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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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
China Clay 13
+ Zircon 10
Cobalt Carbonate 0.5
Copper Carbonate 1.0