Monday, October 21, 2013

Glenfalloch Woodland Garden

One of the odd things about the Internet is the ability to travel time. As I write this, I am already a day ahead of the majority of my readers. So, if you read a brand new post of mine, you should be reassured, because you will know that, after the shadows lengthen and the yellow disk of the sun slips from the sky, and your part of the world is wrapped in the the cool arms of night, tomorrow will come!

I am writing this in the knowledge that I am about to be extra confusing, because, whilst this is written tomorrow for most of you, the events took place about a week ago. Thus you will be taken magically forward and backward at the same time, so I hope that your time travelling spaceship copes with the stress!

One week and one day ago (for me), we had the pleasure of visiting Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens. Glenfalloch is situated on the Otago Peninsula not far from the city of Dunedin, and only two minutes drive away from Macandrew Bay where Bellamy's Gallery is located. You may have picked that "Glenfalloch", with its "loch" ending is a Scottish name.  Glenfalloch is said to be Gaelic for "hidden valley". Many of the place names in our part of New Zealand have Scottish origins, even the street names of Dunedin are based on those found in Edinburgh. This area was the Scottish settlers home away from home.

The garden was established in 1871, and rhododendrons, azaleas, and a delightful collection of woodland flowers and trees, mix and mingle with native species, the most ancient of which is a 1000 year old Matai tree.

Genfalloch has its toes almost in the waters of the Otago harbour, but its head rests high up the spine of the peninsula, and visitors to the gardens ascend meandering paths through woodland and sunny open areas.

We travelled to the gardens to take part in "Art in the Garden, a splendid event that the Otago Peninsula Trust hosted, under the direction of Glenda Bruce. Our good friends, Mark and Rhonda also wanted to take part, so we all journeyed in from the wilds of Waikouaiti, and set up our tables beside each other.

Rhonda and Mark
We were all a bit nervous, this being our first "Art in the Garden", but we found some familiar faces amongst the other artists and crafts people that were there.

We were joined by Jo Howard and her daughter Celeste. Jo is a fellow member of the Stuart Street Potter's Co-op, and it was fun to have her at a table on the other side of us. Further away, but in earshot, was another member of the Stuart Street Potter's Co-op, Suzanne. She spent the day carving Oamaru limestone, and it was impressive seeing her attacking a large pillar of soft limestone stone with an axe and various chisels.

Suzanne Emslie

Guess who ?? and Laura!
Laura and I had a table that mostly displayed an assortment of my pottery. Due to my ups and downs of the previous 6 months, I had not done work especially for this type of event, but it was nice being able to display some of the largish crystalline glazed pots out in the sunshine, as they always seem to look best outside in good light. Laura also had some cards on show that she has been making.

Mark had a display of some of the wonderful clocks he has been making recently from all sorts of discarded things, such as old plumbing fittings, bits of wire, and other mysterious metal objects. He also showed two of his lamps with beautiful stained glass shades.

Rhonda showed a selection of the clothes that she makes. Rhonda recycles old clothes, cutting them up, saving the good and interesting bits. Then gives the material a new, colourful and glorious life as part of one of her creations!

Rhonda brought her camera with her, and took photos of some of the other artists at work, and views of the garden.

Glenfalloch Homestead peeping out between the trees.

Of course, I neglected to bring my camera (but I did remember my ukulele!), but Rhonda has kindly agreed for me to pepper this post with a selection of the photos that she took.

The idea of "Art in the Garden" was that artists and musicians would make art and music in the garden for the day, and this is what happened.

Around many twists and turns of the paths, and behind various trees, people painted, sculpted, played or sang.

I brought my Ukulele

Elsewhere the Cantores Choir was making serious sounding music!

It was a delightful occasion, and we were all most fortunate to have good weather for the day, and a throng of happy people attending.

Towards the latter part of the day, I was able to catch up with Manu Berry, who is a print maker. Manu was printing a lino cut that had several individual colour "plates". I was impressed by his ease of printing quite a complex image on a trestle table out in the open air, with just a wooden burnisher to press the paper against the inked image. Manu also had hand printed tee shirts for sale.

Tee shirts printed by Manu Berry

Our sales for the day broke no records, but we covered our costs of getting there, having lunch, and buying two weeks supply of gourmet cat food for Nigella Stopit. We had an enjoyable day out, and were able to introduce some of my work to people who had not seen it before. It was also nice for me to be "back" at a craft table, it marked another step closer to recovery and being a potter again!

In the early evening we visited Bellamy's Gallery at Macandrew Bay, where there was an exhibition opening in full swing. It was nice to hear live accordion music wafting out the gallery door as we entered. The exhibition has a Celtic theme, in fact the exhibition is titled "Celtic Spirit", and features watercolours of Scotland by Ron Esplin who painted and travelled with his father, when he was still alive, and continues painting and travelling still; dreamy, haunting, and atmospheric recollections of Irish landscape by Pauline Bellamy, and also mono prints of Irish dancers that have managed to capture the gesture and movement of the individual figures; and jewelry and framed etched and patinated copper with Celtic designs by Chris O'Regan. The exhibition runs until October 27 and is well worth a visit if you are in the Dunedin area.
Bellamy's Gallery also has a very interesting series of work by Manu Berry on show.... and you should be able to see a small selection of my pots there too!

We are very thankful to Genda Bruce for organizing the event, and for all those people who made "Art in the Garden" at Genfalloch possible.

A big Thank You to Rhonda for the photos of the day we spent at Glenfalloch!

More about Glenfalloch Woodland Garden.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Peter's Cone 9-10 chrome-tin red and other delights!

Last week really felt like some progress had been made as I managed to do a glaze firing of the electric kiln. I have recently switched to using porcelain for making most of my pots, and glazes often perform differently when applied to different clays, so the pots in the kiln were glaze testers, to see how the glazes would perform on the new clay. I glazed several pots with crystalline glazes that I was familiar with, and also revisited a crystalline glaze recipe that I had used a couple of years ago, and adjusted it to suite the higher temperature that I would be firing to. In addition to the crystalline glazes, I had a new matt black glaze to test, a dolomite matt glaze, and a chrome-tin red glaze. Of those last three, I was particularly interested in the chrome-tin red.

The firing yielded a number of surprises. One was that the "reliable" crystalline glaze recipes that I had used with success in previous firings on a different clay, really did not work as expected on the porcelain.

In one case, the glaze looked under fired, and the other appeared over fired.. and both from the same kiln! Some porcelains can leach out alumina into crystalline glazes, and inhibit crystal growth, but it is interesting in this case that one vase has too many small crystals, and the other has almost no crystals at all! I will have to try firing the "over fired" recipe to a lower peak temperature next time I try it, and will have to adjust the "under fired" recipe to add a little more flux. In glazing, the things that don't work out first time are often the best teachers, and it will be interesting taking the glazes through a series of tests and adjustments until I get them to work. The hammer in the photograph might be used.., but I will give these two vases another chance to redeem themselves by firing them again. Sometimes crystalline glazes do respond well to a second glaze firing.

Of the other glazes, the black was more of a manganese brown, but I expected this as it only had red iron oxide and manganese for colour, with only a small dash of cobalt to take the brown closer to black. The surface was really nice, almost matt with some areas a dull satin. This glaze reminded me of the manganese matt glazes of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, and even did "Lucie Rie Runs" when flowing over a green liner glaze.

I am very pleased with the chrome-tin red. Repeated searching of the Internet for chrome-tin reds for cone 9 - 10 failed to produce any results, other than the discouraging advice that such glazes are likely to be unsuccessful above cone 6 due to the chromium oxide becoming volatile at higher temperatures.

Some time ago I had good success at cone 6 with a cone 6 chrome-tin pink that I found on June Perry's site, Shambhala Pottery. As an experiment I fired this at cone 9. It still gave me pink, but it was patchy, staying pink only where thick, and clear where it was thinner.

I did a series of firings where I played with several glaze bases, and fairly major reformulations of June Perry's pink. Mostly, I got off whites with a hint of pink. Or pale green and pink speckles. After about 5 firings of tests of various formulations, I had success with a lovely test tile that had a muted red with pale green where it was thin. About then I had to discontinue the testing as I injured my back, but now that I am returning to my potting I made up a larger quantity of this glaze and I tried it on a small vase.

Peter's Cone 9-10 chrome-tin red.

I am very pleased with the result. It really is a good red that looks very like a copper reduction red. It really proves that chrome-tin reds are possible at cone 9-10, and I am delighted with this, as red can be such a difficult colour in the electric kiln unless cadmium inclusion stains are resorted to.... and who wants a factory made glaze, when you can make your own!!!

Peter's Cone 9-10 chrome-tin red is as follows:
Silica 35
China Clay 10
Gerstley Borate 9
Nepheline syenite 18.5
Whiting 20
Dolomite 10
Bentonite 2

+ Tin oxide 5
   Chromium oxide 0.5

It is likely that I will make further adjustments to this recipe as I use it, but it is looking really good with this first test on a vase.

Vase on left has matt black glaze with a thin coat of crystalline glaze over the top, this explains the gloss and the interesting crystalline runs.

The cone 8-10 Matt Black recipe was from a very old Ceramics Review and I am not sure of the originator,

Dolomite 24
Nepheline Syenite 72
Ball Clay 5
Bentonite 3

+ Cobalt oxide 1
   Red iron oxide 9
   Manganese 3.5

The crystalline glaze recipe that I used a couple of years ago, and adjusted to suit a higher temperature, was really lovely. Whilst it failed to grow many large or even medium sized crystals, the glaze had great complexity and a beautiful depth of colour, and I certainly want to use it again. This is an interesting glaze as it does not use glaze fritts, but makes use of "regular" potter's materials, such as Potash Feldspar, and Dolomite. Many crystalline glazers these days use recipes that are mostly an alkaline glaze fritt, plus extra silica and a large quantity of zinc oxide. Crystalline glazes made with fritts can certainly make superb crystals, but I find myself longing for some of the unique qualities that are to be found in crystalline glazes made with materials that still sound like something nature intended!

The successful crystalline glaze was a slightly modified version of a glaze by Swedish Potter, Lasse Östman.
I fired this to cone 9 well down 10 slightly bending. I did a 3 hour hold at 1110 Celcius (2030 F).

Potash Feldspar 28.5
Silica 33.3
Dolomite 3.5
Zinc Oxide 19.5
Barium carbonate 4.6
China Clay 3
Lithium carbonate 5 (original recipe which works at cone 8 has about 7.5 Lithium carbonate)
Rutile 1.3
Red Iron oxide 1.6
Manganese carbonate 1.3
Copper oxide 0.8

Note that this glaze contains Barium and Lithium which are poisonous, and should be handled with great care. This glaze is decorative and not suitable for domestic ware.

Cones and Fritts.
Note that cone 9 is about 1255 - 1260 Celcius (2291 - 2300 F) in my kiln. Cones record heat work as well as temperature, so the speed of firing does have a significant influence on the temperature that a cone goes down.

Glaze Fritts can be very useful for glazes, particularly for glazes in the earthenware temperature range. Materials that might difficult or impossible to use in their pure state, such as sodium or potassium, can be combined with silica and other good things, and heated up in a crucible and made into a glass. This molten glass is poured into water, where it shatters into small pieces. The shattered pieces are ground into a powder. This powder is then used as a glaze ingredient.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

All is Revealed!

It is a great pleasure to have Peter Johnson making seals and other good things in our studio here at the Waikouaiti Old Post Office.

The Process.

The first task is to prepare some clay to even out the moisture in it and get rid of any trapped air.

Then Peter makes a cylinder with an open bottom and a closed top on the potters wheel. To begin with this looks a bit like a mug. The cylinder flares out a little way before it is raised further and pulled in at the top. Then the clay at the top is persuaded in further and further, with the opening narrowing, then finally closing.

The cylinders are put aside to firm up.

When the clay is soft leather hard the missile shaped cylinder is altered by hand, and made into a seal or sea lion. Most of the work can be done by squeezing and manipulating the clay with fingers. Detail can be added with improvised wooden tools.

When the seal is leather hard Slip (liquid clay) is brushed onto parts of the seal to modify the colour and surface texture.

When completely dry the seal is fired in a portable raku kiln that is fired by gas.

Working with clay is all about transformation. What is commonplace, and sometimes despised, is made beautiful by skillful hands, an enquiring mind, and a joyful heart!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Temperature Rising, Mystery "items", and Covert Surveillance!

I am writing this as I monitor the first glaze firing in the electric kiln I have done since the beginning of May. The firing is mostly glaze tests, but I hope to have a few things to sell as well.

I fired a couple of bisque firings last week, all new work that I have done in porcelain. There are a few photos dotted through this of some of the dry porcelain pots taking a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine before going into the kiln for their first firing.

I have restricted the weight of clay for the new pots to a 1.5kg maximum, and was pleased to be able to pull some of the bottle forms up to 11 - 13 inches with that amount of clay.

Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere will be into autumn or fall about now, so I thought you would like to see some spring flowers! These are photos that Laura took in the garden recently.

Maybe because it is Spring here and there are tulips and daffodils in flower, the flowers make me think of bowl and vase forms. The petals have amazing strength and balance, and an energetic line to them, as well as fragility.

My slower pace of work has made me want to make each piece that I make a little more "special", to invest a bit more thought, or playfulness.  I felt the need to modify some of the vases that I made, by cutting straight down from the top and rejoining the rim to make "petals". Mostly I did not aim for these to look particularly flower like, but the cutting of the rims was inspired by what I saw around me.

There are good things about working this way, and traps too! So much bad potting on the wheel is done by people who get too "precious" about one piece. Really good pots on the wheel often need to be done quite quickly, and as part of a series. It may take many attempts at a form to get a lovely fluidity going, and the "good" pot may quite likely be number 29 out of a series of similar pots that the potter has made that day. Number 29 has probably been done with little conscious thought, but it could not have been made without the 28 pots that preceded it. However, I digress...., making of a large series of pots is not open to me at the moment, so I have to work differently, and more deliberately, and know when to stop! It does interest me how much it is possible to remember and benefit from the day before at the wheel, even if one has only made 2 or 3 pots. The experience of making 2 or 3 pots on day one, really does make the 2 or 3 pots on day two go better!

We have been very fortunate to have another potter in the studio over the last few days. Just to confuse things this potter is also called Peter..., so we have two Peters potting under one roof! Peter is staying in our area, and needed a place to work to make some new "items" to sell. It has been lovely to hear a wheel rumbling away on a regular basis, and to be able to talk about potting and wood firing.

Currently there is a bit of mystery as to what Peter is making. I am assured that the "items" do have a peaceful purpose, but I suspect that the Department of Homeland Security could show an interest. And, maybe they have already. Yesterday we were repeatedly buzzed by a low flying aircraft that was pretending to be spreading agricultural fertilizer on the farm next door..., covert surveillance??

Anyway, I hope to update in a couple of days on how today's firing turns out, and to reveal more of what the Other Peter Potter is making in my studio.