Friday, May 13, 2016

A Commission Completed, and something to look forward to.

It is a cloudy and gray autumn afternoon here. The trees are somewhere between sulking and glorying in yellow, orange and red as they drop leaves and change to their winter nudity!

I have an hour or so to fill as I wait for something rather exciting to arrive on a truck, so thought I would make the most of this moment and try to update the blog!

I don't want to blabber on about bursitis and shoulder problems, but it suffices to say that progress has been slow, uncertain at times, but there has been progress.

Tiles drying on top of both kilns whilst they fire other tiles!

I was about three quarters of the way through a commission to make floor tiles when the shoulder acted up, and Laura bravely learned some new skills in a hurry and made about 50 tiles to complete the order.

Dry tiles to the left, and fired ones to the right!

Just at the moment we were celebrating completing the commission, the person that ordered decided that he wanted a further 90 tiles more... This was initially a bit daunting, and the deadline fairly tight, but my shoulder had improved enough by that stage for Laura and I to be able to make the remainder of the tiles together, which sped things up and made the commission enjoyable.
Tiles down and awaiting grouting. Photo kindly supplied.

It was really wonderful to receive this photo of the tiles. The tiles were still awaiting grouting when the photo was taken, but they give a good idea as to how the floor will look with them.

We supplied about 310 good tiles, plus a further 10 cracked ones. Each tile took 2kg of clay to make, and I could only fire about 20 at a time in my electric kiln, so there were many firings to get the job done. I fired to 3 different top temperatures, so as to get some colour variation.

I had to stack the tiles in the kiln, with between 5 and 7 tiles in a stack. The tiles were too large and thin to fire on edge, and I found that putting a layer of block layers sharp sand between the tiles made a huge difference to the success rate. Without the sand I would never manage a firing without a few tiles cracking, with the sand I would usually have 100 percent success. Here are some photos to show the sand in action. I sieved the sand to get rid of the largest and the smallest particles. What I used was somewhere between 20 and 12 mesh.

Sharp sand on the kiln shelf

on with a tile, then more sharp sand

then another tile... and so on!
Stacked up after the firing.

Nigella Stopit enjoying Laura's flower arrangement.

I have found clay preparation difficult, I can manage one handed cut and slam wedging, which is OK for small quantities, but using both hands is not possible yet as it tends to shake up the shoulder in ways it doesn't appreciate. In spite of that I recently managed making breakfast bowls and a few other things on the potter's wheel, and I have a kiln load of those cooling as I write this. It was very encouraging to find that some wheel work has become possible again, and I am looking forward to building this up steadily over the next few weeks.

Something new, a tiny jug with brushed decoration.
I had a careful think about the future, as much as one can.., and have decided that a de-airing pug mill may well make the difference between my being able to pot until they wheel me out of here in a bath chair, or my having to give up prematurely. I had a good chat to my father, and my parents have very kindly put some money in the business so we can buy a pug mill.

All going well, the pug mill should arrive about an hour from now!


cookingwithgas said...

That's a lot of tiles! What a fabulous floor.
This getting old as a potter can be hard.
Take your time.

Michèle Hastings said...

That is a gorgeous floor!
A pug mill will definitely help your body and a new tool is always fun.

Sandy Miller said...

Wow! Love the floor! I bought my pugmill two years ago and just love it! Helps save the body so we can make more pots 👍🏻

Oh and that small jug is just a delight!

Peter said...

Hi Meredith, Michèle, and PotterMiller, Lovely to hear from you. Happy to report that pugmill arrived safely and it is fantastic! In quarter of an hour the pugmill processed what would have exhausted me before, and it made better clay too! I am so thankful.

Anonymous said...

Floor tiles - a challenge I couldn't face. Making the tiles for our kitchen was enough to teach my that I wasn't prepared to make them for anyone else! Well, not at a price a sane person could afford. The cutest little jug though. Might something good come from all this after all? It would be nice to think so. Best wishes for a continuing recovery...

Peter said...

Hi Mike,
Good to hear from you. I'm pleased with the little jug, I was experimenting with a black glaze that I modified to make it nice to apply with a brush onto dry or bisqued clay. I will do some more along those lines, as I can now imagine deep breakfast bowls, mugs, and so on done in a similar way.

Tiles! Yes, they are a challenge, but we found them satisfying to do once we had sorted out the technical difficulties so that they would dry flat and fire without cracking!

Anna said...

a pug mill sounds like a good idea. That was a big commission for a studio potter. They look great. love that little pourer too.

Peter said...

Thank you Anna for your kind thoughts. I am really enjoying the pugmill, it is making a wonderful difference.

Anonymous said...

Great new toy...sorry tool! Just as carpenters use nail guns not hammers, potters have pugs! Wee jug is lovely. Graham & Amanda

Armelle Léon said...

Hello Peter,
I read this blog after the last one : 'Bon appétit'. You and Laura have done a wonderful work, c'est magnifique !! Two kilos per tile, it's a lot !!! It's very interesting to see how you use sand to fire the tiles. I was back to the clay these past days, and now trying to clean the workshop as I have found a new job, I have a batch a clay to knead, which was waiting me to knead it since a long time.
Happy that your are better.

Peter said...

Hi Graham and Amanda,
Good to hear from you, hope you are staying well and warm! Have just arrived home after being in the Co-op in Dunedin all day. One or two snow flakes in the air on the motorway on the way in, and bucket loads of icy rain most of the day! Winter!

Hello Armelle,
Lovely to hear from you. When I cleaned my workshop I was embarrassed to find some bags of clay that were 9 years old, and getting very hard. It was so good to be able to bring those back to life again. If you lived closer I could let you use the pug mill to knead your clay!