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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fred and the Furnace. Fixed for Not $1000, not $500, not $300, but $112.50

Fred showed up this morning with a bucket, a pump and some scary pink acid. We were relieved to find the valves for the operation already in place, so Fred hooked it up and we waited.


He reversed the flow of the pump.


He reversed it again.


He says "It doesn't look good"

We waited.

Then there was gurgling, and pumping, and scary pink acid foam.

Now, a small $112.50 later, the hot water works again.But we need to get that water softener next week after we get back from the show.

It could last a while like this, but I think eventually we'll have to get that hot water heater in and take the furnace out, after all,who wants to buy fuel oil just to heat tap water.

Not about Pottery...much, more about furnaces

We have a lovely basement studio.

1/2 of the basement is lovely, the other half we lovingly refer to as The Dungeon. The Dungeon is where The Furnace lives.

The Furnace has a limited role in our house because we bought a lovely gas insert for our fireplace that can heat the whole damn house to tropical temperatures for a couple hundred dollars a opposed to The Furnace that could heat the house to barely warm to chilly for about $500 a month.

So The Furnace is only on hot tap water duty these days. It does a marvelous job of making really hot water, and we usually don't run out, except when my lovely wife is in the shower. Which is amazing because her showers take nanoseconds while mine are excessive.

The Furnace seems to be on strike these days, it is still heating up the water, but refuses to pass it along to us. The pipes starting shaking violently and the water flow from the hot tap has slowed to a trickle.

After much investigation we came to the conclusion that the pipes are full of limescale and there is a blockage.

So we investigated further. The furnace does a great job when it isn't all blocked up, plus we still have 1-2 years worth of heating oil in the tank. It would be a loss to give up on it now, but fixing it could be worse. Unblocking it is going to require a furnace specialist to come and put acid into our pipes, let it sit for an hour or so then flush it out.

The guy at the office said it will cost somewhere between $100 and $400 depending on how the furnace is plumbed. Apparently we need valves to put the acid in, and valves to take the acid out. If the valves are there, it'll be $100, if they have to install them it'll be closer to $400.

They are coming tomorrow morning at 8 to check it out. SO I went down to The Dungeon to clear out some space around the furnace because we had piled some things up the last time the basement flooded. So while I was there I checked it out.

I *think* we have the valves in place. SO if that is the case, and the acid bath works tomorrow we'll have hot water again YAY. And we will then go to Lowe's and buy a water softener and have a local plumber install it so we never have lime build up again.

If the acid bath doesn't work the furnace option would then be to replace the coil with a new one. (Heating guy at the office said it could run $1000 installed.) then we'll be going to buy an electric water heater and a water softener which the local plumber guy will install for less than the replacement Coil would be for the furnace. The we can dismantle and remove the furnace, replace the coil at our leisure and sell it off.

A final note: Sometimes I am worried to know that shimmed beams are holding up our living room, but most of the time I don't even think about it.

A TRULY final note: See the lighbulbs in the picture? I don't know why they are all piled up there. They were there when we moved in...and The Dungeon is so scary we only run in to put things in storage, then run out again. This will change. I have a need to totally reorganize and perhaps insulate, because there is a strong, persistent and cold draft coming out of this area all winter.

And for the Pottery..1 glaze kiln cooling..1 glaze kiln firing... last unload will be Thursday morning before we head off to Birka.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Birka Countdown Continues

We're moving towards departure for Birka, another glaze kiln came out this morning and the kiln was immediately loaded with a bisc. The bisc candled all day and is now rising. It'll be done about 4 in the morning and will start to cool and we'll reload it with a glaze by tomorrow night. We also just got another glaze loaded and started, it should shut off about 9AM and be ready to unload tomorrow night, very late tomorrow night.

<--These are the pots we have finished so far.

The glaze that is firing is mostly big bowls and sugar jars, butter keepers and a bunch of medallions and pendants that Ro made.

After I finished glazing, Ro did her glazing and finished loading the kiln while I priced all the finished pots on the shelf. This was a new experience for me since for the first time in 20 years I used a price gun to price my pots. I have to admit it went really quickly and saved me a lot of time, though it felt funny to be using a machine and putting such standardized labels on my very handmade work. I don't know if anyone else gets why it kind of makes me feel funny, but hopefully it won't affect the way my customers feel about the pieces. I think I feel like it seems less handmade and more manufactured to a customer when they see a mechanically produced price tag. The handwritten tag is one more indication that someone, not something made the piece.

or, it's all in my head.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Closer to the goal

Another day closer to being ready for Birka. We have to be ready to load and leave by next Thursday.

It was quite a day in the studio, Details of the work aside, we got a busload of work done, I'm tired and a little proud and while I can't speak for Rowan, I am pretty sure she feels the same way.

 I've been waiting for a more or less uninterrupted day and I finally got it. I started by trimming the 60 mugs I threw last night. When I finally finished them I felt like they would work out better if I left them dry a wee bit more before trying to add the handles.

I also had a special treat, Ro spend most of the day in the studio with me making small medallions and pendants and pins. I love having her with me. Most of the time we are both working, but doing jobs in different parts of the house. Like I am in the studio and she is taking pictures and posting the work on Etsy. We make a damn fine team. Every potter should be so lucky.

So I moved on right away to glazing the 65 tankards Ro had unloaded, cleaned and waxed in preparation for glazing. I feel like I got through them in record time and was able to move back to getting the handles on before things became too dry. It's almost always an issue for me, they're either too wet or too dry. I feel like today's batch of mugs came together really nicely.

And to finish out the day, Ro loaded the glaze kiln, which is firing now and she has most of a bisc loaded.  Just waiting on a few of those mugs to be ready to go in. The dehumidifier is running, they'll be ready soon!

Making Making Making

This morning I commented on a blog from someone who had a 1000 pot goal by April. I can't remember who it was. I am feeling their pain. I think they are looking at a little over 100 pots a week. I've been doing about 100+ pots a week for a couple weeks and it is kind of starting to hurt. I wish I could remember which pottery blog it was, I want to go back and see how they did.

I had a throwing goal of 60 pieces today and I made it! There they are! Looks like tomorrow will involve a lot of trimming and handle pulling.

 And before I even started the throwing I finished up these little cuties. I really like these.

 Tomorrow, there will be throwing of pitchers, the trimming and handling of many mugs and the glazing of many tankards.

It seems to be coming together nicely.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Journey Continues

Oh so much happening. Today's work, mostly big bowls, 9 of them in various shapes, also some Butterkeepers and Coasters. Yep, Coasters. I've never done anything like coasters before, but there they are. Tomorrow I'll trim them flat, round the edges and we'll get them into the kiln.

We also had a glaze kiln cooling, which of course I was worried about, but so far it looks like everything will be OK. You can see some of the pieces I was most worried about sticking and not working out are just fine. I can't wait to get into the rest of the kiln. We had a lot of special orders in this kiln and I am anxious to get them off to their new homes.

I still have many pieces to glaze, so I guess I'll be able to get a glaze kiln in again tomorrow, and we'll load up the other kiln with bisc. Ro changed out the relays in it today, the old ones seemed fine, but the kiln seemed to be acting funny. I am not sure if I just lost my mind and imagined the kiln was taking too long to fire or not. And I am not sure if I am just wrong about the diagnosis.

The kiln seemed to be taking a long time to fire, so after it was empty I did a fast fire to cone 6 and at about 700 degrees opened the lid and looked for glowing elements. the bottom 2/3 of the kiln looked dark. I thought this can't be an element..because that would mean 2 wall elements and a floor element are out.

So we researched it and found the next possibility is a relay.. but usually when a relay goes, there is charred plastic on it, these looked clean.

So today I asked Ro to swap out the bottom two, we looked at the old ones and they still looked charring and we fired the kiln up again and again at 700 the bottom 2/3 looked dark, so I closed the lid and then peeked again in a few minutes and it seemed like there was glowing on the bottom. We shut the lid again and looked at about 900 degrees and all of them were starting to glow... so I have no idea. We're going to fire it up and see if I was just out of my mind about the timing.

The Event Looms

 We're in the middle of the time most potters hate. The crunch before a show. We're leaving next week for NH and I almost feel like I have enough work for it. But not quite. Here's how today went.

Pack and mail the Etsy orders.

Home to start pulling handles

 Studio assistant Cristin arrives and starts wedging clay, 1.25lbs for butter keepers, then 1.5lbs for the round mugs.

I continue to pull handles until 3PM when I have to run into town for groceries and other errands.

I return home and start glazing

Dinner guest arrives and I stop glazing

Dinner! Homemade Manicotti! YAY RO!

I return to glazing, Ro cleans up the kitchen and comes to load glaze kiln

I finish glazing (kiln full, still more pots waiting) and move back to pulling handles.

Cristin has left 50lbs of clay out when she ran out of time so I have Ro wedge it into  5lb balls to make serving and  mixing bowls.

Tomorrow, there will be much throwing of pieces again and hopefully some kiln repair, since one kiln is still down.

Hopefully there will also be some studio cleanup since I seem to have utterly destroyed the place over the last week. I also hope that the number of pieces we need for the show is reached. We have 4 tables to fill. That's a lot of space.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Great Studio Day and a bonus Kiln Fail

Soup Mugs, XL Round Mugs and Tankards all handled today.
I jumped right into work this morning, running right downstairs to check on the dryness of the XL round mugs I had left uncovered and make sure all the pieces I had covered didn't dry out anyway. Everything was ready to go, so I started by turning over all the uncovered pieces so the bottoms could dry out as well as the tops, then started on adding handles to soup mugs. All through the day I trimmed and added handles to pieces. Ro came in and added some medallions and Oak and Acorn sprigs to some of the pieces. Unloaded a bisc kiln and made some stamp blanks to carve out. It was all wrapped up by 9PM..not bad..just another typical 9-9 day :)

We do have some problems to address though..the bisc kiln petered out last time we fired. Today we took a few minutes to check it out and so far I am baffled. I thought an element had gone because it slowed down so much, but it seems like the bottom 2/3 of the kiln isn't working. I fired it up and looked inside at about 700 degrees and only the top element was glowing. Everything else was black and cold. I can't imagine I lost a bottom element and 2 side elements at the same time, so I am not sure what to do. I thought it might be a power issue, but the relays show no visible sign of being burned out, which they usually do. So I am at a loss. I figure tomorrow I can call the manufacturer and ask for advice on troubleshooting.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Glaze and our progress

 Here's the top layer of our long awaited glaze kiln. It looks like everything turned out nicely. I think we've finally gotten the Temoku Gold glaze back under control. It was overfired and causing pits, but it looks like dropping some of the flux levels has made a big difference on how it turns out. It might even be slightly underfired..but only by a few degrees. The outside of the pots are turning out just right, but the insides are a little too golden when they should be more brown, but they are within the range. You can see this in the picture. The pots on the lower left side are showing a little too much gold. I might adjust it a little more.

After trimming all the cereal bowls, rice bowls and apple bakers this morning, I got started throwing more bowls to be made into soup mugs. The last ones sold so fast I had to make more! A good sign for the future.

Ro came down to the studio this afternoon and got started wedging for me. She went through most of the reclaim prepping clay for me to throw tankards. These cat litter buckets are full of wedged 2 lb balls of clay. I was hoping to get started on them after the soup mugs were thrown but I felt like I was just done for the day. So tomorrow my agenda is packed full of repetitive throwing of Tankards...maybe some large round mugs too since they are made from the same weight just to break up the routine a little and stay fresh.

I hope the rest of the kiln looks as good.We should have new pieces posted on Etsy by tomorrow evening. For's time for sleep..or at least winding down. Ro is already asleep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Glazing and Throwing

 Today was another day I when just couldn't get started. I woke up late and felt... fuzzy, couldn't wake up, coffee didn't seems to help. I had decided to get right on top of glazing first thing today, but instead I needed to pack Etsy orders which is a great reason not to glaze :)

We had a little difficulty with the glazes because Ro had mixed new glazes and I hadn't done my part to lift them back into place under her supervision, so I wasn't sure where the buckets belonged. Eventually we figured it out and in the early afternoon I finally got to the glazing, then 1/2way through took a break to mail out the packages and get some lunch with Ro. We had kind of a rough morning, some days are just a little sad. So getting out and getting a break was nice.When we got back I finished up the glazing pretty quick and got started with the throwing. Ro came and loaded both the kilns, one is a bisc, the other a glaze.

We have some special orders in this kiln, so I hope it works out well. You just never know until it comes out..especially when dealing with a fresh batch of glazes. Though I have every confidence in Rowan's and my own glaze mixing ability I still get a little twitchy when I think about it too hard.

The throwing was productive. I did 8 more rice bowls, 16 soup mugs and 8 Apple Bakers. I have one more bucket of wedged clay ready to throw will probably be tankards. Then we have to fill up those buckets with wedged clay and start again. There's a lot of pots to make before the end of the month.

 Most of this was done under the direct supervision of Tuna Fish the Cat, who knows she isn't allowed into the studio, so she sits in the doorway and supervises. Sometimes she tries to sneak in, but will retreat just far enough if she's caught. She's one willful and smart critter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back on Track.

Rice Bowls, Butterkeepers, Small Jars and Lids
 We had a busy day here at Hughes Pottery. I started out by seeing Dr. Collins, Oral Surgeon, about my horrible toothache that came on strong New Years Eve. $110 later it was determined that I had to have an extraction.(! REALLY?) but I guess it's best that they took the x-rays and did the exam in case there was something else that was causing all that pain.
A couple of small cups
It was also determined that I would be on antibiotics, Ibuprofin and Vicoden until I could schedule the extraction. They could do it in 8 days or a month. So I chose a month. I need more time to come up with the $360ish dollars it will cost. Ahh the life of the uninsured.

Next I came home to get started on production. We had a lot going on. I started throwing. Cristin came over and learned about unloading bisc kilns and cleaning biscware and waxing the bottoms of the musg with hot wax, while Ro got started mixing up new glazes.

Parts for Goblets
Ro had to take a break to run some errands so I got Cristin started with Wedging. Then I made Goblet parts and then had to take a break to meet with one of my old HS art teachers about a new Empty Bowls project in the area and the possibility of me teaching some workshops.

Big pile of mugs to glaze
I finally got back into the studio about 3:30 while Ro got started taking pictures of soup mugs and posting new listings on Etsy. I got some small jars and butterkeepers made, then I got sleepy, took another little break, made a pizza for dinner, ate with Ro and then we both headed back to the studio. I threw rice bowls while she finished mixing the glazes. The day seemed to go on forever.

We quit about 11PM. Tomorrow's plan is to trim the pieces that are ready for trimming, then do all the glazing with all those full buckets of glaze. Load the kiln, then in the early evening take off for an evening visiting friends, come home and pass out :)

Big Bucket of Glaze, ready to add water.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Break is over!

 I really got back into the full swing of production last Thursday  when I made all those soup mugs. Since then we have had a bisc kiln and a glaze kiln and I have made 65 round mugs, some pitchers, a ginormous tankard and a few pasta bowls and some plates.

Later this week we're going to take a few days off for an annual retreat we take this tie of year so I want to have all my work in progress finished for Thursday.

I worked on trimming and handles today. I got the plates, pitchers and ginormous tankard done. I trimmed all the mugs and got about 1/3 of the handles done.

The rest are under plastic and I'll get in the morning, then tomorrow afternoon I'll get the soup mugs glazed and loaded.

I'm hoping I'll have a chance to do some bowls, tumblers and goblets tomorrow that I can trim and assemble on Thursday before we leave.

On the selling end of the business things haven't slowed down too much. I was surprised to have a couple big sales and a few special orders come through this week. I thought we'd really see nothing at all, but people still seem to want what we have to fact we keep getting asked if we have more of certain things. I think we should have been better prepared for this. We will be next year. We learn!

So part of this production is for us on Etsy, some of it is for an event we have in NH at the end of January and part of it is stock to send to Tampa at the end of February. All in all I am looking at about 300 pieces by the end of Jan and another 300 for the end of Feb. I am so glad to have help. The new studio assistant is working out well. she has prepped clay and organized my chaos, now we'll see if she can keep up. It was pretty fun here on Monday, Rowan was loading pieces onto Etsy, Cristin was cleaning and wedging, Morgan was over grinding the rest of the kiln shelves and I was throwing. It kind of felt like a real business. Lots of stuff getting done all at the same time!

I liked that a lot. I'd love to be able to keep 4 people busy all year round.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kiln Shelf Cleaning

 Once or twice a year we have to do the nasty business of cleaning glaze drips from our shelves. When I first learned pottery I was taught to do this with a hammer and chisel. Later on I picked up a tip to invest in a diamond head grinder cup from Fastnal and it works so much better and so much faster I really can't believe it. It cuts through the glaze (and the shelf if you are not careful) like a hot knife through butter.

I resurfaced about 10 shelves today in about 20 minutes. I am so pleased, they look like new! We still have about 8 more to do because we had a kiln load cooling today, but if the weather holds we'll do it tomorrow.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Finishing what I started

Ro and I got into the studio today and totally kicked butt!

 We took these

And made these

and these

and these

And a whole bunch of others which for some reason I can't get the photo to load.

AND I glaze all these, and Ro, bless her heart is still downstairs loading the kiln. New pots on Monday :)