Monday, June 9, 2014

Ever wonder... it would feel to run 800 pounds of clay through your hands?

Ask Steve how pugging can change your life

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 26th Hint of the Week

Impressing Patterns in Clay from Lakeside Pottery tips, lessons and education,

There are many ways to get interesting patterns in your clay. Look around your house, your yard, and your kitchen, and you will start to see all kinds of things that can make good textures. Rocks, the bottom of your shoe, the wheel of a toy truck, a meat tenderizer, drawer knobs, a piece of driftwood, sea shells, leaves, pine cones, etc. The list is infinite. But here are a few additional ways to make more complex patterns. Lastly, there are various manufacturers that have off the shelf texture mats, rollers or stamps.

1. Bisque rods. Make a bunch of coils of clay. For example, a good size is 1" diameter and 8" long. The main problem with bigger diameters is the time it takes for the clay to dry before firing. But you can sit these aside and let them dry for a good long time. While the clay is still soft, carve or press patterns into it. For example, poke the end of a needle tool in to make holes. Or press the edge of a ruler in to make lines. Cover the whole surface with your pattern. After drying, bisque fire the pieces. Now you can use these rods to make patterns in wet clay. Simply roll your rod across the clay, pressing while you roll, and you can make long, continuous patterns.

2. Take wood dowels and apply patterns to them with hot glue. When the glue dries, the dowels can be rolled across the clay to make similar patterns. You could carve on the dowels too.

3. Wrap string, twine or rope around a dowel in straight or crisscross patterns. Roll over the clay.

4. Carved Linoleum. I got this idea from a potter who used to be a print maker. Linoleum was used for flooring before we had the vinyl floors of today. Linoleum is a mixture of linseed oil and cork. When heated it becomes soft so you can carve into it. Then it hardens when it dries. You can get linoleum at art supply stores. At the same time, you can buy a set of Speedball linoleum carving tools for about $7. Either draw or trace a pattern on the linoleum, then carve it out with the tools. You can use very intricate designs, such as a tree with many branches and leaves. The textures transfer very nicely to the clay.

5) Using off the shelf slab mats or texture molds

To transfer the pattern to a slab, put the pattern on the clay and press with your hands or a roller.

You can transfer the pattern to a cylinder as well. This is very cool for putting texture on thrown and altered forms. The cylinder should be stiff enough that it doesn't collapse, but soft enough to take the pattern of the clay. Place the carved piece of linoleum face up on a table, hold the cylinder sideways, and slowly roll the cylinder across the pattern. While you are rolling it across, use a smaller roller inside the cylinder, to press the side of the clay cylinder into the linoleum. The mini-roller works really well for this, or the pony roller for larger areas. They can be found on this page.

*** Important note: Non-porous surfaces, such as plastic, metal, etc. will stick to wet clay. This can make it difficult to get clear patterns. Therefore, the best materials for impressing are porous materials such as wood, bisque clay, and plaster. If you are using a non-porous object, try putting a thin piece of cloth between it and the clay, or a piece of Saran wrap. You can also try corn starch on the clay or texture tool. At Lakeside Pottery, they use W-D40 sprayed on non-porous texture tools. We have used cooking spray (PAM) also.

Monday, May 12, 2014

April Hints of the Week

April 6th Hint of the Week: Turntable on the Cheap

Thank you to Dennis Allen of Lebanon, Ohio! In Ceramics Arts Daily

While it’s not cast iron with ball bearings, this homemade turntable is easy to make, inexpensive, and works nearly as well. PVC plumbing flanges can be purchased at any hardware store or home center and both flanges can be purchased for about $10. Just match the inner diameter of one to the outer diameter of the other. Cut two pieces of scrap wood; the bottom piece, which will become the base, should be approximately 2 inches larger than the PVC flange and the top piece, which will become the work surface, should be cut to whatever size is appropriate for you working needs. The top piece should not be unreasonably large and not more that a few inches larger than the base. Each board should about 1 inch thick and sealed to handle wet clay. Center and screw each flange onto the wood pieces. Add a little WD-40 for lubrication and you are in business.

April 13th Hint of the Week: Some Glazing & Decorating Stuff from

· Before you begin glazing always be sure to wipe your ceramic piece down with a damp sponge. This will make sure that there is no dust on your piece which could cause the glaze to pull away and leave a bare spot. Dampening helps the bisque to accept the glaze.

· If you are painting on glaze, you must paint on three flowing coats of glaze, being careful of brushstrokes which could show up in unleaded glazes or if you use less than 3 coats. Three coats of glaze will give you a solid color. Adding another glaze for the second and/or third coat will give you some interesting effects. Let each coat dry before adding a second.
Best to brush in opposite direction

· To show textured surfaces better, brush glaze on so it gets in all the cracks, then wipe off the top surface.

· To remove oxide mistakes or for making a design, use a pencil eraser. It won't smear like trying to wash the oxide off.

· When applying oxide over dry glaze, the glaze sucks the water out of your brush making it difficult to paint clean lines. To remedy this, lightly mist the glaze first with water and the oxide will flow smoothly.When glazing a thin piece, glaze the inside then wait for it to dry thoroughly before glazing the outside. Otherwise the clay will become saturated and your piece will either fall apart because it will have absorbed so much water or the glaze won't absorb and stick to the outside. It is best to at least let it dry overnight before glazing the outside.

April 20th Hint of the Week: A few words about Wood Throwing Bats (from Northstar)

We (Northstar) are not able to control the way bats are used nor the environment in which they are used. For these reasons, throwing bats carry absolutely no warranty beyond accurate drilling to accepted factory specifications (not necessarily to your wheel - section 2 and 3 below) and arrival in good condition.

If drilled for standard bat pins, every single bat in this carton was physically checked on a wheelhead supplied by the manufacturer of the wheel for which it is intended. Even such checking does not always guarantee a perfect fit, however, for several reasons:

1. Bat pins are off-the-shelf hardware items. Most American wheels use a 1/4-20 socket cap screw, which you can buy at any hardware store. The head is approximately 3/8” in diameter and industry standards allow quite a bit of variation in the diameter of the head of this screw.

2. Not all wheel manufacturers allow zero tolerance between bat pin holes. There may be several thousandths of an inch (and sometimes much more) variation from wheel to wheel from the same maker.

3. Most wheel manufacturers drill an unthreaded hole in the wheelhead to receive the bat pins, and there is always some (and sometimes a lot of) extra clearance.

If the fit is less than perfect on your wheel try these steps in order:

1. First, try loosening the wing nuts of the bat pins and moving them for a better fit.

2. Next, touch the holes of the bats slightly with a small rat-tail file (available at any hardware store). You may have to file on one side or the other of the holes.

3. Finally, if the holes appear to be located correctly but too small, either use a rat-tail file or try another set of bat pins, which could be a few thousandths smaller.

4. If the holes in the bat have gotten too big and wobbly put some clay on or around the pin.
Care of your bats

The life of all wood-derived bats (such as Masonite and Medex) can be extended by taking reasonable care of them. Always:

1. Clean them after each use.

2. Store and dry bats in a vertical position not horizontal.

3. Avoid keeping bats wet for long periods of time.

4. Avoid leaving wet pottery drying on them for extended periods. This causes the bats to wrap badly at the middle as the outside of the bat is drying and shrinking and the middle is wet longer with clay on it. As soon as pottery can be wired off do so and move the pottery to a ware board, dry wall board, or drying rack.

5. Avoid flexing or bending them when they are wet.

6. Warped bats can usually be flattened by drying them in a stack with weight on them. If you wet them and put them between pieces of drywall or plaster bats, with weight on them, they’ll usually flatten back out too.

7. Reversing them each time you use them (flipping them over) is the single most important thing you can do to extend the life of your bats.

8. Do not use a tools such as a trimming tool to scrap dry clay off your bat as it destroys the surface and leave it rough. Soak the clay to loosen it and then remove clay.

(Some minor edits for clarity by Big Ceramic Store and the Guild)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jake is a salty dawg

 Here are some action shots from the last salt firing with Jake and crew

March Hints of the Week

March 2nd Hint of the Week: Corn Starch Blotter, found on by Cindy Gilliland.
“The tip I read for making a corn starch blotter, instructed me to put the corn starch inside an old sock, but I'm sorry, old socks will not be used as a tool in my studio. I have to draw the line somewhere. Instead I cut a square of organic cotton scrap material, put about a half cup of corn starch in the middle, pulled up the corners and twisted a rubber band around it. It's cute and works awesome.

This metal stamp has my logo. I use it when making the little magnets that I include with purchase. (I don't plan to use corn starch with my bisque stamps, since I don't have a problem with them sticking.)

If you have issues with sticky stamps, try using corn starch, it's worth the extra step.”

March 9th Hint of the Week: Aging Clay By Beth Peterson in About.Com Pottery

Aging (verb) clay gives clay more strength and increases workability and elasticity. It is done by storing moist clay; extra water in the plastic clay is advisable, since the aging process will stiffen the clay. It is always easier to dry out an overly moist clay through wedging than it is to add water.

Several things occur during aging:
Full water penetration - It takes time for water to get mixed all the way through the tiny particles that make up the clay body. Even after mixing or pugging, a newly-moistened clay body will not have water saturated and present between all the particles.
Compression - Aging allows the clay platelets to compress, giving the clay more strength. (A thorough run through a de-airing pugmill also compresses the clay bodies and adds strength.)
Souring - Bacteria in the clay have a chance to break down all organic material. This thereby releases amino acids which act as flocculants, causing the particles to become attracted to one another. (The opposite of deflocculation.)

Also Known As: souring

Examples: When the clay smells like a swamp, it has probably aged enough. When mixed from dry ingredients, aging clay at least two to four weeks will greatly increase its workability.

March 16th Hint of the Week:
Write Down Your Glazing (taken partially from a notebook! No matter how much you think you will remember what clay you used, how thick you put on a glaze, what sequence you put multiple glazes on, how many coats, how many dips, or how long you dipped, or even what glaze you used to begin with, you will forget! And scraps of paper get lost. So use a permanent notebook, spiral notebook, 3 ring binder, composition book, etc. Write down everything you do, as you do it. I number my pieces so I can write down all the details of a particular piece. I can pick up a piece two years later and wonder how I did it. With a number I can go back to my glaze book and find out. But what I have learned over time is that I never write enough. After it is fired make notes too. I always look back and there are things I wonder, things I wish I had written down. But I am getting better. I am writing down more and more details while I am making and glazing a piece. I am trying not to let a piece leave my studio until I have recorded the results. And in many cases I am taking a photo of the piece with a digital camera. These things are already paying off.

March 31st Hint of the Week: Plates and Platters  Many people find firing goes much better when they notch or drill the plates' foot rings, which allows the trapped gases and heat to escape from under the plate. When they’ve used this technique the warping, cracking, and s-cracks were easily eliminated. The notches provided a way for air trapped under the foot to escape. Just make small, U-shaped or V-shaped notches, as the Japanese potter’s do, at the bottom of your foot ring. Instead of or in addition to these notches, you may want to drill holes in the foot ring. This will allow the gasses and heat to escape, and also allows for a wire to be used for hanging. This is especially nice for plates that are too large to fit into standard upper kitchen cabinets. Some people use a single hole, others two close together, others 3 or 4 spaced evenly around the platter.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

February Hints of the Week

FEBRUARY 2nd HINT FOR THE WEEK: Making Molds without Plaster
copyright 2001, Cindi Anderson,
What if you don’t want to use plaster, but you still want press molds, or slump and hump molds. Never fear, as there are other options! 

1. Bisque: You can make press molds out of clay and bisque them. These work quite nicely and clay doesn’t stick to them. Carve the inverse of your desired design into leather hard clay. For example, if you want raised lettering, carve the letters out of the press mold and the inverse will be raised. Remember to make your design about 10% larger than desired, to account for shrinkage.
Bisque also makes great slump and hump molds. These can be thrown, or handbuilt, or molded from a found object.
You can use found objects (mixing bowls, platters) directly by coating with vegetable oil, PAM, WD-40, etc. or by covering with plastic wrap or newspaper. Usually you will use these as slump molds, as the insides of your bowls and platters have the nice curvature you are looking for.

2. Wood: Wooden bowls can often be used directly without any coating. Wood is porous so clay doesn’t stick. Keep an eye out for wooden bowls at garage sales.

3. Canvas: You can also make a sling out of canvas and use that for your mold. For example, take a piece of canvas and put it over the top of a large round garbage can. Where the canvas overhangs the can, wrap tightly with string. Place your slab on the canvas. You can get different curvatures depending on how tightly you pull the canvas. This same technique can be used with buckets for smaller slabs.
Here’s a great variation on the previous idea, that I just thought of! You can cut holes in the canvas where you want the feet to go. That way you can attach the feet while the clay is still wet, and not have to worry about getting it off the sling at exactly the right time, when it is hard enough to hold the shape but still soft enough to add the feet! Cool huh?
A similar approach to the above is to put the canvas over a plywood box. Staple the canvas to the outside of the box. Again, the curvatures can be modified by how tightly you pull the canvas. You can staple just two ends, or all four ends for different effects. If you want to make this more versatile, make a version where you can vary the amount of curvature. Attach screws or nails to the outside of the box.
Or, (here’s my laziness coming through again… I’d rather think of a better idea than go to the trouble of making a plywood box), how about using clothes baskets! They come in round or rectangular, and are inexpensive. 

4. Newspaper Another thing you might consider is making a form out of loosely crumpled and dampened newspapers. This allows a more loose look. Shape the damp, crumpled newspaper into the form you like, and cover it with plastic. The newspaper will dry and this hump mold will likely be useable for a while. If it starts to come apart you can squirt the newspaper with water and re-shape.

FEBRUARY 9th HINT FOR THE WEEK: CLAY = DRY SKIN Information contributed by Susan Hickman
My old hands have enough problems without bleeding cracks around my fingers (ow wee!). I have tried lots of things myself that help but I thought it might be interesting to consult the worldwide information box to see what other potters do. Here is what I found out: Why fingers crack and what needs to be done on YouTube:
Preventive treatment
· Put hand treatment on before you throw or build with clay.
· Wear gloves when glazing. If not, make sure your hands are freshly washed before you glaze to prevent skin oils from causing resist areas.
· After using clay or glaze, wash hands and under fingernails with soap and water. There are several recommendations of following washing with vinegar and air dry hands. Then use hand treatment.
Hand Treatment recommendations:
· User what you have. It won’t do any good sitting on the shelf.
· Potters seem to love bag balm. I work it into my hands for a minute or two and then scrub my hands with soap and water. Dry skin goes down the sink (gross but true). Gene says this stuff stinks but you need to make sacrifices for your art. I usually put another lotion on my hands after washing them.
· There are lots of homemade recipes on the web for you homemaker types (not me)
· Wool wax cream, olive oil, aloe, arnica, hydrocortisone, antibiotic ointment
· Carry carmex or other lip balm in your pocket and work it under your nails several times a day.
· Witches brew: Combine all your leftovers of creams, lotions, gels, ointments and petroleum jelly in a bowl, heat in microwave, and whip together with a mixer.
· “Crack Cream” found at Shopko. Smells funny but must be good since it has lots of natural products in it including Montana arnica flower extract!
· Once you get a crack, make sure it is sealed with ointment and covered until it gets well.Band-Aids aren’t helpful when making pottery. Drug stores sell Liquid Bandage, which is like super glue. Another option is to wear surgical gloves or cut out a glove finger, slip it over your boo boo and tape it around the base to hold it on

FEBRUARY 19th HINT FOR THE WEEK: Hand Measuring Tool by Marty Jones, Ceramics Montly, Feb. 2014.

Before I discovered that my hand was the best tool I owned. I used rulers, calipers, and whatever tool I had within reach that was the appropriate length for what I needed at the moment. When I was making a series of vessels, I got tired of looking for, picking up, (then setting down in the wrong place), the implement I needed to make sure my 7 proportions were always
the same with each subsequent vessel. I realized that, stuck to the end of my wrist, was a ready-made measuring device. By using knuckle joints, wrinkles, creases or folds, or a combination of these, I could place my hand at the appropriate spot and instantly know if my dimensions were on or off.

For example, if I am making coffee cups and I know that I want the mouth to be 3 inches across, the distance from the top of my ring finger (and no other finger) to the fold of skin at the second knuckle is the same length (1). I just hold this across the mouth of the cup. This is especially helpful when making more complex forms such as a wine glass with mouth. That’s five different measurements needed. This tool is always there. There is nothing to pick up or put down. It didn’t take long for me to realize that once I decided the necessary dimensions for a particular piece, I would forget what those dimensions were by the next time I needed to make more of the same vessel. So I made several photocopies of my hand and made notes as to the necessary dimensions of each different pot (2). I tacked this note by my wheel and I simply look up when I need the dimensions for any given piece.


FEBRUARY 23rd HINT FOR THE WEEK: Tips On Plates & Platters - Pottery Magic
Making plates can be tricky, and the larger the plate the more likely you will encounter problems. Here are some remedies:

Make sure the clay is thick enough. Thinner plates are more likely to warp. Thickness should be even. Clay should be very uniform, work the clay well.
When rolling slabs, make sure you roll it out evenly in all directions, otherwise you could compress one side more than another.
* When throwing, use soft clay but not too much water or the rim will get too floppy.
* When you carry your wet clay slabs to a different place to form, make sure you don’t stretch it. Put it on a board, or roll it lightly into a sausage, then unroll directly on the mold that you will use.
Plates must be dried very slowly and evenly. Uneven drying can set up stresses that don't show themselves until the final glaze firing.
* It can help to control drying so the center dries faster than the rim. To do this, cut a round hole in the plastic about 3-4 inches in diameter over the center of the plate.
* Some people use water based wax to coat the rims during drying, to prevent them from drying too quickly.
For large platters, you probably need two foot rings, one around the outside and a smaller one left in the center. Otherwise the center of the plate may sag during firing.
* When you place a platter on it’s rim, place it on soft foam to protect the rim and keep it from getting stressed.
* Trimming large platters can cause slumping of the bottom during the trimming process. You can put layers of foam rubber or carpet pad into the center area before inverting * * * * *Place a board onto foam rubber or rim then invert the whole thing to turn it over. This “holds up” the center area and prevents it from sagging. It is not necessary to fill the whole center of the plate. If you fill the center only (i.e. a 6” circular piece of foam rubber), it will keep it from sagging.
* Another thing to use in a similar way is socks or larger fabric sacks filled with rice. The rice is malleable so you can push it around until you get the right shape.
* Or still another item to use is a sponge.
* Sharp tools make it much easier to trim without causing deformation. (Remember, clay has memory and even if you smooth out any deformations, they will come back during firing.)
Many people find firing goes much better when they notch the plates' foot rings. Warping, cracking, s-cracks, were all eliminated. The notches provided a way for air trapped under the foot to escape. If the gas can’t escape from bottom it may cause the center of the plate or platter to “bow” up. Just make small, U-shaped notches at the bottom of your foot ring.
* Instead of, or in addition to these notches, drill small holes in the foot ring. This also allows the gasses and heat to escape, and also allows for a wire to be used for hanging. This is especially nice for plates that are too large to fit into standard upper kitchen cabinets. Some people use a single hole, others two close together, others 3 spaced evenly around the platter.
For plates and other items with large bases, make a clay “cookie” at the same time as your piece. This is a sheet of clay (the same type of clay), which you sit your piece during drying and firing. The cookie and the plate will shrink at the same rate. This seems to keep the piece from “hanging up” on the kiln shelf during shrinkage, expansion and contraction. For extra assurance, put a wash of alumna hydrate on the feet and the cookie.
Another method is to cover the shelves with grog or sand