Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Carbon Trap Shino

It's been a great year - with lots of gas firings and three wood firings as well as my workshops at MISSA.  I have been really interested in the carbon trapping shinos and have been using Malcolm Davis's recipe. I was very sad to learn of his recent death. I have read the presentation that he made at NCECA last year and what a wonderful career he had! Someone who we can really admire. If you want to read it - here is the link:
http://www.nceca.net/static/documents/MalcolmDavis.pdf  It's too bad that the slides that he used in the presentation are not available as well.
So here are some pictures of my Malcolm Davis Shinos - with and without Red Art. The one with Red Art is used on porcelain - with no Red Art you do not seem to get the orange colours on porcelain.
The Good: MD Shino without Red Art - Dan Hill's lithium slip with cobalt was first sprayed and then wiped off the the trees. Then sprayed with MD Shino without Red Art. Then the trees were waxed. The carbon trapping at the edges of the tree trunks is really great. I've been trying to replicate but so far with no success! Fired to probably cone 12 - 13 in my June 2011 firing.
Since I use  both B-mix - a porcelaneous stoneware and B-Mix for Wood Fire ( I presume it has something added to aid flashing) I tried both MD Shino with and without Red Art as I was not sure which one to use. In the gas kiln there seemed to be little difference between the two types on the above clays. However in the wood kiln the MD without Red Art seemed to get very little orange colour and the one with, seemed to go rather dark, more brown than orange. Maybe the ashes are washing out some of the orange?  So not sure which MD Shino to use from now on.

The Good: DH lithium slip sprayed on right and bottom as well as rim of bottle. Sprayed with Wirtz Shino  and then poured on  MD Shino on right shoulder. You can see how the lithium slips tends to bubble through. Same firing as above - in fact pots were next to each other. There was great carbon trapping where the shino was thicker due to the poured layer on the shoulder. Unfortunately this pot cracked on the bottom seam.

The Good: Dark stoneware clay - one half poured with MD Shino with Red Art on left and the other half without Red Art. Waxed out design. Got great carbon trapping but no orange hues.

The Bad: Used again Dan Hill's lithium slip with cobalt and then sprayed with MD Shino without Red Art. Sprayed a light coat of MD with Red Art over the upper area of the trees and people. Appliqued areas then waxed. You can see that it went orange there, but the bottom part was totally white - totally oxidation I guess. My end of Oct firing. The colours are not bad - but not what I was looking for in a Shino.

The Ugly: MD Shino without Red Art - and without any lithium slip. Appliques were waxed out. Really ended up washed out. The ash deposit on the left removed what little orange blush that there was. I have to remember to take that into consideration when I load the kiln and make sure that the ash works with the design and not against it.

The Ugly: Lithium slip on top part and then wiped off the appliqued areas. Sprayed with MD Shino with Red Art - plate cracked but you can see that the orange on the left is not a vibrant colour. On the right there is quite a bit of ash deposit. Again the trees were waxed out, but no carbon trapping either.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ending with a Whimper - 5th Firing Oct 2011

I was keeping my fingers crossed that the warm weather would hold until I could do another firing at the end of Oct. It did but the day ended up extremely windy and with all the leaves off the trees the kiln was exposed to the full brunt of the wind whipping through the valley. Maybe that was part of the problem as I could not get that typical chug chug sound from the primary air inlets, instead the flames would come out every time an extra strong gust of wind would blow, but no sound. It was like the wind would blow down through the chimney and out the primary air holes, reversing the normal flow. I have always associated the chugging with reduction. Whatever the reason the results were a real blow to my esteem - no reduction at all,  no chuns, barely any celadons and no carbon trapping - the shinos with the character of a white fish belly. I had also decided not to load the last section - felt that it might help in bringing up the temperature in the middle. 
Last section shelving sloping down to the flue to try and direct the flame lower  in the earlier sections as I find that the top is always a lot hotter and has a lot more ash.

Tall shino pots loaded in the middle section. I did another pot with the tethered dove theme. I love making large bottle forms but they do not sell very well.

The chuns blue (Jun 4 over Temmoku) ended up just a shiny brown, the butternut bowls grey, the ones on the left a grey transparent that should have had a hint of blue green and the ones on the right were supposed to be a darker celadon blue-green.

The bottom front section - the two small bottles on the left were the only ones with some nice orange flashing, but that was probably due to the fact that I brushed them with ash water and soda water first. All the shinos were mostly just a pale beige.

Anyway blocking the last section and trying to get the flames lower did not work - the bases of my tall pieces were all unfired compared to the tops. The tail end of the kiln was colder than normal compared to the front - again leaving out the pots in that section did not seem to help either. Anyway I will have all winter to try and figure out what I did wrong and to gear up enough energy to repeat the firings again in the spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fourth Firing - Heat and Humidity - Sept 2011

We had been spending a lot of time on our farm, making trails for the woodlot tour in October to see our butternut grove. Butternuts  in North Anerica are all dying from a canker and so have been put on the endangered speices list. The search is on for a canker resistant tree - so far over 8000 trees over a wide geographic area have been examined by researchers and maybe only 4 are showing sign of recovery. These may then become the parents of future resistant trees if the trait proves to be genetic and can be passed on to future generations.

As a result of all the trail clearing I got a lot of white pine branches cut into firewood for my wood kiln. In addition I bought a truckload of cedar slabs in June hoping that they would dry a lot faster than any cedar cut this year.
Wood storage - cedar slabs on the left
Malcolm Davis Shinos ready to go into the wood fire - the large plate dunted in the firing - seems like it was on the way up as the glaze had run down the broken edges a bit. I think that I preheated too hot the night before and then let it cool before starting again the next morning.
I managed to get this firing in before the end of summer which has been very hot and humid. With all the humidity the shino glazes did not want to do their thing - that is getting that crusty white soda ash look from the soda ash migrating to the surface. To speed up the drying process I had heat-gunned the interior of my tall slab vases and then blocked the tops with plastic bags, thinking this would force the soda to the outside surface. This did not seem to work as little soda ash ended up on the outside surface, much less than normally. Thinking back, heating the interior would really have wicked the soda ash to the inside surface, even if the tops were blocked and the interior could not dry quickly. It would have been better to sweep the heat gun on the outside surface. The test that I had done at MISSA two years ago when I had placed the shinos in different situations - what worked the best was to place the pot in a sunny and windy location and you got great crusting patterns.

Below shows a test to see how ashes affect the cones - both are cone 10 - one was capped by the pot and the other was outside it. It seems like they were equal which is good to know, but maybe the outside cone was not subjected to too much ash where it was placed. I will have to repeat the test in the very front where there is a lot of ash.

I got some great chuns - on the left Jun 4 over Temmoku turned out a vivid blue/purple and in the front section some super carbon trapping - totally black except where for wax resist brush marks. This was MD shino without the Red Art and it results in more white instead of orange over porcelain. Unfortunately the tall vases ended up mostly an ugly shade of orange brown. I will have to try and refire them in the gas kiln. I am having trouble understanding why one pot gets it while another one next to it hardly any at all.
This time some of the carbon trapping also ended up as even speckling - rather like granular managnese, even where there was applique or lacquer resist/carving that was waxed out. I guess that is what makes shinos so exciting!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Third Firing of the Newfoundout Kiln - June 2011

The end of June firing was great - it was very hot and sunny with no wind. It was the first time that I was able to use a lot of pine, mostly white pine branches and I side stoked with 1x 2 lumber strips that my husband no longer wanted. The temperature reached cone 9 at the chimney end, but I think I really overshot at the front end as cone 11 ended up in a puddle, though with wood firing you can never be sure how much the ashes are affecting the cones. The colour in the kiln near the end at times was white, white, white - I have never seen it that bright so it may have reached cone 13. In addition many glazes turned a shiny transparent, like a celadon. 
Wood Fire BMix - Watercolour Green brushed on and rubbed off, then glazed with Stony Yellow, Hannah Blue and Ochre Ash glazes. You can see the copper from the Watercolour Green was reduced to red - maybe the blood part of the blood sweat and tears that those early settlers when through in the Newfoundout.
The pots pictured are glazed the same, except one is Bmix woodfire clay and the other out of Smoothstone - a stoneware clay -  and fired in a gas kiln to cone 10.
Stoneware clay with the same glazes as above but fired in the gas kiln.
Every time we drive up the kilometer long steep hill into the Newfoundout - that high valley where our farm is located, I think of how those first settlers in the 1880's must have struggled up that hill to claim their land holdings. I wonder what were their first thoughts when they finally arrived - disappointed, happy, apprehensive? By the 1950's they sure must have been disappointed - as the whole valley, the Newfoundout - where at one time 16 families lived was abandoned. I am trying to do a series of pots that reflect some of that.

Handbuilder Extraordinaire - Vince Pitelka - MISSA Part IV

The second week was handbuilding with Vince Pitelka and learning all sorts of new techniques. I have never been a fan of coiling as I find it too slow for my impatient personality. However Vince's technique for making large storage jars that he learned years ago from a Nigerian student made for a much faster and satisfying experience as well as resulting in a very strong pot. All of us in the workshop managed to make these very large jars by the end of the week. You do have to leave time for drying as there was only so much height that can be accomplished each day.

Detail of the tethered bird

My large coiled jar
In between coiling sessions we were shown his system of building boxes using a template system of squares, rectangles and triangles of graduated sizes. His method of making templates for flaring tumblers was new to me - using two different lengths of radii - by using a very large homemade protractor.

Two of his best tips - spray the table top with water, smooth on your canvas and you have a ready made working surface. If the canvas moves, just respray. Now there is no need to carry around a thick sheet of canvas covered board - just the canvas. 

My handbuilt mug with paddled rim
And the second tip was the best, at least for me. Slab built vases, cups, etc. I  always felt had a weakness - their rims. It is very difficult to thicken the rim evenly and effectively. Vince's method is simple and results in a very nice rim that can compete with any wheel thrown one in terms of adding that finishing touch to the pot. Once the clay is leatherhard, he paddles the rim using a wooden paddle - I use a wooden spoon - using a circular motion and stroking down on the clay rim and going back up to start again. By going around slowly one can build up quite a substantial lip that looks totally natural.

Vince (seated) - with his large coiled jar and working on his signature oil can teapot.

Pots in Motion - Steven Hill - MISSA Part III

Between 1985 and 2000 I had taken a 15 year hiatus from pottery and what a change had occurred in those years!  Brown pots where out, colour was in, throwing rings were replace with trimming marks, iron spots were banished, and static, footed pots were replaced by dancing pots in motion.

The super weekend workshop with Steven Hill embodied all those new things, especially colour and motion! His signature melon pitcher was broken down into various parts - all designed to show motion. Even little details added to the overall effect. And all the parts knit together seamlessly to result in a  spectacular pot. It was not an easy feat for the rest of us to attempt, but attempt with did. Though we may not have had much success we all learned a lot.

His yunomis were an easier project to emulate and I have been making lots of them since I got back as I love making the undulating lip that he showed us. (A yunomi is a form of teabowl for every day use and it is usually taller than wide, with a trimmed foot. You hold it by the rim with your thumb and forefinger and support it with your little finger under the foot.) You can see some of his yunomis with that wonderful undulating and slightly flaring rim here (you need to scroll down past the cups): http://stevenhillpottery.com/StevenHillPottery/TopShelfPottery/Pages/Mugs,_Tumblers,_and_Yunomis.html

Another fun part of the workshop was working with his slip which I had never tried before. Tear pieces of your clay body into small chunks and beat them up with water to a yogurt like thickness, screen and apply to the pot with your hand. Start smoothing, working it with a rib - it's harder than you think to get that fresh, spontaneous look of ripples and drips.  I see that he has a video out now about his techniques called "Surface Techniques with Steven Hill". You can see an excerpt here at Ceramic Arts Daily.
Steven's signature melon pot under construction. No one makes a better or more graceful spout than Steven.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Conversation Among the Parts - Nick Joerling - MISSA Part II

Nick Joerling's teapot under construction
Nick's finished teapot - all the parts having a very lively conversation!
Nick Joerling's "Throwing Pots/Possibilities" was in the first week and was one of the best workshops that I have attended. His method of making and altering many of his pots is very unique and he has obviously put a lot of thought into his work. He mentioned that at one time his studio shared a building with a dance troupe that would practice there and he would spend time watching their rehearsals. I found that it seems to have had an effect on his pots - they are very elegant, with lots of movement achieved by, pinching, stretching, pushing - altering his thrown and slab pots. They are also quite time consuming to make - he obviously enjoys his work and finding new solutions to making the things that he wants.

But the most significant thing that I came away with was that he likes to think of his pots as having a conversation among their different parts. Is that conversation boring - i.e. is the design predictable? Or is there some surprise somewhere, something intriguing - making that conversation interesting? I guess you can over design - everything flows and fits nicely in terms of form and design and that can make it rather boring as your eye passes over the pot. So he likes to throw in a little of something just a bit different - a bit of a surprise to spice up the conversation! You can see that in his images on his website -  http://penlandpottery.com/pages/bruns-joerling-studios.php

Now just to try and remember that when I put together my pots.

My attempt at blended handle
Another thing that we did was to practice making blended handles for our cups for half an hour everyday - it was amazing how much everybody improved after 5 days! Every workshop should include this - just imagine how many bad handles would be banished forever, including mine! Nick broke it down into several steps, checking every one's handles for each step before anyone went any further - now that is a dedicated teacher! The blended handle appeals to me as it really gives a seamless transition and it great to use when the pot has an indent around which the handles curve. It is also essential when making a back filled handle that I have come to really like. To see a back filled handle on Kyle Carpenter's you tube video -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL0hIjlcp3Y&feature=player_embedded

I was making handles with a butt end where glaze can collect and I like that as the glaze can usually hide any small cracks. Now I have a repertoire of two handle types to practice.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Take a Nap to Tap into Your Creativity - MISSA 2011 Part 1

MISSA - The Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts located at the Lester B. Pearson International College just outside of Victoria BC has to be one of the most inspirational summer schools imaginable. Not only is the location fantastic, but the quality of the teachers is world class so it attracts a lot of serious students.

It is always held in the first two weeks of July and this year I signed up for workshops with Nick Joerling (1 week), Steven Hill ( weekend) and in the second week - handbuilding with Vince Pitelka. A trio of rock stars - all were amazing! You also get to meet other artists from other disciplines and in the evenings there are slide shows by the workshop presenters - all very inspiring and applicable to other disciplines!

Path to Auditorium at MISSA
View from the Pottery Studio
In the creative writing workshop with Sarah Selecky, http://www.sarahselecky.ca/ the class was instructed to take a nap every afternoon to recharge their creativity - evidently when you first wake up - before you mind fills up with the days plans, problems etc, - if you just let your mind drift freely into your project - that is supposedly one of your most creative times. I guess it is just like waking up and coming up with a solution to a problem during the night. I have been trying to think about my pots when I first wake up in the morning - though most mornings the days problems and issues intrude pretty quickly.

Another thing that I learned from one of her students was that they were not to use a computer for their first drafts, but to write by hand, forming each letter slowly. Evidently writing by hand activates the creative part of your brain. Very applicable to pottery I think. I'm always drawing, sketching, often the same thing over and over, imprinting the image into my brain, with just subtle differences and as I turn the pages the images change into something that perhaps I can use.

The writing students says all this worked. I think I would have a hard time doing the first part - taking a nap - as I wouldn't want to miss even a moment of that fabulous time at MISSA.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rims and Feet

It's been about 10 months since my last post. I have been making items for the marketplace - nothing very exciting - no new directions or techniques and I have just not had the energy to write any of it up.

It's just in the last few months that I have started handbuilding again. I find that it's with handbuilding that I get really excited about my work. I have never been very pleased with the bases of my slab built pots - I felt they were very weak - needed to be stronger and better delineated. Same with the rim - though I have had some success with strenghtening them by adding extra coils or clay strips to them.

This time I tried rolling down the rim with a brayer to make them thicker. I had tried this earlier with a small vase with some success. However with my larger pieces this is hard to do as I never really know what final form the rim will take until I have finished all the appliques and by then the rim is usually rather dry - so I have to keep spraying it with water to keep it wet.

"What If the Snake Had Eaten All the Apples?"
This time I managed to roll the clay down enough to make a rather neat delineating line all around the rim and down one edge. The pot is called "What If the Snake Had Eaten All the Apples?" It was fired in the third firing of my wood kiln and the matt stony yellow, and Hannah blue and ochre ashes all turned glossy with black carbon trapping in some parts - rather muddy colors as somehow I managed to overfire my wood kiln!
Looking at the pictures now, I feel that the rim and base are still a bit too delicate - so next time I need to concentrate more at making them more visually stronger.

Back - the blue ash turned black, maybe some carbon trapping as there was very heavy reduction