Monday, May 28, 2007

The Shrimpo

An exploratory 5kg bowl on the new Whisper [43 cms wide,19 high,for those who care]. As I suspected,the wheel was not altogether thrilled to be handling the torque on a 5kg lump- pressing down while centring,it was quite easy to get the head to slip,although it picked up after a few seconds.It wasn't hard to centre the clay;it just required a slightly changed grip,and a touch more water to lubricate.Thereafter,all was fine:the bowl did start to move in mysterious ways at some point,but this was my usual sloppy wedging,not wheel-related. I guess this is the price of silence,but I still think/hope we're going to be very happy together

In their Slips

More Handles...

I find that this sort of handle sits better on a pot if you attach it via a couple of small soft clay pads- the handle gets less squished.For years I've been using a slip/glue made from the clay body to attach parts,doing away with scoring and giving a stronger,crack-free bond before firing- recipe on request. First dip ends of handle in slip [I call it "Slippo"],pop pads onto slipped ends,dip in slip again,attach with back-pressure from inside mug by wiggling end of handle until well bedded in pad. I want these pots to pick up every scrap of salt,so no tidying,fettling or smoothing- just a wipe around their bottoms. Final step- hand them over to the Apprentice [Yahel] to finish off.



Don't get me started on handles,a topic close to my heart [and hand]. I think that the first couple of years of my acquaintance with Sydney we mainly discussed handles. Sydney expressed an interest in another salt firing before he flits off to Canada in June,so I threw some mugs and vases yesterday from a mixture of French and Spanish stonewares and Coleman porcelain,and decided to make some non-pulled handles for them to pick up salt effects.Here's the procedure:
Start with an aptly-named slug of soft clay,roll on suitable textured surface,peel off gingerly and roll up like a roll-up,rolling the ends round.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shimpo Whisper T Review

Welcome to the new addition to the studio- the smallest/cheapest of the current Shimpo line. My 30-year-old cone drive Shimpo is getting a bit long in the tooth [noisy,hard to change speed] and Keramikon [suppliers] gave me a good price [you can probably get it for around 4500 shekels].Anyone looking for an old Shimpo?
The wheel is pretty basic [as all wheels should be]- on/off,fast/slow,clockwise/anti. A light on the off switch would have been nice. The three legs adjust for height,but their locking screws don't fit on the very lowest setting [where,of course,I think the wheel should be]- no great problem,as the weight of the wheel keeps things steady.The work surface is like the Creative Industries wheel- as you can see from the picture,I have my own ideas about surface height,but the Shimpo just slots into the space occupied by a Brent [I have a B and a C,but prefer working on the B,which has a smaller wheelhead relative to the slops tray,making it much easier to clean out]. The Whisper has the same [30cm] head as the B,but a bigger tray,which would make it easier to clean if it wasn't made of such nasty thin plastic [the Brents' softer,more flexible tray is nicer].It also involve spreading the legs a fraction wider than one is used to,but I can get used to that. The foot-pedal is good- large,curiously Birkenstock/Naot shaped [but probably most potters,like me,wear Naots...],comfortable to use,easily kicked into the right location.No Brent-like speed adjustment [I saved you the trouble of opening the base-plate to check],so the top end [160 rpm and up] is wasted on me [I never go that fast].The wheel stops when you want [some keep on going for a few revs] and free-wheels [important for trimming]. The Whisper's main claim to fame is its silent running,which is indeed somewhat uncanny,after years of more-or-less noisy/humming/vibrating machines.No longer do I need to crank up the music when I start working on the wheel.A real pleasure.
It's too early,obviously,to talk about longevity- a sterling quality in a wheel- meaning not having to fix it for at least 4 or 5 years of constant use- stay tuned. In terms of strength, I have also not yet put it to the test,but did notice that I could make the wheel-head slip centring 1kg800gr dinner-plates; the clay was a bit stiff,but not overly so,and I wanted to get the set of 12 done before Shabbat,so was maybe pushing the clay around too vigorously...we shall see.As it happened,a cat [probably ours] walked over the tableful of drying plates,leaving incriminating paw-prints on 8 of them,7 of which I managed to rescue by assiduous rekidneying after Shabbat.The 8th will be used as evidence...
I'm happy with the wheel so far.No wheel is going to make my pots better,but a good wheel is a pleasure to work on.
P.S. I rather think that this might be the first use of the word "rekidneying" on the web [Hi,Hana!]


Friday, May 18, 2007

My Hero

Himself and in person- Sydney with his work [and work by Gunn and Netzer] at Ranaana Potters' Fair. I can't believe that those beautiful porcelain cups were still there when we packed up at 11. Wake up there,Ranaana! As usual,I was thrilled not to be showing work,just enjoying the show.Around nine in the evening,feeling peckish,I set off for the Pizza stand,some 30 metres distant,but instantly encountered a good friend from the craft,then another- two hours later,I reached the stand,which had just closed.
Studio time has been at a premium this last couple of weeks: I have just finished slipping candlesticks and mezuzot made a while ago,and am contemplating wedging up a little clay before the Holy Sabbath arrives,to keep things moving along.Yahel's bowls will fill up the remaining space in the bisc kiln,which swallowed one big stoneware sink;the next bisc will be built around the two remaining sinks.

Desmid with so-called "nano-pasta"

I think this is all pretty self-explanatory- a colonial bacteria on a micro-organism sent by friend and teacher Mark Webber. Could this be the answer for those suffering from eating disorders? How many calories can there be in a dish of nano-pasta?

Window Wide Web

Outside our kitchen.Look how s/he's got those fly corpses all lined up- artistry!
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Thank You Very Much


Blessed be the Roadmakers- they descended on us early Thursday morning and fixed some of the more disastrous pot-holes in our street.Helen felt that the deep and plentiful ruts functioned as speed-bumps,and were therefore a good thing,but you can't stand in the way of progress,I told her,and how often does something get fixed around here without lengthy nagging of the authorities?
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Friday, May 11, 2007

And Finally...

A board of Netzer's espresso cups waiting their turn in the kiln at Yesod.Have a good Shabbat!

Two Hours 'Til Shabbat

And we're back hotfoot [and slightly hotfingered] from Yesod with a nice bunch of pots,after a good firing [a bit cooler on the top,but it didn't seem to affect the slips].The slips are working better now with a thicker layer [and maybe less salt],though we're still a long way from being able to say that we know what we're doing.The bowl in the bottom picture got over-salted [there's one in every kiln,or should be] but is still quite funky,no?

More Heat

I know,I know,I'm overblogging - but there's been so much going on recently. Here are remains of the last chunk of wood in the burner port,plus your classic spy-hole view at around 1250 degrees [note unpulled ring on right]. And what,I shouldn't try to post pictures from the opening later this afternoon? You can always turn off,you know.


Two of the salt-glazers' skills:hooking out clay rings to check the progress of the salting,and gingerly inserting the angle-iron that holds the charge of salt,trying to avoid hitting pots in the process,dumping the salt,and getting out before you get sprayed by super-hot volatilizing salt granules jumping out of the burner port.


On our way to load yesterday we stopped at Beit Dubrovin,where ex-TelHayot Chen and Liat are running Sydney and Gunn's old studio.Chen,who was always shaping up to do something extraordinary,seems to have hit her stride,and is producing really impressive work,here badly photographed in situ.

Pyromaniac Corner

From the salt firing- burner and salt-port,flames from a frisky chimney.The firing went well- 2-3 hours to load the kiln,9 to fire and salt.This time,inspired by Ayelet [who worked with Mikki Schloessingk in England a few years ago] we got down to 5 1/2 kilos of salt [last firing-7 1/2,previous firings 10-12 kilos]. Also,on a whim,fed the kiln a small quantity of wood [small branches,thin splits],which led to dramatic flames from the stack-whether it left a mark on the pots we shall see in an hour or so when we all meet again to open and unload.

A fine collection of ceramic talent

And me.Sydney,Ayelet [big with child,but up for yesterday's salt firing],Shelley,Netzer and Gunn,in the Rosenstone studio,Yesod HaMaala.

New Door

My children are clamouring for a picture of the new front door.Note custom letter-box,rare use of salt-glaze tiles,and [now] apparent need to deal with the crumbling stonework around about. I was surprised at how emotionally attached all three were to the old door. Do you remember the door to the house you grew up in?

Two Celadons

While the camera was out- porcelain tea-bowls with my current celadon,a fortuitous mixture of my two previous celadons- combining the good colour of one with the good fit of the other. I played a bit with the image,but it doesn't really get close to how true celadon looks: for me,a good celadon is like jumping into a beautiful cool pool of water on a hot day. The next customer who calls it "baby blue" had better watch out.

Talia's First

Talia,a talented local ceramic artist,is learning with me in the studio- I encouraged her to make a piece for the anagama- she hasn't seen it yet,so you get a preview...

Presents from the Anagama

My haul from the Tel Hai firing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Another Couple

On Tuesday evening,on my way back from Tel Hai, I stopped off at Sydney's for our first pottery hevruta [study session]. We are learning Mick Casson's "Pioneer Pottery",a formative but [at the time,many years ago] formidable volume,packed with dense technical information. I've come to realise how much of the book I didn't understand,or skipped over,or just forgot.For instance,right there in the preface [who reads the preface?]- this wonderful thought:
"Pioneering is not a matter of geography but of the heart.It does not necessarily mean doing something where it has never been done before,but rather,finding things out for yourself from first principles."

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