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Monday, 20 July 2009

Does training for a 1/2 marathon and potting mix?

Hmmmn, that would be a big fat NO!!!!
Every morning that I train, I cannot help but be extremely exhausted and useless the remainder of the day! Sadly, with my impending race next weekend, more training sessions means more useless days.
I did have one to two really productive days this past week.
First, I managed to clear 118 test batches of glaze. Yes, you read correctly, 118 batches of 100g glaze pots, built up over 2 years in my endeavour to find that perfect glaze and slip. Can you believe it took over 3 hours to scrape clean into plaster batt (to dry for easy dumping into toxic section of my local recycling/waste centre) and scrub the pots clean. Man, that was a workout in itself! However, what a great feeling it was. Not only did it open up space in my already cramped pottery, but it was a realisation that I had reached the end of my journey of researching, developing and testing.
Once thought of as the unreachable goal, I find myself emerging on the other side of that excrutiating long dark tunnel I have been crawling through for years. I feel like I can finally start enjoying the creative process again, now that I have some decisive conclusions about the clay, additives, slips and glazes I will be using going forward. No more juggling between 22 strains of stain concentrations tested amongst 6 different types of slips which lie under the choice of 15 different glazes, all of which can be applied on top of 11 various white clays. You get the point. The variables have narrowed to a manageable amount.
I have my chosen materials and batches of slip/glaze.
I know how my kiln fires - knowing the hot and cold spots and how best to fire my chosen materials.
I know the forms I want to make and sell.
I have even managed to simplify what it is that I am making - reducing the types of forms on offer, streamlining the making process to a more suitable level of ease.

This leads to the second productive day of my week: I actually started making my new forms and it felt so good just to create, knowing exactly what decoration I was going to apply rather than settling with some undeveloped glaze cover for the sake of finishing the form off. How great did it feel!!! Now I just have to fire and assemble the goods to see how they look!

So, from now on it is time to keep moving with my prototypes and emerge from my long retreat and show everyone what it is that I can offer the world.
A very exciting time! Perhaps all these years of slogging it behind the scenes with scores and scores of okay ideas always seemingly resulting in bad outcomes will actually start paying off!

So, after next weekend's big race, I can only imagine what more energy from reduced running will bring to the potter's wheel! I cannot wait!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Just how specific is this darned specific gravity?

So, there I was remeasuring the specific gravity of my orange glaze, making sure it read as it should from a month ago. Good news, it read the same. Bad news, it looked so damn lumpy and so different from a month ago, I really couldn't believe what I was seeing.

To appreciate the amount of frustration I was feeling at that juncture, I must go back 2-3 months ago when I undertook the painful process of understanding my glazes more. With every kiln firing producing various results, I had undergone the necessary cone fire testings to ensure the right controls were in place and that I was firing evenly and consistantly. After cracking that issue (mind you, that took about 4 months....), I started reading up on how to get my glaze consistancy constant (say that over and over again really fast- I dare you).

I started with hyrdrometers and after reading bucket loads of info on, decided against persuing that angle. However, the good people on recommended using SPECIFIC GRAVITY as a reliable method for measuring the amount of water (the consistancy) in a batch of glaze so you can replicate it every time you make up a new batch.

So I eagerly and dutifully tested all my glazes at a thick, medium and thin consistancies to better decide which one was best for the glaze. Once confirmed, I made sure the batches were well mixed and measured the specific gravity accordingly. In fact, I did this three times to ensure little to no room for error.

This is why after re-measuring the batch recently and recording a same specific gravity as before, I was dumbfounded to see a thick muddy pool of glaze. Help!!! Does this mean I cannot even rely on this measurement either? I don't want to go back to sticking my finger in the batch and measuring thickness by just how much of my skin texture can be seen through the glaze film - too much room for error!

Anway, I will proceed. I am ready to dump these glazes once and for all and streamline to one reliable glaze - is there such a thing!?!

WOW - I have been such a bad blogger the past few months! I have been too busy going away like a little jetsetter on holiday to Tobago with my hubby! It was the first holiday with just the two of us that we have had in so many years!
I was hoping to find inspiration where we were, with the flora and fauna of the beautiful island providing me with a feast of ideas to explore in clay. Instead, I found that my initiative melted away in the 30degrees plus Celcius sun and I couldn't really get beyond rubbing my sunscreen on every 15 minutes. Man, that was a lot of work anyway!
What I did discover was an incredible sense of calm and centredness. No time constraints, no plans, no dressing up, no make-up, no brush (!), no noise, no pollution, no rushing, no one to answer to, no diet, no mirrors (that IS the best way to start chilling out ladies!).... just plain and simple R & R.
It is really so true what they say about the positive impact the sun has on us. Those rays and a quiet connectedness with nature really brought my mind back to the basics: eat, sleep, and be merry. How nice life could be if we could always have it in our minds to seek no more than what we need and to enjoy what is around us.
I was so very hard to get my mind back into gear after getting home - a good week. And now when I begin to stress, I close my eyes and remember all those moments sitting on the beach when I told myself to just listen to the waves rolling in, because it is that sound that I can hear now when I need to escape.
So, rambling over. I'm off to fire my kiln tonight.