There he is... poor old fellow, toiling into the night. I am fitting glaze catching saucers and stands to the pots.It is not uncommon for me to work into the evening when I am getting pots ready for the kiln. It is a question of having to... Putting off the job until the next day, simply puts everything back another day, and could have me finishing firings late at night.
I am starting to get into a pattern that works for me with crystalline glaze firing. I try to get the kiln loaded in the afternoon or evening of the day before the firing proper. I am not raw glazing as yet, but I like to warm up the kiln to just below 100 degrees Centigrade, just to steam out any moisture from the glaze and the protective coating of alumina that I have applied to the glaze catcher. I might do this for 2 or 3 hours.
Just before bed time I start the firing by having the kiln on a low setting. Between 2 and 4 in the morning I get up and put the kiln on a medium setting. By now it is at about 500 degrees Centigrade and is starting to show a bit of colour from the spy hole. Between 5 and 6 in the morning the kiln will now be at about 700 degrees Centigrade, and I get up and put the kiln on full, and allow it to climb at its maximum rate until the top temperature of the firing.
Firing this way, the kiln can be at peak temperature by about 10 in the morning, have dropped to crystal growing temperature by about 11am, and I can work at growing the crystals for the rest of the afternoon. Whilst it means an inevitable broken night of sleep at the start of the firing, I do then have the luxury of doing the most tricky part of the process in the daytime, and can often fit in quite a lot of other work around the firing as well.
We had a very busy weekend. On Saturday we held a pottery workshop for a group of about 9 or 10 people in Dunedin. I had been somewhat apprehensive about how it would all go, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable and productive day. My shelves are now bulging with small clay birds and other animals, vases, and bowls, which are drying prior to firing them about a week from now.
On returning home from the workshop, I had to arrange all the work on the shelves to dry, then load the kiln for a crystalline glaze firing. It was a very tired fellow that finally tumbled into bed for a few hours before getting up again to supervise the firing.
I fired through Sunday, and we also had our gallery open in the afternoon, and good friends visited for an evening meal. I hoped to achieve a different shape to the crystals in this firing, I changed my firing schedule and upped the growing temperatures a little.
The sort of mess that I have to grind off the bottom of the pot when things don't work as they should.
Sadly more than half the firing did not turn out very well at all as a result of this. The crystals were too big and mostly became a nasty shade of raw sienna. Sad..., but instructive!
I also ran into another problem. I use alumina as a "non stick" and protective coating over the glaze catching saucer and the insulating firebrick stand that goes in the middle of it. I had purchased some calcined alumina from a different supplier. Up till that point I had been calcining my own. Unfortunately the new calcined alumina did not work (I think it was too coarse), and all pots stuck very firmly to their stands, and the glaze got into the firebrick. I was very lucky that none of the pots fell over, as their stands were partly destroyed by the molten glaze. Patient work with a chisel, the bench grinder, and grindstone have freed all the pots, and I am tidying them up quite well... It just takes far longer than it should! Needless to say, I am calcining my own alumina as I write, and will use that in future.
There are always lessons to be learned from a bad firing, sometimes more than from a good firing... I will try re-firing some of the pots, they are really horrible, and re-firing won't make them worse, and it will be useful to discover what effect another firing will have on both clay and glaze.
Not all was bad in this firing, happily there were some gems in the kiln.
It is a little odd on this side with the small patch of background showing through the covering of crystals.
Close up. Notice the crystal near the bottom with the blueish center and raw sienna outer.This detail shows what, for for the most part, was a problem in this firing. The last two hours of the firing was at a temperature that was higher than the rest of the crystal growing period. You will see that the outer part of the crystals are mostly a raw sienna colour (especially in the crystal that is in the bottom of the photograph). The center portions of the crystals are often blue or gray, and when this part of the crystal was growing, the kiln was at a slightly lower temperature.
(NB teachers went on strike recently... for more pay. Hey guys, hang around a bit or I'll never catch up!)
My Expenses this week were rather higher than earnings ..., I bought a lot of clay and.......
I saw the ENT specialist this week and an Audiologist. Both were very pleasant people and were able to peer into all the appropriate places and test things out. I have probably sustained some hearing loss as a result of my latest escapade, and my ears are not coping with pressure changes very well. I would not be able to fly as things are currently, but the ENT specialist was able to give me the good news that, if I want to travel by air again, I can have a minor procedure done to fit grommets to each eardrum. Many children with "glue ear" are treated in the same manner. In my case, this will allow the pressure inside the ear to stay the same as that outside the ear, and I should be able to fly pain free.
What I really need to do to help me afford to get my ears done is a "Jug for Jug" deal.. I wonder if the ENT specialist would appreciate a large jug in payment for each of my ears!
Just a thought......!
By The Way....
I just noticed that my profile has been looked at 2010 times which is quite appropriate for this year really! (and I don't think that it was just me checking to see if my profile has been looked at..., at least, I hope not!). Anyway, a big thank you to all of you who follow this blog, and take an interest in what happens in my part of the world. I have been fascinated to see, courtesy of Google's Statistics on this blog, that this reaches people in Russia, China, and Korea, and that some people have viewed my blog on Playstation 3, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and BlackBerries! Some of you must have wonderful eyesight and determination! So a big hello to you all out there... I'm waving appreciatively!!