Sunday, 28 March 2010

Phew! First Bisque Firing Results

Now I know that to all you seasoned potters out there, my little kiln firing is a trivial event.
I've had twenty odd (some very odd) years of becoming unseasoned, forgetting how to do all this. And I'm a man, so, of course, I'm not going to ask for instructions, or look it up. I reason that it's all been in my head once, and that somehow it will surface when needed, and if not, I'll try bluffing. or guessing
And I've never in my life ever fired a little round toploader, so I'm going to program the electronic minder and hope for the best. (I was, by the way, the first potter I knew to have computerised kiln control, back in 1985, it proved to me that computers can screw up just as well as humans). I kinda yearn for the old days of trudging out to the kiln shed in the pouring rain, to adjust gas and air, peek inside the glowing box, and sit on log, waiting, at past mdnight, for that cone-tip to bend down and kiss the shelf.
More nostalgia would include splitting wood all night and feeding it into the ever hungry bourry-box, one memorable firing, we had a crate of beer, and whisky, and the northern lights. And rye-bread, and cheese, toasting at the firemouth, potatoes in a pit of ashes. Mmm.  the firing was good, but a knotty log sprang back and whacked my hand, which swelled up in a bone-broken sort of way, before dawn.
At the time, I felt no pain.

Anyway, no further suspense, ta-daa!!!!  No disasters!
Fortune sometimes smiles on fools.

The alchemy of flame (well, glowing hot bits of wire) has worked its magic. Because the load was tightly packed at the bottom, and fairly empty at the top, I set it to soak for ten minutes at top temp, probably not really needed, but it all looks pretty even.

I'm inordinately happy with this one, disproportionately so. It was born of some wild clay, just up the road from where I was living, the field had been sold for building land. When the backhoes were busy digging foundations, I went in, and stole a digger-bucket's worth of clay. after no more preparation than a bit of wedging and slamming, it threw beautifully, really strong and plastic.

At the time, I was planning to pitch these to various mediaeval history venues, I'd done quite a bit of work before for archeaology units, museums, living history, etc, but the making of these coincided with some rather negative life-changes for me, so they got shoved, along with a load of other remnants of an earlier life, on a shelf, out of sight, out of mind. I always, however, harboured the idea that one day, one day, I'd come back to clay, and fire them. The source of that clay's under a housing estate and a school now.

And nothing collapsed or cracked in the firing.

I was at a wedding reception, whilst the trusty kiln controller did all this. I was only a little bit nervous.

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  1. Holy sh!t lookit your work GRIT! WOW! That is, as you know, my exact favorite type of teapot and piggy bank :)
    Dislodge yourself my boy and travel here this summer. PLEASE DO.

  2. Very nice. I'm no potter but I like things to be symmetrical. Your work appears to be so. The question is....does it hold water?

  3. lovely teapots soubriquet... and congrats on getting that bisque under your belt. i have to say that when i first used the computerized controller, it was a bit unnerving but gradually i've become more and more used to it. now it's a bit like when someone that's a 10 hour drive away calls to say they're coming to visit and have just left and you go about your day and they arrive after supper and you've rarely thought of them all day. meantime they were attentively racking up the miles


    You're launched again!!

    I've just mixed up some black slip here- bowl throwing tomorrow.
    When is the glaze firing? :-)

  5. Gary :) I'm feeling better already.
    Teapots and pigs, fun things, I love making teapots, I'm not sure a non-potter can ever understand the multiple challenges of happy teapot making, nor the endless variations possible.
    And I know you love that challenge too, I wish I wish...I wish I could figure out a way to get me and RDG to your doorstep this summer. I want to meet you and Maude, walk your across the bridge/ river trail, hang out with the bad-azz arty crowd at the pub...

    Rita: Symmetry is easy with a potter's wheel, it's an area in which I can pretend to be tidy and controlled.
    Does it hold water?
    When it's glazed it will, these are at an interim stage, they're ceramics now, no longer just clay, they ring when tapped, but are still porous.

    Jim: Good analogy. Or using the controller is like sleeping in the back seat as somebody else drives those red-eyed hundreds of miles for you.

    gz:Relaunched, but... glaze firing?
    I'll buy some ready-mades when I buy the kiln shelves.
    I've found some oxides in my store, and four more boxes of bisqueware, and some cane handles, corks etc. The next problem to raise its nasty head will be how to get rid of the finished pots. I'll have to go out and dig holes to bury them in.
    I hate selling. sitting at craft fairs, whilst people pick up, put down...

  6. These are good enough for a gallery .

    Go talk to Jim Robison in Holmfirth?

    e mail me, I might have some simple glaze recipes that will work, I was firing stoneware in an electric kiln in Porthmadog (Snowdon Mill)

  7. Thanks gz, somewhere around here there's a dog-eared, tattered, stained notebook. It just has to be here somewhere, but I can't think where. In it there's the accumulated wisdom and errors of my glaze dabbled years.
    There's a recipe for a chrome/tin pink, I think it's chrome-tin...
    And somewhere, a recipe for some incredibly bright turquoises and purples, barium carbonate fluxed, i think, rat-poison glazes. But electric colours, from the late Alan Peascod, Australian potter, he demonstrated at the NPA potters camp in the mid eighties.
    I was perusing a book about colour in glazes, and the humour of it struck me... Here I am, reading about coloured glazes, and most of the pictures are in black'n'white.
    It only just occurred to me, that I need to find some weighing scales, too. I've got an old laboratory balance, okay for test quantities, but I need an old shop scale. Have to go searching junk shops and flea-markets.

    I will go see Jim, when I've got something to show, I saw him just after christmas, for the first time in a lot of years, he's still the same soft spoken, smiling man , and his gallery's a lovely old stone and timber place.

  8. I've just been looking through my glaze books- tatty, glaze splashed, and going back to 1974!!

  9. YIP YIP HOORAAYYY!! many accolades to you. I love it all!



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