Sunday, February 15, 2015

Childlike Enthusiasm

It is not sophisticated technique or exact skill
but childlike enthusiasm, 
timeless concentration
and pure devotion that feed this clay to life for me.

Knowing this as my hands work slower than my desire to create,
feeling this on frigid winter mornings when clay spirits are
cold and so am I.
Laughing in J.C. Penney's when I notice there is still clay
stubbornly stuck under my fingernails,
and I pass a free manicure display.

Dreaming up new shapes and stories for brown
earth and me, as I secretly call myself
Mud Woman.

Indulging in limitless, creative possibilities.
How lucky I am to know this clay.

Nora Naranjo-Morse

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kiln, Greenware, and Birds

Going to California.

Overcast and in the 40s today. Got up at 10am to one sale in the Etsy shop: a green yarn bowl is going to California. 

After having brunch (kale and mushroom fritatta) and reading the paper I made it out to the studio by 12:30pm. It's 72 degrees in the studio: nice!

There's a flock of juncos scrabbling in the dead leaves outside the studio door.

Today I'll be happy if I can get a bisque load started. But first I'm making witness cone plaques in anticipation of the eventual glaze firing. After all the issues w/ firings at the end of the year I had a long talk w/ the Skutt representative (Wouldn't life be so much nicer if every customer service rep was as helpful and pleasant as the Skutt people?). I had been telling my husband that there *had* to be something wrong w/ the 20-year old manual kiln because my glazes were coming out all wrong. Husband, who is an electrical engineer, researched it and concluded that it was unlikely that it was the kiln. The Skutt technician agreed. More likely it was the glazes, which had been sitting in their buckets for several months and had turned a strange color. In any case, I learned a lot about my kiln from the Skutt technician. The most interesting thing I learned is that since I'm firing to ^6 my elements should last 200 to 250 firings -- I had been told I needed to change elements every 100 firings! I can actually go much longer since at least half of my firings are ^06. So, that is why I am making witness cone plaques. After all this time, I decided that I really need to know what is happening during my firings. And I'm making plaques because I didn't pay attention at the store and did not buy the self-supporting cones.

Witness Cones.

After making the cone plaques I started cleaning the greenware and loading the kiln. (I am definitely going to have to clean the shelves and put some kiln wash on them before the glaze firing.) I fuss too much with the greenware and, of course, I broke something. I have an order for a Starry Nights lamp twice the size I usually make them. I made 3 and was really quite happy with the way they came out, but I broke one during the cleaning up. It doesn't bother me too much to break ware. What bothers me is that I know better! As I was cleaning out all the clay burrs from the little stars, I was thinking that I needed to put a piece of foam under the lamp... but I didn't do it, so it broke.

I was able to fit in all the large bottle vases (some of them are for the silent auction at my granddaughter's school), the batter bowls, the brie bakers, and the mugs. The two platters were left out, they'll go in the next firing. A lot of stuff was still wet so I'm candling the kiln today. It'll run with the bottom ring on low and the lid and all 6 peep holes open for about 10 hours. Tomorrow, I'll do the actual bisque firing.

After that, I cleaned up a little... mostly put stuff away and wiped down the shelves. Then I played with some recycled clay that I pugged a couple of days ago. I made a wrapped vase like the ones I used to make when I first started out and my throwing skills left much to be desired. I also made a couple of plates using Styrofoam rings as molds as shown in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly. I don't have a lot of patience for this and did it from memory rather than follow the directions. The foam rings are too deep, I think, and they look more like bowls than plates.

I've got the yarn bowl packed up and ready to go tomorrow. The kiln is off now and the mugs on the top shelf look dry and ready for tomorrow's bisque firing. It's still 72 degrees in the studio, but the temperature is falling outside and there's a cold rain coming down.

There was a flock of robins scrabbling around in the leaves when I came inside.