Friday, September 22, 2006

Back from Zakyntos

After a most enjoyable and much-needed week's break on one of those small islands that the Greeks do so well,we're back and ready to face the new year that starts tonight.
The sea really is all those different colours;we had enough sun to return lightly tanned,the odd thunderstorm,a couple of minor earthquakes,and a Suzuki 250 V-twin [something of a contradiction in terms] which proved ideal for footling around the windy roads.Further details on application.
Meanwhile my new thermocouple arrived,only to reveal [on first firing] that the elements need changing [the kiln is taking twice as long to reach temperature]- lucky I ordered a set with the thermocouple!
Shana Tova- a Happy New Year to you all.Let's hope that it's a year of creativity,health and happiness with a large dollop of peace. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Sound of Wine Fermenting

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Making Clay While the Sun Shines

Sorry,I couldn't resist it.
Amir the builder brought round 40-odd kilos of suspected Safed clay,which I reduced to a slip and am currently putting through a coarse seive.My current apprentice should be doing this,but she's late.Again. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 04, 2006

Synchronicity city

Here's Grandpa Vine.After the previous 2 blogs I was checking out Cream of Tartar on the web,having finished our 20-year-old container the other week making rather tasty pancakes,and finding it hard to come by around here.Turns out that C of T comes from the crystalline [!] acidic deposits in wine-barrels [!],earliest examples found in Iran in pottery vessels [!] from 7000 years ago.Without checking further [I'm going to make a batch of pancakes] it seems to me that baking powder is just soda bicarb [as used in soda firing,by the way] with cream of tartar,so I'll try using that.If you come by in the next day or so,you might even get a taste. Posted by Picasa


Amir,our local builder,drove past the studio a couple of days ago with a load of sludgy-looking stuff he'd dredged from the bottom of a well in the Old City,where most old houses had wells to supply the house with water [ours also,by the way].It looked to me suspiciously like clay,so I grabbed a handful,made it into a slip with some water,sieved it to get the stones out,dried it,threw the little pot in the picture,and fired it cautiously in my test kiln with cone 06- around 1000 degrees C, earthenware temperature.The cone went down,and I could see [by carefully opening the lid] that the pot was untroubled by the heat,so I continued firing to about 1220.As you can see,the cone has melted completely,and the pot looks totally happy.Which means that this clay from the bottom of a Safed well is a local stoneware,which surprises me greatly,since I have been explaining patiently to visitors for many years that there are no [or next to no] high-firing clays in the whole Middle East region,for reasons that are unclear to me until I meet a geologist who can explain why this is so,and which explains all the earthenware in all the museums around the region,together with the total lack of high-fire technology here until modern times.
Needless to say,I am mightily impressed and not a little chuffed,and would be delighted if some knowledgeable reader could shed light on this matter: my email,as ever,can be found among my personal details by clicking something appropriate at the top of the blog. Posted by Picasa

A Must

Wine-making time is here again;this was somewhat in doubt during the recent Troubles,but here we are.Our house in Safed is blessed with a monster vine- according to knowledgeable Israeli farmers,over 120 years old and still going strong.It's about 80cms around the base [32ins],8 metres high,and gives about 90 kilos of grapes a year.I've made wine every year since we bought the house 25 years ago,breaking in the process almost as many large and expensive glass fermenting vessels as I have thermocouples [see below],but producing large quantities of rather drinkable dry red table-wine [about 60 bottles a year].Sometimes a batch [there are usually 2 or 3] isn't good enough to bottle.but,on the whole,everything gets drunk.Since all the grapes are from a single vine [which I don't spray] I use the natural yeast on the grape-skins [that dusty/furry coating],making a rather unique organic wine with not a drop of sulphur in it [I bottle it when I think the fermentation is finished-sometimes it's a bit petillant,but so was the wine I drank on a school-trip to Gaillac many years ago].Yesterday afternoon,when the heat was off the day,I picked the grapes [it takes a couple of hours solo-usually there is a child or friend to help],sluiced my feet and danced on the grapes in the time-honoured fashion.Helen then helped me to fish out stems and the odd bit of leaf;we covered the two bins [three heaped bins of grapes give 2 of must/mix] with clean nylon,and now it sits for about a week,bubbling gently and filling the house with fermenting smells,getting a daily stir to stop the grape-skin cap from growing mold,until the fermentation has calmed down enough to siphon the juice into its glass vessels with air-locks.I usually aim to be drinking it by Succot- our Succah is in the courtyard next to the vine- in order to validate the verse "Ish ish tachat gafno" -every man beneath his vine. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

Safed comes to New York

Friends Nili and Eliyahu are arranging a series of sales of artwork from Safed [also known,among many other spellings,as Tzfat] in New York to help artists whose Summer income disappeared in the smoke of war.Well worth checking out.My son Eliav is helping out with the sales,so you can check him out too.As you might notice,I'm not taking part in the event,having decided long ago that shipping ceramics to events like these is just not viable.I also feel strongly that my work is best seen where it was made- in my studio in Safed;that's one of the reasons why I no longer deal with shops or galleries,or take part in fairs around Israel [although I did all of these for many years].In addition to which,I'm just plain lazy.

Tzfat’s Artists’ Quarter is Coming to the New York Metropolitan Area!

Art, Craft, and Judaica from Israel's Holy City of Air

Discover the unique creative and spiritual intensity of Tzfat’s art and artists!

Support Tzfat’s creative community as it recovers from the summer’s hostilities.

Excellent opportunity to speak with Tzfat artists about their work.

Tzfat Art Fairs are being held on

Sunday September 10th at the JCC MetroWest

760 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, New Jersey (973) 530-3400

12:00 NOON through 7:00 PM

Wednesday and Thursday September 13th and 14th at the JCC in Manhattan

334 Amsterdam Avenue (@ 76th Street) New York, New York (646) 505-4444

11:00 AM through 8:00 PM

Sunday September 17th at the Sid Jacobson JCC

300 Forest Drive, East Hills, New York (516) 484-1545

10:00 AM through 5:00 PM

Bring some beautiful new works of art into your life!

Purchase vibrant and meaningful gifts for family, friends, and holiday hosts.

Help generate revenue for organizations serving Israel’s northern communities.

Ten percent of proceeds from all shows will be donated to organizations providing direct aid to Tzfat residents.

Participating Artists

Links to Websites Where Available

1. Leon Azoulay* MicroCalligraphy

2. Abbi Ben Tov* Stone Judaica

3. Eliyahu Ben Ze’ev* Photography

4. Michael Chouraqui* Illuminated Texts

5. Ron Cohen* Illuminated Texts

6. Morris Dahan Paintings

7. Catriel Efrony Abstract Painting

8. Michel Elkaiam* Oil Painting

9. Yaacov Kaszemacher* Painting and Photography

10. Shimon Maduny* Judaica and Jewelry

11. Myra Mandel Painting

12. Miriam Mehadipur Painting

13. Reli Wasser* Mixed Media