Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bits n' Pieces

Digging some good stoneware clay!

Gene loads balls of clay.
There's plenty of clay!

"Sweet Georgia Brown" mixed into a slurry and ready to dry out some.

It has been a while since I posted. I have been busy making the next kiln full of pots. It has also been very busy digging and processing clay. We are trying to switch over to all native clays. This area is blessed with some mighty fine stoneware clays which is why the Old Edgefield District potteries were located here( link). I've fired numerous samples and have found two that work well. The other day had me checking for some clay deposits along the fall line. I became distracted by this old shack that had collapsed in a remote area. I went to look at the old foundation and was standing there taking it all in when I heard this Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-ZZZZZ noise. I focused for less than a second before my body was airborne, realizing that a HUGE canebreak rattlesnake was about to send me to my reward! This animal obviously knows where the good clay is found, heh-heh! Thankfully, it was a cold morning and he was a bit sluggish and therefore decided to let foolish me live a bit longer.

At any rate, the clays are looking promising and I'm already turning some pieces out of it. I thought I'd put a few photos up of some pots from the last few firings. All are ash glazed. My next firing should be in another 1-2 weeks and the wood has been cut and laid in. I was lucky enough to have come across a large batch of 100 year old heart pine scraps to burn so it should be a hot fire, if nothing else. If you are new to collecting southern pottery or would like to learn more about this fascinating art form, follow this link.
This is the mark I stamp most work with

A slip decorated storage jar

This pitcher shows some profound coloring due to the mineral rutile being present in the glaze. The side facing the fire is almost blue.

A milk pan

Lidded storage jar or ginger jar

Jug with a few ash runs

Iron slip decoration

Candle holder with blue rutile markings

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Hard Firing....

Another firing was accomplished over a two day period in the groundhog kiln. As firings go, it was a little more difficult and protracted than usual. Cooler weather was called for by the weather guy, but I swear I didn't feel it. I did feel the 30% chance of rain all night and into the next day. It blew under the shed and dampened the wood a bit, slowing down the process and making things real uncomfortable. Above is a photo of some folk art that came out of the firing. It is based on the Petersburg boats which hauled bales of cotton down the Savannah River to the cotton mills in Augusta, GA.
Me, being the trooper that I am, just kept on chunking wood. I stopped and stirred the coals frequently as the wood was not burning as efficiently as usual, probably due to some dampness.
Things finally got roaring pretty good at the 18 hour mark, about 4:00 a.m. In the photo above, the kiln is starting to be blasted. The flame runs from one end of the kiln to the other and then up about 12 feet of chimney! In other words, the flame travels about 32 linear feet! I'm bent over poking and kicking in all of the wood I can get in at once. The flame is allowed to burn back down and then the stoking cycle is repeated. It goes on like this for a couple of hours. Hopefully, I stop in time and don't melt down the pots in the front row.
Well, you'll never guess what happened! You know all of that black smoke in the previous photo? It brought us some company in the early morning hours! Yes, a whole great big ladder truck with a fire crew came rolling up to the kiln. We had quite an exchange as they tried to figure out what I was doing. They thought I might be adding a little accelerant to my fire, which I assured them I hadn't. I thought we finally came to some sort of understanding....
I cranked it back up again, making up for lost time that the fire guys cost me. Here, the flames race up the chimney. This is a view from the rear. Some bricks have been removed from the opening in the chimney to act as a passive damper which slows down the draw of the chimney. A few hours later as I was just about to finish, the fire truck rolled in again. This time, some of the fire guys were real angry. I tried to talk about the understanding we had reached 2 hours earlier, but they seemed to have forgotten about it. They were intent on revealing the operating costs of the giant machine and crew. We exchanged phone numbers and addresses. They probably want to send a Christmas card or something!
This is exactly my expression! You could'a knocked me over with a feather. I was real tired at the end of it all, which was about 28 hours straight.

Here's some of the pots as they were unloaded a few days later. I put just a smidge of rutile in the glaze batch and it sure went a long way! You can see it in the form of bluish highlites here and there. I can't wait until the next firing!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Summer Fades...

I thought I'd share some thoughts and photos while I talk of pottery. I guess it's all related.
I took this photo in July on a typical sweltering 99 degree day. It is titled Boy and Dog. I love it for the pure, unbridled joy that both creations are sharing in unison. It is the total essence of July in the city here in the southern USA as a municipal fountain unleashes torrents of relief. This was awarded by the Smithsonian Institution in a photo contest last year. I was so lucky to be near at this precise moment with a telephoto lens!
Well, summer is retreating. Here in Dixie that means COTTON! I captured this typical field just outside of town. Cotton is such an exquisite plant and it crys the word "home" to my heart! I drew my first breath only a mile or so from a cotton field and hope to draw my last very close to the snowy plant. Inspite of the toxins associated with it's growing and the intense human suffering it brought to the millions who were enslaved to cultivate it in years past, the plant moves me.

I feel in quite a festive, party mood for tomorrow's firing. Maybe I should wear purple and don a red hat. No, I'm not feeling that festive! There is a show running in the events center next to the kiln of exquisite Oriental carpets. Most are antique and priceless. There will be many visitors milling around as well as friends who've promised to drop by and relieve some of the tediom of the early phase of firing with wood. I'll scarcely sleep tonight thinking of all that must be mentally recalled and put in order to have a successful firing tomorrow.

The groundhog kiln is ready to fire tomorrow. Lots of wicked small heartwood from long-leaf pine stacked and ready to pour out the BTU's it has locked within. The cooler weather moving in is a welcome relief from the sweltering days of the past months. The kiln was fired around the Fourth of July with daytime temps going to 101 degrees F! This firing will be pleasant, indeed, with temps of 73 degrees F!