Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rings Hot and Cold

Seven and a half hours to 1285/cone 10, 4 1/2 kg salt [even less than last time]-most of which Gunn shovelled in,and no time to take photos 'til the end,as you can see. We started firing at 3.30,finished around eleven,crashed cooled over a welcome glass of chilled grape juice,and studied a few pages of Cardew: we're up to the appendices now [there are about 15 of them],some of which make gripping reading,as appendices go. I'm tired and off to [Proust and] bed. Opening [I hope] tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Salting with Sydney

Firing #20-something [let's say 24,for the record] in the salt kiln finds Sydney and myself enjoying a cooling Spring afternoon in Yesod HaMaala,with the kiln at [according to various pyrometers] either 980 or 730 degrees,and chugging away valiantly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Well,All Right,Just One More

Kyla's tasty offering,featuring chocolate art from Art de Choco in Carmiel.


Another fine frantic day in Tel Hai:the students finally got their "Chocolate" project together,these being some of the results.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tomorrow and Tomorrow [and Tomorrow]

Brings us to today.As you may have guessed,that 2nd crystal tile firing was not a success [otherwise there would have been prompt pictures]. I wasn't paying full attention during the critical last part of the firing- the previous one reached 1260 degrees,at which temperature cone 9 has just dropped,which was fine,so I let this one run 'til 1260,forgetting that,being more heavily laden with (8) tiles and shelves,it took longer to reach temp.,so cone 9 fell at a lower temp,the tiles were overfired (8), and I relearned a lesson that I should have down by now- PAY ATTENTION!!
Kiln #3 is running at the moment-near the end-excuse me,I'm going to see if I can catch it...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Second Pigeon

I managed to extricate her from her perch in the studio rafters this morning,and even got her to fly a bit,but now she is strolling around the courtyard,bothering Katyusha the tortoise and acting as cat-bait,so I think I shall get her into a cardboard box and wait until Helen [the social worker] gets home to deal with her problem in her inimitable caring,compassionate and professional fashion.

Four Tiles

This gives you a good idea of how unpredictable these glazes are; 4 identical tiles,glazed one after the other,fired one next to the other in a small kiln- four pretty different results. All the angled tiles warped [oh! what a total surprise!],which I could work around if I had to,but the horizontal tile [bottom left] came out better than expected,so today's batch has eight or so tiles laid flat using various glazing techniques [dipped/masked/brushed]. Come back tomorrow for results.

Shiloach HaKen

One of the more bizarre manifestations of our ancient and noble faith,involving removing a mother bird [and not,for instance,a father bird] from its nest before freeing [some say eating] the eggs [or maybe the young],but it's by no means as simple as that,and fraught with mystical significance as well. I had two pigeon nests in my studio,and thought I had chased off the parents before covering over the opening whereby they enter. Pleased with myself at a neat patch job,I then realised that this guy and his/her sibling were still hanging out in the nest,adolescent-fashion,and needed vigorous encouragement to persuade them to evacuate [like adolescents]. Helen eventually got hold of one,and released him to an uncertain future on the roof [they can fly,but it all seems like a bit of an effort for them]. She is wearing the fetching Japanese frock I bought her in Tokoname,which seems to fit in with the anagama pots [and smart Japanese sieve] in the background.

Firing Crystal-glazed Tiles

How to stack them? Flat seems to give poor crystal growth [as on my last batch of mezuzot],vertical would lead to massive glaze run,so I tried an experimental firing with various angles,as you can see. There's an interesting parallel with the positioning of the mezuza cover on one's doorpost- one opinion of our sages says horizontal,another says vertical- so we fix it at 45 degrees,as a compromise-an ancient,important and occasionally overlooked Jewish concept.

Look at Me I'm Wonderful

Our courtyard cactus flower putting in its annual appearance. It formerly belonged to Helen's mother,z"l.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Clay Drying

Sometimes I think it's hard to improve on the way the clay looks right here,before you even wedge it,rolled off the towel on which it has partially dried,still pretty chaotic,but just starting to clothe itself in a shape. This is pure,unadulterated Naaman porcelain- full of Eastern promise.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Persuader

Do your hammers have names? This is my hammer of choice for breaking things [I have 7 or 8 hammers of various sizes,weights and degrees of delicacy]. It is long,with a fine heft , a waffle head and a mighty wallop,and very few things stand in its path for too long. I used it on the porcelain mentioned below.

Almost Independence Day

It is,in fact,already our 60th anniversary of independence [for the pedantic,among whom I am proud to number myself,it seems to me that it is in fact the 59th anniversary: independence having been declared in 1948,1949 would have been the first anniversary,so that 2009 will be the 60th...] but I like Van Morrison's song title,and we haven't yet lit the barbeque,which really signals the heart of the celebrations.
So what's with the porcelain?
Well it caught my eye this morning-two large lumps of the original Naaman porcelain that have been sitting in a corner since I started using the Coleman porcelain. Sydney and I bought 10 tons of the stuff when the factory closed down some 10 years ago,paying some ludicrously low price; now porcelain,you might think,is not a very local material,but- firstly- it was put together from imported raw materials by the factory in Haifa,which is already a step in the right direction: secondly,I learned from a conversation with the Naaman technicians that they used magnetically-de-ironed sand from the Negev in the batch- which does make it much more local.
What I'm getting at is that this is also my story -white,difficult to work with,and apparently foreign to this country- but when you dig a bit deeper,you find a strong connection.So it seemed appropriate to whack the 2 lumps with a large hammer,douse it in the last of last Winter's rainwater [having strained out the mosquito larvae] and start getting it ready for use.
Happy Independence Day!

The Way to Bethlehem

The Galilean one,where it looks like I shall be shooting every couple of weeks [they shoot on Tuesdays,and I teach in Tel Hai every other Tuesday]. This week I met Igor the Coach- why is it that Russian trainers always look like bears?- who conceded that my basic technique was o.k.,and even liked my left [bow] hand- not the whole arm,of course,just the hand- and then set about changing everything else,making jokes about the fate of people who don't do what their Russian trainers tell them [did I mention his KGB past?]. I feel a bit like Georgia.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Does everyone know where the name celadon comes from? My two favourite versions [i.e. nobody knows for sure] are:
1] the name of a shepherd in d'Urfe's 1627 play,L'astree,who seems to have dressed in pale green ribbons [one hopes not only]
2] A corruption of Salah al-Din [a.k.a. Saladin,] the Muslim ruler of Egypt who sent some celadon pieces to Syria in 1171 before capturing Jerusalem,which led to the third crusade under Richard 1,in whose absence there were widespread massacres of Jews in England,leading up to their expulsion in 1290. Saladin offered his personal physician to the ailing King Richard- and guess who that renowned healer was? Yup,you got it- the Rambam [Maimonides]. Small world,eh?
In Hebrew,with a bit of imagination,celadon could be taken to mean "the Shadow of God",which seems appropriate for the coolest of glazes.
Here's my current recipe [for you,Kate];

Potash Feldspar 967
Quartz 440
Whiting 255
China clay 180
Barium Carbonate 150
Ochre 5
Red iron oxide 15

Glaze THICK on porcelain [it's not runny],fire to cone 9 reduction,let me know what happens. The recipe is untidy [doesn't add up to 100] because it's a combination of 2 celadon glazes.
"Celadonia",a word I thought I might have made up,is a girl's name,and means "swallow" [as in the bird]. If I'd been blessed with daughters....

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mortar and Pestle

I bought some rock salt recently,which often needs grinding before use,and our only kitchen mortar usually has pepper in it. Cleaning up for Pesach, I came upon some small grinding sticks I got in Japan,which seemed just the right size,so I made these three mortars,which came out quite nicely [though I haven't tried one out yet]. Quite a few of the shapes I make were inspired by kitchen needs: it really helps in this profession if you do a little cookery [or at the very least enjoy eating].
The firing yesterday was interesting: at 1000 degrees I could see by comparing the colour in the kiln at the upper and lower spy-holes that we were heading for an even firing;getting a good strong reducing flame required closing the flue completely for part of the firing,a rather fearsome practice [the repaired kiln evidently leaks air,I suspect mainly through the roof arch],but the resulting flame was a healthy clear blue/orange,instead of the recent rather sickly [and smokey] yellow flame I have been getting. Michael Cardew z"l points out [in "Pioneer Pottery",which I have been learning assiduously with Sydney for the last year,and which we are about to finish] that black smoke is the enemy of good reduction,and I felt after the firing [it was indeed even] that it might yield better results than the last couple,which it did- reds not as good as they used to be,but at least recognisably red [copper red glazes that don't reduce properly come out a rather unpleasant crazed glassy pale green,not to be confused with the pale green of under-reduced celadons- see last week's post].

Holocaust Remembrance Day

The ten o'clock siren this morning,announcing a minute's silence and reflection all over the country,found me unloading yesterday's glaze kiln. Contemplating these huddled white bodies in their gas oven brought an overwhelming rush of complicated feelings- so many died just like this,including large parts of my own family: yet these guys survived their ordeal,which for me represents a tremendous "tikkun",or fixing- in fact,they're on their way to a design show in Sweden. They are porcelain,unglazed outside,celadon inside.

My How You've Grown!

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