This is my first summer as a fully self employed person. I’d previously spent many years working full time doing other things while being a potter part time as well. Beginning as a young teen I worked summers full time while school was out and upon graduation, began a full time job. Working through the summers my entire adult life as well. So…it’s tempting to spend most of this summer like most the others of my life immersed in my work (though now more enjoyable work).
Last weekend I attended a Fundamentals of Design in Clay workshop lead by Nick DeVries at the Edina Art Center. It was a great time and very educational. Edina Art Center has a wonderful facility and always puts on equally wonderful special events.
Principles and elements of design as they relate to creating works in clay were the primary lessons of the workshop and the concepts were made clear while watching Nick demonstrate his very unique processes.
Most of Nick’s work is thrown rather thick and his shapes refined by the use of a rasp. Using this process, he often makes squared shapes out of round and uses the subtle texture left by the rasp to give his pieces a great textural feel. Nick’s additional stamped and carved design elements along with his gorgeous matte oxidation glazes finish the pieces off perfectly.
A few years ago, we were younger and more naive woodfiring. We fired the kiln over the weekend that followed the 4th of July. It ended up being a very hot, humid weekend with no breeze made so much worse by the fact that we were standing in close proximity to the kiln as it reached it’s peak temp the same time the day reached it’s peak temp. After that firing we vowed to never fire in July again.
Now a few years down the road, we are older and wiser in our woodfiring practices. We’ve adjusted our firing schedule so we encounter the top temp of the kiln through the night to take advantage of the cooler air temps. A large barn fan has become a wonderful breeze in the kiln shed on days when nature isn’t providing one. And by keeping our firings to primarily spring and fall of the year we avoid the super cold of Minnesota winters and the hot, humid days of Minnesota summers.
So what was I thinking when I scheduled a firing for the last weekend in June??? Isn’t that pretty much the same as July??? Anyway…
For the most part the firing went well. There were some unusual happenings but overall, I feel really good about the anticipated results.
We experienced torrential rains, then sunshine and humidity, and back to the rains again through the entire firing. We lost power for approximately 3 hours during the night and had to use a collection of solar lights from the garden as the only light (other than the firebox of course) in the kiln shed. The following morning was beautiful. And we finished just before another storm blew in to start the days downpour/sunshine rotation all over again.
Can’t wait to unload and see how everything looks.
As some of you may have read yesterday, anything freezable in my studio was frozen when I woke up. The door had been left open and the heater couldn’t keep up with the -20F temps outside. I had a lot of ware on drying boards and was a little concerned with how it might deal with freezing and then thawing again. So far, the bowls I’d thrown the day before seem to be doing well. I trimmed them up today and though I’d planned to carve their rims, I decided to just leave them uncarved instead of putting more time into them just in case they did have some problem that hadn’t shown up yet. I also had a couple dozen mugs in two different shapes on drying boards. They had been trimmed and handled a few days ago and were covered in plastic to slow dry. When I first checked them yesterday they had significant ice crystals that had formed on them.
Today, I checked them again and most of them are doing OK, but I notice several had developed fissures in the clay. And I think it’s only on this one style of mug. The other rounder, fuller shapes so far aren’t exhibiting any of these fissures. The clay is still soft enough I can work these fissures out with my thumb, but I’m pretty sure they will return once it is fired.
fissures after mug thawed and began to dry
Anyway, while I don’t think this is something I’d ever intend to do, it has been a great learning opportunity on what happens when water is forced out of clay under freezing conditions. And of course an excellent reminder to make sure the door is tightly closed before going to bed. Just goes to show, we’re never too old to learn. Be well. And make sure your doors are closed!!
A couple days ago, I re-pinned this on Pinterest. Little did I know then that I would be making use of the principle today.
Last night the studio door was left open with outdoor temps of -20F. Needless to say, the heater couldn’t keep up with that and everything inside the studio froze. Faucets, sink trap, clay, glazes, slip, wax resist, leather hard pieces and the stuff I’d just thrown all were hard as a rock this morning.
Check out the ice crystals on the bottom of this mug
Glaze bucket frozen solid
Definitely not what I’d planned, but today I’ll take a deep breath and spend some time thawing stuff out, determine what can be salvaged and what needs to be reclaimed. Then we’ll just have to go from there.
Lots of work, but ultimately, I’m so glad we are on the back side of this polar vortex. We’ve got more comfortable weather heading our way and are supposed to see temps above freezing by the weekend. Stay warm friends.
ps. Any pottery friends ever had to deal with this? Would love to hear what I can expect from the work that froze.
Yesterday, I participated in a weekly street market in Rochester Minnesota called Thursday’s on First & 3rd. The event has an amazing amount of traffic due to it’s proximity to the Mayo Clinic. I’ve participated in lots of sales, shows, festivals and markets, but this one takes the First Place ribbon because it is so well organized. The staff and volunteers do a phenomenal job getting all the vendors to their spaces, unloaded, set up and back out again at the end of the day. If you’re an organizer of this type of event, this group is the gold standard you want to try and match in my book.
Way back in January, a local PBS station ran a piece on my pottery. It was really well done and great fun to participate in making the episode. Yesterday, a woman walked into my booth, looked at my pottery and then at me and said, “Were you just on PBS?” “Well yes, in January”, I said. “No, this morning”, she says.
Huh – TV rookie that I am, I’d completely forgotten about re-runs. Anyway, it was kind of funny to have a complete stranger comment on seeing the episode. I’d had friends watch it and comment, but I’d never really had anyone else recognize me from it.
I’ve had a couple cancellations for my wood firing workshop and needed to make some pieces to fill that kiln load. Today I added handles to some baking dishes and mugs and three several big(ish) bottles. Tomorrow maybe some two pound bowls with handles and I should be all set.
As mentioned above, I have a couple cancellations for the wood fire workshop so if you are interested in attending there is room. Click here for more information.
Found out I was accepted into Thursdays on First & 3rd in Rochester this year. It’s a weekly market in downtown Rochester Minnesota near Mayo Clinic so it has awesome traffic. Since this is my first year at this event, I’m just going to do one Thursday in June, July and August and see how it goes. If it works well, then I’ll do more of them next year but it seems like a great alternative to weekend festivals. Now I just gotta get some pots ready for it. Have a great weekend.
Artists Stop #8 on the 2012 Bluff Country Studio Art Tour is where you will find Sue Pariseau Pottery. Sue’s functional stoneware can be found at 40051 County Rd 12, Lanesboro, Minnesota. Her work features a diverse palette ranging from beautiful earthy wood fired pieces to brightly colored oxidation pieces and many shades in between.
Saturday evening (April 28th) from 5pm to 8pm Sue will be hosting a Kiln Opening party to unload her bourry box wood-fired kiln. For those who have seen or will see the kiln firing at Allamakee Wood-fired Pottery, this is a nice follow-up event to see the unloading of a kiln. Plus, you’ll have the first opportunity to buy pots fresh out of the kiln.
Don’t miss this activity packed tour stop, the kiln opening party or the opportunity to grab fresh pots just out of the kiln.
I’ve been putting it off for a while, but this morning I finally got out and put up flyers for my wood-fire workshop in May so that’s getting closer to done. Still have a few places I haven’t gotten to yet, but took a giant step forward today.
After all that running around town in the snow, I settled in to throwing a couple dozen mugs, and a couple oblong vases. I really enjoy making the oblong vases. And I decided to make a very different style mug that my usual cooling tower shape. These new mugs are very narrow at the bottom and have a very round, robust shape. I really like them and think they’ll look great wood-fired with some dots or patterns on them.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll make some salt and pepper shakers… maybe. We’ll see what I feel like making then I guess.