Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Worker in the Studio

A bee- or wasp-like creature is making a small clay vessel in a corner of the studio:every five minuters it zips past my ear,homes in on its nest, adds another mouthful of mud to the structure,and flies off.It is apparently unaware of the relatively vast quantities of clay readily available within a couple of metres.I have placed a blob of porcelain slip right next to it,hoping thus to influence Tsfat bee-nest design,bringing a little Le Corbusier touch to the insect world. Is this presumptuous?

Full House

More cleaning up today,as Yahel's pots joined the warming bisc,now approaching 550 degrees,and we checked and started making up glazes.The crystal kiln looked a bit hot [cone 9 was down at 1260] but is chugging on with its program as I try to organise the piles of papers on my desk.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On the Shelf

As part of the extensive loin-girding before the firing spree,I decided that it was high time to scrape down and resurface my kiln shelves. The apprentice,whose job this should rightfully be,was either not present or otherwise occupied [cleaning studio windows! Glory be!],so I did it myself;it didn't take too long,and was most satisfying. I used a grinding stone on the shelf surface under running water,took off the many lumpy layers of batwash,attacked glaze spills with the angle-grinder [wearing safety specs],and applied a couple of coats of thin,new batwash [alumina 70,china clay 40 is my current blend] to the still-damp shelves. I paint one corner of each shelf with iron oxide,and revolve shelves 180 degrees each firing,in an attempt to even out warping-as you can see from the second picture,the shelves are still reasonably straight after 4-5 years. The post-ultimate bisc is as full as it's going to be,apart from a few final pieces Yahel is supposed to throw tomorrow morning,ready for a Friday firing,and the first,tentative crystal kiln is loaded and ready to go.
By the way- after the last post,I went through all previous posts and labelled anything remotely useful or informative in a ceramic sense as "tips",so you can see them all in one fell swoop.There's even a video of me throwing a bowl in there somewhere.
Having just checked,I see that clicking 'tips' doesn't get you the whole bunch;the video,should you be interested,is from July 2006-click on the appropriate archive on the left.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Top Tips

A sporadic,often redundant trickle of handy hints usually of a ceramic nature. Today we have the Poor Potter's Blunger,being another unconventional use for the hard-working wheel. I assume you have a cordless drill and mixers in your studio:if not,go out and treat yourself [drills go for 100 shekels and up- the better ones have 2 batteries]- it is the best tool for mixing glazes and clays. i wonder whether you could throw a [small] pot on one....hmmmm....
Place bowl/bucket of clay/glaze on wheel.Insert suitable mixer on drill and into clay.Start your motors [hint:SLOWLY!]- conveniently,default setting on drills is clockwise,on wheels anti-,thus giving Maximum Mixing Momentum. Watch the pretty patterns as mixing occurs. Turn off the drill before taking the mixer out of the mixed. Voila.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Pick of the Crop

Among the pots I threw today,this is the one that works best;but it's early days yet.


Despite the current and persistent hamsin,a most enjoyable morning in the studio finishing off yet another bag of porcelain trying my hand at some big bulbous vase-shapes for the crystal glazes. Centring 2-2 1/2 kilos on the Whisper wheel is no mean feat,but can be done;after that,the complete silence of the wheel is a big plus,I think,allowing truly uninterrupted concentration on shaping the pot. The wheel occasionally emits an ethereal,"music of the spheres" sort of emanation [you can't really call it a noise]-apart from that,I forgot about its [separate] existence completely and just sort of merged with the porcelain.
This brings to an end the current round of throwing:a couple of days now straightening out the studio,firing the bisc [which is now a bisc-and-a-half,of course],mixing up glazes,and doing all the office-work I've been putting off for the last two weeks-then the firing begins.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Son Eliav

Recently back from nearly a year in the States,and having inherited his papa's eye for a pot,brought back this little treat [5cms high] from over the border,down Mexico way.


So I've been beavering away for the last couple of months,firing bisc after bisc,stacking up pots on the ware shelves in the studio until there's no room to move and I have to load new pots straight into the last bisc kiln,and now there's just one corner of the last bisc to fill,so I'm throwing half-a-dozen vases for the crystal glazes,and the very last vase- bingo! out pops a shape I rather like,so I'm going to open a fresh bag of porcelain and try to do it again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yahel the Apprentice gets to grips with some porcelain:does she realise that her bowls are going to shrink 20%?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hotting Up at Tel Hai

As the end of the year approaches,students enter their traditional panic phase,while often producing their best work. Most of them are struggling gratifyingly with their teapots- a shape which,it turns out,may owe some of its origins to Middle Eastern water- and coffee-pots. The last picture is of our largest [trolley-hearth] electric kiln,back in action after nearly three years waiting to be fixed,here with a huge load of earthenware. Back in the studio,I have a bisc to unload,and one more to fill before embarking on my pre-Summer season [please God let us have one] firing binge.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Son Come Back

After unloading the salt-kiln,Helen and I drove down to the airport to collect #3 son Eliav Pesach,returning after 10 months in the States.Emotions ran high,and some of his chums turned out to welcome him. It's wonderful to have him back.

Yoram Rosenheimer z"l

Yoram died suddenly yesterday. He was a great character and eagle-eyed collector,with fantastic collections of Edmund DeWaal and Maud Friedland z"l to name but a few,and it was an honour [and aesthetic challenge] for me to make some of his kitchenware.He arranged the legendary Sotheby's sale in 1998,with work by just about every British potter of note,and many Israeli ceramists. he taught me two things: first- don't sell your best work-put it aside until you have enough for a show; second- group pots in threes. We shall miss you,Yoram,and keep you alive in our thoughts.


Oh Yes!

What can I tell you? The new clay mix worked,the shapes worked with the salt,the wierd handles stayed stuck on,the wood I added to the fire left its mark [e.g. the brown flash on the bottom of the recumbent cup above],the firing pushed the clay to its max- not much missing,and many ideas as to where to go from here.

Looking Good

Some 68 pieces from a hot,salty and somewhat woody firing. A good-looking kiln on first glance,confirmed as pots came out. The cast door needs serious work,as does the back left corner,which got blasted.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Salt Firing

For a change,I resisted my natural inclination to photograph gouts of orange flame bucketing out of kiln stacks,but those star cut-outs do look sweet while they're firing.


Playing with the camera:Sydney and one of his tea-pots.

Pardes HaRimonim

The pomegranate orchard over the road from the salt kiln.Also the title of a book by Rav Moshe Cordovero,a sixteenth-century Safed heavy.

Loading the Salt Kiln

Those are Sydney's cups and dishes top right,and the spiky guys bottom left are the cones that crop up so often in this blog- {for the potters,#07,7,8,9,10}. It is amazing how many pots you can load into a small kilnm once you get to know its dimensions,although that little space-saving cone-and-ring shelf was not a success-the rings [when you need to pull them]stick to the shelf,requiring high-temperature in-kiln fiddling, which,on the whole,is best avoided.


Salt waiting to be thrown into a kiln.

Bisc for Salt

Yesterday morning's bisc provided the last few pots for the salt kiln- some shot-glass slip tests,Yahel's cups and a napkin holder,which I thought,at the last minute,might catch the salt rather nicely.


Tapered vases and scalloped bowls for the crystal kiln:the bowls have black slip outside- they're shallow enough that you can't really see the outside clearly [so no point using the crystal glaze there],and I hope the slip will make the crystal glaze inside more prominent. Once again [as with the mezuzot] avoiding runny-glaze catchers and grinding with these glazes is a great advantage.

Safed Craft Pottery

In all its glory,for those of you who haven't visited yet.

Time for Some Salt

Another salt firing with Sydney today- we loaded a rather large number of pots,started firing at 3 and finished,after 6 kilos of salt and with cone 10 down,at 11:30,flogging on with "Pioneer Pottery" in between salt stokings.We're still ploughing through the rather technical first chapters- very interesting,but challenging for us of little brain. Pictures to follow...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Se'arot Shulamit

Or Shulamit's Hair. I have been looking after this little plant growing in the stone wall by the steps up to my studio ever since someone told me it is a protected species. Today,some friendly visiting botanists spotted it and were surprised to find it growing so far from its natural habitat,which is by water. They also informed me that it is of the fern family,and when I raised my eyebrows in surprise and disbelief [it doesn't look like a fern],showed me the new growth,curled up like a fiddle-head.

The Stone[ware] that the Builders Refused

Talia brought this piece to show me today- making numerous qualifications as she unwrapped it ["it didn't come out the way I wanted...the shape is weak/boring"- I'm sure you know the spiel,because we all have a tendency to do it]. So my first reaction was to see what we could get out of the piece,and as soon as I got my hands on it,I felt that this heavily-black-grogged clay was made to be sanded down to reveal its true nature. Five minutes work with the angle-grinder cut the surface back to something like smooth,and voila- a dramatic improvement in appearance.The piece is indeed not without problems,but at least you can now see what it is and could be.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sven Bayer

Sydney is much taken by Sven Bayer's teapots,and is trying to work on the shape.At first glance,the overhead handle looked too small to me,probably from looking at too many teapot handles that are too long. The ergonomics here look interesting,so maybe I'll have a go as well [in porcelain?]


A technique I learnt from Robin Welch- let the thick rim of the jug dry to leatherhard,then redampen with draped leather [wetting it with a sponge a few times over 10 mins] until just the part that is to be the lip is softened,then proceed to pull lip in approved Harrow School of Art fashion [which you know,no- or do I have to show you that too?]- result-less distortion of the rest of the rim.



More accurately- mezuzah covers: 47 of them,made by Yahel the apprentice,in porcelain,so far drying nice and slow and flat,heading for the bisc,and subsequent crystal glazing,this being [if I can get it right] one of the few shapes for crystal glazes that won't need a supporting trough.

Tel Hai

As the end of the school year approaches,a third year's thoughts turn to firing. Liron and Gunn contemplate the kiln that Liron built around one of her sculptures: a view looking down into the partly-built kiln,showing [if you know how to look] the flame-path under the shelf holding the work.

Flattowax News

Latest development in wax-resist holder/heater design [here unfired]- the Flattowax mark3. Should I have put a handle on it?


Obscure Object of Desire

Well,wouldn't you like a pile of new bats like this? 35 bats in various useful sizes,cut with a jigsaw in about an hour from a 160 shekel board of 17mm plywood. Why did I wait 30 years?
Seeing how my old sets of bats work,I'm inclined not to varnish the new ones- the clay sticks to and releases best from bare wood,and the water doesn't seem to have affected my old untreated ply bats in the slightest. With bisc #4 loaded and a few more pieces of stoneware left to slip,I hope to move over to a couple of weeks of working with porcelain,aiming for 2 more biscs,a totally jammed studio,and then a slew of firings towards the end of the month,in preparation for a Summer season that we may or may not be granted this year. That pristine pile of virgin bats is just crying out for some porcelain...


Pomeranian Rootsman

From the family vaults- a map of my ancestral home since 1792: the towns of Flatau and Conitz [on the left],on the road from Berlin to Danzig ,in the formerly West Prussia. Which explains a lot.