Friday, June 23, 2006

A Matter of Principle

It always disturbed me to throw away wads of plastic bag offcuts [is there another word for that piece between the handles from which one hangs packs of plastic bags? Could you invent one?] until I devised this alternative use- wrapping handles of colanders and the like to stop them drying too quickly and hence cracking. Posted by Picasa

Orton Cone Tables

As most potters know,there are many variants of this table,each slightly different;I suppose there's no reason that Orton's should be any more accurate- they only make the things- but,for what it's worth...You may notice that the cone temperatures are given for a rate of rise of x degrees/hour during the last hour of firing- for me,this solved a question I have had for years- does 'rate of rise' refer to the whole firing,or just the last part? Thus,slowly,we push back the borders of ignorance.By the way,you have to click on the title to get the link [it's a different colour,see?], then look for the reference library link and cone charts.Not too complicated,I hope.I also liked the idea of calcining cones before stressful firings.
Feeling slightly hammered today after the Roger Waters concert yesterday at Nevei Shalom,near Jerusalem.It's been so long since we've had huge rock concerts in Israel that I'd forgotten what an ordeal they are.The concert was great,with memorable versions of "Wish you were here" and "Money",and Snowy White played his heart out,and Waters' voice is still great,and it was wonderful to be swaying with 60000 hevre singing "Soooooooo so you think you can tell..." at the tops of our voices,breathing in the dust of what we were told was a chickpea field,with rapturous smiles on every face.What a band.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World of Wax

One of Moshe Chaim's many creations,some of which can be seen [and purchased] in the Safed Candle shop in the Old City [the original one,not the shameless knock-off candle-shop with the huge sign that seems to be opening close to my studio] Posted by Picasa

Packing the bisc [2]

As a rule of thumb,two bisc kilns unpack into three glaze kilns. Posted by Picasa


Packing the bisc [1]

  Posted by Picasa


Shigaraki in Safed

On our last night in Japan our host,Jun,gave us a small container of Shigaraki clay,enough for two small bowls,heading for the next anagama firing.It was gritty,groggy and stoney,quite unlike the refined clays we get here,and a challenge to throw.I can see how you would develop a quick,direct style of throwing if you had this clay to work with,which is what we found in Shigaraki. Posted by Picasa

I am my own apprentice

"Have you ever had an apprentice," asked Moshe Chaim,Safed wax craftsman,yesterday evening,"who could make a good copy of a piece of work the first time,but not repeat it?" He showed me a sweet but less-than-spot-on wax gecco candle made by one of his 2 apprentices to illustrate. I had to admit that I had not had this experience,but,this afternoon,sitting down to make a few carafes [not a simple shape],I got it spot on [I think] first time,followed by 6 also-rans.If it were in doubt,the shape I'm looking for is back row left- but you already noticed that,right? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Quest for Excess

I guess we did reach the outer limits of salting in the last kiln,as I had hoped when we stuffed it with 15 kilos of salt- the 'orange-peel' effect starts to melt out,colours go glassy- still quite fun,but a bit over the top.Quite a few salt drips from bottoms of shelves- need to do some cleaning before the next firing.The tiles [taken from an Indian wood-block] came out rather well,I think- I sold one this morning [to a couple of sweet philosophy students from the Sorbonne,no less] and suspect that this might be my first commercial design from the salt-kiln.Salt-glaze is a foreign effect to most people [like anagama],and it is a challenge to find the right shapes and finishes that will entice customers to buy:if nobody's buying,I'm not interested in making.
I'm going back to finishing slipping last week's pots,after which I think I might have enough to load bisc #2 in the current batch.I tried to put the salt pictures in a separate Flickr show,but have not yet succeeded- meanwhile there should be one picture above,with the rest mixed in with the Japan pictures.We have our technicians working on the problem...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Scenes from a Salt Kiln

We finally closed up the kiln,after a spot of crash-cooling,around two in the morning,having thrown in a massive 15 kilos of salt [we've been using 10-12 kilos until now]- I think it's time we had a look at what "too much salt" might look like.It was an interesting firing [firing with sydney is invariably interesting]-the kiln seems to have a slow spot around 900 degrees,after which it picks up;in the end,it had to be restrained from rushing up to 1300.It always amazes me how sensitive the kiln is to small changes in conditions-a couple of centimeters' movement of the damper shelf in the chimney is enough to move it from heavy reduction,with flames poking out all over the kiln and the temperature dropping,to quite rapid temperature rise and lighter reduction [we never manage to get oxidation,even with the chimney wide open-another mystery].Opening is planned for Friday morning.The cone in the picture is cone 10,around 1285 degrees,but photographed while crash-cooling at around 1100 degrees.Believe me,that's hot enough-I had to move quickly to get these shots,before the camera [and my finger-tips] started smoking. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Why are Sydney and I searching the web for the meaning of "galactite"?you ask.We are salting the kiln,with cone 9 going down,and 10 bending,reminiscing about Japan,and going over some of the ideas and plans we hatched on our visit [like looking up glaze recipes containing rice straw ash- of which I returned with a kilo bag- in Bernard Leach's "A Potter"s Book",or Hamada's enamels from the same source].Our friend and guide ,Jun, has the word as his email address,and told us a bit about its exotic etymology,and this link should tell you all you need to know,while hinting at areas for further study.I particularly enjoyed the legends about Noach giving out bits of self-generating moon-milk stone to the astonished residents of Ararat,who I thought had all drowned,but it is a Turkish myth.
Allon fired the Tel Hai salt kiln for the first time with Sydney and Gunn last week,and I got to see the results yesterday.Allon's verdict was "Buba",meaning [he is a student of few words] that he was satisfied with the firing - quick,12kg. salt,even firing,good results,kiln in good shape.As is still the case with Sydney and myself,he now needs to start searching for shapes that will bring out the best of the salt- his current batch of pots already looks much more purposeful and focused,and he plans 2 or 3 more firings before end-of-year crit at the beginning of July.
Meanwhile,Sydney and I [in between the salt] are poring over Cardew's "Pioneer Pottery" that other formative text,trying to understand what he says about reduction firing.
By the way,you need to click on the title above to get to the link.Did you know that already?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ronni's Rings

They need to be tidied up and dried smartish [which shouldn't be a problem,it being in the low 30's today] so that I can fire the bisc tomorrow.I throw them off the hump,more-or-less without a bottom,using the pimped kidney on view below,trimmed with a swoop of the long-bladed fettling knife,slightly flattened with a deft roll of the knife's handle,with Ronni's distinctive emblem applied via a crude bisc stamp to a ball of clay slipped onto the front.Now you know all my secrets. Posted by Picasa

Low Profile

One of those wooden kidneys that most potters have stacked up in a dusty corner,adapted to make a profile for napkin rings [above] Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Spotted in Jerusalem during last week's trip with Tel Hai students- four excellent plates in the Islamic tradition. Posted by Picasa

Never mind Japan

There are many shapes and ideas from around here [these beautiful glass pieces,for instance,from the Land of Israel Museum] that ask to be translated into clay.I've just loaded the first bisc since getting back to work- cups and big bowls for reduction firing,mugs and smaller bowls for the salt kiln- or,rather,a salt kiln,since Allon at Tel Hai has finished building his kiln,and promises a firing on Tuesday.Today I made pastry [a remarkably similar process to claywork],my contribution to the Shavuot menu,and a bunch of napkin rings off the hump for Ronnie,a local caterer.Happy Shavuot! Posted by Picasa