Kiln building course at Forest Row school of ceramics.

I saw the ad on Joe Finch’s facebook post and as It was quite near to me I decided to attend. Katrina who’s school it is laid on really lovely weather for the whole duration.

 

 

 

 

 

The school is part of Emmerson college and has the most fantastic view down a valley and up to the Ashdown Forest.

 

 

It started on Friday when Joe laid out the pattern on the concrete,first came the hollow concrete block then the heavy firebricks which were a pain in the butt. They were secondhand and needed cleaning off, a hard and tedious job this affected the whole kiln. Lesson 1 when building a new kiln use new bricks ( i’d actually learnt that with mine).

In a while the kiln was growing and we were able to make a start on the chamber and were soon ready for the arch. That was worked out for a former/frame and left for the following morning. The door was cut in the bricks being numbered for easy assembly.

 

Saturday another lovely day despite grotty forecasts, we started with the steel work and the arch.The former was brought away and saved for just in case. We all glazed our pots and the chief stacker stacked them ready for lift off the following morning. Joe had brought gas burners that looked like a rocket booster from Apollo 12.

 

Sunday started at 8 with the kiln being turned on, with all the pots being biscuited the boosters made very good progress getting the temperature up to 1000 in 6 hours, that’s when the trouble started, the boosters were found to be too big and there was a lot of unburnt fuel being unburnt in the kiln. After a new strategy was sorted the kiln gradually started to move upwards. I had to leave but Joe Katrina and the faithful few stayed on to cajole it up to temperature and dose it with soda.

Monday, we arrived amazed that it had got to temperature, whilst we waited for the cooling Joe did some demonstrations .

We opened the kiln and recreated the packing pattern for every shelf which showed the characteristics of that firing, cool,hot places, where the soda had been best/least.

 

Everyone was pleased with their pots and sadly it was all over.

 

Thanks to everyone and thank you Katrina and Joe.

amazing oak trees seen at the pottery school

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Christmas fairs

As you all probably know that at the end of the year we celebrate Christmas. As we get older I feel that it loses a little and it’s harder to regain the real feeling of Christmas. I think that the fairs we do recapture a little of that excitement that we once had,  and some of the atmosphere has to do with the cold weather,we have had a little period of this just in time for the fairs.

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Our first fair was at the Weald and Downland fair later than normal and colder than normal. Our cottage had both doors open and we froze. We did have a good time though with 5000 people on the Saturday and 6500 on the Sunday, and we met some old friends we see every year there.

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The next one was a corporate one in the city of London at Aviva towers with my friend Debbi who works there. The city is amazing,  alive and thronged with people during the week and deserted at weekends,the building of new sky high blocks continues at pace. The big blocks have been given silly names like;Gherkin,walkie talkie,toaster,cheese grater,cassette tape and soon the scapel. Every ten minutes a cement lorry went passed the window.

Luckily next to the coffeee machine

Luckily next to the coffee machine

 

 

It was nice to have the Aviva choir singing carols around the piano ( good name for an office block).

 

 

The next fair was the frost fair in Carshalton around the ponds by Honeywood house, a perfect setting. There were clog dancers,choirs,brass bands and cajun groups almost next to us. There was also an amplified stage where Debbi was , 20161203_161910she was next to the stage I said she was ……she has recovered her hearing now.

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We had a lovely afternoon and it all went twinkly when the lights went on.

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We have a two week gap before the last one, which will be in Centrale next to Debenhams on the 17th, after that we can put away our cheesy lights hang up our sannerats ( santa hats ) for another year.

 

Thank you all who came and purchased something and everyone who came and said  hello.

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In the slips

The slips are a category of seats in concert halls and Theatres ,this is nothing to do with that. It doesn’t mean standing next to the wicket keeper either.

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Slips are liquid clays used for decoration there are a whole spectrum of colours, I like to use clays from out and about on my travels. They are from places like the river bank of the river Wandle ( WC ) wandle clay. River Thames mud from outside River house in Nine Elms which I call MI 6, sea shore clay from Itchenor Sussex which is called Itchy slip where I gather the clay from the slipway which I call slip slip. Some of the names are quite boring though like Dicker slip from Dicker or Alf Riston from Alfriston.

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I have 14 slips,some are running out and I wont be able to replace them,WC is from the river bank and I would feel terrible if I cut that away anymore than I have done. I am sure that other places in England will offer up some earthly presents. I collected one from France which is called French lake slip.

The clay being churned up

The clay being churned up

 

They are used at the all the temperatures I work at,the higher the temperature the more change there is, some go from brown at 1060 to green at 1300 reduced.

 

Slips are a great way to decorate a pot .

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RAKU 2016 ( our tenth year ).

This year’s Raku firing was our tenth year, we lost count of the number,we had some years more than one.IMG_0671

The weather changed the day before the firing from 24 plus to 15-16 so quite a drop,but it was dry.

 

We had two new glazes, Heavenly white and Turqmanistan along with all the other glazes they had to be remixed and sieved quite a task, but worth the effort.

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We had a few explosions,  my pots obviously didn’t have enough grog in them to stand the shock horror of being rapidly warmed up.Only mine exploded sadly it was the ones made for guests to glaze and fire.

There wern’t  so many combatants this year so it was a little less manic. I had invited Lis Watkins along to sketch the scene quite a hard task with people darting everywhere in and out.I think she did a remarkable job.Raku Master Copy Cropped and Cleaned Small File

The day went oh so quickly, the pizza oven was in full swing and the food was generally gorgeous, thanks to everyone who contributed .

 

Farewell Raku until next year.

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It’s been a while.

It’s been a while since I last wrote about anything remotely worth writing about ,because not much as happened that is worth writing about really. Just the usual thank you.

We plod on through life doing all the boring everyday stuff that we have to do, work,washing up and on the odd occasion we do something that we consider worth while,fun and creative,this is one such occasion so I am writing about it.

All winter I had been making the usual earthenware things that I love, for the weald and downland museum and stuff to sell. In the hope that my mate Tina would invite me again to help her fire her woodfiring kiln, I was making in stoneware too. This actually came true and we were making a start on the 10th March a Wednesday to fire on that coming Saturday.

The weather in the winter has been very wet and Tina’s garden was looking like the Battle of Paschendale on a good day,the communication trenches were flooded and the saps were in disarray.

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Tina had already packed half the kiln over the past weeks, I was given a whole stack to fill, which in a kiln this size was quite a lot of space to fill. A lot of my stuff was flat ware and I decided not to pack it,mainly to try it at a lower less likely to warp it temperature. My bigger stuff was packed into the dome of the kiln,( the joy of a big kiln).

 

 

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We finally finished glazing and packing on Friday and were ready for a very early start the following morning at 4.30 ooer. We had the use of a magic gazebo this is what it looked like,a bit like a resident of Windscale glowing in the dark.

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Long suffering hubby of Tina,Graham and I lit the kiln at 4.30, we had set an overnight fire which was glowing a little and had kept the heat at 150 c. Slowly the dawn came up and lo it was misty.IMG_0529

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the patrols came in back to the trenches they reported that all was quite in the Westphalian trenches they were probably asleep, the odd flare went up, generally quite. Slowly stoked, my worries about the damp firewood were unfounded at this early stage and probably did a good job holding back the rise.

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P1050443The passive damper at the base of the chimney let colder air in almost stopping the flame from progressing up the chimney,causing the kiln to reduce.

Tina had been given large buckets of Linseed oil waste ,that was spooned into the fireboxes,it burnt really well and is 100 per cent vegetable, flax for linen seeds for allsorts of uses.
P1050444Eventually we reached temperature as usual the pyro was out but useful for showing the rise.IMG_0531It had only taken 14 hours to fire and we felt a little deflated, as we sat down to our take away curry,which soon inflated us again, powerful stuff.

THE UNPACK.

We waited until the following Thursday,Tina had been sending me updates on the decreases and when we opened up it was 25 degrees a pleasant mid day temperature.

IMG_0532IMG_0533IMG_0534There were over 300 pots in the kiln apart from a few boring ones and a few glaze runs they were all really good. The hard bit is still to come, selling them,

A very good firing .

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Recent goings on

This years rememberance day was a bit special for our family,on 29th September 1915 my grandad was killed at the battle of Loos.

The memorial that he is listed on was re-instated after developers bought the drill hall that it was attached to,  finally it was restored and unveiled ( not complete ) so that respects could be paid, I was suprised at the attendance.My generation will be the last people who met and talked to them,my other Grandad survived to tell me the horror stories.

IMG_0418IMG_0415We been doing the Christmas markets some are good others not. The Weald and Downland Christmas market was very very wet,but there was more people attending than ever before we did really well and I enjoyed meeting quite a few people that we’d seen before.Thank you to all those who found us in IMG_0424our little 1640’s cottage.

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I have been really lazy in the workshop,the re-cycle bucket was looking more like an ice cream cone than a bucket.The pugmill an instrument of torture had to be completely dismantled and cleaned,the nuts and bolts holding it all together didn’t fit on the re-assembly ( very strange ) I eventually made it work and work is the word, I made vows never to let it get to this stage ever again, as I made vows last time it got as bad as this.

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For four years now we have been a part of the Carshalton frost fair, we were there again this year, it has always had a special atmosphere. The wind was a problem this year but no one lost their  gazebos,but there were some very big gusts. We did really well and were not that far from the carols,Salvation army band and other entertainments, father Christmas came round with his two helpers elf n safety. The solar powered lighting came on and it was all twinkly, very festive, we were shattered by the time we got home, an enjoyable day.

IMG_0448IMG_0450Dates are already filling up for 2016 .

Next wood firing 10.March 2016 will have to start making for that,yippeee.

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A new direction ( possibly)

The first ever visit I had to a professional potter was to Milland pottery in Liphook, they were older than I was and were the new wave of studio potters.They had set up in the late 40’s and were very very good,they threw most of their ware and it was fired in an oil kiln to very high earthenware 1190/1200. I still use some of the pots I bought from them and still enjoy them 35 years later,alas they are no longer with us but their pots live on, there is some in the Dome museum in Brighton.WP_20150727_11_36_00_Pro

 

I took the plunge and changed. I made a new clay up with 25% local clay, a sticky yellow dug from the graveyard and trenches nearby.WP_20150722_07_37_44_ProWP_20150722_07_41_15_ProWP_20150722_13_30_34_ProWP_20150811_12_45_01_Pro

 

The firing was very odd, I had packed the kiln and put a small flame in overnight, when in the morning I put the the pyrometer on, the thermo couple ( probe wot goes in the firing chamber ) it said 119 but after an hour there was a bright orange glow? very strange. I tried another pyro and this said 1650 ,absolute nonsense.( I ruddy hate pyro’s ),so it was down to the cones 3-4-5 soon there was a slight bend on 3 1140c. at five hours all the cones were down in one part of the kiln so had to shut it down, am now waiting for the cool down and to open it to see what went on,very strange.

Three days later after it had all cooled down, I took down the front wall ( wicket ) to find that the whole thing had underfired dramatically, despite the cones going over. I found out the thermocouple wasn’t actually protruding into the kiln .Always a good move to have it the heat you need to measure.But that doesn’t explain the cones going over.WP_20150811_16_44_13_Pro

 

I bricked it back up again to fire again with the last of my cones going in,the thermocouple going in in  a different spot .

 

Ah well,start all over again this time with some new cones and the thermo couple ( probe) actually sticking into the chamber. Same as before I left a burner in on a low overnight. In the morning the pyro,actually working, said 268 degrees c,which speeds things up. There was a quick rise until 730 when it stuck for a while, with manipulation shifted it until 940. I reduced, then it really did get stuck no amount of manipulation would get it going again until I started in desperation to stoke long bits of wood through the burner holes. This started it all off up again, the wood was not smoking so I continued with wood until all the cones went over,phew .WP_20150811_16_44_18_Pro

 

Three days later and some peeking, I opened up the kiln to find out whether the whole new direction thing had worked. With some relief it had for the most part,some of the local slips had worked very well,  some not so,the green slip reduced massively and went red,not too sure of the quality of it.WP_20150814_001WP_20150814_07_25_42_Pro

I tested one of the vases for water tightness and three days later the bottom was dry, also the strength was very good having dropped a mug by mistake.

 

This may well be the forward for me.

 

 

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