Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Undeniably artistic,but not what I had in mind...from last [disastrous] crystal kiln

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The Car-Jack-its Use and Abuse in Contemporary Ceramics


One ring to bind them- hammantaschen-shaped,in honour of the Holiday

Fallen Angels-a collapsed shelf at the back of the kiln

Three [protective] Hoods

Fire-breathing anagama

Feeding the Dragon

Brief Update on Way to Shower

Recovering gently from the exertions of Meir's firing and Purim which followed hard on its heels,I spent a leisurely sunny morning washing the studio floor [a ritual I perform quite often,especially when preparing,as now,do do some lustres and decals,which tend to be a bit fussy about dust.Not to mention my lungs,doubtless already indignant at the copious black smoke that one inhales tending the anagama kiln.]Then I un- and re-loaded the crystal kiln to even it up,to what effect we shall doubtless learn when I refire it tomorrow.Sydney arrived in the afternoon,and we proceeded to deconstruct my salt kiln with the dextrous use of a car-jack,ending up with eight or so manageable pieces of kiln which we hope to reassemble soon outside his studio.
Meir's firing went amazingly smoothly,to the extent that we packed up Thursday afternoon instead of after Shabbat,as planned,gratifyingly-ash-glazed rings having been withdrawn from the kiln in all possible locations.After a quick shower and rest,I caught a Megillah reading at a local bet-knesset,then drove to Amirim for the pre-party at Moshe's picturesque khusha,getting home around eleven,tired,as they say,but happy.And,of course,it being Purim,drunk.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Purim night - back from Meir's anagama firing - report to follow

Monday, March 21, 2005

Le Grand Feu

Meir started firing last Friday evening,doubtless to the accompaniment of sundry traditional potters' rituals [Robin,my teacher,used to spit in the kiln for good luck before closing the door],and tomorrow night I hope to join him,after teaching at Tel Hai.My 4 glaze firings are completed-not the most even firings,but everything came out well.Yesterday trimmed a few Seder platesand threw a cake-plate with a [separate]high foot for an order - the last one I tried [in porcelain]warped alarmingly but predictably - this time I'm using a very stiff groggy white stoneware.It'll probably still warp...Also pruned the vine,a job I would enjoy much more if it didn't involve balancing on an unsteady stepladder a long way from the ground.Still,the vine always looks so smart after its haircut,and it's fascinating to see where it is planning to send its ageing sap this year;sometimes it just seems to give up on one branch and put its energy into another one.Fixed the light in the sunroom [more precarious balancing,this time with electricity],a long-overdue task,and sold a slew of pots to a bunch of Spring visitors to the studio.Motti the gas showed up in the afternoon and connected my new lump of a gas-tank,and today I started firing a crystal kiln [two large porcelain sinks,some shallow bowls,some washing-cups].About an hour ago I saw that the kiln was far hotter on the bottom,and,there being no way to juggle with heat distribution in these oxidised firings,decided to turn the kiln off at 1000degs,let it cool,re-adjust the shelves,and fire it again-probably next week,after Meir's Firing.

Taking pictures of cups for forthcoming book on Safed

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Celadon bowls from kiln#4

Monday, March 14, 2005

Today's deal

Here's the deal today:unloaded another good kiln this morning [#3 for those counting],fired on remains of old gas tank and half of one of the two 50kg balloons that the gas company brought me yesterday to tide me over 'til the new tank arrives tomorrow,when I won't be here [Tel Hai]-I'm trusting the Apprentice to handle it.All the remaining pots having being glazed [those few of you who learned Latin will have recognised that Ablative Absolute construction,doubtless with a shudder],I reloaded this morning,starting to fire at midday.At around one thirty there's a brit mila at the Bar El's [mazel tov,Ronni and Genine]that probably won't happen at one thirty,so I have to try to be back in the studio to catch the kiln at 920degs to start reduction,plus I'm firing on the second half of that gas-tank,which will inevitably freeze up as time goes on,and Nasim the tractor-driver is supposedly arriving in the middle of this with a cube of sand,protection for the new tank.This morning Nasim told me "I'll be round in an hour or so",but a tractor-driver's idea of time is one of the more elastic concepts in the known universe.I know deep down that there's a way to go to the brit,return,switch balloons,finish the firing and get to bed at a respectable hour,but the variables overwhelm me,so I'll just take a guess.This is stuff they don't teach you in Pottery School.Not that I ever went to Pottery School...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Frabjous Day

Back exhausted from first day loading.Knees,back and neck holding up resonably well.Shlepped Meir's pots [unfired] bedded in sand in the back of his jeep the 5-minute drive from his house and workshop to the kiln-site,behind Plastic Plus in Pardes Hanna.Great to renew friendship with Hans and Illana,who own the spread,and with the troupe of potters and fire-freaks who meet every year for the festivities.A good cool day for loading;once we got started-which was late in the day-everything went smoothly.Called it a day after 8,having completed the second stack in the main chamber.Big pots to load tomorrow,and a delivery of 30 cube of wood.The firing takes around 20,there's about 10 left from last year,so there should be 20 left to dry properly for the next firing.Luxury.

Loading Meir's Anagama

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Tel Hai-students demonstrate how not to flip large bowl Posted by Hello

Monday, March 07, 2005

A pleasant surprise

The kiln turned out better than expected-good reduction throughout,nothing on the [hot]bottom overfired,nothing on the top underfired.What a relief!The Mashiko glazes look good [see below],most of the bowls for the restaurant are done.Check out that glass dribble on the tall cup in the picture:it's always nice when it reaches the bottom and doesn't stick to the shelf,as here.Now that all the glazes have had a try-out,the remaining 3/4 kilns will be "more of the same"-still a challenge,without the adrenalin edge of the first couple.As often happens,sold some of the still-warm pots-people seem to sense a cooling kiln.
Oh joy! vols 4&5 of Proust have just arrived.Nearly 9 cms of unalloyed pleasure in store.
A hundred-and-change pots in the kiln,average price 40-50 shekels,averaging a glaze kiln every two weeks over the year-that's the profession,turning "base material" into gold.For "base material" read "clay",for gold,read "credit-card slips" and there you have us:modern-day alchemists.

Not so bad Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Running out of gas

Coming up to 4 in the afternoon-the gas tank is down to 20%,the kiln up to 1200`.I've already been out twice to pour hot water on the gas tank to raise the pressure,but I think it'll be O.K. This kiln seems to be hot on the bottom [according to my optical pyrometer]-tricky,because the remedy [slacking off the reduction}is not good for the glazes,which need a hearty dose of reduction to bring out their true colours.I'll wait 'til some cones start to bend in another thirty degrees or so,then decide what to do depending on how big the gap is from top to bottom.
On a firing day,the main work is the kiln-just paying attention to it all the time.I packed up an order for the States,taking most of the morning,and using up a reel of parcel tape in the process.The recipe I learned from Robin Welch my teacher [we used to ship a lot]-5-6 sheets of newspaper on the pot,bubble-wrap,packed with padding [shredded paper]in a cardboard box,then that box "floated" with more padding in another box.Fragile stickers,up arrows and pray.These days wonderful E.M.S. will insure for 4shekels-wasn't like that when I was a lad.
Meanwhile an ex-student came by for a consultation,and the kiln crept up to 1240.The bottom is indeed about a quarter-come hotter [10 degrees]but I won't do anything yet;reduction isn't so strong,if I ease it it'll disappear completely,and I'd like to pile it on right at the end if I can to try to get those reds.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Shavua Tov

There was an interesting mix at Kosov this morning,from shtreimels and kapattas [in various hues],various exotially-coloured tallitot,a good smattering of p'til t'chelet,groups of snappy Borsalinos [I notice the new ones have a small gold triangle on the end of the hat-band - a reminder of the golden calf?]and some enthusiastic white-clad settler-types:altogether some 50 souls,the chemistry making for spirited prayer.Politically,as often,I suspect I was in a minority - "look at our boy",as my old English teacher used to say,"he's the only one in step!"On days like these,I find this authodox davvening,with all its costraints,more satisfying than our alternative minyan.Ah to find a middle path.
Tomorrow promises firing #2,with all kinds of interesting pots,glazes and experiments.A busy week ahead-Tuesday I start teaching at Tel Hai for the 2nd semester,Wednesday and Thursday helping Meir load his Kiln.It looks like kiln#3 will only get fired the week after,by when my new gas tank should have arrived.Off now with Helen to visit Roni and Noa Yeshurun-learn all about Safed at their site

Friday, March 04, 2005

Tightly-packed glaze kiln #2 Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Get them while they're hot - pots from yesterday's kiln Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hastily-prepared dinner-cooking time 2 mins.Plate is ancient and French. Posted by Hello

Our vine last July-it needs pruning now.Volunteers? Posted by Hello


For a brief moment at around 1230 deg. I though I might have got this kiln spot on-the same temp top and bottom-which is distinctly unusual for me-until I realised I had mis-spotted the cones,and the kiln was in fact a cone hotter [about 30degs.]at the top-a much more common state of affairs for the first firing of a series.You'd think that after close to 700 glaze firings in this kiln over eleven years I'd have got the hang of it,but the fine tuning inevitably takes a kiln or two.The firing took 11 hours,with a leisurely start at seven this morning.Slowly "unpacked" the bisc jammed on the studio shelves to remind myself what pots we have.Started glazing some porcelain with a clear glaze so that it'll be good and dry for its second coat of Janice Tchalenko's wonderfully-coloured glazes tomorrow.Mixed up various dried-out glazes [I tend to let them dry completely in their buckets,then reconstitute them for the next batch of firings.],made up some tenmoku [dark/light brown] with returned apprentice Goldie,who is going to play with the Mashiko trilogy of tenmoku,khaki and nuka [rice-ash,grey/white/chun blue].Unearthed long-unused black manganese crystal glaze,which makes an unholy mess when it runs on kiln-shelves [which,of cours,it does at the drop of a hat,but which can give dramatic irridescent crystals in reduction when in the right mood].More foot-and-rim waxing-plates,bowls,lidded jars,remaining teapots.A box of pots for Meir's kiln toppled over,breaking one of the teapots [the big one in the picture]and a couple of bud-vases-nothing too catastrophic]and reminding one of the old adage,"If you want one,make two".Music in studio [for last three days,more-or-less non-stop]:Queen Omega off ireggae,which you really should check out-see link below.Before that:Bembeya Jazz National/Syliphone Years-listen to it at Stern's -a great source for the African music that has been my staple diet for quite a few years.But we haven't talked much about music yet.Starving.Expecting Sydney,who told me he just built a kiln in one day at Tel Hai - without doing any of the work himself.This is true mastery-working without doing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


At long last got the first kiln glazed and loaded ready for firing tomorrow.As is usual with first kilns,a lot of pots from which to choose,which makes the multi-dimentional jigsaw puzzle of kiln loading considerably easier.Lots of 'plain white' mugs for lustering later,lots of soup bowls for the Rosh Pina order,quite a few glazed/unfired pieces left over from the last batch of firings,but couldn't resist glazing a few teapots,and some facetted porcelain cups in the tricky but occassionally stunning carbon-trap shino (beware the carbon trap!),a glaze with the alarming tendency of crawling slowly out of the bucket.Something to do with migrating salts,I believe.The kiln is now purring away at about 70 degrees,just drying out the glaze-I'll turn it off soon for the night.It seems none the worse for its foray into the fields of raku yesterday,which makes me ponder the possibility of doing a little raku firing proper in it-maybe when my new kiln is closer to completion.No cone 7's-I usually fire with 7/8/9 until cone 9 is down,using the 40 degrees or so from cone 7 to even out the top and bottom of the kiln by playing with the strength of the reduction.For those not in the craft- this is potter's talk.
Took part in an enjoyable sium or conclusion of a seven-year cycle of DafYomi -the daily page of learning studied all over the world.Also the yahrzeit of Noam Elimelech,so much inspiring Torah was spoken.