Sunday, January 25, 2009

Little Queenie

Queen of the salt kiln; it's sort of a sketch for a full-blown chanukiah. It came out exactly as I had hoped,which is a surprisingly rare occurrence,so it gets a blog all to itself.

Salted Pots

The mugs are slabbed and thrown.The blue shot pot in the centre is the one that fell [see below].

Hot Things

The hot end of a spy-hole brick: a shot pot that fell into the flame-path and had to be extracted carefully via the burner port [it seemed none the worse for its rather traumatic birth].

Winter Foliage in Yesod HaMaala

On my way to fire some salt with Sydney.


Pictures from a recent visit:from the bottom- Beautiful Mishkenot Shaananim,where we stayed;the newly-restored Mamilla quarter [which used to be quite a mess when we lived in J'm in the 70's],and the controversial new bridge,which looks interesting when you're leaving town,but rather out of place when entering. I met a wonderful silversmith-designer in Hutzot HaYotzer-check out her site by clicking on the title above [I hope].

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mazel Tov!

It's a little stoneware! Supercooled [to put it mildly] from its top temperature,still too hot to handle,but irrefutably a high-temperature local clay. I am amazed. It even looks to have a nice colour.


Cone 8 finally down after 45mins soaking at over 1300degs.

1340 degrees

Cone 8 standing firm,but the colour in the kiln looks about right. I'm not going any higher [not good for elements],but will soak around 1300-1320 'tl that cone drops. Never look into this kind of heat without eye protection [welders' glass,for instance]. It's o.k. to look at this picture,of course...


On the pyrometer.Cone 8 not moving. Pot still standing. Colour of kiln too dark for serious heat.

Warming Up

They're probably still a bit damp; 30 mins at 70 degrees should do it, followed by a quickish bisc [they're small] and straight up to cone 8 [normally 1250,but much higher in a fast firing]. These are the samples of Tsfat clay,by the way,not much of which has ever been fired to these temperatures,I would think. The lopsidedness of the pot is due to it falling over at some critical phase when I wasn't paying full attention.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slabbed Mugs

For the salt kiln. Much more time-consuming than wheel-thrown mugs,but I can't get such deep or even texture on the wheel. I cut the slabs [on one side] with a stretched spring,join edges in a rough cylinder,stick it onto a slab base,then throw [from the inside] a bit on the wheel,tidy up the lip and stick on a handle. And a thumb-stop,which helps one grip a larger [and heavier] mug,and is fun to do.


Even after its rainwater bath,the local clay is still dramatically short,as you can see. Wedged in a bit of 'softening mixture',will try firing to 1250.

Monday, January 05, 2009

And The Answer Is...

Well,I'm not sure.
This is what just emerged from the test kiln after a rapid blast to 1020-ish [according to trusty cone 06- the pyrometer was meanwhile reading 100 degrees more,but then they are misleading in fast firings]. Either way,the clay [which has lost its raw orange and turned an interesting pale yellow- green] doesn't look fully fired [still porous] so maybe this will also [like the previous sample of Tsfat well-bottom clay Amir brought me] turn out to be a stoneware...
Which is fairly amazing [to me,anyway] because I've been [patiently] explaining to customers for 20-odd years why there are no stoneware clays in the Middle East [my theory made sense,at the time- the museums are full of earthenware,after all].
But then again...maybe it's not so simple. Maybe the location of the clays [at the bottom of wells] is a factor- I don't think those wells are so old.
Next step is to slake the rest of the clay [conveniently,I have rainwater] to see if its physical properties improve. Though if it does turn out to be a stoneware,I can use the softening recipe that worked nicely on Meir's clay [see below]. I'm not sure what you would add to a recalcitrant earthenware other than a different [more plastic] earthenware.
The cracks,by the way,are from drying,not firing.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Tsfat Clay

Builder Amir drove his tractor past the studio a while ago and offered me some of this stuff,from the bottom of a neighborhood well [constant readers will recall a similar find a couple of years ago,which turned out,wierdly,to be stoneware]. This batch looks like earthenware- it has a beautiful orange/brown raw colour,but seems very short/friable. Discovering local clays is rather exciting [especially when they arrive outside your studio,relatively clean,soft,and in the shovel of a tractor]. As you can see,I instantly dried some out on the stove,threw a rough cylinder,got a cone ready,and will try a small experimental firing in the test kiln as soon as it looks dry enough.
Neighbour Batya has just appeared with a pottery/firing issue for us to solve,so that's all for now...

Two Bottles

Put together over the last few days for Meir's anagama,made from Meir's clay with my plasticising additions [4% ball clay,4% Molochite,1% VGumTee,or bentonite if you don't have any VGumTee [and I bet you haven't]]. The addition seems to do the trick- the clay is much more manageable,and will doubtless improve greatly with age. Ex-student Dror is now working with Moshe Clays,who make the stuff for Meir,and agreed with me when we discussed it during the Symposium that a lack of ageing is a major problem with locally-made clays.

Many a Slip

A batch of shot-glasses freshly-slipped with a salt fire in mind. Actually there are only 3 slips here,and 2 of those are almost the same. These little pots are proving quite a success,to my surprise- I've run out of the salt-glazed ones,and a few people have asked for them. A good name for a studio,perhaps- or maybe an autobiography?

Tel Hai 2008/9

Our students,bless them,outside the pottery department on a recent sunny day. Quite apart from any ceramic ability they may have,they are a terrific bunch,as I hope visitors and guests at the Symposium noticed,preparing food for everyone and generally being available to help out.