Sideways progress

This weekend was a good one as far as pottery was concerned, even though I didn’t get much pottery made – sideways progress.

IMG_0571Friday, work was light, so when UPS dropped off my keenly awaited mini propane tank and hose, I set about getting it filled and back to the studio to try it out with the new soft flame torch. I got this setup after seeing how much faster the other potters in the “Throwing Big” workshop got their work-in-progress firmed up than I was doing with my electric hot air gun. (Plus, it’s just more fun hearing the roar of the torch than the whine of the electric heat gun.) It all went together perfectly and makes a very nice flame. I’m looking forward to throwing some big pieces with it very soon.

I got the mini propane tank because I didn’t want to throw away a steady stream of 1 lb. disposable tanks, and a 20 lb tank was just too bulky for the studio. The mini 4 lb. tank was perfect. (Special thanks to Armistead Mauk and the folks at Cherry Energy for their guidance and input on what to get.) I couldn’t help it. I had to see what the torch would do to a little bit on clay sitting on a fire brick. That was fun. It dried out really fast and even sparked a bit. That wasn’t especially practical, but it’s fun to see what happens sometimes.

After putting the torch away, I threw several small bowls from which to make cable keepers. I throw these off the hump. It went well. I finished up with a basic cylinder which I planned to cut up to make a wall-mounted holder for the torch. I realized the torch tip would be hot and would need to be placed carefully when in use. It seems like a holder on the wall in front of the wheel would be a good idea. We’ll see.

Saturday morning started very early for me, about 4:45am. I was getting up early to go help Rich Daniels with the ENC Pottery Festival. I was suposed to arrive in New Bern at 6:30am, so it was up before the sun and a fun drive east as  dawn warmed the sky. The road to New Bern from Kinston is nearly due east and is wide open. The sky was amazing, starting with stars and dark inky blue then warming through a range of shades of blues and pinks I can only image being glazes on my pots. It was worth it just for the drive.

IMG_0574When I arrived at the NC Historical Center on S. Front St., a couple potters were already there and waiting to get in. Before long the doors were propped open and 29 potters from all over eastern NC were moving in crates of pottery and all kinds of interesting booth components. Rich had everything set up and in no time the hubbub subsided for a few minutes before the public started coming in. With my duties fulfilled, I joined the crowd and visited all the booths to see what people were offering and, in a couple instances demonstrating. We have some amazingly talented potters and ceramicists in eastern NC, and don’t see the kind of attention afforded the Seagrove area or the Catawba Co. area. Granted, we’re a smaller group, but there’s great pottery being made in the east, too. The ENC Pottery Festival goes a long way toward promoting the creativity in the east.

One potter, Carolyn Curran, CNC Pottery, makes miniature pottery. She was demonstrating the throwing of tiny vases. I shot a little video which I’ll post soon. It was really fun talking with her and watching her make 3 tiny, perfectly scaled pieces, while talking to me and other enthralled visitors. Many thanks to the amazing Ms. Curran.

Mechanical parts sculpted to make a couple goats! These were life-size and amazing to see. On the walk to the Farmers Market
Mechanical parts sculpted to make a couple goats! These were life-size and amazing to see. On the walk to the Farmers Market

After leaving the Pottery Festival, I decided to duck into the New Bern Farmers Market next door. The walk was short, and passed through some very engaging public art.  The market  was in full swing. While there were few fresh vegetables for sale, there were lots of other great hand-made items and food items available. I found some local raw honey, a staple in our house.

Then it was back to Kinston. After a brief lunch visit with Christian at the ECO disc golf tournament, I got back to the studio, and trimmed the small pieces I threw on Friday. It went quickly. With a bit of time to spare, I decided the shelves needed a new coat of kiln wash.

It’s been a while and the shelves were looking pretty sad. Lots of pits and spattered mists of glaze made the thought of adding another coat seem like a waste of good kiln wash. So, I got out my angle grinder, respirator, safety goggles, and got to work. The angle grinder had a lap wheel on it that had been worn in on a welding project. While it felt smoother than I would want for finishing welds, it seemed like it would be perfect for the task at hand.

Freshly kiln washed shelves drying out. Thanks to Brackers Good Earth for amazingly good kiln wash. Under all that old mess my shelves looked brand new.
Freshly kiln washed shelves drying out. Thanks to Brackers Good Earth Clays for amazingly good kiln wash. Under all that old mess my shelves looked brand new.

I found that a light touch and just the right angle took off virtually all the old kiln wash without any ill effect to the shelf. In fact, on one shelf, I found a hairline crack that would have been nearly undetectable otherwise. With all the shelves cleared of old kiln wash and glaze drips, I mixed up a big batch of fresh kiln wash and went to work covering the shelves. When I was finished, they looked like new. Definitely well worth the effort. If you decide to try this, be aware that you will be making a huge dusty mess and should not try this without a really good (not a papery one with a bendy metal nose bridge) respirator. And be prepared to sweep and clean anything in the vicinity of your workspace. Seriously.

That wrapped up Saturday. It was a great day. Many thanks to Rich Daniels for organizing the Eastern North Carolina Pottery Festival, and all the potters with whom I had the opportunity to talk shop yesterday. It was a lot of fun.

Today, in the studio, I did more cleanup and pugged more clay to be ready to throw next time. I didn’t have the time to throw more, so there are lots more clean tools, surfaces and orderly shelves and such. I’m curious to know how many potters do periodic clean-ups as opposed to keeping things spotless every time or never bothering.

I hope you had a productive pottery-filled weekend, and I look forward to seeing what you made. Cheers!

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