Make a thing a day #2

I promised to show you the finished pots from my makeathingaday week over on Instagram

Over the last week they have all been biscuit fired, sanded, washed, waxed and glazed. They came out of their second firing yesterday and were packed up and put in the post to their winners today. I’m so relieved they have all survived as I really forced the making process to get the projects finished in the allotted time. I’m afraid the teapot is not a good pourer (not surprising considering it was my first), but I see real potential in all these pieces. I’m looking forward to progressing some of them from this prototype stage in the near future.

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Make a thing a day

Last week I took part in makeathingaday on Instagram

‘a generous process laboratory where makers make a thing a day to giveaway. It was started in January 2015 by George Winks of Temper Studio to kick start his creative year, as a way of testing new ideas, and as a personal challenge to make something new each day for a week.’

Take a look at the website to see other makers projects… there is some beautiful work there.

It was a fantastic experience and an opportunity to experiment with concepts that I have had stored away in sketchbooks for some time. I thought it would be good to make an archive of my week’s work. Click on an image for details of the day’s process…

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the week’s work set aside to dry. They are now in the kiln being biscuit fired and hopefully they will be glazed by the end of the week. I’ll post finished images before I send them off to their already selected winners.

Fire on

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Last weekend I had the great pleasure of helping Joe Morgan with the third firing of his new wood/soda kiln. I helped a little with its second firing at the end of last year.

Joe, Joseph Travis and Hilary Firth packed the kiln on the Saturday, then we fired on the Sunday. I arrived at 6.30am and the boys had already got going. I’m a novice at wood firing but I’ll try to explain a little of the process involved…

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The kiln is based on the ‘long’ kilns that Sandra Lockwood and Steve Harrison use in Australia. The fire box is of bourry box design, the chamber long and low. To start, a small fire is lit on the firebox floor using small pieces of kindling. It is imperative to slowly increase the temperature until the kiln has passed all the ‘danger’ points. Pour water at 100˚C, chemically combined water at around 350˚C and lastly quartz inversion at 573˚C. Over the next few hours the fire is built up increasing the embers in the ash pit until around 600˚C is reached on the pyrometer. At this point we switch from adding small pieces of wood through the front to much larger/longer pieces onto the upper part of the bourry box. These rest on hobs over the ash pit and allow the kiln to draw the heat and flames down through the kiln. The rate of draw and atmosphere can be adjusted by adjusting the primary and secondary air holes at the front of the kiln and dampers in the chimney. 

It is continual work to keep the fire fed… sawing, chopping and splitting wood to the right size; feeding and maintaining the fire; monitoring temperature and so on. It is intoxicating though – such a medieval process, involving proper graft, but massively exciting and hopefully rewarding. It is particularly enjoyable when with others… the chat and company spurs everyone on.

The temperature in the kiln’s chambers is checked firstly by using a pyrometer. In addition to this draw rings made from terracotta and stoneware are removed at various points to monitor the atmosphere in the kiln. Pyrometric cones are also observed through spy holes to check the progress in each of the ware chambers.

Once cone 10 goes down (1300˚C) in the first chamber (closest to the firebox) we introduce soda via bark ‘canoes’. These are carefully added to the firebox – the sizzle of the soda vaporising is a very welcome sound. The sodium vapour is then carried through the kiln with the flames and combines with silica in the clay. This will hopefully create the characteristic dimpled ‘orange peel’ glaze associated with soda firing. The last of the wood is added to the firebox before closing down the front of the kiln. Then side stoking begins through four small holes on either side of the kiln. These are located between the three ware chambers. Long, thin pieces of wood are carefully introduced to continue feeding the fire, all the while ensuring that they don’t touch the pots on either side. Finally more soda, wrapped in paper parcels are introduced through the four side stokes before the firing is completed.

By this time it was 9pm and we were exhilarated, but shattered. The firing was better than last time, but we won’t be sure of the results until we open up the kiln next weekend.

As we were tidying up in the darkness, we witnessed the perfect finale for our day’s labour… the most fantastic display of the Northern Lights. Breathtaking.

With many thanks to Joe Morgan, for help with the technical details.

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…

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.

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.

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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.

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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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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.

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.

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.