Appreciation of our Masters & Teachers

There is a wood-fired kiln is the  Jingdezhen Zhen Kiln. According to Wikipedia, “Jingdezhen (or the Town of Jingde) is a prefecture-level city, previously a town, in northeastern Jiangxi province, China, with a total population of 1,554,000 (2007),[1] bordering Anhui to the north. It is known as the “Porcelain Capital” because it has been producing pottery for 1,700 years.”

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The largest wood-fire kiln in North America is the Johanna Kiln. According to St. John’s University website on the subject, “…the Johanna Kiln can fire up to 12,000 works of pottery and sculpture. It is named in honor of S. Johanna Becker, OSB and is the largest wood-burning kiln of its kind in North America. The kiln takes at least six weeks to load and is typically fired in the fall.”  The website goes on to describe the 3 chambers as such:

“The first chamber is loaded with unglazed pieces and fired to allow for the accumulation of a natural ash glaze surfacing from the wood fuel and firing process. The fire then moves consecutively through all three chambers, or 1,600 cubic feet of interior space, making efficient use of fuel and minimizing waste heat.

The second chamber, or glaze chamber, is loaded with glazed pottery. The chamber is carefully brought up to temperature to allow for special effects such as hair’s fur glaze streaking as part of the extended firing and cooling timeframe. This glaze firing technique is not otherwise obtainable in traditional gas or electric kiln firing practices.

Finally, the unique Tanegashima chamber has eighteen stoking windows in the roof of the kiln. Wood is stoked downwards into the open spaces separating ten rows of kiln shelves and clay works. This creates an environment where large amounts of wood and flame are in continuous contact with the pottery, generating unique flame patterns onto each ceramic surface.

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And then there was a YouTube video I watched of someone loading a wood-fire kiln.

This video gave me a whole new appreciation for Master Potter Tim See & all the volunteers who load the wood-fire kiln where my pottery is brought to its completed phase.

* Heart-based *

900 Year Old Bowl = $38 Million Dollars

This news about a Sotheby’s auction item has allowed me to view my pottery in a new light!  Previously I only resonated with the idea of ancient civilizations producing pottery out of necessity to carry their food, drink, possessions, etc. I still resonate strongly with that; however, with this new information of a 900 year old bowl…. my mind has been expanded!    Jinkies!    900 Year Old Bowl = $38 Million Dollars

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So think about it.. 900 years ago – that’s a L-O-N-G time ago.  A skilled potter, perhaps on a sunny day, sat in front of a mound of clay that was gathered nearby, and was cleaned and maybe processed by his own hands.  While a whole story can be built around that simple snapshot, we journey further down the timeline to when the potter decided to place THAT glaze on the piece and then placed it in the kiln, which resulted in the cracked glazing effect.  According to the CNN article the piece comes from the ‘once-famous kilns of Ruzhou” during China’s Song Dynasty, which is very cool read unto itself.  Furthermore, according to the article, and this is so cool, ‘the style of the bowl is known as Ru guanyao or Ru “ice crackle”… and is known for the cracked glaze’s ability to reflect light.’  So thank you ancient potters.  Thank you history of mankind.  Thank you for enriching and deepening my awareness and appreciation for creation.

Free Range

This years’ woodfiring was postponed slightly due to flooding.  Two weeks ago the wood firing team commenced the process with storing of wood and loading the kiln. Loading the kiln is definitely a fun event due to the number of good folks who come to help.  I missed the loading because of my 9-5.  For several days, 4 hours a day, the team fed thewood-kiln and last Thursday the kiln was unloaded.  Now the unloading part is the one phase that I haven’t experienced yet so I was “stoked” to get that chance… but as it turns out my hot water tank wanted our full attention that day.  C’est la vie. Now I can change the elements of those suckers! LOL. I vow to experience the unloading at the next wood firing event and then some!   

Gifting Gratitude

During my last Spring class at Clayscapes Pottery I was gifted with two pieces from artists unknown. Appreciation of the gifts inspire awareness of the heart’s intent and energy connection of the artist.

 

Holding each piece and studying it allows my focus and intent to increase gratitude for its creation.

Thank you for these gifts.

Snowstorm Stella

I think I was conceived during the Buffalo, NY blizzard of 1966, and born later that year.  Being born in Buffalo I’ve learned the richness of being identified for a particular trait – in the case of the city of Buffalo, it’s Chicken Wings and Snow. As it turns out moving to Central NY brought another Snow perspective: Buffalo, NY typically gets a lot of snow dumped on her in a couple big batches, while Syracuse, NY gets her snow in a continuous deposit.  I believe Syracuse is a major contender for the Golden Snowglobe Award each year, many times over Buffalo.  

Okay, so what’s the connection between Snow & the magic and beauty of Pottery?

I was given permission to post this on my blog, courtesy of artist Carrie Koziel Althouse (visit www.althousepottery.com):

 

For The Love of Pottery!

A Wow’s Tail (updated)

The wood-firing was a success! I created several vases, experimenting with the form. Some were wood-fired, some were finalized in the electric kiln. A few more pieces from the electric kiln will finalize the proposed set. Hopefully one will please my cherished friend.

 

The 3rd and 4th pictures are the finished piece of my 1st coiled vase!  I love the Paisley, perhaps I’ll focus on that in future work.

Read below the journey of the requested vase.


 

A very good friend of mine asked if I could make a vase similar to one she already owned, but which was recently felled by her daughter’s cat.  My initial thoughts were “Wow!”, “What an honour”, and then, “How and when can I attempt this?”.

The vase she showed me was in pieces, was tall (14-16″), had a blue-purple glaze, and had an indigenous-looking depiction of a dancer.

 

Oh dear! My current pottery experience didn’t include anything over 8″!

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( by the way this isn’t me )

So I worked out a schedule, considering I was in the middle of doing pieces for Wood-Firing (a technique and process that I thoroughly have been enjoying!)  I told my friend that the earliest I could focus attention on her request would be 5-6 months. She was okay with that – WHEW!

The time came to give ‘er a try. I did have some Bmix Wood clay left and thought I’d experiment with that clay to allow my mind and body to get inline with my spirit to create a tall vase (taller than my usual 8 inches or so).

So off I went.. I talked with my instructor about my intentions and she suggested I try coiling. She provided some tips as I’ve never coiled before.

This was my first attempt:

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First attempt at coiling a tall vase

Let me share with you that I had to make a LOT of coils (and my back ached for a while afterwards), and had to keep them from drying out (in a large plastic zip bag) before I layered coil after coil. My coils were too thick (this I realized later). Looking back I think I may have been okay with thinner coils (I’ll give that a try next).

I wrapped the coils on the outside of a PVC pipe lined with plastic wrap. As the clay slowly dried I would check on vase – I would be pleasantly amazed on how tall (and bumpy from the coils) it was, and so heavy/sturdy. When it came time to trim I didn’t know what to expect. I soon found out that there were little spaces between the coils. Although looking solid, the vase did have what appeared to be little areas of gapping – nothing large that that you see through to the other side – but rather areas where the coils weren’t consistently flush. So I would trim the clay (on the outside and inside) to a degree of smoothness and then tend to the little gaps with some vinegar and reworking/smoothing.  It was about this time that I knew I had to seriously think about what type of bottom I was going to put on this baby. So I created a flattened bottom made with a slight curving in the middle, and attached it to the vase once it was slightly less than leather hard. I coiled the inside and outside where I attached the bottom. Whew! I felt so good doing this vase via coils, trimming and putting on a bottom.  Wow! A sense of adventure and accomplishment indeed – but I knew I was only 1/2 way to completion.

So while the vase with slowly drying still, I thought I’d starting throwing tall cylinders. I definitely had fun – BUT… and isn’t there usually always a BUT?  Something unusual was happening. As I was making the cylinders I noticed little air pockets in the walls. I would try to remedy this as I was throwing the clay and I would do more wedging of the clay before throwing it. Wedging is so very important for this fact alone – as no one wants air bubbles in their work. As stated on Lillstreet Art Center blog page, “The air bubble (will) expand when it is heated in the kiln and the air will have to escape somehow.  The point of escape (aka the size of the hole it creates) depends on the size of the air bubble.  Wedging also aligns the clay particles so that it is more workable.”

Wedging Technique (image courtesy of meeneecat education materials)

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( these are not my hands )

I soon realized that the whole batch of remaining Bmix Wood clay had this issue. My thoughts then entertained the possibilities of 1) making a decent wedge table; and 2) purchasing a clay Pug Mill!  Note: Pug Mills save your back, arms and shoulders from aches due to a) tons of wedging because the clay would be de-aired and would have more plasticity due to the mixing/pugging; and b) working hard to center clay that has less plasticity.  However, Pug Mills cost around $4,000+, new!  Quite an investment indeed.

In the meantime, back to my first coiled vase…

I knew this vase most likely wasn’t going to my friend as the requested vase, so I allowed this as an opportunity to play.  And boy did I play! I thought to etch or Sgraffito a design on the exterior – using a red underglaze.

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Coiled vase with red underglaze

I’ll post a photo shortly of the design, and of course a picture of the final product after the wood-firing.  Oh I can’t wait to wood fire these pieces!  Stay tuned, and thanks for joining me on this journey of the heart!


Here’s an update! (June 16, 2017)

These pieces are prepped to go into the next  Wood-firing scheduled for mid July! These have interior glaze of Gold Shino, with some having Gold Shino external accents.  Note a couple pieces have Chakra inspiration.

 

I have another set of pieces to prep. Going to use a different internal glaze, and will try to accent with some Native American honoring.