Monday, January 31, 2011

Bonsai Pots Again

Woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling that I had been thinking (or dreaming) about my bonsai pots. I went on thinking about them, and my thought was, 'Why am I trying to make them in white clay?' I'm concerned about having unglazed clay showing near the bottoms of the feet, and underneath where I want to have my signature, so why am I using a white clay? The glazes I am planning to use are all dark and earthy to show off the bonsais.

Good point, so I went shopping today and got a few boxes of a nice dark brown-firing stoneware. Have to do some testing, but I'm thinking the problem of the white feet is solved.

One pot looking good so far - nice dark brown glaze with lighter, bronzy highlights, and NO CRACKS!

Also got some of those bendable plastic 'trugs' they sell for gardening use. I think they are going to be just the thing for holding enough glaze to dip these pots. The pots are too wide to go into any pail, and too tall to go in the trays I have. These (I got two sizes, one about 16" across at the bottom and one about 22" across) will be wide enough and deep enough, and not need a hundred gallons of glaze to fill. Making enough glaze to dip large pots can get costly!

Glazing tomorrow......

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bonsai Pots.... and Muffins

Bonsai Pots

Still at it. There are now over 30 bonsai pots in various shapes and sizes, all bisqued. Only one shows any cracks. Of course, it's the one I liked best..... never mind, I'm going to glaze it anyway and even if the crack shows it should be useable. I plan to make myself a bunch of pots for my Amaryllis bulbs and it would be good for that.

I've re-made those dog-gone rectangular pots and they are tucked up in 2-mil plastic drying s-l-o-w-w-l-l-y. Probably take a month to dry. By the way, what do other potters use to cover pots with in order to slow down the drying? I've always used dry-cleaning bags, they are very thin and soft and don't mar wet pots, but now that I live a non-dry-cleaning lifestyle, how can I get more dc bags? Husband never gets anything dry-cleaned, daughter rarely does. I don't even know anybody who gets stuff cleaned anymore. The thinnest I can buy is 2-mil and it's not the same. I did ask at a dry cleaners, but they said they weren't allowed to give away or sell the bags. One of the stores offers to take back used bags as a 'green' idea, but apparently nobody does it, and even if they did, they still wouldn't be allowed to give them to me. Don't understand why not but such is life.


Made the world's best Blueberry muffins for breakfast this morning. I was about to put butter on a hot muffin when a Blue Jay sailed by the kitchen window. I swear his beady eye was on me - ready to eat a treat, and his feeder (and tummy) empty. So I got my old rubber boots and parka on over my pj's and slogged out to fill up the feeders. I'm too good to those birds.

If anybody, anybody at all, tells me they want me to, I'll put the recipe up here. It's just as easy as any muffin recipe and the muffins are AMAZING! Potters like to eat, right? So it's not off-topic!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still Challenges

Well. This hand-building gig is just not exactly all it's cracked up to be. You'd think a few rectangular pots would be easy. Hah. Take a look at this:

And they looked so good on Saturday! Then I took the plastic off so they could finish drying and you see the result. The smaller pots are all OK, but I guess these cracked because the bases took longer to dry (and shrink) than the sides.

Live and learn, and learn.... and learn.

If I continue to learn from my mistakes, I'm going to be awfully smart some day.

The other thing we've been working on is testing some glazes to dip the bonsai pots in. So far I have one black glaze (the three on the lower left in the picture) that works quite well for bonsai pots. And there is a lot of it, so I have enough to dip the pots. The little textured tile next to it is an old glaze which always works well on texture so I know I can mix up a batch of that. The tile on the extreme bottom left is the black glaze with the brown one on top. A nice oil-spot if you can see it. Above these are 4 tiles of Ron Roy's 'Slate Blue' from his book Mastering Cone 6 Glazes. It looks nice on the buff stoneware I use, but of course none of the bonsai pots are in that clay.... on the white clays it looks a bit drear.

The blue ones above that are Ron Roy's 'Stormy Blue', which is always nice.

The top row is the 'Waterfall Brown' from the book. I don't know if you can see it here, but it is very nice on texture. Definitely worth mixing a large batch and trying it on those bonsai pots that have some texture. Not too much fun on plain vertical sides, but it'll make nice edges.

And the butter dishes? Well, if someone would explain to me how come, when we made a prototype which worked perfectly and then made six 'real' ones in exactly the same way, the 'real' ones are too small for the butter, I'd be grateful.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Challenges, sigh

Being a newish Year, it seems a good time to take aim at some new pottery challenges!

Definition of a challenge: problem you haven't yet given up on.

The first one is that #$%$##@# rectangular butter dish. Super Helper really thinks we should make these as she gets regular requests for them (she owns a shop), and I have to admit, I have had requests too. We made a stab at them last year, but didn't get very far. So we're trying it again. I made a mold for the upper part (a comedy of errors involving a too-large master shape, a sharp saw and much sanding) and she made a template for the clay. You can see one of the dishes she made this week on the table in the picture below. Now if we all cross our fingers, maybe they will shrink to the right size.

The other challenge is Bonsai pots. I have a friend who keeps asking me for pots for his bonsai. Trouble is, hand-building is not my long suit and I can't see any other way to make straight-sided rectangular pots. So it's learning time around here! High time I learned to make a square pot, right? Anyway, here are the first efforts:

(Note the butter dish hiding behind the bonsai pot in the foreground.)

(Note also the efficient, scientifically precise and highly detailed engineering drawing ....)

So far they seem to be working, but they aren't quite dry yet so there is still the possibility of cracking, especially at the corners, and of the feet falling off, which is what I seem to recall is what feet  mostly want to do.

Once they are bisqued, I then get the nice challenge of glazing them..... here I really need to do some serious testing of colour/glaze combinations. Not to mention figuring out how to handle oddball shapes with holes in the bottom, and, later, really large shapes. The ones above are only about a foot square, but a lot of bonsai pots are much larger. How the heck will I glaze a pot 24" by 18"??

Last minute gifties and Happy New Year

An entirely new year, and like the heroine of Anne of Green Gables said about a new day, 'with no mistakes in it yet'.Maybe, being a whole year, we should say, 'with no disasters in it yet'..... although that may be tempting fate. Anyway, I wish the very Best of Everything to all of you in 2011, and no disasters, please!

I had a nice quiet Christmas season, with all orders picked up well before the 24th (unlike other years) and not even one 'it's an emergency, I must have a purple pie plate to give to my mother for Christmas and I know it's only a week, but surely you can do it.....' customer. It was so calm and civilized around here it almost made me nervous, but then I decided to make a few pieces to give to my daughter's step-daughters. The oldest is studying to be a pastry chef and the other, who is busy sorting out her personality as all teens must, asked for a 'zebra plate'.

Making the zebra plate was harder than I expected. Turned out I had no real idea what zebra strips look like! A quick Google helped out though and here is the result. Not bad, but boy did it take a lot of black.

 The other gift I wanted to make was a series of square plates for serving goodies. Since J. also likes all things oriental, I immediately pictured plates with bamboo designs. Here they are:

Both girls were delighted!