Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Entertaining Angels, crystals, and out of the Fire!

Detail of a raku pot. The glaze boiled and bubbled whilst firing and formed this lovely lacy pattern.

A Raku Pot that was fired on Saturday and sold today.

From the front: Lorraine, Bevin, and Me!

Sometimes, so much happens in a short time, it is hard to fit it all in! We have just had a really lovely time with Bevin and Lorraine from Ashburton. They stayed at the local motor camp for a few days and spent the day time with us.

We had only met Bevin and Lorraine once before when they called into our studio and we entertained them with a cup of tea. Lorraine took the initiative shortly afterward and got in touch to see if we could arrange some more time together.

They came with their car loaded down with food, pottery gear, and kindness.

Lorraine blessed us with her lovely cooking, having arrived with cake tins full of baking, and meals for a army of very lucky troops. We were really spoiled! Lorraine also made a little surprise for Laura.

Bevin worked away with me in the studio, helping me enormously with advice on spiral wedging, two part throwing, gas burners, and spraying glazes.

It was great fun having an experienced potter working in my studio, and I really appreciated the expertise that he was able to share.

Bevin is a potter who fires with wood and gas, and he has had many years potting and also teaching evening classes. We both have enjoyed building kilns. Bevin brought a gas powered raku kiln with him, and we had a most productive time on the Saturday firing it.

The kiln is a steel drum that is lined with ceramic fiber. The gas burner is made from standard pipe fittings.

Lifting a pot from the raku kiln at just over 1000 degrees Centigrade. (Photo: Peter Watson)

Me (with hot pot), Peter Watson (taking a photo) and Bevin (putting the lid on the kiln).
Placing the pot in a metal bin full of shredded paper. The paper burns, a lid is placed over the bin, and the oxygen is used up by the hungry fire.
As the pot cools in an oxygen starved atmosphere, wonderful colours are developed in the glazes.

Bevin removes one of his pots from the bin. (Photo: Peter Watson).

Lovely silky grays and reds make this look really natural out in the garden. (Photo: Peter Watson)

Lorraine and Bevin worked as a team with the raku firing. Lorraine is applying a thick layer of damp newspaper to the top of a container containing an incandescent pot to cut off the air. An old kiln shelf is then placed on top of everything to act as a solid lid.

Penny and Jim.

Our friends, Penny and Jim, shared lunch with us on Saturday and enjoyed the raku firing. Penny and Jim will be leaving New Zealand for Australia very soon, and will be throwing themselves into a new life and adventure there. They are wonderful people, and I am sure they will add zest and sparkle where ever they go! Yes..., we will miss them!

Crystal Glazes.
I have run my first test firing with crystal glazes, and was very encouraged. I tested several recipes and tried them on different clays. At this stage I was trying for small crystals, and did a simple firing regime of a half hour "soak" from cone 7 to cone 8 well down, and a further half hour at 1100 centigrade. Some recipes worked, others grew an unattractive dense crust of tiny crystals, most had some promise.

The examples shown below are the best. Both are the same glaze but two different clay bodies. Over the first example the crystals are numerous and small. The glaze has remained fairly static.

In the second example, the clay body was near its vitrification point and this had a fluxing effect on the glaze. Quite large crystals have formed, and the glaze has started to run off the pot.

You will notice that I have left a lot of pot unglazed (I know it looks ugly, but these are for testing). I also took the precaution of making little dishes that were bisque fired then thickly coated with a mixture of aluminum hydrate and a little ball clay. The dishes were to catch the drips, and the coating helps prevent the drips from sticking too firmly.

The crystals on these two pots are actually quite beautiful and light flickers in them rather like a little fireworks display, sadly this doesn't show up on a photograph.

The most successful recipe so far was one from Lasse Östman. Lasse has a really helpful website
I like his intelligent and practical approach to this subject. Lasse likes small crystals, but many crystal glaze potters try to make them as big as possible.

Jon and LeRoy Price wrote a really good book, "The Art of Crystalline Glazing", which is hugely informative, really explaining "why" and "how" in a most approachable manner. Jon and LeRoy lean towards growing the larger crystals, and it is helpful to compare the different aims and approaches.

Anyway, I will keep playing, and try to develop something that I like, that works for me with my kiln and available materials.

Bevin starting something new in my studio.

Thank you to Bevin and Lorraine for your kindness and help over the last few days, it has been a special time for us and a great encouragement.


Angie said...

What an interesting post .... loved to see all the different glazes. I liked the first of your crystal glazes but I have to say that Bevins metalic glaze on that pot was breathtaking. I am not surprised that your Raku pot sold so quickly was wonderful and I bet its owner will have years of enjoyment from it ....just staring at the finish you have created.

Wow that box Lorraine made was an amazing piece of paper crafting ....very cleverly done.

Just incase I'm not back on here before Xmas ....have a wonderful few days ... HAPPT CHRISTMAS to you both ...xx

Linda Starr said...

Raku and crystals too. All the pots are very beautiful. What a lot of fun you are having. I must go back and reread about all that happened.

Peter said...

Hi Angie,

Happy Christmas to you too, hope you are able to get together with friends and family. I wonder if you will have snow in your part of the world? Always nice to hear from you.

Hi Linda,
Lovely to hear from you. Looks like you're almost ready to head away on your big trip from what I see on your blog. I wonder where you will be at Christmas, hopefully somewhere warm!

ang said...

hi peter super lil raku setup.. you don't need much to get great results that's why i love the process...and what fun you had with a mini workshop at your place so nice.. said...

You know that I am loving those Raku pieces! Beautiful glazes!! I hope to get a post together soon of some tests I am doing. Happy Christmas!

Peter said...

Hi Ang,
Good to hear from you. I was really impressed with the ease of firing raku with gas, and we had a great time here. It was so nice to work with someone with a lot of potting experience.

Hi Tracey,
Thanks for your comment, it is nice to hear from you, especially considering the ups and downs you are having at the moment with your Olympic kiln! Happy Christmas to you too, and I hope all your kiln frustrations are soon sorted!

Armelle said...

Hello Peter, please lend me your friend potter !!! Seriously it's very nice to have such a entertainment at home.
I love your glazes both raku and crystal ones. In France : Daniel de Monmollin is very known for his crystal glazes, made with vegetable ashes. He is a brother of a religious community and also write books.

Merry Christmas to you, Laura and Ginger

Peter said...

Hello Armelle,
It was wonderful to have Bevin and Lorraine here, lovely people, and so good to be able to share ideas and learn from watching someone else at work in the studio; maybe they would like a voyage to France!
Thank you for saying about Daniel de Monmollin, I will look him up on the internet.

Best Wishes,

Dad said...

Thank you Armelle for mentioning Daniel de Monmollin.
When I Googled him I found some lovely examples of his work.
There were several other ceramicists mentioned, of whom Georges Lanteri has some beautiful crystal glazes.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Oh my word! The pots are gorgeous! Love the raku; love the crystals in the glaze! Marvelous work!