Friday, August 28, 2009

Triming and Photos

I have an awful lot of trimming to do today on the pots I threw yesterday. I had them under plastic last night in order that they might not dry out too much. This morning they were still quite moist, too wet to trim. While I'm waiting for them to dry enough to trim, I decided to play around with a photo idea.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Today I will be throwing raku clay to get ready for an upcoming raku workshop at college. All participating ceramics students can attend for NO COST. Gotta love that. There is this one minor specification. If a ceramic student attends, that student must show up every day and stay the ENTIRE time. No problem. Will do!

This raku pot is by one of my favorite potters, Ron Hollister. Check out his website to see more of his wonderful pottery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back in School Jiggity Jig

I'm SO happy about being back in Ceramics's class. I have a list of projects in front of me and all of them are challenging. It won't be easy.

I'm looking forward to the assignment to make one form 10 different sizes. This will be a huge stretch for me. I practiced yesterday in my own studio and made three forms that were similar shape, but they were not as alike as they needed to be. I have a prototype that I'm trying to duplicate, the one in this photo. Maybe I'll make progress today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I didn't take this picture but I 'lifted' off google images when I googled Bags of Clay. Notice that it is sitting in a trash can? Yesterday at Ceramic Class I found two bags of low fire clay in the trash. The reason? It had been bought for the children's class over the summer but the adults don't mix low fire with high fire clay in the regular fall/spring semesters. In order to keep this clay separate it was thrown out. I sometimes like to play with low fire clay so I snagged it (with full permission of course).

This semester is going to be a lot of fun and I hope to develop more and more as a potter. I went over the syllabus with the professor last night and we tailored it in order that I might push myself more as an artist. Hopefully we will all see some progress by the end of Christmas!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Porcelain Bowls and Cups

This weekend I took some cone 10 porcelain from its bag and decided to get back in practice on the wheel. I haven't been on the wheel since ceramics class ended in May. I realized that had been way too long!

The first hour or so was one disaster after another. I expected it and reacquainted myself with the soft buttery yummy of porcelain, enjoying how it felt in my hands and generally having a nice (if messy) time.

The next day was much better and I produced these in the photo. I wanted a bit of a handbuilt look to the machine wheel spun pots so I hand applied legs to a couple of these. I try to alter a bit of something on every pot. The mugs have hand pulled handles, and on on one of the mugs I decided to apply some stamps and mild carvings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taking the Beads off the Rods

A photo is worth what they say? 1000 words? Therefore I should not elaborate too much on what happened as I was taking the rods out of the kiln ... but I will. After all, this blog documents the successes and the failures of this particular potter. This is what happened: The rods began crumbling. At the exact moment when the rods began crumbling I realized I should have switched out these beads onto new rods for the last repeat firing. I was certain they would make it through this final firing. I was wrong. (insert Homer Simpson's DOH right here).

Here are the results. The lower, most southern bowl, hold the beads which came off the rods with no debris in their holes. The top, most northern bowl, hold the beads which have part of the rod stuck in them forever. They are destined for the trash. In case you are wondering the bead whistle did not end up making noise plus it had somewhat of a severe rod problem as well. Bummer.

Last night my husband and I went out for Chinese. I didn't much like my 'fortune' cookie. I'm not superstitious and usually these sayings are just fun ... like The best way to have a friend is to be a friend and The person who takes the last eggroll is the least hungry but the one I got last night was a definite foreshadowing of this morning. The mother of all success is failure. Spooky!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Firing the Bead Kiln

I suppose I should have titled this "REfiring The Bead Kiln" ... but no matter....

The interior size of my bead kiln is 8"x8"x 6¾". I use 7" kiln posts to rest the bead rods upon. I also use them as weights on top of the rods. This helps to keep the rods from sagging under the weight of the beads.

The first layer consists of three beads. If I am using a larger bead, such as a 20-22 mm,I will only use one bead per rod.

The next step is to place a kiln post on top of the rods. This holds them in place and keeps the thin rod from sagging. The thick ones sag too. More? Less? Exactly the same.

When I stack the kiln posts, I offset them slightly. If they are going to topple (and they often will topple over any firings above 1800 degrees), I want them to topple outwards and not inwards. If they topple inwards I have a lot of beads which end up melting together. That's a big firing waste.

The second layer of rods hold 4 beads. Again, I place the kiln posts on top, slightly offsetting them. On the third (and final) layer, I use 5 or 6 beads, depending on their size. Again, on this top layer I finish by topping the rods with kiln posts.

I put the lid on top and look around to make sure I haven't left something flammable near the kiln. I set the firing rate and then it slowly fires for the next 8-12 hours.

Morning time comes and it is 11:30 am before the kiln cools enough to open. I usually wait until it is under 300 degrees. This was 235 degrees when I removed the lid.

Viola! Here they are fired. Notice that the kiln posts did topple ... however they toppled outward (as planned). It looks like a perfect firing. I'm happy with the way the glaze on the alphabet beads performed.

I have a new type of bead in this batch. It is an egg (or teardrop shape) bead, but I textured these. Also, in the bottom is a bead whistle. In the last (failed) firing the glaze didn't melt properly and it didn't make any sound at all when I tested it. I'm hoping that it will still whistle. Sometimes they sound great going in and terrible coming out. I don't sell the ones that don't work.

Now all that remains is to allow these to finish cooling so that I can remove these off their rods, photograph them, and hopefully they will all sell very soon so I can make more.

Firing Perils

As it happens, the bead kiln underfired. I got a FTH error (failed to heat) error about 5-6 hours into the firing so it fired to around cone 08. I know it did not reach cone 06 or the glaze would have looked melted a bit more.

As it happens, I have an extra bead kiln. I keep it for exactly this reason. I do not have two outlets outside therefore I cannot run two kilns at once. I took it out of its storage container and set it up, put the other one into the storage container and this weekend my husband will help me figure out why it is not working. He's good at that sort of thing. If that doesn't work I'll take it to Alan over at Texas Pottery and Clay Company. He has been such a help to me in every aspect of clay and firings. Not only that, but his stoneware clay is the yummiest around.

Yes. Yummy.

And tomorrow, should there be no more kiln mishaps, I'll finish the second part of the previous firing blog article. The rest of the day will be spent straightening up my studio. I realized that its become more of a storage room than a studio when I went in there to grab the extra kiln out of its box. I've been making beads and whistles in the living room all summer. It's easy to keep the dust down when one is working on a small scale. However, I did end up getting into another ceramics class this fall and I have to get everything together for class which starts on Monday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting Ready for a Bead Firing

Yesterday I glazed these and this is what they look like while they are drying. Before they are completely dried, I take them off. If I wait too long, the glaze dries too much and falls off when I remove them from the skewer.

All these beads have three coats of glaze. The first two coats are a pink underglaze. Most of this color will fire out in the 2124 degree firing. On top of the pink underglaze is a clear gloss glaze. Each skewer has to be rinsed off afterward and set to dry.

On my list of things to do today was to sort through these, throw out the ones which are becoming brittle and sort them into two sizes. I am thinking it is time to go back to the welding store and buy more rods. Most of these have just about had it

Here are some of the beads on their rods. I have three colors going into this batch of beads: pinks, light purples, and cobalt blues. Most of the alphabet beads which I talked about in an earlier blog article are in this batch. However, they did not all fit. They have been set aside and will make it into the next firing.

The bead kiln sits outside in my ventilated laundry room on top of a dryer. Tomorrow I will go into more detail about how they are loaded and have photos of what each layer looks like. I'll also be able to show how this batch turns out. If I loaded it correctly the kiln posts will not topple. If I loaded it correctly, no beads will melt together. If If If ... it's always about the 'if'.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ceramic Nuggets Rock

Today I'm going to be forming 'nuggets'. I'm planning on using a variety of clays, porcelain as well as earthenware. These are rather fun to make. Each one is different. I have a tutorial on how I make these on my website. Here's the link if you are interested in the process. This is a photo of some that I made a while ago. I only have a few more of this batch. The problem is that I have many containers of beads and they are somewhat spread out. Last week I gathered all the containers and tried to consolidate them. I made good progress but I have a lot more to sort through. Expect some of these 'old timers' to make it into my etsy bead store very soon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Clay Whistles

This weekend I've been making these clay whistles. I have some that are smaller than others which make for a wide variety of sounds. These are larger than the bead whistles and so they are not as shrill. The bead whistles are usually 20 mm (about 3/4") and the smallest one here is 50 mm (2").

Friday, August 14, 2009


I was able to sign into a ceramics class this semester after all and so last night I pulled out the cone 10 clay (b-mix) and decided to make some flower vases. I can bisque these at home and bring them into the classroom to experiment on some glaze/stain combinations.

This is a bowl I got at the Asian store a while back. These are great to lay clay inside and make pretty patterns. After the inside is covered with clay, I smooth it out and let it sit overnight. It shrinks and comes out easily by morning.

The next step is to roll out a bottom, attach it to the 'top' of the bowl and decide if I want it footed or flat. I decided one of each.

The last step is to cut out a hole from the top and smooth it. After it is bisque fired, my plan is to rub a mason stain into the cracks to bring out the pattern, then refire it in a gas kiln.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Photos

I took some of my creations outside this morning and photographed them. I really do like how the sunlight is working in this particular place on my front porch. I know that depending on time of year, the lighting will be different. It will be different on cloudy days and on sunny days. But for now this is nice.

Like most people who love beads, I have a lot of them, gemstones, glass, polymer, even paper. I love silver and plastic (ahem ... resin). Lucite is also fabulous. Wooden beads are lightweight and versatile. I have some fabric beads in my collection as well as some felted beads. I love them all!

Occasionally I have that urge to combine my ceramic beads with all sorts of other beads without actually making anything. I can combine a few colors and textures and showcase what has come out of my kiln in an (hopefully) interesting manner. Hence these beadstrands.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Playing with Photos

I'm trying to revamp my photos a bit. I'm a bit bored with the white paper background. So I thought I'd go outside and shoot. Altogether, I took 50 photos and I am so glad the cost of digital photos is nil. This first shot is on the white paper, in the shade. It is slightly overcast today. I don't know why the paper shines through blue. The beads also look a bit darker in color value than they actually are.

This shot is on some tan cardstock. I put these photos in Picasa and only cropped them. I didn't even press the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button.

This last shot is my cement front porch. I think I like the look of this the best.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Decals and Textures

I got to thinking about textures and how to combine them with decals. This is what I thought to do. I'll apply a decal to the smooth part and yet still have the happy fun of having a texture. It's always a difficult decision when forming a bead ... do I go for a glaze combination or do I find a way to drape the glaze over a texture and see if it pools nicely ... and lately I've been working on these decals and really missing the textures. I decided to experiment with all of them at once.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Combining Commerical and Handmade Decals on the Beads

I am putting some commercial decals on the backside of some of the beads I have applied the handdrawn character daisies. I thought it might be fun to add a spot of bright color to each bead. This is not nearly enough for a load. I will set these aside and add to it. When I have enough for a full load, I will fire these. The commercial decals fire several hundred degrees less than the handmade decals. However, like the iron oxide laser decals, they do slip underneath the glaze and are permanently affixed.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

First Peek - Decal Daisy Handmade Ceramic Beads

These are only three of the hand drawn daisy decals that have been fired onto a porcelain bead. The first one is called "Loves Me ... Loves Me Not", the second I call, "The Star of the Show" and the third, "Mother and Child".

This is the first batch where I was satisfied with how the hand drawn laser decals fired. I have some other fun daisies. I have a 'Daisy in Waiting' (she looks pregnant).

I started out painting daisies in watercolor and enjoyed the personification process. This same idea has filtrated into my bead designs. I look forward to continuing to draw more of these and designing with them.

I also did a couple of pendants but I'm going to apply some commercial decals to the back of those and refire.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Procrastination ....

Last year I took Ceramics I and II at the local junior college. I found out that Ceramics II can be repeated as many times as I want to take it. I had planned on taking it again because it is a ton of fun. I have access to a wonderful gas kiln and the other potters who retake it year after year are incredibly wonderful people.

My desire is to move onto a state college and get a bachelors in Fine Arts, but I'm waiting until at least one of my college age children graduates. Therefore, Junior College is much more affordable at this point. However, I procrastinated and all the classes filled up. I am going to hope someone drops out at this point. However, I am probably not going to be able to take it. This has renewed my desire to finish converting an electric kiln into a gas kiln. I removed all the hardware and elements over the summer. I have to still cut holes in it and all the rest that goes into all that.

The mugs in this photo were some I had made from slabs in Ceramics I. The assignment was to make 6 in the same style.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Had a Good Firing Yesterday - Porcelain Blanks

I pulled these out of the kiln this morning. These are some rounds that I coated with a light pink glaze. When some of these fired, the pink fired completely out, others have a hint, or a blush of pink left. I am planning on putting some homedrawn daisy decals on these today and re-firing. After the decals are applied they have to dry for 24 hours. The decal traps moisture and if this moisture is not completely dried out then the decal will not fire well.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Decal Success at Last

I reduced in size the homemade decals to see if they would adhere more firmly to each bead and it seems as though this is working.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Matriarch Daisy Iron Oxide Decal Porcelain Bead

This came out of the kiln the other morning. I call this bead: Matriarch Daisy. She's one of the few that came out well in that batch of beads. The rest were missing petals or leaves.


I have some more porcelain rounds in the kiln today and I printed out some more (and smaller) daisy character decals yesterday. The plan is to see if I can get these to stick better to each bead and I'm thinking the smaller size decal might be the way to go. I'll know if a few more days for certain.