Friday, July 31, 2009

Chanukiah Assembly 2

Here's the shamash mini-assembly,followed by the chanukiah on its base. I try to check carefully that it's set up straight and level,although with all that clay drying out,some invariably start to twist and turn,continuing to do so in the glaze firing. Notice that after all this work,we still don't have a functioning chanukiah until candle/oil holders are made and fitted. My current holders are made from [equal] sections of a fat rolled-out coil,impaled on a round stick and rolled over a ridged board. After tidying up,I spray the lot with water and cover well for a couple of days to let all the parts get to know each other. Every now and then I check for cracks - there are a lot of complex and stressed joins here,so you have to expect a few - they can usually be smoothed out,but sometimes reappear in firing.Life is hard. If you're planning to cover the chanukiah with slip be careful - I've lost a few that got too wet and collapsed dramatically and messily.Use a blow-torch. Glazing is another story [who has a bucket that big?] - I learned a technique from the old Cadbury's milk chocolate ads,which I'll show you if we get that far and I remember.

Chanukiah Assembly 1

Now I start sticking the rings together - upside down for support and stability - using suitable lumps of soft clay and SLIPPO,my wonderful altered slip [it's flocculated! it's deflocculated!] that needs no scoring,doesn't crack on drying and sticks like crazy. Would you like the recipe?
I'm intentionally generous with the clay - trimming and tidying comes later. in the last [top] picture,the ring section has been gingerly lowered onto a rolled/slabbed SLIPPO'd strip and carefully secured - this is to stop the arms of the chanukiah waving about during drying and firing;maybe it's unnecessary,but I've never dared to fire one without it.

Let's make a Chanukiah

And let's make it complicated. Starting with 5-6 kilos of nice soft clay and a firmly-fixed large bat.Of course,you could start with a smaller one. Centre the clay and spread it into a thick flat disk 3-4cms thick [I didn't think of photographing this bit].Divide this into 4 concentric rings,going right down to the bat in between rings. Then "open" each ring in turn,leaving a good base,raise the 2 walls of each ring a bit,then fold them together and seal well to form 4 hollow concentric rings. Is that at all clear?
Wire the lot off and throw another ring for the shamash- also throw a conical base and squash its top to form an oval to recieve the ring of the chanukiah. When drier,trim both sides round,then slice as shown.Listen out for the little sigh of air escaping when you cut each ring. Notice that you have parts for 2 chanukiot! Did you throw 2 bases?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Click on the title if you want to watch a short video of me carving the fluted decoration on one of those jugs. I realise that the soundtrack is fairly inaudible at times - believe me,you're not missing much.

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Mugs and Jugs,Thumstops and Bumstops

Our first attempt at a Summer pottery workshop at Tel Hai seems to have been well received by the seven folk who took part. There was a gas [reduction] firing and,thanks to Liora and Dror,a salt-firing - both giving good results.
Back in the studio,having finished the last round of firings, I am happily back on the wheel,hoping to get a couple of glaze kilns together in honour of the forthcoming Holiday season,which stretches from Rosh HaShana [18th Sept] to Simchat Torah [11th Oct]. The shelves are quite full at the moment,so there's no pressure - I think it's time to make another round of chanukiot: apart from a good supply of the French stoneware,there's a sizeable lump of the coarse red stoneware from the lanterns [maybe make another lantern?] which looked good with the Nuka glaze [maybe make some slab serving dishes?]
Meanwhile,I started with some larger mugs [much in demand among yeshiva bocherim].and some liter jugs [a kilo of clay,conveniently,makes a generous liter jug] - both of which seemed to call for a thumbstop,which I enjoy making anyway. i think they add visual interest as well as being welcomingly comfortable and supportive when picking up a heavy-ish container. Some of the planes and angles of their attachment are interestingly tricky to work out,and they always remind me [wistfully,from my motorbiking youth] of the bump at the back of a bike seat [the bumstop] that stops you flying off when you open the throttle and roar off down the road.[Sigh].

Monday, July 13, 2009

Technological Breakthrough

It took most of the morning,but I have just finished paying my 2-monthly income tax,V.A.T. and Social Security payments online for the first time,saving me a trip to the bank and giving me a satisfying feeling of participation in the Modern Era. I also unloaded a sparse kiln of [decal] letters and lustres,marking the end of another cycle of making[5 glaze kilns,1 lustre]. Two of the lustres [yellow and orange] which were well past their use-by date have finally ceased to function [the yellow came out a pale muddy cream,the orange a not-unpleasant brown] - a reminder to buy in small quantities next time. Tomorrow is the first day of our inaugural Tel Hai Summer Workshop,which most of you are going to miss. Just don't come crying afterwards.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Third Year [Details]

Summer Workshop Update: I'll be sending an email to you brave few who have already signed up for this coming Tuesday/Wed/Thursday's workshop with some more details - if you're still deliberating- there's still room for you!

Third Year Work

Second Year Crit

As you can see,there was a strange rash of oversized handles attached to otherwise quite good teapots.

First and Second Year Work

From last week's end-of-year critique - as usual,an emotional affair for all concerned.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Designer's Despair

Older readers may recall the "keep clay off your stereo" device [Dec 2005,if I'm not mistaken]. Here's another use for the toilet roll tube as ipod protector. Save Money! Recycle! Invent!