Saturday, May 9, 2009

Warning by the Surgeon General... The following is a tale of work, work, and toil, and may disturb any idealism. Actually potting can still be fun!

A new mug design. I wonder where the idea of that cat came from?

Since I last wrote about pottery, I have done another two glaze firings and two bisque, all in the electric kiln. Most working days have been fairly long ones (and just about all days are working ones for me) so I have not kept up a "today in my studio" account on this blog. The following is a Readers Digest condensed novel kind of catch up.

On my post for April 26, I mentioned that I had received a commission to make two bowls, and I had resorted to unconventional means to speed the drying process (microwave!) as the deadline was really short. I am happy to report that the bowls turned out well, and that I made the deadline a day or so ahead of schedule. The process was not without drama however...

Knowing that I might run into problems with the commission, both in the drying stage, and the glazing, I made about 8 or 10 bowls at the same time. The bowls were about breakfast bowl size, so making a quantity of extra ones was reasonable insurance. I lost one of the spares whilst microwaving, and one developed an S crack in the final stage of drying. I also threw more than a kiln load of mugs and a couple of jugs, and some other small chun glazed bowls.

A Chun glazed bowl, it would be about the size and shape of a large breakfast bowl.

Both bisque firings were successful. (I glazed some of the bowls, and lots of mugs as the second bisque was firing.) Once the second bisque was out of the kiln, I loaded up a glaze firing. I glazed just 3 of the commission sized bowls, and made up the rest of the kiln load with mugs.

More of those cat mugs, and is that a mouse or a rat that I see!

I unpacked the glaze firing on Sunday morning. Sadly, my first attempt at the bowls had not worked. The bowls were good, and the glaze nearly perfect, but it had moved slightly, just enough to obscure a subtle addition to the decoration that my client wanted, namely, the initial of the first name of each person he was giving the bowls to. As the glazed mugs and bowls cooled, I painted a sign to put out the front of our building. Then we opened our studio to the public on the Sunday afternoon. After shutting the door at 5pm, I did 7 hours of glazing, so as to get another kiln load ready to fire the next morning with a back up set of bowls, and enough mugs and jugs to fill the rest of the space. Some time after 12 midnight I placed all the drying pots on racks and in space fairly near our wood stove and went to bed.

Up Monday morning at 5.30am. Loaded the kiln and steamed very carefully for three hours before starting the firing. I fired half a cone lower (to cone 10 and a half), and did a shorter soak at top temperature. Total time for the firing from 100 degrees C to kiln off was 9 hours.

On Tuesday, I did my day in Dunedin looking after the Potter's Co-op gallery. I managed to take more photographs whilst in Dunedin. I am beginning to really enjoy, and value, taking photographs of the city. It is opening my eyes to what is around me there and is making me more curious about what I see.

Divine Guidance? Maybe! But what is the message?

On Wednesday I unpacked the kiln. This time I had got things right, and the bowls turned out with the initials clearly visible. The mugs turned out well too. Whilst they were cooling, I designed and printed a new business card to go with my pots. The phone rang whilst I was working on the cards, and I received another commission from someone else with a short deadline..., this time a teapot. Then I cleaned any roughness off the bottoms of mugs and foot rings of bowls, packed, and drove to meet my client in Dunedin at the Potter's Co-op. I made our 2pm appointment with 5 minutes to spare. Happily, the bowls were well liked and are probably now in Australia.

Once back from town, I prepared my studio for visitors... I have a small group of teenagers who have started coming to me for regular lessons on a Wednesday evening from 6 to 7pm. I am really enjoying the time with them, and it is good to take any opportunity one can to share a love of clay.

On Thursday I began throwing teapot bodies and spouts. A bit rusty in the throwing department after a couple of weeks rushing around madly. Mum and Dad visited for lunch. Lovely to see them.

Almost Mother's Day here, so we thought we would get in early with some flowers (in the red wrapping) for mum.

I assembled some teapots on the Friday, but was feeling pretty unwell and rundown so didn't achieve all that I would have liked.

I will have to do more with teapots today (Saturday).

Tomorrow I will pack up pots that are going to an exhibition in Timaru. I will take them to Timaru on Monday (Timaru is a drive of about 2 hours up the Island from us). The exhibition, held at the Public Art Gallery (the Aigantighe), is a fund raiser for the Plunket Society, who work with new born children.

Happy to report that Ginger is well and full of bounce!

Ginger on a lovely rug that mum made. Notice the bird decoration... Sweet dreams for Ginger!

Ironically, with all the rush of the last few days, I haven't got very good photos of the bowls to show you. Ah, well.........!


Pat - Arkansas said...

I very much enjoyed your tale of toil, and I absolutely love the cat mugs! The little mouse is a delightful addition to the design. The Chun glazed bowl that you pictured is beautiful; I love the blend of colors.

What I understand about throwing pots and other pieces, and the glazing and firing processes could be written on the point of a pin with room left over for angels to dance. Be that as it may, there are very few things in life that I don't find interesting, and I enjoyed reading about the efforts it takes to produce marketable pieces.

I also enjoyed the nice photo of Dunedin, which location, I discovered through online inquiry, is the farthest away spot on the entire earth from London. I was delighted to add that fact to my stash of trivia.

The ginger cat looks very comfy on your mother's gorgeous hooked rug. I'm glad to know that the cat-that-is-not-your-cat is improved.

Thanks for your visit to my post and your comments. I can imagine your and your sister's delight in finding real grass to play in after living in the concrete jungle. Children and Nature seem to be made for each other.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend.

Arkansas Patti said...

My image of throwing pots comes from the movie Ghost. Didn't know work was involved.Kills the glamour a bit.
Just love the cat mugs and know the model was pleased.
So glad Ginger is doing well from the fight. Guess we should have seen the other cat to know if Ginger won or lost.
Your Mom does great rug work. Guess that is where you got your artistic bent.

Peter said...

Hello Pat and Patti,
Lovely to hear from you both. I could do with some of that Arkansas heat down here. As I write this hail falling outside is sounding like a pan of pop corn coming up to temperature! I had been feeling smug about the weather this weekend as we seemed to have escaped the winter storm that was promised us for Friday, but.... good things come to those that wait!

I must put some links on my site to some great demonstrations of making pots that some potters have kindly put on the net. You both might enjoy them. Whilst I think about it, Nic Collins has some magical ones, try He has some wonderful photos of different stages of making a pot, and some videos too.

It's quite amusing that Dunedin is about as far from London as it is possible to go. I should be thankful that in 1976, when my parents decided to emigrate from England to NZ, travel to the moon was not yet a regular thing... otherwise, we probably would have ended up there!

I'm off to pack some pots for an exhibition,
Best Wishes, Peter

jim gottuso said...

mama mia... hang in there, i never used the microwave but have set my computerized kiln on 190 for 2 hours and it works well

doug Fitch said...

Hi Peter, I enjoyed this post, good to hear what you've been up to.

Linda Starr said...

Short commissions, I don't think I would like that, but I guess we do what we have to. I didn't realize your chun was oxidation; it is so very beautiful. Ginger is so cute and your new mugs are great.

Jewels said...

The witty banter between you, Patti and Pat leaves me in stitches!

You have been busy! This will be my first attempt at being a full time potter and looking at all the hours you and the other potters put in makes me wonder if I will be that disciplined. I have a feeling my work ethic will coincide with how hungry I am.

I love the whimsical cat and mouse and the way the cat’s shape complements the shape of the mug. The rich colors you are getting with the chun glaze are beautiful.
The Aigantighe looks like a prestigious place to exhibit your work. Way to go! Looking forward to seeing the teapot. : )

Peter said...

Hello Jim, Doug, Linda, and Jewels, really nice to hear from you all. Thanks to all of you for your comments they are much appreciated and help me feel less remote down here.

We have just got back from Timaru where I dropped some pots off for an exhibition. I also managed to pick up some second hand kiln shelves at the Insulator Factory at Temuka where they manufacture ceramic insulators for electricity pylons. I simply can't afford new kiln shelves, they are horrendously expensive in NZ, and not always easy to get the sizes that one needs, so it is a godsend to be able to find some second hand.

Doing commissions is always a great learning exercise for me. I usually end up learning new skills. It is difficult at this time of year though, because the studio is so cold and it is really hard to get work to dry. So desperate measures are called for when the time frame is short. I have to take on almost anything at the moment though as selling work is very difficult and slow. Hunger is a great motivator.

I'll put some chun recipes on my site if you would like them, they are just things I have found through experimenting. Most of them use a tenmoko type underglaze with a chun type glaze over the top. That combination does work well in oxidation as well as in reduction, which is a big help when restricted to using an electric kiln.

The Aigantighe is a good provincial public gallery. The permanent collection reminds me a bit of the sort that you would see at a stately home in England (and I mean that nicely). The smaller public galleries, like the Aigantighe, do a great job in New Zealand of presenting lively contemporary shows whilst still still supporting their local communities and emerging artists (The Forrester Gallery in Oamaru gave me a lot of support when I was developing as a painter).
Best Wishes to you all, Peter