Second glazing

Following on from my single firing post – where the glazed greenware came out in one piece, but the glaze hadn’t been quite as dynamic as I had hoped… I re-glazed everything and fired again!

In order for the glaze to take well I heated the mugs/bowls etc using a hair dryer and added thin layers of extra glaze, two extra coats in total. I also added an extra stripe of green or blue as the best interaction was between the indigo float and seaweed.

I don’t think the toasted sage Amaco Potters Choice glaze is a great one for encouraging movement and interaction between the two glazes, in the same way the tenmoku glaze is, but nonetheless I am much happier with the results so I thought I’d share a couple of before and after photos!

Here is an example of the mug, with an added stripe of blue:

And this is the bowl!

I like the green seaweed and the indigo float, but I want to find a better base for the two of them. The range seems to focus on darker under coats, which wasn’t what I was after. The only other lighter colour seems to be oatmeal which is quite yellow-y from the picture.

Actually the toasted sage comes out quite grey as the photos show, which in of itself is a lovely tone but wasn’t as light as I’d hoped it to be. But at least now I know I have a nice grey glaze – so every cloud has a silver (toasted sage!) lining!

A couple more things using this glaze combination and tenmoku in my etsy shop – check it out!

PS xx

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Single firing

First of all, to clear up an issue from the previous post. I soaked my flaky kiln shelf and used a steel wire scrubber to remove the flaky batt wash and it worked like a dream! I thinned my batt wash with water to the consistency of skimmed milk and reapplied a thin layer and left it to dry. My kiln shelves look as good as new!

And now to single firing. I had used this technique when I made a birdbath as I was tight on time. The Mayco glazes are pretty steady with no movement at all. They also give a pretty good colour and coverage with just two thin coats. I glazed greenware and single fired the birdbath and it came out great. However I didn’t know how this technique would work with Amaco glazes.

I did a lot of throwing last weekend knowing that I wanted to use my Amaco glazes. However when I looked at my pyrometric bars, I saw I only had one or two bisque temp bars left! My little Olympic Kiln is old skool with a manual ramp dial and kiln sitter. So with precious bisque bars in short supply I thought about single firing my thrown mugs and bowls.

Amaco Potter’s Choice glazes mix and move and create beautiful effects but in order to do so, you need to apply 2, 3 even 4 coats depending on the thickness. I let my pieces dry to leather-hard and applied two coats of Toasted Sage then two coats of Indigo Float and two of Seaweed on alternate pieces. With all the glaze on they took a long time to dry but I was patient. I didn’t want to add too much because I didn’t want them running and ruining my lovely new clean kiln shelves.

I managed to pack the kiln with 3 layers and get everything in! And as I was doing a single firing I did a really slow low heat before raising the temp after an hour or two.

I fired to cone 5 and it took longer than expected to get to temperature, but it did get there in the end! I left the kiln to cool and opened up the lid holding my breath..

..Everything was in one piece! fantastic. But the glaze? ..it looked dull and thin. Not like Amaco at all and obviously not the effect I was hoping for!

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The only ones that looked decent were the two pots I used the tenmoku on first. I was hoping the Toasted Sage would be a little lighter than the grey but then again I hadn’t done a test tile and trying to guess colours from the Internet isn’t a good idea.

I admit I was a little disappointed but it’s all part of the learning process! I think overall I was happy that my single firing worked, it was just a lack of experience with Amaco glazes that meant I didn’t add enough layers.

I am confident that should I want to single fire again I could achieve results close to what I wanted.

I spent this morning re-glazing my mugs and bowls for a second firing! At least it won’t need such a long slow ramp as the mugs ceramic now but I still don’t want to rush and risk an exploding kiln! I added more layers of each glaze but also more stripes of Indigo Float and Seaweed. The colours look great when they interact so hopefully this will achieve that effect.

20170805_145347 Once they’re dry I will fire them again, sometime early this week if not tomorrow and post the final results!

I guess I’m must also admit that I’m keen to get single firing experience as it saves a lot on the electricity bill!! And if it produces the effect you want, then why not single fire? My only advice is to make sure your pieces are dry as a bone before firing and then allowing a long slow ramp. I was advised to leave extra clay clean from glaze to allow gas to escape from ghee clay body, but I just left the bottoms clean as usual and this was fine.

Happy potting!

PS xx

Raku Saturday!

Raku this weekend was at the mercy of the weather. However the fire gods smiled on us Saturday morning as the rain cleared for a few hours! (Two little fire gods below!)

I had two different kinds of hand built items ready for the firing. The majority of pieces had been bisque fired and glazed with raku glazes. However I made a pair of tall narrow vases that were glazed as greenware and then bisque fired. This was because we had an extra night at SB’s studio before the firing and not enough time to bisque fire and glaze separately. The glaze on the greenware moved a lot in the bisque firing which was disappointing but I was still eager to see how they would emerge after the raku firing.

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The firing took place at SBs studio – two separate kilns to get through the volume of raku items as well as a single metal bin for a 24hr smoking.

The pieces were loaded into the kiln and fired for around 30-60 mins depending on the rate of heat. SB has decades of ceramics experience to draw from and she was able to decide when the pieces were ready.

Items were removed from the kiln using long metal tongs and placed into a variety of metal vessels including bins, billys, wheelbarrows and boxes! These were already half filled with sawdust and once the white-hot pots were placed in the sawdust, more was thrown on top of them as well as paper and other organic matter. Once the flames were covered a lid, or pre-prepared tin foil lids, was placed on top and on top of that, wet newspaper was laid.

After about 30mins or so, we removed items from the sawdust and washed them down. It was amazing to see the colours emerge from the burnt sawdust and the variation in glaze effect created by the placement in the kiln, the placement in the sawdust, the reduction and the combustable materials.

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I’m really happy with the results of the raku! I tried to get as much contrast as possible in my pieces, using both the glaze and the black of the raku.

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The two smaller vases at the front, the white orb and triangular vase, are both available  to buy on my Etsy page!

I would definitely love to do more raku! Although it takes a fair bit of equipment, something I’d need to invest in or borrow. One technique I think I will try is the smoking. Other artists created a couple of items, burnished them and had them bisque fired. These were then placed in a large garden incinerator, surrounded by sawdust, other combustibles, palm leaves and rosemary and then a few chemicals such as copper oxide and sodium chloride were sprinkled in. This was then set on fire and left to smoke over 24 hours. I haven’t seen the results, but I am aware that you can create amazing effects using this technique. All I’d need to get is a garden incinerator and a big bag of sawdust! A lot of the other things I have already. So – perhaps this is a project for the rest of the summer while SB’s studio is closed?

I’ve been busy on social media keeping my Instagram and Etsy shop updated creating a new Facebook page!

As ever, it’s great to hear from you so please feel free to comment or offer tips or advice!

Love

PS xx

Middleport Pottery 

Well! A few weeks ago   I ticked an item off my bucket list – a trip to Middleport Pottery! The home of Burleigh ware.

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Sadly, it was supposed to be for a porcelain class but a mix up meant that I did not attend (we were fully refunded and the staff were very apologetic – giving me a beautiful book to compensate!) but rather than waste the journey we went for a walk around the estate. Again unfortunately it was a weekend and so their official tours were not running but we were nonetheless able to walk around most of the exhibits and grounds and the representative Liz was extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

The beautiful Burleigh transfers

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The three stages of a teapot!

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Middleport has been producing wares since the mid 1800s non stop to present day. This is an incredible feat in of itself! The factory was the first to consider the different stages of creating ceramics and accordingly planned the building and layout to create a production line with seven bottle kilns and their own seggars on site. The site is perfectly placed next to a canal for transport of the products.

We also stopped for a spot of lunch in the cafe which was very reasonable and absolutely delicious. And then even more time taking in the beautiful show rooms!

I’d highly recommend a visit to the pottery, particularly if you are a Throw Down fan as they have a current exhibition displaying some of the most memorable pieces from the show!

P Stratford xx

 

Coiling (& Raku preparation)!

Apologies for the long delay in posts, life has gotten extremely busy. Working full time and taking care of a family doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Access to SB’s studio has been on and off as well due to similar circumstances. However the last week or so has seen some pottery action!

We are doing a raku firing in about a week, which meant making a couple of pieces early enough to have them bisque fired, glazed and dry enough in good time!

I have grown in confidence in my slab building however coiling is probably my weakest skill. Therefore I decided to take the opportunity to try and get better at coiling whilst preparing some items for a raku firing – two birds; one stone!

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep a coherent shape when coiling. Perhaps I’m working with the clay too wet? Should I be waiting until the clay is drier before coiling? The pot seems to sag and lose shape. Getting the sides smooth inside and out is tricky too. Perhaps my coils are too thin as well.. Any tips or advice would be great!

I read in Clay Craft about using a former to begin the piece and then to coil on top of this. This was more successful, but still not easy!

Nonetheless I created a few items – a coiled bottle, two coiled bowls using a former for the base and then an orb using two pieces shaped using the former. I shaped one of the bowls into a triangular shape just to mix things up a bit!

SB had created about six or seven glazes for the firing. I dipped items, used tape to keep parts of the clay clean, brushed on glaze and dripped it to create movement! Hopefully this will mean I get a lot of contrast between the colourful glazed areas and the naked clay, which will go black in the firing. Plunging the hot pieces into a bin of sawdust and paper will also affect the colours, so I will consider how to create as much reduction as possible before the big day!

I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of the glazed items, but we’re doing the raku firing on the 22nd July so I’ll take as many photos as possible.

SB’s studio is now closed for the summer but I bought a new bag of clay, so I’m hoping to get back to throwing and building more regularly over the next few weeks – and blogging of course!!

As ever, keep up to date with my comings and goings on Instagram and keep an eye on my etsy page for some lovely things!

P Stratford xx

Birdbath

A dear colleague at work is leaving and I wanted to say thank you in a meaningful way. So. What better than making him something! I know he loves his garden and so a flower pot or birdbath came to mind. Having made a few oblong slab built flowers pots recently, I thought a birdbath might be fun to make. 

I began with a former shape. I used a straw to poke through three holes, however I wasn’t sure what detail or design to do. I wanted I didn’t know if a country garden, traditional birdbath might be most appropriate or something a little more fun. I thought perhaps a little bird on the side but it didn’t seem very original. Something work related would be fun, perhaps? So I created a little tube train coming out of a tunnel along one side!

In my haste to glaze and fire it before he left, I read that you can use Mayco glaze on leather hard clay, meaning a single firing!

…well. Needless to say, I thought the piece was dry and after opening the kiln, my heart sank. It had cracked and broken into pieces. 

Not to be put off, I got straight back to my bag of clay and this time I rolled a slab and used a large mixing bowl to form the base. I cut a separate piece for the rim and once these were suitably dry I made the holes and stuck them together. I let the pieces dry a little more before using  my Mayco glazes and designer liners. I let the pieces dry over the weekend while we were off visiting Middleport Pottery (blog post to follow!) and I fired the pieces Sunday afternoon. 

I was so happy and relieved!! The colours came out well and most importantly it was all in one piece! I ran to a hardware store and rather than paying for expensive chain I found three sink-plug chains. These chains were perfect, 45cm long, rust resistant and they even had the little opening loops at each end!

I gave my colleague the birdbath this week and he was absolutely chuffed. It feels so good to show someone your thanks and gratitude with something you’ve invested time and effort in. I’m going to miss him at work but at least he has a little birdbath to remember us all by!

Birdbath making was fun and the actual shape is no more complicated than a dish. I’m looking forward to making the next one! I’m also really happy I can now single fire my pieces using the Mayco glaze – saves time and electricity!!!

Look out for some birdbaths on my etsy page coming soon!

PSxx

Blue – Brown! Amaco Potters Choice

A post a few months ago, Recent Work, showed a piece I had constructed in a relatively short amount of time but it has been a long time waiting to glaze. This is because I’ve found that sometimes my glaze choices have let me down! For example I love the depth of many of the Botz glazes but they’re thick and you need 2-3 coats, which means it just isn’t suitable for a finely textured piece. I’ve recently been using SB’s Amaco Potters Choice glazes which I really love! However she mostly has blues and pinks, and sometimes they merge into an almost denim colour. Which, if the desired effect is great! 

One glaze combination I’ve been enjoying is the Potters Choice combination of brown (55) and blue (pc20). Usually the blue is a Base colour you layer on top of however I’ve been putting the brown on first and using the blue to accent and it’s worked surprisingly well! 

I first used this glaze combination on a re-glazing and I liked the result. I used a dish made of scraps at the end of a studio session set in a former to try the glaze out on bisque and the depth of the brown was beautiful, particularly where it accentuated the marks underneath.

Re-glazed little vase.

I then tried the glaze in earnest on a larger piece I’ve been working on. It was built of textured strips, inspired by how urban forms and high rises begin to decay and look dated, are abandoned and sometimes find new life either through rehabitation or being reclaimed by nature. I used the blue glaze to highlight areas and wax resist to create contrast against the brown. I’m really happy with how it came out, the textures and marks are really visible. This is definitely a combination I will work with again! I want to put this piece in the garden near a crawler to let it become encapsulated by the plant. Hopefully it’ll grow in and out of the different parts and the green of the leaves will contrast with the deep brown.

PS xx