Making of a mug: Day twelve

Part one
This was the view through the peephole this morning. The firing cycle had completed before I woke up and the kiln was already cooling. I then had to wait (not very patiently) until it got below 200˚c so that I could open it up. If you open the lid too early the rush of cold air can cause pieces to crack. So another couple of hours should do it…

12.1

Part two
I opened the kiln about an hour ago… and this is what greeted me.

12.2

Part three
So here it is… the finished mug.
Thank you for following me through its journey.

12.3

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Making of a mug: Day eleven

Part one

 

Part two
After dipping the mug was set aside to dry for a while. I check each piece thoroughly before putting it in the kiln. Often there are a few drips that need scraping off carefully with a knife (fettling). The bases are also given a final check and wiped if any glaze has stuck to the wax.

11.2

Part three
Once again the mug is put into the kiln, this time for its glaze firing. With the biscuit firing it doesn’t matter if pieces touch each other, but with this firing it is very important that the mug has space around it. The mug will expand considerably as it heats up, and then shrink as it cools. If pieces are too close the glaze will cause them to stick together.

11.3

Part four
Normally I would leave the mug overnight to dry before firing, but I’m trying to get the firing completed for the North East Open Studios (NEOS) which start on Saturday. To help dry it thoroughly I have added a preheat to the firing cycle. The mug will then be fired to cone 7 (1239˚c). This will take roughly 14 hours to reach temperature and once again a similar amount of time to cool. I hope to be able to open the kiln tomorrow night…

11.4

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Making of a mug: Day ten

Part one
So here is the mug after the first firing. It is still warm from the kiln. Note the change of colour from the grey of the unfired clay to white, which is pretty close to how it will be once it is glazed. The glaze firing will warm the colour slightly and deepen the blue of the interior.

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Part two
Next the mug needs to be sanded to remove any rough spots, especially around the foot and rim. I use wet and dry sanding pads which are flexible so make it easy to follow the contours of the piece.

10.2julietmacleod2015

Part three
Then the mug is washed thoroughly. Some potters prefer to use a damp sponge or skip this step entirely, and just give each pot a quick brush before glazing. Biscuit firing produces a large amount of dust, and the sgraffito process exacerbates this. I have found if I don’t wash my pieces I have real problems with my glaze not adhering properly.

10.3julietmacleod2015

Part four
This is the final stage for today… waxing. Again there are many different approaches to the glazing stages, many potters prefer not to wax and just wipe any excess glaze from the foot of their pieces. It is imperative that no glaze comes in contact with a kiln shelf as they will cement together, damaging both the pot and the shelf. I prefer to apply wax resist to any areas where I do not require glaze. The glaze does not adhere to the waxed areas and the wax burns off in the firing leaving a crisp line where the glaze finishes. If any wax goes in the wrong place the pot will need to be biscuit fired again to remove it before glazing.

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Making of a mug: Day nine

Part one
Very late last night, as I checked on the kiln, I mixed some clear glaze so that it will be ready for dipping tomorrow. The glaze ingredients were added to a measured amount of water. They were then left to slake overnight.

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Part two
This morning I passed the mixed glaze twice through a sieve. Each time a quantity is poured into the sieve and then pushed through with a brush into a clean bucket below… this process can be quite time consuming, but it is critical as it removes any large particles that may spoil the finish I am hoping for.

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Part three
Finally I check the density of the glaze by using a hydrometer. This helps me ensure that I get consistent results. For this particular glaze it should read 47, so I need to add a little more water.

9.3julietmacleod2015

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Making of a mug: Day eight

Part one
The mug has dried out nicely and is now ready to have its first firing. At this point it is in its most fragile state so careful handling is vital. It is packed into the kiln along with all the other pieces I’ll be needing for the open studios which start this weekend.

8.1julietmacleod2015

Part two
So here is my kiln Bertha, fully packed, programmed, and switched on. For this biscuit (or bisque) firing she will be slowly heating up to cone 06, which is 998˚c. This will result in the mug being strong but still porous enough to absorb its glaze. The lid is propped open initially to allow any steam to escape. I will close it up about four hours in. It will take just over 11 hours to reach temperature, but then a similar length of time to cool. Because there are a mixture of pieces in this firing, including some wide based platters the slow firing is essential.

8.2julietmacleod2015

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Making of a mug: Day six

Part one
I unwrapped the mug today and the handle has fixed well with no cracking. It is now dry enough to finish the decoration. This can produce a lot of very fine dust. I wear this attractive mask to avoid inhaling any of it.

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Part two
For this mug I am using a traditional decorating technique called sgraffito. This is where you scratch a design through the previously applied coloured slip to reveal the plain clay colour beneath.

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Part three
So now the mug is left for a few days. It needs to be completely dry before firing. Normally I would leave it for over a week but the kiln is firing with other work tonight, so this will speed up the drying considerably. All being well it will go in for its first firing on Monday.

6.3julietmacleod2015

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Making of a mug: Day three

Part one

Making of a mug: Day 3.1 The next part of the process is to attach the handle to the mug. First I slip and score the two attachment points on the body. The slip is just liquid clay made from scrap trimmings from yesterday's turning with a little water added. Scoring is when you use a needle tool to scratch the surface of the pot. Doing this creates a rough texture which helps the handle adhere well. Then I cut the top and bottom of the pulled strap to the required length (I have a little measurement marked on the edge of my work board). Next I slip and score the ends of the handle and join the top to the body of the mug, ensuring I support the inside of the lip as I press. It is important to give the handle a little wiggle as you attach it to ensure a good firm join. Then I curve the handle into the right shape and attach the bottom, before cutting off any excess. I do a little smoothing at this stage before setting the mug aside for a few minutes to firm up. Then I'd do a final clean up of any rough edges with a damp sponge. #makingofamug #pottery #ceramics #keramik #clay #stoneware #process #handmade #madeinscotland #craft #cup #mug #handke #NEOS15 #openstudios #thismakerslife #piahandles @potsinaction

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Part two
So here is the finished handle. I’ve done a little fettling using a knife and damp sponge to tidy up the two joins…

3.2julietmacleod2015

Part three
At this stage I also add a coloured slip to the inside of the mug. There are many ways to decorate pottery… often this is done after the initial biscuit firing with glazes and underglaze. However I am a slipware potter which means I decorate the unfired work with liquid clay and added pigment.

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Part four
Finally the mug is wrapped up tightly and set aside with the others somewhere warm to sweat a little and dry slowly… hopefully without cracking. It will be a few days before I check on it.

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