Ice, Crystals, Winter in the Studio

The lizard has not reappeared. It’s been very cold this February. We’ve had several days in a row below freezing. That’s unusual for eastern NC. We even got into the teens for daily high temperatures a couple times. We’ve also had a few days with highs in the ’60s. Then back in the freezer. It’s been odd.

Keeping the studio from freezing has been a bit of a concern, too. I have a heater/air condiitoner in one wall, kind of like what you would find in a motel. It works pretty well. I also have a couple milk house heaters. These are farm equipment. Noting fancy, but when the temperature gets into the mid-30’s, they kick on and run until the room gets back into the low 40’s. Then they cut off. Just enough to prevent freezing. The milk house heaters, combined with the wall-mounted heat pump, make it possible to work in the studio.

My primary concern is keeping the clay and glazes and other materials from freezing. That makes more work. I learnered long ago not to let clay or glazes freeze. I didn’t know glazes would suffer crystalization in cold weather. Apparently, cooling enough makes concentration of chemistry in the glaze bucket high enough to crystalize. My bucket of albany slip glaze had huge chucks of sheeted crystals in it. Stirring it for use was a real adventure, and required screening. I need up with a peanut butter jar half full of chucks of crystals I’m pretty sure need to be in the mixture. (A bit of research showed that adding a bit of water and heating them will revert them to a solution to add back into the bucket. That was good to find out. I expect after the current cold snap, there will be a lot more crystals to put back into solution.

The cink, my recirculating sink, is another concern. Not just freezing, but being warm enough to use. The trick here is to run out a bucket of cold water, and replace it with a bucket of warm water from the office. It’s good enough to get to work.

For the first part of the year, I haven’t had as much time to work in the studio as I’d like, but slowly, the work on the drying rack is mounting up. This evening after work, I trimmed another 4 beer mugs, a couple bowls and a nice vase. I think I still have enough clay to throw one more time, then a trip to get more will be essential. I’m looking at Friday as a candidate for a trip to Wilmington, but weather may not cooperate, with snow and sleet in the forecast. We’ll see.

Well-used Lockerbie wheel winds up in Barley Hollow studio
Well-used Lockerbie wheel winds up in Barley Hollow studio

I also added a kick wheel to the studio. I found and purchased a well-used Lockerbie. It’s huge. It’s immensely heavy, and it spins very well. I was fortunate to get one with a motor. The motor runs at one speed. A pedal pushes it against the flywheel, spinning it up. That’s about it. Perfect for my interests as a second wheel. I like trimming on a kick wheel. I also like assembling multi-part pieces on a kick wheel. So, we’ll see how it works out.

It came home from Stokes, NC in the back of the Toyota. A couple friends, George and Ben, helped wrangle it from the back of the truck into the studio. They also helped shift the kiln enough to make room for the Lockerbie. It all fit. Amazing.

The fellow who sold me the wheel tried his hand at pottery, and decided to move on to carpentry. We were discussing the advantages of being able to put a project on hold with minimal consequences. Clay has it’s own timing and the potter pretty much has to work with it. Wood will wait for the carpenter to return. Somehow, I appreciate the commitment clay demands and the role of timing in the whole process. The weather, the cold, plays a role. It all has to be considered in the process of making, which makes me feel more grounded in my practice.

And I keep looking for the lizard. I’m glad I haven’t found him lifeless, but I’m concerned about him in the cold. Spring will be here soon, and we’ll all be happy about the return of warm days and green grass and little bugs and birds. But for now, we have our tricks for dealing with the adverse conditions and still make progress. Some seasons are easier than others.

3 thoughts on “Ice, Crystals, Winter in the Studio

  1. Snow tomorrow! I’ve had EMS duty on the 17 th and 24 th for the snow days. — love it ! Off the hook tomorrow.

    I’m painting in a big gallery but business is slow. Summer approacheth!

    Peace & love.

  2. Spring is on the way. It was 65 degrees here this morning before sunrise, it was 75 when we went to lunch and it’s supposed to be 45 at 3PM with freezing rain and sleet overnight. So if the power goes out, I can still throw on the kick wheel!

    March in eastern NC is always interesting.

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