Monday, November 18, 2013

Glaze Problems . . . Not

Here is a picture of the speckling in our glaze, as I reported in the last post:


Snowstorm in the pines.

This is a particularly spotty example and it makes us grimace every time we see pieces like this one.

But after a lot of sweating and fretting, Ben finally came up with the idea that we might solve the problem by painting slip on the pieces we had already thrown. It was the only way we could get a good number of pots to Joyce, in Wyoming, in time for her shows this fall. The slip we’re using is a recipe we got from a demonstration we went to in Red Lodge about a year ago.

So we gave it a sample trial. It seemed to work really well, so we painted slip on a good kiln load of ware.




Then we bisque fired them again – to sinter the slip so we wouldn’t have problems with it peeling when we dipped the piece in a tub of glaze – then glazed and fired them to cone 6. While we waited for the load to fire and cool, we painted slip on another load.

When that first load came out we didn’t exactly sigh with relief, though. There was still some speckling and we had some pitting as well. I figured out, after a couple of loads, that too much slip will cause the drying glaze to pit, while not enough will still allow some speckling. It’s a fine line that we haven’t entirely figured out, but now all the ware we had on hand for white ware with the old clay is slipped and ready to fire again.

But the pieces we’re firing now are far better than the ones we fired before we painted on the slip, so we carried on and will have a pile of work to deliver to Powell, Wyoming this Wednesday, just in time for Joyce’s first holiday show this weekend.


But we’re glad we got some different clay from Helena, even though we are not especially happy with this particular clay body. We won’t have to fire the ware three times, which makes our pots that much more expensive to produce.

The texture of the clay from Helena is so fine, though, that I cannot throw platters unless I add some coarser grit material (I use what we potters call grog), since my platters out of this clay have all cracked in half, and the clay is a bit too dark for our white ware.

It is, however, the only real choice we can get without shipping it in, which can take two weeks or longer as we wait for a local truck to travel to and from the right places (otherwise shipping costs more than the clay); so we’re just going with it for now. We have enough to get us through – so long as I can get started soon – while I work through some experiments to come up with a recipe for a new clay body that we hope we’ll like a whole lot more.

Then we’ll be able to figure out which glaze recipe will be most compatible for the new clay.


Wow, impressive. How many run-on sentences did I just write?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Porcupine Year

This morning when Ben crossed the creek to give the two steers some range cake, he found one of them had encountered a porcupine. The poor critter’s lips and chin were covered with dozens of quills.

Situations like that always stress me out terribly, but we got the steers across the creek and into the corral without a problem. Then we rigged up a squeeze chute and lured the quilled steer into it and secured him so we could pull the quills out.

It didn’t exactly come off without a hitch, but we got the job done.

I was actually able to relax my stress level before we even got the steer secured in our makeshift chute, mainly because I laughed to myself when I realized that this incident was one more piece of evidence that this year – which I have now labeled The Year of the Porcupine – that something was released from hell and wrapped itself tightly around 2013.

We started working outside the studio in January and didn’t finish until yesterday. We didn’t get any of our goals for the studio done and my writing came to a complete and exhausted halt late last spring. Then today the steer got nailed by a porcupine.

In between all that, the designs on our Dano ware, the pottery we make for Dano Youth Camp, went completely the way of the porcupine year from hell: the pine boughs and flowers were coming out speckled with white dots.

We changed our glaze twice, then tried seven more recipes and still we got the speckling. Just last weekend we finally had enough time to figure out that the problem was with the clay body rather than the glaze recipes. So we got Monday off and zipped up to The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena to get five hundred pounds of a different clay body to tide us over until we can get our own recipe worked out – one of our goals for this past year – and get some of it ordered.

Unless, of course, we have another porcupine year.

Between now and the new year we’ll be swamped just catching up with pottery orders. So, now our goals for next year will be the ones we had for this year.