Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Earthenware Tests and Handmade Masonry Stove Sneak Peek

We have snow at Windy Ridge. Lots of it, actually! Joe and I have been going out after sunset on our cross-country skis and breaking trails or following deer tracks in the the brilliant moonlight. If you look closely, you can see a deer behind the kiln shed in this photo. They creep closer and closer to the house during the winter, pawing through the snow to reach the alfalfa below. Just before the snow fell, they discovered the winter kale in our garden. We'll need a fence next year.

I have been doing lots of earthenware glaze tests the past few weeks. One of the drawbacks to having a large wood kiln is that it's hard to run series of tests when developing new glazes and clay bodies, so a few weeks ago we bought an electric  kiln from a retiring potter. Joe convinced me that the only way that I could possibly have a chamber's worth of earthenware ready to fire in the wood kiln this spring was to start working on it this winter, and it looks like he is right. The kiln is small, old, and kind of squarely-encased-in-steel cute. Like it could scamper away and go sledding down our rolling hills. It feels unnatural and shockingly easy to put test tiles in a kiln and waltz away, coming back only to turn up the temperature or watch the cones fall towards the end. Shouldn't I be more involved in firing my work? Wood-firing has calibrated my sense of what kind of effort should be poured out to get the pots from green to the table.

My goal right now is to find a satiny base glaze, and to learn how my available materials (some local, some regional, some commercially processed) work at earthenware temperatures. I tried using a few published glazes, but wasn't getting what I wanted, so I went back to how we formulate and experiment with our high-fire glazes: simple line blends. Since I am impatient, I limited myself to two or three ingredients and measured them by volume instead of weight.  I took a class with Joe Pintz at Arrowmont a few years ago, and learned the volume-measuring method as it relates to testing colorants in terra sigillata. This decision to use volume instead of weight with my test glazes may come back to haunt me in some way I haven't seen yet, but so far my results have been both educational and exciting. I can always reverse-engineer volume to weight, right?

 I love these touchable satin whites, love how they break around the corners.

While I've been diddling abound with glaze  tests, Joe has been working on the new handmade masonry stove for the studio. It looks like a big improvement from last year's model. I have a few pictures of the building process to share, but I'll let him post about the details when  he is done. Which will be soon, I hope. It is winter in Wisconsin. 

Joe and Todd getting started.  

Joe and Prairie making progress. Keep it up, fellas!

Focus, Little Grasshopper...

Getting close to providing heat...

Merry (Belated) Christmas from your Windy Ridge Cross-Country Ski Team!



Pat said...

I, too, love those "touchable satin whites." I also love all the other pictures. You are accomplishing a lot!31

angela walford said...

way to go christy, your glaze tests are looking superb i do admire your persistence with the local ingredients... and how cool is that stove!!

Janise Daylin said...

Building your own stove, kiln, home, life - how satisfying. Thanks for continuing to post to your website - love to hear how you two are doing.


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