Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Glaze Game

Somebody once told me to make all my lids for certain things the same size, and to keep any that didn't fit because then I'd have lids for any pieces whose made-for-them lids didn't fit. This same person also threw over 60 casseroles and didn't think about lids until the next day and when she made 60 lids we had hardly any that fit anything but that's another story. Anyway, I have quite a few lids of various sizes kicking around and sometimes if I have a piece with a lid that doesn't quite fit I go through the stockpile to see if there is one that will work. I call this the Lid Game and it's great fun on the rare occasions that I actually score.

This week Poor Helper has had the unenviable task of sorting out the many buckets of odd glazes that have been clogging up the space under the work tables. I have a bad habit of just adding some stain or oxide to a bucket full of one of my regular glazes and doing some project and then having half a bucket of whatever colour left over. Then I just slap a lid on (if I can find one, of course) and shove it under the table. Sometimes I remember to dip a tile so I have a visual reminder but not always. It was getting hard to walk around with all these buckets sticking out all over the place.

Turned out there were 28 buckets of Guess-the-colour glaze.

Poor Helper added water to the ones that had dried up and left them to soak overnight, and then started sieving each one and dipping test tiles of both the white and the buff clays. She numbered the buckets and the tiles, using duct tape to write on for the buckets, which is brilliant because I had been scrawling a number or name on the bucket, which meant that after I had screened the glaze into another bucket I no longer had a clue as to what it was but now we can, at least in theory, move the duct tape to the new bucket. If you think that's bad, I once started 50 or so herbs from seed in little plastic bakery containers and wrote the names on the lids. It wasn't long before they came up so I removed the lids to give them air and room..... yup, 50 sets of seedlings with no names. You can see that administration is not my long suit.

The test tiles showed some duplicates or near duplicates - we even had three of a certain teal colour - so we were able to put those together and reduce the number of buckets somewhat. Now there are only 19.

Warning! This is what can happen if you don't watch those dibs and dabs of oddball glazes!

I'm thinking planters, vases and maybe some mugs with only their outsides dipped into these cool colours. An excuse to play!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Butter Pots

What a dummy I am!  I've often had customers ask me for 'French Butter Dishes'. They have always, ALWAYS, explained that these are great for keeping your butter cool on the table. I have also always said I don't make them, but I never admitted it was because I just couldn't see how they could possibly keep the butter cool and I didn't want to sell them something and get it back because it didn't work. Besides, they're fiddly to make.

Now the current (Sept/Oct) issue of Pottery Making Illustrated has an excellent article by Keith Phillips on what he calls the 'Cloche de Beurre' or 'Beurriere'. And he explains that they keep the butter FRESH! Quite a different thing from keeping it cool! Fresh I can understand, yes. The seal created by the water in the base of the dish means that the butter doesn't oxidize, or pick up unpleasant odours, or otherwise go nasty.

Awright! Beurriers coming up! Thank you, Mr. Phillips!

BTW, update on the canister set customer: I went down to see her and came away with a paint sample which she wants to match. It's a pale creamy yellow so shouldn't be too hard to do. I promised to make some tests and come back and show them to her so she can approve the colour before I make the set. She struck me as one of these ladies who don't have enough worries. Sounds silly, but the result is that they try to control everything in their lives to the -nth degree because now they can. She explained several times that in her old kitchen everything was co-ordinated, even the towels, so I guess she's doing it again. She won't be easy to please but I'll give it a shot. She did surprise me at the end of my visit, though, by getting out quite a comprehensive tool kit in order to put a dab of paint on a stick for me. The serious tool kit didn't 'tell' with the pure white carpet, the white nylon sheers, the precisely aligned china ornaments.... hmmm.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Growly Day

What a growly day today!

Opened the bigger kiln today and.... yikes. It had gone off after an unusually long 12 hours but I couldn't remember how long it had been on low so I wasn't that worried. Mistake! Totally underfired. Bleah. Yuck. Of course I need the stuff for Saturday....

So I unloaded and sure enough, another element was broken. Luckily it was the last of the old ones (I wanted to replace all elements last time Jim the kiln guru was here, but he talked me into only doing the ones he felt were the older ones) and even more luckily, he had made me one extra element. This sounds odd, but this is an old kiln, made almost 20 years ago by a cheerful carefree sort of a guy. Eric made excellent kilns for a few years and then decided he liked motorcycles better. So, in his carefree way, he stopped making and servicing kilns and all of us who had purchased them would have been in the soup if it hadn't been for Jim getting into the business. I'll always remember one thing Eric said to me once. He was late and explained it by saying he'd been delayed by a truck ahead of him on the road. "Everywhere I go," he said, "there's a slow truck following ahead of me."

I got the new element in without too much trouble and turned to the real work of the day.

First of all, it has been extremely hot this week. Even without the kilns it was over 30C in the studio.

Secondly, we seem to be having the mother of all mosquito crops. Late every summer we get a hatch of a certain species of mosquito. I don't know what it is, but it is a tiny critter, only about a quarter of an inch long, and I swear it has a blunt stinger because it hurts.

So I painted small bowls all day in the 30C + heat with a zillion microscopic biters sneaking up my pant legs, into my hair and under my glasses. I had to keep the doors shut and even Kip the dog couldn't stay outside. He lay under my feet on his dog bed and snapped at the mosqies. Really relaxing!

A possible customer called and wants a custom canister set. Fine, but she doesn't have a car so can I just come down and see her kitchen so I can see what it is she wants to match.Where is she? Right down in the busiest part of the City, of course. Is there a place to park at her condo? Of course not. Did I say, 'no'? Of course not. She sounded so sad about having been forced to sell her house (mansion?) because she was getting so old and couldn't do all the work anymore and her daughter made her get a modern kitchen and it just isn't 'home' etc etc etc. I fell for it and didn't even hear the violins in the background until too late.


It had better be cooler tomorrow.