Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This Year's Etrog

Fashionably waisted,appealingly ribbed,impeccably clean,its pointy end rising majestically like a tower or mountain,brushed with green to show its freshness [just like the first sharp oranges we're starting to get],its yellow etrog-yellow,like butter beaten well with sugar,before it turns lemon-yellow and starts to dry out- what a little cracker. Some people believe that you pick your etrog- I think it's the other way about- your etrog picks you! How could anyone have missed this one!

Straight and to the Point

Succot in Jerusalem used to be a tense affair-like most other things that happen in that Holy City: I remember searching anxiously through vast piles of lulavim and etrogim [which didn't come in boxes then] along Mea Shearim,my head buzzing with halachic [legal] requirements,elbow-to-elbow with sharp eyed,sceptical hassidim and yeshiva students armed with magnifying glasses. When you thought you had a kosher etrog,you carried it gingerly up some backstairs to a balcony where an old white-whiskered rav sat and passed judgement on it,taking into account,I always felt,what he thought could be expected of you [he was always lenient with me].
Tsfat Succot is a different story- a whole lot more relaxed. Mr Buchriss has his table up in town [as do some 10-15 other hopefuls,some shouting their wares shuk-fashion] with some tempting-looking etrogim and this rather splendid line-up of lulavim. He used to run a flower-and-pet shop a few meters away,but has recently rented it out- "I was making too much money!" he explains to me with a straight face.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

David Friedman's New Site

Once again,you are requested to click on the title above to be transported magically to David's new site,which he claims he made all by himself. Beautiful,simple,informative,eye-opening- what more are you looking for?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Stunning Pots [needless to say,not mine...]

If you would be so good as to click on the above link,you will be rewarded with an inspiring [as in awe-inspiring] gallery of pictures from Krystallos,the second international get-together of the crystalline folk.
While on the subject,their Forum [get to it via above link],always friendly and informative,has of late kicked up several gears with some rivetting posts and exchanges- well worth a read.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Year,New Elements

This is more like it. As I suspected,the elements needed replacing,taking [now] a spanking 4 1/2 hrs to cone 9 [1260?]. These crystals do seem to need rapid fire- I think to avoid too much interaction in the molten glaze. The kiln program is set for 1270 degrees top,but I curtailed that segment when I saw cone 9 down at 1260; from the results,I could have left it alone- that 10 degrees is the difference between the nicely-formed but tightly-packed crystals in the picture and the balance of crystal/background that I [and everyone else working with these glazes] is looking for.
I always think that it's not too wonderful to get your desired result first time out,so this kiln makes me quite happy [apart from one overflow that ran over the holding trough,ran over the shelf,down the prop and onto the kiln floor]- I think I know how to get to where I want to be from here.I think.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Meir's new kiln grows apace; last time I visited, the foundations were in place- now,as you can see,the front arch is built,together with most of the vertical walls,with some idea of the arched roof,which will be the next part to be built.The last picture is taken from the back,whose shape is still the subject of keen debate [should it be fish-shaped? Should it be drop-shaped?] Meir is building with obvious love and care,enjoying the process,surrounded by large unruly piles of variously-shaped bricks and stacks of bags of clay and cement.
The building of an anagama kiln is an event of national significance and importance [and this is his second]- I would recommend that you go and check it out,but I'm concerned that flocks of inquisitive potters might distract him from his work- I'll leave it up to you.
Meanwhile,I installed new elements in the electric kiln [and a new thermocouple,may it have a long life] and couldn't resist whacking in a quick kiln's worth for a trial run.Most conveniently,it just reached 1000 degrees on the stroke of two o'clock,having taken a respectably-fast 2 1/2 hrs to get there. By now it has slowed down to around 200 degrees an hour,but if it can keep this up it ought to do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Today being the seventh day after picking the grapes,the time had come to syphon the must/juice off the skins.After judicious pressing,just enough liquid to fill a 25ltr bottle,which,if all goes well,should yield around 30 bottles of wine. Meanwhile,enjoy some vigorous fermentation. I'm off to extract some tired kiln elements [and another broken thermocouple].


Monday, September 10, 2007

Moving Pictures

Someone told me recently that blogspot now handles video- this is the first snippet I came upon- one of the Greek potters at the Paros Big Pot Symposium a couple of years ago,demonstrating the traditional Greek throwing position,which I strongly recommend that you avoid. If this works,there may well be more videos to follow. By the way,we are up to over 8ooo visits to the blog over the last 3 years; I realise that proper blogs/sites do that much traffic on a slow afternoon,but Thank You all just the same. Your [surprising] interest means a great deal to me,and has added a new and intriguing element to my work. I have opened the "comments" section to allcomers again,in the hope that my hatemail friends have found something more positive to do with their lives.

I just checked to see if the video clip works,and it doesn't. I have no idea what the problem is.I'm sorry if I got your hopes up.

Just checked again- it works.These things take time.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

More from Italy

But not much more.Come by the studio if you want the whole show [i.e. more pictures of doorways,houses,drain-covers and washing-lines].Today I picked the grapes- as I thought,a very modest crop,but interesting new growth patterns on the vine might hint at a larger crop next year. It being Shmita year in 3 days' time,next year's grapes become ownerless,and anyone who would like is invited to come and pick.Tomorrow promises a group mid-morning,so I might get back on the wheel briefly,but the next studio job is to rewire the electric kiln and get down to some crystal growing- 50 or so bisced porcelain pots wait patiently on the shelves,by now doubtless a bit dusty. It is also high time I got around to fixing the roof of the gas kiln,which sags and sheds its holding buttons at inopportune moments- usually into bowls at the height of firings,when the glaze is molten...
In fact,I was thinking of my gas kiln quite often while walking around Italian cities and checking out how they span walls with domes and arches. My kiln is a box,with ceramic fibre panels lashed to the flat metal roof by the aforementioned buttons- no arch.no lateral support for the roof-structurally not nice. The answer came to me after looking at Gaudi's amazing thin brick supporting arches in a book I bought in Eilat during the Jazz festival that preceeded Italy; I don't know if it will work,but I think I'm going to cut the new ceramic fibre board into 15cm strips the width of the kiln,then slice a shallow curve into each strip and sandwhich them together to form a sort of laminated arch.This,at least,is the current plan. I have no idea if it will work,but got quite excited when the idea popped into my head.Any potters out there tried it?

Back from Italy

The ideal holiday- you have a great time,and it's wonderful to get back home. We flew to Verona,spent Shabbat in Ferrara,drove to Viarregio on the Etruscan coast,spent a day in Florence,cycled round Lucca,bathed in Montecatini Terme,and strolled around Pistoia,where they made pistols.My impression of Italian coffee received a severe battering [when did they forget to make it hot?],but they sure knew how to build. Security at Verona on the [delayed] flight home was insane.