Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Does Cat Food Taste Better at 3 AM?

Smartcat unblocked my stopped up blogger's brain this morning, with a line about dragons being fed milk to drink and becoming cats.  It was such a charming and interesting image, that... well, here I am again, pounding the computer keyboard!  Inspired!

Ginger on Christmas Morning....!

Cats, of course, are also a form of alarm clock... or alarming clock...., that are set to howl, yowl, or rake the bed with their claws, when ever it is imperative that the feline tummy be filled.  As alarm clocks, cats are at their most effective.  Unlike the battery powered, ticking versions, with bells, buzzers, or beeps, cats are inventive and creative; they can always surprise with newer and nastier ways of rousing a sleeper.  If a howl or the destruction of some prized possession with claws doesn't bring a result, then there is always the time honored flying leap onto the legs or stomach of the unfortunate human, with legs braced for maximum effect.  A feigned cat fight in the middle of the bed can also shake a human into some sort of life.

Sometimes you look at a cat and are glad that it is not bigger!

As I write this, Nigella Stopit is sound asleep in a nice chair.  She is exhausted after her night's entertainment.  To her credit, her 3AM feed did prompt me to check the kiln at a helpful time whilst it was firing, and my total inability to sleep after that ensured that I was able to fire the kiln efficiently and quickly, finishing the firing by 6.58AM.  As you can see, even the smallest member of our household does contribute something to the production of pottery here, in their very own way!

The last weeks of December through to what ever day in January we are now, have been a busy time for me.  I was commissioned to make some bowls, hopefully in time for Christmas.  The commission seemed harmless enough, but it transpired that the bowls had to be a different shape, size, colour, and fired to a different temperature than I would normally use.  From a purely economic point of view, I should have said "no" and taken some days off around Christmas.  From a preservation of sanity point of view, I should have most definitely said "no", and taken several weeks holiday.  But, I'm a silly old fellow, so I embarked into what has been quite an interesting three weeks or so of work.  If I look at it in a good way, which I mostly do, I would say that I have had the benefit of an intensive masterclass in formulating slips and engobes for leather hard clay and dry clay, exploring cone 6 glazes and learning to adjust and tweak them.  I've even made plaster hump molds and slump molds, and have done some really interesting experiments with under glaze decoration, and so the list goes on.
On the potter's wheel making a mold for a very large bowl.

Here is another one full of plaster.

Of course I did this "masterclass" without a master... we make our own entertainment here, so I saved on fees, and I did have exclusive use of an electric kiln without having to compete for space with other students... Yay!

Last night's firing waiting to be loaded into the kiln.
Anyway, progress is being made, and a grand load of test tiles was fired through the night to further develop glazes that I have found promising. Once I have got a few more things to work properly, I'll share a few of the more successful recipes with you.

I was delighted with this chrome-tin red (bowl on the left),
the chrome-tin recipe was from June Perry's Shambhala Pottery site.

Here is another view of the bowls, the one on the right is "floating blue" but had hardly any blue "floating"!

I say that I have been without a "master" on this "masterclass", however, I must give huge thanks and credit to those of you out in the wider world of the internet who post useful information about glazes, and the 101 other things that relate to pottery.  Some of you have toiled for hours testing glazes, and have shared the information, and it is a truly wonderful thing.

Sometimes I use bad bowls as testers, the ones at the back have various glazes, and glaze bases with stains.

Some particularly helpful sources of cone 6 glaze information have been:

Christmas was unexpectedly quiet... let's say that the weekend before was an odoriferous one, with the town sewer blocking and forming a lake on our land..., the tummy bugs that followed ensured that Christmas was just us and the cats.  We were able to get together with my parents for Christmas Day two weeks later.  I quietly worked right through, and it was nice keeping upright and occupied.

I am excited about some of the cone 6 glaze stuff that I have learned, and am really wanting to develop some of the underglaze decoration further as well.  I am most impatient for the kiln to cool, as there are some rather interesting tests in there......

Happy New Year Everyone!


Tracey Broome said...

Such great ^6 info Peter, look forward to more of your results. One day, I'm going back to making some bowls, I just need a good ^6 glaze for them! NO ^10 for me with my kiln :(

Christine said...

You probably know about 'Simon's cats, but if you don't this one may resonate with you.....

Good luck with the test tiles.

cookingwithgas said...

Happy New Year and here is to working- we started working towards 2012 in December and it feels good to have the pots piling up. Test look great, give the kitties a pet from me.

Michèle Hastings said...

we have one of those kitty alarm clocks too! they are the best kind. i think that jeff and i are going to experiment with some ^6 firings this year.

Peter said...

Hi Tracey,
Hopefully I'll be able to put some helpful information up soon on glazes, certainly some good looking ones on the way. There is a really simple clear glaze on site that is a useful starting point. It is just equal parts wollastonite, borax fritt (3134 or 4108), Potash Feldspar, Silica, and China Clay. I've done tests on that, and some variations of it that seem to work OK. Now I am trying to make it more "interesting" by substituting various materials, and adding oxides.

Hi Christine,
Thanks so much for the link to Simon's cats, I had never seen them before, and we have had a hilarious
time watching lots of the videos. So much fun! He has caught the way that cats behave so well.

Happy New Year too Meredith, and I will give the cats a pet. Much as they drive us crazy sometimes, they really are wonderful.

Hi Michele,
It will be interesting to see what you and Jeff discover with cone 6. There is certainly a lot of information on line that is making the change much easier for me.

gz said...

It is always good to try something new, but not under pressure!

Good for the Cat Pottery'd be complaining about the firing being wrong, without them!!

Angie said...

Wow what a busy time you have had sounds as though you learnt a lot ...and dare I say had a little fun doing so ...the result is awesome...hope the client appreciates it.
Sorry the swamp caused tummy bugs all round ...hope you are all well the photo of Ginger on Xmas Day ...totally contented.Happy New Year xx

Arkansas Patti said...

Chuckling at your alarm clocks. I own one also. Minnie can tell if my breathing changes and starts howling at the bed room door at 4:00. I at least get to sleep an hour longer than you.
Gotta love them though.
Hope you all have a blessed 2012.

smartcat said...

Gosh....who would guess that a little thing would get the creative juices going.....I am very complimented. Please keep posting!

My word verification is entickes think it must have something to do with the process of being infected by ticks!

smartcat said...

P.S. I adore Simon's Cat!

Pat - Arkansas said...

I enjoyed the photos of the kitties. Nigella Stopit has "the look" down to a fine art, doesn't she? :)

You have every right to be delighted with the red chrome-tin bowl. The color is lovely on that beautiful shape.

I hope you are fully recovered from your tummy bug attack.

Happy New Year to all of you.

Peter said...

Hello Gwynneth,
The cats did well with that firing, I unloaded yesterday and it is really excellent thanks to their help! Mmmm pressure, I wish there was less of it. Finished work 10pm last night and started again at 5.30 am this morning. Bowls to fettle and kiln to load... it's now on by 8 this morning.

Hello Angie,
Happy New Year to you too, certainly busy here. I'm excited about the new things learnt about glazes, that is a good start to the year. I suspect that my clients have little idea about what really goes on when new glazes are required, but... I hope they enjoy the result.

Hi Patti,
It is such a good thing that we haven't been able to produce kittens that are a combination of your Minnie and our Nigella Stopit.... both suffered from gas when young, and both apparently "chime" on the hour through the night! Nigella has the ability to "go off" at midnight, 3am, 5am, and 6am, and your Minnie has 4am... all we need is a 2am cat alarm to have the whole night sorted!!
Blessings and good health to you and your household for 2012 too.

Hi Smartcat,
Mmmm "Entickes": usage; similar in everyday usage to en-plane (to board, to congregate, to take up station, to gather upon), but not to enlighten! "De-tickes" would be comfortingly close to de-plane, and
certainly what is required!!
Do feel very complimented, I enjoy your blog very much and love your work. Ha.., Simon's Cat, I'm going to have to put a link to if from this site. Wonderful!

Hello Pat,
Ahh, "the Look"! I think that Nigella secretly practices it in front of the mirror, and she has other looks too. One that would blister paint from ten paces, another that would melt the heart of a robot! She has quite a repertoire.
The red chrome-tin glaze is extraordinarily useful as it fills a tricky gap in the range of colours that can be done in an electric kiln. I have tested it further in combination with other glazes, and was delighted at how it behaves.
Tummy now behaving itself, and yummy things can now be consumed without any objections, so it will be a Happy New year after all, and I wish you a very happy New Year too!

Armelle said...

Hi Peter,
Wish you, Laura and the cats, the best in 2012 and I can see some of your dreams come true !!!
Your glazes are really nice, and the red chrome looks great.
Nigella Stopit is ready for a fight, once, I saw Miko become a hair ball while standing on end, a dog was on his land!
The poor dog was quickly cleared out.

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,

Lovely to hear from you, and thank you for your good wishes for 2012. I like the idea of dreams coming true, and hope that 2012 is good for you too. Cone 6 glazes are much nicer than I thought they might be, and I am learning a lot and making a great number of tests. The chrome red is a real blessing.
Nigella Stopit does look fierce in the photo, in fact she would rather hide if she hears a strange cat is about. Your Miko is brave! Ginger also can be formidable when he defends his territory from cats and dogs. He was very frightened of Nigella though, when she moved in here, which was quite amusing, as she was so tiny!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter - we loved our time in your studio and your products now have a good home with us! Keep up the great work and, above all, keep experimenting as the results are truly magical! Thanks - Graham & Amanda

Peter said...

Hi Graham & Amanda,
Thank you very much for getting in touch and for your encouragement. It was lovely to meet you both and I am glad that my work has found such a good home!

Very Best Wishes,