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“I plied the fire with fresh fuel round the outside and upon the top, till I saw the pots in the inside red-hot quite through and observed that they did not crack at all. When I saw them clear red, I let them stand in that heat about five or six hours, till I found one of them, though it did not crack, did melt or run; for the sand which was mixed with the clay melted by the violence of the heat, and would have run into glass if I had gone on; so I slacked my fire gradually till the pots began to abate of the red colour; and watching them all night, that I might not let the fire abate too fast, in the morning I had three very good (I will not say handsome) pipkins, and two other earthen pots, as hard burnt as could be desired, and one of them perfectly glazed with the running of the sand.”   –  The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. By Daniel Defoe.


You can do it! Many who wish to make pottery might be deterred by thinking they need a pottery wheel, kiln, or other equipment to start making pots. But the truth is all you need is a lump of clay and your imagination, and you can make your very first pottery projects. If Robinson Crusoe, who was stranded on an island made pots, so can you!  It is so easy a caveman can do it! Wait…they did!  In this post, I will give you a few tips on how all of that can be done and in no time flat, you will be spending your Saturday afternoon creating clay projects you never thought possible. You already took the first step by thinking about it and now the next step would be getting a ball of clay to start with. You will not be able to use these low fire pots for food items, but we can make little planters and other projects.  So first, let’s find a little ball of clay.




The Beginning: Find Some Clay.

“Help! But what type of clay should I use?” I am glad you asked! Since we will be going caveman style, we will use types of clay that you can “bake” at low temperatures. And like Robinson Crusoe, we will start with earthenware. Earthenware is a bit more delicate than stoneware, but it is good enough to start with and practice with. A person starting out can also use raku clay. Raku clay is clay that is intentionally mixed so it can handle “thermal shock” or extreme changes in temperatures of hot and cold without cracking or blowing up. Raku clay also “bakes” at low temperatures. You might also find clay near riverbanks or in the ground. Wild clay needs a bit of testing first and for this project, we will only be using clay that we know will work out. Earthenware clay can be bought at local craft stores or your local pottery supply store. Raku clay also can be bought online or at clay supply stores but is a bit harder to find. So, once you have your box of clay, you now are ready to do the next step. Open the box or bag and scoop out a 1-pound ball of clay.



Step Two: Make a Little Ball.

Congratulations! I am super proud of you! You just went from thinking about making something in clay to doing it! Amazing! Now you need to decide what to make. There are millions of things you can make, but no need to worry about them all and get distracted and overwhelmed. I think for your first project you should make a little pinch pot planter for your aunt Joan. You could put a succulent in it and give it as a gift. She will love it! Now compress the clay into a tight ball. If the clay cracks or is a bit dry, you can put a tiny amount of water on it and knead it in until it is soft and workable. In my opinion, it should be just a bit stiffer than bread dough. Compress and slap the clay to get all the air pockets out and form the little lump of clay into a ball. Now give yourself a thumbs up! You did it!

 



Step Three: Make a Pinch Pot.

Take your thumb that you gave thumbs up with and push it into the center of the clay ball. You only want to push your thumb about ¾ of the way in and not all the way though. The idea is to scoop out the clay gently while rotating the ball. Work the lump of clay by using your thumb to even out the sides. Be sure you get the bottom even also; if there are thick parts, it may take a longer time to dry. It also might not dry evenly. In my opinion, you should take care not to get the top too wide but just wide enough to put in a cute little plant. Now once both the sides and bottom are even, set the pot aside and have a look! You did great! If the pot has cracks, you can take a tiny bit of water and smooth out the rim and edges. Below is a nice video on how to make up your pinch pot.

 




Step Four: Make Three More.

Make three more little cute pots because pottery is about learning through messing up. One of your pinch pots might crack drying, another might crack when you accidentally drop it or when it is fired. But no worries! Making more pots means that you get practice at making pinch pots and by the time you form ten pots, you will be far better at it than what you made at pot one! Now line all the little pots up and have a look at them. They are the very first pots you have made, and you should be proud of them as no matter how good or terrible you think they look, you have met the goal of simply making a pot and you are much further ahead of folks who simply thought about making a clay pot and never did! I’m so proud of you! But these pots are a real snooze fest and in-order to keep awake for the rest of the project and to make the pots look a bit more interesting, we need to do a bit of decorating.

 

 

Step Five: Decorate Your Pots.

Now just like there are a million ways to make a pot, there are a million ways to decorate one. So, for this project, we will simply make impressions in the little clay pots. You can use plants, stones, tree bark, and many other found objects to make texture patterns and impressions. When making impressions, be sure to hold the pot on the inside and not press too hard as you do not want to deform the pot. Press in things as much or as little as you like and when you are all done, line them up and look at the cute little designs you have made on them. Your Aunt Joan will love them! Now we move on to the next step as we need to let them dry.

 




Step Six: Dry Your Pots.


Drying pots is easy because it does not require you to do much of anything. If the walls and base of the pots are even, things should dry out in a few days. As they dry, they will get more delicate, so handle them like eggs. The stages of drying are what pottery folks call leather hard and bone dry.  “Leather hard” is when the clay is not fully dry but is quite hard. At this point, folks trim pots and also carve. At the “bone dry” stage, there is very little moisture left in the clay and the pot is completely dry. In most clays you will notice a color change. Dry the little pots in an area that has good circulation. You could put them in the sun, but for this beginner project, we want them to dry a bit slower so they do not dry too fast and crack. If possible, you could carefully turn the little pots upside down and let them fully dry. If the edges are delicate, leave them right side up, but rotate them a bit every few hours. If you forget, it’s fine, but be sure your pot is not stuck to anything as it shrinks when it dries, and you do not want cracks. Your pots will be dry when they are bone dry. An easy way to tell if your pot is dry is to carefully pick them up and touch them on your cheek. If they still feel cold, they may need to dry a bit more. Rotate them around and expose them to air. When your pots are completely dry, they are now ready to fire!




Step Seven: Get Ready to fire!

Now this takes a bit of research, but don’t be scared! Just like there are a million ways to make and decorate a pot, there are a million ways to fire a pot. If you are just a kid getting into art, you will need an adult to help you with this part as fire is very dangerous and can cause a lot of damage. So, for the love of all that is holy, check with your local authorities about what you are permitted to do and not do. Be sure to follow all laws and safety standards around fire safety. Be sure to fire in a safe place where it is not windy. Plan a way to put out the fire if things go bad. I do not want to see anyone in the news. So, after learning about fire safety and the laws and regulations, we can get ready to fire. For this example, we are going to pit fire. Get a shovel and meet me back here so we can get to it.



Step Eight: Dig a Hole.


Scrape the area 3-foot around your pit so small leaves and sticks do not catch fire from your pit. Use the shovel or some tool to dig a hole. You want the hole to be as deep as your elbow and wide enough on the edges to place all your pots in with a bit of space around each one. The idea is to have a dry hole, dry burnables, dry wood, and dry pots. Place some burnables in the hole and do some burning to dry the hole out some. You can use sawdust. You can get bags of sawdust at the hardware store or at pet supply shops. One bag should be good enough. Place the pots on the edge of your little hole and rotate them to start to slowly heat them up. Use gloves to place in your pots. Place larger pieces of wood on top like you are going to have a campfire. In the video below, this lady fires pots like Robinson Crusoe did. At 19:30 in the video below, she warms them up and places the pots in the fire!

 


Can I Make Pottery in my fire pit?  You Bet!

 



Step Nine: Light the Fire.

Carefully move all burnables like left over saw dust, leaves, and dry wood from the area and place them where they will not catch fire. Carefully light the fire like you are at camp. Add on more wood slowly and let the fire burn all the way down into the pots and in the hole. Never leave a fire unattended! Let the fire burn out. When the pots are cool enough, pull them out with a pair of gloves. When you tap the pot carefully, you should hear a ring that will tell you if your pot at least has reached a temperature to harden it enough.



 

Step Ten: Clean the Pot.

When the pots are cool enough to hold with your hand, clean the pots up with water and a Brillo pad, wiping off all the ash and dirt that might be on it. Congratulations! You just made your first pots without a kiln. Now go buy some succulents and put them in your pots and give them to your aunt Joan as a gift! She will love them!



 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.




 

“Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other
gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar.
But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter
went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.
Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under
they feasted, nor was anyone’s hunger denied a fair portion,
nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo,
nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing. ”

– The Iliad, By Homer, Book 1 

 

 

The Mixing Bowl

 

One of the most useful pottery forms (besides common mugs or soup bowls) are mixing bowls. Mixing bowls are diverse and can be used in many ways. A large bowl makes a great centerpiece, like on a kitchen counter or dining table with fruit inside. Large mixing bowls are also useful for baking and mixing recipes, raising bread dough, or soaking beans.

 

 

To make a mixing bowl, I start with 8 to 10 lbs. of clay. I knead the clay to get the air pockets out and mold into a cone shape. This makes it easier to center on the wheel. In the past, I have also added smaller lumps of kneaded clay on top of each other to make the cone while it’s on the wheel head.

I then place the large cone on the wheel head and turn the wheel by hand, slapping the cone while rotating the wheel to center it. I stand to throw and have my wheel up on blocks. This helps me prevent back injuries from being hunched over. 

 

Throwing the Bowl

 

When the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, I cone it up and down a few times to center the clay throughout the whole lump. I then flatten the cone on the top, pushing down to compress the clay. Now it is time to open the clay.

I roll my thumbs in and push down until I have about a 1/2-inch base. I pull the clay out, creating the floor. I still leave the clay narrow (like making a vase) and pull up for height before pulling out. At this point, it is important to compress the sides and rim after each pull up. 

 

 

Once the height is achieved, I pull out the sides and create the bowl shape the way I like. Sometimes I use a small mirror on the other side to see the shape from the back. Once the shape is how I want it, I then compress the sides and top some. I take a rib and compress and shape the inside, removing any ridges or grooves that could catch a spoon. For this, I use a large throwing rib or a plastic pizza cutter.

 

Now the inside is compressed and shaped, I cut the top rim with the pin tool to even it out. I then compress the rim and thin it to prepare it to be rolled. I carefully roll the rim over and compress the underside. A rolled rim seems to strengthen the bowl, which helps it keep shape during drying and kiln firings. I cut the bowl off the throwing bat with the wire tool and let it stiffen up.

 

Drying and Trimming

 

Once the bowl is stiff enough to handle being flipped, I turn it upside down and expose the bottom to air. It is important to let the bottoms dry first. Once it’s leather hard, I trim the bowl and make sure it has even thickness in both the sides and bottom. Even thickness prevents cracking from uneven drying. 

 

It is possible to speed dry if bottoms are put to heat to dry first. Some set their large bowls upside down in the sun, upright on a kiln lid, or set on metal shelving over a wood stove to heat the bottoms and dry all the way through.

 

When the bowls are bone dry, they can be loaded into the bisque kiln. Center and top shelves are good for bowls, as they need more even heating. If using a gas kiln, they need to be protected from the direct flame and the kiln needs to be heated slowly until just after red heat. Once the kiln reaches bisque temperature, the bowls should cool slowly to prevent cracking from thermal shock. Now the large bowl is ready to glaze.

 

Glazing the Bowl

 

I blow into the large bowl to remove any dust, then fill the bowl to the rim with glaze from a 5-gallon pail after stirring it well with a paint mixer attachment on a drill. Then I dump it out. Depending on the glaze’s gravity, it may need to be done twice if thin. I let the bowl dry completely.

 

To glaze the outside of the bowl, I dump glaze into a large tub, then hold the bowl upside down and at a slight angle. I dunk the bowl and then turn it straight to create an even glaze line about a 3/4 inch up from the bottom. I pull the bowl out and let it dry. Wait for the drips to stop before carefully turning it upright. 

 


 


Firing The Bowls

Once dry, the bowl is ready to fire. I make sure no glaze is on the bottom and even up the lines if I need to. I load the bowls in the kiln. For my kiln, a gas firing takes about 6 hours to reach cone 6 or 2223F. The kiln then cools for 24 hours before it is opened and unloaded.


After being unloaded, I check the bowls for cracks. I then wash them out and send them off to their new homes, post them online, or take them to area shops for sale.

 

I do hope you enjoyed this little post on how bowls are made!   Have you tried to make large bowls?  How would you use a large mixing bowl?  Let us know in the comments!

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

Kick the winter blues for some greens here at Creek Road Pottery on The Bunny Trail 2021
March 19th -21st 9:00 A.M. -3:00 P.M.
Spring is a great time to bake a casserole or shepards pie with a warm bowl of homemade soup on the side. When these comfort foods are baked and served in authentic handmade local pottery
it’s a great way to live a lifestyle with art that’s affordable.
I am currently creating bowls & bakers here at the pottery to help you enjoy those dishes of early Spring like you saved on your pinterest board.
Stop in and say hello! I very much enjoy being your local pot dealer.
Artist/Owner
Al Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

 

The Dark Forest

 

 

“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Guide

 

 

“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Journey

 

“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Ascent

 

‘We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars”

– Canto 34, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

By:

Alford D. Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Creating Authentic handmade pottery in the hills of the Blue Ridge Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Notes:

Annie Reneau – “A trauma psychologist weighs in on the risks of ‘motivational’ pressure during quarantine”

Divine Comedy, By by Dante Alighieri Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, Divine Comedy English Translation

Frankl, V. E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Miller, Donald.  Building a StoryBrand, 2017 (Harper Collins Leadership), Marketing Made Simple, 2020 (Harper Collins Leadership)

 

 

 

bule001

While looking for a glaze cost savings and going though our glaze raw materials  I realized I had a few opportunity areas.  I try to review the raw material pricing  every six months to keep the prices of my pots at a level for the local area while also maintaining quality.  I was taught to hand mix glazes and always have, only buying premixed glazes for special projects in very small amounts.  To make it cost effective it is important to have as few raw materials as possible while still maintaining the safety of the finish wares.

The Search For A Glaze

In the past I have seen some glazes have six to eight raw materials.  If a pottery were to have five or six glazes each using different materials the cost for maintaining the glaze recipes and raw material storage can rise creating loss in studio space, storage space, and grow into a large financial burden.  All of this adds up over time, driving up the cost of the finished product.  So I set out to correct some of the issues by looking for a low material glaze that would have a wide firing range.

Since I fire to cone 6/7 in an up draft gas kiln, the top of my kiln is always cooler.  I hit a cone 7 on the bottom, cone 6 in the center, and the top a cone 5.  With my old glaze I would sometimes loose the top shelf of pots to under-firing.  If I fired longer  to make the top of the kiln warmer, the temperature on the bottom would over fire and vitrify the pots.  That ‘s why I was happy to find the “Blue Dawn ”  recipe on the Facebook pottery group.

Janet Holdcraft’s “Blue Dawn

janet

“Blue Dawn”, was created by the late ceramic artist and teacher Janet Holdcraft donated by her friend and colleague artist Jerry C. Williams Sr.., who put the glaze “Blue Dawn” in the public domain.  Hearing about Janet from her good friends Jerry Williams and his wife  Lea Ann Nall-Williams , I found Janet to be an amazing person who was loved very much by her students and kept very good records of her glaze research.  I have included part of the post below:

The blue glaze used on this piece was created by Janet Holdcraft and she loved her bubbles. This is Janet’s recipe we are calling it Janet Holdcraft’s Blue Dawn. Base glaze 2500 is EPK of 500 grams, Flint of 750 grams, and Gerstley Borate of 1250 grams with 5% or 125 grams of Cobalt Carb. She has a whole page of trial and errors and this is the last one on the page with a * and a “YES” we have her book and it is a treasure. Thank you Janet for all the good you did in this world. This is for the last few Good Will Friday’s that I have not posted but the good you showed to me and Jerry will never be forgotten. RIP Lea Ann Nall-Williams. Clay used is 50 pounds of premix with 5 gallons of reclaim and red art added to the mixture there are also other things he adds but trying to get him to measure anything is as impossible as getting Jerry C. Williams Sr. to post of facebook. Posted by Lea Ann Nall-Williams. I use to be there sometimes when she mixed her glazes she was very percise and on a mission.

After seeing the post I gathered the raw materials and hand mixed a 100 gram batch as a test  and gas fired out the glaze in my test kiln.  The results for such a simple recipe were quite amazing.   I was able to make the full range I needed with zero loss from glaze defects which was a huge relief.   I was quick to show Jerry the results and took images off my coffee table.  The poor lighting did not do the glaze color justice, but the blue shown through just beautiful enough to cause excitement.

bluedawnoo2

A Janet Holdcraft Tribute

So after I was pleased with the results I decided to try the glaze on a collection of shave bowls I had started.  And what better way to create a collection then to have it be a tribute to the person who made it.   It was amazing to think about how many artists, teachers, and craftsmen live far beyond their years in the work, research, and contributions they left behind.   I am proud to have the opportunity to mix this glaze and I am more than happy to post Janet’s recipe here so others may try it if they wish. Below is the recipe converted to a 100 gram batch:

Janet Holdcraft’s “Blue Dawn”

Gerstley Borate – 50
EPK. – 20
Flint. – 30
________________________________
Cobalt. – 5

If you have work with these stamps on the bottom,  or  your  citronella lamp has the “Mariposa Pottery” note seen below, then you may have a Janet Holdcraft piece.  Thanks very much to  Lea Ann Williams for sending in the images.

stamps001

 

stamp003

“Blue Dawn” – A Janet Holdcraft Tribute Collection

Below are some samples of the “Blue Dawn” collection.  The works maybe purchased while supplies last at  our Creek Road Pottery shop on Etsy

 

The artist Jerry C. Williams Sr. has inspired me with his work  and forced me to think about the bottoms of bowls as a whole new canvas begging to be worked with texture.  Jerry’s Native American inspired designs capture the native culture in very unique way.  On first seeing Jerry’s work  the patterns, textures, and drawings on the bottoms of his bowls made me appreciate all sides of the pots I was making and forced me to think about what other parts of the work I might be missing out on experiencing.  You can find Jerry’s ceramic work posted on his page or at the Green Door Art Gallery.  I would like to thank Jerry and Lea Ann once again for posting this recipe to the public domain and it was a pleasure to use the glaze and I’m sure many other artists, potteries, and ceramic lovers will enjoy using and seeing the glaze . If you the reader try this recipe please let me know how it turned out by posting a comment here with a link to a sample!  I would love to see where this might go!

Jerry and  Lea Ann,  if you are ever in PA  feel free to stop by and I’ll show you my little pottery!  Also thanks for the beautiful bowl you sent over to me.

Al Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

20160822

Carbon coring or “black coring” can be an issue when firing clay bodies. While doing some experiments with reduction firings I had many pots that were cracking in the process and had no idea why. It seemed that the cracks were from fast cooling, as they were clean breaks through the glaze with sharp edges. Little did I know that this cracking was caused by carbon coring or “black coring”. I did some comparisons wth cross sections of the broken pots and noticed that this discoloration did not happen in my oxidation firings but only in reduction. I dug out my ceramic books and searched online to find out what this issue might be.

Shattered By Black Coring

While researching I found a post by the Lugna Clay company entitled ” Bloating and Black Coring”, which seem to suggest that I may need to bisque fire my clay body properly.  The theory behind the article suggested that not all the carbon was burned out of the clay body and the kiln also may need to be vented better in the bisque firing. The clay body I was using was AMACO high-fire warm brown 58-M stoneware clay. I only had issues with bloating when I accidently overfire it a few times on the bottom shelves while trying to reach cone 6 in the middle of the kiln.  The clay body was high in iron content which, I later found, created the issue with black coring when I reduced the updraft kiln to produce a body reduction. The iron in the clay and the reduction process was a bad combination and would produce a bad kiln load of pots.  Bowls shattered as they cooled.

Black Coring – The Cause

The answer to the problem came from an excellent research report entitled “Calcium and sulphur distribution in red clay brick in the presence of a black reduction core using micro X-ray fluorescence mapping”. by L.Gredmaier, C.J.Banks , and R.B. Pearce. These findings can be found on page 2 and 3 of this report:

“The following factors determine the extent of black reduction coring in red clay ware:

- Firing time – a longer ring time can eliminate the black reduction core.

- The oxygen atmosphere during ring. Lack of oxygen promotes the formation of black reduction cores.

- Iron oxide content in the raw clay.

- Carbon content and burnout or oxidation of carbon during firing of the raw clay.”

The research in this report stated also that the red iron oxide was converting to magnetite.

To the potter, according to “The Potter’s Dictionary of Materials & Techniques” by Frank and Janet Hamer, on page 26,  means this conversion created weakness to the clay body caused the clay to vitrify at a lower temperature due to the red iron oxide and carbon converting to black iron oxide and carbon dioxide, which creates an active flux . The pots become brittle and fragile.  One mug I took from this load popped apart while I poured coffee in it as a test, sending shards across the table, because it could not withstand the thermal shock due to black coring.

Black Coring – The Solution

The solutions to black coring from the article link to above would be to use a clay body with less iron content.  Also, it is suggested that bisque firings should be slower and to the correct temperature to allow carbon burn out.  I personally found that in my high iron clay body, if I skipped the body reduction of the firing and reduced the kiln towards the end of the firing, I still got reduction glazes to look great without black coring.

If any of you who read this have found this helpful or have your own findings, feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

20160512_185726
Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

View post on imgur.com

Firing out the Amaco AG40 is great for raku , but I sure had issues with the higher temperatures.  When I was working towards my degree and also was an apprentice at a pottery when I  found a little Amaco AG40 updraft kiln in the classified section of the paper.  The kiln was owned by older gentlemen and hobby potter about two hours from where I lived.  This gentleman had the kiln installed above his garage he was using as a studio.  He had a ventilation fan that came with the kiln and everything was in great condition.  A family member and I loaded this little kiln onto a truck and carefully drove it home.

The kiln had no instruction manual, and we had to learn how to light it from the label on the side.  We had the gas company bring out two tanks and connected both with 2 lines running into one hose with a connection to the regulator.  After following the directions, we were able to fire the burner and bring the kiln to life. That summer, and for the next two years would use the little kiln to run a raku line of pots.  Those were the best summers.  We ran a Spring and Fall show with demonstrations for the public.  It was three days of fire, smoke, and pottery.

 

View post on imgur.com

Dusting off the AG40 Updraft

After graduating with a B.F.A. in Ceramics and leaving the pottery, I put all my equipment into storage. I had to find work to pay off student loans.  When my wife and I bought our home, I put in a small clay studio with the encouragement of friends and family who were into the wet shaving hobby.  These friends wanted lather bowls and brush handles.  I hooked up my little Amaco Kiln again and looked online for a manual. Amaco was able to send me an old manual.   I only fired this kiln to a midrange temperature with this kiln once but could not remember the schedule to repeat it.  The manual had a suggested firing schedule, so I started tinkering.

I had the gas company come and hook up a tank large enough to prevent freezing.  The first few firing were terrible simply because I was not able to properly regulate how much gas was going to the kiln’s burners and I had a broken gauge.  I started with a simple bisque fire but knew I had to make some repairs before I went to a full first firing.

At times I was almost ready to roll the kiln over the bank.  I had a whole cone or more difference in temperature between the bottom and top, with the bottom shelf being hotter.  The kiln would also stall out.  So I saved up some money and bought a converter kit.  The kit had a stand with an updraft burner which allowed hookup to a twenty-pound propane tank.  This helped out a great deal because I now had more control over the amount of gas and temperature of the kiln because this had a gauge that worked.

With the conversion kit, I now went back to square one and used the firing schedule out of the manual and completed a midrange firing.  I still had a large temperature difference between the top and bottom.  To fix this issue, I widened the glaze firing range so that the top of the kiln would not fall under fire.  I was able to get a few good pots using this method; that is until I accidently overfired on Christmas day.

Over Firing The Amaco AG40

Meet the Kilns

On Christmas Eve 2015 I prepped and glazed a load of shave bowls that I wanted to have completed as Christmas gifts.  I wanted to wrap those gifts right from the kiln for dramatic purposes and hand them out a few days later. Glazing ran later than expected and the firing stalled out climbing to cone 5/6.  I left it run for an hour longer than usual, but the cone was not bending.  I realized that the gas had dropped off.  After fixing the issue, I went back inside. It was now 3 am Christmas morning, and I had an alarm set to go off every 15 minutes, but instead it went off after another 45 minutes.  While I nodded off with”visions of sugar plums dancing in my head” the little Amaco AG40 was over firing.

I jolted awake and looked at the time and realized the problem, then rushed to the kiln and looked through the peephole.  The bottom shelf was running real hot, and the middle shelf cone was now all the way down.  Thinking I caught it in time I started the 2-hour cooling cycle the manual recommended. All was fine until I opened the kiln about 30 hours later.

The bottom shelf was severely warped with cone 5/6 clay pots melted to it. It appeared that the shelf might have gone to cone 9 or 10.  The second shelf of pots had blister marks in them, so I suspect this shelf reached cone 7/8.  The top shelf was perfect.  I was able the salvage five good shave bowls to give to friends.

All of this was great practice on how quickly things can escalate even if minor adjustments are made.  I am still working out temperature differences, and the little Amaco AG40 needs new bricks and repair work done.  But the kiln has grown on me, and I enjoy firing it out in both reduction and oxidation firings.

Click here for the manual for those who may need it. It’s quite old but had some good information in it.  If you would like to add your experiences or tips concerning the Amaco AG40 or updraft kilns in general, feel free to comment!

 

20160512_185726
Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Welcome to Creek Road Pottery!

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We are happy that everyone has stopped by for a visit and we have been working on the website to get it ready for for future content.  We would like to thank everyone who took part in the pilot order program.  It was a big help as we find our areas of strengths and opportunities. It was always my dream to open a ceramic pottery and work clay.  Running an operation is hard work and keeping track of everything has been both fun and challenging. I have a full time job so the pottery is a part-time endeavor for now.

Currently I am working many areas of the business at once. Making the pots is only about thirty percent, the rest is learning to market yourself to customer segments that you would like to target. There are many areas we need to improve in.  One area is to add more glaze colors to the pallet I have.  When I started out running tests and composing a glaze I at first wanted to keep it simple so it would cut down on cost to the final prototype when it came to raw materials.  I was able to find a recipe with only four ingredients. However, this had to be modified to the clay body I was using.  The clay body had large amounts of Iron in it that would come out during the firings and interact with the oxides in the glaze.

Also there was, and still is, the issue of to much reduction in the kiln, causing both the clay and glaze body to go much darker then planned.  In the future I plan on allowing more space and air flow through the kiln to allow the glaze to oxidize and this should bring about the nice blue/green colors I am trying to achieve. Once I am able to get a few more of these challenges worked out the color should be more stable and add value to the ceramic ware.

A huge help was having small electric kilns that could be turned into gas updraft kilns by purchasing a simple kit (shown below).  This allowed me to have two kilns that can fire off twenty pound propane tanks with little effort. With the lower gas prices I am able to get two firings off one tank. The kits were easy to use and by cutting a simple hole in the center of both the top and bottom of the kilns and the process of firing was simplified.

 

Another big cost savings that happened quite by accident was the small gas kiln that I had in storage is built in sections.  This allowed me to run smaller loads of orders without using extra gas or waiting to fill a large kiln load like some of the larger potteries. I was able to simply take a ring or two off, place the lid on and fire one or two orders at a time. This add value to the customer experience because it cuts down on wait time, which I found when researching, can take up to 6 weeks for an order to arrive from a larger pottery.  My goal is to get custom orders down between two  or three weeks.

In the next few weeks we will be trying to mail out new orders and also researching how to improve packing and shipping.  Shipping charges currently are quite high due to the weight of the pots and extra packing material that is needed to ensure safe delivery.  We will be looking at some packing techniques used by others in the trade and also be researching some ideas that can simplify the whole process but still manage a high degree of quality. Currently the cold weather has delayed some firings.  With the sub freezing temperatures it was a worry that the small kilns would cool much to fast and cause cracks and crazing.

Stay tuned to win free pots as we do more prototype testing to find out what is important to people and what they like. Craftsmanship, Quality, and Customer Service are the big three items we are working on. We appreciate any feed back or ideas you may have.

Once again we thanks everyone for stopping by. I have a long way to go but am having a blast working with you all.  The guys have been upbeat about getting their pictures on the website.  There are even links to their Facebook pages so you can learn more about the team.  Once we get all the administrative things out of the way and streamline the process things should get mush easier. Once again thanks for all your support!  Be sure to leave a comment below and say hello!

 

– Al Wayman,

Creek Road Pottery