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Making new work

Since my back is giving me trouble, this last week and a half have been spent doing less kiln relating stuff and more pot making. Sitting at the wheel actually makes the back feel better for a change, so what a great opportunity to make some pots, eh?

I did something I don’t normally do, and that is order clay from a professional rather than dig my own. Reasoning being that in this first firing I’ll lose a lot, if not most of everything, and I’d rather lose the store bought stuff than the good stuff. It’s reasonably cheap, and I actually like one of the types for throwing and trimming, final judgement will have to wait until the finished product comes out. I ended up ordering 5 kinds: a karatsu type, a high iron type that’s relatively unrefined, a high iron type thats quite smooth with extra iron oxide mixed in (should be good for doing white slip work), an amakusa porcelain for throwing, and another for slab work. The porcelains are available in various grades, depending on how much iron you want in them. The highest grades have the least iron, for a bright white result. Lower grades have more iron and start to get a somewhat bluish hue, like the old Imari ware. Personally, I like that bluish hue of the old Arita and Imari.

Below are some photos of some of the work, sorry photos are not great quality as I kept forgetting to take them until the sun had gone down. Mostly med to small bowls and plates so far, the red clay pieces are food dishes.

In the top photo, the middle and bottom rows are some of the new work. Middle row from left are Large katakuchi, small katakuchi (sorry the spouts are facing away. I’ll get more photos of these later), Komogai style tea bowls, and nanasun bachi (shallow bowls 7 sun wide. Sun is a unit of measurement about 3 cm)

 Just thrown multi purpose rolled lip bowls to the rear, about 7″ wide. Rolled lip food dishes at the fore.

 Food dishes (mukozuke in Japanese) with little decorative warts added.

 Food dishes trimmed, and showing detail of the foot.

Enough for now, time to make more pots! Cheers!

The welding begins

My friend Hitsuoka san came over yesterday to start welding the chimney. We are basically taking 5cm L angle and using it to tie the 10cm L angle together on two sides. The gives us basically 2 ‘ladders’ which will then be tied together with turnbuckles.

In the pictures below you can see the 5cm angle welded on to the larger vertical pieces. Last picture is of the turnbuckle/angle units that Hitsuoka san welded together. These will be attached to the sides of the chimney (the sides that do not have the 5cm crosspieces attached). The turnbuckles will allow for a bit of adjustment, just in case the chimney gets loose from expansion and contraction.

A potter’s nightmare

Thought I’d share a dream I had last night, or nightmare rather. There is a kiln in my head, which I have dreamed about numerous times. This is a recurring dream, the outcome/results usually different, but the kiln doesn’t ever change. It is difficult to describe, but suffice to say that as kilns go, it is one of the kind that only make sense in a dream. It is in the shape of a squared off “U”, the main ware chamber being on one leg of the U, the firebox is on the other leg of the U.You access the chamber and the interior is quite large, with shelves along the wall and on an island in the middle of the chamber.

The firebox is very large and takes long pieces of wood, but is open at the front, you can see all of the wood burning, and after going back a meter or two, is open on the top and sides, effectively separating it from the kiln.  For some reason, the heat/flame goes back into the kiln rather than out the top and sides. In the dream, I am always worried about getting to temp, a very strong feeling of nagging anxiety. The part of the U connecting the firebox side to the ware chamber side I’ve never actually seen, it’s just a long brick expanse stretching between the two parts. There are no thermocouples in the kiln, and there never seem to be any cones.

In last nights dream, I was worried that the kiln didn’t get to temp, as usual, but when I opened the chamber, EVERYTHING was overfired. Glazes in puddles on the shelves, plates sagging all over the place, and not just sagging, but sagging off the ends of the shelves, literally hanging there. I have no idea why I loaded them that way, halfway off of the shelves. The large jars were melted down into the shelves in place, with just the necks sticking up out of the molten mess. To add insult to injury, the glazes were really boring, flat dead, whites, and smooth flat unbroken dark brown.

That’s about the extent of what I can remember for now. Mercifully, the memory of the nightmare is short. Anyway, kind of an amusing start to the day, got a good chuckle after the initial shock.

So, new wood kiln, never been fired, getting ready for the first firing ever, spent uncountable hours in planning and construction, not to mention the money invested, perhaps there are a few subconscious bits flying around in my head, having their way with me when I’m sleeping. Just sayin’…

What is that sound?

Don’t tell me you can’t hear it. It is the sound of a FINISHED CHIMNEY! YES!

Ok, well perhaps not that exciting, but a big relief, especially since my back went south on my yesterday evening. Woke up this morning and could hardly move. Did a lot of stretching and moving around for about an hour before everything started to loosen up. Took a couple of ibuprofen, which I hardly ever do, and got out there to add the last tiers to the stack.

Once I was working and loose, the pain pretty much stayed away all day, just had to make sure not to sit down and rest, which would have allowed the back to tighten up again. Made it through the day and finished the stack, finished filling in some voids in the second chamber, and got the insulation started on the second chamber. Really loved those jobs, the kind of jobs that take a few minutes to do and are done forever, unlike the friggin’ never ending chimney…

 Here are some of the pics:

 The yellow straps are on the wider rows just in case. Once the ‘L’ angle is on and welded, the straps will go away.

 After all of that work, I was rather disappointed to see that the wood kiln’s stack is shorter than the gas kiln stack.

 Here’s the blanket over the second chamber. I loved this job because it only took about 20 minutes…

 Rather than applying the cob over the blanket, like in the first chamber, I will apply insulating castable over the blanket. Gilding the lily, perhaps, but with all of that insulating castable left over, it is really a shame not to use it. Still trying to figure out a good way to insulate the front and back of this chamber.

Speaking of using up castable, it will also be used for the doors and stoke hole covers. Not so sure how it will hold up, but it’s worth a try.

Sick of Brick

Forgive my whining, but I’m tired of hauling 35 pound blocks up a ladder and stacking them on the chimney. My wrists and lower back have finally had enough too, I think. Thankfully I have only one level left to add to the chimney. Here are some pictures in order of progress over the last few days:


I like this last picture staring down into the chimney. Looks like something out of  a Predator movie to me, somehow. Today, as I knew I eventually would, I knocked my hammer of the lip and it fell down to the bottom. Luckily I was able to open up the flue channel at the base and fish it out. Did I mention I’m really sick of stacking blocks?

Cute kids

A class from a kindergarten came to visit the kiln a couple weeks back, and I finally got copies of the pictures. Here are the kids in the class having fun inside the new kiln.

Cute, aren’t they? The poor kid in the upper left of the second picture had gotten popped by some sort of hideous insect a couple of days prior. You can see his ear sticking out and puffed up.

Teacher told me the next week that when she asked the kids about what they liked most about my place, they all raved about the dog and the cat. Nobody remembered the kiln. Interesting what sticks in their minds. As important or unusual as a kiln seems to adults, kids could really care less… Reminded me that kids see things with different eyes than we do.

After they took pictures in the kiln, they all set out their picnic sheets on the deck of the house and we all had lunch together. The little guy on the left of the bottom pic took out his lunch, opened up his rice box and promptly dropped the whole load of rice on the deck. Without missing a beat, he just grabbed it all up, put it back in the box and licked the rice off his fingers. Must be a follower of the 3 second rule…