Surface Decoration

Salavaging Pottery

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Creativity, Surface Decoration | 1 comment

I messed up.  I over-fired a bisque load. It was careless and I still can’t figure out how it happened.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time that I’ve done this…it is the second. The first time it happened, our kiln was full of small bowls.  Although they didn’t take a lot of time to make, there were so many of them that we decided to try to salvage them.  When bisque pots are fired to maturity, they are no longer porous and therefore do not absorb glaze.  So the challenge to saving them is to get glaze to adhere to the pot during the re-firing.  Vertical surfaces are especially difficult as the glaze often succumbs to gravity and falls off the pot.    We averted this particular difficulty by applying iron-oxide to the outside of the bowls.  In order to glaze the inside of the bowls, we heated them and applied several coats.  The results were mixed.  The iron-oxide was successful; but, there was a lot of glaze crawling inside the bowls.  So we re-applied glaze to them again and re-fired for a third time – and several were saved. They say necessity is the mother of invention – or in our case, the mother of creativity.  Since my debacle, we began incorporating iron-oxide into our surface treatment options when using runny glazes. Unfortunately, this most recent kiln load had an assortment of of pots.  The larger the pot, the more prone it is to cracking when re-fired.  We spent a day trying to salvage the pots that resulted in little success and a lot of ugly or broken pots.  In fact, the only success was the mugs that Julie thought looked like ancient maps.  The lesson learned from this most recent episode is sometimes we need to cut our...

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The Potter and the Baker

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in About Me, Slip Trailing | 3 comments

I love to cook; but baking was never a passion.  It had to do with 2 things: calories and messiness.  No matter what you bake, there are a lot of calories.  And, sous-potter, Jeff, doesn’t like breads or sweets, which means the bulk of the calories are mine to consume unless I can find some other sacrificial soul. The other reason I didn’t care for baking was the mess – flour everywhere and sticky hands.  But, working in clay has made me much more comfortable with sticky hands.  Whereas I used to stop every few minutes and wipe them clean, I’m more comfortable with messy hands and only stop to clean them when it is necessary for the task rather than repetitively washing them.  Pottery also taught me how to keep my work space tidy.  I am also more conscientious about using tools and putting them away immediately because no matter what the studio or kitchen size, there is never enough space so I’ve learned to protect workspace by keeping things orderly and out of the way. As I was making sugar cookies this weekend, I realized how much pottery has improved my baking skills.  I rolled out the dough much more evenly and I didn’t over work it (this may not be a benefit from clay but a result of laziness because most of the clay I wedge has air bubbles in it – I have never been guilty of over working clay).  And, I had a steadier hand when I was decorating the cookies – probably a result of a lot of practice slip...

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Bonne Anniversaire!

Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 in About Me, Mugs, Surface Decoration | 2 comments

One year!  It has been one year since I started this blog.  And, I have to say, that I have enjoyed working on it more than I would have thought.  I enjoy finding photos and working out ideas to share.  Thank you to everyone who checks in.  I am honored that you choose to spend some of your valuable time with me.  I am looking forward to continuing to share my musings on pottery and anything else that I can put into coherent...

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Scavenging for Scrolls

Posted by on Sep 10, 2011 in About Me, Inspiration, Slip Trailing | 1 comment

We recently hosted some of our Colorado family who chose to spend their vacation with us.  And, September is a wonderful time to visit Eastern NC (as long as the hurricanes stay away).  One of the places we took them to see was Tryon Palace in New Bern. It was a beautiful day and as I wandered around the grounds, I got so inspired by the wrought-iron patterns.  Wouldn’t some of these patterns look lovely slipped onto a plate or...

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Know Thy Glazes

Posted by on Jun 1, 2011 in Glazes, How-to, Philosophy, Surface Decoration, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The focus of 2010 was to work out some glaze combinations that would enhance the functional pottery that we love to make.  In order to accomplish that, we made hundreds of small bowls.  (I had been making test tiles but after I had accumulated 2 buckets of unusable tiles, I reconsidered and began testing glazes on small bowls and plates – I am too pragmatic for that sort of waste.) I used singular glazes and glazes in combinations.  I alternated layering glazes under and over one another.  At first, I tried to keep track of the glazes by writing down the glazes with a description of the pot.  That method worked well until I tested a several glazes in a kiln-full of pots; then it became confusing.  So I began using an under-glaze pencil to number the pots.  (Note: If you use an under-glaze pencil, write on the pot before waxing the bottom.) After testing a glaze, I spent time considering it – what did it do; did it break; was it responsive to another glaze; is it translucent; what else would look good with it; etc.  One glaze test did not answer all the questions.  But, asking questions inspired more glaze testing – and the next round of testing was focused and purposed. Now, here’s the thing, I had to resist getting sucked into the vortex of testing and trying new glazes.  At some point, I knew I needed to select a few combinations that I liked and begin using them on the pots that I regularly make.  This forced me to refine the glaze combinations and applications. All of this helped me learn the character of the glazes and continues to help me use the glaze more effectively.  The wrong glaze can ruin a great pot.  So all this to say: select a few glazes that really appeal to you, test them a few times, take notes, ask lots of questions, learn their behavior, and commit to a palette for your...

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A Potter’s Most Challenging Request

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in About Me, Glazes, Mugs, Multiples, Pottery, Selling Pottery, Spring Snow, Surface Decoration | 2 comments

I love mugs and I love making mugs – they are probably my favorite pots to make.  However, I shudder with anxiety when some one wants to replace a beloved but broken mug. As a potter, I get a lot of  requests for mugs.  But, when some one is looking to replace a mug, they don’t want a new mug; they want the same mug that they had.  Inevitably, these are coffee drinkers who have spent countless mornings with a familiar friend.  And, they often tell me in detail why their mug was perfect – ‘the handle was comfortable’, ‘it fit the curve of my hand’, ‘ it held exactly the amount of coffee I can drink before it gets cold’, etc.   One gentleman who visited our craft show booth even carried his broken mug of 20+ years with him trying to find its replacement!  No mug can live up to such legacies. The real issue is not that there aren’t wonderful mugs to choose from.  The real issue is that those mug-seekers will initially compare every mug to their old mug; and, all they will notice are the deficiencies of the new mug.  Change is challenging for most of us.  We cling to the comfort of the familiar.   But, if those mug-enthusiasts overcome their loss and if they select one of my mugs, I count it an honor because I hope that something I made will become a celebrated and familiar part of their daily...

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