Monday, April 16, 2007

Red Powder

Purporting,at some expense,to be a high-temp. [1250] red glaze stain for electric kilns....I remembered seeing some at Keramikon [and,understandably,sneering inwardly] only to see it used to dramatic effect under a crystal glaze on the Forum [see link].The red stain seems to be encapsulated in zinc,or something similar: we hope to put it to the test on some of the new porcelain.

Repairing Mr. Brent

Suppliers Keramikon just delivered 250kg porcelain [and another 50 for Sydney and Gunn] and took away my wheel,which for some time has reached that state known to Brent owners [and maybe others] where you can have either a reasonable wheel-speed or get the wheel to stop,but not both. In the old days of customer service you could write to Brent and they would send a bag full of interesting parts and voluminous instructions,often for free,and you would fix your wheel by yourself. Now there is a guy called Dudi,and they take your wheel away,and who knows when you'll see it again [and in what state]. I have accumulated three wheels over the years [apart from the home-built Leach-style cranked kickwheel upon which I launched my career]- two Brents and a Shimpo. The Shimpo was old when I got it 25 years ago,never needs fixing,makes quite a noise and is like driving a tractor. I always tend to think of the Brents as ballet dancers- light,skillful,quiet,but prone to injury.I use the smaller of the two- a Brent B- finding it powerful enough for nearly all throwing,and much preferring its smaller wheel-head- much easier to clean around! But I've never felt "Wow! this is a great wheel!"- They all go round in a similar fashion,and none of them guarantees a good pot.Same goes for clay- the clays I use on a regular basis are interesting,O.K.,reliable,challenging- but never dynamite,and good work is always hard work. The only exception was a white English stoneware for salt of which I had a couple of bags 5 or 6 years ago,which was noticeably responsive on the wheel,and fired to a great shade,and then went out of production. I am comforted by Hamada's remark that his local Mashiko clay was also nothing special...lehavdil,as we say.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


More news from Rehov Yerushalayim,our main street,which is going back to being a road,having been a rather chaotic mix of foot and wheel traffic for some years.Half-way along [and a few months ago] it collapsed,causing much head-scratching,and revealing various collapsed rooms beneath.The solution looks something like tooth implants- large numbers of long steel tubes drilled in deep [we hope] with a bunch of hefty girders welded on top.The crew who were working today looked pretty skilled,but they did seem to be making it up as they went along.We shall see.
I have run out of blue mugs in the shop- the mainstay of my income,and an indication that it's time to get back to work and start a new round of throwing with a batch of mugs.The kiln is 3/4 full of drying pots that accumulated over the last month.I think I'd like to do some plates this time around [normally only to order,but there haven't been any orders...],and I'm also out of faceted cups.New porcelain is promised for Tuesday,so maybe another bout of crystals.Today a local customer asked for a napkin-holder,an article I have never made [knowingly] in 32 years' potting...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring means Lilac

We inherited this lilac bush from Eugenia Belkin,the previous owner,with instructions to look after it with care [I got the impression it had romantic associations for her]. I can't say that we have given it any special care,gardening not being as yet our strong point- in fact it has been rather rudely transplanted a couple of times,but it seems to be flourishing.It's season is usually short,the blooms expiring at the first sign of hot,dry Sharav weather,but Spring this year has been long and cool so far. I find that the olfactory association of lilac with bathroom air-fresheners slightly diminishes my enjoyment of the heady scent of the lilac bush- but,on the other hand,the huge bunch I just cut for a vase in the kitchen does a wonderful job disguising the pong of some rodent that appears to have expired in the cavity behind the kitchen wall...
And what of the studio ,I hear you ask; wedging and throwing are still strenuous after my accident,but I have softened up four bags of the French stoneware and started making some pie-dishes.I have told myself [not for the first time] that this might be the last batch of the blue slip ware that has stood me in good stead for over twenty years. Increasingly I am drawn to finishing the pot on the wheel and letting the fire decorate and glaze [ as in salt or anagama firings].

Throw on the Right,Trim on the Left

The slightly confusing world of the left-handed potter [in this case,son Benjamin].Sunglasses in the studio? Must be a Californian thing. Looks to me as though he's trimmed the middle of that bowl too thin,and it's starting to sag inwards- like father,like son...