Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ouch! Failures and other mysteries

I  --  we  -- like to show the good pots, the successful results. For me, at least, there are plenty of mistakes along the way. Some mistakes come in the process of learning something new. Some come from pure stubborn insistence on doing something that doesn't work. Some, who knows?

So here are some of my recent failures.

I'm learning about cone 5-6 firing, messing up as I go. For the non-potters among you, this is an intermediate temperature to fire glazes onto pots, requiring clays and glazes that fit this temperature. I'm using commercial glazes still at this temperature, some from very old batches given to me by a friend who hasn't used them in years.

That's a commercial clear glaze, and yes it says to fire at cone 6. I fired this kiln load cone 5, about 50 degrees cooler, never imagined it would make a significant difference. It does, full of bubbles.  Refired at cone 6, on these pieces, the glaze is much better..

Here's an old glaze, bubbled, cratered, and ugly. Not much improved by refiring.

Oh, and you can only use stilts at low temperature firing I guess. I tried to hold this lid above the kiln shelf with a stilt, sunk so thoroughly into the otherwise lovely cone 6 glaze that it is still and forever there.

When the pot is thin (a success, for me) and you put a second layer of glaze on before the first is completely dry, the glaze saturates the pot and

runs off in the firing. I try to consider it tuition, for the lesson.

Porcelain clay and sharp corners are a problem combination. Yes, it works sometimes, don't know what makes the difference.

And when you refire to try to fix glaze mistakes, sometimes it works. Sometimes, the clay (B mix especially, I learn) bloats in spots.

Didn't fix the bubbling, either.

Often I have no idea why problems show up. Why did this warp, when many similar sponge holders came out fine?

Or these bowls, the same glaze on same clay, the lighter yellow on the top kiln shelf, the darker on the next 1/2 shelf down. How much difference can there be in temperature or air flow?

Is there anything better than whining here?

Learning, clearly, which costs failure, among other things.

At times, a good discovery. I like those 2 yellow glaze effects, and perhaps can discover how to get both results reliably.

I usually choose to make smooth surfaces. Textures often result from a bumped pot or a slip with a trimming tool, that ruin the pot unless I can turn the mistake into something decorative. Here's one that worked.

There's an old technique from creativity trainer Edward de Bono, which he called "a PMI". He suggested you never give up on a failed idea without "doing a PMI". This means looking for the
            Plus: what's good about it?
            Minus: what's bad about it?
            Interesting: what else does it suggest?
The first two points are for learning; the last one is where the creativity come from.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Next sale: the North Park Festival of the Arts


 I and pots will be at the North Park Festival of the Arts, Sunday May 20, 10-6. Somewhere"near the main stage"; that's all the information I have so far. Come by, have a look.