Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tel Hai Salt Kiln

This one got a full blast of salt

Slab-built and thrown mugs

A couple of slim storage jars

2nd-year student Maayan got some good results..

The kiln door has seen better days...

We fired last Wednesday; the firing went well,lasting 10 1/2 hours with 7 1/2 kilos salt. I could see some frothing on the silicon-carbide shelves,so was expecting more damage to pots than we found when we opened the kiln on Tuesday. The kiln was very loosely stacked,and the salt seems to have found its way around the pots evenly. Before every firing I think that this may be the last one in this kiln; afterwards, there always [so far] seems to be enough structure for one more firing...

Four Casseroles

Not the simplest shapes to make- the lids are especially tricky until you get the hang of them. I was quite [and pleasantly] surprised that all four made it through their glaze firing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

...וענן כבד על ההר

..."and a thick cloud upon the mountain"...
Mount Meron often has its own micro-climate- appropriate for Shavuot, when we celebrate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. I suppose you could say that Mount Meron gave us Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and the teachings of the Kabbalah...
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Shavuot!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Torah of Kiln-Building

A few more struts in place
Starting to build the former
Front and back pieces [the angle makes them look uneven]...and yes,they do look appropriately like the luchot haBrit as we approach Shavuot

Measuring and marking out the shape of the kiln
Supposedly a project with Tel Hai students,but they're always in the middle of doing something else important whenever I ask for help,so meanwhile I'm progressing slowly by myself.
My aim is to build this prototype kiln at minimal expense,recycling and using scrap materials wherever possible. Students at Tel Hai learn to fire gas kilns,but when they leave us they find that there are none to be bought in Israel [unless you have 60,000 shekels to spend]. It seems to me that there's a place for a small,simple-to-build-and-fire kiln that runs on one burner and off a single large gas "ballon" [a larger kiln needs more burners,and probably a huge subterranean gas tank]. I'm hoping it will fire evenly as an updraft kiln,with no need for a chimney [again for simplicity] and have some design thoughts about how to swing that which will become clear when we get to that stage. Most potters start their professional lives with an electric kiln [as I did]- among other considerations it makes sense to start with a simpler firing technique while getting your first studio together and deciding what you're going to make,moving on to gas a few years later when you're more established. A small gas kiln like this one [currently 60cms wide at the bottom,80cms high and 90 deep,built with a 30/60cm shelf in mind] will hold quite a few pots when you learn what to make for it,and would provide an interesting/occasional opportunity for pursuing commendable gas-firing urges.
I have my eye on a pile of broken insulating bricks left over from previous kiln projects; we discovered a ready-made block base round the back of the department,where we built the first [soda] kiln quite a few years ago,and there are binsful of ownerless scrap clay lying around from which to mix up a binding mortar [sawdust,grog,sand,straw etc.]; I have a few old shelves somewhere, a suitable burner [venturi] costs $50-70 in the States,and that should be the major expense if all goes well...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tel Hai Sits and Eats

The fabled Wednesday lunch in our Pottery department. I'm here firing the salt kiln.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Here You All Are

Thank you to my loyal readers; a special big up to all of you in "unknown"- what's the weather like there? Compared with a year ago,there are far fewer of you in Unknownland...not quite sure what that means...

Not So Smart

I made 4 large [5kg] porcelain bowls and they all cracked in exactly the same place while drying. Porcelain is a wonderful teacher if you can take the lessons it teaches which are,in this case,
1] I'm not as smart as I thought [probably the most important lesson ]
2] If you're making big pots,expect big losses.
3] I need to redesign the profiles around the foot of the bowls so that there isn't such a big difference in thickness between the wall and the base.
That's as far as I've got so far- I'm just happy it didn't happen in the bisc firing- at least I get to use the clay again.
Pictures from Monday's glaze kiln firing will follow soon, with maybe some pictures from Raanana Pottery Fair,whither I'm heading this afternoon...see you there?

Isn't Nature Wonderful?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What's in a Kiln?

There are some blank porcelain name-plates,one of which is destined for luster lettering for Mrs.Cohen's son,who broke the last one when moving house; a few medium-sized bowls ( blue slip,cream and colored glazes) left over from the last glaze firing; a dozen or so white cups for Kabbalah decals ( to fill up the luster firing);more porcelain bowls glazed experimentally with celadon inside and tenmoku or a new shino/luster outside; mayim achronim sets ( none left on the shelves);numerous small carved porcelain dishes in celadon as kiln-fillers;stoneware oval and rectangular baking dishes,some with lids ( not so easy to make- I hope they survive the firing); a couple of pieces by the last apprentice; an unglazed bottle shape,a commission;maybe a refire or two of Meir's pots from last year's Anagama ( the kiln isn't fully loaded yet);cutlery (or silverware,as it is known in the States) holders/strainers and natlot (2-handled washing cups) providing some taller pieces for the top shelf of the kiln. I can't seem to post pictures from this iPad- I'll try to add one tomorrow when I've finished glazing and loading,hoping to fire on Monday.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Heads Up

I'm planning to give a short workshop with my former student and fellow-potter Yona in her studio in Alon Shvut next week Wednesday [May 9th] around 1-4 p.m.; I think there are still places available,so if it sounds interesting call her on 0545924043 for details.