High-fired, medium stoneware bowl, by Susan Duncan
I mentioned a while ago that I bought two things from Susan Duncan last summer when I visited her studio in Lochcarron, on the west coast of Scotland. This is the second bowl, and it is difficult to do it justice in a photograph. The way the deep blue glaze breaks to black over the rim and throwing lines is spectacular. I’m now wishing I bought two of them.
Little Barcelona Bowl, slipcast porcelain, by Jeanette List Amstrup
Whilst I was in Copenhagen, at the end of last month, I had a little time to visit a few ceramics galleries and studios. Most of the pots that I saw were contemporary in style and these caught my eye. It was inevitable that I would buy something… and this is the first of three pieces I came home with. I would have loved to have bought one of Jeanette’s larger pieces, but I had to be able to fit any purchases into my carry-on luggage. This series of bowls were created for an exhibition at Mitte Gallery in Barcelona. They are simple, fulsome forms that are lovely to hold. The glazes are stunning with apparently effortless blends of colour, which I’m sure aren’t as simple to perfect.
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…
I opened the kiln about an hour ago… and this is what greeted me.
So here it is… the finished mug.
Thank you for following me through its journey.
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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.
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.
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…
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Thrown porcelain dish with volcanic glaze and inscribed text, by Carys Davies
This beautiful sample arrived in yesterday’s post.
I’ve been following Carys’ blog for some time and particularly admire her ‘on the horizon’ pots… beautiful combinations of smooth and rough glazes, meeting and merging along a horizon line and often accompanied with words from the Shipping Forecast. I was interested to read that she is progressing some new work inspired by thorn trees in grassland, but has been having a few glaze issues with some pieces sticking to the kiln shelves. I left a comment and because of that she sent me one of the ‘faulty’ pots. It may not be perfect, but it’s still truly beautiful. Lucky me!
Reduction fired stoneware bowl, by Miranda Forrest
I’ve picked up a few wonderful things from the Outer Isles on my yearly visits there and I will show you some more of them over the coming weeks. I’ve been hoping to meet Miranda Forrest ever since I read her book, Natural Glazes, but circumstances played against me again this year. However I did have the chance to visit the Uist Craft Producers’ shop at the Kildonan Centre on South Uist and buy this lovely pot made by her. It is a thing of beauty only increased by the fact that the glaze is made from locally sourced Angelica and Dock plants.
Sea urchin; straight from reduction (smoke) chamber (l) and after cleaning (r)
I thought I wouldn’t make it into the studio until next week but I got itchy fingers yesterday and couldn’t resist. I didn’t have time to throw anything so I decided to do some raku glazing and firing instead. It looked like it would be a perfect clear cold night for my second firing using the homemade kiln. I mixed up a new version of the turquoise raku glaze that I have used before – this time with a little less copper oxide in the hope for a lighter colour. I glazed a number of small urchins that were biscuit fired before the holidays. After trying to learn from my previous mistakes the results were much better than last time: a much quicker firing; and a better glaze colour; but nearly everything cracked again. Now I’m sure I need to change to a clay with more grog in it.
What I do love about raku firing is that at first you pull out these black lumps from the reduction chamber and they look pretty grim, but then you get them under the tap and start to scrub away the soot and smoke to reveal the finished pot beneath.
Next time I must remember some marshmallows for toasting.
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