Friday, May 28, 2010

Classic Stick-Up

Friday afternoon and once again I'm sticking handles on mugs,a favourite occupation.A brief but instructive video will be available in a few minutes when it's finished uploading to Youtube...click on title...Shabbat Shalom!
p.s.-ex-apprentice Goldie paid a brief visit today and questioned the recent spate of Klezmer backing tracks on videos,so we're back to internet reggae this time...


More from Raanana .


On Wewdnesday a bus-load of Tel Hai teachers and students drove to Hazorea to see David Glick's collection of tea-bowls and Hilda Merom's wonderful new work,then on to Raanana for this year's Potters' Fair,from which here are a few pictures...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fluting Video

As if all this blogging wasn't enough,I rattled off a quick video while fluting a lone porcelain bowl,and present it for your entertainment and edification. The technique is from ancient China via Bernard Leach via David Leach,although they did it with a piece of broken hacksaw blade - I use heated and bent watch-spring.Click title to watch. Off to Raanana iun an hour or so with Tel Hai bus,stopping at Hazorea teabowl exhibition.


Current Crop

Our wonderful talented students at Tel Hai- those who showed up on time,at least. Oded [3rd year] was present,but stretched out on the floor round the back partially encased in slip-soaked flannelette cloth as he attempts an ambitious body-cast for his final project,so unable to participate.


Of course,we shouldn't forget that evocative bygone profession,the saggar-maker's bottom-knocker; that's him,the lad on the right,wielding his bottom-knocker's mawl.

Potters' Pride

Those were the days!


The lost art of saggar-making,from the days before kiln-shelves,when kilns -in England- were round and fired with coal. I think the word saggar comes from the Hebrew root sagur meaning closed [I do enjoy using italics]. One of our Tel Hai students [Mor] wants to try some saggar firing,so I looked out 2 of my favorite pictures from "Refractory Materials:their Manufacture and Uses", a venerable [1940] and weighty tome salvaged from the ruins of Naaman Porcelain factory by Sydney and passed on to me; on the whole,it's a hopelessly technical volume, but scattered with pictures of wonderful obscure contraptions from Britain's engineering glory days,operated by nonchalent men with imposing moustaches. I'll post some more pictures to give the flavour...

Taking Stick

Not fired - not even dry,but an example of the possibilities of using those left-over cane trimmings I showed you a while back.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wherever You Go,There You Are

Neighbor Laurie brought me an old teapot of mine whose lid had broken: she asked me to make a new lid [the bane of a potter's life] but I'm going to make her a new tea-pot [the spout is cracked as well] - she's the local agent for a rather good microbrewery,so maybe we can trade. The tea-pot must be all of 20 years old, and I realised that the handle is from the same hank of cane that I used a few weeks ago to make that batch of handles:even the technique is the same...and yes,I know the handle is too long.
By the way,Raanana Pottery Fair is upon us- this week Tues/Wed/Thurs,I think...I'm planning on visiting probably with Sydney and probably on Wednesday- see you there?

Friday, May 21, 2010


I'm hoping to start a couple of weeks of porcelain throwing,after 3 biscsfull of stoneware. Most of the work will be with the amenable Coleman porcelain,but I have a batch of the original Naaman porcelain soaking with a plasticizing mixture of my devising [ball clay,bentonite,molochite,VgumTee]. I also prepared some "straight" Naaman porcelain,which we know contains kaolin [50%] feldspar and quartz [25% each]- a classic formulation,made for slip-casting and very hard to throw on the wheel: it's extremely floppy,and demands constant attention while throwing. Potters talk of such clays as lacking bones,an excellent quality in a fish fillet,but problematic in a throwing clay. This lack of structural strength when wet makes it a wonderful teacher- most of my wheel technique was learned on pure Naaman porcelain and the notoriously limp B5 white stoneware from the late Avi Leumi. Having cleaned up the studio in readiness for the porcelain,I was gratified to see that I can still throw [just about] with the pure unadulterated Naaman.

Kiddush Cup/Goblet

This is how I make kiddush cups. I always enjoy forming the foot by pushing in the middle with a kidney; not to be attempted unless you remember to make a hole first. Click title to view on Youtube.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mother-in-law's Cushion

From my student Orit's garden in Cnaan. She assures me that this is its name; one feels that it's not altogether complimentary.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Filling Up

The studio is filling up with bisc; where I'm going to stack the next 2 bisc kilns I have no idea,but it's worked in the past.
Meanwhile I put some lugs on the porringers I threw on Friday [small steep-sided bowls with handles] and posted a clip on Youtube,which you may watch at the click of the title above.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't Mess With My Boy

Not while he's holding his atlatl,at least. Top of his class in atlatl hurling - I knew that 3 years military service spear-throwing in Givati regiment would come in handy one day.[ The keen-eyed will notice that he did in fact miss the centre of the target by a wide margin,but would have inflicted a nasty wound nonetheless.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tsfat Views

This place used to be Amitai's gallery [for Tsfat fans] and seems to be taking a long break in its restoration process.

Sydney's Pile of Bricks

I tracked them down after Tel Hai yesterday,on my way to load up a large bin-full of dry Naaman porcelain chunks from Sydney's inexhaustible supplies. a lovely sight,no?

New Wheel

Yesterday at Tel hai we unwrapped our latest wheel,kindly donated by Ruth Corman our generous benefactress: it's a Thomas Stuart wheel rebranded as a Skutt,who have recently taken over the firm. The wheels are new in Israel [though recommended by Robin Hopper when he visited a couple of years ago] so I thought we'd try one out in the grueling conditions of Tel Hai. This is the smallest version [1/3 hp];initial impressions [mine,after 10 mins tryout] are favorable,but the true test of a wheel is its longevity,so we'll see if it's still spinning in a couple of years.

It Could Be Worse...

Another dusty sunset [probably] somewhere out in space [no,I didn't take the picture with my iPhone].


A dusty sharav sunset over Meron...

Before and After

A short,thick,cone-shaped form thrown from 650 gr. clay by the current apprentice [Ricki] shown first leather-hard,then a few minutes later after some vigorous planing with a Surform tool [and a trimmed and cut foot].

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Favorite Tsfat Geranium

Friday, May 07, 2010


Some of Sydney's bricks.This might look like just a stack of bricks to you,but it will gladden the heart and quicken the pulse of any kiln-builders out there.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Complicated Life

The simple life is all well and good,but every now and then one feels the need to mix it up a bit. These tea-pots [a style I've made every couple of years for quite a while] have every addition you could want - handles,spouts [double-bent],strainers,oval lids with steam-holes and lugs to stop them falling out at full pour [you can't see them],thumb- and finger-stops and feet,apart from being put together from 2 separate wall-pieces and a base.
Visitors to the studio often ask how long it takes to make a pot: potters know that this is a difficult question to answer,because we work on pots at different stages and times. Most of us have a bunch of smart-ass answers at the ready a la Picasso ["5 minutes to draw it,20 years to learn how"];these 6 tea-pots take me 2 days to make and assemble. In an attempt to find a more realistic response,I once worked out a calculation of firings per year,pots per firing and hours work per week and came up with the answer: on average,it takes me one hour to make a pot,from wedging the clay to fired work. Happy now?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Once every 20 years the plate-glass factory in Tzipori relines its continuous [1700 degrees] kiln,dumping the last 500 ton melt of glass and selling off the high-alumina hard bricks to needy potters. Sydney,whose legendary brick reserve has dwindled to next to nothing,has bought some 20 tons of brick and some rather attractive lumps of glass,a couple of which I photographed. The white stuff is cristobalite,an alternative crystalline form of silica rarely occuring in nature,but somehow produced at the glass/brick interface by the extreme conditions in the kiln,and not to be confused with mullite ,another quartz morph,which is named after the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
We are planning to build a modestly-sized wood-fired kiln with a ton or so of the bricks,and are currently debating the virtues of Bourry-box versus fastfire [Olsen] designs, discussing heatedly the arcane art of kiln proportions and brushing up on our brick-laying technique. The 20 tons of brick are safely behind a wall where you can't see them,which is where Sydney tends to keep large piles of ceramic materials. We went to have a look at them this afternoon and we couldn't even see them.

Spring in Yesod

Spring in the Galilee has been unusually long and cool [global warming,doubtless]; in Yesod HaMaala everything is in bloom...

Come Again?

From the refurbished Maayan supermarket in Rosh Pina.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Unitarian Jihad Again

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: The Broadsword of Forgiveness.

Get yours.

[Back by popular request.]