then the base is turned and rounded off. Then I attach little strap handles for hanging them up in the garden or for holding as a hand bell.

These chimes were featured in a great blog post on Remodelista back in March - so they've proved a bit of a hit lately (I've sold out at the moment.) These ones are in the kiln as I speak ready to be glazed hopefully in a few days time.

I've also been making a batch of large jugs for another order and a few one-off pieces including some low cylinder bowls suitable as fruit bowls or serving bowls. Everything was going swimmingly for a while and I made quite a few pieces when suddenly the weather changed. Spring arrived overnight and we had a very dry, warm spell which meant all the pots started drying out too quickly...

Normally during winter I can leave pots out in the studio uncovered and they can dry out nice and slowly in the damp atmosphere. But I took my eye off the ball and forgot to cover the pots overnight when the weather changed...and before I knew it, handles were cracking off and bottoms were splitting! Sometimes it's so easy to forget the obvious stuff. So I lost about four big pots: I had to hit them with hammers to break them up and put them in the recycling bucket. All very upsetting and disappointing, especially as I had to make them all over again!

Above are photos of the doomed pots! The ones that got away. I forgot to photograph the damage (it was much too traumatic). But I've remade all these now and fingers crossed they've dried out properly this time and they're in the kiln being bisque fired as I type.

Finally, here's some little porcelain eggs I made especially for Spring this year. They come in three colours: plain white, pale blue and sage green. Inspired by the little blackbirds I starting making last year, I thought I'd make some eggs to go with them. And because you can't have eggs on their own, I've hand knitted and felted some little nests for them too. These are made using a gorgeous soft Alpaca wool sourced locally on the Isle of Wight. The result is a very cute little set available in my Folksy and Etsy shops. Enjoy!


Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipse: Moon Bowls in Black Stoneware Clay


Today we had a solar eclipse. The plan was perfect. Fire the kiln on Thursday (yesterday) so this morning I could watch the eclipse in the garden while I waited for the kiln to cool down. Unfortunately a thick blanket of cloud obscured the entire event! And although it went quite dark around 9.30am (during which time we had a nice piece of carrot cake and a cup of tea) it mostly felt the same as if it was about to start raining. Oh well, never mind! Hopefully the bisque kiln will be fine though and I'll be able to crack it soon and start glazing some pots.

In the meantime - as it's topical - I thought I'd blog about my moon bowls. I've been experimenting with different stoneware clays in the past year or so. One of these clays is a deep black stoneware designed mostly for modelling or sculptural pieces. It can also be used as a throwing clay however - in small doses. It has a very high iron and grog content which makes it very coarse to handle when making. This is perfect for hand modelling but when it comes to throwing (with the wheel spinning round) it feels like your hands are being shredded by sandpaper! When I first used it I raised the roof and could only manage to make one small bowl before I gave up and plastered my poor hands in E45. (People who throw porcelain have no idea...!)




Since then I have modified the original black clay by adding in some of my usual stoneware to make throwing more comfortable. This produces a lovely deep chocolate brown colour when fired and left unglazed. So far I've only used a white glaze on this clay. My usual satin white glaze reacts differently on this clay body producing a really interesting pitting effect. This instantly reminded me of craters on the moon, especially when used on little round bowl shapes. Hence calling them moon bowls.

Would you believe it, as I type the sun is actually coming out?! Time for more tea (maybe another piece of carrot cake) and to check the kiln temperature I think. In the meantime, here's a picture of some more pots and ceramic spoons I've been making with my lovely black/chocolate brown stoneware clay. Enjoy!