Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 13 - Pasta time

Tuesday I made a new pasta dish that I found on  I had a pound of local bacon that I purchased from What's Your Beef butcher shop.  (If you have never been to What's Your Beef, check it out when you get a chance.  All locally raised beef, pork and chicken.)

I did a search on bacon and pasta and this was my favorite recipe out of the ones returned.  You can either click here or on the photo for the recipe.

It was a great recipe and everyone in our house liked it.  I cut back on the red pepper flakes since I have some spice-sensitive people here, but added it back on my plate.  I think this recipe would be really nice using peppered bacon.  Give it a try and tell me what you think.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 10 - Firing!

Saturday was firing day!  We fired the kiln in record time (10 hours).  I got there a bit later than I had planned, but hit the time when more stoking was required so it worked out pretty well.

Stoking the kiln is a team sport since you can't spend much time in front of the firebox.  When the door is opened we each walk up and shove a slab into the kiln, stepping out of the way for the next person to put their slab in.  I was worried about missing a step and causing problems since I was new to the process, but did okay.  (A slab is the outside of a log that gets sliced off at the saw mill.)

We were going to 2380F and in front of the firebox the temperature was over 2000F for most of the afternoon.  It seems counter intuitive, but you need to wear long sleeves, long (thick) pants, a hat with a bill, and of course, gloves.  There is a zone directly in front of the kiln where six inches is the difference between clothing that feels hot and lost hair and/or singed skin.  Being the newbie, I had several run-ins with the heat.

The first time was when I pushed a slab in and when it didn't go in all the way my instinct was to reach over and shove it with my hand.  Big mistake.  Once I crossed that six inch perimeter my leather glove was so hot I had to take it off.  It got that way in about one and a half seconds.

At 2100F pushing a slab into the kiln causes the slab to ignite instantly.  It's very strange to see that happen.   Push the slab in, immediately pull it back and it's ablaze like it had been in the fire for ten minutes.

Corine spoiled us with some great boiled peanuts (one of my favorites!), a hearty rigatoni pasta bake, and a wonderfully moist pineapple cake.  Everything was delicious and very much appreciated.

We ran the kiln up to 2380F, held it there and when Hal checked the cone packs cone 12 was down in the front and the one in the back was bent so we stopped stoking and closed it up.  Now it will cool until Tuesday or Wednesday before Hal climbs back inside and unloads it.

After the kiln was finished Corine, Hal, Corwin and I went to the back porch to sit (I'd forgotten how to do it by then) and have a cold beer.  It's a nice time to relax after a lot of hot work.

Corine and Hal are some of the nicest people I know (and I know a lot of nice people!) and I always look forward to spending time with them.  Thanks for a wonderful experience.

I can't wait until September for the next firing.

Dave, Chad, and Hal waiting for the next round.

One hot place.

Chad and Corwin stoking.

Getting our blast on.
That fire coming out of the chimney is coming all the way
from the firebox in the front of the kiln.

After the last stoke we can see some pots.

That jug on the left is mine.

My jug is still in the flames...

...and glowing red hot.

They're all glowing.
That tall one is Adrienne's.

This is Cookie.

She's beautiful, 

but getting her to stay still for a picture is a challenge.
Cookie is a sweetie.

Corine calms her.

Corwin enjoying the calm.

Hal, enjoying the sit down after a job well done.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 9 - Kiln loading

Friday I had the opportunity to help load the ground hog kiln.  I'm glad Hal went inside since I don't think I could have spent that much time scrunched up in there.  We were on the outside handing him work, shelves, bricks, and cones.

It's quite an ingenious method of loading the kiln.  Since the firebox is so deep, two boards are placed across it and we used a laundry basket to slide the pots in on the boards.  Once Hal had most of the kiln full, we took the boards out and he stood in the firebox to place the final pots on the kiln floor.

Chad came by to help load along with Hal, Corine, and me.  Though there were a lot of pots, it was a fairly quick process using the bridge method.

Saturday morning Hal and Corine will light the fire at about 5:30 am.  Chad is planning on arriving at around 8:30 and I hope to be there by about 10:30 since I've got a couple of stops first.  I've been told it starts slowly and the real work happens in the afternoon when we have to really stoke it to bring it to temperature.

Hal loading pots.

A pot.

More pots outside waiting their turn.

Corine and Chad sending pots in to Hal.

The loading continues.

More pots.

He's worked his way from the back to the front
and is now standing in the firebox.

The cone packs.

The finished load, just waiting for the heat.


Friday, March 9, 2012

March 6 - New faces

Tuesday I started another face pot.  I tried some new things with this one and it's another step on the face path.  After working on this one for a while I decided that I need to make the pots larger so I can work on larger features to help refine them.  Since I can't add clay to the outside of the pot and can't really touch the outside too much it limits my efforts when the features are too small.  It's all a process.  I like this little guy and am thinking about a lid for him.  We'll see.

When I got home (way too late) I was struck by the sight of the almost full moon while walking into the house.  I decided to snap a photo of it, but if I went into the house to get my tripod and back out again I would surely wake everyone so I backed up the wall of the garage and braced myself there.  I took about thirty photos to get two that weren't blurry, but getting the two was all that mattered.  This is an unaltered photo --it's exactly the way I framed it in the viewfinder when I took it.  No pushing or cropping required.  If you take a lot of photos some of them have to be keepers.  It's the law of averages, and I always try to obey the law.


March 5 - A bit of bragging

I'd like to take a time-out on clay for a moment and do a bit of bragging about our great kids.

Meredith is in high school, has always had great grades, and has now been offered a membership in the National Honor Society.  She is currently taking several honor-level classes and is planning on taking AP-level classes next year.

Stephanie is in her first year of college and maintaining a B average with a pretty rigorous class load.  Currently she is thinking about a career in forensic science and is concentrating on biology.

But they are oh so much more than just good grades.  They are warm, fun-loving, generous, compassionate, young women who truly love and care for any animal that walks, crawls, swims, or flies and it's all we can do not to burst with pride on any given day.

We are truly blessed.

March 4 - Handle it

Sunday I put handles on the jugs and made some more tea bowls.  I'm not sure about the handles since my jugs have a very broad shoulder and not much neck.  I think I should have just curled the end of the handle under instead of out to make it a bit more graceful.  Learning as I go.

Still trying to get the jugs ready for loading on Friday and firing on Saturday.


March 3 - Jugs

I've had an exciting invitation to participate in firing a ground hog kiln. This kiln is fired using wood as fuel and creates a unique surface on the pots.  My friends, Hal and Corine own the kiln and have given me this great opportunity.

Since the ground hog kiln is a traditional type of North Carolina kiln I thought I would make some traditional pots.  I have never made a large jug before so I thought this would be the perfect time to try.  As you can see from the photo, I ran out of clay on the third one and didn't have enough to make a proper rim so I have two jugs and a pot.  Live and learn.  The trick is to get these handled, dried, bisqued, and glazed before Friday.

Wish me luck.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 1 - Empty Bowls Event

Thursday was the Empty Bowls event for Second Harvest Food Bank.  This was finally it --the event for which we've been feverishly making bowls.  It's a great time with lots of people and it's all for a good cause.  We make a donation, pick out a bowl, have lunch, and bid on lots of silent auction items.

It was fun to have lunch with Adrienne and Kimberly after they finished their demos.

Time to start making bowls for next year...

Attendees picking out their bowls.

The banner.

Down the long tables of bowls.

They got wiped out pretty quickly.

Kimberly and Adrienne doing their demos.

The lunch room.

Eating lunch.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

February 29 - New work

Wednesday I started something new.  I've been making pots with a crackled surface for a while now and recently had the idea of using the crackle technique to make a face.  Since we've been talking about totems lately I thought about faces and this idea came right behind it.

This will be the first in a series and I think he's rather contemplative.  I am reminded of the old anthropomorphic cloud faces in children's books.  He's covered in blue slip and will be quite striking when glazed and fired.  I hope to add more detail and expression to later pieces.  Let's see how this idea evolves...


February 28 - Trimming tea bowls

Tuesday I trimmed the feet on the latest round of tea bowls.  I've been working on my feet and I'm really enjoying them.  I've been cutting a pretty deep foot and burnishing the foot ring with my fingers.

More empty bowls awaiting glaze.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

February 26 - New tea bowls

Sunday I went to Clayworks and threw some new tea bowls.  I'm hoping to get these in the kiln next Sunday so I threw them off the hump and tried different techniques to loosen them up.  I do so enjoy making them since each one is an experiment in form and glazing.


February 25 - Minke's dinner party

On Saturday evening Minke held a dinner party for sixteen of her friends.  It was a wonderfully elegant affair and the mix was amazing.  The energy level was great and the conversation flowed like the wine.  Oh, and the food was delicious.

The evening flew by and before I knew it, it was after midnight and people starting drifting out.  Finally, only Elaine and I were left with Minke and we had even more great discussions.  It's so nice when you have time with friends with no constraints on you.  Even at the studio we have to break away from conversations to get back to work on our art.  There are always things pulling at us and moving us along the timeline.

At 2:30 am, the only constraint we had was our fatigue, and it fell like a curtain.  We said our goodbyes and took the memory of a splendid evening with us.

Thank you Minke, for a magical evening.

Clockwise:  Mashed potatoes in a deep-fried shredded potato basket,
creamed spinach, chicken and mushrooms in crepes,
and pork medallions with apples.


February 21 - Empty bowls and broken vessels

Tuesday I made more empty bowls, glazed some, and sutured my broken vessels.


February 18 & 19 - Bill van Gilder and Silvie Granatelli Workshop

Saturday and Sunday we (90 of us!) attended the Bill van Gilder and Silvie Granatelli workshop.  It was a fun and informative two days presented by two clay masters.  Even with two days, there was so much information presented it was hard to capture it all.

Bill answering a question.

Finishing up a pot.

Silvie giving her slide presentation.

Silvie answering a question.

Making pots.