Friday, November 28, 2008

Kiln week from hell!

Finally got my soda kiln fired after several glitches with bisque,, liner glaze problems and just plain clumsiness and equipment failures! Getting back to work after a year off due to a non working hip and then recovery from hip replacement surgery, has been a bit challenging, tiring and awkward at times. First there was hundreds of pounds of hard clay and reclaim clay to deal with as well as major studio cleanup to do before getting started throwing.
Throwing went OK other than dealing with clay I over softened; but it didn't take long to get those muscles back. Then there was the joy of getting all the slips and glazes remixed and sieved - another daunting task.
Loading the second of the two bisque kilns went fine, and then unloading the second bisque turned out to be a crashing experience, as one of the tall posts on one of the half shelves decided to topple as I was walking away from the kiln to put down another shelf. That little crash resulted in several cracked pots. No problem. I had extras. Then several bowls with a cream liner, which looked fine on application on a raw, dry pot (evenly watered it down quite a bit),cracked horribly in the Cone 03 bisque and was too fused to be removed -more lost pots.Then, while wadding and loading the soda kiln , a 9" half brick post toppled onto 3 small pots sitting on the kiln floor, waiting to be loaded - more broken pots! Suddenly my full kiln load was looking pretty sparse, so I went around the studio looking for a couple of likely candidates for re-firing.
There was a nice, large bowl among the likely candidates and that filled half a shelf, and I found a couple of old plates to glaze, so things were looking pretty good. Kiln finally got loaded, bricked up, with pilot burner on overnight. Next morning it was over 300 degrees and I proceeded with the firing, going nice and slow, as I always do. Around 550 I heard the explosion -fortunate that I was there to hear it!.
I turned off the kiln and had to wait the following morning to deal with it. Got up at 4am, walked the dogs, unbricked the kiln door to discover that it was the big refire bowl that was the culprit. The kiln gods weren't too cruel, as it was on one of the upper, front shelves, so I didn't have to unbrick the whole door - just the first 8 -10 courses or so. I was able to reach down to the floor to pick up some large chunks and was able to reacht he likely places to remove chards that had settled inside of some pots. There were some shelves that had to be removed, and I had to re-apply some loose alumina hydrate and reload those shelves and brick her up again. By 7am I was back firing.
Great, I thought;but the kiln demons weren't done with me! Twice during the lower temperatures, the burners kicked off; but Iwas so tired that I had affixed myself to my camp chair in the kiln room and was there both times to re-start the burners immediately. Other than bathroom visits and one fifteen minute break to quickly gobble up the Kentucky Fried chicken dinner that Jim had brought home, I sat near the kiln. I wasn't taking any chances with how my kiln luck was going!
Well, at 2000 degrees, the kiln kicked off again, so I jet propelled myself out of my camp chair and quickly depressed the button on the safety valve. 10 minutes later, after multiple tries, those burners refused to go back on without me holding the button down. By now the pen hanging on my sweat shirt was burning me and my metal watch was burning my left wrist, and the water was dripping off my forehead at an alarming rate. So Iquickly released the numb finger on the button, closed up the ports (burned several fingers doing that), and damper ran into the house and screamed to Jim to call Shane. I quickly ran back to the kiln room, started the burners again, and they were kicking back (I forget thatI had the damper in and didn't remember until Shane got there!) But I at least got the pilot on and in about 10 minutes Shane showed up and determined what I had already figured out, that the basal valve was probably shot. He said it could also be the thermocouple in the pilot burner, so using his amazing strength and two large wrenches, he managed to take the thing apart and jerry rig his extra large C clamp to keep the pipe connections closed so Icould finish the firing.
By the time we got the kiln turned back on it had dropped to 1700F.
Another thing - the kiln had been firing hot at the top in past firings so I had Shane add to the chimney so that it would be about 3' higher the the roof peak. He also adjusted the bag wall earlier when he did some other work on the kiln and burners. Unfortunately,we probably should have only made one adjustment because the higher chimney did what I thought it would do - make the bottom hotter! Theproblem is that we also opened the bag wall a lot at the bottom, so it got a lot hotter! I wound up with cone 12 at the bottom left and on the opposite bottom at the read, with cone 10 barely starting in some places on top, and various levels of cone 10 and 11 in some other places.
Since it was already past my ideal peak temperature, I decided to accelerate the salting (I had already done some of the Nichols whiting/sodium bicarb mix and some wet soda ash applied to scrap wood pieces, and one salt burrito) and wound up throwing in 2 more salt burritos, a couple more angle iron doses of the Gail Nichols mix, and one round of spraying soda in about 8-10 ports. The draw tiles looked like I got some surface shine, so I'm hoping I put enough material to do the job. I have no idea how much salting material actually went into the kiln! In panic mode, and time being of the essence, I wasn't going to be fussy about weighing anything. At 2am after a much needed shower, washing and blow drying my hair (I smelled like a fireman after a day fighting fires!), I finally crawled into bed, convinced I should take up book binding or or some other less strenuous, less dangerous activity at my age!
The kiln has been cooling for a couple of days and is now about 220 degrees, so some time late tonight or more likely, tomorrow morning , I'll be able to start unbricking the rest of the door. I've peeked in and from what little I can see, things don'tlook too bad. The pots are quite dark from the 3 salt burritos. One plate has a couple of pieces of debris in it and that's one of the pieces I check earlier. It was clear then, so it's a major puzzlement where they came from.
Well that's the end of my woeful tale, if you've had enough stamina to read this novelette!

Till next time,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Experiment

An Experiment:

If you throw a batch of pots then leave them under plastic for 10 days how many will be salvageable when you return?
The answer: 50% under deadline More if there was time to play with them

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Speed Bump

Sometimes things just don't turn out like you expect. Monday morning I woke up with food poisoning. Tuesday night I checked into the emergency room and had my appendix out early Wednesday morning. So much for the food poisoning self- diagnosis. Because of large amounts of infection and the compromise of some other organs that I'd like to keep, they kept me there until this morning on IV antibiotics. But I'm home now! I cannot pick up more than 15 pounds for a month, but I hope I'm finally on the mend.

I have no idea yet what I'm going to be able to do about the tour. When I left the studio on Sunday night I had all the pots I needed thrown and a couple dozen under plastic still to trim. If anyone has an hour to help me load a bisque kiln or mix up a glaze in the next week I'm going to take all the help I can get. I can't lift more than 15 pounds for a month. It might be the glazing that does me it. There's probably just too much time in that.

See you all soon!

Sarah House

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cuppa Snow?

Free snow with cup purchase out at the warm snow filled showroom. Come on out and get em' , the showroom is about as warm as these wood fired pots!

(snow delivery guaranteed for shipping within region remaining in 32 degrees or below.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Hey Lefties and pottery teaching-types, i'm doing a little research,
How do you as a lefty, or as someone who is teaching a lefty, [teach to] throw:
-Counterclockwise or clockwise?
-If Counerclockwise, what side of the wheel are you throwing on left or right?
-If Clockwise, " " " " " " " " " " " " ?

Thank you very much for your participation.

Clay Club was fun!

Had a great time at John's Fun House last Wednesday for Clay Club. Or the dinner party fromerly known as Clay Club. But we did have a moment of clay when Mark Peters brought in some 15 thousand year old NC pottery shards he got out by Cape Fear.

Next Clay Club?? Susan suggested caroling?? Any suggestions on location. We know Mark Peters wants it at the Fun House but any other ideas? Hartom? Yummy Mud Puddle. A suggested topic is "How to make it in trying times!" Perhaps John Richards could give his take on marketing?

Let me know what you think,

John Britt

Chilly Tonight

It is chilly tonight!! Hunker down in front of the fire.

John Britt

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Glaze Classes 2009

I have just posted my 2009 Schedule for Glaze Classes.

If you have ever been interested in improving your knowledge of glazes or
firing now is the time to do it! Don't wait another year.

I am about an hour from Asheville NC and just next down the road from
Penland School. Not only is it a beautiful location but it is conducted in
an atmosphere of fun, learning and creativity that you will never forget!


John Britt
154 Sparks Road
Bakersville, NC 28705
828-688-6615 (evening)
828-467-5020 (day)


We need a title for this Kline Expression. Any ideas?


Clay Clubbers Kickin' It

Will Baker Ball-Breaker, Lindsay Rockin' Rogers, Emily the Wrong Reason and Molly Midwestern Irish Flannegan kickin' it at French Broad Friday in Marshall. Thanks for coming out y'all!
We made kiln pizzas that night which gave me an idear... "Kiln Cooking Cookbook." (kiln as method of cooking not required, but is a plus!)
What do you think, Compile our favorite recipes (food that is) at the next Clay Club meeting, throw in a couple bucks and get a spiral book-thingy printed for all to enjoy!?

Burning down the Studio

John was just happy that the studio didn't burn down!

It doesn't take much to make the Clay Club successful!

John Britt

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am a lucky potter

Today, I got the manual for my kiln I had ordered and boy-oh-boy did I do some things wrong when I fired last weekend. Like having the audacity to fire my kiln without a manual. And stacking a little too tight. And forgetting all about a bag wall. Ooops. I am chalking my good fortune of a pretty decent kilnload of work, simply to beginner's luck and my belief that I really should be making pots. Or could it be the kiln gods my kids made?

Done for the Year!

OK, I might be in the category of "done for the year". But still working with clay! In my retirement I have become a tile setter. This is our bathroom which has been torn up since June. Pretty exciting to be getting it back together. Next step: sealing tiles and then grouting. Then we can put the toilet back in. So while I could be making pots, this is fun too.

Brothers and Sisters in Clay

from l to r, Matt Jacobs, Heather Tinnaro,
Melissa Weiss, Kyle Carpenter, and Josh Copus
of Clayspace CO-OP

In case you don't get the Mountain Xpress, like me, or never go to Asheville, like me, here was a cover story about some potters you may know.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Busy Season

Stop reading this and go make more pots! The show is not over yet! You are not "done for the year!" Let's make some dough!!!! Come February we'll be eating Ramen noodles. I'm typing this as I'm pulling the wall of a pot.....I'm multitasking. Come on, are ya really done?

-kyle in Asheville
p.s. I'm going to be a father...again, come June 2009

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Firing Results

All in all, the firing went well. A few rough spots, but I know it will take several firings for me to really know this kiln. I've used all these glazes in college some dozen years ago, so no real surprises there with the exception of the Lau Lustre Shino. It turned out pretty uninteresting and also crazed on most of my pieces. Also, Rob's Green turned out terrific except on the pieces made out of Helios (if you look close, you can see the mess)--it ran down to the shelf. Now I need to get busy making more pots, so I can fire again soon without forgetting what I learned from this firing.

Obama B Ware

Just when you thought all of the bidding was over...Now you can get some really slick Obamaware, but why wait? But as the ad says, "this design is sold as is" and this tag line:
Barack Obama & John McCain merchandise available on November 5, 2008. We carry a unique collector plate & coffee mug of Barack Obama's presidency. Celebrate our 44th president of the United States of America with these high quality porcelain collector plate and 11 ounce bright white coffee mug. There are no minimum sets or maximum quantity. The more you buy the lower the price. Select your item above and order today.
Buyer Be Ware.


You're where?


Monday, November 10, 2008

French Broad Friday

Hey Clay Clubbers!

It'll be worth coming down the mountain for French Broad Friday in Marshall this Friday the 14th. It's going to be out best yet with an Artist Market, featuring visiting artists from surrounding counties, live music at your choice of three fabulous restaurants, open studios, fire dance, modern dance performance, and a bad-ass hip-hop dance late into the night. I'd love to show you the new kiln and studio. Plenty of food, music and art for you, your family and friends. Hope to see y'all!

visit the blog for a complete listing of events

Friday, November 7, 2008

Maiden Voyage

For me, at least. I've met some of you at the last 2 meetings. I bought the Craven's old place in South Toe, complete with this behemoth 18 cu ft kiln. I'm firing it for the first time tomorrow. I must admit that this is the most exciting thing I've done in a long time!
A special "Thank You" to John Britt for coming by and sharing his wealth of firing knowledge earlier this week. Stop by if you're in the area. I'll take any firing advice and support you have.


Cone 10 Reduction
30.00 Kona F- 4 Feldspar
25.00 Spodumene
8.00 Nepheline Syenite
25.00 Kentucky Ball Clay
5.00 EPK Kaolin
7.00 Soda Ash

1.75 Synethic Red Iron Oxide

Dip pot and while it is still wet, sprinkle some sieved wood ash on the side. Fire to cone 10 in reduction and have a heavy peak reduction at cone 10 for about half an hour.

John Britt

Monday, November 3, 2008

Today, clay is important....

...but tomorrow is all about your vote! November 4th is just hours away and I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone to go out and cast your vote! Don't worry if if you accidentally missed the opportunity to vote early in this fine state, you still have one more chance! The polls in NC open tomorrow at 6:30 AM and close at 7:30 PM. That gives you a whole 13 hours to make your way to your polling station and make your voice heard. If you aren't sure where you should be heading tomorrow here are some helpful links:

To find your polling location:

Don't be caught off guard. View a sample NC ballot before you vote. Just enter your info to see your ballot

General info:

Thats it! I strongly believe that Barack Obama is the right choice for our country... but however you choose to vote just make sure you do it! Every vote counts.