Friday, July 22, 2011

The Return of Jonquil Yellow

Customers have a way of keeping me on my toes. Every now and then I wish I could get one step ahead of them, but I think it's better to let them lead on occasion.

So it is with color. I had a plan for the order of things where it came to reformulating the Rowantrees glazes. I would start with the most popular colors and combinations and then work on those that sold less well historically. Some I wouldn't bother with at all for the time being. I set about working on what I think of as the essential palette of Oyster White, Heather Blue, Turquoise, Moss Agate and Ducks Head. I was deep in the Ducks Head process (you can expect an announcement very soon!) when I got a note from a customer asking about Jonquil Yellow.

Yellow? Ok. Jonquil Yellow it is.

To be honest, yellow is not one of my personal favorites, and it never really sold well when I was at Rowantrees. But people did buy it and those who did really loved it. And before I knew it, at least two other people had asked about it.

It really didn't take long. In fact, I got a great Yellow out of the first batch of tests. And because it is based on the Oyster White formula, I know already that it will fit the clay body without complaint. So production in Yellow has started. Here is a sample form that first test set.
Make exception for the daylight lighting. There will be far better photography when the next load comes out of the kiln.

So, high on my achievement, I announced to the customers who had asked about it that the Yellow was again available. I haven't heard anything from them as yet,

But three people have since come into the shop to ask if I had anything in Evergreen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Recycling Thing

One of the great things about pottery is the fact that so much of the materials we use can be recycled. Of course, that can be a challenge as well.

In late May I took delivery of one ton of clay. I remember wondering if I would be able to use it all before the cold weather sets in. I didn't want to have to lug too much clay home, sut I would do that and store it in the cellar to keep it from freezing.

Well, it is now less than two months later and I am down to 700 pounds of the original purchase. Now the angst is generated by wondering if I will have enough clay to get me to the cold weather or if I will have to get more. But in fact, I probably won't. Clay can be recycled!

A lot fo the clay used to throw a pot is trimmed off a few days later. After all, pots have a top side and an underneath. Ever wonder how the bottom of a pot happens? Pots are dried until they are stiff - 'leather hard' is the term most potters use. Once they reach that stage, pots can be turned over, placed back on the wheel and their undersides carved with special tools to make the "foot". Of course, that results in trimming scrap.

Lots of it. And all of it reclaimable. I have gone low tech with this and decided to use a simple method. Clay always seems better to me when it has been reduced to a slurry for reprocessing. So trimming scrap is mixed with water to the consistency of yogurt. I mix the slurry using a drill mixer until it is smooth and then pour it into an evaporation table. The table is about 2 feet by four feet and has a plaster tub for a top.

Or at least, it will when I'm finished building it. Here it is as it currently stands:
This was today's project. In a couple of days, I will mix plaster and pour a tub top. The plaster surface will be covered with duck canvas, and the clay slurry will be poured into the canvas-lined tub. After a few days, the clay can be cut into bricks and set out to stiffen a little more before pugging and storing. That should keep me in clay for the rest of the season. It may even give me sufficient to work at home over the winter.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Open Sesame!

The shop is now open. During July and August, I will be open two weekdays each week as well as Saturdays, afternoons and by appointment. I will be posting a detailed schedule soon, so check back! For starters, I will be in the shop on July 4th. Have a wonderful holiday everyone!

Oh! And I finally came up with a logo for my business. Here is it:

This image is my rendition of a Mountain Ash tree. Since I make reproductions of Rowantrees Pottery, I decided to use an image of a Rowan or European Mountain Ash. I chose a folk art style to represent the New England simplicity that Rowantrees embodied. As of this writing, I am now working on a sign to put out in front of the shop.

Busy, busy, busy!

What a Difference a Clay Makes!

Well, the change to a new clay has proven to be an incredibly good decision. Let's see if I can remember all of this off the top of my head...

In only four weeks of production, I have thrown:
60 Jam Jar Lids
114 Jam Jars
50 Jumbo Mugs
50 Coffee Mugs
60 Cocoa Mugs
100 small Saucers
30 Dinner Plates
30 Luncheon Plates
80 Bud Vases
12 small Cream and Sugar Sets
24 large Cream and Sugar Sets
12 large Covered Baking Dishes
50 Bread & Butter Plates
12 Butter Covers
30 Chowder Cups & Saucers
50 Ramekins
12 Pasta Bowls (Actually, I made more than that but had to throw some out)

If I wasn't so excited about this, I'd be exhausted. But it's amazing what you can do if you don't have to focus any energy on fighting with your raw materials.

Well, for the most part.

A new clay carries a few surprises with it.The process of discover and recover goes on, but the issues that arise are not unfamiliar ones to any potter.

In addition to the activity at the pottery itself, I have been moving forward with tile project at home. Here is a picture of a small run of the Portland Head Light tiles. They have been coated with a thin layer of white slip (called an engobe) that will make decorating them easier. They aren't in production just yet, but it won't be long. I have come a long way with them but there is a ways to go.