After a long day of heavy lifting, the new location is really starting to look like a clay studio. We got all the wheels moved in, the new shelving units placed and loads of equipment brought over. Many thanks to the intrepid volunteers with pickups, vans, and horse trailers who made it all possible.
We tested out the burners and the results of my modifications look promising. In addition to straightening out the gas flow, my array of small tubes within the 2" burn tube act as a pretty effective flame retention tip. This means I have a lot more freedom to add primary air to the mix without fear of blowing out the flame. The moment of truth will come tomorrow when we fire the first load with the burner modifications in place.
I have to brag on my Thursday morning beginning wheel class. They are all making incredible progress with the basic techniques. Molly pulled a tall elegant cylinder and then proceeded to shape a great functional mug body. Doesn't she look happy? I was too. Way to go!
We used my wood-fired flameware dish to cook lamb kibbeh on the grill. The pottery performed admirably and went straight from grill to table. I got the ground lamb from my student Amy Rosen of Shoshana Farms. Highly recommended!
We made Reuben sandwiches with our homemade sauerkraut this evening. My compliments to the crock.
What a great end to our glaze class.
We harvested our winter cabbage crop and decided to preserve the bounty as sauerkraut. Just shredded cabbage and salt packed into my stoneware crock. We weighted the cabbage down with one of Rowan's bowls to keep everything submerged below a layer of cabbage juice. Fermentation commenced within 24 hours with gentle but clearly evident bubbling. Can't wait to sample the product. Definitely more satisfying to put up our homegrown cabbage in one of my own stoneware crocks.
Once I got the baffles welded into place within the burner tube I installed the burners back onto the kiln. The fuel and air were mixing thoroughly and producing a blue flame. However there was far too much turbulence and the flame was not passing into the kiln in a steady stream. I attempted to rectify this problem by inserting 12 small 1/2 inch diameter steel tubes into the tip of the burner to straighten out the flame. My initial test firing indicated that this fix was a success. Unfortunately when I lit the burner a second time a small blowback shot one of the tubes out of the burner. I decided to lightly tack weld the burner tubes in place and will test the kiln burners again tomorrow.
Several years ago, I dramatically increased the efficiency of my forced air burners by placing a loose packing of stainless steel wool within the burn tube. During my last firing the steel wool decided to burp out of the tube and skitter into the kiln like tumbleweed. Even though I was able to shove the steel wool back into the burner with the kiln running it added five hours to my firing time. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy the sleepless night, the wasted gas or the added expense. I decided it was time for a more elegant solution to my burner efficiency problem. This required some serious metal fabrication. First step was slicing off the top of the burn tube. I also cut some fins out of mild steel bar stock. Here's the first photo.
I just got this jug out of the kiln on Friday and it already sold on Sunday before I even had a chance to put a price on it. The shino carbon trapped beautifully. Part was surely luck, part great firing technique, and part a neat glaze trick. By using an ash glaze with a soluble alkali component, more soda ash and other soluble salts precipitated on the exterior glaze surface. I love it when a plan comes together...
I love roasted vegetables. I bet they'll taste even better in my hand-thrown oven-proof baking dish. They certainly look better than on a metal sheet pan.
I've been feeling like a production potter lately. This is my latest batch of gallon jugs. I'd love to woodfire them but I'm going to have to glaze them and get them done. These were thrown with four pounds each, so they're nice and light.
Emily just sent me this great photo of the sushi plate she made in my "transcending your limits" class. Way to go (and nice sushi too!)
The first big batch of knitting bowls for my Coats and Clark commission have come out of the gas kiln, and I'm quite pleased with the result.
The star vases for "dancing with the Athens stars" came out well.
The first of five pottery workshops for homesteaders was a great success. Everyone made a utensil holder for their kitchen and a French butter bell. What a fun group of people with a common interest in traditional crafts and farming. I'm really looking forward to the remaining workshops in the series. I'll post pictures of the finished products when they come out of the gas kiln.
Rowan and I spent the last two days building a cob pizza oven out at the far end of Madison County. What is cob, you ask? It is a traditional building material comprised of clay, sand, and straw--the same materials in adobe bricks. The difference is how you build with it. Cob construction is the closest form of architecture to pottery. The materials are moistened and mixed with bare feet on a tarp and then formed into cobs, little loaf shapes. These are then carried to the wall and attached like short sections of coils. For our oven project, we laid a hearth made from large two-inch thick tiles of firebrick cut to the shape often oven form. The form is a giant puzzle mold that allows you to pull all the form sections out the oven mouth once the dome is complete. We cobbed up over the form until the dome was complete. The wall was four to five inches thick so that it will store heat from the fire in the oven long enough to bake several batches of pizza and bread. Now we have to wait a day or two for the walls to stiffen before we can remove the form. Fingers crossed!
I've been using little funnel shaped bowls as test tiles for the past several months to test new glazes. Now that spring is near and the strawberries are starting to flower, we decided to reveal my test tiles' sinister purpose. Just add cheap beer and my test tiles become slug death traps. Here's hoping they knock back the mollusk population before strawberry season gets underway.
I'm putting my first load of knitting bowls into the bisque kiln today. Fingers crossed for low warpage and nothing blown up! Another week of drying would be smart, but I need to move them along so I have space to keep working.