Thursday, December 31, 2009

Repetition Throwing

It's what I do most of the time. You start with the same weight of clay - 325 gr. here - and do the same things to it each time,and [in time] they all come out looking similar. This mug is the basis of my professional work; I've been making it since I started,inspired by Robin Welch telling me "If you don't have a good reason not to make a cylinder,make a cylinder". He thought that not many potters could throw a good cylinder - that's one of the reasons we apprentices used a jigger & jolley to make his line of pots. I learned to throw by practicing this shape: I make cups and mugs in different shapes and sizes,but always start a body of work with 60-70 of these.Click on the title above to see the video on Youtube - I throw three mugs,and there's even a slight reverse camera angle on one of them,so you can see that first pull from the other side.I find the stick-and-kidney technique useful to get the wall thin but not floppy,to stop the cylinder from flaring,and to get a good surface for decorating later. I cut off with a nice twisted thin bronze wire in a zig-zag and leave the thin base untrimmed.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Heal Yourself

Or [in this case] myself: it's time to start another round of making [some of my more popular lines are already out of stock] with some healing cups. Healing because I feel them doing me good,recentering and refocusing - as opposed to "bankes",traditional healing cups,heated and applied to the skin,as in the Yiddish expression,"I need that like a toyten bankes". Ask your grandmother if you don't speak the language. I used up a remnant lump of mixed soft and groggy clays,putting aside some for handles,as I don't want the grog following me around through the whole batch. Inevitably throwing felt a fraction rusty,but they'll do for a first afternoon back on the stoneware.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh,So Very True

Palissy on pottery.Written in 1584.Quoted in either Rhodes or Olsen's kiln book [Sydney and I had them both out yesterday].
A ream ,by the way,is 25 quires or 500 sheets - half a bundle,in short. We used to have to learn this stuff when I was at school,a time when decimals were something new-fangled and foreign,as they still are in the U.S.A.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Throwing Glaze-Catchers for Crystal firing

Click on the title above. More esoterica from the complicated world of crystal-glaze firing. By the time I've finished,you'll know as much as I do [which is the whole idea...]. These can be tricky at first,but eventually your fingers just drop into place. It hurts [the pocket] to throw them with porcelain [they have to shrink together with the porcelain pot they're stuck to] since they are wasters,binned after use,but sometimes one has to suffer for art's sake. With crystal glazes,one has to be prepared to suffer quite a lot,in fact [as I order another set of kiln elements and a new thermocouple from the States for $250].

Sunday, December 20, 2009



This year's exhibition of Ceramic Guild members' work at the Symposium.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Warming Up

Akira Satake,our first guest on the stage at the symposium,getting into the right frame with a little banjo tune just before we got going this morning.All 3 guests put on a great show: Sandy Brown got through 400 kilos of clay,but promised to make only thimbles tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yesterday's Kiln

Came out nicely.Top 2 pictures are combined glazes - green/blue & silver/blue; bottom is silver nitrate. I fired a couple of degrees hotter;the glazes ran a lot,but the bottoms of the vases came off cleanly [well-fitting catchers for a change] so,for the first time ever I didn't have to use the angle-grinder,just a grindstone and water.


The image of the Menorah [6+1 lights] is from Titus' arch in Rome [built by his brother Domitian] -part of the [as yet unreturned] loot from Jerusalem which paid for the building of the nearby Coloseum. The chanukiah [8+1 lights] is one of this year's batch,heading for Tel Hai where I hope we'll light it during the Symposium.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crystal-Glazing Technique

The blogs are coming thick and fast today. This video is probably a bit esoteric for the layman,but is part of my intention of trying to put out visual information on this beguiling practice - the film showing how to separate the "catcher" from the pot after firing is also on YouTube.



An early attempt at a crystal glaze,probably from 20 or more years ago. I was happy enough with this one to bring it proudly into the kitchen,where it has held flowers for many a long year,finally falling victim to the domestic purge which is sweeping the household.

Gather Round Children

When your young and idealistic parents made aliah [immigrated] in 1977,the Jewish Agency gave us a bed-frame, matress and quilt,a knife and spoon [but no bourgeois fork],a plastic bowl,a light-bulb [if I remember correctly] and this lethal parafin stove,made in Communist Rumania with instructions in French,obviously part of some doubtful entente, which has remained unlit on a dusty shelf for the last 32 years. In honour of the holiday [Chanukah,the Festival of Light] and because I'm finally clearing out the store-room,I gave it a wipe,filled it up,stood well back and lit it. It does crank out the heat,but also smells a lot, apart from its inherent structural instability [like its country of origin],so I think I shall render it unfit for use [with my big hammer] and consign it to the bin.

Symposium News! - New Guest! - Tim Andrews!

Halima Cassell had to cancel at the last minute,but an unfazed Ruth Corman has found us a worthy replacement. A click on the title will whisk you to his site,if you crave more information.

Just One of Those Days

Among my favourites - grey,misty days when you can't see the end of the alley from my studio door.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sheva Chaya's Glass-Blowing Studio

While we're on the subject of friends with sites: Sheva Chaya's studio is just round the corner from my house in Tsfat, on a narrow one-way street which now - semi-miraculously,it seems to me - boasts four silica-based craft studios [one glass,three clay] - not to mention a recently-opened cafe,Miriam Mehadipur's beautiful gallery,another couple of painters,and,as of this Shabbat,Moshe Tov's freshly [and environmentally-sensitively] restored Khan of the White Donkey. Come and visit us!

Esther Beck's New Site

Click and check out good friend Ester's site:she'll be at at next week's symposium at Tel Hai,as usual - come and meet her!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Spinach with Sydney

Go to a nearby field [Sde Eliezer]and pick an armful of organic spinach.
Slide it into a hot oven with some good local olive oil [from Sydney's friend Nevo],salt and pepper, for 10 minutes.
Serve with home-baked bread and wonderful fresh tehina [Farod] and some freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice [Nevo again],preferably on dishes that you have made [I think that salt jar is one of mine]. Share with a friend [me,after a great day teaching at Tel Hai] while learning together [we're finishing Mick Casson's book,just as the anniversary of his passing comes around]. So good.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Being Green


The most recent kiln - another Picasa photo-montage creation.
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Yesterday's Sunset

Looking south from Rehov Keren HaYesod towards Tiveria. It hasn't rained that much,but it's been quite cold.
This morning I unloaded the last gas kiln in the current run; there were 2 sinks in it,one of which came out quite well,the other almost very well - but I think that the answer to how to fire crystals in the gas kiln is - buy an electric kiln.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Kiln #2

Interesting how the crystals grow around my stamp,no?
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I Think It's Runnier Than You Like It,Sir

Colateral damage from yesterday's firing,which actually came out rather well,although the sink,for reasons as yet unclear,still didn't produce the firework show I was hoping for. I'll try to photograph when I've got all the pots tidied up. Did you click on the title? Or recognise the quote?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More Doubt and Uncertainty

I'm in the middle of the second firing in the gas kiln - about an hour into the crystalising period,trying to hold the kiln steady at 1040 for the next half-hour or so,knowing that I may already have blown it by allowing a little reduction to creep in [but maybe it wasn't that much] on the way up to the top temp [but I can't get anything like a decent kiln speed without what looks like a tiny reduction [a faint small orange flame licking out of the spy-hole,though no sign of a flame at the chimney]. So I'm proceeding regardless,and tomorrow all will be revealed.