Kiln Opening

This I took out of the kiln this morning with some other pieces. I’ll be uploading pics of those to flickr later today. I didn’t set up the lights perfectly to take these photos but they will do for now.

Steve Branfman Workshop

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Steve Branfman workshop. His website can be found here: The Potter’s Shop. A nice gallery of his work can be found here: here.

The lecture Thursday evening was informative and fascinating. Steve is an accomplished speaker and presenter. He likes to tell a story and listen to a story.

He shared his story about how he entered college with the idea of majoring in physical education only to change his major to the fine arts. He showed slides of his sculptures and pottery along side his growing family. My favorite shot was of his eldest son who was superimposed perfectly into a pot. It was a fluke of the camera but foretold in its own way the journey his son traversed into the world of clay.

It is no surprise then that his pottery is an extension of himself. Each piece showcases a bit of his personality.

This workshop was hands on. Friday, Steve demonstrated throwing. I usually throw with 1-3 lbs of clay but he had 12.5 lbs of clay on the wheel and challenged us to get out of our comfort zone. He also threw quite dry, which obviously would help in throwing large because the likely hood of the clay becoming soggy and falling is much less. I kept thinking, “I’m going to try that.” He would first center using plenty of water, then after the mound was opened, he would dry off his sponge and his hands and proceed to dry throw. I could see how much more control he was able to give to each piece right away. He threw large jars so he pulled tall cylinders. After they were as tall as he wanted, he would texture, then make them round by using his hands, finishing the rounding with ribs. It was mesmerizing to watch.

Saturday we began the raku process in spite of the falling rain. The idea was to teach raku techniques glazed in non-traditional ways and because of the rain, we fired in non-traditional ways as well.

We were able to erect a tent outside over the gas kilns, but we also electric fired and ran the pots outside in stainless steel containers before beginning the post reduction part of the process. We all hummed a version of “Singing in the Rain” by substituting the word “Rakuing”.

These three photos are the pots I walked away from the workshop with. I also was able to purchase a beautiful tea bowl which Steve made. It was an early birthday gift to myself and I will treasure it. It is similar to this one I found on his gallery: click here.

September Weekend Shopping Extravaganza

I’m going to be participating in the September Weekend Shopping Extravaganza sponsored by Etsy Supply Street Team (TEAM ESST)! It will be held on Saturday September 5th – Sunday September 6th.

My promotion is:
Free Domestic US Shipping on orders of $20 or more …
Free International Shipping on orders of $40 or more …

I’ll refund via paypal. Happy Shopping! Here’s a link to my store: NKP BEADS.

Straight from the Kiln

These are some beads which I glazed the other day. On these skewers sit 104 beads, all between 11-13 mm. Yesterday I placed them onto rods and arranged each rod onto kiln stilts and began the firing process. It’s a bit like a turkey dinner, minus the basting process.

For hours and hours I have to pretend there’s nothing going on outside on the back porch. I try not to think about the clay becoming crystallized and (hopefully) beautiful in the fiery heat, that the glaze isn’t dancing wildly on top the surface of each bead, deciding where and how to settle. In the meantime I tidy up the studio and the house in general, study my glaze notes (update them too!), sketch a bit, make supper, read a bit, play with the pups and ignore the kiln making its buzzy noises as it slowly continues to gather heat. It continues to fire long into the night.

By the time morning rolls around, I am impatient. I know they fired correctly or the kiln would have showed an error on the digital read out. I have to remind myself over and over not to open the kiln until it falls below 300 degrees. That’s never until after noon. Finally, when the temperature is low enough, I lift the cover and take a peek. Did the beads topple? Did I hang them too close, fusing them together like tiny barbells? Did the colors completely burn out? So many ifs … so many hours of waiting…


I leave the lid off for a few minutes so the kiln posts can slightly cool. I put on heavy gloves and remove the kiln posts and lift the rods out of the kiln.

Now I must wait until the beads are cool enough to take them off their rods. Sometimes this is an easy process. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes they don’t come off their rods at all and it is a long an arduous battle in which I hold the rod with one hand and a pliers in the other. Today I lost 15 beads to the rods. These few beads simply would not budge and no amount of twisting, turning, and tugging worked.

However, for the ones that did slide off the rods (some easier than others), they will go into all sorts of beautiful jewelry. These are the ones that make it all worthwhile.