Sunday, October 5, 2014

This is just a test....

Started working on crystalline glazes this past week.  I decided to try 15 different glazes, thinking that I get lucky with at least one of them.  I mixed up 200 gram batches of each glaze; they all have the same basic ingredients but vary slightly with the amounts.  I added water and painted my test pieces, and let the kiln rip.  I was pretty excited to see the results, and when I first looked in the peep hole and saw some crystals I got really excited.  I was so excited in fact that I pulled all the plugs and cracked the lid, even though the kiln was still at 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  Which isn’t the smartest thing to do with a glaze firing, it could possible cause the glazes to crack or might even crack a pot.  But this was just a test firing and I wasn’t that worried about them cracking.  Here are a few pictures of what came out of the kiln this time.

I sorted the results into three categories, no crystals, few crystals, and good crystals.  It worked out that there were five in each group.  The next step is to take the best five glazes and make big batches of them and start testing them with colorants.  So stay tuned for these crystalline glazes live in Technicolor, or something like that….  

Friday, September 26, 2014

A kiln reborn

So, the last time you heard from me was about seven months ago.  You’ve got to be asking yourself “David, what have you been doing this whole time”. Well I’ve been having some electrical issues, not only with the kiln but the house as well.  It’s always best to start at the beginning…
When I first hooked up the kiln I thought I would fire it up and see how that puppy purrs.  As soon as it started purring the plug, breaker, and all the wires connecting the kiln to the breaker box and the box to the main breaker started to get hot.  Not just warm but what seemed to me to be dangerously hot.  So I shut it down, and did a little figuring and realized that I bought a 208 volt kiln and I needed a 240 volt kiln.  So I replaced the elements and the company said that was all I needed to do to get back on track.  Once again I fired her up to see what we could do and it happened again.  My next course of action I felt was to replace the wires going to the shop from the main breaker.  I bought a larger gauge wire and ran it through the attic and felt pretty good that that would fix my problem.  But while I was messing with the main breaker I realized that the 100 amp box in the shop was run by a 50 amp breaker in the main box, so that wouldn’t work.  I looked around and was able to pick up some breakers and replace them.  I thought this would work, and it didn’t.  I gave up for a while because I just didn’t know what to do, and I was getting really frustrated.  Then we had one of our old breakers melt, luckily I was here to shut it down before it did any real damage.  We then decided to replace the main breaker and the panel in the shop, hoping that we would solve the kiln problem in the process.  After a couple of weeks and a few wasted vacation days we had our new breakers.  I was sure this would fix my kiln problems, but when I fired up the kiln the breaker still got warm.  I was crushed; I didn’t know what to do.  I started emailing tech support with loads of questions, and perused all the forums that I could find slightly related to kiln electricity and wiring.  After this research I decided to upgrade the wire to the kiln to the next size bigger and up the breaker too.  I also had my dad look at it while it was firing to see if he could see what was wrong.  What he decided was that I was over reacting and I should just let the kiln complete a firing and see what it does.  It was fine; the breaker did get warm but not hot.  My research also revealed that the breakers will get warm with a resistive load, which is what the kiln is.  Now I’ve fired one bisque firing and one crystalline test and nothing bad has happened.  So I’m going to assume that my problems have been solved and not worry about it anymore.  While I’m typing this I’m firing my second bisque load, and next weekend will be another crystalline test firing, this time with color.  It’s only be seven months but the kiln is finally up and running.  We should start seeing finished work in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Kiln by another name would fire just as hot...

The last two weeks haven’t been that interesting just chugging along with those prayer wheels.  This came to a halt when I got to the decorating phase, I just didn’t have the materials I needed to continue.  So I posted a few videos to Facebook with the twist that I actually explain what I’m doing instead of just playing music.  I think I enjoy explaining a lot more, it feels a lot like teaching and I love to teach people about pottery.  So that was everything new until last Friday when I drove up to Paseo Pottery and bought/ordered a kiln!!! and picked up some chemicals to make glazes with.  The kiln and a few of the chemicals have to be shipped to me, but I was able to take home most of the colorants (i.e. Iron ox, manganese diox, Rutile, and Nickel carb).  This means that while I wait for my kiln to arrive I can work on finishing those prayer wheels.  I’m super excited that I will be able to have finished work within a month or two, also excited that I don’t have to use this kiln to try and glaze in anymore.  I will continue to use it for horsehair and raku firings though.  So look for finished work coming in the next month or so, I will keep you up to date on what I’m working on and how things are coming along.  Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Let's spin the Wheel (of prayer)

I’ve been fairly quiet this last week on this blog.  I’m trying to figure out how often I should post something.  Once a day is far too much for me, I don’t do nearly enough interesting things to justify that.  So I thought maybe once a week would be good, but then some weeks are just kind of dull while some are full of excitement.  What I’ve decided is to write a blog when I feel like I have something to talk about and not try to force myself to write about something that even I don’t find interesting. 
That being said I’ve always found religions to be interesting, especially eastern ones like Taoism, Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism.  I find the way each one prays to be the most interesting, and how they believe those prayers go out and affect the world.  The one I find to be most interesting is the Tibetan Buddhists idea of the Prayer Wheel.  In this idea prayers are carved on the outside of a drum shape and prayers are also written on paper and placed inside of the drum, it is then mounted in such a way to make it able to spin.  When such a wheel is spun it is said that the prayers written on and inside of the wheel are sent out into the world each revolution of the wheel as if the spinner was saying them aloud.  While in graduate school I played with this idea, the idea of what people pray for and how those prayers are answered (link).
I thought I would revisit this idea and make some new prayer wheels.  I’m unsure of what I’m going to decorate them with, but I know how I’m going to decorate them.  The plan is to infuse a slip (liquid clay) with iron oxide and coat the forms with that.  Once that has dried enough I plan on using a technique called scraffito to scratch through the layer of slip revealing the clay body beneath it.  Here’s a picture of the forms so far,

 they still need to have a bottom thrown for them.  I plan on putting some lazy suzan hardware between the bottom and the body so that the prayer wheel will spin.  I will post another blog or maybe some pictures on our Facebook page when I make it a little further on this project.  Thanks for visiting. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When one clay ends another begins

Like I said in the last post I had last week off and was able to spend a lot more time in the studio.  This being said here are the results of that week in the studio.  I successfully came out of the week with 100 pots of various types, vases, bowls, mugs, stands, and enclosed forms.  I also threw 39 test pieces for testing really runny glazes; these have a bowl attached to them to catch the running glaze.  They look a lot like the candle stands when they are thrown.  This was done with 300 pounds of a porcelain clay call Domestic from a company up near Tulsa, OK.  So the average size I threw with was just over two pounds, and I would say the average size was about 7-8 inches tall. 

 So now I’ve used all the porcelain clay that I bought, and now I’m going to move on to a clay called Rod’s Bod which is a stoneware clay.  I’ve thrown with Rod’s Bod since I was an undergrad at USAO, I really enjoy it.  It allows me to throw much larger objects and to push the clay farther than I could with porcelain.  Hopefully you will start to see some photos and videos of me coil building, assembling sectionals, and who knows what else.  I have about two hundred pounds of this clay so let’s see what I can make with it.  Thanks for coming by.