Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Few Things from a Hot Kiln

Jade pitcher - small and sweet but perfectly balanced.

One of a series of studies for making wine glasses thrown in one piece.

Crock? Vase? Utensil caddy?

Rounded mug with perfect form and gorgeous glazing!

I am still in the process of unloading and photographing this load. Yesterday I shot 150 photos and it was only a small portion of what came out of this last kiln load. We re throwing like mad to get ready for summer shows, so more is coming along quickly!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Favorite Glazing Tools

Every potter has their own way of doing things. I am no exception. These are my favorite tools for glaze mixing, minus the bucket. Well, and the scale. They include my Hanson Mixer, a cordless drill, shelving supports from a Closetmaid kit, a large sieve, and a bunch of cheap bristle brushes I have epoxied together.

This is how I set it up. I have a collection of old, oak school chairs that I use around the studio as bucket perches. I place my bucket on them, then shelf supports, my sieve and my brushy thing I made.

I use the shelf supports for a couple of reasons. They are triangular and coated metal, so the glaze just slides off of them and into a bucket and they are easy to wash. Since they are V shaped and upside down, I can use a knife to cut a couple of shallow notches in the rim of my bucket and everything is locked in place.

My test batch glaze set up is similar and shows off my brushy thing in action, sort of. Notice, my test sieve fits into the lid of a plastic container that we cut. Our test batches of glaze all go into these containers, so the sieve and altered lid can fit on any test container.

I use the brush when I am sieving because it makes quicker work. I have tried scrapers and stirrers and more, but the bristle brushes all epoxied together just scrub the glaze through the screen much faster.

Of course, the most important tool for mixing glazes is an accurate scale. I have mine thanks to Jorgensen Studio. When I was shopping for a scale, she had an extra one and sent it to me. She said it had been given to her by another potter and she wanted to pay it forward. I am so grateful! She makes amazing things, so please check her out if you are looking for amazing jewelry or one of a kind pottery.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Down With Disposable

For some time, we have been wanting to plant bamboo in our yard. We like the idea of having a living fence rather than a constructed one. We also want to harvest bamboo in order to make our own teapot handles. We know it might take over, but I'd rather have more trees than grass any day.

On the drive over, I spent a lot of time thinking about why it was important for us to get these plants. I didn't have great answer except they are pretty, green, and it is one less thing I'd have to order and have shipped.

I drove through mile after mile of mountainsides covered with apple orchards and thought about the environmental impact of making pottery. We strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible with the way we run our studio. We use as little water as possible, never waste clay, avoid glazes with heavy metals and so on. We currently fire in an efficient electric kiln - the most energy efficient kiln on the market.

But even if we didn't do all of that, I feel that creating pottery is a good environmental choice. We are not contributing to the disposable attitude. Instead, we are striving to create heirlooms and treasures. Rather than another plastic dish that will crack in a few years, we are creating pieces that can last centuries. Our pieces come from a small studio concerned with the environment while store bought mugs are produced in huge factories concerned only with their profit margins. Is it worth it to consumers to spend a little more on something they will treasure for a lifetime or would they rather spend less on next year's garage sale fodder?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I like big coffee mugs. This one pictured is not one of those, though. It is a dainty little 8 ounce mug, but I love it anyway. While I prefer a mug about double this size, I'll take any mug that has a glaze this gorgeous!

So much of a potter's life is determined by serendipity. I know in theory what should happen if I fire this glaze at a certain speed or make it hover at a certain temperature, but until the lid of the kiln opens I am at the mercy of the kiln gods.

This little mug's glaze is serendipitous perfection! The glaze formed microcrystals as the kiln slowly cooled and they really make the piece for me. They are like frost trapped within a glassy olive green. I just want to run my hands over the mug - it begs to be touched! This pleasure, the joy of a piece wanting to be held, is what makes me return to the wheel day after day.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's Spring in Tennessee!

After a few false starts and a disappointing winter, spring has finally arrived in the Appalachians. Up on the mountains, there is still cold and frost, but down in our valley the cherry trees and daffodils are in full bloom. The candytuft has made a white carpet along my front walk and the birds are dripping off the bird feeders.

What does spring mean to a potter? It can bring about an over whelming urge to create pots that don't get made any other time of year. My kiln is being visited by things like bird feeders and slug traps. Yes, that's right - slug traps. Even the occasional toad house finds its way to our kiln in spring.

I never do too many of these types of pots. The lull between the holidays and summer shows passes quickly. The orders for plates, bowls, serving pieces, and cups will soon take back over but while my yard is filled with the first music and movements of spring, we'll enjoy the small signs of spring that visit our kiln.