Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sneak Preview

A while back I mentioned my intention to create an ornament tile for the holiday season. At this point, I have designed one for Christmas and am giving some thought to other religions. Suggestions are always welcome. For now, here is a preview of the Christmas tile. Note that the colors are not accurate. What appears as red is actually bare clay and all colors are web safe. What actually comes out of the kiln will look a little different.

I estimate the dimensions at about 3.5 inches square to keep them as light as possible so they can be hung from a tree if desired. I'm currently making the plaster dies that will make the imprint. Once that is done, the rest will follow pretty easily.

Thoughts and reactions are always welcome!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boil, Little Porridge Pot!

I was reminded of this little line from a childhood story last night as I hovered over a large kettle of boiling water. I was subjecting three pieces of pottery to one of the most brutal tests you can imagine. It's called the Boiling Water/Freezing Water test and it is the acid test for glaze crazing. In a nutshell, you immerse a pot in boiling water for three minutes, remove it and immediately immerse it in ice water. After three minutes in the ice water bath, you quickly drop it back into the boiling water. You repeat this cycle three times. Once finished, you use a dauber and rub black ink or paint into the pot. After a few minutes, you wash the excess ink off and then examine the pot closely to see if any crazing is present.

Any pottery that can withstand this test is probably strong enough to last a long time. Nobody that I know of exposes their dinnerware to this kind of treatment, but the test is intended to duplicate the ravages of time in a hurry.

Last night I was testing the newest version of the white glaze on both the newer clay body and the old local clay. Results were slightly mixed, There was no crazing on the pot made from local clay, and no crazing on most of the pot made from the new clay. Where crazing did appear, it was not surprising. The glaze was too thickly applied in that particular spot and had crawled slightly, making that area prone under any circumstances.

There was no crazing at all on the moss agate test. This despite some crawling in the bottom inside.

All of this is very encouraging. More when I have more time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

That's How it Goes

Ah, those lovely bean pots in the photo to the right. They stand there awaiting their first firing, slowly drying in the warm late-summer air.

Well, they got their first firing a couple weeks ago. Not one of them made it out intact. All but one cracked so badly that they are only good for landfill or plant drainage. The one that was still in one piece had a small crack in the bottom that isn't easily visible and does not go all the way through. Still, I would not sell it as anything but a second and I would never advise using it in the oven. All the same, it makes a nice display piece.

That's the way it goes in this business. Pieces crack even under the most watchful circumstances. You can't take it personally.

The glaze research continues. The first attempt at a craze-free white disappointed but showed that I was moving in the right direction. The first attempt at a craze-free turquoise was upended by my failure to add tin oxide to the batch. Well, I can still check it for crazing, but it looks bizarre!

I am now looking closely at the moss agate red. I have discovered that it likes to be applied very thinly indeed. One coat is all it requires and it is a rich brown color. I'd like it to be more red, and that is the goal of the next test. If I can achieve that, I will be happy. For now, it remains a work in progress.

On the immediate horizon, the plans are simple. I will be focusing on jam jars and coffee mugs and will be turning those out for the holiday gift-giving season. They are the most popular of the Rowantrees line, and make excellent gifts. I hope to have them up on the web site next month.

In addition, I am planning a special limited edition, numbered series of ornament tiles for Christmas. These will be Lowell Hill pieces, not Rowantrees reproductions. They will measure roughly 3 to 3.5 inches square and will have a Dove of Peace done in a stained glass motif on them. I am planning an edition of 250 and they will sell for $20 each.

But I get ahead of myself. There is still a lot of testing to do and the weather is getting, well, downright autumnal. Cold weather is my nemesis and I am struggling to maintain my schedule to stay ahead of things. Tiles I can make in my kitchen and still fire at the pottery, water or no water. So the thrown pieces will be the priority for now.

I'm off and running...