Sunday, December 30, 2007

So Far

So good,or so O.K. at least. We're up to 1240 after 8 1/2 hours firing; the kiln looks uneven- about 60-70 degrees from top to bottom,which is undesirable but theoretically fixable [by lowering bag walls] next firing. Rather too much flame is visible making its way out of the kiln through the back of the new arch,and parts of the passive flue seem to have sunk,but how much and how serious I'll only know tomorrow. Cone 8 is 1/3 over; I'm hoping to fire to cone 9 down at the top and hope maybe to see cone 7 moving at the bottom.That would be good,meaning I might get some saleable pots from the bottom half of the kiln- otherwise the next kiln will be half-full of refires. Another hour should do it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Glazing with Tongs

Not the only way to glaze a large bowl,but one of the quickest. If you're quick setting the bowl down after glazing and releasing the tongs,they won't leave a mark . You have to break a couple of bowls [by gripping them too tightly] until you find the right technique. On larger [and heavier] bowls,I tend to prefer two hands [instead of tongs],filling in the inevitable finger-marks once the glaze has dried. Why don't I wax the footring? - indolence,partly,but,as you can see,the damp sponge does the job.Filmed by Yahel
I've just finished loading the newly-restored gas kiln with glazed ware ready for its maiden firing on Sunday. Ask me if I'm anxious,even after 30 years in the trade and around a thousand firings: you betcha!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bad Artists Copy: Good Artists Steal [P.Picasso]

Quoted in the latest issue of "PotteryMaking Illustrated" magazine,which I subscribed to for a year [but no more]. The magazine is quite good- full of interesting ideas,shapes and techniques,probably great for someone starting up in the profession and looking for new directions. I still think the best mag is the British [of course] "Ceramic Review" which gives you a better feeling for the "gestalt" of the potter-who he/she is,why they make what they make,how they got there,how they sell,and so on.Also the pictures are higher quality. My collection of CR goes back to 1982,more or less from when I opened my first studio down at the end/beginning of Rehov Yud Alef,past Kadosh cheese [or "Tsfat Cheeze",as the signs all charmingly read]. My studio [an Ottoman water-cistern,since blocked by a new and illegal building] was #2 Yud Alef. There was no #1.
Come to think of it,now there isn't a #2 either.

The World of Tikkun

Also [it was a busy day] drove to Keramicon in Kfar Mlal ["Mlal" seems to be an abbreviation for something,but no-one I have asked so far knows what it stands for,or even where it is] to take in my new but clapped-out Shimpo Whisper for repairs:I left with a new and bigger [motor] model,having tried out several wheels in their showroom. I think that the small model is not really for professional work [neither is the new tiny Brent,called the IE,which I also checked out at Keramicon]- so if you're setting up a studio,I think you're going to need a 6000 shekel wheel instead of a 4000 shekel wheel. Unless you buy the new Israeli wheel [like the 2 we bought for Tel Hai this year] which,once they make the foot-pedal a bit more substantial,seems like a good choice and costs,I believe,a touch less than 4000.
I've been working on my new Shimpo [catchily-named RK3E] this morning,and it seems to work fine- blissfully silent and no torque problems. It even has a little light so you can see when you've left the wheel turned on [v.useful,missing on the little Shimpo]. Amusingly,the different rotation directions are labelled 'forward' [clockwise] and 'reverse' [anti] - Japanese style. In the West [and Middle East] forward [usual direction of rotation] is anticlockwise...My only less-than-positive remarks so far: the tray is not as good as the Brent,which is itself not wonderful [the Israeli wheel,very sensibly,uses the Brent tray] and the Shimpo has a couple of bolt-holes drilled through the table in case you want to attach a ball-mill or even [I think they said] a jigger arm [are they serious?] which,if you are among the 99.999% of owners who don't intend to attach ineffective additional machinery to your precious wheel,need to be closed up with bolts to stop water and clay flowing in and wrecking the circuitry.Whoever designed that should be taken out and deflocculated.
If you do need to ball-mill some material,or want a good laugh,you might take a look at the rig I set up in a November 2006 blog [see archives].
Yaakov at Keramicon readily agreed to the wheel exchange,which I thought was very decent of him-good service is always worth a mention.If you want this wheel,you'll have to wait 'til the next lot arrive in January.

Fireproof gloves

Supposedly. The proof of the padding,as we say,is in the heating- but it shouldn't be too long 'til I have a hot kiln to stick them in.


Yesterday I paid a visit to reb Meir and his magnificent curvaceous new anagama,which is nearing completion and begging to be fired [roll on Purim!]. We're looking here from the firemouth towards the currently-non-existent chimney. Quite a sight,huh?
I also passed by Madid [near the Checkpost,Haifa] with a ragbag of inscrutable pyrometers and damaged thermocouples to sort out,which they promise to do at great expense. Haifa is a great town- apart from visiting Shazar,one of my favorite tool-shops,I found a place called Ami that makes and sells all kinds of cool [sic] fireproof gear- they sew kevlar and aluminum fabric and produce groovy gear for pyromaniacs. I couldn't resist a pair of 700 degree gloves,which I shall proceed to photograph for your edification and delight.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tal Segev Music Video

Click on the title [link] above and you should be able to see the video that was filmed in Tsfat [and partly in my studio] a couple of weeks ago,also featuring [among others] Josh,the talented silversmith,and Mr. Fargeoun,a local character,squeezing grapefruit. I couldn't get it to play on my Mac ["It Just Works!"],but it should be fine on Windows.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bending Handles

This is supposed to come after the "pulling" vid but I'm having trouble uploading it...

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Glue Gun Fun

Funny old thing,the subconscious. I just got back from a visit to the dentist and [while waiting for a phone-call] absent-mindedly put together this small object from a pile of fired cones [from the crystal series] and a pinched bowl that's been rolling around my desk for a while,with the aid of a glue-gun,only realising [ once it was finished] it's dental significance. I'm also waiting for a short instructional video I made this morning on pulling handles to finish uploading [I think it uploads each frame separately]- it's taken about an hour so far.If it ever finishes,I shall attempt to post it for your amusement and edification.

Pulled Handles

There's supposed to be a short video here,but it isn't here yet.Bear with me.
[Much later] Oh yes. I think I worked it out.But will it run?
I have 30 handles to pull this morning [another 20 mugs are already handled and awaiting clean-up and decoration] and thought you might like to see how it's done [first year students at Tel Hai are just starting to learn handles...]. I know,I know,it's a bit suggestive,but get over it. The Leach-and-Cardew style is to hold the lump of clay overhead and pull with one hand,so,of course,I tried this for a few years without much success until I discovered the technique of sticking the lump to the table and using both hands.Much easier on the back and shoulders. I had good teachers in handle-making- apart from Leach and Cardew [from their books], Robin Welch pulled a mean handle,and I learned a lot from closely examining pots I bought from Mick Casson [whose jahrzeit was yesterday,by the way] David Frith,Gwyn Hanssen-Piggot,David Leach,Phil Rogers and others. I've been using stiffer clay for handles for years,but,having just read in Pioneer Pottery [with Sydney] that Cardew says otherwise,I am making this batch with a softer mix;I can't say there's much difference,they just take a bit longer to dry and don't give such a nice curve as stiffer clay [Cardew pulls handles off the pot itself- I attach them afterwards,only bending them when I've pulled the whole batch]. There's much to be said about handles,as any potter knows,but I've got another 20 to do,so this will have to suffice.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Scenes from a Symposium

At the top are our guests [and various helpers] on stage together on the last day: next comes the salt kiln [a successful firing],followed by pieces that caught my eye at the opening of the exhibition of work by Tel Hai graduates [here: Shelley,Efrat,Revital]
Today I started work on the wheel again,after a break of a couple of months [fixing the gas kiln,firing 27 crystal kilns,London,Symposium]. I've been throwing now for so many years that it didn't even take me long to get back into the swing [as it used to do],and I spent an enjoyable and centering morning making cutlery strainers [having sold a couple yesterday I'm nearly out of stock] and may make a start on some mugs this afternoon.
Avril [the one who commented on a recent blog]- are you the legendary Avril of the Forest?

Sunday, December 09, 2007


There's always something interesting going on in the central space at the Tate Modern; this time,a serious crack or rift from one end of the floor to the other [some 100 meters].How Doris Salcedo managed to persuade them to let her ravage their floor I have no idea,nor how she actually made the crevice,nor what it signifies,but it did seem to make everyone smile,a laudable achievement for any art-form,I think. It's called "Shibboleth",or,if you trace your family from the half-tribe of Efraim, "Sibbolet".


The area around the Tate Modern is coming to life,although with a strange 'landfill' feeling to it.

Hampstead Underground Ticket Office

A fine example of ceramic tiling,with art deco swoopy lines and a faux keystone at the top of the arch like a teddy-boy's quiff.

Friday, December 07, 2007


On the first night of Chanukah we gathered at Roni and Genine's with numerous excited children .The symposium is entering its last morning,promising all three guests on stage together,usually an interesting occasion. Although [or because] I have little to do during the symposium but socialise and learn,I am exhausted.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Please Do Not Adjust Your Server

Someone at the Symposium yesterday told me that [concerned by the recent lack of blogs] she contacted her internet provider to check if the service was O.K. I'm sorry for the gap [but pleased that someone cares!],and,after a brief but eventful visit to freezing London [see picture,Hampstead Heath] will try to get back on track.
The Symposium is going well [I'm supposed to be back in Tel Hai in an hour for Regina Heinz's demonstration,which kicks off the second day],jammed with happy potters,lots to see and learn.The students fired the salt kiln yesterday,so we're looking forward to an opening this afternoon,and Yahel,my apprentice,is DJing at tonight's party...