Techno-ology: Reduction Firing

Yesterday I got to fire the small reduction gas kiln at school. It was so nice to see some flames. Linda Arbuckle’s website is chalk full of wonderful hand outs about firing. Get her Reduction Firing one below:

She even has flash cards if you’d like to get really nerdy!

Techno-ology: Flippin Feldspar, The times they are a changing

Here is a post form Highwater clays (UF’s clay source) about how Feldspar is all gone. The reality is that we use what industry does. You dig here and there and eventually it is all gone:

So, the feldspar industry has been in a bit of a flux (ha!) over the past few years. Feldspar is an important melting agent, kinda like a natural frit, which promotes fusion and vitrification within a glaze and clay body.

I’ve sung the praises of feldspar before (Feldspar Rocks!), so I won’t go into all the technical aspects here. This is more of a mineral update. Some time ago we all learned that G200 was no longer being produced, although G200HP, which made up about 70% of G200, would still be available in its place. Now production of G200HP has ceased and the mine is closed. That was at the end of last year. At that time Custer Feldspar was the only commercially available potash feldspar. In anticipation, we squirreled away a lot of G200HP and tried to let folks know that our stocks would soon be depleted. Well that time has come. By the time you read this, porcelain production will have used up every last full bag of G200HP.

Custer has been mined in South Dakota for about 80 years and long-term supply looks good. It’s pretty similar in composition to G200 though it does have a higher iron content. The  differences in potassium and sodium levels are within a percent or two, according to the chemical analyses provided by Pacer.

New on the North American market is a potash feldspar from Spain, G200EU. It is very similar to the original G200 feldspar. Of course, due to shipping costs it is more expensive than any other feldspar we use. We will stock this feldspar for retail sale and it’s also available for custom recipes on request. However, we are hesitant to depend on it for clay production due to location and cost. G200EU comes in 44# bags and smaller weighed out quantities.

In order to understand the difference in the feldspars beyond their chemical analysis sheet we ran melt tests at cones 6 and 10 oxidation with G200, G200HP, G200EU, and Custer feldspars.

Testing at cone 6 oxidation

Testing at cone 10 oxidation

Custer and original G200 appeared most similar in terms of color, while G200EU and original G200 are the most similar in terms of melt, and should substitute out for one another without problems. However, anytime raw material changes occur it becomes extremely important to test. Sometimes potters are working right on the edge without knowing it, and these slight differences in oxide levels can cause unpredictable results or failure. Please contact us if you have any questions about feldspar futures!


Remember that KonaF4 Feldspar (my fave) is a soda-spar and Custer Feldspar is potash based. They have two very different melting properties (I actually got to bust this knowledge out in the glaze room with some undergrads last week, yay). A feldspar isn’t just a feldspar so test, test, test!

 Beware: Don’t sink like a stone!

Ayumi Horie: Instagtam

BPP Instagram, Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.54.48 AM

What do you need? Who cares?

I, like many, struggle with how technology is permeating our lives. I dig it, I use it. Still, my weary old timer inner self is cautious and concerned. I know my nature, how quickly I can change to rely on a tool or framework. (In the same way you can become entirely reliant on a certain rib or trimming tool). How adaptable we are, perhaps in a unidirectional manner. I am not convinced adaptation is always the wisest route. If we look at any governed interface we see that perimeters of use are implemented before a thing is made public. Libraries for instance have rules to make the system run well and benefit the majority and individual. Everything has a standard operating procedure for optimal use (kilns and toasters included). Rules are to keep a user in check.

We in that past have had clear societal and operational codes of conduct for things and self. However here, now, in this time of great tech we are in the position to write those codes ourselves on a small social scale, that with social media might have bigger implications. The individual through practice can establish group etiquette where society and operational code have not established them. Sure, don’t put your elbows on the table, don’t talk with food in your mouth, don’t talk on your cell phone in the library, on the bus, in the cafe? Don’t post un accredited news on your Facebook account? How many times is it acceptable to drop your phone in a glaze bucket? When it comes to social interaction it is the human norm to act as groups to create codes of conduct organically through time. But perhaps the individual should take into account their influence on and by the interface and group. My interest here goes beyond simple etiquette, a morphing beast, a thing that does not have abounding clear principles but rather takes effort to establish with each group in each environment. When it comes to social interaction it is the human norm to act as groups to create codes of conduct organically through time. But perhaps the individual should take into account their influence on and by the interface and group. Who values what action? What it beneficial and interesting and what is offensive? There are no clear ubiquitous answers. So self imposed rules seem like a much needed public statement to create calm from the chaos.

So what do you need? Who cares?

Ayumi Horie has established instagram rules for herself that I might suggest you take a gander at. on her website.

Ayumi, instagram, Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 9.54.17 AM

I of course have different needs and surmise that different people care about my postings then her- hence our rules are different. I am the generation and mindset that lumps personal and professional together more then not. Where work days don’t have set hours or locations (for an interesting tid bit on the history of the cubicle and work space culture check out Episode 250 of Spark on CBC) I am the young and novice persuasion that I am my pots, that all life influences them, my filter is getting stronger though and not just the instagram one. (In a year I will surely read this and cringe.)

According to Ayumi I have a mere 20 days left of being of the appropriate age to share selfies (It better be a good look’n 20 days). Bah- I say if you look good and feel good and have something beneficial, joyous and neat to share- share it. Here is the weariness: I know addiction can set in and quantity diminish quality, the value to you and others of a post can be changed by your posting etiquette. I wonder about rarity in interaction and the potency there in. It is so easy just to zombie-scroll through all the content we are asked to see. I want to live in a world where interactions are sincere and meaningful. I believe whole heartedly in open-source, transparent making, access to information and the power of story and community. Things that social media can and should foster. But when is it all too much? When is it not real and unthoughtful? (Listen to Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast Episode 61, for some thought on thoughtfulness and the purpose of media for Galloway, Kieffer and Kline). Instagram at first was simply the easiest way to upload pictures to my flickr account- a self-cataloging resource for my personal reference, that just happens to be semi-public. Now my thoughts to these things are changing. Follow me @bpracticalpottery you can see my latest on the Blog side bar or follow online or through the app. My story annually takes me through intense making in the winter studio and time for thought in the summer. So scroll back for in process shots and get ready for a lot of linking and featured food and pots this a summer.

As an experiment I have said goodbye to FB and am resolved to say hello again, it being a ceramic tool I cherish and a personal one a query. Search B Practical Pottery and add to your feed for neat daily ceramic links. (See potter Kristen Kieffer’s instructions if you need to know how to do this on her See What you Like post)

Panel discussions at this NCECA flit and flattered over what content is good content for our social media- our ceramic social media and our ceramic works themselves. I question that all the time for this blog (Tell me, what is it you’d like to discuss feel free to shoot me an email anytime: Social media by premiss is very good at connecting like-minded individuals. This is wonderful for getting your foot in the door to neat things, shows and opportunity (I am forever grateful for how instagram has opened people’s studio lives up to me) but is amazingly like preaching to the choir when it comes to the group. Perhaps this is my reason for blogging- it is open, not bound by my social groupings or frameworks. We need to actively invite people into our lives, our studios, our thoughts. With the effort this take and the questionable benefit to oneself. I wonder, where are our feedback loops? Are we just sending well meaning data into the void? So I put forth to you- comment, like and discuss, take a moment to absorb the content you are faced with before scrolling, flipping and flicking your way to more, and I will try and do the same. We have the chance to make something dynamic and multifaceted for the ceramic field and our daily lives.


Techno-ology: Tales of the Red Clay Rambler Podcast

Ben Carter has something great on the go. Something really great. He is interviewing amazing ceramicists, talking shop and about all aspects of ceramic life. It is the sort of conversation I so wish was part of everyday life. Please check it out! And feel free to chat me up about any of the topics presented in the interviews! Enjoy!

Tales of the Red Clay Rambler Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 10.27.49 PM

Techno-ology: 3D Printing at Medalta and Spark Podcast

For today’s techo tid bit. We have a film straight out of the Medicine Hat wonder of Medalta about 3D printing. I would also like to suggest the CBC Spark Podcast Episode 217 that speaks to the implications of home 3D printing and ironically uses the example of a broken coffee cup!

Techno-ology: Disruptive Tech and the Human touch (If the bicycle came after the automobile we would call it progress)

It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.

Bridget's BDay-3

Cry with joy that is!

For I find myself from time to time haphazardly embracing new tech with a childlike wonderment that betrays my aging skeptical Luddite heart, laden with a bouquet of blossoming William Morris ideals (Sorry, I had to drag him into this, you’ll see why. And it really is my birthday. I have one every year. Even when I was three, see that photo?). Today is the day to talk about such tech new or not. Rather than dive directly into say talking about the melting point of Alumina or decal emulsion set times or jigger speeds and torque, yes, the breadth in esoteric topics under the rubric of ceramic tech is overwhelming, I’ll endeavor here create a bit of a framework for the future by questioning what tech means to/for the potter.

Someone once told me that if the bicycle came after the automobile it would be considered progress. For the steady march of time and human desire for newness pumped up by our economic models ensure that change is the constant. The truth is that no matter what age, we humans are an adaptive sort with very short memories and thus culturally meld with the new regardless of it being in our best interest. Ceramics can not run from its past. Where the hype and applications of rapidprototypers, object scanners and 3D printers are infiltrating the personal studio the mud on the hands of ancient ceramicists is attached to every mechanically rendered vessel and re-fab molecule. Ceramics is a beast that breathes the fumes of industry like oxygen. But when is the hand too far removed? The studio potter is a result of all that is modern. Esoteric and marginal the studio potter is validated by its ancient roots and justified by the application to new tech. New tech however is what propels us forth, stuck in the cogs of time.

The great William Morris father of the Arts and Crafts Movement ( his reaction to the not so distant industrial revolution) focused on the humanizing of design through simple, crafted forms and the honest expression of material values aka. the human touch. With the hand (the original tool) so removed from material and now dedicated to the manipulation of tech it is clear to argue that it is the psyche that delivers needed human touch. But is this material craft? Design? Hence the endless mashing of labels “Designer Maker” and oh “Artist Craftsperson”. Is it the application of tech to make small numbers of things that keeps studios studios and not manufactures? Craft often crosses disciplines, crosses material boundaries, though our Arts Councils and Galleries and search engines still categorize by material and production method the field is moving against those definitions. It is however those definitions and the intimacy with the hand and material that make for craft. I am concerned for the presence of the hand, the human touch. When our many daily objects manufactured in the greatest numbers are seemingly devoid of human touch, through use it is hard to imagine them as being inextricably linked to a human maker, designer, machine operator, grandmother. The web of object production may be massive but it is human. Does it come back to Morris’s preaching of the importance of joy in labour and my urge for a joy in use- a lasting joy in use and not the disposable, to define craft?Does the direct intimacy of creating something by hand for another combat disposability? For is finely crafted not to denote speciality and a long existence through time? Is it not something made to last? Stuck in the cog of time indeed.

The dichotomy of cutting and edge and ancient is so intriguing! Dare I commend ceramics for being just as adaptable as humanity but flaunt it still being greatly about the ideals of Morris, small numbers and intimate making? This may be a new way to consider the growing presence and excitement of tech in the studio environment. I’d muse that it may come down of course to what may simply be a machine esthetic- but that is no solution. For we have people intricately hand making objects that look machined and objects that look made by hand mass produced.

The waters are muddy, but lets dive in and actually talk about melting points and emulsions and torque speeds.

Techno-ology: Info. on the technical aspects of ceramics. From melting points to expansion rates and sharpening tool tips to peeing in clay. All the treacherously techo terms and not so nonsensical garb will be dealt with.

Techno-ology: Glaze Catalogs

For years I have been painstakingly making, testing, photographing and compiling glazes. There are some people who just hone in on the most appropriate glazes- I am more the anthology of glaze type. I find it very interesting how other artists go about investigating the possibilities. Here is how Ben Fiess has gone about it by publishing his findings,search engine ala blog: