Thursday, January 31, 2008


Just some Tsfat slush.


Should be called 'grayware' ,no?
The inclement weather [real or imagined] of the last couple of days has enabled me to take a holiday from distractions,and get down to some work. If I can get this lot decorated [and dry] it should be enough to fill the rest of the bisc kiln so I can fire a glaze next week [and warm the studio up].Despite the cold,it's good to get back into the rhythm of making again.

Dartmouth Pottery Fish Jug

There you go. Ours were invariably green.
It did snow eventually- we awoke to a 10-cm covering and that wonderful muffled silence that comes with snow. It seems to be melting already,so we're into the slushy dripping stage.


This mug is no more- it broke yesterday. It's from the Dartmouth Pottery in Devon,where we used to go for holidays when I was a child [ Hope Cove,specifically] driving down in the Hillman Minx via the legendary Exeter Bypass- ah,memories! I think I have vestigial memories of the Pottery itself [I can't have been more than 7-8 years old],and for years we had one of their iconic Gurgling Fish jugs,a never-ending source of merriment to us children. I've always wanted to make a few [tried and failed years ago-time to try again!] even though it's obviously a mold job.I'll try to find you a picture.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Snow in Tsfat

It isn't snowing in Tsfat.It hasn't snowed,nor,probably,will it snow. We are understandably upset about this,since,yet again,we were promised snow,and everyone else in the country assumes that it is snowing,and expresses disappointment [with us] when they phone for a snow report.Not only that,but it is snowing in Jerusalem [our arch-rival in Heavy Weather],where my son Gilad is doubtless frolicking in huge snowdrifts. Once more,our politicians have let us down;they will pay for it in next year's elections [or,depending of the outcome of this afternoon's Vinograd report,this year's elections].
It is,however,cold and wet [which we wouldn't mind if there was snow],and everyone seems to be taking the day off we had been planning in the event of snow,even though none has fallen. If it starts to snow,I'll let you know,but it hasn't,yet.
I am assembling kiddush goblets today,with frequent trips to the kitchen to warm up.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Throwing a Bottle-Part Two


I guess we should have an interval between parts 1&2,no?
Here's something completely different- a Flying Hassid by Mike Leaf. In fact,this one was carved in Bali,hence the facial expression. It hangs in the studio,to see if anyone will notice [some do].

Throwing a Porcelain Bottle [part 1]

Should be self-explanatory.


Bit of French

I'm working with some Limoges porcelain today,having bought a bag for Meir's anagama firing.Although it's much harder to work with than the Tom Coleman porcelain I use these days,Meir and I remember it giving better results in the firing 2 years ago. when I've finished making some tall bottles [easy to fit in the anagama] I'll wedge it with some of this Shigaraki feldspar [and quartz] that I brought back from Japan.You can buy the Limoges from Minerco,and the Coleman from Keramikon,but you can't get that Shigaraki feldspar anywhere. Meir may have some,and,of course,Sydney has a bag.
We will not mention last night's shocking Spurs/Arsenal semi-final. Not a word.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

All God's Children Got a Skutt

And here's Goldie's,perched proudly on her Jerusalem balcony,having performed its first bisc and glaze firings without mishap. Ex-apprentice [now wife and mother-she had an eventful year] Goldie paid a visit this morning [with obligingly patient baby Naomi] to report on her first firing to 1250- a few degrees hotter on the bottom,which I think is good on a first firing,since most kilns fire hotter on the top: the remedy for a hot bottom is usually a slightly lower first shelf and/or tighter packing of pots under it. The speckled clay looks good,and initial glaze tests show promise.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Arches I Like

Strolling back home last night through the Artists' Quarter,I spotted wooden formwork going up for what looks suspiciously like a catenary arch [the top picture],which,you may have noticed,is one of my favourite arches,and not often seen around here,where the preference is for the Roman or round arch,which is easier to build. The rebuilding of this square is taking ages,but there are some interesting structures going up,and it promises to have a lot more character than its former rather drab and sparse appearance,and even space for galleries [second picture].We should live so long.
The pictures were taken with my current phone,hand held- not bad,eh?

Heat and Light

Drying paint on son Eliav's lighting unit project in the kiln.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yahel's Kiln

Just back from Sde Eliezer [source of the world's best olive oil] where Sydney and I went to inspect the casing for apprentice Yahel's new gas kiln. Didn't even have time to rotate the picture. Hi Yahel- what do you say? Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Porcelain Bowl

A not-uneventful firing yesterday; at around 1220,when I start checking for cone 7,I saw that a chunk of roof had fallen smack onto the cones [further evidence of shoddy workmanship on my part],skittling cone 8,blocking cone 9 from view,and resting on cone 7- this at the top of the kiln. The bottom [which had caught up , due to steady rather than heavy reduction, a 90 degree difference at around 1000 ] looked fine,but not much cone action. The optical pyrometer [a neat and rare tool,salvaged from the demise of Naaman Porcelain Factory][by Sydney] seemed to be saying that top and bottom were very close and only just at 1200 degrees,but at 1240 on the big pyro cone 7 was still standing. The reading on the pyrometer seemed to me on the high side- I had placed a shelf almost touching the thermocouple's length,and thought that this might have led to a false high reading:at 1280,with what I hoped was cone 9 [having lost sight of cone 7] more than half over on the bottom,hoping that the top would be at least that hot if not hotter,I turned the kiln off.
This morning I saw that I had fired that rare animal,a kiln hotter in the middle than on either top or bottom [the top was a fraction cooler than the bottom,in the event]. In the past,I have cast doubt on people reporting this phenomenon,but now I'm a believer. In the middle of the kiln was this large porcelain bowl,making a very high shelf,and lots of heat had flowed there,at the expense of the top shelf. But overall the kiln fired well,lacking maybe 5-10 degrees for a really great firing.It held up well-no new cracks or droops,reduced better,and cooled slower. I'm relieved.
I realise [or suspect] that much of this is impenetrable to non-kiln-firers,who can skip these bits with impunity: I hope it will encourage other [and especially new] potters,who I hope may appreciate that kiln-firing is an inherently uncertain undertaking,regardless of the number of times one does it. This,of course,is what makes it so interesting. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Last week's experimental firing of the restored kiln was a bit hairy,to say the least. The kiln was firing very unevenly- over 100 degrees hotter at the top,and I noticed that my new arch was starting to sag suspiciously towards the back- the hottest part. In addition,small flames were licking out of sundry unplugged gaps,and the gas tanks were freezing over. Cone 7 was just starting to bend on the bottom when I finished the firing [cone 9 down on the top] and I went to bed not a happy potter.
The next morning [the kiln cooled down very quickly,another problem] I unloaded the kiln- in the end,not a bad firing,with only the bottom shelf too cold,some nice reds,and the reduction only a bit too weak [I had to block off the chimney completely to get a good reducing flame]. But the arch had indeed sagged,as you can see,which is what I had been afraid would happen. It seemed that the experiment [building the arch from laminated arch sections of ceramic fibre board] had failed,so I started phoning around to see what a new gas kiln would cost me. Laser [London,makers of my current kiln] are on holiday for the foreseeable future,but I estimate that the same model would set me back around 35000 shekels. They now build a modular brick version which is even more expensive. Abraham Kilns said that they would build me a [brick] kiln for 45000 [they build good electric kilns,and have built a couple of bigger gas kilns]. Then I called Minerals and Refractories to ask about kiln materials,and while talking to them,it suddenly dawned on me that I must have used the wrong grade of ceramic board: all the signs were there [excessive shrinkage,brown discoloration,and other arch sections from a separate batch that didn't sag at all or shrink much] but I'd been too attached to my own reading of the outcome to notice them. This realisation came as a considerable relief,maybe postponing the inevitability of a new kiln for a while- at least for another firing.It's amazing how defenceless I felt without a working gas-kiln! I scrounged some ceramic fibre blanket [from Sydney,of course] and,having patched,propped and stuffed all morning,loaded the kiln and started a late firing just before 4 in the afternoon. We're now up in the 800's,and anything goes.
You can see the fallen arches at the back;yes,a section of roof was sitting on that one cup. Not a pretty sight. Part of the problem was caused by sagging,but part was shrinkage. I am currently propping the roof with a skilfully-placed [I hope] shelf,and will probably buy some more [but this time high temp] board and redo the shrunken bits. It won't give me a new kiln,but I still want to know if that system of building a roof can work.
This has been one of those classic studio pottery episodes where you try something new- it fails- you get disheartened- some time goes by- you realise that it's maybe not as dire as you first thought [ you also realise the dumb thing you did] - in fact,you now know what you have to do next- you feel a lot better. Happens all the time,and catches me out every time.