Monday, March 31, 2008

An Epic of Tiny Proportions

I don't know how many of you will have the time or inclination to wade through the whole 20-odd minutes [I should have put an intermission in there]- it's pretty hard-core stuff,but,having filmed it [Yahel filmed it- it is her dulcet tones and enlightening comments that you hear] it seemed natural to try to post it in case anyone's interested. If anything,my message would be- don't wait 30 years [like I did] to throw something big- just wedge up a sizable pile of soft clay and get stuck in.The film is pretty much alla prima; I trimmed some 7 minutes off [mainly me wiping clay off kidneys and gazing contemplatively at the pot]- I haven't even run it through in its edited form,so I hope it makes sense. Some of it is in Hebrew,you will find,and there are no subtitles. Just turn the sound down if you can't stand the constant chatter.
Having watched it now,I can see room for improvement- it need another edit...some time...


Working Glass

Chris McElroy is back in town from distant Montana,where they grow dental floss [Zappa] [he was here a couple of years ago] working with my neighbour Sheva Chaya, so Yahel and I took a break from fettling handles to see what he's been up to. You should put on dark glasses before looking at the picture. Click on the title to get to his site.
Gunmarit called from Tel Hai to say that the anagama has cooled to 50 degrees,and she can no longer restrain the students from opening and unloading [supposed to be on Wednesday]. Ah,the impatience of youth [and potters].

The Rest

The flat dish and shots were made with Meir's clay recipe,which he hasn't used for some years,since his last batch went hyperthixotropic; although a mite underfired I'll probably try to refire them in the gas kiln],they show good orange flashing. I only made up[ a couple of kilos of clay [and some of that went in to the salt],but hope to make a larger quantity for next year's firing [or maybe the putative next Tel Hai firing before June].
The Limosges porcelain vases also flashed,as we had hoped,in addition to bending and buckling in an entertaining way. The tall vase is your classic slightly-underfired anagama look,followed by the two flat bottles,which not only survived intact [a minor miracle,given my suspect joining technique] but both have one side black/other side tan,which I find pleasing.
The anagama firing was a great event,with great results. Hats off to Meir and all those who took part.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lots of Bottles

As usual,a few toppled over and stuck to more illustrious pots [often Meir's],requiring delicate [but usually successful] surgical separation.
The first group are porcelain; the next one has an interesting salmon pattern under a grey,elephant-like crackly skin; then come two fired lying down [less danger of falling over],giving a nice flowing ash line [also the one on the right in last picture]. The round white-ish patches,for the uninitiated,are left by refractory pads placed to keep the pots from sticking to the shelf [which some do regardless]. They are a part of the off-beat aesthetic of anagama,which favours the incomplete,the irregular and the incident-prone,so you'd better get used to it. Actually,I didn't like anagama pots for many years- they are an acquired taste- but one worth acquiring. I remember feeling the same way about Dylan and Hendrix when I first heard them as a teenager- weird and disturbing music that took a while to digest. Bob Marley was another story,he should rest in peace- love at first sound.

Problem [Uploading] Solved

I just made the files smaller,and now it seems to upload much more quickly. Simple,really. The porcelain teabowls started life round: now I know where the famous "shoe" shape prized by teabowlists comes from.

The Big One

A feeling of exhilaration swept over me when this one emerged from the anagama- not only whole,but not-bad-looking [and now sold to the couple from Wyoming with good taste].

My Babies

Another of Meir's marvels

Captive Audience

Meir's Work

It seems that I have to post these tiny pictures in order to upload them,but if you can be bothered to click on them they will greatly and dramatically expand to fill your screen.

There Seems to be a Slight Problem

Temporary,I hope,in uploading pictures. I'll keep on trying.Meanwhile I just sold my biggest pot from the anagama [in fact,my largest thrown pot ever- watch out for forthcoming video] to some good folk from Wyoming,a state hitherto notable for the lack of my pots in it. It's a great feeling to know that other people share our passion for wood-firing [also I hadn't yet worked out where to display this particular piece,which is really too big for the gallery-problem solved!]

The new kiln has a useful door halfway along one side so you don't have to run in and out of the firemouth during loading and [here] unloading. The region of the door,having less insulation than the rest of the wall,was exceedingly hot during the latter stages of the firing,when we stood by it side-stoking.


A few picture,mainly self-explanatory.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Facetted cup

While waiting for the anagama to cool,I threw some facetted cups today. It's one of my favourite shapes,both to make and to drink from, designed to be a bit more classy than a mug,while not requiring a saucer,which I can't be bothered to make,and you don't want to buy.
Over the years I have learned from my customers that that first cup of tea or coffee in the morning is critical for setting the tone for the day,and this cup is my candidate for the post. I had already made 20 or so when I thought about filming: the remaining few that I filmed didn't come out quite as well as the rest- this being the best of them- but I think you can see how it's done.
Reports from Tel Hai say that their anagama firing is going well [it began yesterday],reaching temperature with ease [and skillful stoking and,especially,dry wood]- I hope to be there this evening for a few hours,before returning home for a few hours' sleep,then up betimes [Pepys] and off to Pardes Hanna for the opening on Friday morning. See you there!


Monday, March 24, 2008

There You Are

My Sitemeter,apart from telling me how many people check out the blog,also has fun statistics [two words that rarely occur together] like this pie chart of where you all live. Good morning to you all,and thank you for your readership.
A special Big Up to you,the 1% in Unknown- what's the weather like?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another Bout with the Whale

I drove down to Pardes Hanna again after Shabbat: the kiln had been "stuck" [not for the first time during this firing- it's a new kiln,remember,and takes some learning] for a while,unwilling to rise in temperature,but Pnina and Michael had brought it back to life with some concentrated stoking through the side-ports. Ricardo and I took over and managed to more-or-less hold our ground throughout the night while Meir caught a [very] few hours' sleep. In the morning,the front was closed up,having reached cone 12 [1320-ish],and wood was loaded into the side-ports to bring the rest of the kiln to temperature. The firing will probably have finished by now; we have to wait a week while the kiln cools before opening [next Friday].

Friday, March 21, 2008


Towards the back of the still-not-very-hot kiln.


There are also "blow-holes" along the top of the kiln [function unclear]: here Meir is checking to see whether their heat is likely to melt the roof [answer-probably not].

Fire in the Hole

This is what we come here for.


Interesting shape made by wires supporting the kiln door.


This year's model has a nifty heat-resistant glass window in the door. How heat resistant is something of a guess [some say 800 degrees,some say 1200] but we will find out. Up to 500,it was blackened by carbon,but was clear enough a bit later to take this picture. I talked to Meir a few hours ago: the firing is going well- cone 10 going down at the front [1300 degrees] in the approved fashion. I hope there'll be some firing left to do when I head down again after Shabbat.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Flavour of a Stoke

Four in the morning, a blessedly cool night [today will be hard work in the heat],stoking the kiln with Pnina,just back from Oz,Michael the potter's son [from Oz] and Eran,a local flautist.Notice the Log That Wouldn't Fit In- an occasional feature of the business. In the early hours of the morning,we initiated Eran into the mysteries of the kiln,letting him face the heat of the firemouth and load logs into the kiln for a couple of hours. I think he is a changed man. When I left this afternoon,the kiln was at 980 degrees,and in Meir's safe and loving hands. Happy Purim!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Loading the Front

Here we are on the next-to-last step before the firebox at the front of the kiln,where the loading space is widest and highest. Another day or so should see the loading finished,ready for lighting on Tuesday.

Happy Potters

Back to Pardes Hanna on Wednesday for more loading: good to see Ricardo again [about to build his kiln in Jerusalem]- here holding one of Meir's pots.

Porcelain Pad

I always used to make pads [on which to stick bats when throwing] from stoneware clay; when working with porcelain,bits of stoneware sludge would get on my fingers when changing bats and find its way onto the next thrown piece. Recently I've been making the pads from porcelain [recycled when it gets too dry] which solves the problem. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a Tip,but shall label it as such nonetheless.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Big Pots

For me,at least.Today I wedged up a slew of stonewares and porcelains with handfuls of grog and a pinch of Mashiko dust [ which I tend to add to special batches of clay] to throw some large pots,probably [if they survive] for the Tel Hai anagama firing,which GunnMarit assures me is going to happen soon. I'm not sure that I've ever thrown with 11 kilos- it was great fun,rather demanding,and quite tiring [two collapsed,so I ended up mixing and wedging about 60 kilos- try it some time]. I haven't decided whether to try to bisc them first [not necessary for anagama firings,where the flying ash forms the glaze,but easier to handle]- assuming that they manage to dry out without mishap. In accordance with the old pottery rule,I made 3, hoping to get 2 to the kiln and maybe one out whole.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Flying Pot- the Movie

Blink and you'll miss it.


Red [Plastic] Crystal Chandelier

A crowning touch,I think. Apparently procured from a local house of pleasure.

Flying Pot

A rather startling shot of a cracked pot hitting the deck. It's actually part of a [very] short movie,which I might post if I have the time.

Wadding Pots

The experts- Sydney and Avner


Adapted for conveying pots [unfired] from the studio to the kiln [40m]- only slightly quicker than shlepping by hand,but much more elegant. This contraption took me by surprise when I attempted to wheel it downhill back to the studio- its large tray being filled with sand,it has the momentum of a small stampeding cow,and a similar lack of brakes,and I nearly came to grief.

Pardes Hanna

A fine warm sunny day spent loading Meir's kiln. The purple-y bricks,for the sharp-eyed,are some exotic chrome high-temp jobs that Meir stumbled on.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Handsome Brute

A good day back at Tel Hai yesterday: first and second year students hitting the traditional post-break setbacks [quickly overcome,but distressing],most third-year students starting to get serious. There is a national shortage of French stoneware,with 2 suppliers waiting for fresh stocks,but of course you don't hear about it on the News. The students are gaily planning their anagama firing for 3 weeks' time,without any clay,without any wood. Very Zen.
This is how the Device turned out- Form follows Function,then you stick a clock on the front. It has room to wind power and kiln cables,storage for 2 thermocouples,and a little door with a hole in it on the back,so you could use it as a nesting box at a pinch.As you can tell,I am quite pleased with it. I wonder whether it will work.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Studio Views

Bisced small porcelain vases and shots,last week's carnations in last year's anagama vase.


I knocked up this housing for 2 pyrometers for Meir's anagama this afternoon [from scraps left from one of Eliav's design projects]. I'm looking forward to having 2 simultaneous readings [middle and back of kiln] during the firing,so that we can see the progression of heat through the kiln after stoking [for instance]. This is the theory,at least- I still have to wire up all the bits,and then try to get the rather elaborate pyrometers [I got them because of the large,easily-readable numbers] to do something as mundane as tell us the temperature.

We Salute You,Anagama-bound Pots

This Morning's Bisc

No obvious damage,which was a relief,with pots for the anagama and all those rather precarious porcelain tiles. I found some fine cracks in some of the tiles while unloading,but I think that overall this system of stacking seems to work.


Yesterday's Haul

Amid many distractions [e.g. firing the bisc] I managed to crank out some mugs,of which [as usual] I am running short, and felt all the better for it.