Sunday, April 4, 2010

Down came the rain! Crystal Glazes. Happy Easter!

Hot Cross Buns, may not have risen all they should, but they were made with love,
and brought a nice fragrance to the kitchen, and were good fresh and warm, with butter!

I have unpacked two more firings of the electric kiln since my last post, and I have one more load cooling down as I write this.

Three pots waiting to be fired. Notice the little catch basins
under each one to catch glaze that runs off the pot.

Last night I got the kiln packed with 3 large pots before going to bed, but was really, really tired so couldn't face firing them through the night, and thought I would get them going early in the morning. I was awakened just before 12.30 at night by a bit of a commotion. There was a down pour of heavy rain and the 102 year old gutter had blocked, resulting in floods in the hall and water splashing down the kitchen wall inside. Laura was making an attempt to mop up some of the puddles with towels, tea towels and anything else that could be found, and Ginger was supervising with a disgusted air of one who has been unfairly deprived of sleep!

Ginger... who else!

After ascertaining that the quantity of water entering the building was considerably in excess of the volume of water being mopped up, I pulled on trousers over my pyjamas, put on a oilskin jacket, and stumbled off in search of the ladder, calling for Laura to bring the torch. Somewhere in transit, I started off the kiln, seeing as the night's sleep was clearly to be a disturbed one at best.

Outside, it would have been pleasant if the rain had been heated in the heavens before being hurled with great abandon on the sleeping world below. I heaved the ladder upright, extended it to a perilous length (of at least 12 feet!!!), lent it firmly against the side of the building, and ascended like a sailor clambering up the rigging of a doomed sailing ship, foundering off Cape Horn.

Gutters slopped and gurgled ominously as I clambered onto the thankfully fairly flat roof over the back part of the building. Armed with a length of bamboo, and a garden trowel, I located the source of the problem, which was a short length of pipe that was firmly blocked with autumn leaves. Probing the pipe with the bamboo, first let out a trickle, then a gathering stream, and then a roaring torrent of water that looked impressive enough to have turned the blades of a turbine and generated our power.

Honestly, it is ridiculous, but water from the whole of the main roof of this building is gathered in gutters which then channel all the water through one silly pipe of only about 3 inches in diameter (perhaps it was 4 inches, but it didn't look it). This pipe is semi buried in the brickwork, and takes the water from most of the roof, then empties it out on the short fairly flat roof, from which it is gathered in another gutter, and emptied down a long drainpipe to the ground. A blockage in the pipe causes the gutters to overflow all around the building. The gutters are heavy cast iron affairs that sit on top of the brick cavity wall. They have joints every 5 feet. If a joint fails, or if the gutters overflow, water floods into the cavity wall, and spills out into the building when it meets up with a window frame or other interruption.

Anyway, enough is enough, I am going to get something done about it at last.... A job that I got tooooo busy to be able to sort out over the summer period here, but it must be done before winter really sets in.

In a strange way it almost was fun clambering around on the roof in the dark of night, armed with the uncertain glow of a torch and a length of bamboo.

After persuading some almost blocked gutter to unblock further along from the main problem area, I descended from my mountain top, and checked the kiln before going in to dry off.

I fired the kiln through the rest of the night, and finished the firing at 3.30pm this afternoon. The kiln has the last pots for the exhibition on board, the biggest of the lot, so I really hope they work OK. There was a brief power cut just after cone 7 went down, but the power was on less than a minute later and I was able to continue the firing (I have to go to cone 8 for top temperature with these glazes). My kiln switches completely off and doesn't reset itself if there is a power outage, so I was most fortunate to have been in the kiln shed at the time the power went down and was able to reset the kiln when power was restored. A short outage like that can be very frustrating, because it is easy not to notice it.

I am fortunate to have got some more good pots from the last two firings. Three out of Five pots in the first of those, and 6 out of 6 in the second.

I'll post some more photos of these now.



I like the greyed blue of these crystals. I used a thin coat of the crystal glaze base with some nickel in it, to modify the glaze with the cobalt in. This pot also has nice variety of crystal shapes, from the cross to the round shape.

This glaze has ash-like runs in it.

This pot was fired towards the higher side of the crystal growing range of temperatures I use. You can see that the crystals are longer and more spiky.


I made two of these forms, which were made on the wheel and then flattened on two opposite sides.

I guess the more autumnal palette may not agree with everyone, but it appeals to me more than
some of the others. I was born in a thunderstorm!!!

I'm interested in this glaze, the crystals get so dark in the middle and have that light blue margin. If I can get a reasonable amount of space between the crystals on a large pot, I think it will be spectacular. I'm working on it!


I have only just started using more than one glaze at a time with the crystal glazed
pots. This one has a copper green glaze with a cobalt blue one applied lightly over it.


This bowl has a strange 3D quality to it.

Hard to photograph this one without the colours either being not strong enough,
or them being exaggerated. These are just a fraction too strong really.


Sorry to have gone on for the last few posts only about crystal glazes, but that has been my life for the last 3 weeks!

Strange not to struggle along to the "wee Kirk" this Easter... tut, tut..., I was tending the fire... you might say! Laura did make some hot cross buns to help celebrate Easter, and it was lovely having the nice yeasty smell of baking permeating the kitchen.

Louise from Gallery On Blueskin called today to look at the pots that will be going into the exhibition. I think she is excited with progress. It will be very interesting for me seeing the pots displayed properly. I find I can learn a great deal from seeing my work in another setting. Sometimes the learning is painful, but it is always helpful. I like some of the colours I am achieving in the crystal glazes, and others don't quite feel "me" somehow, so I am hoping that displaying them in another setting will make this clearer for me. I am about ready to do more throwing again, and it will be good to think of suitable forms for some of the glazes I have played with so far.

Must go to bed now. Hope it doesn't rain tonight!!

Here I am reading Arkansas Patti's wonderful blog "The New Sixty"
with a little help from my friend! Most of my blogging is done thus,
and Ginger has on rare occasions added his own comment. He is still
learning to master the keyboard. It is hard work with four legs at once!

Happy Easter!

8 comments:

Angie said...

HAPPY EASTER ..... if I havent said it already ...Love the aroma of home made buns but I was a lazy one this year and bought them.

As I read your account of the blocked gutter I had to have a little giggle as I painted a picture in my head .....sorry ... it must have been horendous and I know I would have been crying if it had been me.


Love those pots and bowls but there is a very interesting 'work in progress' I saw in the first pottery shot ...cant wait to see it with its glaze.


Ginger looks so happy with you ...I miss not having a ginger feline ...adds a splash of colour lol

cookingwithgas said...

what a story about your rain- best laid plans of a good night of sleep gone bad!
Those are some hot looking buns!
And the pots are just coming along so nicely.
Best to all and of course Ginger.

Peter said...

Hi Angie,
Happy Easter to you too! I hope you had an enjoyable one. I'm glad that you giggled at the account of the blocked gutter, the event was not without humour, and certainly got me out of my studio into the fresh air!

You've got me all intrigued as to which one the "interesting work in progress" is (I wonder if it was the tall jug??). I certainly haven't yet glazed them all, probably another 3 kiln loads worth to do in the not to distant future, so it will no doubt be amongst them.. and all will be revealed!

Ginger is lovely to have around. Demanding at times, but very, very affectionate, and a good modifier of my moods. You can't be grumpy for long when you have a cat purring away at you, rubbing his little face against your own!

Thanks Meredith,
I is so nice to hear from you. As I do all this mad science with the crystal glaze stuff, I have another part of me that is in a quiet panic about work for the NC show! Not sure if I'll end up sending something crystal glazed, or wood fired at this stage, but don't want to "let the side down"!
Most impressive large "crown pots" on your blog. Good luck to you and Mark for "glaze week"!

Anonymous said...

Actually Peter, you were born at a full moon. That may account for a lot!
I think the full moon stimulates the baby and the thunder startles the mother into contractions... the rest is history - or your-story if you prefer!

The pots are getting better and better... where will it end?

All the best for the exhibition.

Don't wait for the next autumn downpour to stimulate into getting those gutters FIXED!

See ya round. Dad.

Peter said...

Hi Dad,
Ah, that's why I'm restless when there is a full moon! Now I know!

Gutters are a priority!

Linda Starr said...

Hi Peter, your glazes are so beautiful and I didn't realize that they had to be fired so high. I like the orange and blue together, perhaps because it is so unusual. That orange is rather golden in color and a great contrast for the blue crystals. Ginger is such a sweet cat, what would we do without them? I suspect we may have similar experiences here with gutters as Florida is supposed to get some tremendous down pours, so far so good, summer will be the big rainy season here coming up. I like how you describe learning about your pots in a different setting, that is good and interesting to hear. Good luck with the show. Hi to Laura and Ginger.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Your crystal glazes just get more and more beautiful! I very much like your "autumnal" colors. I hope the exhibition goes well and that your lovely pots and plates and whatevers get rave results!

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Lovely to hear from you. It's funny, but there seem to be a couple of popular temperature ranges for crystal glazes, most seem to be around cone 10, and some go for cone 5 or 6. As always, I'm the odd one out at cone 8 and a half! Usually my pyrometer is saying somewhere between 1245 - 1250 degrees Centigrade (2280 Fahrenheit) when cone 8 is completely down. One thing that prompted me to try some recipes from the Swedish potter, Lasse Östman, was the maturing temperature of his glazes. Cone 8 suits both the clay I have available and my ageing electric kiln.

I like the orange and blue too, I'm hoping to run a series of experiments with it after the exhibition opens. I've got a feeling that bone ash might be interesting in that glaze somewhere!

Hope your cats are adjusting to the move OK. We are battling with another cat trying to move in at the moment!!!

Hello Pat,
Lovely to hear from you too. Thank you for your cheerful, encouraging words throughout all this desperately busy period, it is much appreciated. I always feel like a guest at your fireside when you write, and that is a precious thing.