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It was two nights before Thanksgiving and cold. The flames licked out of the tops of both running kilns. My eyes was getting tired from checking the peep holes because a watched cone never drops. I had the whole show to fire out and if things went bad I truly would have a Blue Christmas and so would my customers.

They left me off the hook last year when I over fired a shelf of 20 mugs because I fell asleep and missed shutting the kiln down by 15 minutes. The clay blistered some and started to bloat. I was honest and went online and showed them all. “It’s ok!” they said. ” They can be called COVID mugs!” So I put ten dollars on each for gas money and the safe ones sold out first before the good pots. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong working so hard. But I needed to pay attention this year. The cone in the first kiln dropped around 11:00 pm and the larger kiln fired on.

Cones never lie. I had to tell myself that as the kiln fired on well past shut down time of 12:00 a.m. I was doing 15 minute checks. I stayed outside by the kilns thinking the cold would keep me from dozing off. I had the alarm running on my phone. At 1:00 a.m. I thought I could see a slight bend in the cone and maybe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I had to shut down the kiln and blow in the peep hole to be sure I was seeing the cone and not the edge of some mug. In the fires at the end everything looks the same at times. There is was a slight bend. Thirty more minutes to shutdown.

Morning came quick. It was 7:00 a.m. when I pulled in at the Right Choice Diner for French Toast. I had to park out back by the railroad track as the street parking was filled up. The back dumpster was piled high with bags falling out and three stray cats were licking bacon grease off a paper towl. I walked through the laundry on the line and up the creeky wooden back steps where Missy was having a smoke outside the screen door.

“Hey Miss! Nice to see you. You all look busy.” She had little turkeys on her nails. If you were not sure what holiday was on the way you could tell off Missy’ s nails. “Yeah. This is my first break since 4:00 a.m. It’s been crazy. Hey just between me and you thanks for the money you sent over. I was able to get the books I need for my accounting classes. I have one more semester. But don’t do that shit again.” “Your welcome Miss.” I say.

” You let Robbie out from under that car, or is he still up there pinned?” I ask. “Naww I let him out. He was yelling like a stuck pig but he won’t kick me out and make me walk again.” “Yeah we all heard about that.” ” Well thanks again Alfie. Not to many guys like you around . Go on in and I’ll get you your mug and a coffee. You getting the usual or is it French toast today?” “French toast today Miss. The kilns gave me a bad time last night.” “Yeah you do look tired.” “Yeah if I do good at this sale we’ll run off together ok? ” “Haa! You tell me that before every show. Well you know where I am!”

There was one seat left at the counter it was next to old man Bob. He had pins of honor on his Vietnam Veteran hat and local fire company patches on his coat. “Morning Bob. Thanks for your service. It’s a hopping place this morning. You all ready for Thanksgiving?” ” Yeah we are heading south to see the grandkids a few days. It only an hour or two drive but I’m having my wife drive. I hate driving.”

” So what was going on up the hill last night. I thought I heard the fire trucks last night while I was out there with the kilns.” I ask. ” There was a bad trailer fire up on Charlie Skillets place. His kid there ..ohh what do they call him..Buttons ..yeah.. they said Buttons was up there cooking meth they thought. Brought him out in cuffs but his girlfriend and the baby might not make it.” “Aww that’s terrible.” “Yeah they had trucks from three different counties up there and four on standby.”

Miss was back and poured me a coffee. ” Hey Bob can you pass the creamers please if you don’t mind?” “Sure here you are.. I left three for you.” ” Aww what a nice guy. I’ll have to forget all the terrible things I heard about you.” “What’s going on with the garbage out back? Drivers on strike?” ” No they can’t find enough drivers to work. Big Jimmy was just out here saying it’s been two weeks since they been by.” “Well the cats out there are ok with the set up.” ” And the coons to!” laughed Bob.

The coffee was strong, and the French toast warm. And all the Blue Christmas pots were cooling in the kilns. I just hoped not to fast. Things were moving slow it seemed. I went home and put up the Christmas tree in the shop while the neighbor’s guinea hens chased a dog around the yard. A smell of wood smoke was in the frosty air and dark snow clouds hung low and heavy in the sky.

Today I got real lucky. I was scheduled for an overtime day at the paper factory but they had a staffing mix up and everyone showed up for the team so they asked if I wanted to stay or leave. I added up everything in mugs and realized just four wear boards of mugs would more then pay me back for the day if I chose to go back home. It felt great to tell them I already thought of ten things I would rather be doing and got up and left.

I stopped off at the Diner for breakfast and my normal order was the special and they still needed a cook . Sarah was working today. She was filling in for Missy. But she did remember I was the pottery guy and got me my mug. Not that I’m picky at all and I would take any mug with a coffee if they didn’t know as they work to hard to worry about custom accommodations.

I ask Sarah where Miss is and she fills me in on the fair and foul time the poor lady had the last two days. Missy got in a big fight with her jerk boyfriend and he kicked her out of his car and made her walk an hour and forty minutes home. Missy would like to leave but with working only at the Diner and taking care of the kids it was not enough to have her own place so she puts up with it.

Sarah pours me coffee . She said they were out of regular creamers but they had vanilla. I would have gave Miss a ride but I was working and all.” I say. “Well she got him back good .” How’s that ? I ask. “Well Miss caught him under the car changing the muffler..she said they need the whole thing from the manifold back..and he was under there and she slowly lowered the floor jack and put the transmission on his chest. She pinned the big jerk under there good. ”

“Aww no..” I say “She kill the guy? ” Naww he was going on yelling and swearing so she thought he would be fine she came in for the 3 to 7 shift. She has a camera app to watch. They got it put in because they thought someone might be stealing gas. She watched him the whole shift on her phone as she washed the dishes to make sure he was still moving. ” “Yeah those cameras can be great to have if you need to watch things at home I guess.” I say. “Well maybe we need to take up a collection and help her out. I have some money from the pottery I could put in. ” “Yeah that would be nice but you know she wouldn’t take anything. She’s a fighter .

Old man Parker stopped in for his eggs over easy with toast and coffee. He leans in to me and says ..”You sure had some action up your way didn’t you? ” Nope. I say ” I didn’t hear a thing I was working . What’s going on? ” Well Linda Jennings was driving up past your pottery there and she hit that pit bull that runs around up there. She said she knocked him good and it damaged her car. She pulled over and went to the house to talk to someone about it all . ” “Yeah ..I know that dog . He’s a friendly guy . Sleeps out there by the road on the warm days. I had to ask the Smiths up there to put him in when I have the shows and all and they do a good job. He still living? ” I ask.

” Yeah..oooh yeah..he living alright. Linda knocked on the door and the dog cornered her on the porch for a good 30 minutes..Mrs. Smith had a real bad time calling him off. Even if she twitched the dog would growl. ” Yeah I guess that would be scary. Pit bulls can be problem if they get injured. ” ” Well Sarah I need to go glaze pots if you see Missy tell her to shoot me a pm. ” Ok says Sarah ” Have the best day ever.” Thanks ! I will .

Things were cloudy and bit cool outside. It looked like rain. The gas company comes today to put in a new tank and I need to start the pots for the Christmas show.

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.

 

When I stop in at the diner on the way home after night shift Missy the waitress gets me my own mug off the rack and fills it with coffee. She lets me fall asleep in it a bit before she asks if I would like the usual. Two eggs over easy, two pieces of rye toast, one pancake, and bacon.
Missy says winter is on the way..it might be a bad one…the coyote’s tails are real bushy this year..she saw one cross the road on the way in.. She don’t like the snow, as it’s hard for her to walk with her hip the way it is. She was in a car accident a few years back and now walks with a limp.
Charlie, the owner of the bar Eva’s stops by at 8:00 am for a ham and cheese omelette. Charlie had a rough time the other night after closing. A patron while walking home fell over a bank. He was found sleeping in the rose bushes by a lady walking her dog so she called it in to 911. When Jimmy woke to flashing lights, he refused treatment and thought he would be ok to finish the walk. The police decided to take him in because he had the same issue a few months back and was let off with a warning. Jimmy got a large fine, we all were told.
Missy is getting her hair done today and maybe her nails. She chipped one on the screen door when she went out for a smoke real quick while on break. If I needed anything, I could just ring the bell..she told me all of that while refilling my coffee.
Good Morning America on the TV said more rain, they started cutting corn over on the Miller farm, and I have pots to fire out.

Glaze of Our Lives: A  Story of Passion and Reduction

Johnny Cash the pottery cat takes a nap on a few mugs. Delores finds a date maybe.


After  Johnny Cash blew by Jimmy’s leg in his mad dash out the studio door into the great wide open, he  ran to the large oak tree by the fence and  sniffed around some then  laid down to relax in the grass. The sparrows were  darting in and out  between the branches and  a red wing black bird  squacked to scold him. 

It was quite easy being a pottery cat. Johnny Cash had Delores right where he wanted her.  Their history went way back. Johnny Cash was a gift to Delores  from her husband Bill  when he was just a kitten.  Bill  just finished  trimming with the weed Wacker  along the side walk when he thought he heard a fait  meow.  Bill turned off the loud motor  and walked  to the  curb  where the trash was set out.  He  set down the wacker picked up the bag of garbage and under it was the smallest black kitten he ever seen.

Bill took the cat to the house to show Delores.  She was smitten by the cute  little fur ball. The kitten looked starved so they pored it some warm milk . The little guy lapped  up the milk and was still for a long time .   Bill and Delores were worried  and  poked the  cat a little and  made sure he was breathing.  “Awww!” said Delores ” I think he is sleeping right there in  his milk.”   All of this happend five months and  six days  after they found the lump  on Bill’s neck.  Five months and six days  because that is how fast the cancer spread .

The doctors tried everything possible but  the lump was found to late.  It was Johnny Cash the pottery cat that would curl up on the  lap of the slowly dying man ,  both warmed by an electric  blanket to ward off  the chills. Delores  sat by and cared for them both , lightly stroking Johnny Cash’s soft black fur to ease anziety as she  did what she could to make her dying husband comfortable  until the bitter end. 

The undertaker  drove  the herse slowly  to the cemetery on that cold rainy  day in October  when they laid Bill in the grave.  It would be months before  Delores  felt like going back to the studio again. Everything she seen reminded her of  Bill. He built the  drying shelves, her kneading table,  even put  in the glaze booth. Cobwebs grew in  her throwing bucket and rack of mugs went bone dry without being handled.

By Spring  Delores thought  she might try to go back down to the pottery studio to just have a look with Johnny  Cash  the cat circling  underfoot.  Delores started making pots again  slowly. First only one mug  was all she could  take . She looked at  the  lonely form turning slowly on her wheel , her heart sank with grief  and tears streamed from her eyes. She just had to make another mug, Bill would want her to. Before long one mug turned into one wearboard  of mugs, which turned into one shelf. She found creating therapeutic. 

Back out in the yard under the tree  Johnny Cash thought he heard a truck pull in. He raced to the frount steps  and found it was the UPS delivery man. The sound of the UPS delivery man ment that Johnny Cash would get face and belly rubs and at times a treat .  By time  the black cat  made it to the steps Delores was already signing for  her package.  “Aww whose a good boy?” said the  short stout delivery man as he seen Johnny Cash trot  through his legs purring.


Johnny Cash  made sure he did some cute rolls at his feet and was rewarded by belly rubs and face scratches. ” Your getting to be a big kitty!  I have a  surprise for you!” The  UPS man reached into his shirt pocket and gave Johnny Cash  three treats from a Frisyies bag.  ” He’s almost  twenty pounds now ” said Delores.  “But he still manages to climb all over and knock things off shelves. He’s a big clumsy boy.  Aren’t you Mr. Cash?”  The delivery man laughed “He sure is a just  big  fluff ball! Well I need to run! Have a great day ! ” He turned and walked back to his truck.  A small piece of paper floated across the lawn and Johnny Cash  seen the movement and playfully pinned it down with his paw then sat on it.  ” What are you hiding Mr. Cash?” said Delores as she picked  up the large cat.
 

Johnny Cash hung over Delores ‘s arm like a large over stuffed purse while she  opened  and read the paper.

” Dear Delores,

I  would find it enjoyable if at some  time you would join me for a coffee. I know you have been though a lot but whenever you are  ready just let me know. ”

It was not signed anywhere. Delores flipped the paper over  to see if  there was a name or number on the back.  But it was just written on a sales receipt from the gas station. Whoever wrote the note also bought $50.00 worth of gas and a  soda. Johnny  Cash started to growl  and  scratch at  Delores’s arm with his hind legs as a signal  to be let down. She dropped him to the ground as she thought about the note. ” Hummm..I wonder if…”  Delores  said out loud as she folded up the paper and put it in her pocket.

Johnny Cash  had already ran back  inside to the studio and made a jump for the fourth drying rack up but missed mostly and hung on by his two front paws. Straining  but  determined  the large cat found footing on a  freshly made wet  vase to give him a lift , knocking it into 3 others  as they all plopped  to the floor bats and all.  Pleased with himself he then stretched out on  six of eighteen  mugs that all caved to his form under the weight  like a memory foam mattress.  It seemed he preferred the pots just before leather hard stage, but not wet.

“Johnny Cash! You get down! Bad kitty! ” Delores  yelled when she seen him reclining  with ease  up on the shelf on the pots now all mangled and dented into a somewhat cat form. ” Why do you have to be so bad! Those were custom orders! Scat!” She yelled. It was almost a game to Mr. Cash as no matter how mad Delores got he always seemed to land on his feet with her. He  jumped from the shelf  as if inconvenienced,  and lumbered away with his tail in the air.  “Ohhh noo…your such a bad kitty! That was alot of work you just messed up! Now get!” Delores begain to pick up the mess. But in the back of her mind she wonderd about the note . Maybe it was time to get a coffee.

“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! I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.



 

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

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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)

 

 

 

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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

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“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.

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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

 

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“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!

 

 

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Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC