Monday, 31 May 2010

Update on the firing

Well, I don't think I will be having any clay time today - I am still so anxious about the firing, I just don't know what to do with myself. I thought this was supposed to be good for me??

The kiln has been soaking at 90c for about 4 hours now, and there is still moisture coming out of the kiln, so I have programed it to soak for another hour.

In the mean time, I have been a good little potter and detailed everything in my "log book". Ok, it's just a note pad, but it's just as well because I made such a mess of my graph earlier that I had to rip several pages out! (er... I made a mess several times over!) I should have paid more attention in school. (or maybe it's just been too long!) Let that be a lesson to you kids! You never know when you are going to need these "pointless" skills that you learn at school!

(Ok, so I spelt schedule wrong, but today I am having trouble spelling my own name!!)

I found I needed to write out the schedule on paper first to help me to key it in to the programer, because I was in such a state! So I didn't just write it out for future reference. And the graph is to help me "visualise" it.

I have to say a big thank you to everyone who has given me advice and support. And Keith's post on log books couldn't have come at a better time!! Thank you all!

Edit's with updates likely!

Edit: Hmm... it's getting really smelly out there now! At first I thought it was maybe the smell of the carbon and sulphur burning off, but it smells a little like an actual burning smell now. Is this normal? We've checked and we can't see any evidence of scorching anywhere, and actually the surrounding floor and walls aren't hot at all. It's only up to about 320c so I have quite a while to go yet! I just can't believe how smelly it is! I should have left the conservatory door open, but it's dark and I was worried that every cat in the neighbourhood would see it as an invitation to move in!! I have opened the door slightly now though. The door between the conseratory and our house has been kept closed though, except when I go out there to check on things of course, but then we have the draftiest double glazed door in Britain so it's no wonder the smell is seeping through! It won't kill me, will it?? :)

Oh, and I remembered what the really important thing was that I had forgotten... stilts for the glaze firing!


I'm having palpitations, my stomach is in knots, I'm dripping in sweat and I'm hyperventilating, and I want to burst into tears. It can only mean one thing - I'm firing my kiln today for the first time!! I thought this was suposed to be fun??

I had a look on the internet last night to see what I could find out about firing damp pots. A couple of people stated that they put their kiln on "a slow bisque firing" and everything was ok. Not very helpful is it? I can only assume these people actually have a setting on their kiln that says "slow bisque fire"!! Well, rightly or wrongly, I have set my first ramp at 30c up to 100c, and then 50c up to 300, then 100c up to 600, and full up to 1000c. Scott helped me load the kiln, because I can't actually reach the bottom!

Edit: A big thank you to Kim for her advice on this. I have now altered my program to soak at 90c for 30 mins, but I will keep checking for moisture and will alter the program accordingly. Thankfully I can change the program even while the kiln is firing. Thank you so much Kim!

How come I've worked so hard for so long and produced so few pieces?

This firing has every ingredient for disaster - I've repaired pots that were bone dry, a couple of the pots aren't dry enough, and the kids pieces are probably full of air bubbles - and yet I'm hoping for a miracle!

Here are the jugs/pitchers by the way, finally finished with their handles.

And here is the comparison to the previously made jug.

The spout and collar is much bigger this time round, and I think the "bowl" part looks rounder. Scott thinks they look better this time, and so do I. I probabaly should have made a stencil to use in the future. Oh well.

Wish me luck with the firing!! You never know, I might even have some clay time today - I'm going to have a long wait watching the kiln!!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Clay Day 23!

I can't believe I am near the end of the challenge!! I have been so tired lately (so what's new?) and to be honest I'm not sure which wears me out most - the clay time or the blog time!! I'm having to really push myself now, but I can't give up when I'm so close! And when I have a show in 5 days time!!

So, here are the jugs, nearly finished. I just need to scrape the surface to neaten up the slip inlay, and attach the handles, which I hope to do tonight.

These are no where near going to be dry in time for the firing tomorrow. But my ex-tutor John said that pots can be fired at about 10 degrees centigrade per hour to dry them out. Does that sound right to you? I'm going to scour the internet tonight to see what I can find.

Once again I've kept the slip inlay design simple. Scott said he prefered it this way. Let's hope the buyers at the show do too! What do you think? I thought Emma looked better with no face as well!

Also today I got myself a little comments book ready. This is what it looked like to start with...

... and this is what it looks like now...

Ok, I'm not a great mixed media artist, but it looks better than when it had Tesco written on it!!

There was something else that I thought of the other day, something really important, and now I can't remember what it was!! Oh dear!!

Right, I must see if these handles are ready for me to attach, so that I can go to bed!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Clay Day 21 and 22 - good news, and a thank you :)

Yes, yes, yes!! The good news is that my kiln is now properly wired in and ready to go!! Yippeeee!!!

I was planning to fire it tomorrow, but with all the disruptions I still haven't managed to finish my jugs/pitchers. I confess, I didn't actully have much clay time yesterday, but I did try! I rolled out my clay and cut out the pieces I needed for the "collars", but they were too floppy for me to do anything with, so I had to leave it until today. Here is the progress so far.

I'm wondering if I've gone too big on the collars this time, but maybe they won't look so big once the spouts are attached. I shall add the spouts after uploading this post, and then it's time for bed!

I'm getting very excited now! Up until now I've been concentrating on the clay side of things, but with less than a week to go I now have to think more about the display. At my lowest point (Wednesday, clay day 19), when I wasn't even sure if I would still be taking part in the show, I found it quite theraputic to remove myself from the kiln situation, have a break from the clay, and to go into town and shop for the other things that I will need for the show. So I didn't do much clay that day, but I was still working towards the same goal.

Thank you all for your encouragement over the past week. It means so much to have support from people who know what this means to me.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Clay Day 20 - Jane Austen won!

Well, there was a bit a of a struggle with that vase I finished yesterday! The vase wanted to stay plain, but the ivy wanted to grow all over it, and even Jane wanted to stamp her mark on it! In the end, Jane won! It had to be done I'm afraid, so that it would fit in with my theme, but I tried to keep it as simple as possible. Sorry girls!

Just an outline of Marianne, with no hills or houses.

The plan was to coil a couple of matching vases over the next couple of days, one for Marianne and one for Emma, but a couple of days just won't be long enough, so I've opted for jugs/pitchers instead. I can slab build these, so it will be much quicker.

Just a week to go before the show!! I set up on Thursday morning, ready for the opening evening on Friday!

Later, on day 20
The start of a couple of jugs/pitchers.

Looking like a cauldron so far! Hmmm.... now there's a thought....

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Everything is sorted - I hope

I ended up in tears today. I rang this morning to borrow the little kiln from the kiln repair man, and I was told that he wouldn't be able to come out until Wednesday afternoon to fix the wiring on my kiln - which would be far too late for a glaze firing, even if I managed to get everything bisque fired in the little kiln by then. He gave me a number for another electrician, who he thought would be able to come out tomorrow, but he couldn't come until late next week either.

So I cried. My lovely Scott even considered calling a man he doesn't get along with, because he's heard he's a really good electrician! In the end he called the kiln repair man again and told him I was standing on the ledge of a tall building, so he agreed to come out on Saturday! (I'm joking about the ledge thing!)

So, all going well I shall bisque fire on Sunday and glaze fire on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

In the mean time, I ordered some business cards (thank you for the reminder Cindy!) and bought some other bits and pieces that I needed for the show. I suppose deep down I had faith that it would be sorted out!

I still don't know what to do with this vase. I don't know why I don't know what to do with it, I just don't. I obviously had a plan when I started it, but now I've changed my mind. I was going to cover it in ivy. I still could, but Scott likes it how it is. I thought maybe I could paint ivy on it instead, with iron oxide?

Tonight or tomorrow I will start on a couple of Jane Austen vases, and make them at the same time to get them as similar as possible.

What clay day are we on now anyway? I've lost count!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Losing motivation

So, today I discover that Monday is a bank holiday and the kiln repair man won't be coming. I don't know when he will be coming. Any later than Monday and the show is definitely not going to happen. I was pushing it time wise as it is.

This is the vase I was working on. The vase part is finished, but I was going to add fancy handles today. Now I can't be bothered. Maybe later.

And that's it. I don't know what else to tell you today.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Clay Day 17 - a disaster

The only clay time I've had so far today is repairing the pot I broke this morning.

When your day starts this way, you know it's gonna be a bad day. And it was.

The kiln servicing man came today and found that most of the elements in the kiln were not working, even though they are in good condition. So he took a look at the wiring... it wasn't wired properly, and it's probably a good thing that it wasn't, because the wire isn't thick enough to carry that sort of current and it could have started a fire.

Now as it happens, the electrician was coming round today to drop off a fuse for us anyway, so the kiln servicing man waited for him, to explain the problem. The electrician was very good about it, and actually he's a really nice bloke, but he had taken some bad advice from a fellow electrician, and it was this fellow electrician who had done the wiring wrong inside the kiln, as he tried to convert it from 3 phase to single phase.

The conclusion of the matter is that the electrician is going to come back to replace the wire at no extra cost, and the kiln servicing man is very kindly going to rewire inside the kiln for me, but we will have to move all our furnature again and the electrician will have to lift up the floor boards again.

And I won't have time to bisque and glaze fire before the show.

But thankfully the kiln servicing man is going to lend me a tiny kiln, for me to bisque my pieces in. I will have to fire it every day until all the pieces are done, but then hopefully my own kiln will be working in time for me to do the glaze firing before the show.

That man is a life saver. Literally.

And now I'm going to eat my take away dinner (did you think I was gonna bother cooking after all that??) and then get on with some coiling, which I'm sure would seem much easier if I only had a bottle of Malibu...

ps. And then I dropped my dinner on the floor.

Edit: I've had a sleep and I got up again thinking I could start my day over again and it would be better this time. But the previous problems are still there. I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to be ready for the show in time even if I use this little kiln. I have 5 days for firing at most, because the electric will have to be switched off when the wiring is re-done. The question is how much can fit in the little kiln? I plan to do a couple more vases and they will probably have to be fired one at a time. This is a disaster. Why is the whole world always trying to stop me from getting to where I want to be?

Edit: The solution
There is only one way round this that I can see. The kiln should be wired up properly by Monday evening. I shall have to stay up all night on Monday to do the bisque firing (I don't want to leave the kiln alone as it will be my first firing). Then the kiln will cool down during the day on Tuesday and hopefully be cool enough to unload Tuesday evening. Then I will have to stay up all night on Tuesday to glaze everything and load the kiln again in the morning. Then glaze fire during the day on Wednesday, and let the kiln cool down during the night on Wednesday night, ready to unload the kiln on Thursday morning, which is when I have to set up my table at the show. Talk about cutting it fine. It's not ideal, but I can't see any other solution.

What do you other potters think? Is this do-able?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Clay Day 15 and 16

Well, the vase is coming along... really slowly! I'm having to stop after every coil or two for it to firm up a bit, so I'm kind of working on it off and on throughout the day. I really had trouble with it yesterday. The coils seemed to be drying in my hands and it wasn't blending well. I'm making very short coils as I go along now and keeping the clay well covered in between. I think it must be the heat.

I can't decide what to do with this vase. I don't know whether to leave it quite open at the top and have ivy growing out of it, or whether to put a neck on it and have ivy growing around it, or just forget the ivy, add a couple of nice handles, and carve a Jane Austen design on it. I'm leaning towards the latter just because I don't actually have much of a "collection" of Jane Austen pieces - only a few tiles, and that's it! But I do like the ivy. Whatever I'm doing I'd better do it quickly because I'm running out of time! To think, I put off making a rabbit because I didn't think I would have time, and so far this silly vase has taken me four days!!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Clay Day 13 and 14

Phew! The last few days have been absolute scorchers! I can't believe the difference in weather since last week! It's really nice to have everything flung open to let the summer breeze through the house and to hear the birds singing. What a shame about the flies, kids, motorcycles, and Scott's music from upstairs!! :)

I tried to get another photo of the tiles I was working on the other night. This photo is much better. I'm not sure if it's because they are drying or because it was taken in daylight, but here it is.

And here is the vase I have been working on for the last couple of days...

erm... not much like a vase is it?! I'm hoping to do more this evening, but I keep having to stop to let it set a bit because otherwise it just flops around!

And that's me, up to date. Oh wow, I've just realised - I've completed two weeks!! Go me! :)

And now it's time for a sandwich before picking up my sister so that she can get the lawn mower out of the shed for me! Hahaha, what a carry on! Scott's gone out and I can't go in the shed - there's spiders in there!!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Clay Day 11 and 12

Well, it's true to say I have slowed down over the last couple of days, but I have not stopped completely. Yesterday I touched up some slipped areas on some of the pieces and prepared a few tiles for slip inlaying today. And today I have done the slip inlaying and have touched up the slip on the bird piece and given him legs!

The tiles are the Marianne and Emma tiles, but the design isn't showing up on the camera. I'm never as happy with the Emma tiles for some reason. Maybe it's not really a good design for slip inlaying or sgrafitto - her face is too small for detail.

The bird looks much better now. I was tired and being very lazy when I slipped his tummy before. This time I have paid slightly more attention to detail.

He's a song thrush. I think the US have a very very similar bird called the wood thrush, but they're not identical. The wood thrush has more white around the face and is a warmer brown I believe. Of course my bird won't be an exact likeness of either, and knowing my luck there is bound to be a keen bird watcher at the show to tell me so!!

Tomorrow... tomorrow I'm not sure what I'm doing. I really should have cut more tiles tonight but I am just too tired. So that's probably what I will do tomorrow. It's nearly two weeks!!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Clay Day 10

Well, my clay time seems to be getting later and later in the day... but I'm still sticking to it! The 28 day challenge that is. You know, the one I'm not doing...

Anyway, I probably told you that the heating broke down last week. And as you know, my laptop conked out a couple of days ago. Then there were the broken feet on the squirrel, and the log that collapsed last night. Well guess what? Today the vacuum cleaner packed up as well! Whatever next?? With everything going wrong just lately, I am getting more and more nervous about firing the kiln, and I'm starting to lose my confidence a bit. I'm happy with tonight's efforts though...

Please do not adjust your screens... I've had to stand the log on it's end to dry so that it won't collapse again! The bird is firmly attached, so I think/hope it will be ok.

I've just remembered that I forgot to give him feet! Oh well, I shall have to do that tomorrow. :)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Clay Day 9 and kiln wiring!

Well, just because I've had a clay day doesn't mean I have to have anything to show for it! And I don't. Quite the opposite in fact.

I was up early today for the electrician so I got going while I was waiting for him to arrive. I added more slip to the plaques and decide to add slip to the squirrel as well. The thing is, this clay fires to a really dark brown colour, and with clear glaze on top, looks even darker. I don't have a brown glaze, so I decided to paint the squirrel with my brown slip (which is lighter than the clay), remembering to give him a white belly. That was fine until I accidentally knocked his feet off!! I think/hope I've managed to fix them back on well enough. We'll have to see when he's fired.

Well, that was the first disaster. This evening I decided to finish off the log with the little bird. I carved the bark and then removed the tubing from inside. I can't leave the tubing in until the piece is bone dry because I'd never get it out! But I thought it was at least dry enough to support it's own weight... It wasn't. It was collapsing at one end and the more I tried to repair it the worse it got! I managed to rescue my little bird, so tomorrow I will have to make him another log to sit on.

And that was my clay day.

On a brighter note, the kiln is now all fully wired in, and so far everything seems fine, the controller has power to it and the light came on on the side of the kiln, so everything is good. I won't be firing it until it's been serviced and the elements have been checked though... just to make sure. Oh, and those "loose bricks" in the kiln? Turns out they're actually broken, but instead of just telling me, the seller decided to prop them in place and say nothing about them. His name is Mr. A. Hole by the way. I'm serious, it really is.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Clay Day 8

Well, I didn't think today was going to happen, clay wise! I slept most of the day away and then we have been very busy this evening trying to organise the house! (Did I mention that since we had to move a load of furnature for the electrician, we thought we would swap a couple of rooms round at the same time?) Of course, things always look worse before they look better, but I'm pleased with what we got done tonight. A great way to spend a Saturday night eh?

I finally got my clay out around 10pm!! Suffice to say, I haven't finished the piece I was working on, but here it is so far...

Keeping with the woodland theme, it is going to be a log with ivy and flowers and a little bird sitting on top! I'd be happy to stay up and finish it tonight, but Scott keeps reminding me that we need to get up early tomorrow.

I'm starting to feel a little worried about this woodland theme. Do you think people will appreciate the fact that the pieces are all part of a theme, or will they just look and think "everything looks the same"? I do plan to make some other pieces for the show as well, I just wanted to make all my woodland pieces in one go, because the clay is soo darn messy!

Here is a picture of yesterday's pieces too.

These are wall plaques. They're not flat, they're curved, like the bark has just been lifted off the tree. I'm not blown away by them to be honest, but maybe someone will like them? Of course the ivy will be green and the heart "carving" on the tree bark will be a lighter brown. Maybe they'll grow on me once they're glazed? What do you think?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Clay Day 7

Yes, I am officially a quarter of the way through the 28 day challenge which I am not taking part in! (?) No photos for today though - my computer died today. I don't even know what happened. I was on it earlier, then I switched it off to have some clay time, and when I went to switch it back on - nothing. So I'm typing this on Scott's computer, which is an absolute nightmare because the keyboard is laid out differently and I keep hitting all the wrong keys!

That just about sums up my life really - we just got the heating fixed today, and now my computer has died. And the kiln wiring has been postponed again until Sunday. The longer I have to wait, the longer I have to worry that it's not actually going to work. :(

I'm exhausted. Time for bed.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Clay Day 6

Clay day 6! That means I'm nearly a quarter of the way through the 28 day challenge... which I'm not doing in case something goes wrong and prevents me from doing it!! Yay!

And I've finally finished Mr Squirrel (I think), although I'm thinking about sitting him on top of a log of wood, covered in ivy and flowers and that sort of thing. What do you think? Log or no log?

He still has paper supporting his tail until it dries. Of course you already knew that, I just thought I would explain in case you thought it was a big fur ball or something!

Are his eyes too high? I keep thinking he looks like a rat! And what do you think to the fur effect on the tail?

Now I just need my own personal masseur to give me a neck and shoulder massage every day! I'm having fun but it's hard work you know!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Clay Day 5 - and a firing question

I am still feeling so tired today, but at least I'm not as cold! Some days I just feel like I've been drugged or something. If it's my thyroid, I wish the doctors would just hurry up and give me something!!

Anyway, I managed to work a little more on the quirrel today. He's looking a little more like a squirrel now, but I can't quite work out how to make a fluffy tail out of a material that's just... not fluffy.

I haven't measured him, but I think he's about life size, although Scott thinks he's bigger than life size. I think Scott maybe saw a baby squirrel. Or maybe I saw a kangaroo and got confused...

He's taking longer than expected, and all the while I am counting down the days to the exhibition. Scott says it doesn't matter if I don't have many pieces, and he's right. But what I'm worried about, and what I need to know from you more experienced clay people, is whether it's ok to fire a kiln that's half empty? Will that affect the temperature? Usually I could just wait until it's full, however long it takes, but obviously I have a time restriction this time. Thank you in advance, for any help you can give.

Hmm... I'm starting to feel chilly now!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Clay Day number 4!

I've been really tired today, and cold! Can someone please remind the weather that it is supposed to be summer!! I've been freezing, and after two hours of waiting for the house to warm up I then realised that the radiators are not working! And we have no hot water either! Oh joy! So this evening I have sat huddled up in the kitchen with the oven on and the oven door open, trying to keep warm, and working on my next clay piece.

Keeping with the Woodland theme and using the same clay, I decided to have a break from the trees and started on a squirrel. I must say, I was hoping that I would have this piece made in one day. When Leanne makes her rabbits she makes it look so easy! But I suppose she's been making them for a while and this is my first attempt at a squirrel. It's larger than I intended as well. I seem to have a problem with making small things!

I decided to take a break at this point... because I don't know what I'm doing! Hopefully I'll figure it out and have this piece finished tomorrow.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Clay Day 3

Can you even believe that I have had 3 clay days in a row? No, neither can I! My counsellor will be so pleased!

Anyway, on with the show, and this first photo shows why I really should finish these tree pieces in one go...

I left this piece over night and when I got up today it had shrunk around the tube! I had to cut it to get the tube out, which is exactly what happened with the first Tree Fairy vase! You would have thought I would have learnt from that!

Anyway, I finally managed to free her. And here she is, waiting to dry and be fired.

And now it's time for a nap!! I'm just like a cat really... I like to get all warm and cozy and have a nap after any kind of activity :) Hopefully I will get more clay time this afternoon, but it really depends on how long I sleep for!!


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Clay Day 2

How lovely it would be to tell you all that I am having another try at the 28 day challenge, but the way my life goes, I just know that as soon as I say it something will happen to stop me creating! Not that I'm superstitious, just... pessimistic!!

Anyway, I'm trying to be positive about this upcoming exhibition, even though it's only 3 1/2 weeks away and I don't have any finished pieces yet! With that in mind, I'm going to try to be creative as often as I possibly can and hopefully that will work out to be every day! At the very least it should help to keep me sane, even if I end up not being ready in time!

So here is today's efforts.

This is a remake of the Tree Fairy vase. I still need to carve the bark and add the leaves and flowers. I was hoping to have this finished this evening but I had to go to my sisters house to have a bath and I ended up being there for ages just chatting! But that's a whole other story!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Clay Day!!

I must be the luckiest girl in the world right now, because not only did Scott allow me to buy a kiln, but this week he let me buy a wheel as well!

It needs a bit of a clean, but it's mine!!

Despite all this, I couldn't stop crying last night and I wanted to run away to a place where no one could find me - that's what happens when I don't get clay time. And I haven't had any clay time in ages. It just shows that happiness is not achieved by the things we possess.

So today Scott ordered me to get my clay out, and despite feeling under the weather himself, he gave me the space to play and didn't pester me for sympathy (although I did cook him a rather nice roast beef dinner, even though I say so myself!)

So I got to work on Freda. Her eyes have been driving me mad for ages. They still didn't want to go right today, so in the end I took drastic action...

... I cut them out!! If there's one thing I've learned about clay this time round, it's that you can't fear it. If you fear changing anything in case you make it worse, you will never be happy with what you have. So I gauged her eyes out and made her some new ones...!

Voila! A new pair of eyes, with a ready made top lid. Ok, gimme a break, I'm new at this!

The next step was to get them in her head...

... too late now, I might as well go all the way...

While I was there I thought I might as well hollow the inside out a bit...

... and then I popped her eyes in and stuck her face back on...

I'm much happier with her eyes now, but now I have to try to get the mouth right! Bah!

After dinner I wanted to work on something quick, easy, and that required less concentration. Here's the first piece of my "Woodland" collection, made with my new yummy brown clay. The leaves and flowers are painted with white slip (although it seems very thin) so that the colour of the glazes will show up better.

And that's me for today! I'm looking forward to more clay time tomorrow, although I'm aware that we have a lot to do in the house - we're moving a couple of rooms around upstairs and having a bit of a clear out while we're at it. Why do things always look worse before they look better?

Anyway, I hope you are all having a wonderfully creative weekend! :D

Saturday, 1 May 2010

I think I've died and gone to heaven...

Oh my goodness. I don't even know where to start.

Well, I was having this conversation with Mariah, and she was telling me about a fantastic school trip she went on years ago, to a Victorian village where everyone was in period dress. She said she watched someone making horseshoes, and visited a Victorian sweet shop, and even went down a mine!! Well, I presumed it was a coal mine. It sounded amazing!

So I decided to Google "Victorian village museum" and found this site, and now I think I have died and gone to heaven. Not only is everything Jane Austen era, but it's only a flamin' clay mine!! With a tile museum and a china museum!! With workshops and demonstrations!!

And as if I even needed an excuse to go, I saw my counsellor yesterday who told me that I should to go to a class or something, as a one off, to feed my inspiration and creativity!!


And at £21.95 for a ticket that lasts twelve months it's a flippin' bargain!!

Now I just need someone to come with me... you wanna come? :)