Our kiln came with many bits, bobbles, and boxes. This MED-MAR Metals bottle has “25%” penciled onto the label, and claims to be Mother of Pearl. It’s been sitting on the shelf with the kiln furniture for years, and today, I had a few hours to run an experiment. I’m assuming that it’s a lustre and I’ve coated a clear glazed ceramic piece with this fluid, and it’s currently firing to cone 018 (750° Celsius) to see what happens. The best part of pottery is the magic of alchemy. Also, the worst part of pottery is the magic of alchemy. I’m hoping for the best.
First firing with the “fixed” kiln had some problems BUT this little porcelain + melted glass experiment makes up for it. Now I’m on the hunt for kiln elements sold within Canada, and I don’t want to wait 6 weeks for delivery again!
Glaze combination: shiny blue in, matte chocolate out. This might work for the birds #YarnBowl . Love that blue. #ceramics
Today is glaze firing day! I load the kiln as I finish items so this morning when the last item went in, it was time to crank up the heat and start the cycle. I loaded four shelves that look much like this one: After the horrific failure of the jewelry stand during the last firing leaving pieces permanently fused and nicked, I’ve gone back to glazing only one side of the buttons so they can lay down for glaze fire. Buttons are just as functional with only the showing side fired so I’m at peace with this decision. I wanted to glaze both sides of pendants for the sheer vanity of it however, until I have a new secure jewelry stand for firing, they will also be glazed one side only. I have some mugs, stands, pendants and bowls in this kiln load as well. I don’t know how I’m going to wait for it to be finished. During the third of nine hours of firing, I was closing the top vent and took this photo for your viewing pleasure. Looks toasty, doesn’t it?: I’m counting down the hours to unpack this baby tomorrow evening! I guess it’s time to go straighten up the neglected house while I wait.
After the buttons, pendants and other pieces have gone through the kiln once, it’s time for glazing. I spend an embarrassingly long time in this stage: THE SORTING. I lay pages with glaze names and I start to sort the 400-500 buttons. They are separated into sets based on their thickness, pattern and, well, my gut. As I group them with their permanent partners, I look at the glaze sheets and try to find where each set fits. Some glazes show off my stamp and texture detail, others mix better with others, some glazes serious, some playful. Some very popular (hello MidRain!) so I weigh the sorting in its favour. A glaze or two might be new so I’m cautious to be sure I’m not assigning too many sets to an untested glaze. Some pieces I have made with a very specific glaze combination in mind and I check my notebook to separate these correctly. Once they’re all sorted, my notes double checked, my list of custom orders verified, I take a photo of the table and I go to bed. Goodnight little buttons. Glazing begins tomorrow!
I picked up some really cool underglazes recently. These are the Amaco Semi-Moist Underglazes (“SMUG”) and they go on like watercolour paint. I experimented on some porcelain and the colour on the leather clay before firing was the exact colour after bisque. Spot on. I’m completely amazed because this is a thing that never ever happens in ceramics in my experience. The colour that goes on is usually not even remotely related to what you end up with. Here’s an example of a pot before and after glazing. This is what it looks like just before going into the kiln, and just after it comes out to show that really, a potter has not a clue what it will look like until it’s all said and done. Glazing is my least favourite phase in ceramics because a few minutes applying glaze incorrectly can leave a piece unusable or… just plain ugly : Not only do the glazes look different before and after firing, layering glazes changes them drastically and a potter cannot rely on the basics of paint colour theory to give them any idea what will happen. Blue + Yellow does not equal green in mid to high fire ceramics. In the kiln, glazes with usually copper or barium in the presence of oxygen = green end colour. To make things a little more interesting, the sequence in which you layer different glazes also matters to the end result. In this example from Mayco, the technician layered two glazes on the plate, first dipping one side and then rotating the plate to dip the other glaze to overlap the first. On the first plate, she dipped the red first, then dipped the blue overlapping. In the second photo, she dipped the blue onto the plate first, then dipped the red overlapping. Note the crazy crystals that formed when the blue was put over the red and the different result from layering in a different sequence. Glazing, she be an exercise in practice, requiring detailed notations on exactly how and in what order the glazes were brushed or dipped. Because I want to be able to reproduce results if they turn out really inspiring, I take incredibly detailed notes when glazing. Now these underglazes are making my heart flutter. The blue, yellow, green, purple and oranges on my test piece made it through green to bisque without a hint of change. Now that I’m turning up the heat 250 degrees C to 1240 C for a cone 6 glaze firing and I’m very eager to see how they do. Between my black underglaze pencil and the SMUGs, the effects that I’m getting are ones I’ve always dreamed of achieving in ceramics. I’m drawn to charcoal shading and dark lines, light accents of variegated colour and a vast sea of negative space to frame designs. My challenge has been that I want mid to high fire ceramics because of longevity of the end product (they don’t call it stoneware for nothing). However, in the highter temps, colours run or subtle colours “burn off”, disappearing as the temp rises in the kiln, never to return. I wanted something simple in design, lightly tinted with colour with a feeling of watercolour paint on this sample set of mugs. I used the underglazes and underglaze pencil to echo an earlier design I’d etched into tea cups. I’m very pleased. I love Ceramics Canada for being able to order the SMUGs for me so I could avoid a $23 shipping fee. Cross your fingers that these mugs look exactly the same once they arise from the glaze firing. I’m more than a little enamoured with the design.
A quick note to show you two wonderful prizes that caught my attention during this glaze firing: 1. BUGS! Holy cow, I love these! 2. Remember the crooked wheel’s tea cups from back in the early summer? They turned out just perfectly: I haven’t photographed the rest of the non-button kiln gems but I can tell you that another set of red koi mugs turned out perfectly! As much as I intended to sell them, I’m not sure I can because I want to see them everyday with my morning coffee. I’ll post more finished objects as they come. Also be sure to check out the etsy store for the newest buttons.
The latest glaze firing ran yesterday two days behind schedule but this morning we opened it up and the contents were nothing short of breath-taking. Here’s three quick phone photos I snagged while I was checking the finish on each button: The weather isn’t looking great for Friday so I’m hoping hard that it’s sunny outside on Saturday so I can do a photoshoot of these beauties. I love my “job”! -Cara
Based on the patterns coming out of the kiln, I must have caught spring fever early this year. Leaves, dragonflies, flowers, birds… I can see exactly where my mind was at during the creation process. Here’s a few samples of my latest little gems to show you: A subtle bird that pooled the glaze just right. At first glance, it’s a large brown oval and then when the light hits, the bird indentation catches your eye: Frost blue flowers that would be perfect on a wee cardigan (in itself, a spring concept): This larger triangle dual-tone green button was a glaze tester because really, I’m still in search of a crystallizing green that can also highlight detail. This is a definite success. The little swirl detail reminds me of the seedlings that are on their way: Next up, I present a couple of multicoloured buttons because I just have to share that everything has a purpose. I have a glaze that I want to love. I do. I put it on bowls, mugs, jewelry and it just… hasn’t worked for me. The green isn’t “pretty” enough for food and it has brown flecks that, although interesting, also didn’t appeal to me on foodware or resting against a wearer’s neck. I am overjoyed to find it a home – it definitely was made to be on these buttons, brown and green blooming on the blue. This brown beauty with a lace embossing is on its way special delivery to a very loving button jar on the prairies: Even though the snow is still flying, I can’t wait to get into the studio and continue on my “spring” theme. Cheers; – Cara
The glaze test tiles came out of the kiln today. It was exciting, shocking and exhilirating. Let me introduce you to: Turquoise is very pretty but Gunmetal really captured my imagination. It accents the ridges in the clay just perfectly, highlighting every carving and every fingerprint which is what I’m aiming for. The khaki? Not as much. I think I’ll continue to use a similar, yet more interesting, commercial glaze rather than develop the khaki. Plus, I doomed it from the start by calling it “khaki”. Maybe if it was named “giraffe woods” or “ember golden”, it would have had better potential. I still yearn for the perfect green yet the ones I adore have barium in the recipe and just from toxicity potential of barium when using my wares (as mugs, buttons, what have you), it’s not a recipe I’d use in my studio. That will be my next challenge: the perfect green. Until then; -Cara
Dear koi carved mugs; I love you. xo -Cara
It has been three long months since I’ve posted. An autumn of birthday celebrations and a chilly spell brought us to a near halt on the production side and I’ve neglected to post all the new little things we’re working on. New to us is a fabulous furnace in the studio so the chilly spells will no longer stop us! Instead of hauling supplies into the basement and taking a hiatus for the winter, I can continue on through the winter months. We did a glaze firing on Sunday to do some glaze testing and it was… not quite a disaster, but definitely less than happy. My new brown and red glazes were fabulous however I underfired, not even reaching cone 5 so my blues and greens will need a refire. On top of that, the jewelry setup fell over so many of the pendants kissed each other and there’s a small scrape on the side of a koi mug. It was disappointing but with the jewelry setup nestled among two mugs and three bowls, it could have been so much worse! This beauty is the first thing I saw when I opened the kiln, and it softened any disappointment as I emptied the rest of the kiln: And with that, I can’t wait to get home to photograph the koi pieces that made it through to post and share. Viva la furnace! -Cara
I was able to open the kiln completely at 7am the day after glaze firing. The pots were still very warm but I could pick them up with my bare hand without problem. The firing was textbook! All three cones gradually bending. Jay did an amazing job watching this baby. He did have help from the kiln sitter that shut off the kiln as he was on the phone with me, contemplating turning her off. This kiln doesn’t cease to amaze me. I love the Mayco Cinnabar red. It’s absolutely PERFECT: The Midnight Rain? Not so much. I’m going to try to strain out the brown crystals because they do not appeal to me at all: I am now on the hunt for paler blues and greens since, as I look around my home and see my favourite past work, the ones I’ve kept and continue to love tend to fit into this palette. ColourLovers is a continuing inspiration as I try to be true to my aesthetic. I’ll buy the next bit of glaze until I’m comfortable enough, then possibly delve into Ravenscrag mixing of my own glazes. I’ll give that a year – what do you think? Until next time… -Cara
The kiln finished firing to cone 6 at 3:10pm today and it’s 9:15pm – still too hot! I did stick my camera in to take a quick photo. It’s WARM in there for sure – outside temp is 14degrees C and the garage is still at 30! Toasty. Here’s what the camera caught: I can’t wait to see the other three pots underneath! Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have… -Cara