Test tile with dark blue glaze and chun overglaze
The Sunday peace has something to do with an absence of noise, a lack of motion, a sense of not much going on. It could be that point in the weekend where shoppers have "dropped", where party goers have "crashed", and people making a journey "away" for the weekend have finally got "away", for a few hours anyway, before making the drive home again.
Test tile with Hoheria leaves
The peace could also be the legacy of Sundays past, The Lord's day, where washing was not hung out, where lawns were not mowed, where children behaved, and where the servants sometimes had a half day off!
The Peace described above would seem to be rather bound up with the idea of doing without, with stopping something, or with silence. Fortunately, as I am a busy person, I have found that there are times when there is such a thing as "Active Peace", a Peace that comes by doing something. I frequently find that variety of peace when making a pot, or a series of pots, on the wheel. The act of centering clay, pulling the clay up, thinning, and shaping it, is a bit like slow, controlled breathing. There is some physical effort, then the effort is gradually changed into a controlled gentleness as the pot rises. As the hands reach the top of the revolving clay, they are most lightly removed, so as not to disturb it.
Last Sunday morning you would have found me sitting quietly on the veranda of the little hut that I built. Either side of me were lined bisque fired bowls that had just come out of the kiln and were needing to be got ready for their glaze firing. And I sat in the winter sunshine carefully rubbing down any rough, sharp, or dubious bits from the bowls with a little bisque fired piece of clay that I find useful for this job (a Christmas decoration that I started to make one year...).
As I worked I enjoyed the sound of the birds, and the movement of air, feeling the fresh chill of it on my skin, I thought about many things, about friends, about the blog, about potting, about people in church, and about some perceptive and sensible words from the Apocrypha that I came across many years ago. "..the artist and the craftsman"...."when they do their work, it is the same as offering prayer." Ben Sira 38:27,33
A potter, who wants to try and scrape together some sort of a living, has to work nearly all the time, it is the same today as it was when Ben Sira was written. Clay is a living thing, and kilns can seem to be too, with their own rhythm and pace. Sometimes, to keep up with an order, long days are necessary, or even an all-nighter! Sunday turned into a 12 and a half hour day, followed by an almost all-nighter firing the electric kiln which was going so slowly between 1.30am and 3am that I was out in the kiln shed at 2.30am testing kiln elements to see if one bank of them had failed. An anxious and wakeful night with a kiln that contained many hours of work, and a commission that had to come out right.
Happily we did have an evening off on Saturday night... we were invited out to our friends Mark and Rhonda, who had two lovely friends staying with them. The evening was to be a shared meal followed by.... Karaoke! Now, I have consumed many shared meals in my time, and love them, but I have never tried Karaoke..., and the thought of grabbing a microphone and, um..., singing, was just a little terrifying.
As it turned out.. it is amazing how much fun and laughter 6 people can have with a couple of microphones, some music, and lots of gentle humour. Some of the singing was even really good...! We should press a clay record or something... I even was persuaded to dust off my ukulele...
photo by Rhonda
I am so thankful for our friends, and for laughter!
I am happy to report that the set of iron red bowls that I was making as a commission have turned out well and were sent away by courier today. On the way to completing them, I learned some interesting things about iron red glazes and the way that the colour of the glaze can be affected greatly by managing the cooling of the kiln. Certainly, a temperature hold for 45 minutes at 950 Centigrade (1742 F), really did assist the development of a good red colour in both iron red glazes that I fired this week.
Six bowls awaiting dispatch!
The six bowls were glazed with Bailey's red (recipe in my previous post). The glaze behaved itself very well, and achieved a better red than before. In the previous test this glaze tended to come out as almost equal little dots of red and green, almost looking greener than red when put on a bit thin. The 45 minute hold at 950 Centigrade (1742 F) that I added when the kiln was cooling gave time for the iron in the glaze to re-oxidise, and for iron crystals to grow slightly larger, whilst still leaving a few little dots of green that kept the glaze lively.
Bailey gives a nice red, and some extra interest around the rim with a darker tone coming through.
PTM, great rim, ... interesting, but some problems at cone 9.
PTM (recipe in previous post) was rich and interesting, but had some problems at cone 9, being happier on the slightly cooler bottom shelf of the kiln.
PTM from the bottom shelf.
The change of colour at the rim of the bowls was dramatic, but the bowls that were hottest tended to develop too much of a pool of darker glaze in the bottom. This was visually just about OK, but I have noticed that the glaze has started to craze in this region. Probably this glaze would suite cone 8, but can certainly be dramatic at cone 9. For this firing I cut back the Dolomite in the PTM recipe, so it is 8 percent rather than 11. To fire a bowl at this temperature, you would have to make sure that the inside glaze was not allowed to get too thick when it was applied. The glaze would be really good on the outside of things that have some texture as it "breaks up" well.
A foot note.... (I wonder what sort of a note does a foot makes?? Traa...Laaaa..!)
Sometimes I am tempted to think that the best writing is to be found in the Apocrypha rather than in the Bible. The Apocrypha is a collection of books that roughly cover the period of time between the Bible's Old and New Testament. It does also overlap them somewhat. For reasons which are quite varied, these books are mostly left out of the collection of books that form the Bible, (Apocrypha means "hidden away"). Some Christian denominations include these books, some disagree as to which ones to include, others ignore them altogether, which is a shame really.
Artists such as Rembrandt were clearly very familiar with the stories that are in the Apocrypha, and several of his paintings are based on them. Tobias and the Angel, being one. Whoever wrote the apocryphal book Ben Sira, really understood craftworkers, and their long and difficult hours.
Tobias and the Angel at the River Tigris by Rembrandt. (Image from here.)
"It is the same with the artist and the craftsman, who work night and day engraving precious stones, carefully working out new designs. They take great pains to produce a lifelike image, and will work far into the night to finish the work. It is the same with the blacksmith at his anvil, planning what he will make from a piece of iron. The heat from the fire sears his skin as he sweats away at the forge. The clanging of the hammer deafens him as he carefully watches the object he is working take shape. He takes great pains to complete his task, and will work far into the night to bring it to perfection. It is the same with the potter, sitting at his wheel and turning it with his feet, always concentrating on his work, concerned with how many objects he can produce. He works the clay with his feet until he can shape it with his hands; then he takes great pains to glaze it properly, and will work far into the night to clean out the kiln. All of these people are skilled with their hands, each of them an expert at his own craft. Without such people there could be no cities; no one would live or visit where these services were not available." "Their work holds this world together. When they do their work, it is the same as offering prayer." Ben Sira 38:27-33 Good News Translation.