Sunday, December 13, 2009

Contest of wills... with a pot

Ever had a pot that is difficult, impossible, has a mind of its own (and it isn't a good one)? I am currently in the midst of a contest of wills with a bowl and I am not sure yet whether I'll win!

It all started with an idea for a bowl that moved sideways and upward. I wanted a nice smooth sectioned bowl that I'll have to photograph and show you... if it survives.

I was working with a new clay that unfortunately didn't quite lend itself to doing what I wanted it to do. I love working with red clays, this one is a tan clay. My students got a kick out of listening to me fussing at it and about it as I attempted to make it meld to my vision... After tweaking, letting it sit, coming back and playing some more, I finally made the bowl and it looked fairly close to what I intended. It only took a few weeks of working on it off and on between projects, which is already more time than I typically spend on a project, but it had already become a challenge, a duel.

I covered it and left it to dry very, very slowly.

I checked on it periodically and for the first few days of very drying it seemed to be holding up. Then I saw the crack forming. Yarrgggg... after all that work I was determined to make it work.

I tweaked, used some paper clay mix, tweaked some more and once again left it to dry.

It formed another crack in another place. I knew the top was pulling the thing down some, but I kept it in a full support while it dried, it shouldn't have been splitting. I've since learned that it's more the clay than anything else. (Side note: I adapted to the clay, made some other pieces, all cracked during firing or during the drying process so I only make flat, non-curved pieces with it now. I won't be buying the clay again after I finish the batch.)

Finally I had a finished pot, no cracks, ready to fire. I picked it up and broke off one of the pieces. I won't share my reaction... needless to say, I fixed it again. It's not visible, in fact the places I fixed are probably the strongest part of the bowl!

Luckily all that happened before bisque firing.

All seemed well through the bisque process.

Then came the glazing...

The clay absorbs glaze like a sponge. I checked to be sure I'd fired to the correct temp. I had. It's just a porous clay.

I thought though that my problems were at an end, couldn't wait to see the finished piece. Of course, the glaze crawled, didn't adhere to spots, and the colors weren't consistent.

I should have tossed the piece, but I had to0 much invested in it at that point.

I re-glazed and re-fired.

I re-glazed and re-fired.

I re-glazed and re-fired.

Somewhere in the re-glazing and re-firing I lost count.

The last time I re-glazed I included it in a batch of red pieces, which fire at a cone lower than the the glazes on the bowl called for, but I figured with all the glaze firings it wouldn't matter.

It did.

The glaze bubbled and didn't have time to settle so now it has these ugly big broken bubbles in places.

I'm firing it one more time at the correct temps. I'm going to hold the temp at the end and make sure the kiln cools slow to give the glaze time to settle.

If it doesn't turn out this time, it's going into my pottery garden... where it should have gone weeks and weeks ago, along with the entire batch of clay.

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