Friday, July 28, 2006

Back in Boomtown

Just returned from a couple of days R&R in the Tel Aviv area- here,sunset in Caesaria.Very soothing. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Safed Greybeards

Michael and Moshe-Tov arrived back in Safed and came for a much-welcome visit,bearing traditional gifts of beer and watermelon. Posted by Picasa

The Chinese are coming!

From the recently-discovered [by me] and excellent crystal-glazing forum,a link to which I shall attempt to insert:Chinese crystal-glazed vases four feet tall! Not,I think,a wonderful shape,nor,for that matter,a stunning glaze,but full marks for effort!How long before we see them on sale in Safed supermarkets? Posted by Picasa

Oil Spot

Here's a detail of yesterday's pot- it actually looks more impressive in the picture than in the flesh.The crystal kiln came out well-pictures to follow- so next up,I hope,is a bunch of crystal firings.I've changed some of the firing program parameters by a few degrees or minutes to try to see what this will do to the crystal growth- this after years firing with the gas kiln,where repeatable firing schedules were to all intents impossible. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

Glaze down Babylon

Well,here we are-on the third attempt,something suspiciously like an oil-spot glaze- glazed a bit thinner,fired a bit more quickly to a slightly lower temperature- the fine-tuning of a glaze,in other words;as such,I can now see that I over-corrected [as is usually the case] and now need to thicken,quicken and hotten just a tad.It's a far cry from Mr. Ii's magnificent oil-spot that I showed you a few days ago,but I'm quite pleased that I managed to get even this far.The next question is what,if anything,to do with this glaze.It's dark,which means hard to sell,and,to the untrained eye,maybe not vastly different in appearance from,say,my crystal glazes.As it is,I spend a lot of time with customers explaining the different firing and glazing techniques- reduction,crystal,salt,anagama,lustre- do I want to add another?While mulling over these matters,and enjoying a [hopefully permanent] lull in the bombardment on our little city,I am firing a crystal-glaze kiln today- the first in the current series.In fact.the kiln should have finished steaming by now,so I'll creep upstairs and close its lid,so that it can get on with the firing as quickly as possible. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

Second Round

I don't really have suitable pots for these tests [that's why I'm firing a bisc kiln today] but used a vase for a bunch of tests.I mixed up a second test glaze and painted on increasingly-thick patches of each glaze,thinner at the bottom of the vase,reaching 3-4mm.at the top.I also reduced the top temp. to 1275 degrees [cone 10] and shortened the supposedly-critical last part of the firing.
The results tell me that thicker layers still go volcanic [bottom right picture],while moderate thicknesses do the job pretty well.The second glaze seems to work quite well,with orange iron bubbles in a brown glaze,but I'm more interested in finding a black oil-spot.Mind you,the first glaze is black because of iron and cobalt additions,while the second glaze only has iron,so,obviously,I'll try adding some cobalt [and/or manganese] to the test batch....
We are still here in Safed,safe and well.Helen has just gone on a brief exploratory walkabout,ostensibly to look for challah for Shabbat,but more,by her admission,to check out the town.I have not been outside the house for over a week,which is a long time even for me.Helen is back,so Shabbat Shalom.... Posted by Picasa


So the bottom of the first test is a bit extreme,but here around the rim,where the thick layer of glaze has run down to leave a thinner layer,you can see the beginning of the oil-spot effect I'm looking for- so on to round two! Posted by Picasa

Round One

The instructions were to get a thick layer of glaze on the pot- 3-5 mm.If you've never tried,its quite hard to get 5mm. of glaze on a pot [a normal layer is less than 1mm.],although I've done it before using 100% feldspar as a glaze [milky white,crackle].On this occasion,I probably reached 3mm. in some places,narrowly avoiding waterlogging the porcelain.
First results,as you can see,indicate I needn't have bothered.Despite assurances of the glaze's viscosity [stickiness] I used catchers under the 3 test pots,and a protective shelf on the vulnerable soft-brick kiln-floor; just as well,as the glaze went quite magmatic [go on.look it up].Mind you it was also rather overfired.... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


This is,I think,a particularly spectacular version of the oil-spot glaze;we didn't see many examples on our Japanese jaunt-maybe only in this one gallery,that showed [among many other fine pots] oil-spot work from three potters:this piece was made by a potter with the unforgettable family name of Ii,and has a beautiful irridescence that suggests to me manganese in the mix .The oil-spot effect comes from red iron oxide in a feldspar glaze base letting go of one of its 3 oxygen atoms at around 1200 degrees.Given enough time from 1200 to 1300,the oxygen [carrying with it a scrap of iron] bubbles up to the surface of the glaze,and voila we have our oil-spot glaze.Like I said,I have been failing to get any results for 20-odd years.
I also got another video-clip together- thank you for your responses,please keep them coming- which I hope to launch on an unsuspecting world in a day or so.Meanwhile,for new readers,the first one should still be below.Please keep up the prayers and positive energy on our behalf. Posted by Picasa

Small Wall of China [clay]

Nothing dramatic fell in the neighborhood since last blog,though this is no indicator of future performance,and we hear explosions all around.This small stack of porcelain is a) all I have left and b) my illusory protection when I'm in the studio.Today I decided to haul out the new electric kiln,which had migrated to the store-room to make more room for tourists in the studio [hah!]. I mixed up a test batch of oil-spot glaze [with a few siren-inspired breaks] and put a thick layer on 3 bud-vases [one stoneware,two porcelain],drying them with a small propane burner, placed them on catchers in the kiln,and started the firing program I had put on the controller.
Oil-spot glazes are a family with which I have never had any success,having tried a few recipes in the past.Now I have read up on the subject a bit,realised the error of my ways [they don't like reduction] and want to see if I can get anything even half as beautiful as the small bowl I found in Kyoto,in a spectacular gallery round the corner from Kawai's house.I suppose this is a cue for a picture of said bowl. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It is very hard to write at the moment.The grapes have just started turning colour on the vine,both poignant and hopeful- what kind of wine will we have this year? Bitter? Sweet?
Helen and I are hunkered down in Safed,under a constant rain of rockets,but in good spirits.Helen has important work to do,helping victims of the attacks and other distressed folk,and is displaying great courage and fortitude.Our children are further south,Benjamin in India.
About the video clip I posted yesterday [did you click and check?]:I have for a long time thought that it would be interesting and instructive to make a collection of short videos showing various aspects of throwing etc. -not just my work,but other Israeli potters,too.I filmed some experimental sequences over the last year,very much in the spirit of this blog [ I hope]-that is,just filming what's there,with minimal equipment,no edits,no angles,not even [yet] a soundtrack,though I think this would help.So everything could be tidied up,but I'm more concerned with the immediacy of the process,starting from the point of 'this would be a good time to film....' - get the camera out,fix the tripod,turn on a few lights,run a check to make sure the framing's [reasonably] O.K.,sit down and throw, or glaze, or whatever.I need to remember to wipe the clay off my finger at the end before pushing 'stop' on the camera.
Not much work is getting done in the studio,as you can imagine,although I have ventured up a couple of times for some calming bead-making- one batch of porcelain,one of red stoneware.The rows of beads look disconcertingly like bullets,the impressed shell decoration also taking on a newer,grimmer connotation.Ah,context,context. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006

Throw a Bowl Video Clip-Click Me

More highly-experimental technology [for me]- I'll post this 'as is' just to see if it really works,then maybe write about it later.You can find my email in 'Profile' if you feel inspired to respond [would you like to see more of these clips,for instance?] Meanwhile, a Katyusha just whizzed overhead,so I'm taking cover...
The video download seems to take 15 mins or so before you can play it without stops...that's with an ADSL [fast] internet connection- anything slower might take too long.
By the way,I notice that the blog has just passed its 3000th visit.Thank you for your support and/or interest.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Plat du Jour

A wonderful porcelain piece by Masamichi Yoshikawa,holding two pices of shrapnel Helen picked up in our couryard.Thank you for all your concern and phone-calls; biggest up to Dani from Chichibu!Our children have moved south,but Helen and I have decided to stay.We keep to the ground floor of the house,and are well and in good spirits.30 Katyusha rockets have fallen on Safed,and many on all the surrounding towns and settlements.At the moment I don't feel like blogging too much- not for lack of material,as you can imagine; I feel like I'm in 'survival mode' -maybe I'll bring some clay down here and calm myself down with some bead-making. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bang goes the Season

A siren is wailing away.My son Gilad called to say that the loud booms we had just heard were rockets falling in Safed [a Holy City,I might remind you] a few minutes' walk from our house.I sometimes wonder whether people in other countries hear "rockets" and think "fireworks".Right now we're all safe and well.Please pray for us.

Back to Biscuits

After unloading the glaze I emptied the shelves of pots for the bisc,nearly filling the next kiln.Given that I still have a short throwing list,it looks like this and another bisc before I start glaze firing in earnest.I hope I can remember the glaze-thickness details from yesterday's kiln until then. Posted by Picasa

Napkin Rings

As rockets rain down around the north [we're well but shaken,thanks for your concern] I unloaded yesterday's kiln this morning-not bad: The roof held up,the new blue slip batch is uncannily like the old one;both tweed and cream glazes were a bit thick [as you can see on some of the rings],but overall a reasonable first glaze kiln. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Firing today

Bang on 1ooo degrees,reducing for an hour [I start at 920-ish]: the kiln is,you will recall,in urgent need of a top-end overhaul,but I lack a husky helpmate to help me remove the roof,and am no longer of the age when I would have tackled the job solo,so I made do with a slight lash-up job inside and out.I decided to brick/shelf around the vent [as shown],to get more efficient exhaust from the kiln,but,with strong reduction [like now] I can still smell a whiff of sulphur- that,together with that nice blue-ish flame from the closed-down chimney [see picture] and the slow rise in temp.,tells me I'm getting the reduction I'm looking for.
I haven't finished throwing,but there's an order of napkin-rings for Ronni promised for this week [his washer-uppers are breaking them with gratifying regularity] ,hence today's firing.The kiln is filled with my 2 basic glazes- transparent [called "tweed" because of how it looks on most stonewares] over blue slip,and a buttery-yellow-brown glaze called "cream".I made up a new batch of the blue slip recently- I mix the cobalt colourant in by eye,so am not sure exactly how it will come out- and the Cream is also a bit touch-and-go first time around,being very particular as to thickness.So even though I've been using these glazes for over 20 years,I'm not at all sure how this kiln will come out... Posted by Picasa

Souvenir de Tokoname

Towards the end of our Japanese jaunt I sent off a box [a Japanese Post-office box,therefore covered in instructions] full of stuff not needed on the trip,and including this tile,given to me in a suitably raku/serendipitous fashion by a woodworker we met in Tokoname.It looks like one of the pieces from the last firings of the salt-kilns a couple of years ago before they were all closed down,and therefore encapsulates that Japanese sense of simplicity,beauty and transience- bitter-sweet,like chocolate,which,interestingly,it rather resembles. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The moon in my window

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Kleizmer Festival in Safed

Happy crowds enjoying Jewish soul music in Safed last night. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 10, 2006

Potters' Picnic

By the river we sat down...The traditional Tel Hai end-of-year get-together. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cactal Splendour

Helen pointed out on Friday that this cactus was about to perform- the flowers were still tightly folded- and today here it is,holding forth in a corner of our courtyard.
I'm firing the 3rd bisc today [around the 800 degree mark] before setting off for Naot Mordechai to get Summer sandals,then to Shaar Yishuv for the students' end-of-year party,back to a Kleizmer-festival-clogged Safed for the Final,for which I don't hold out any great hopes.Come on and surprise me,France and Italy.I'm for whichever team plays the best football [on the evidence so far,I would put the Cup back in the Cupboard and tell the world to try harder in 4 years' time...] Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 07, 2006

No time to write- it's nearly Shabbat- but I wanted to get the pictures up.I can see that they need a bit of fixing-will try to get to it next week.Shabbat Shalom! Posted by Picasa

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Allon-3rd year [salt glaze]

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Shelly- 3rd year

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