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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Winding Down

The last two kilns before our Beltane weekend are cooling. We opened it up a little while ago, the top layer looks amazing, but I'm going to wait to get deeper in.

We'll be heading to Virginia for a festival on Thursday night through Sunday. I've already started the packing process. The tent and our sleeping bags and air mattress is already loaded. I've got to pack the displays, pots, clothes and some food and we're pretty much ready to roll. I'm looking forward to the break from daily life and production, as well a chance to see old friends.

When we return there will be some more firing to do to get ready for our home studio sale over Mother's Day weekend and a lot of cleaning and yard work before the guests arrive. Winter was hard on our lawn and we've had no time to pay attention. I've contracted Morgan and some of his friends to get busy on it while we're gone, but who knows what they'll actually do without supervision. *sigh* we need a lawn tractor in the worst way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

closing out the weekend

Another fine and productive Day at Hughes Pottery.I feel like the day started so long ago it was yesterday..oh maybe it was.

First...I need to say that this lovely sandwich pictured here is a vegetarian BLT with a slice of cheese on a biscuit leftover from breakfast. The B in this case is from Morningstar Farms. We call it Fakin' Bacon and the veggie sausage "Snausage" and it often ends up on our pizza. The very cool mug, which contained coffee is by Ian Stainton.

So today... first thing was packing up the Etsy orders from the weekend. I made a new shipping label, which I will try to show you, but I am not sure how to save it as a jpeg instead of a publisher file.

We have a pretty cool system. I cut and past the address from the PayPal invoice directly into the publisher file that I use for Mailing Labels. I then send it to the wireless printer that is beside the packing area we have set aside in the office.

I used to write out labels in sharpie marker, but it wasn't always readable. I wanted to print them out, but when you print labels you end up using the whole sheet for one label. So I made a publisher file that prints on regular paper and has one of my pieces faded into the background of the label. It takes up about half the page. Right now I am just shredding the other half and using it for Raku firings, but I think I'll add another text box to the sheet and make it a Thank You note, which I can sign and pop into the box. I want to say thank you as often as possible, I'm really grateful that so many people love the work we are making.

This afternoon I spent a lot of time wedging clay. 150 lbs in 2 and 3 lb balls. Mostly for tankards and big mugs, but also for pitchers. I got a decent start on both today,

The special bonus of the day came from peeking in the kiln and seeing the top layer was looking good. I'll open it up the rest of the way in the morning and hopefully post some more pictures.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Online Store

My lovely wife Rowan Rose has opened her own Etsy shop.

Currently it is stocked with really beautiful tiles decorated with patterns inspired by traditional Henna work. It's looking really good and we'd appreciate it if you would take a look and let us know what you think.

Since it's a virtual Opening, you get a virtual glass of wine and a virtual cheese and fruit tray to nibble from.

The Saturday night report

Yes, I worked, but only until Dr. Who.

Tankards have handles, rice bowls are trimmed and there is a kill full of freshly glazed ware set to start firing at midnight. A tough day. I actually dropped a bunch of tankards off a ware board today, some were salvageable, some were not. It made me sad.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I work Friday nights

and usually Saturday nights too.

It's been a pretty good day in the life of this potter. I woke up far too early, but I started out the day with a special treat: a visit to The Waffle Shop. Now..this is NOT a Waffle House (I LOVE Waffle House) but this is a local place with 2 locations. It's got the menu of the average breakfast place, but it's always good. Nearly perfect every time. Fresh squeezed OJ and really tasty home fries. Ro tells me they have amazing bacon. On "event" weekends around here they have a 50 person line out the door. On normal weekend maybe a 15 person line out the door.So I started the day with a Feta Omelet, home fries and an English Muffin I love being able to have a nice breakfast with my lovely wife. It always makes the day better. She and I parted ways for the early afternoon, she went off to run some errands and I went to the studio and made rice bowls...then something strange happened. I got the urge to rearrange. I moved some stuff around, set up a new table and suddenly it feels like a larger space with an extra work surface :)

After Ro came home we went on a couple more errands together, one of which was dropping off more work at Way Fruit Farm who will be having their annual Apple Blossom Festival this weekend. Then we came home and got to work again. I threw tankards and mixed two glazes while Ro did some office work and then came and decorated some oak leaf and acorn goblets and waxed some scale mugs. I think the goblets look amazing! The scale mugs look good too, although this is a new technique for us. I used to wax the scales in with wax, or wax with iron, but it never quite looked right on the lighter clay body I use now. The test piece we did like this looked good, so I am hoping the real thing will too. I'll know by Monday.

I decided to take dinner break around 9 and got sucked into 50 first dates...I'm not sure if I am going back downstairs to the studio now or not...I DO have all those fresh glazes to use :) Maybe I'll do some tonight and some tomorrow. One of the glazes is a test for a new brown glaze to replace the Temoku I currently use. It's not working as well as it used to and I just found out that it is my most expensive I thought maybe I should experiment with some others

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ready for another Bisc

Today was very productive. I pulled 40 handles, assembled 9 goblets and as a final act of diligent productivity threw 5 more goblets and 9 travel mugs from the leftover clay in my buckets. YAY!

Tomorrow after teaching I start fresh with tankards and xl round mugs and some rice bowls (which I really wanted to get to today, but hey, it's midnight!)

Goblet Making Tutorial

Making Goblets:

I make my goblets in two sections.

The stem and the bowl are thrown separately from the same weight of clay and allowed to dry until both sections are a uniformly leather hThe bowl is centered on the wheel. I use a little water on the rim and press down to create suction to hold it steady to trim.

I trim a shallow opening just large enough to fit the stem.

Then vigorously score each piece with a serrated rib.

The scored stem is dipped in water(to create slip) then attached to the scored bowl while it is still centered.

The stem is then re-centered (light tapping) and the joint and foot are trimmed

Common problems encountered while using this method include the stem popping up, the stem tearing off or pushing the stem through the bowl.To solve or avoid these problems make sure you are carefully following these instructions.

It's really important to wait until the clay is truly leather hard to do the trimming. Too wet and you have no stability and the trimming tool tends to catch and pull the stem causing it to torque and break or come off entirely.Too dry and the join is weak and will tend to crack.

I also have a video of this process and it can be seen >here<

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another fine and muddy day

A pretty good day in the studio. I got my goblets thrown and another board full of the round mugs. I was a little worried about the mugs from last night because the rims were already bone dry but I got them wet and covered them in plastic first thing this morning and they seem absolutely fine. Just a few minutes ago I resigned myself to having to take care of them tonight before bed, but they seem to be in much better shape than they were this morning so I simply moved them all onto a plastic covered board upside down and then covered them with more plastic. I'll get them in the morning and thankfully I'll be able to get to bed really soon. I'm tired!

Ro came down and loaded a bisc kiln for me too, so that is in the works to fire off tomorrow night sometime.

I'm still waiting on the part for the other kiln, but it should be here Wednesday at the latest, then we can fire them both up and get things really cranking around here.

So tomorrow I am planning on trimming mugs, assembling goblets then throwing more pots. Most likely tankards and xl round mugs..possibly some rice bowls too since they are all made from the same weight of clay.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back to love

Ahhh a little down time and a few hours of Buffy and I feel a whole lot better. I enjoyed my time in the studio this evening I got the butter keepers thrown and a whole board full of round mugs. I also trimmed up a couple big bowls. A lovely day.

I really wanted to make some goblets today too, but sometime in the middle of the afternoon I got an amazing case of the snoozies and half napped half watched Buffy and that cut into my studio time. Such a slacker. Tomorrow, I'll get it together and throw before I trim. I have a lot on my list to be completed by the weekend. In addition to what I have already thrown, I want to make:

15 Goblets
40 Round mugs
10 XL Round mugs
20 Travel mugs
20 Tankards
10 Rice bowls
20 Tumblers
2 Special Order Pirate Tankards
6 Special Order Plates

The throwing load isn't's all the handles that slow things down.

I always get bogged down in the handles, sometimes the amount I had to do took so long they mugs would dry out before I could add the handles. To solve this problem I started staggering them in production. I may throw all the parts at once, but then I cover the pots with plastic so they dry slower so I can do maybe 20 handles at a time then take a break and do something else.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lazy Sunday

I've worked today, but it hasn't been the easiest thing to do. All I want to do today is lay around, but that doesn't get us where we need to be. So as a compromise I decided I would do the little chores that have to be done by someone sometime.

I started out with cleaning the greenware. This involves a green kitchen scrubby..I think Scotchbright brand..or is it Scotchbrite. Who knows. I taker the scrubby and carefully sand down the areas I was sloppy about earlier in the process. Rims, handle attachments, the left side of the handle..I don't know why, it's a weak spot...then I take a mix of iron oxide and wax resist to sign the pots. I know it doesn't make much sense on greenware, but often I don't get to the signing until it's already been bisc fired. Then it's really cool.
Then I carefully rearrange them on the shelf to taker up as little room as possible so I can make more and have room to put them.

but I don't want to throw..the studio just doesn't feel right. I need to clean my wheel, bag up the reclaim so I can have a nice fresh place to work. So I do's messy work, but it feels better to have done it, Now there's nothing left but the wedging. I don't like the wedging.But I start. And then stop when I find I still have a 2lb ball left in the bucket from the soup mugs and cereal bowls. I quickly throw a large cup. and set it in front of the fan in the kiln area. Then I got to work wedging for real.

75 lbs of stoneware later I have 2 buckets of 1lb 8oz balls of clay for round mugs. Some of these will be for me, some will be for a local coffee shop.

I pause to trim and handle the cup I set in front of the fan.

but I know I need to make a lot more than what I have instead of quitting there I grabbed another 50lbs and started on the 1lb 4oz balls of clay from which I can make butter keepers or goblets, or both if I am not feeling focused.

Then I found I had a half block of clay and decided to make a couple big bowls, because I love big bowls. So I threw a couple big bowls and now I am having another break.

I'm not sure if I really have it in me to throw today. At least not the stuff I need to throw. We'll see.

I might actually decide to wedge more, because once I start throwing all this dread of throwing will disappear and I won't want to wedge again..I'll have a dread of wedging instead..

The fun part of the day is when I get to unload the glaze kiln. I've included a sneak peak shot from when it was at about 500 degrees. I should wait until it is below 250 to really open it up, but it is so hard to wait.

And tomorrow..I have no choice but to jump into the production. The show is going on whether I am prepared for it or not, so I had best be prepared :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Now on the Wiki Clay Blog list

I've just added Hughes Pottery to the blog list at Wiki Clay. If you are a ceramic artist who blogs, add your information and then write a short post about it. We should soon have a complete list of pottery blogs!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Looking Back.

It's been a pretty good last few days. I'm pretty excited to be making some new pieces. I finished up trimming and handling mugs today. I loaded a bisc kiln and got it started and I placed an order for another 2000 lbs of clay which we will be picking up tomorrow.

I've been thinking about the pieces I made in school and the pieces I've developed over the last 17 years since I left school. I became a tightwad. Not in all things, but in particular with bowls.When clay is plentiful, it's easy to leave a lot of clay to trim off for a tall foot, or to leave a decent amount of clay for a thick yummy rim that presents the food like a frame around a picture. I think I lost a certain generosity of form in a quest for frugality. So today with the last of my clay, I decided to try to fatten my rims and leave enough clay for a taller foot. I think it will make a big difference in the final presentation of the piece.

I also made a wide rimmed plate so Ro can work some of her henna styled magic on the rim. I have a feeling it's going to look really amazing.

So after the clay order comes in I have to make a huge number of mugs. I'm actually looking forward to it. I feel like the last batch I made (pictured) just turned out extra good. I also want to start stocking up for the summer shows. If I can get a stockpile of pieces by June I'll be a happier man in August.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opening Weekend for North Carolina

The NC Renaissance Festival opens this weekend!

I'm excited about selling pottery in North Carolina. For a lot of potters, NC is a pottery Mecca. NC has a multi-generation tradition of pottery. Much of the state comes pre-educated about the handmade fine craft traditions. I've been hoping for the opportunity to see if North Carolinians would like my work well enough to support us.
Rowan and I have talked about possibly moving there eventually. So the next few weeks will tell me a little something. The weather looks good. There is plenty of stock. If the fair has good attendance we should have good sales.and if you happen to be in the area, stop by and enjoy the faire. Ren Faires are seriously silly places, a good time will be had by all!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Goblets and Tankards and Kilns!

A successful day overall. I managed most of the day without pain in my hand, though I think there will be some Aleve tonight.

I threw goblet tops and stems earlier, then wedged for tankards and threw 22. Still trying not to overburden myself :)

I think next week will see an explosion of pottery making. After the throwing I cleaned greenware, signed pieces and loaded a bisc kiln.

Today's entertainment was NPR Morning Edition, All things Considered and then Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog. Which is hilarious and if you haven't already seen it on You Tube, is available streaming on Netflix. Only 42 minutes and very funny!

Monday, April 5, 2010

starting to look good!

I've been working diligently to finish some special orders and ease my hand back into regular use. Today was pretty marvelous, no Aleve, no ice and I got everything I had started finished. Tomorrow morning we'll load the kiln and get it started on low heat for about 12 hours and then we'll fire it up.

Here are the pictures of what will be inside, PLUS some bonus tiles from Rowan. We got some new underglazes and some black waxline underglaze and she has been busy drawing intricate Henna based patterns on tiles all evening. Check her page for pictures of this writing I don't have any.

Tomorrow I have some goblets planned and then I think some Tankards from the 181 white clay. The color response is amazing on it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easy, Easy, Gentle

I eased back into throwing yesterday with some soft porcelain bowls. I got back to throwing in a more serious way today. First I trimmed the wee bowls and cereal bowls I did yesterday, then I got into wedging for plates and a crock that are a special order. I was hesitant to wedge and throw 6lbs of clay at a time, but with ice and Aleve it worked out just fine. Here's what I did. Not bad for a guy who had shooting pain just days before :) Hopefully tomorrow will be even more productive. What's this? It's a holiday? Not for this guy..The wife is off celebrating with her family without me, so I'm going to make it a workday so I don't sit around and waste the day away.Take away the normal structure of a day and it's hard to maintain discipline :)