Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A very exciting afternoon playing with the terra sigillata.I made a few earthenware bowls earlier in the week,trimmed and dried them this morning,then started to lay on layers of watery slip; it really is fun to watch the shine develop as all those weeny clay particles lie down so-so flat.Less fun,but highly instructive,was watching some of the bowls start to crack as the [prob. too thick] terra sig started to dry... Posted by Picasa

New Kiln on the Block

Always a happy event: after many delays,good neighbour Batya got her kiln delivered today by three unexpected guys with a crane.The kiln,an elderly but little-used Israeli three-phase electric job,comes from the same Tsfat studio that provided me with my Shimpo wheel [also elderly,little-used]some twenty years ago,replacing the rather rickety Leach treadle wheel I had built upon arrival in Tsfat in 1981 which,while quite young, was much-used and consequently clapped-out. Posted by Picasa

Ole Curlito!

Son Eliav on a recent trip to Mexico [from his current base in Tucson]where he is apparently known as Curlito,on account of his little curls.His opinion of the small town they visited:like an Arab village. Posted by Picasa

Final Fire

Young Ricardo has to take his kiln down after this firing [don't ask]-I went down to Even Sapir,near Jerusalem,last week to help with the tail-end of the loading and subsequent beginning of the firing at around seven o'clock p.m.With damp pots,damp kiln and wet wood,the firing started at a leisurely fashion...seven hours into the firing,we were still at 50 degrees when we moved the fire into the firebox and slowly awoke the slumbering beast.When Ricardo reappeared after a night's rest,we were up around 450 degrees,going up at a respectable 100 degs. an hour.I don't know how the firing proceeded-I hope well,for all concerned [I have a couple of pots inside...].Opening should be this week-end. Posted by Picasa

Salt Kiln Shelves

As is often the case,the shelves are more impressive than many of the pots.As well as rebuilding the chimney,we have removed the top layer of the floor of the kiln [1-2cms thick castable layer] and replaced it with artfully-fitted kiln shelves.We finished the chimney on Monday,and are now raring to go for the next firing [Ayelet- get in touch!]
Meanwhile I have Windows running again on my Mac,enabling me to use basic human functions again like italics and composite pictures,both strangely absent from the Mac version of Blogspot. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 22, 2007

Look No Chimney

A few hours' strenuously gritty labour [but not as hard as I anticipated] transformed the chimney back into an orderly pile of bricks.We removed the crushed block bits,replacing them with stronger [we hope] and upright blocks,threw some shelves over the top to further reinforce the structure,and are ready to rebuild the chimney.Next week.
This is a view of the back of the kiln,with the back burner port next to the square exit flue.Above are two salting ports,blocked up when we realised that they are obscured by the chimney.So much for planning.It looks disconcertingly human,but not unfriendly,I think. Our forefathers [and foremothers] worked with bricks in Egypt,as we are currently reading in Exodus.I hope they didn't have to take down any of those pyramids.

Leaning Chimney of Yesod

It was tempting to leave it as a tourist attraction,but we decided to take it down.We think we laid the foundation blocks wrong side up,and this led to the partial collapse.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cute little Desmid

Found floating in a pond by friend and teacher Mark Webber.Is it a plant? Is it an organism? I don't think even the Desmid knows for sure,but you get the impression that it's Striving for Greater Things,a quality we like to see in an organism- or a plant,or,for that matter,a mineral [as in the case of the crystal glazes].

Deflocculation Action!

This is how my batches of clay look this morning.Left is earthenware,right is ball clay,both with reotan [commercial deflocculant from Sydney's bottomless store of arcane ceramic materials],middle is earthenware with soda ash/waterglass,which I obviously got wrong,because it hasn't budged. The waterglass [sodium silicate to you] is also care of Mr.Rosenstone.I think the part I'm looking for is that narrow middle band that sits on top of the heavier particle layer on the bottom,the trick now being to syphon it off without causing a disturbance to the heavy guys.My wine-syphoning skills will no doubt come in useful here.

Crystal Glaze Sink

Do you have any idea how hard and rare it is [for me] to get a big porcelain piece like this from a crystal firing? Not that it's that big- only 30 cms diameter- but sinks have always given me problems- the extra weight of clay [for resilience] and that hole in the bottom both add up to a recipe for trouble. My sinks crack while drying,in the bisc and in the glaze firing,where they also warp.This one went into a kiln that's only 34 cms across [this in itself no simple task],so I was concerned about the closeness of the rim to the kiln elements,given the speed of the firing. So expectations were low this morning,and subsequent joy [on opening the kiln] great.Then,of course,came the somewhat nerve-wracking process of separating the sink from its glaze-catcher base,to which it becomes firmly welded during the firing,and then the subtle art of grinding down the base with a diamond-disc angle-grinder.That's ten hours-plus of firing for one piece [it filled the kiln]. I think I'll try another one...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joe the Blow

In town today: glassblower Joe from N.Y. area,once again lighting up the neighbourhood with molten boro-silicates.
Me? Still taking it easy: made and bisc'ed a bunch of pots for Meir's Purim anagama,some of which I sent to Ricardo for his wood/salt firing next week.It'll be interesting to see the results of the same group of pots fired in different wood kilns.I should put a couple aside for the next Tel Hai anagama. Most of the sinks I made for attempted crystal firing cracked in the bisc,but one of the survivors is currently basking in 1262 degrees of heat [a couple of degs. from the height of the firing,after which the crystalising part begins].Meanwhile,I am attempting to deflocculate some earthenware , searching for the elusive terra sigilata [sealed earth] used by potters for thousands of years to get a shiny finish without a glaze.I've never done this before,so it's about time. One batch of earthenware seems to be separating out nicely,another one hasn't moved.A batch of ball-clay also looks promising.
By the way,I think I might have found a way around that habit the blog has of sticking the first word of a posting way up in the right corner- the solution being to place the picture in the middle,instead of on the right.Simple,really.Took me a year to work it out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Her Majesty

Helen feels under-represented on my blog,probably rightly so.I mean- how many non-potters can tell you what black-core is,for instance,and how to avoid it? Ask her next time you see her.Currently she is hard at work in the kitchen,preparing yet another wonderful Shabbat feast- I think we are in for her ever-popular lasagne this week.Well,in fact she just slipped out for a chat with good neighbour Miriam M.,but will soon be hard at work again.
Here she is, sunning herself last Summer on Zakintos.Further Helen updates will follow.

Something to Avoid

There were a lot of tiles to fire in the last salt kiln, which normally take up a lot of kiln shelves (heating up kiln shelves to 1300 degrees is something of a waste of energy,and on the whole to be avoided)- so we came up with this stack,saving vast amounts of room.Unfortunately,it didn't work- two of these stacks (there were four) collapsed domino-style,and the salt had trouble getting into those narrow gaps.The tiles didn't warp,though,so maybe a refinement of the system would perform better.I still got some 20 nicely-salted tiles from the firing.I think it's about time we did a soda firing - baking soda being a more friendly way to get sodium vapour than salt,the effects being similar but brighter.We used to do (rather successful) soda firings in a kiln Sydney built at Tel Hai,but the kiln proved difficult to fire and was dismantled.
The Israeli anagama season appears to be starting- next week young Ricardo is loading his twin-chambered wood and salt kiln in Even Sapir (nr. Jerusalem) for the last time- I hope to be there for part of the firing,and sneak a few pots into the kiln- and Rabbi Meir is girding his loins in Pardes Chana for a Purim firing,also at which I would like to be.See you there! Shabbat Shalom!


Friday, January 05, 2007


This is what I like to see looking out of my studio door- next to nothing.Actually, it's not so foggy,mainly cold and- at last- wet!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chicken Mug

One of my first pots from my first studio next to Kadosh's cheesery (number 2 Yud Alef Street,there being no number 1),circa 1980.I keep it close at hand to remind me whence we have come.Despite a pretty lame excuse for a handle,and an almost total lack of lip,it still has a certain funky charm,no? I can still remember plonking a brushful of iron on the side of a cup,lifting it off with a swoosh,and thinking "Far out- that looks like a chicken!" Another beneficiary of today's clean-up.


For instance- a bud-vase from Meir's anagama kiln a few years ago.
Eileen (see links) wrote after the wrapping rap asking if people are prepared to pay EMS prices for shipping: first answer- look at the picture! Second- when you're travelling,mobility becomes a big issue,and not having to shlepp bulky and fragile pots is appealing to some folk (personally,I'm always carrying pottery when I travel,enjoying the challenge).My prices are about half to a quarter of what you could pay for similar work in the U.S.A.,so the overall price with shipping isn't such a blow.Without checking,I reckon I must send 20-or-so parcels per year,sales that wouldn't have been made without the aforementioned facilities- credit card,bubble wrap,shipping and insurance.


Today I made more order in the studio- slowly edging towards starting production again- and came upon this gin bottle,much in need of a rinse. This is a shape I've had in my mind for almost as long as I can remember.At home in Welwyn Garden City there was a bottle like this in the little-used drinks cabinet; it was maybe one of the last bottles to be mass-produced in clay- marks on the body make it hard to tell if it was extruded or molded,but the shoulder and neck are thrown,and you can see where the inside of the neck was wiped with a Dutch finger while it was wet.It looks to me like a mild salt-glaze stoneware: I love the crisp print around the collar,the "kiss" on the neck from a neighbouring bottle in the kiln,and the relaxed finish of the base- very sabi. The reasons why we make the shapes we do are not always clear or simple: the cylindrical bottle I've been making for some 25 years started partly as a technical exercise to teach myself collaring (restricting the circumference of the pot),partly as a kiln-filler,partly as a shape for glaze tests- but that Bols bottle is also there as an influence.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Wrap

Here's the parcel ready to go,with it's EMS documentation and 'fragile' stickers.Its weight by now is 80-100% more than the actual pots-in this case close to 4 kg.,shipping cost to the States (3-4 days,insured) around 200 shekels/ $50.
The last picture is what awaits the Postie tomorrow (or Wednesday,since tomorrow is my day at Tel Hai).Packing is not one of my favorite jobs around the studio- one of the reasons I'm not keen on internet selling- but there is a certain grim satisfaction in doing it right.Happy Packing!


Cut and Altered

Just as a large part of successful glazing is about using the right size bucket- packing is about appropriate boxes.A quick run past the local supermarket this morning yielded a likely haul,though this one needed adjusting.The bubble-wrapped pots are packed in the first box,which is in turn wrapped in bubbles and packed in the second box [2nd picture}, theoretically protecting it from the postman's ravages.Nearly finished.


Packing for Export

Most of the day I've been getting a bunch of orders ready to post to the States,using the tried and trusted system I learned as an aopprentice with Robin Welch back in the Seventies,which,for those who are unsure how to pack,I shall share with you forthwith.
Here are the pots from one of the orders- an interesting couple from Texas who happened by the studio this morning,and asked me to ship them this spice-holder and anagama vase.If you want to sell pottery to Americans {a good idea,as they are among the only folk,in my experience,who really appreciate craft pottery} you need three things-to take credit cards,stock bubble-wrap, and ship.
First step- wrap pots in six sheets of newspaper,followed by bubble-wrap.