Saturday, March 31, 2007

Loading Monstro

Monstro is the name of the gas kiln that I bought before Julie and I were married. It is an Olympic Kiln, a 2831G. I had had a gas line run out to the back of my first house in Phoenix, when I bought the place, and was going to have the kiln on the back porch by the pool.

Monstro was the name of the whale in Pinocchio.

Monstro followed us through every move that we made together, and was never fired. Our friend, Ronnie, has a studio where she teaches, and she set up a slab in back for Monstro to live on, and piped it for propane.

Today, Julie and I went to visit the studio. We brought with us a box of five bowls that were all thrown about nine or ten years ago, in the studio of the house that we had built together, and have been carefully packed for the two moves since. The bowls were thrown with cone ten clay, and were always meant to be glaze fired in Monstro.

Some day.

The largest of my bowls is big enough to use as the basin of a sink, if I had trimmed the proper sized hole in the base for plumbing. Ronnie suggested that I try making a few sinks, and see if we can sell them.

Ronnie had bought a huge hunk of beeswax this morning from one of the few bee keepers in the area that hasn't lost all of their bees to the egg mites. She melted it in an electric fry pan, and we took turns setting our pieces into the melted wax to coat the foot of each piece to keep the glaze from sticking. The wax had never been filtered, so there was bits of debris (including a few former bees) that stuck to our pieces.

The glazes had been mixed in five gallon buckets. Ronnie has worked with them before, and had fired samples of most of them on different pots, showing the effects of overlapping the glazes on top of each other. Cone ten glazes have a different composition than the cone six or the raku glazes that we've got in our studio. They fire to a higher temperature, and since the kiln burns gas, the potter can control the atmosphere inside of the kiln for the final stage of firing, to cause a reducing atmosphere to pull oxygen out of the glazes. This is how gas firing can be used to get purples and reds that are impossible in an electric kiln.

Most of our bowls were too wide to fit into the buckets. I would use a big measuring cup to pour glaze into a bowl, then rotate it as I poured the glaze out to coat the insides. The bowl would go outside onto an improvised table to dry out a bit, then it was brought back, flipped over, and I would pour or ladle glaze over the sides of the piece while letting the excess run back into the bucket. The inevitable finger prints on the rim and sides, where I accidentally pulled the partially dried glaze off in handling is patched by dipping a finger into the glaze bucket, and painting over the marks.

For some of the pieces, after I had a base coat of glaze, I would to to the other glaze buckets, and cup some glaze into my hand, and splash it across the inside or outside of the piece. The glaze chemistry will interact during the firing, to produce variations in the glaze surface.

Two of the bowls were glazed with 'tessa', which is a brown glaze that breaks black across the trim lines of a bowl. The brown surface isn't a solid color, but is more like a temoku plum, with the pixelated iron crystals on the surface.

Two bowls have a blue rutile glaze overall, one with jmod red on the rim and splashed inside, the other with a series of splashes across the inside and outside of the bowl.

The last bowl has an experimental glaze, oatmeal sky, splashed with jmod red, rutile blue, and tessa.

Ronnie glazed a number of her pieces as well. She is in a lot of shows, and having a kiln for her own use will aid in her business.

Julie, Ronnie, her husband Tom, and myself worked at loading Monstro when the pieces were dry. The kiln shelves are half circles of high fired clay, about twenty-eight inches across and an inch thick. They are very heavy. The hardest part was laying the first few shelves at the bottom of the kiln, which is done by leaning over the top rim of the kiln. I wasn't quite tall enough to pull it off, but Tom has a little extra height that allowed it to work.

In a glaze firing, the pieces can't touch each other, or they will fuse together. There also needs to be gaps between the pieces so kiln posts can be inserted to support the next level of kiln shelves above all of the pieces on the lower shelf. The bottom most layer was a series of soup bowls, the kind with handles. A set of four inch posts supported the next set of shelves, which I was able to help put in place. More of Ronnie's pieces went in, and Julie and Ronnie worked at arranging the pieces to get as much in each layer as we could.

Loading got easier, as the height of the shelves climbed in the kiln. You didn't need to bend down so far to place a piece. My two smaller bowls made it in the third layer. We were starting to run out of room in the kiln, because my three biggest bowls were going to take up a lot of space. Two of them were six and a half inches high, and the third was seven inches high. The two shorter pieces, when put on the same level, spanned so much space in the kiln that we could not get enough kiln posts in to support two more half circle shelves; there was only enough support for one. With a quarter inch to spare at the top of the kiln, we were able to get my tallest piece onto the last shelf. Ronnie went back into the studio, and glazed a couple more smaller pieces to nestle under the curve of my bowls at the top of the kiln.

We shut the kiln, and used an extra shelf to cover the vent hole in the lid as a damper. Tomorrow, we fire.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

We Have Set Up an Ebay Store

Since Lunacon, along with everything else on her schedule, Julie has been working to set up an eBay store for our pottery, jewelry, and sculptural pieces.

The name of the store is Kastan Pottery and Artworks. I have added it to the links on the right side of the blog.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sales at Lunacon

The Cezera Negra ray gun sold at Lunacon. It is the ray gun on the right. That's two conventions in a row that one of the ray guns sold.

Divine Hauler of Cargo

Woke up this morning with this name for a new rocket buzzing in my brain, and I will probably throw a number like seventeen after it (or perhaps a number like seventeen, or "No. Many Many"). It would transform the piece from a raku rocket to being a revered object of worship (in the rights circles, the extraterrestrial ones that believe in Cargo.)

Balticon is approaching.

We went to Lunacon this last weekend. The grand scheme was to drive up Friday, set up, and drive home Friday night. The reality is that our two hour drive was turned into a five hour drive by the worst sleet storm I have ever seen. We had three to four inches of accumulation that looked like snow, but was actually ice pellets that fused together.

We drove up via the turnpike. The speed rarely exceeded thirty miles an hour. The safest thing to do (besides staying home) was to drive in the ruts of the car in front of you. If a vehicle in the next lane went out of their ruts, they threw up a rooster tail of muddy slush that hit your windshield, and visibility would drop to zero for a few seconds. Many drivers would swerve a bit when their windshields got hit, whether from flinching or in an attempt to shake something loose. The best practice was to be ready to flip your wipers to maximum at all times.

Julie reminded me not to trust the brakes to stop the van, meaning that it was going to take a lot longer to stop in those conditions. We had to make sure that there was additional space between us and the car in front to allow for sliding.

We were to the west of New York City, in the leftmost lane, when the car in front of us slowed down suddenly.

I hit the brakes, which quickly reverted to anti-lock mode as they tried to bite in. It was obvious that we wouldn't be able to stop in time, and Julie's last wincing words to me were "I told you not to rely on the brakes."

I had been thinking about what to do in this kind of situation for part of the drive.

I threw the steering wheel hard to port. The nose of the car started to come about, and we started a hard swerve to the left; enough snow, sleet, and slush was hitting the turned front wheels that it was helping us turn.

Once I judged our direction would miss the car in front (I think it was a white, high-end, SUV), I straitened out. We were now safely headed towards the concrete barrier that divided the two directions of the turnpike, moving into the deeper sleet and slush of the shoulder, one wide enough to take a whole van.

Julie says we missed the car's bumper by about an inch. I was too busy swinging the wheel hard a starboard , to miss the barrier, to notice.

We slowed down enough that we had enough room to merge back in traffic, which I carefully executed.

Julie and I laughed about the incident. We kidded that the combined karma of our cargo of little dragons, jewelry, and rockets saved us. All of the dragons came to life, and furiously flapped their wings, while the rockets all blasted at emergency power to help the car swerve. Just enough to keep things from turning ugly.

We arrived at the show late, and ended up getting a room at a nearby hotel for the night. The next day, it took about two and a half hours to drive home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Prepping for Lunacon

We are getting things together for Lunacon.

Julie is working on the bid sheets and inventory. I have to put a different lining in the box for the Cerza Negra raygun. The current lining is white, and we need something more striking.

We'll set up on Friday, then come home. On Sunday, we will pick up our work.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Planning and Plotting

Julie and I are working to register for the art shows at our next series of conventions.

Lunacon is coming up next month, and we have space there.

Balticon is in May. I have an email into the art show director asking whether we can have two tables instead of one, since the tables are only fifteen inches wide.

We've applied via the jury process for DragonCon, 0ver Labor Day weekend. We will know by April fifteenth whether we made it or not. Julie and I each applied separately, submitting seven pictures representing our work.

Lastly, we need to work on our Comic-Con application. Comic-Con is in late July, and falls in the middle of our planned vacation.