Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Airport Gateway Hotel, 206 Kirkbride road, Mangere

Yesterday I flew up to Auckland from Dunedin. As we began our descent to Wellington, I began to experience fairly severe pain in both ears, which stubbornly refused to acclimatise to the changing pressures. Things were quite bad, but the pain subsided whilst I was waiting for my connection flight to Auckland. Sadly, the approach to Auckland was worse (I didn't think that there was a "worse" to how the ears were coming into Wellington, but I can assure you that there is!).

I realize now that I was quite shocked and disorientated after I disembarked. The sea was roaring in my ears, and my head felt like it was under water.

In the midst of the chaos of trying to find my way to the International Departure place, I took several wrong turnings and even found myself crossing a road at an airport carpark! Anyway, I found the International part of the airport, and, more importantly, a little desk with a sign above it saying "Help!" This was manned by two people who were probably volunteers. I was so thankful to them for their understanding. They managed to arrange for airport paramedics to talk to me, who nothing about ears (they were from the fire department), but were kind and helped me find the airport doctor. Getting to the airport doctor meant a taxi ride of less than 2 km, that cost me $50.... The standard return fare was $60, but he offered to do it for $50 when he saw my distress. Actually he was very kind, and waited, and waited for me whilst I was at the doctor. All this was going on, and I had less than 30 minutes to go before boarding the LA part of the flight.

The doctor found that the left ear, which was the better of the two, was already bruised inside with bleeding going on behind the eardrum, and the right ear was worse, and also was filled up with fluid. The doctor was experienced with seeing flight staff, and said I could not fly for a minimum of two days. I asked him what would happen if I simply kept going and got him to write me an antibiotic script to keep away infection later, and he said that to continue I was very likely to rupture something in the ear, and if the wrong part ruptured, I would suffer permanent deafness.

Then I had to rush back to the airport. Air NZ were really helpful, and managed to retrieve my luggage from the plane. I then had a long talk with the after hours desk at Flight Center, who were also helpful, and then a rather non productive long talk to the flight insurance people.

2.5 hours later I was booking into the Gateway Hotel, somewhere (goodness knows where) close to the airport.

To be honest, I have no idea what to do at this stage. I have a feeling that it is unlikely that I will be able to fly for quite some time.

Anyway, I am terribly sorry that I am going to be almost certainly missing the opening of the show, and I think it likely that I may not be able to come over at all.

I will have to leave things here. I will stay tomorrow night at this Hotel too (I'm in room 158). I don't know if there are any Auckland bloggers that follow this and feel like they could rescue me for an hour or two, but you can always leave a message at the desk here.

So, big apologies to all of you in America who were expecting me and were arranging things for me. I will try to Email you all, but I'm on a hotel computer, that is eating up the dollars rather.

Dunno how I'm getting home again to Dunedin, that will be an adventure in itself if I am not flying.

I feel really like I have let an awful lot of people down.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flowers, Cold, Fire, and Travel

Laura is in her garden. Spring has visited us. So has Winter. Winter, ferocious and cruel, Spring, optimistic and kind.

The white, fragile flowers of the wild plum trees bringing honeyed fragrance on still evenings.

The odd, but compelling Hellebore plants with their toothy leaves and pale green flowers.


The return of colour. Blue, red, white and yellow chasing away the grey, brown, and ashen pastel shades of winter.

A daffodil trumpet, following the sun.


The bell shaped flowers of the Fritillaria.


A double daffodil!


Then winter returns. At first it is exhilarating, later it is tragic as thousands of lambs and ewes perish in the storm that lasts for days.



I have done about 3 more firings since I last posted. I have been trying to get some stock put aside for when I am away, and also to have pots for three exhibitions that I am taking part in through October.

This is a small sample really, but should give an impression of the palette of colours that I progressively expanding, and the different shapes and characteristics of the crystals.

This glaze has manganese, iron, and copper added to the base glaze. I really like the smoky look that the glaze has about half way down the pot.

Here is a detail of part of the pot. You may notice that several of the pots have very definite thin, dark margins around the crystals. This is something that I am playing with at the moment.

Iron and manganese do nice things together in a glaze. I find that the iron gives a warmth and texture to the "background" colour surrounding the crystal.


Cobalt and manganese are a nice combination. Cobalt colours the crystals and manganese mostly goes to work on the surrounding colour. I found this hard to photograph. The surrounding colour is a bit too yellow, it should be more of a raw umber colour.





These colours and shapes make me think of Australia, for some reason. I think there is a bit of a feeling of gum tree bark about it!

Hummm, if truth be know, this is one of my favorite pots. I nearly put it in an exhibition today, but couldn't part with it! There is cobalt, copper, and manganese at work in this glaze.

Here is a detail. The pot is H22.5 x W22 cm.

I love what happened to the crystals on this pot. There are little yellow stars in some of the ones near the top of the pot, and the ones further down seem to focus the light like lenses.

This one is also a favorite. The same glaze again with manganese, cobalt and copper.

Here is my largest crystalline pot so far. It stands at just over 37 cm high and is about 28 cm wide. I put this one in the Gallery-on-Blueskin Spring exhibition that opened today at Waitati, just North of Dunedin. Very hard to photograph this one unfortunately. The background colour graduates from a sort of yellow ochre at the neck to a very warm, rich red/ brown towards the foot. The crystals are shades of blue-grey and ivory. The pot took up most of my electric kiln, I just managed to fit in two small test pots with it.

These crystals are up around the shoulders and neck of the pot.

These crystals are further down.

My firings are getting quite long now. I mostly seem to take 8 or 9 hours firing to the top 1250 Centigrade temperature, then spend about 5.5 hours growing the crystals in a 1040 - 1100 Centigrade range of temperatures. You will notice that the crystals have growth rings in them, which I make by dropping the temperature 40 -50 degrees then bringing it back up again. I make dark margins around the crystals by dropping to about 1010 Centigrade and holding for half an hour at the end of the crystal growing portion of the firing.

Travel
Tomorrow (Monday) I'll hopefully find time to pack for the trip to the USA. That commences on Tuesday (28th). I leave NZ on the 28th, and arrive on the 28th... not long before midnight, but still the "same" day. Strange what time zones will do. It will take me "two" days to fly home again!

I am not nearly prepared enough for the trip. The potting things all took longer than planned. I had some battles with a tummy bug that hit me just over a week ago. I'm well over it now, but it made me rather weak and tired which didn't help with the work that I really wanted to get done..... and so many "unimportant" things took over most of my time and attention. I even had a simmerstat die on the kiln at a difficult moment. Oh, well...

When I contemplate the travel, I do confess that there are moments when I feel a bit like a cat going to visit the vet...., I'm not really much of a traveler, but it will be very special for me to be able to visit potters and see lots of work, and I do so much want to meet up with people that I have corresponded with via the blog.

Not sure if I will get a moment to post anything more before I actually start this voyage overseas... or should that be "over skies". So, best wishes and happy thoughts to you all, and thank you so much for your comments and kindness. I look forward to meeting up with as many of you as I can very soon!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Big Pots. Canterbury earthquake.

Laura took some photos of me working on a couple of large pots last night. In the photo above I have just attached a coil of clay and am now carefully throwing it upwards with light pressure from my finger tips. Notice almost no water is needed for this.

I am truing up the top of the pot by removing a little "worm" of clay from the rim with a needle.

I am folding the top of the pot over to form a nice thick rim. Wheel thrown flower pots can have a nice thick rim built into them by folding the top outwards and down, then carefully pressing it together (without trapping air) to double the thickness of the pot at the rim. This feature is just not done these days with press molded flower pots, although some of them do imitate it.

I brushed white slip onto the pot after I had finished it, then I scratched patterns into the wet slip with a home made comb.

This pot is 16.5 inches high (419mm), and was made by throwing a largish lump of centered clay as high as I comfortably could, then adding coils of clay and throwing them higher, after first allowing the base of the pot to stiffen. This pot has a nice even wall thickness and feels well balanced and quite light (to me) for its size.

Here I am brushing white slip onto another large pot, this one is about 15.5 inches in height (394mm).

I scratched a decoration into the slip on the following day (today!).

I added some "sprigged" decoration to this pot.

I have made various bisqued clay stamps and molds, and sometimes use them to decorate soft clay. On the left the raised decoration is in the form of a crown. I took a clay cast of a little metal box lid that someone found under a house near here. The box may have been for snuff, and it had a rather nice crown embossed on the lid. The raised decoration on the right is something I made when I was going through my "bronze age" period. It is a bit like a bronze age shield.

These pots are made out of earthenware clay, and will have a simple clear glaze put over the slip. The pots will be fired in my wood fired kiln (I haven't any other kiln big enough to take them... even if I wanted them done another way!).

Quake Update.
Thank you to those of you who thought of us when New Zealand was shaken up early on our Saturday morning. We are about 4 hours drive South of Christchurch and, fortunately for us there was no damage, although the shake was bad enough here to make the blinds clatter, the bed shake, and the lights swing violently. There was a lot of damage done in Christchurch and in the surrounding towns. Some buildings fell down, or were so badly damaged they have had to be demolished. Hundreds of aftershocks continue to keep people in a state of tension and some are strong enough to cause more damage, especially to buildings that are already weakened by the initial 7.1 quake. Whilst some of the City now functions... many people have not been able to return home, or go to work. Most schools in Christchurch have been shut, but may open next week. More than 80 workers at the Kaiapoi New World supermarket have been told that they are to lose their jobs. The supermarket was wrecked in the quake.

The two images that follow are from www.geonet.org.nz , these should give a fairly good idea of the wobbly nature of the Canterbury area of New Zealand at the moment.

This image shows the 7.1 quake and the aftershocks in the days following it.


This image is the recording from the Seismograph drum that is located at McQueens Valley, Canterbury, quite close to Christchurch. The image shows the size and number of aftershocks that have happened over the last 24 hours. Where the shock is very large, the trace is marked red and is clipped in size to stop it overwriting too much of the surrounding image.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shake, Rattle, and Roll! Crystalline Pots!


Shake, Rattle, and Roll!
An earthquake at 4.35am today was enough to rattle blinds, and swing light bulbs, but did no damage here. The earthquake was quite prolonged, and we were still seeing some evidence of it up to 3 minutes after the onset. According to geonet website, the quake was 7.4 and centered near Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, but was fairly deep at 60 km, so..., hopefully, not too much damage done, but there are reports of the City losing electrical power. Aftershocks are continuing, but they seem to be between 3 - 4 on the Richter scale, and we are not quite feeling them here, but... almost seem to be?? Those of you who might be interested in earthquakes, have a look at the geonet website, just follow the link I provided above. I quite like the section of their website, entitled "Quake Drums". This shows the seismometer readings at various NZ locations, and is updated every few minutes.

Crystalline Pots.
Here follow some photos of crystalline pots that I took out of the kiln earlier in the week. I was really pleased with progress. I did quite a lot of ones with a copper green glaze as well, and these have turned out OK too, but I want to use some in a reduction firing experiment, so will show before and after photos of them when I have done that.

I was so pleased with this, taking it out of the kiln was like receiving a really precious gift from someone. There is a gentle gradation of colour in the area that surrounds the crystals, that slowly grades from a pale yellow to blue. (It has hardly shown up in the photo.) The crystals seem to float like flowers in water.



This pot is one with titanium, iron, and cobalt in the glaze. I am pleased with how this glaze is progressing. It seems to like nearly 5 hours of time to grow the crystals. My first tests with this glaze only produced small purple blotches on a reddish orange background.



The centers of some of the crystals are like a cross-section through kiwi fruit... but not green!



This pot had a crystal that was much larger than the rest. It has very nice fine detail in the crystal, and a lovely orange flecked surrounding area. You might like to click on this detailed shot to magnify it.

Whilst the colouring is similar in this pot, the crystals have a different character.



In this firing I made several rings in the crystals by dipping the temperature whilst I was in the 5 hour crystal growing period of the firing. The very first photo on this post is a detail of a crystal on the pot above which has very distinct growth rings.



At last...... I have some Prussian blue crystals on a yellow background from nickel. The glaze needs lots more work to be acceptable. It is currently quite rough textured and crazed, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Earthquake Update (Added Saturday 7.45pm)
The earthquake turned out to be far more damaging than was first thought, and a much shallower quake. Most recent figures have the quake estimated to have been magnitude 7.1, and at 10 km in depth. The epicenter was located 40 km west of Christchurch, and aftershocks have occurred throughout the day, three in excess of magnitude 5.

Many buildings in the Christchurch area were badly damaged, some of the older ones collapsed. Two people were seriously injured in the quake and one is in intensive care, many others were injured by glass and falling debris. Parts of Christchurch near the river were flooded, and much of the city was without electric power. Railway tracks were bent into neat wave formations in places, and it is believed that the tracks may be closed for about 3 days. The Central Business area is closed and under curfew tonight, and there is a Civil Defense Emergency. Damage occurred in some other towns. Chimneys collapsing seems a fairly common event.

Some people will have lost their homes and businesses in the quake, and our sincere sympathy goes out to them. It will be an enormous undertaking to repair the worst affected areas, and will take a great deal of time and kindness to put people's lives back together again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Pots

A large pot on my kick wheel.

This week I have unloaded a really successful crystalline glaze firing, we visited our friend James in Lawrence, and I have been making some big pots. Photos of the first two events will appear next time, but.... as I am almost ready to give a big sigh, curl up, and go to sleep, I will just put photos of two of the big pots I have been working on.

The pots are both earthenware planters, but I envision that the neck only will hold the plants, and the lower part of the pot can be weighted with stones.

Making the lower part of the pot.

The more portly looking of the two pots is 24 inches high (610 mm) and about 15 or 16 inches wide (400mm). This one was made by throwing the lower part of the pot, then adding coils of clay, and throwing them higher. These pots are destined either to be used as advertising at the Potter's Co-op in Dunedin, or at our place. The idea is that they will sit outside the door and help attract some attention. Because of the need of the pots to attract attention, I have added the "pie crust" decoration. I hope to make four large pots of similar size, and we can have two, and the Co-op can have two.

Adding a coil of clay to the neck.

I have added white slip to the top part of the pots, and will put a clear glaze over it, probably with some copper in the glaze for colour. The pots will have to be wood fired as my wood fired kiln is the only one I have that will fit them! I am rather troubled by the weight of them..., not sure that my kiln shelves will cope, so I will probably do a temporary modification to the kiln to make something solid for the pots to stand on.

24 inch pot decorated and slipped.

All going well.... I'll manage to fire them before I go away to the United States. For those who haven't quite caught up with it.., I'll be traveling to North Carolina at the end of September, arriving in time for the opening of the Clay and Blogs exhibition that Meredith is curating. I will be in America for most of October, and hope to travel down to Arkansas after spending some time in North Carolina. Sadly, Laura won't be coming with me this time, but... I am sure that the cats will be really pleased that she will be looking after them and keeping our little gallery open whilst I am away!

25 inch pot decorated and slipped.

The slimmer pot (shown above) is 25 inches high (635mm). It was made by throwing a bottom part and a middle part separately, then joining them. After shaping these and throwing them a little higher, the neck was added with two thrown collars of clay. The good thing about this method was that it was not quite as slow as the coil and throw method.

Must away to bed now... Yawn!