Saturday, September 23, 2006

'P' is for Pottery

I returned to the studio today.

I threw a large rocket, firing chuck, and a set of three engine bells. The piece will be shorter than the Lunar Queen, the one that sold at the Worldcon art show, but it is larger than most but my first few rockets. The fins are going to start just after the body of the rocket curves in to the tail, and the outer edge will be strait lines that are parallel to the direction of flight. The inner edge of the fins will curve into the spaces between the engine bells. I'm debating whether to add stubby canard fins. There was one rocket that exploded in the kiln that had canard fins, and it was the first one that I had thown with the inner edge of the tail fins intruing into the bell gap.

I threw a small rocket as well, one that won't have engine bells, and will have minimum carving. The amount of work to create the little rockets will be less, so I can set a lower starting price on it. I figure that I can try to sell a couple of these little rockets at each convention. If the bidding warms up enough, then the buyers may hop over to some of my mid price pieces.

The last piece that I threw was a tall vase. I have some doodles of tall vases, with different simple shapes and patterns carved into them, like geometric shapes, flowers, and bamboo. Stephanie had me draw her a vase, and then did a simple column of flowers decoration. I'll blow up her flower design, transfer it to the piece, and then carve the outline of all of the flowers. I plan to have the body of the piece white crackle, the flowers pink with yellow centers underglaze covered in clear crackle , and the foot, rim, and flower outline matte black. The outline will make the flowers look a bit cartoony, but that is part of the look that I am going for.

Julie is still working in the studio, so I am going to pull together a green chili.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Winter Pottery Tour

We have selected four conventions with art shows to enter our pottery in.

Starting in November, we have one convention every other month, all within driving distance. This will save money on shipping, as well as provide time for us to do additional work between the cons.

The conventions are currently:

Philcon in November, near Philadelphia
Arisia in January, near Boston
Lunacon in March, near New York City
Balticon in May, near Baltimore

Julie is already working on new dragons. We have also ordered a Critter spray gun and compressor for glaze application (hopefully to solve the Floating Blue problem). I need to get into the studio and start making rockets again.

Chili Weather

Fall is upon us. Time to think of the Chili Cookoff.

Julie and I were talking the other day, while we were on a driving excursion, and the topic turned to chili.

We've had a lot of luck with our local chili cookoff. I think we have each won once or twice in the last few years, and I've done it twice with non-traditional chilis. Two of my memorable chilis were "Road Kill Chili" and "Beachcomber Chili". Both were green chilis, one with fish and scallops, the other with 'not beef' in it (a variety of meats, all store bought).

This year we started to kick around different chili themes and names. The two working themes that we settled on were "Chili Alfredo" and "Pizza Chili", with Julie glomming onto the former, and I the later. Pizza chili would be a red chili, without beans, but it would have a pizza spin to it, with the selection of chile peppers and meats, and would be served with mozarella cheese (maybe in little cubes instead of shredded.) Chili Alfredo would be a chili with a cream base.

Although the cookoff isn't until October, we need some time to try out and perfect the recipes. We decided to start our experiments this last weekend, to give us time to mess around with the recipes.

Inventing a new chili recipe is fairly straitforward. I usually look at a handful of chili recipes to start, to get an idea of proportions and refresh my memory on the various cooking techniques. Its more to get me thinking of the components that go into a good chili, so non of my experiments will go totally flat.

Sunday I made the pizza chili. I used sweet italian sausage and diced pepperoni for the meats, crushed fresh and canned roma tomatos for the red sauce, and used roasted cherry peppers for the chiles. More herbs, spices, and garlic were added, and some sauteed onions. We served it with shredde mozarella and a little orechette pasta, which are like little flat discs of pasta with a raised edge. It was really tasty, and Stephanie liked it a lot. You could tell that it was chili, but it also tasted like a really good pizza.

We followed the pizza chili with vanilla bean ice cream, with a home made hot fudge sauce.

Today, Julie made the chili alfredo. It used three types of green chiles, chicken broth, diced tomatos, spices, little white beans, something cleverly run through a meat grinder, and heavy cream. It tasted absolutely wonderful, looked beautiful with various red, pale green, and other colorful bits in a blush sauce, and had the interesting property of being hot when you ate it, but it had a short tail for the afterburn, since the cream made it self-quenching.

We followed the chili alfredo with freshly baked pecan bars.

Each evening, after approving of the finished dish, Julie and I would write down everything that we could remember about how we made our chilis, including all of the ingredients and proportions.

I'll post recipes after the cookoff.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kiln Conversion

We got up early this morning, at least for a Sunday. I spent about twenty minutes loading assorted tools into my toolbox, and the stray oversized ones into a corregated box. The last thing that I tossed in was my glaze recipe notebook.

We went over to Ronnie's studio, to convert an old Sno Industries electric kiln to raku. It was an easy conversion, taking about an hour to pull off the kiln sitter and heating elements, cut the burner vent into the side of a kiln section (without taking the steel off of the kiln brick, tin snips for the metal, and using a hacksaw blade to cut through the kiln brick) and cutting vent holes into the top and bottom of the kiln. Ronnie's husband, Tom, was there to see how it was done, and to help out with the lifting and anywhere else he could.

Having another set of hands and another brain to throw at the process really speeded things up. About half way through, Tom and I started to talk about doing raku kiln conversion as a side business, since it was going so quickly. We decided that we needed a three and a half inch diameter cylindrical saw attachment to a drill, for the vent holes, that would be tall enough to allow us to cut through the side of the kiln in one pass, rather than fiddling with the tin snips and hacksaw.

We also placed the cinderblock pad, on top of the concrete slabs that Ronnie and Tom poured behind her studio. The kiln is inplace, with all of the pieces correctly stacked. The only thing left to do is to add swag chains to the lid, and to get their propane tank installed and plumbed.

Their kiln is not as deep as ours, but it is wider, so pieces that are of a larger diameter can be done.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back From Vacation

We're back from vacation.

Four pieces sold at the Worldcon art show. Three of them were Julie's dragon pieces, one raku, one stoneware, and one porcelain, and had bids for a couple of days. The last was one of my rockets, the "Lunar Queen", and it sold after the normal bidding closed. I didn't realize that I had had a sale until I was doing an inventory as we were packing up to leave.

We received a lot of positive comments about our work on the last day.

The sales don't nearly cover our expenses for the trip, but we never thought that they would. We need to plan ahead a little better, and also need to put something together, like a photo album, to educate people on the raku process.

We have identified three conventions in the next six months that we would like to attend, and talked with the art show directors for two of them, and had an indirect communication with the director of the third. All are within reasonable driving distance (which in this family means within four hundred miles).