Monday, September 28, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

Cleopatra Pitcher. Alkaline copper glaze. Height 15 inches.

To turn up to an exhibition opening with a box of pots still warm from the kiln, may seem heroic, but it is actually bad organization! Anyway, on Sunday morning I arrived at Gallery On Blueskin at Waitati with my work for their Spring Show 15 minutes before the 11am opening and, yes.., half of the pots were still slightly warm and the others were only a day older! The gallery did know that the pots were coming at the last moment (I had arranged it a couple of days before) and had reserved a table for them, so all worked out well, but I did feel bad being so late all the same.

A snake head meets its tail in the shade of the handle!

Things had got to that last minute state as a direct result of my poor old brain trying to think of too many things at once. I had known that the exhibition was coming up, but.., another Spring exhibition event in a month's time smeared some of my date remembering neurons, and things were scrambled up there!

Pitcher with cobalt wash decoration. Approximately 14 and a half inches high.

The good thing was that a potter friend of mine got in touch about a week ago and asked me if I could deliver his things to the gallery for the Spring Show. This alerted me as to the actual date, and our place became a scene of frantic activity.

Pitcher with alkaline copper glaze approximately 15 inches high.

I had several commitments through the week that ate into my productive time, but managed to bisque, glaze, and then fire two electric kiln loads of earthenware pots that I had made some time earlier and had been accumulating for a wood firing.

11 inch jug incised slip decoration under glaze with green/blue washes.

Not only is my electric kiln completely hands on, but it also takes a long time to cool, nevertheless, I see from my kiln log, that I managed to fire it on the 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, and 26th before the show, and put another bisque on the 27th as soon as I got home from the opening. The firing on the 18th was one I was doing anyway, but firings after that were for the show. The unpacking of the first glaze firing took place at 2.30am and the kiln was commencing the next glaze firing by 3am, that was my equivalent of changing a set of wheels on a formula one car in the middle of a race.

6 inch milk jug

I was almost as busy cooling the kiln for those last two firings as I was firing it, so I have had very little uninterrupted sleep for quite a time. My electric kiln is top loading and I cracked open the lid with progressively longer props from 550 degrees Centigrade. With care, by inserting a slightly longer prop every hour or two, I could get it to come down at about 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade per hour. I had a top cover shelf over all the work about 3 inches below the top of the kiln so none was directly exposed to the cold night air. This is not a practice that I would recommend as it is not kind on the kiln or its furniture, but it did make the difference between completely failing to get work to the gallery, and arriving in the nick of time.

6 inch jug with flowing cobalt and manganese washes.

One good thing about being under pressure to get Something to the exhibition was that I did
glaze the earthenware pots, including some large ones that I was a bit scared of glazing! I was very pleased with the result. Also, I mostly resisted the temptation to play really safe in the glazing. Things were so desperate anyway, that a glazing disaster hardly would have made things worse..., but something daring, could result in an exhibition piece.

6 inch jug with flowing cobalt and manganese washes.

9 inch jug with cobalt decoration.

8 inch jug with flowing cobalt and manganese washes.

11 inch jug with flowing copper washes.

11 inch jug with flowing cobalt and manganese washes.

Ginger cat (who wanted to be helpful) and jug.

As well as getting pots ready for the exhibition, I have also managed to squeeze in some time to repair and, hopefully, improve the wood fired raku kiln that I built some time ago.

I have my group of teenagers coming to do a raku session as soon as it stops raining, so I am getting the kiln ready for that.

About the Glazes.
A few years ago I played with a Janet DeBoos glaze. This was for Cone 05 -03 and had frit 4110/ 90, Ball clay/ 5, Lithium carbonate/ 5, Tin oxide/4, Copper Carbonate/6
I liked the blue green colour of this alkaline copper glaze, but it had a really bad tendency to form a huge lump in the bottom of the glaze container, was impossible to apply with a brush on bisque, and matured just slightly on the low side for the clay I am using and fitted very badly. I decided to use it, but I modified it by reducing the frit to 85 parts, doubling the ball clay to 10 parts, adding 1 part bentonite, replacing the Lithium carbonate with Petalite. I also cut back slightly on the copper carbonate, to 5.5 rather than 6. The extra ball clay and the bentonite made the glaze a pleasure to apply with the brush, aided glaze suspension in the glaze bucket, and also raised the maturing temperature. I suspect that replacing the Lithium carbonate with petalite may have also helped prevent the solid lump in the bucket as Lithium carbonate is not only poisonous but is partially water soluble. (Petalite is a mineral that contains lithium, alumium and silica.). I took a risk in using my modified version of the glaze untested, but I was really pleased with the result. The first pitcher that begins this blog is an example of this modified glaze.

I used two other glazes, one a commercial white "safe" glaze (which I usually find too refrigerator like white in some situations). The other glaze was a lead bisilicate glaze with some earthenware clay, ball clay, and tin oxide. I love this one as it is a warm white that has character. I also found that it was possible to do watercolour like washes with oxides over this white without fear of it blistering or lifting off. So I tried some free runny washes, which were fun to apply and did pick up any incised detail. You will see some examples of the runny watercolour-like washes in some of the photos above.

Drying the glazes at night by the stove. The pale glazed pot on the right is one of the tall green pitchers.

For those who haven't seen unfired glazes before, I thought you might be interested in these photos. As you will see, the pots are shades of gray at this stage. The final colour only develops as the pot is fired in the kiln. The dry, powdery components of the glaze have to melt and make what is in fact a special sort of glass.

The pitcher on the left is the 14 and a half inch one with the cobalt blue washes.

My sister, Christine, has recently started putting a blog together about a trip that she and her husband did to England, Europe, and Africa, if you are in the mood to do some arm chair traveling, you might like to hop over and have a look. Here is a link Turners' Travels


Kitty Shepherd said...

I call it brilliant marketing as well as heroic turning up for a selling show with all your pots still warm. I used to advertise my kiln openings when I fired a wood fired honey pot kiln in Sussex and the crowds would flock to see this happening and then once you got them touching; well it’s in the bag literally and sold.
I particularly like the jug with incised slip decoration under glaze with green/blue washes. Did you know that to have many jugs in the home bring wealth? I hope you sell them all. But not the ginger cat he looks just too useful for words.

Peter said...

Thank you for that Kitty, lovely to hear from you. A wood fired honey pot kiln in Sussex sounds just wonderful... is it still there? Sadly crowds and sales are rather small at the moment, but I am hoping that there might be a sale or two in the course of the exhibition. Anyway, glad that you liked the jug with incised slip, I'm rather enthused by how the glaze over incised slip worked out and am itching to try some more. I hope to bung a few more jugs through the electric kiln this week, and have a bisque cooling as I write. All the best to you.

Pat - Arkansas said...

I find it amazing to see what fire (heat) can do (reference last photo to finished product). Being uneducated on such things, I can only suppose that the first such occurrence was a long ago accident (rather like roast pig.)

Your jugs are gorgeous, and I'd gladly have a house full.

Arkansas Patti said...

Glad you and Bonnie made contact. Thought she would love your work also.
Wonderful luck with your exhibition. You do such beautiful work.

Anonymous said...

i always loved the idea of warm pots and showing up somewhere with warm pots... other than potters, who gets to hold a fresh, warm pot? i like the cobalt wash, gonna have to give that some thought

Angie said...

LOVE that cleo pitcher ...resulting colour blows me away ...perfect name for the item. I also love your 6" jug ... looks 'right' if you see what I mean. Also I think, for you, more haste more creativity lol

Anonymous said...

Awesome work and details....Nothing wrong with warm and ON TIME ( even if it's a few mintues prior to show time!)
Good Luck SELL WELL!

angela walford said...

i love alkaline glazes, they have such great liquidity....and super application too, i really like all the brushwork..truly crazy firing cycles but you made it so i hope the shows a good one with lots of lovely feedback..cheers ang

Kitty Shepherd said...

I always stop by! Thanks for going by Verification Vocabulary and being a follower. It is keeping us most amused I can tell you.
Kiln is still there in Sussex but not being used as it was, due to degeneration sadly, but it was a complete brute of a thing that I only ever did garden ware in. Glaze firing was horrid and had to be done in saggers.

Peter said...

Hello Pat,
Like you, I suspect that the first glazes were a happy accident. There is a lovely build up of natural ash glaze on some of the bricks inside my wood fired kiln. I think that discovering such things would have given early potters a really useful clues as to how to make glazes. Some of the first were probably just wood ash and clay.

Hi Patti,
Thanks for arranging the contact, it will be fun to meet up with another blogger if she gets down this way.

Hi Jim,
Warm pot exhibitions could become quite the thing. Imagine inviting a whole group of potters to an exhibition where the work had to still be at above blood heat when it was put on display! I guess some would cheat.. small pots in a thermos, that sort of thing! I was really interested with the oxide washes, I enjoyed the physicality of their application too which seemed like more of a natural progression from the making of the pot stage.

Hi Angie,
Thanks for that. The more haste more creativity does seem to work for me. Some of my best landscape paintings were done when I was being blasted by a gale and progressively frozen... Thank goodness that at least some of the pottery processes are warm ones!

Thanks for that Mary, as I was saying to Jim, a warm pot potters' group show would be quite something!

Hi Ang,
Nice to hear from you. Still floundering a bit with low fired glazes and getting them to fit anything, but was really encouraged by the way the modified Deboos one worked out. I'm going to play further with it with different amounts of colouring oxides, and so on.., also some rutile with the copper might be interesting.

Peter said...

Hi Kitty,
What fun hearing from you again! I was thinking of adding a post script to my first reply to your comment to let people know about your hilarious word verification site. I'd love to see the beehive kiln some time (I'm rather fond of brutish wood fired kilns, especially impossible up draft ones!) You wouldn't happen to have a photo of it would you??

Linda Starr said...

Wow Peter, just under the wire, but your work is spectacular again and I love all your descriptions of your techniques and glazes, the Ginger cat photo is wonderful and great seeing you working on the kiln; a raku party sounds like such fun. The very last pot is my favorite with the cobalt and manganese, I like how the color emphasizes the swelling part of the pot. said...

Love these glazes! I am on a similar path with testing right now. I'm looking for some glazes for earthenware that will go with my turquoise raku glaze. The first photo looks similar to a glaze I am testing right now. The washes are brilliant though!

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Nice to hear from you, thanks for your encouragement. Ginger was funny when I took the photos of the pot, he kept insisting on jumping up and posing, and also trying to climb onto my shoulders, which is something he likes to do. The Raku firing has had to be put off for a few days as, two days in a row, we have had continuous light rain falling and everything is fairly cold and damp outside. I'll be doing some more glazing today instead.

Hi Tracey,
I've been popping over to your site quite a bit lately and noticed that you were testing glazes (hope you will put some photos up soon too!). I'll definitely do some more playing with the washes. I was really interested in the way that they can pick up the incised parts of the pot. They also feel liberating in a way that I have not experienced when attempting majolica decoration. I really want to throw a whole load more pots now and to experiment more with surfaces and slips that glazes and washes will pick up.

rwhendrix said...

That cleopatra pitcher is beautiful. I cant wait to expiriment with glazes myself. Great job Peter.

Peter said...

Hi Richard,
Good to hear from you. I was really pleased by the Cleopatra pitcher, it gives me some more courage to work bigger and try to make things that challenge me technically. Regarding glazes, there is lots of useful information on the net, and some good books around that will get you started. Do sing out if you would like any book titles. I have a few that I like, and I am sure that some of the potters that read this could have suggestions too. Some of the potter's blogs that I have links to also have really helpful glazing tips.

cindy shake said...

Love the Cleopatra pitcher. The glaze color reminds me of some ancient Egyptian beads I saw at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Lovely.

As for arriving with warmed pots, just think of it like warm delicious, fresh bread fresh from the oven, mmmmm!

Peter said...

Lovely to hear from you Cindy,
Warm pots are rather delicious in their way, it is just the stress of being Soooo near to missing a deadline that I could do without! Nice that you picked up on the Egyptian bead colour..., that was what I had in mind. I would like to dabble in making some Egyptian paste sometime as that alkaline copper blue is stunningly beautiful.

soubriquet said...

Really like these pieces, late mediaeval look to them, very like some of the pieces that came out of the archaelogical dig at pontefract castle.
However, the swirly decoration, greys, blues, greens, that makes me think of paintings by J.M.W.Turner,

Armelle said...

I really like these pieces too, these glazes are as watercolours.....Thank you to share those beautifull photos of your ceramics. I am very pleased with your proposal to make a sketch of your small raku kiln for me, with no holes in the shelves !!!

Best wishes

Peter said...

Hello Soubriquet,
Thank you so much for your interesting comments, it is lovely to hear from you, welcome to this site. I had an enjoyable visit to your site and a good look at some of your photos. The landscape did make me nostalgic for the North of England. I was interested in your comments on my post about using a microwave to dry clay, and to see that there had been some experimenting done with that. Also you mentioned one of my drawings as reminding you of Dent. I cycled to Dent once from Kirkby Londsdale via Barbondale as a 14 or 15 year old. It is a lovely spot.

Hi Armelle,
Thanks for the nice comments. I am working on a drawing for you of a raku kiln. Sorry not to have it ready by now but I am busy glazing pots for a firing in my big kiln this weekend and am working very long hours. Hope to have something for you tomorrow all going well,

Armelle said...

Hello Peter,

Today, I found a match for the fritts according to a document of New Zealand. Iam able to find
ferro fritt 3124 = your fritt 4124
ferro fritt 3110 = your fritt 4110
ferro fritt 3134 = your fritt 4108

So I am very happy and I am able to try your recipe.

Kind regards

Peter said...

Hi Armelle,

Très bon !

Les recettes suivront bientôt.