Welcome! I've set up this blog to show the process of creating 12 custom 5-piece place settings out of stoneware clay. I will do my best to stay fairly current with what is happening in my studio. Please stop by often to see the progress!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bowls are in process...

I've been a busy potter this week with all facets of this process. I love it when a project gets to the point where I have many different stages happening simultaneously and that's where we are now: thrown pots on bats, greenware (dried pieces) and bisqueware on the shelves, half glazed and (2!) finished pieces are all evident in my studio. We're definitely moving along.

While my kiln was firing away on Monday I threw most of the bowls. In the next couple of days I was able to get them trimmed. This means that when the bowl was "leather hard" I took it off the bat, turned it over and centered it back on the bat. Then I use some tools to make a "foot" which gives the bowl a nice, finished look and it also removes some of the clay which makes the piece heavier than necessary. In addition, I use a trimming tool to remove excess clay toward the bottom and gently shape the exterior. I like pieces that are not too heavy and clunky. You could certainly go crazy trimming to death, but if a piece is thrown well to start with, it isn't necessary to do too much. Mostly I like to trim in order to take the prehistoric look out of pottery and create graceful lines.

It is now Friday, almost 5 o'clock, and I feel good about quitting for the week. Almost all the bowls are thrown, trimmed and drying in my studio. I am going to make a few more because I didn't like the way some of them stacked when they were finished. That is a big consideration when doing placesettings because they all have to fit in the cupboard. I'll get those done next week and post a picture. For now I am showing two pictures of the trimming step. Have a great spring weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The first two finished pieces!

Only 58 to go!!!

As I had hoped, with the shrinkage, the mug measures 4" tall and holds 1 1/2 cups of strong coffee. The plate is a little more than 10 3/4." It isn't very heavy, a criterion for the project, and fits into my dishwasher and cupboard very easily.

And it's a darn good thing I didn't go ahead and use the other glaze before it was tested. It definitely misbehaved. I will have to do some tweeking before I use it on this custom order. While I'm working on that, I'll go ahead with some more plates and mugs using these glazes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

OOOOHHHH!!! I so want to peek!

So this is truly the hardest part-- ask any potter: waiting for the kiln to cool so you can lift the lid and see if everything turned out A-OK. It's all just sitting there, you know it's done and it's just such a temptation to take a peek!

But alas, I will not cave into temptation-- this time, anyway. However, you can be sure I will have no problem jumping out of bed in the morning and before I even grab my coffee, I will scamper into the studio to look! I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Glaze fire starts tomorrow!

Sorry, I was a little off on my glazing schedule... but my kiln is "loaded to the gills" now. (I'm thinking this is probably not the proper usage of that phrase.) The kiln, pronounced both "kil-nnn" and "kil," will be started early in the morning. It will fire for about 14 hours to reach cone 5 temperature, which is almost 2200 degrees. When I load the pieces, I have to be sure that they are not touching each other, or disaster will strike. Therefore a glaze firing typically does not have nearly as many pieces in it.

Most of the pieces that will be a-cookin' tomorrow are not from this order. That's because, as I mentioned in the last post, I am cautious and today I decided I needed to do some testing on one of the glazes as it is a new batch and I want to make sure it is of the right consistency, etc. before I apply it to the order. So if all goes according to plan, when I open the kiln up Wednesday morning after a day and a half of cooling, I will be able to show you a finished mug and dinner plate. Hold the right thought!

So the plan for tomorrow, while I am tending to this firing, is to trim a few extra plates, start throwing some bowls, and catch up on some other orders. Thanks for following my blog!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Behind the blog scenes...

While you haven't seen a lot of progress, things are happening behind the scenes, slowly. I have been waxing all the mugs as well as some plates and lots of other pieces that I have to fire. And so, the slow process of glazing has begun, with interference from my other jobs. I am hoping that the kiln will be loaded to the gills by this weekend so that I can start a glaze fire on Sunday.

Now I don't want my customer to get too excited that she is going to see all the mugs and plates finished by next week-- oh no. I fire cautiously. Nothing makes me more nervous than customer orders and if I put everything in one firing and something went wrong, I'd lose it all; so I am cautious. I have plenty of other stuff that also needs to be finished so I will be putting part of the order in the kiln this weekend. When all goes well (thinking positively), I'll load up for another firing, and on it goes til this project is complete. I believe the trick will be to have pieces in every stage of the process, so next week I will be starting on the bowls, I think.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting ready to glaze...

Everything came out of the bisque fire beautifully-- each piece a smidge smaller than when they went in. The next step is to wax the bottoms of all the pieces I want to glaze. I use a brush to "paint" the wax on. This is done so that I can put the pieces directly on the kiln shelves, as wherever the wax is applied, glaze will not stick. If I omitted this step, nothing would come off the shelves! Now you may wonder why you have seen glaze on the bottom of some things before: well, that can be done with "stilting," whereby you use a three-pronged pointy stilt to set the piece on. It's usually done for other things...

Too me, glazing is the most tedious part of the process and takes the longest. Everybody gets their kicks different ways, this isn't mine. However, one of my favorite parts is lowering the lid of the kiln on a fully loaded glaze fire, turning it on and waiting for the results. But I'm definitely getting ahead of myself... I've got lots of glazing to do before I can think about that and unfortunately, time I need to spend on other jobs this week. So please be patient!

PS I know I promised a picture on "pulling handles." I've got to remember to ask my CH ( you know, "Cheerful Helper") to take a picture.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Firing Away!

When I submerged into my studio this morning I found everything "dry as a bone." Just how I wanted it... so I loaded up the kiln for a bisque fire. This first fire goes to cone 08. Cones are how we potters measure the temperature in the kiln. But for useful information, cone 08 is 1733 degrees fahrenheit. When I bisque fire, pieces can be touching so as you can see, I even have a couple of plates stacked here and there. Generally, I like to have every bit of shelf covered with pots, but to tell the truth, I didn't have small enough pieces for the top shelf and my mentality to keep the project going was "just fire away!"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Plates and Mugs drying

I haven't been able to be in my studio for a few days, but while I was missing-in-action, my dinner plates and mugs have been busy drying. I think tomorrow I will be loading my kiln with these pieces as well as other work that I need to fire. This low temperature firing is called a bisque and when I take the pieces out of the kiln, I can handle them carefully without breakage. They will be porous at that point, but they will hold their shape and glaze. If I simply stuck the dried pieces that I have now in the glaze, they would just disintegrate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just got the news!

My customer wants to add a bread and butter plate to the order so now I will be making 5 pieces per place setting. This is very exciting for me!

I just came up from my studio where I was putting handles on the mugs I threw Monday. That completed, I am submerging once again to finish trimming the large plates. When my cheerful helper comes home I'll have him take some pictures of me "pulling" mug handles.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back to the studio...

Today I was able to get a few plates off the bat, so I trimmed them, which means taking off extra clay and finishing them with a "foot" on the bottom of the piece. They are currently drying on a worktable. While the rest are still in the drying room, I decided the thing to do was to get going on the mugs. So I weighed and wedged a bunch of clay and sat down to throw. Size is determined by liquid capacity and I decided that for a nice placesetting the mugs shouldn't be too big and clunky. Hopefully when these are all done they will hold about 1 1/2+ cups of one's favorite beverage. The handles are "pulled" and applied when the mug is leather hard so that will happen in a day or two. The mugs sans handles are in the drying room right now. Tomorrow I expect to be able to trim the other plates and throw more if need be.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Newly thrown plate on a bat

Throwing commences!

I just emerged from my basement studio... it's a glorious day, the birds are chirping, the windows are open and the dinner plates have been thrown! It all begins with a lump of wedged clay-- or 12 to be exact. Each lump is weighed to ensure the plates are as uniform as possible. There is a 12% shrinkage factor to consider with the clay, so I have to make everything larger than what I want the end result to be. I measure as I'm going along to see that the bases are a certain distance, the height and openings are the same, etc. Then they will all shrink uniformly as they dry. I take the bats off the wheelhead with the thrown piece and put them on a shelf in my drying room so that they don't dry too quickly and crack. I always like to throw extras cuz you just never know... but I've used all my large bats so I'll have to wait 'til some plates are dry enough to lift off without distorting before I can throw any more. So now we have to be patient and let them dry. Good timing though... it's Good Friday and I've got plans all weekend to enjoy being outside and eating good chocolate for Easter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Facsimile

This is basically what we're going for, times 12! Dinner plate, salad plate, bowl and mug. The glazes used will be different. It will be fun because the customer wanted to mix and match colors so I will be using green, brown, and tan glazes. I think it will look really neat.

Cheerful Helper

And I also needed a cheerful helper to haul all the clay into my basement studio. That's the hardest part of the process-- hauling heavy clay up and down stairs and making sure my helper stays cheerful. I couldn't do it without him.


So I needed some clay to do the job... this is 500 pounds. My customer doesn't need to worry, however, that I will be using it all on her place settings, because if I did her cupboards would come crashing down! That doesn't make for a happy customer.