Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Bucket Dance

Like a lot of potters, glazing isn't my favorite thing to do. I like being behind my wheel throwing pots and getting my hands muddy. But if you are a potter, you probably spend the least of your time throwing and trimming pots.

The fact is, nothing I make is finished without its outer coating of colored glass. So glazing is a necessity and needs to be done with great care. Gazes are fussy creatures. Each wants to be applied in its own way and its own proper thickness. Each wants it's own special spot in the kiln where the temperature and heat work are just so.

Really fussy customers, glazes.

It starts with the chemistry. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know something about those tribulations. Trying to figure out what that bucket full of liquid mud will look like when it's fired is a mixture of educated guess, scientific calculation, trial and error and pure luck. And your first guess is usually dead wrong. The second usually is as well.

So when you have a glaze that works for you, you keep to it. I have eight of them.

So now that I am moving out of the old studio, I am feverishly mixing large quantities of them. You see, I have this idea of continuing to produce at least some of my smaller items. I have my kitchen studio with its own wheel and can make small items if I can find a kiln to fire them in. That search will be job one soon. But I won't have the ability to mix new batches of glaze once everything is in storage.

That means five gallon buckets. Eight of them full of glaze. Never mind the space considerations, I need a lot of the stuff to carry this plan out.

So now begins what I call the bucket dance. There are big buckets and little buckets. Little buckets contain the glazes and each glaze has its own bucket with its name on it. Big buckets contain wash water, and again, each glaze has its own. That way, I can recycle glaze that I wash off of my tools and equipment. I end up with a big bucket full of watery glaze that can then be used to make more glaze. Less waste, lower cost and far more environmentally friendly.

But now the glaze needs to go into the big buckets and the wash water in the little buckets. So it takes two little buckets, one ball mill and one big bucket to make the transition. But of course, nothing is that simple. You see, the ball mill can't hold all the glaze in a little bucket. So it takes three ball mill jars to grind and mix all the glaze in two little buckets so that they can be poured into one big bucket. When the process is finished, I should have one big bucket and one little bucket with the name of a glaze on it.

A few days ago, I did this with the turquoise glaze. I have one big bucket full of glaze and one little bucket with nothing in it that says "White" on the outside. No, I don't know how I managed that, but not to worry. They didn't get mixed in together. I'm just grabbing clean empty buckets to make this happen.

I have been boxing up all of the throwing supplies and tools. A couple days ago I brought a pallet in and started stacking things up on it. I now have all the tools, bats and pads packed away.
Progress comes in some odd shapes and sizes. But progress is progress. One step at a time.

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