Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Courses Update

Not too many people have indicated an interest in our Summer workshops at Tel Hai so far;Gunn and I have to decide in the next couple of days if we're going ahead as planned - if not,we'll try again next year. If you were thinking of signing up,this would be a good time to contact us although tomorrow we're in Tel Hai all day for the 2nd years' end-of-year critique.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Bit Runnier Than You'll Like It

A good firing [at last]- clays and glazes behaving themselves and a more normal [9 hours] firing,despite this batch of porcelain mugs welded to their shelf - only two survived the separation process.
I didn't want to disillusion you yesterday during the firing,but I knew that cone 7 is in fact too early for the kiln to be even,and usually results [as it did yesterday] in the bottom overtaking the top and ending up hotter. Balance is important,but sometimes imbalance is more appropriate - a very Tsfat lesson.
I doubt that there are still people who don't know the Monty Python "Cheese Shop" sketch,whence the above quote,but a click on the title will whisk you there. I remember watching it when it was first broadcast on television in a packed Sussex University common room in the early 70's [it was on after "Escape from Colditz"] - everyone was laughing so much that we didn't hear half the sketch.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sevens Going

A brief report from firing #2 in this series - as you can see,the kiln is firing evenly,with cones 7 bending together in a gratifying [because rare] fashion. With 2 cones to go 'til the end of the firing [an hour or so] this is the time we traditionally go and watch some Wimbledon. The top [clearer] shot is,by the way,from the bottom of the kiln,where the atmosphere is clearer,and vice versa.
While on the subject of dead languages; I spotted a road-sign at the top of the Kinneret last week that reads "Institute of Limnology". Do you have any idea what they study there,or,like me,will you have to Google it? We live and,theoretically,learn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


The blue slip is also looking happier,probably as a result of a better firing [third firing with the new kiln,first good one,despite being too long] but also due to the higher iron content of the clay- I sold the baking dish still hot from the kiln this morning.
As you can see,I'm happy to have the iron back in the clay,but Gunnmarit,who made an order of plates for a restaurant in the previous batch of clay,wasn't so pleased to see it - her plates came out too spotty. Luckily I still have some of the lighter clay left,so we're going to swap clays tomorrow on our way to another meeting of Tel Hai graduate potters [and their teachers],this time at Netzer and Shelly's studio in Poriah,near Tiberias.

Ball Clay

Two versions of my cream glaze,same clay,same kiln,different ball clays. The difference is more striking in reality - the left ,more yellow version is what I'm looking for; I realised [or suspected] that the reason I had not been getting good results with this glaze [one of my two standard glazes] recently was a change in throwing clays [same firm, same clay,differing amounts of iron] - with the new batch,we're back on track. I experimented with a different ball clay in the glaze to see if this would solve the problem,but see from this first firing that the old glaze works fine with the current clay. In the process,I was reminded of the differences between varieties of ball clay,which I used to think of as a fairly homogenous material. this particular glaze seems to need a ball clay with a higher iron content - Puraflow rather than Hyplas,for the experts.

Stone[ware] Lantern


...And here are 2 bowls,one in the black and one in the rough red stoneware,with Hamada's Nuka glaze,which turned pleasantly irridescent.


The first firing,though rather long [12 hours] and not uneventful ended up gratifyingly even,with cones 9 down top and bottom. The black manganese clay about which I had my doubts stood up well to the firing...

Last Orders

A wonderful week of throwing porcelain gave me my final bisc kiln [here are some facetted cups and bowls waiting to be trimmed],and now the decks are cleared for glazing and firing...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tel Hai Summer School

Gunn and I are planning two three-day workshops this Summer at the pottery department in Tel Hai - the first time we have tried this,though by no means the first time we have thought that it might be a good idea. The first will be from Tuesday July 14th -Thursday 16th,and will include a firing in the gas kiln: the second will be from Tues July 21st - Thurs 23rd and will feature a salt-firing [assuming we manage to re-cast the crumbling door of the salt-kiln by then]. The plan is for participants [this could be you!] to bring a few appropriate pots for the firing,which would be on the second day,the rest of the time spent with the two of us practicing all manner of exciting,exotic and demanding wheel-work techniques [throwing big,throwing and altering,throwing with stick and kidney,for instance],not to mention tightening up basic technique on cylinders and bowls,pulled handles,and so forth,and finishing with a kiln-opening. All this will set you back a mere 850 shekels,which sounds like a good deal to me. Interested parties should get in touch with either of us;until we get our phone #s sorted out,send me yours as a "comment" and I'll get back to you...

Hybrid Porcelain

I only have a couple of bags of Coleman porcelain left,not enough for the throwing I have in mind,so I made up a mixed batch of Coleman,Naaman and a bit of Limoges porcelains,with some plasticising mix [ball clay,bentonite,VgumTee,molochite] for good measure. It was a sweaty business getting it all wedged together,but it seems to throw quite well today,and will probably throw better next week.

Clean Wheel

A rare occurence,and a sure sign of a switch to porcelain. In fact,it's best to throw a new porcelain pad on the wheelhead instead of the stoneware one I have here,to avoid coloured clay from bat bottoms getting on hands and pots.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tel Hai Summer Pottery Courses 2009

Gunn and I plan to run a couple of 3-day workshops at Tel Hai,open to everyone,but probably not suitable for absolute beginners. The details [or some of them] will be advertised in the Aguda/Ceramic Guild's next newsletter,which they tell me comes out on the 15th. I'll try to give you an idea of what we have in mind in the next blog...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today's work; twenty soup bowls and a couple of pickling jars,which I have never made before. They have a water-seal closure [the lid sits in a water-filled channel on the rim],a base plate to sit in [in case of dribbles] and a clay weight to keep the pickling vegetables beneath their brine. I shall cut the weights in half so they will pass through the rather narrowed neck. A good friend asked me to make one,and I'm sure you all know that golden rule of pottery-making - if you want one,make two.

Isaac Button

Have you come across Mr.Button? Supposedly the last of the English country potters,according to legend capable of throwing a ton a day [I bet he had someone to wedge for him,though]. Rarely seen without pipe. Click on title for video. Roots,man!

Sunday, June 07, 2009


I have an order for a dinner set [large and small plates,bowls and cups] but forgot that it's a set of 12,so made some extra plates to round off a month's work in stoneware and fill up the 3rd bisc before moving on this week to my beloved porcelain. The plates are made from 1900 gr clay; when dry enough to trim,they weigh around 1500 [obviously,some clay is lost in the throwing];after trimming,they weigh a kilo,and after glazing and firing - around 820 gr. I don't do it often,but it's quite instructive when trimming plates to have scales handy and weigh each one when you think it's done.
By the way,I believe that the word 'plateweight" might be yet another neologism to have sprung from the blog,like "dethixotropize" a while ago. Start your own blog! Make up your own words!



Last week i visited Dalia and Amos BenMayor,whose work I have admired since arriving in this country [32 years ago]. They live and work in a Japanese-inspired house in Yodvat,near Karmiel,firing their shino and tenmoku-ware in a big Bailey gas kiln,very impressive [on the outside - it was cooling after a firing,so I couldn't see inside]. Amos told me that firing is not simple,even with such an advanced and well-thought-out kiln - after 10 firings,they are still trying to work out how to get good reduction. Check them out at the forthcoming Raanana Pottery Fair [June 16-18].

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hakame Secrets Revealed

Another of Sydney's revelations. Hakame is a Japanese brushed slip decoration which I [and maybe you] have tried to do by applying the white slip with a suitably twiggy brush - doesn't work,does it? But if you lay the slip on the piece first,and only then brush it....pretty obvious,no? Took us 30 years to figure it out...
Having learned this,I took out some recently-arrived black [manganese] stoneware clay and quickly made these small dishes,doing the brushwork while they were flat slabs,then slumping them gingerly into a variety of square and round fired bowls by banging the slab and bowl on the table. Some of those little cut feet seemed appropriate. The last time someone [nameless] sold me black stoneware it melted all over several shelves,so I shall fire a few cautious test pieces.