Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chateau Flateau

Wine-making season is fast approaching; good neighbour Amir from Canada,Raanana and [now] Tsfat came over to pick up some cups he ordered,bringing a bunch of his vine's grapes and questions. I had just picked some bunches from our vine: hand-pressed,they produced enough juice for an initial reading with the hygrometer - gravity is 1074 [allowing for temperature],a bit low yet,with 18% sugar by weight and potential alcohol 10%,all of which means that the grapes need another week or so.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Interesting Bisc

The second bisc of two; the first was rather overfired,so I tried to shut the second one off sooner,got involved [inevitably] in some fascinating discussion with a visitor as the critical time,and missed it by a bit. I think my ideal bisc is around 920 - when my blue slip turns from its unfired pink to blue,that's the upper limit - soon afterwards it starts to get too hard to glaze [top picture]. So in this kiln,you can see clearly that change in colour - sometimes on one pot [middle picture] - and the general flow of heat in the kiln [bottom]. I think that this was overfired by 10-20 degrees,and I'll try not to do it again. now I have to turn off the second glaze kiln - a bit hot on the botttom for a change.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Come Gather Round

And I'll tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Many years ago in England televisions were large objects with small black and white screens,and there were long gaps between programs,some of which were filled with films like this [click on title]; English visitors to the studio,if of a certain age, are prone to recall happy infant hours sat in front of the box watching this guy throwing. My family didn't have a television;my mother believed in Reading Books.


Friday, August 14, 2009

What's All This "Dairy Milk" Stuff?

Just in case you're culturally challenged,you can click on this link to find out. We Brits [of a certain age] grew up on this stuff. By the way,and having said that,I only just noticed that the two glasses aren't equally full...Shabbat Shalom!

Glazing the Dairy Milk Way

Just before Shabbat,and as promised,here is a short,but I hope instructional video of a chanukia getting glazed.Click the title if you have nothing better to do.

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Sybil Marshall z"l

Sybil was my teacher when I did my post-grad Certificate of Education at Sussex University in 1973 - in fact,she was the reason I took the course. She always claimed that she selected students for the course by the twinkle in their eyes,taught everything through art,and is a part of the stream of influence that led me to become a potter. After many years out of touch with her,I visited her and Ewan in [I think] 2004,happy to be able to tell her that I have always stayed true to her approach to education. She was a proud Celt,had a morbid fear of butterflies,and was an altogether wonderful and inspiring lady. For a few years I have been wondering how she was getting on - Helen found the answer yesterday. Click on title for her obituary.

Elusive Metaphor

The night before visiting the dig at Hatzor I spent on a wind-blown hill by Kadita,some 15 mins drive from Klezmer-loud Tsfat,gazing at the night sky with a bunch of friends to witness the Perseid meteor shower. It seemed very symbolic to be sorting through shards from 3000 years ago the next day - some sort of metaphor there to mull over,reminding me of the title of Weinberg's book about Bernard Leach,his connection to the Baha'i faith,and his little-known visit to Israel; the book is called "Spinning the Clay into Stars".

Here's my Question

[One of them,anyway]
I love the sight of the setting sun lighting up the dried husks of wild grasses as if they were made of porcelain. Now we know [we potters,that is] that the ash from such grasses and stalks is rich in silica - rice husk ash,according to Phil Rogers' book on ash glazes,contains an astonishing 94% silica [it's the basis for the Japanese/Mashiko Nuka glaze],and wheat straw 67%. Since silica,with a pinch or two of other minerals,gives us glass [and porcelain] and seems to be alone in the mineral world in its attribute of translucency,I wonder whether the translucence of those husks in the setting sun is due to their silicate nature. So far I have asked a couple of chemists,a passing nuclear physisist and friends ceramic and/or intelligent. Not that I am in any hurry to find an answer;meanwhile I'm just enjoying the question.

Broken Vessels

Broken but beautiful. Wabi,or possibly sabi.The top one is a stone mortar with its still uncovered pestle alongside.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Digging at Tel Hatzor

A conversation during last year's Symposium at Tel Hai led to two of our students taking part in this Summer's dig at Tel Hatzor - you take the old and now incredibly rural road to Ayelet HaShahar [where there's a fine museum display of finds from the site] and turn off at the sign. The current site,led by Professor Sharon Zuckerman,is a house [or houses] from 3300 years ago,grouped around a yard,or maybe a well,or possibly a collapsed building [Sharon hasn't made up her mind yet] with remains of beautiful big pots strewn about. It never ceases to amaze me how closely I identify with these old pots,and the potters who made them,leaving their marks in the clay and making their decisions about thickness,form,shape, decoration,foot and rim just as we do today.Gilat and Kyla unearthed two finds considered important enough to warrant their own envelopes,they proudly informed me. I generally stood around,trying to work out what was going on [not simple] and not trip over any stones. To show willing,I swept ineffectively around some strategic rocks,trying not to do any lasting damage,and feeling [once again] like a total apprentice.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oil Jugs

Completing the 2nd bisc kiln in the current series,to be followed next week by a couple of glaze firings. I made a batch in the previous round of work,and they've nearly all been sold. This time we made them in small,med and large sizes,as people found the large version too big for the table. In my 25 years in England,I doubt that I got through more than a liter or so of olive oil: now we buy it by the jerry-can [from Nevo in Sde Eliezer,unbeatable quality,pure "Suri" olive oil],and it doesn't last the year.

Monday, August 10, 2009


While I'm not the world's greatest klezmer fan,it's rather nice to find yourself living in the middle of a festival - crowded streets,people enjoying themselves,lots of action and music [even if it is klezmer]. As you can see in this view from our bedroom window,there's an impressive sound stage in our backyard ["What,the Stones are coming?" asks Helen],so we shall not have too much choice in our musical diet for the next three evenings.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Solution to Water Shortage - Dry Throwing

The clay is a rough red stoneware,which I shall probably glaze with the Nuka or Jun glazes,leaving the rim and outside exposed.Robin Welch taught me this technique at the beginning of my apprenticeship,before I could centre and throw in the usual "wet" way. A Youtube clip of Takeshi Yasuda's early pots reminded me of the technique and unglazed rim effect; I'd been wondering what to do with the red stoneware [used for the lanterns a while ago] and I felt like playing a bit before Shabbat. The first ones [on shelf at end of video] I threw wet,then decided to take it a step further and go for that nice wobbly semi-un-centred rim [click on title to watch].

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Thursday, August 06, 2009


By the way,these are the best: a bit hard to find [Pottercrafts used to sell them] but preferable to wood and aluminium versions,and less cumbersome than those fat perspex inside/outside callipers. Whatever you use,there's no substitute for practice...

There You Go

So much easier and quicker than trimming and fiddling with each one.

Moment of Truth

Rosh HaShana is looming,so time to make some honey containers - bases and lids thrown off the hump,all to the same measure. I remember the first time I made a batch like this and each lid fitted its base without trimming - I think that was the time I first felt I could call myself a production potter.

Performance Art

It's a bit un-nerving at first,but you soon realise that people love watching wheel-work [or anybody at work,I suspect] and that it all looks like magic to them. Kyla,having completed 3 years at Tel Hai,is working here as an apprentice,and has these two lads totally enthralled.


A couple of assembly pictures from the chanukiah and cutlery pieces...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Start Your Week with a Cutlery Strainer

Click on the title for the video. Like many of my shapes,this started partly as a technical exercise [trying to teach myself to throw],partly as a response to the horrible strainers available from shops. This time I filmed in silence [apart from soothing bells],adding the odd title. I don't feel I have to film piercing holes in the base and adding feet - right? Maybe a picture or two when I get around to it...