Friday, July 8, 2011

Back in the real world

Yolanda burning feathers on hot pots
Well, I am back in the real world, resting up to get back to the tasks at hand.   I did take a chance on the horsehair experience with one of my pots with great results, (packed up and unavailable for photos at the moment).  Soon I will post the gallery of pots I completed while I was there.
Oliver adding a feather to his pot

There was a lot more going on in the pottery studio that I chose not to participate in as I was valuing the time to work on projects long in my head.
Along with the arranged learning activities, there is opportunity to racu fire with experienced "racuers"  and gas fire in the studio gas kiln.  Gary Lee, from Rising Sun, organizes 2 gas firings during the week for those wanting to participate.  Most bring bisque pots for the first one at least.  The results on the first gas firing were great and I heard lots of oohs and ahhs from over in my carving corner.
The racu folks squeezed in plenty of firings in spite of the use of the kiln for sager firings.  There are several talented potters who know what they are doing with racu that brought things to fire.... they are looking good.  I particularly like the fruit and veggie folks that Yolanda brought with her, under glazed with Speedball underglazes and a clear crackle on top.

Yolanda's racu fruits and veggies
  I made 3 mermaid tails after doing all I could do on the woodsy things things to finish up in my Winston friend's racu kiln using colorful under glazes I have on hand.

The last night we set our things up in a vacant room for viewing and purchase.  Personally there wasn't much I was willing to let go of until I gaze on them awhile.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Horsehair Demo

pot smoked with feathers horsehair and dried orange peel.

Horsehair Demonstration

Yesterday, Edge demonstrated his horsehair and feather technique.  He heats the pots to 1250F and pulls the out one at at time not with tongs but fiberfax pads. Edge had brought his small kiln with a digital pyrometer which was not working so the pots were not heated as accurately in the Wildacres kiln as his are at home  Some sugar gets thrown on the inside so it isn’t stark white inside the pot.  He uses the pads to apply dried orange peel which leaves white spots with smoky halos.
sprinkling on sugar or orange peel
He gets hemostats that are thrown out by the medical industry to hold the horsehair and feathers, getting several ready in advance.  The feathers are applied for a second and pulled away for better results.  Holding the horsehair with the hemostat helps position the hair for the best aesthetic. All this decorating has to happen in 2-3 minutes while the pot is hot enough to leave the perfect smoky impression of the combustables.  The temperature discrepancy was obvious when all of the ginkgo leaves he puts down before placing the pot on the fiberfax pad burned up to quickly to leave an impression.  He goes to great lengths to make his pots perfectly flat for this.  (We got a demo of his burnishing and trimming technique that all happen while the pot is leather hard on the wheel in different sized pvc fittings with padded rims and altered potato peelers that trim and burnish at the same time.)

Edge’s clay is a custom body that is smooth yet thermal shock resistant.  I made pots out of white earthenware which were OK for  the slow cooling sager but is expected to crack if used for this quick cool process. Edge bisque fires to maybe cone 09 and we all bisqued our pots to the 05 or 04 usually used.  It made a difference in the results on the sager firings for sure.  I haven’t decided whether I should sacrifice one of my remaining pots yet.  Other students have been using his inspiration to do horsehair in the traditional Wildacres manner which is more trial and error testing hairs until they are cool enough to leave a mark.  I think the crack rate has been pretty high.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wildacres Retreat 2011

I’m back at Wildacres Retreat to meet with “It was a dark and stormy night” Pottery Guild Retreat after missing last year due my big move.  Edge Barnes is leading the workshop this year demonstrating and guiding us in his aluminum foil sager fired burnished pieces and his version of horsehair pots.

Wildacres is a nonprofit retreat owned by the Blumenthal family outside of Little Switzerland, NC.  For an incredible price you can come here and stay with room, board and studio space do do work you don’t normally get to do.  Rising Sun Pottery has reserved the 4th of July week for a group of about 19 for quite a few years now.  The week got it’s name because we share the lodge with a writers group and a story telling group; kind of a spoof on their efforts to write and tell stories. ( Snoopy always sat on top of his dog house to write his great novel and never got farther than “It was a dark and stormy night...”)  The other motto for our gathering is “ It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.”
Edge and our motto signs

So far, we have done several nice loads of sager fire in the racu kiln.  The process involves using well burnished pots with ferric chloride washed on them. 
Edge demonstrating ferric chloride application
Edge dips them lightly in “swamp juice”, (which is a nasty bubbly mixture that leaves some nice random effects). He then wraps them in damp seaweed, some wood chips, a few strands of steel wool and copper chore boy, maybe some sugar and what ever else you are inclined to try and then wraps it all up like a baked potato in foil and piles them in the kiln.
Like potatoes out of the kiln
It heats to 1250F in the kiln which causes the foil to react with the ferric chloride and burns the combustibles.  The results are wonderful, especially after waxing and polishing.

Edge's fired pots

My 2 best sager fired so far
I have been going cross eyed working on “in the woods” ideas that have been twirling around in my head while I make dozens of mugs, sponge holders, and cereal bowls at home as well as sager firing the prepared pots I brought.

In the woods Puzzle Jug II

In the woods puzzle jug I "Enter Men of Mirth" 

There is lots more going on in the studio, but I’ll save that for another post.