Friday, July 30, 2021

Every Supervillain Needs an Assistant...


 Being an Executive Assistant is a tough job. Lots to manage!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Firing, Firing, Firing!

I've been doing nothing but bisque firing all week, and I am so pleased with the results!

For those not in the know, bisque firing is pretty easy, as long as everything going in the kiln is dry. Unglazed clay pieces can be stacked on top of each other, and I've actually seen some folks pack their bisque firings up to just shy of the lid!

Glaze firings are another story. Because of all the silica and all the other stuff in glazes to make it flow and end up smooth, you can't have them stacked or even touching each other. They'll fuse together like melted glass and there goes your piece. You can't chip off anything without damaging it, unless you get really lucky.

But I'm very pleased with how the colors are showing in their initial firings! There will be touch-ups needed, certainly, and washing up, too!

Is it wrong how much I love the new "Assbutt" mugs? I'm thinking of making a few others with various pithy quotes from the show.


Remember my happy skeleton mug? He turned out so well! I just love him!

The reds will turn deeper in the high firing. Like a dark cherry. I really can't wait! 




The Ouija bowl and Goddess offering bowls are still in one piece, which makes me hopeful for the clear glaze and final firing at the ceramics studio. I have so much "regular" ware - bowls , cups, tankards and mugs - that I need to use their glazes. I just don't currently have the ability to store all the glaze materials and time to test their formulations. That's going to be for another time! Meanwhile, I'll go back to throwing cone 6 clay and use the Potter's Choice glazes from Amaco. I had such great results from them and it's going to be so wonderful to create those beautiful color textures again!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

I Guess I Didn't Need to Pack...

Yesterday morning, I decided to take a quick detour on the way to work, to hit Starbucks. Iced white chocolate mocha, breakfast sammich, and a Puppaccino for Grace! Yum!When I got back to the car I saw I had missed a message and decided to play it while I gave Grace her treat.

It was a message from Laguna Clay: You kiln arrived and is on a truck to deliver by noon today!

Wow! Nothing like a little notice, huh? But hey, why complain when your hard work and sacrifice is getting delivered?

I was dancing like a little kid on an epic sugar high on Christmas morning!


And after the combined efforts of myself, my dad, and the kindest delivery man on the planet (which made the trials of Sisyphus look like a walk in the park), the kiln was in its place!


But there was a small wrinkle...


The socket for the kiln was upside down. I texted my electrician (also a standup guy who I would recommend to anyone who needed work done) and asked if I could just unscrew and flip the socket around. He said I could, and offered to come out and do it, which he did. For free. He also trimmed the bottom of the box, itself, to accommodate the giant square plug.

And then there was the glorious moment when the touch screen lit up! YAAAS! And the touch screen is made to tilt so you don't have to squat down to program it!


And there's a lid lifter! It helps lift the lid so it's not too heavy for me to lift!

And I got the rolling stand with an adaptor for the downdraft exhaust vent system.


So today I get to finish prepping it for the first test firing. Vacuuming out the inside and especially the kiln elements, finishing the exhaust vent setup, putting kiln wash on the new shelves... It's going to be a busy day!

But man, what a triumph!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Almost There!

Y'all are probably wondering if I'm incapable of making anything but Supernatural drinking vessels, anymore, since that's all I seem to be posting, lately. The answer is, of course, yes! But there are a multitude of these to finish before my Sunday morning kiln-loading deadline.

Because "Assbutt" is classier in this font, that's why!
Throwing. A little drying. Trimming. A little drying. Pulling the handle. Attaching the handle. A little more drying so the handle can firm up properly. Carving the design and text. 

Then on to underglazing, sometimes with one color on the interior of the mug (three coats) and another on the outside (three coats) and then matching the inlay color with the interior when painting in the carved part of the design (three coats). And then they get to dry the rest of the way until they're what potters call "bone dry." Pretty important for them to be as dry as they can be before firing, otherwise they'll "explode" in the kiln as soon as the temperature hits 212°, the boiling point of water. The steam coming out of a damp piece will cause that area or areas to "explode."

Those are just the initial stages they need to go through before the first (bisque) firing. After that 24-hour firing cycle (slow up, hold target temperature, then slow cooling), they come out get all the dust blown off or washed off and are allowed to dry completely before the clear glaze is applied, either by brushing (again, the magical three coats) or by dipping.

It's time-consuming, of course. And it's honestly satisfying for me to know I'm making for a fandom which will appreciate all the time and effort. It's satisfying to know that no one else is dumb enough to put all this blood, sweat, and tears into a cup.

I've commented before in these pages that I'm passionate about everyday things being beautiful as well as functional. When you use them, they should, to quote Marie Kondo, "spark joy." For me, there's more joy in a handmade item than in something generic, made by a corporation for practical purposes, only. Yes, there are mass-market mugs with pithy sayings on them, and yes, they have their place, certainly! Even I have a few. (Somewhere in storage, I still have a mug from Klagenfurt, Austria, which I visited with my grandmother way back when. It always reminds me of her!)
 
But even so, I prefer the handmade.

Months of work, waiting to get packed!

Next is the very complex and nervous work of packing all these babies into bins to take to the ceramics place.


Nervous because they're at a point where knocking them the wrong way will cause an irreparable break, like the one below.

There's just no method I've been able to find which will reliably repair bone-dry clay and keep it together through all the processes so it can be a durable, functional piece. 

So into the trash this one went! Normally I'd throw it into my slop bucket and reconstitute it, but I had already underglazed it, and I can't mix the underglaze with the clay.

The good news is, there's still plenty to go to the studio!

But back to "complex and nervous."
 
Loading the bins is complex because packing unfired ceramics is actually a game of Tetris. If you have large bowls to pack, everything around them must be far enough away to not chip or break the rims, even when the intervening space is occupied by bubble wrap. If you have underglazed clay pieces, they should be put it with other items the same color so there's no cross-contamination with other colors or unglazed ware.

I use smaller bins because unfired ware is heavy and I can better manage them on my own, both for this purpose and for shows.

I started packing last Sunday, because the process always takes me longer than I think it will, and I really hate stressing myself out at the last minute! There's nothing like having a deadline and realizing, too late, that you need another bin or two and there's no time left to go buy them!

Well, alright, kids! I have another layer of underglaze to put on before I start inlaying, so that's all for now!

Wish me luck! 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Racing towards Goal #1

I've been so busy juggling life, work, side jobs and making Supernatural mugs! I mean, holy goodnight! It's been stressful, but in the best of possible ways!


I've had varied success in adding words so that they're legible. I tried carving, but the grog in the clay keeps messing things up, so I'm back to using letter stamps and inlaying color into the words. It's a pretty painstaking process!

I've been waiting to hear back from the ceramics center regarding firing costs for both the bisque firing and the subsequent glaze firing, as well as when they can fit me in. Now, I actually have a date! Hooray!



I get to go load their kiln on the 25th, first thing in the morning! It'll be the first time I'll be loading a kiln, myself, since I left Folsom, and I'm really looking forward to it! At long last, I feel like things are getting back to a steady normal!

More news coming soon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Summer Boating

"Say, Donovan, do we have one with muffled oars?"
 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

It's Been SUPER!

SUPERnatural, I mean! 

There's been an overwhelming response to my Supernatural mugs and tankards! Over a hundred messages from people interested in buying one or six! Plus someone wants a lidded sugar bowl!




And 557 likes as of Wednesday night? WOW!

Ultimately, I want to add wine cups, tumblers and maybe even scotch and pint "glasses."

But first, my very neglected Hallowe'en. No, wait. Supernatural stuff!

I talked to my guy over at the ceramics place today, and asked him if he had a clear glaze which would work with the colors I have here. He suggested doing a test, first. While I'm bridling at having to wait even longer (and am regretting not having a test kiln), he's right. Can you imagine the screams at the loss of 100 cups because I didn't test the glaze?

Bloody horrifying!

So, a test, first, and then the whole batch! 

There just isn't enough time in the day, but this is the very best kind of frantic! I love what I do and I am so glad I can do it again!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

To Absent Friends...

I miss you, my friend. Hope you're well. 






More Hallowe'en goodness from Pumpkinrot here.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Gratitude!

This week has been beyond great, and everything seems to be coming up ShellHawk!

Last weekend, I made a few tumblers and cups to decorate, and got the initial underglaze laid down. The tumblers were for a girlfriend of mine, and we had a play date while both of us worked on our projects or prepping everything for some inlay work. God, it was nice to see her face in person!

So, since I've finally finished the whole Supernatural series and like many others have become a fan, I decided to make a few Supernatural-themed tankards. I posted my WIP to a Supernatural fan page and HOLY COW! The response has been unbelievable!

I really hadn't been doing self-promotion, more just a, "Hey, I, too, like this series, and I made a thing!" But now? I've got a bunch of orders and everyone knows they have to wait for a while until I can start filling them. They can get mass-produced merch, but nothing like what I make, and they seem to be smart enough to wait for quality.



The rough part is that I'm behind on Hallowe'en stuff, but I'll catch up. I've been accustomed to working long hours in the studio, so there's no reason I can't!

I have a number of other great things going on which I can't share with you, although I'm really itching to!

 Stay tuned...