Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good Bye Dear Mugs

I have a batch of about 12 mugs, which I made in May, that is lost in outer space somewhere. I don't know if I'll ever see them again. Back in April, I was told by an assistant at the pottery facility that they DO fire to cone 6. I verified this with her several times to make sure we were communicating. This was very exciting news because it opened the door to tons of new possibilities with glazes. She even pointed out the shelves where I was supposed to place cone 6 wares ready for firing. Needless to say, I skipped and danced all the way home to make a batch of 12 mugs. I spent over $150 on cone 5/6 glazes. My mind was racing with ideas after ideas on how to decorate with these new colorful glazes on my porcelain bisques. The dancing and skipping, however, was short lived. I brought the glazed mugs back to the pottery facility and placed them on the "cone 6" shelves. Three weeks passed by, no firing. Finally, I got a note taped onto one of my mugs. It said, quite frankly and matter of fact, "we don't fire in cone 6 here." You can imagine my surprise, not to mention major disappointment. I begged the facility manager to make an exception but they wouldn't budge, not even a millimeter. I offered to pay for this one time firing. The answer was still "NO". By now, it's June and I was quite depressed. I started to picture these potentially beautiful mugs in the trash bin, right next to the used napkins and half eaten dougnuts. As I was sulking next to the trash bin, unable to make myself throw away the mugs, the kiln angel walked by. Well, he was more like my pottery teacher. He offered to fire them for me in his kiln at home that weekend. I didn't think a miracle could happen, not on my luck. I must have thanked him at least a billion times and offered to pay for his time and the utility cost. He told me it wasn't necessary but I planned to pay him anyway. The next week rolled around, my teacher said he was busy so he didn't have a chance to fire them. Two weeks later, he mumbled the same answer. By the third week, I stopped asking. He was doing me a favor. I didn't want to nag. It will now be week 5 on Monday. I've pretty much accepted the fact that I will never see these mugs again. They are floating in space, somewhere between earth and maybe the sun? Hopefully, as they get closer to the sun, they'll finally get fired.

Promegranate Bowl

I drew a pomegranate botanical design on a bowl last night, using an underglaze pencil. I've never noticed the squeal this pencil makes on bisque before until Cynthia Guajardo mentioned it. I had to turn up the TV volume so I could drown out the eeky sound. It was unbearable. I will drop the bowl off to be fired in a gas kiln today. Hopefully, if all goes well, I'll have it back soon.

I'm also waiting for the results of another glaze test, this time, Amaco Celebration glaze fired at cone 10 reduction. I painted it on the flower centers of the pitcher above, in the same fashion as this pencil holder. I'm really nervous about this piece for two reasons. One, I don't expect Celebration glazes to do well in cone 10. Maybe the flower centers will come out brown. Who knows. Worse yet, the glaze might just run off the beads and drip onto the vase body. Second, I woke up this morning with a minor panic attack when I realized that I was a bit messy in applying the clear glaze onto the pitcher and did not wipe off the bottom. With my luck, this pitcher is probably sticking onto the kiln shelf right about now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Duncan Concepts Test Results

The test results for Duncan Concept underglazes fired at cone 10 are in! The colors are brighter than Amaco Velvet underglazes. I'm pleased with that. However, they are a bit runny and less opaque. If you are looking for a watercolor effect, Duncan Concepts underglazes would be a good choice.

Colors from left to right:
row 1 - chartreuse, neon blue, and neon green
row 2 - neon orange, neon red, and neon yellow
Each sample also had three coats of Amaco Sahara Zinc-Free Clear (HF-9) glaze on top.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Amaco Velvet Test Results

Above are the test results for Amaco Velvet underglazes fired at cone 10 on porcelain bisque. I did put 3 coats of Amaco Sahara Zinc-Free Clear (HF-9) glaze on top. "Real orange" came out to be brighter than "bright orange". "Intense yellow" was more like amber yellow. Chartreuse was a lovely green but it appeared a bit runny. If you choose to use this color, make sure you put on more than 3 coats. All other colors came out even and opaque. You may find this table from Amaco helpful too for firings at cone 10.

Colors from left to right:
row 1 - electric blue, bright orange, chartreuse, and red
row 2 - real orange, intense yellow, white, and hunter green

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Botanical Inspiration

These pieces came out of the kiln on Monday. They are very different from my usual happy and colorful designs. I hope you're not disappointed. I've been experimenting and trying to challenge myself to come up with a more mature and practical line. What I ended up with are these pieces. They are classical (inspired by botanical illustrations) and stronger too. All are microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe. The illustrations were drawn freehand using a black underglaze pencil.

Small pear platter "Poire Josephine de Binche" (6" diameter x 1.5" height)
Small poppy plate "Papaver Orientale" (5.25" diameter)
Poppy creamer (3.25" diameter x 4" height)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Perfect Weekend

After the Tahoe trip, I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home to do a bit of cleaning, gardening, and working in the studio. I spent most of Saturday cleaning like a mad woman, from the living room to the bedroom. Afterwards, I made time for the studio and glazed several bowls mainly to test Amaco Velvet and Duncan Concepts underglazes at cone 10. If you are interested in the results, let me know. I will post them. On Sunday morning, Greg and I hopped on the scooter and made a quick run to our favorite breakfast place, Plums Cafe. The food was scrumptious as usual. Blessed with a full stomach, we headed back home to tend the garden. Boy did it need some tending! We spent hours dead heading, trimming, cutting, and sweeping. By evening, I sat on the swing with a cool beer in hand, enjoying our little Eden in the middle of the California suburban. We then went for a little run and had healthy smoothie for dinner. As the sun was setting, I went back into the studio to throw a few plates and a couple of mugs. What a perfect weekend! It was just what I needed to rejuvenate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Art of Patience

Working at a community ceramic studio has taught me again and again, the art of patience. Below are some lessons I've learned to adopt over the years.

1. If a large platter you made (as pictured above) disappears from the drying rack, don't fret over it, just make another.

2. Do not have any expectation when your piece will be fired. This way, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you get it back from the kiln. It's like winning the lottery.

3. When you are working on the wheel, be prepare to move and dodge as people try to get behind you to their lockers.

4. If your pitcher never made it back from the kiln because it was unfortunately stuck to another bowl that melted on the shelf during firing, don't cry, just make another.

5. Watch for the flying stools. OK, this one needs a little explaining. The cleaning crew unplug all machines and place the stools on top of the pottery wheels so they can mop the floors once a week. If you or your neighbor absent-mindedly plugs in the pottery wheel before removing the stool and the pedal is down, well, you can imagine what happens next.

Please feel free to add more lessons in the comments section. I would love to read yours.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Back to the Daily Grind

We arrived home last night after five days of mountain biking at Lake Tahoe. It was truly a fun filled vacation with like minded friends. Fourteen of us rented a house at Incline Village and rode everyday. The weather was hot but bearable. Except for some cuts, bruises, and 5 stitches, we managed to escape the weekend adventure with no serious injuries, thank god! It was exactly what I needed to get back to the daily grind again.

Above is a picture of me from last week, taken by my friend, Natalie. I was frantically trying to finish off the mugs so they would make it in the next kiln load. We'll see how they turn out tonight. "Kiln god, please be kind to me." I'll bring the camera to capture some pictures for tomorrow post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Underglaze Pencils

I've been trying out something new in the studio recently. Using a black underglaze pencil, I drew botanical illustrations on a few bisque fired pieces. These pencils are pretty neat. They work like a regular pencil, in that, if you make mistakes, you can use an eraser to rub them off. Careful not to smudge the drawings, I then paint three coats of clear glaze on top. I'll post some pictures soon to let you see how these turn out after they've been glaze fired.

Lastly, I'm gearing up to go to lake Tahoe (the north side) for a few days of outdoor activities. As you know, there was a huge forest fire on the south side of the lake. Nearly five square miles were consumed by the fire and at least 254 homes were destroyed. Thanks to our 450 hard working fire fighters, it is finally 100 percent contained as of July 2nd. Lake Tahoe is HUGE, to say the least. I don't expect to even smell the smoke on the north side.

Have a great 4th of July everyone! Be safe and have lots of fun!