Sunday, August 29, 2021

Today's the Day!

After all this waiting, today is the day I take a couple of my mugs into the ceramics studio to get the FINAL glaze test. Yes, I know I should be using test tiles instead of the actual mugs. I'm suicidally optimistic, though, and am planning for the long-awaited victory I so richly deserve!

Failure, of course, will result in tears and a glass or two of my special-occasion Bushmills. There may even be screaming and cursing. You never know.

My mailing list has grown largely due to these cups, and my focus is to make them the best they can possibly be for the fandom. If this test fails, many have said they'll buy the ^6 (that's cone 6, or 2320° F), even if there's a little pitting. They sounded shocked that I'd toss the whole lot in the trash, and I suppose they're right! But I'm glad they seem to still want them, as it will help to offset the cost of glazes and other materials. I don't think I'll actually be able to show a profit this year, but I'm surely going to try!

Meanwhile, I have a ton of "regular" ceramics to go into the ^10 (2345° F) firing. Some will be in oxidation, some will be in reduction. After this firing, I'll stick to ^6 for my stoneware for a while, until I can afford to pay for a couple of good reduction firings of some porcelain, which I'd like to expand to in the next few years.

Well, time to pack up the car! Wish me luck, y'all!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Getting Ready for Shipping Season!

It's getting to crunch time, and while I'm nowhere near as prepared for the Halloween rush as I normally am, I take comfort in the fact that I'm ready for packing and shipping, at the very least! I have my little extras for my return clients and those who like to buy multiple items from me all ready to go!

And even though I'm down to my very last glaze test on those Supernatural mugs - which should get fired this week at the ceramics center -  I'm prepared to ship them. I'm just hoping that I don't end up having to trash them all!

I've been considering my footprint where shipping is concerned, and I've managed to find a few products which are reducing the amount of plastic I have to use when I ship.

Case in point: Net Zero's Self Adhesive Kraft Paper Tape!

I felt bad about using the regular packing tape since I'm relatively sure it stays in landfills forever without breaking down, so I decided to try this, instead. I also got self adhesive labels to print out my shipping labels instead of printing and taping them to the box. I re-use packing materials and sometimes, I re-use boxes, too.

So perhaps when you order from me, your order will come in an Amazon box or something similar, but it's all for the greater good, eh?

Heh. I always like an excuse to use a Hot Fuzz reference...

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Testing, Testing. And More Testing

So I can tell you without a shred of embarrassment that I am still doing glaze tests on the Supernatural mugs! The last one, which was done after a conversation with my old college professor, changed up the firing schedule.

It still failed to provide the proper results.

There's still pitting, giving the surface a pebbly texture instead of the smooth, glasslike look it's supposed to have. My sensei is fairly sure the clay body, itself, is gassing as it's firing, causing the pitting.

While I can likely sell these tests as "seconds," I want to scream. This is incredibly frustrating! I'm accustomed to just being able to fire and everything turns out fine. Having this wrinkle is disheartening.

I have one more test in the kiln right now, cooling. I took the advice of the glaze company and am following their instructions precisely. It's a slow firing to cone 6, which is a lower temperature than the last test. It's also fourteen hours in the kiln.

Just the thought of the electric bill is giving me conniptions!

If this doesn't work, I have one last option: use the clear glaze from the ceramics center and have them fire a test for me. That will go to cone 10, which is nearly as high fire as can be. It's a common temperature for stoneware, and they know what they're doing over there. And although I hope that the test in my kiln turns out great, I know that their cone 10 glaze is more likely to like my clay body.

But just like writing is rewriting, glaze testing sometimes takes multiple tries to get right.

C'est la vie, right?

Friday, August 13, 2021

On a Side Note: Bridgewater

Just a quick post for your edification: Bridgewater horror podcast: LISTEN TO IT! 

Many of you who follow my blog are here for the Halloween and horror and are in the throes of building your Hallowe'en displays and walk-throughs for this year. If you're looking for something to listen to while covering yourself in Great Stuff and Monster Mud, this really is it! Very well produced, with Misha Collins (Supernatural) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), the story takes you on the journey of an area of the country known as the Bridgewater Triangle. It's a place where strange things are commonplace...

Anyway, I gotta run, but do listen to this! I signed up for Podbean because I wanted to listen to the Wayward Sisters podcast, which is done by former Supernatural cast members Briana Buckmaster and Kim Rhodes. When I ran out of episodes, I ran across Bridgewater. Glad I did!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Glaze Test Results? Not Right, Doggone It!

I think it's important to share failures as well as successes, hence this post!  

While it's disappointing to have a test go wrong, there are things to be learned from it. That's why we test first, right? It's much better than ruining a whole kiln load of work.

In some areas, there was clouding, which usually indicates the glaze is too thick. In other areas there was what appeared to be some pinholing, rather than that nice, smooth texture we all love in our finished pottery.

I took these pics and sent them off to both my old ceramics teacher and to the glaze manufacturer for troubleshooting. I should be getting some answers back soon, and hopefully they're some fairly easy tweaks. Heck, maybe I can re-fire these guys and they'll be safe to use!

Well, one step closer to awesomeness, anyway. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What's Taking So Long?!

Glazing and testing. That's what's taking so long!

I got my mugs fired, as you know, but then the problem of the right clear glaze came up. I called up Amaco, which manufactures my underglazes, and got the skinny on what they used for the clear they use on their high fire test tiles. It can't just be a regular clear because of the underglazes; the zinc in the glaze can react poorly with the colors and you end up with a milky or foggy layer. I found out they offer a dipping glaze and ordered it. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally I call them back. It turns out the raw materials are hard to get (thanks, Covid-19 and Delta) and they didn't know when they'd have the dry glaze mix available. I ordered from one of their distributors, but almost immediately got a call that they didn't have it. I found myself wondering why they didn't have it marked, "out-of-stock," but whatever, right? I finally found a gallon jug of the brush-able stuff and had it shipped. So now, of course, the quick dip has turned into painting several coats onto each piece, which is harder than it sounds. A second coat can start pulling up the first coat and the ceramist starts to strongly consider a nervous breakdown!

Meanwhile, I started the touch-up process on the things I'd already fired. When the clear finally arrived, I was good to go, but for one thing.

Underglazed ware, waiting for clear glaze.  

The glaze test.

Normally, I'd dive right in and take all my glazed stuff over to the nearby ceramics center for firing and damn the torpedoes, but I needed to test it first. The Supernatural-inspired mugs were a ton of work, and the thought of having all of them ruined makes me sick to my stomach. As much as I'd like to just forge ahead and hope the Kiln Gods are feeling happy today, I had to cave in to good sense and start a glaze test.  

 The original plan was to put one cup into their firing for testing, but since the ceramics center isn't doing an oxidation firing for another three weeks, I went ahead and decided to take a chance in my own kiln. I have too many people asking for these to keep them waiting! I started it this morning. You'll note the screen says it's eight hours and twenty minutes to complete the firing. It's likely to be the day after tomorrow before I can safely open the kiln at around 100°.

Non-ceramics folks won't know that having all of the pieces of your glaze firing working together is paramount to a successful firing. What that means is the clay body and the glaze body have to "fit" together; the technical term is "glaze fit." The glaze can't shrink in the cooling process faster than the clay it's being fired on, or you can get shivering or crazing in your glaze, which makes it unsafe. The clay body is my favorite 8-11 buff, which means it can be fired to vitrification (leak-proof) at cones 8 to 11. I decided to try this test at Cone 8, which is roughly 2320°. I figured since the glaze is primarily for cone 6, the closer I kept to that temperature, the better my results would be.

I'll let you know in a couple of days.

All hail the Kiln Gods!