Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tiles, Shed, Bowls, Potter's Co-op & Warming Chilly Regions!

Making History... And Tiles!
Well, I was in my shed making tiles today, so this day is historic really as the new shed is being used at last!  It was nice working out there, really nice in fact, and, whilst the shed lacks many of the "essentials" of modern life, such as heating..., it was a good place to be on a sunny winter's day.  Like many other things around here, the shed is still not quite finished..., but the bench that I made works well, as do the few shelves that I have thus far. 

Curling Up
Probably the most difficult part of making tiles is drying them.  Tiles can enjoy curling up as they dry, they are like a restless spouse who cannot lie still in bed, but wants to toss and turn and steal all the blankets! 

Think about... compression!
I decided not to use a slab roller for rolling out the clay, but to use a rolling pin and a little guide that I made, and to roll the clay carefully and progressively, flipping the clay over at intervals and rolling from the other side to compress both sides evenly.  If you roll heavily from one side only, the clay will try and roll up like a tube as it dries.  It remembers its bad treatment!  I also took care to handle the rolled out clay carefully, always supporting it with a canvas backing and not allowing it to stretch unevenly, as it would if you just lifted it with a finger and thumb by one corner. 

And drying....
The other thing that I have done to help prevent curling, is to make lots of square boards out of the paper coated plaster board that is used for lining interior walls in houses.  It is easy to cut board of this sort just by scoring through the thin paper lightly with a craft knife, and giving the board a quick tweak. The board will snap along the cut, rather like cutting glass.  All that remains to do is to cut through the lower paper backing, and, hey-presto, you have a cut off board!  I sanded the cut edges of the boards, and cleaned off the plaster dust.  It doesn't pay to let clay and plaster dust mix as it can cause problems later when the work is fired.

Make a Sandwich..
After making each tile I put it like a sandwich filling between two plaster boards, and left it to dry.  The boards should pull the moisture out of the tile evenly from both sides at once.  If you don't use this method, and you leave a tile to dry on a shelf, the top surface will dry out in the air much faster than the underside... and, if you forget to flip the tile over frequently, it will curl up towards the dryer side, because clay shrinks a lot as it dries.

I have put my drying tile sandwiches on wire racks to also help the moisture escape evenly.

It is quite likely that, having done all this and let you know, the tiles will curl up like lettuce leaves as they dry.....   We will just have to wait and see!

Glaze Tester....
Last Friday, when I did my "emergency" firing of some bowls in my electric kiln, I put in a test glaze or two.  One glaze was a cone 6 glaze that I used in the wood fired kiln the day before.  The only thing was, the electric firing was to be cone 9, some 55 or 60 degrees Centigrade (131 - 140 F) hotter than what the glaze was designed for.  I just wanted to see what would happen!
The photo above really doesn't do it justice, but I was delighted by the way the glaze responded to the extra heat.  The glaze has moved and pulled nicely around the edge of the tile, and has a lovely velvety gloss to it, that feels good.  There is also a delightful speckle in the glaze.  I will try some tests with more cobalt (this has only 0.5%), and will also make some green versions with copper and with chrome, and see what that looks like.  I think that the base for this cone 6 glaze is Marcia Selsor's Waxy White.... I wonder if some of you have used that, and to what temperature?

Warm Bowls...
I unpacked this firing first thing on Sunday morning, and was able to take three of the bowls into Dunedin to Stuart Street Potter's Co-op to use in my window display later the same morning!  I think the bowls were at about room temperature by the time I packed them into my car to take to town.

The bowls were also an excuse for testing some glaze combinations.  The English Artist, J. M. W. Turner, painted a magnificent picture in 1842, called "Snowstorm. Steamboat off the harbour mouth making signals, and going by the lead. The Author was in this Storm on the night the Ariel left Harwich" (Turner believed in book length titles!).  I was reminded of the words that the critics of the day said about this painting when I unpacked this bowl from the kiln.... "it is a mass of soapsuds and whitewash!"  I was not displeased, however, in fact  I was enormously relieved as I had worried so much about how I had applied the glazes on this bowl that I had come close to washing them all off again and not firing it! 

A less busy bowl that worked out quite well was the one below.  I applied an almost opaque glaze that had some rutile, copper, and cobalt in it, over a dark iron-rich tenmoko type glaze.  I was pleased with how the throwing rings made this combination go light and dark where the glazes pooled and flowed over the wavy surface.

I kept my window display fairly Spartan.  I put hand made paper on the wooden floor, and placed just a few bowls and pots on them.  I was thinking of them being almost ceremonial in some way... 

I included some of my crystalline glazed pots that had been through a further wood firing in a smoky reduced atmosphere, as I thought that these made an interesting combination with the larger bowls.

Busy Bees...
Also on Sunday, there was a working bee at the Potter's Co-op that I was scheduled to take part in.  We are progressively re-painting the white plinths that our work is displayed on.  It is quite a logistical challenge as the Co-op has something like 60 of these things, and we are open 6 days a week... and paint dries slowly in this cold weather, but teams of 3 members at a time are descending on the Co-op on Sundays and are getting it all done.

Rosemary McQueen is one of the founding members of the Co-op, you can see her doing a merry dance with a paint roller in the photo above.  She also has a window display at this time, and her vibrant and exuberant work makes a lovely contrast to my quieter pots. Here are two photos of some of her work.

Below is a photo of the Co-op that I took on Sunday with the place all rather cluttered looking with display stands being painted in the middle of the floor. 

The Co-op is a really long space, that is lined with shelves of hundreds of pots by most of our 12 members. There is a lot to look at, and it can take some time to really take in the work that is on show there.

Warming Chilly Regions!
I will conclude this post with a funny photo that I took first thing on Sunday morning when the day was grey and dreary and rain was falling outside.  Nigella Stopit decided that there was only one acceptable place for a cat to be, and that was as close as possible to the electric heater.  Apparently some regions were feeling chilly at that hour of the day! 

 A Glaze Recipe
Textured Blue for Cone 6 using Marcia Selsor's Waxy White.  Nice Cone 6 wood fired in reduction, really nice tested on something flat electric fired at cone 9.

Nephaline Syenite     30
Fritt 4108   (3134)     20            
Talc     17                          
Whiting     10                    
China Clay     13               
Silica     10

+ Zircon     10
Rutile     3
Cobalt Carbonate     0.5
Copper Carbonate     1.0
Bentonite     2


gz said...

Tiles-I'd cut slabs from a block and roll them as little as possible. Tile sandwich is a good idea!

I love the minimalist display- it is too easy to overdo things.

The co-op gallery is interesting, even if it is long, it is a goodly space. You have to use Headology and work out how to interrupt the customer flow through the shop.
For example, a sticking out display in a long run- like bookshops use the cardboard "dump-bin" display stands at strategic points, will do it.

I'm not one for crystalline glazes, but I can appreciate them- it helps, having been taught by Alan Barrett-Danes when a student!
That re-fired red bottle looks very interesting indeed

Peter said...

Hi Gwynneth,
Lovely to hear from you... Goodness, I was still checking spelling and grammar and the print was barely dry when you posted your comment...! You are right, of course, about cutting the tiles from slabs it is much more likely to work that way. Glad you like the minimalist display, it did feel refreshing getting rid of all the display stands and stuff and just putting the pots on the floor on paper.

Love the Headology, I see it is a Disk World thing! I have contemplated using Z nails, crash barriers, and trip wires to get people to linger at displays... Rosemary has tried a more cunning approach of putting an electric heater near her display on a cold day, to encourage people to warm themselves in front of it!

I've just been doing a quick Google search for Alan Barrett-Danes and have found some really lovely earthenware, but no crystalline as yet. (I am guessing from your comment that he was a crystalline glazer at some stage in his career). I rather like the re-fired bottle, it is crystalline, but you would never guess it, and it looks more like raku although it was fired to Cone 9 in its first firing! Imagine that..., raku that doesn't leak!

Ooops, I'd better away to bed, I see it is after 11 at night and I will be turned into a pumpkin! P.

Linda Starr said...

I'll have to try your sandwich tip for drying tiles and thanks for the blue glaze recipe, that bowl is a beauty. Those darn spouses tossing and turning and stealing the covers, what's a person to do. Ha. When I use the slab roller I set it thick at first and then flip and rotate the slab and roll it thinner which simulates the same thing of flipping the slab while hand rolling.

Linda Starr said...

that handmade paper really complements the pots, I like that.

Angie said...

Wow you have been so busy ..LOVE that fist bowl especially ...and your friends jugs ...how are they decorated ....????some sort of transfer ???cant believe that they are totally hand painted ...if they are, they are even more amazing.
Those tiles are fantastic too.
Had to smile at NS toasting her toes.

Judy Shreve said...

Peter - you certainly are busy! Isn't it great to have new/more space to work in!

I used to hand roll out all of my slabs and said I would never have a slabroller -- well - a slabroller is an amazing tool. My work has totally changed after getting one!

Your idea for the sandwiches is great. I find if I just leave the slabs alone overnight between drywall sheets, I don't have any curling problems.

I love your display - using the handmade paper really shows your work beautifully. And the co-op space looks fun. Wish I could see everyones work.

NIgella is one smart kitty! lol

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Good to hear from you, thanks for the input about using a slab roller, it is developing into quite an interesting discussion by the looks of things, and it is one of the great things about blogs being able to share ideas! The secret certainly is in getting the compression similar from both sides.

I did several hundred 10 inch terracotta slab rolled tiles for someone a few years back (It was one of those commissions that I was "green" enough to say yes to, because I did not realise the difficulties! Worked out OK in the end..., but getting there was educational!). In spite of flipping them over and rolling from the other side, I still had a curling problem (I may have been too heavy handed with the roller and forced too much clay through at once.. I don't know?). As these were plain tiles I was able to solve it by flipping the tile over when I took it out of the slab roller before placing it on a board to dry. This ensured that its desire to curl went from a curl up to a curl down, as it remembered the last way that it came through the rollers. Then when it was leather hard I put a house brick in the centre of each tile which stopped the middle rising!

Hello Angie,
Nigella is hilarious isn't she!! Regarding Ro's decorations. For some of her work she gets a silk screen stencil made from her original drawing. Then she can print from that with ceramic stains onto thin paper that can then be used to transfer the image to the pot. Ro does this in a lively manner, so it is still a very creative way of decorating. I think some of her other work is brush decoration... or a mixture of both.

Hi Judy,
Thanks for your input into the slab making forum!! I like the idea of leaving the slab alone overnight between drywall sheets. I guess that drywall is similar to the sort of board that I am using??? (plaster with paper cover on both sides). If you were making slab pots, I guess you would slab roll large sheets, leave them overnight between drywall, then cut them out into the shapes that you need?
A nice efficient way to work.

Judy... Regarding seeing everyone's work at the Potter's Co-op, soon your Wish shall come true... I hope!

Now that Bogger has made tabs available (I notice several blogs that I visit using them), I will put together a page for the Stuart Street Potters Co-op so that people can hop onto that from my blog... I'll also do one for Laura and for our Old Post Office and get rid of the old blogs that I started for them. It will make everything easier for me to maintain, and I will probably actually get around to it!

Anonymous said...

Ro here - the maker of the jugs & mugs and the cunning soul who puts the electric heater between her & PETER'S displays on chilly winter days - to comment to Angie that I cut most of my stencils myself using a clever film that has a backing that peels off after the film has been attached to - dissolved into - the screen. Stencils made using it can have intersecting lines and open areas. It makes a more fragile screen than photographic emulsion which makes for some interesting effects as the image degrades.

Anonymous said...

Ro again - The only reason I'm anonymous is that I can't be fiddled making a google identity for myself - what do the alternatives - open id or name/url mean Peter?

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad you are enjoying your new shed. You certainly worked hard enough on it.
Totally cracked up at Nigella Stopit's pose.

Peter said...

Hi Ro,
Lovely to hear from you, thank you for mastering the process of leaving a comment, and it was good of you to take the time to fill in some technical details about your work. I am sure that a lot of the blog readers will find the information interesting.

Regarding the openID question, OpenID was created in the summer of 2005 by an open source community, and it allows those who sign up to it to sign into multiple websites without the hassle of creating new passwords for each one. Evidently there are over one billion OpenID user accounts and over 50,000 websites accepting it for logins.
Further information can be found at the openID site,

I think that the name/url method of identification for leaving a comment is if you have your own website or blogsite, you can use that identity and address as id.

All these identification methods are there to help the battle against spam and site vandalism, so..., whilst they are a nuisance, and they do put real people off leaving comments, they are unfortunately necessary.

Hi Patti,
Nigella has no modesty or hang ups of any kind, bless her! It is good that she can provide a laugh on all sides of the world. I've been working in the shed all day today, and have really enjoyed it. More tiles, some with leaf impressions. Really nice to be more or less outside when working. Ginger kept me company and slept on my work bench.

Peter said...

Hi Ray,
I marked your comment as Spam as it seemed to me that it was mostly a link to a commercial website. If I am mistaken in that, I apologise, but please post comments on this site without links, hidden or otherwise, to a commercial product. P.