Breathe …is there anything more important?


What a difference a clay makes!

I just finished a couple of glaze tests. My goal is to develop a nice matte glaze to add to my palette with which I will be able to use with a variety of clays. I learned how to do this from John Britt's, instructional video, Understanding Glazes. I did a color blend and a triaxial blend. For a base I used a recipe for Val's Turquoise. I fired my samples in an electric kiln and used the firing schedule from Mastering Cone Six Glazes recommended for matte and semi-matte glazes, however, I added 15 minutes of hold time to the max. temperature which gave me a total of 30 minutes of hold time. I made test tiles from both light and brown colored clays. Pictured below is a photo of my triaxial blend. I used three coloring agents: copper carbonate, cobalt carbonate and chromium oxide. I am very happy with the bright colors that a strontium glaze gives and with this knowledge I can now pinpoint the exact color I want to use.

Triaxial Blend

My color blend (pictured below, from left to right: Spanish iron oxide, chartreuse Mason stain, cobalt-tin oxide-chromium, tin oxide-chromium, chromium oxide, rutile, red iron oxide, base only. Notice anything interesting about the samples on the brown clay?


 This can be seen better in this closeup, brown on the left and light-colored on the right.

Glaze Test Closeup

Yikes! Is that a major case of brown clay pitting and blistering or what!  Ive been trying to figure out why this happened.  Was it something with the recycled clay that I used? Did the brown clay have too much grog in it? Nope. I ruled this out because I did have a couple tiles of non-recycled brown clay which gave the same results.   All I can guess is that the coloring agent in the clay, which is probably iron, does not like this glaze base and reacts with something in the glaze and volatilizes. If anyone who might be reading this has had a similar experience, or who knows why this has happened, or knows what I can do to make this glaze work for brown clay, please let me know.

Despite the pitting and blistering, this was very fun and interesting. The samples on the light colored clay came out great. They are creamy matte, just what I was wanting.

Many thanks to John Britt for answering my questions and getting me started.

My results were quite a surprise. I thought that I would be able to guess at what the samples would look like on the brown clay. I was so wrong, but this is what makes ceramics so much fun.


Farewell to Cone 10 Reduction Glazes

For the last few years I have been studying ceramics with Larry Clark at North Idaho College. Last semester Larry decided to take a break from teaching and focus on his own work. From what I was told, Larry brought the practice of mixing glazes from recipes rather than buying commercial glazes to the school. The new teacher has decided to phase out cone 10 glazes and start using cone 6 glazes instead. This is probably a good idea. Firing a kiln at lower temperatures uses less natural gas and is kinder to the kiln and the kiln shelves, but I am a bit sad and wistful to see the cone 10 glazes go away. It took me a long time to get good results with them. Most folks will probably like cone 6 glazes better. Cone 10 reduction glazes are like fine vintage wines,  like a Bordeaux or  Burgundy, perhaps. They have a subtle depth, are earthy, and are an acquired taste. Younger students prefer brighter more vivid, brighter colors, something more like a White Zinfandel, fruity and accessible.

The following are pictures from the last firing  with cone 10 glazes. I was pleased with the results. The black glaze came out sooo good! The first picture is a group shot. The the others are closeups.


Group shot

A closeup of the lid of a large lidded jar - the biggest thing I have ever made. I threw it in five pieces.


A closeup of a plate.


A closeup of a lidded jar.


A closeup of a neti pot from the top. I hope to be making more of these. I throw them in only 2 pieces.


A lidded jar that I make in collaboration with Danny Snow. I threw the lidded jar. She did the beautiful scrafitto.




Yes!!! Let there be smoke going up the chimney.

I finally got around to firing my barrel kiln. I spent the big bucks ($60) and invested in a  real chimney. (The last one made with Habitat Store jacketed pipe just did not draw.) See  post

I made a series of lidded jars and while they were green, coated them with white and salmon colored terra sigilatta.

I loaded my barrel with sawdust, banana peels, brine soaked and dried paper towels, brine soaked pine needles, cut-up boxes, kindling, rolled-up newspaper, Spanish iron oxide, red iron oxide, copper carbonate, copper sulfate, and Miracle Grow fertilizer.

I got something cold to drink, a chair, readied a hose, called the neighbors to tell them I'd be making smoke, said a prayer of apology to Mother Nature for putting all this carbon into her atmosphere, and lit if off a 10:21 AM.

Fire up the barrel

And the new chimney actually worked and spewed smoke!!! Yessssss!!!

This firing only lasted until about 3 PM. I was able to retrieve my pots around 7 PM. Pictured below are some of the ones I liked.

Barrel Fired Pots

I encased this pot below in a copper scouring pad and it made a nice pattern.

Detail of Copper netting

This one came out with a nice blaze.

Sweet barrel-fired pot

I have another batch of lidded jars so will be doing this again before winter.



Going Public

Pictured above, the ceramics show at the Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center in Post Falls, Idaho. My work is on the extreme right. It was a snowy night so attendance at the reception was light, however, it was a very nice show. What a wonderful facility.


Indigo Magic!

I find creative inspiration in everything. Seems to like a shame to limit oneself to one thing. So here I am going in another different direction - dyeing wool. Last spring I bought three Japanese indigo plants at the farmer's market. At the time I didn't quite know why. They were interesting. I was curious. Japanese IndigoThe process is a bit of project and I found instructions here.

After stripping the leaves I made an indigo tea slowly steeping them in hot water.Indigo TeaAfter straining the leaves, adding Rit Color Remover, and adding the wool, the brew looked like this:Wool Indigo BathAnd then when you start to pull the wool out and it gets exposed to the air... Magic!MagicYikes! This is so cool. Blue wool.Blue WoolMy indigo plants are growing more leaves. Soon we will be doing this again.

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Glaze Firing Test Results

I unloaded my first glaze firing of the summer early this morning. My main objective this time was to do a bunch of glaze testing. This might have been a bit too ambitious. I tested 6 clay bodies, 4 base glazes and numerous coloring agents. I spent a whole day mixing samples. I weighed the dry ingredients of the four base glazes then sieved them dry; then I measured out 30 grams of each adding a percentage of a coloring agent. The copper carbonate was disappointing. I forgot how strong the cobalt and chromium are and those samples came out too dark. The reds, oranges and yellows came from using Degussa Inclusion Pigments. I think that they were successful. I used chartreuse Mason Stain for the light lime green. (I was hoping for something closer to my toenail polish.) Two of the glaze bases, which by the way, I came from Mastering Cone Six Glazes, were supposed to be semi-mat. The glaze cycle went a bit faster than I had anticipated so I didn't turn off the fan on the venting system at the very end of the cycle. I think the kiln cooled a bit faster than recommended to get a good mat finish.

I also made some plates because we need them. I used a dark brown clay, decorated them with white slip, bisqued, then added cobalt oxide accents. I couldn't decide what color to glaze them so I splashed 3 colors on top letting the design show through. They came out okay and will be fun to eat off of but I know better than to cling to plates in our house. They get broken easily.


Blogging from “the Bray” Recap

Pictured below - pots and sculptures. Everyone who comes as a resident  leaves work here, on the walls and scattered here and there. I felt like many of these piles of pots were kind of like the objects left at Mt Kailash attached with prayers. I went around examining the lidded jars and since I didn't bring a pot to leave, sometimes, I put my card inside. I wonder if anyone will find any them?

Pots out there


Before my experience at Archie Bray fades into a distant memory I would like to write down a few things. Much of this information is for my clay friends who didn't go.

Saturday there were talks and discussions. Topics at the talks that I attended:

  • ceramics and the future, a discussion about online social networking and computer generated 3d modeling and printing.
  • ceramics and real world issues.

Some the phrases that I wrote down are as follows. Take this as a random assortment of words and thoughts. I haven't explained them. Perhaps when I have more time I'll add more information to this list:

  • good for one tender moment - Ayumi Horie - pottery combined with Online Social Networking
  • haptic information
  • Gartner Hype Cycle
  • C & C
  • Rhino
  • farting on marble
  • social commentary
  • creative spirit needs exercise
  • Kaneko - open space for your mind

Friday night there was the auction. Auctions are so much fun. The wine was flowing freely and so too the money. The Peter Voulkos piece sold for $125,000. Nice to see a reallocation of wealth from the rich to the arts.

Saturday there were a couple demos. I watched Julia Galloway and Sara Jaeger.

Aside from the beautiful detailed work that Sara does, I was interested in the way she props up her passive foot with 2 fire bricks.

Sara Jaeger

Julia who is a very animated effusive gal, pulled some very cool handles with bits of clay imbedded, inside them that she called her "green pea" handles, she made a cactus handle and she also showed how to use wood shellac as a resist in applying slip. I asked about writing an artist statement but later found Julia has the best intro to her work which I have lifted from her site. Sorry I just couldn't help myself. This is just too good.

I make pottery.
I am committed to the daily act of making beautiful objects
and insistent about creating with my hands.
A need for beautiful domestic objects and an instinctual
drive to create things, are tremendous dance partners
for idea and desire.

Julia Galloway

Saturday afternoon we visited Helena area studios and Saturday night there was a party.

All in all, a good time was had. More pictures from Archie Bray are on my Flickr site.

Now I'm going to play with clay and let this guy hold up the fort or the gallery in this case.Holding up the fort


Blogging from “the Bray” 2

Busy day with lots of demos.

Beth Cavener Stichter creating sculptures expressing the human spirit dressed in animal bodies. If you go to Beth's website, where she details her work procedures,  you will see how hard this woman works. She is a great example of the axiom 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. To hollow out a piece it takes 3-5 weeks. Typically she hollows a piece to 1/4 inch thickness; so she essentially makes the sculpture twice - once from the outside and again on the inside and I haven't even mentioned making the armature, cutting it apart, putting it together, etc., etc.

Beth Cavener Stichter

Beth wears stripped socks. I asked her about this and she said she does this when she gives a presentation so she doesn't take herself too seriously.

Tip Toland analyzing the idiosyncrasies of the face.

Tip Toland

Below Robert Brady demonstrating slap centering. What a great way to focus aggressive energy.

Robert Brady

The following are phrases from my notes:

  • Things being in control and out of control.
  • Spastic mental process.
  • Form = intuitive
  • Surface = experience through the eyes
  • Mastery is not a result of repetition but a result of awareness.
  • Nichrome wire
  • Elmer's glue with alumina to line touching edges of lids so they don't fuse.
  • Process is circular.
  • Notice what you notice.
  • Curves and straight lines recharge each other.
  • Loose pots and pots with gesture and intentionality.
  • Unconscious incompetence-conscious incompetence-conscious competence-unconscious competence.
  • From Sandy Simon, TRAX Ceramics Gallery, "Eighty percent of sales come from the internet store."

I bought 300 lbs of glaze making materials from the Archie Bray Clay store. Just out of curiosity, I asked them if they kept MSDS data sheets on hand. They said that they treated all powdered substances as being hazardous and used a respirator while handling everything but if I wanted a good source for MSDS sheets to go online to Laguna Clay Company.

Still my favorite thing to do here; wandering around discovering gems tucked here and there in all the alleys and corners. This place is a bit like a maze with surprises at every turn.

Pavement Mandala


Blogging from “the Bray”

The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is a public, nonprofit, educational institution founded in 1951 by brickmaker Archie Bray, who intended it to be "a place to make available for all who are seriously and sincerely interested in any of the branches of the ceramic arts, a fine place to work." Its primary mission is to provide an environment that stimulates creative work in ceramics.

from Archie

Starting tomorrow is the 60th birthday celebration. I arrived this afternoon, wandered around,  met many friendly people and took a few pictures. This is an amazing place. There are sculptures, beautiful ceramics everywhere. The energy in the air is electric. There are people from all over the world.

I met a very nice inspiring woman named Gwen Heeney from Wales. She makes sculptures with bricks that she has fabricated. This installation has two parts: one recessed into the earth which is the female and one that is erect and reaching up to the sky which is the male. She said that the shadow of the male part fits perfectly across the slot in the female part.

Gwen's Girl

Gwen's Boy

I also took a picture of Gwen. She was dressed in working clothes with a hat and scarf to protect her from the sun. I thought she looked so interesting and exotic while she seemed a bit mifted about having her picture taken.  I loved her spirit and I think it shows in this picture. And to do her justice, I also included a picture below of her without her head garb.

Gwen Heeney


Other pictures below.

Another male/female installation

Another male/female installation



Naner naner naner



Developing an Idea or How Kiss Me Quick Was Born

We had this assignment to make a non-representational sculpture. I decided to somehow portray a spiral. I started building the piece with coils. I was intrigued with how my spiral started developing. and while working, the piece seemed to take on an existence of it's own. This was a transcendent experience. I felt I was the conduit for some creative force outside myself. I have no idea where the tentacles and the lips came from. The result is pictured below before firing.

My teacher suggested I make another sculpture like this one only bigger. I am not a risk taker when it comes to firing and was afraid a big piece wouldn't survive without cracking. I made the second one in sections resembling collapsed vent hoses. This approach had it's advantages and disadvantages. I started in the Fall of 2009. The first group came out of the kiln with only about half  usable and my sections where not angled enough to make a tight curve. I made more sections and added canted wedges to increase the bend.

I finally had enough pieces to assemble by the end of March 2010, a week before the deadline to submit for the student art show at North Idaho College. I started assembling the sculpture in the garage with construction adhesive. I had no idea exactly how the pieces were going to fit together. It became evident that I was dealing with much more weight than I had anticipated and I felt I was doing battle with gravity. I had to change my first concept to accommodate gravity and I'd originally only planned on using one set of lips.

It was cold that week but finally I was gluing the last two sections together... And then...the whole thing collapsed!! It was too cold for the glue to cure properly. Gravity won this round!  I missed the deadline for the show and ended up finishing in the summer with warm weather. It was worth the wait. I eventually entered this sculpture in the NIC student art show a year later and won an honorable mention. Pictured below: "Kiss Me Quick"

This semester we had an assignment to make a sculptural teapot. When it came to making the spout it only seemed natural that it would have lips. Pictured below - "Gimme Big Kiss."

Part of developing an idea depends the limitations of materials and gravity; the other part depends on where you let your mind take you...