Traditional celadon

Recent firing with traditional porcelain stone glaze. In the past I’ve tried but failed to use modern materials like feldspar and kaolin to capture the beautiful, unctuous surface and depth of porcelain stone celadons. In this glaze the coloration is completely due to iron occurring naturally in the material.

Blades

I use X-acto blades all the time, some modified for specific tasks like carving porcelain or scraping glaze off of feet.

I’m not sure if it’s all part of a vast X-acto conspiracy, but it seems that a lot of people don’t know that these blades can be easily & quickly sharpened?  While there are a number of sharpening methods (even just using bare fired porcelain) that will work, it can be tedious to get the sharpening angle right.  The most convenient method I have found is an angled sharpener (pictured).  Just a few quick passes through the ceramic sharpener gets the blades useable again.  It’s faster for me to sharpen the blade than switch out a dull blade for a new one.  (Unfortunately my sharpener is approximately 45% degree sharpening angle (> 20 degrees per side), it might be better to have a narrower-angled sharpener.)

Also note that not all X-acto blades are stainless steel.  You don’t want rusty blades all over your studio or in your reclaim.  A 10 or 100-pack of stainless steel #11 blades might last you a lifetime.

An alternative to X-acto blades are stainless steel surgical blades. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sixes perfect for a number of jobs. I usually use the blades without a handle. They come in ten-packs and last a really long time if you sharpen them.

Pouring Glaze with a Watering Can

I’m sure that using a garden watering can for pouring glazes is a common technique, but when I came up with the idea I thought I was a genius 🙂 The design of a watering can ensures a constant, strong stream of liquid during pouring that is perfect for glazing. Bubbles are reduced since the watering can pours liquid from the bottom of the can.

Pouring the Outside

Once the inside is glazed, I will wait until the next day to glaze the outsides.  It’s important not to overload the bisque ware with water.

I use an old electric wheel for pouring the outsides.  It’s important to rotate the wheel at sufficient speed so that glaze does not gather on the inside rim of the pot.

Here’s a good video by John Britt about pouring the outsides on a turntable.

Low-fire Electric Kiln

I’ve finally gotten a new low-fire electric kiln. This kiln is designed to fire up to 1000°C, so it’s useful only for on-glaze enamels and bisque. Total cost was 2900RMB, which is about $420USD.

Slow drying

I have a couple “wet boxes”.  These are plastic bins with lids into which a layer of plaster has been poured.  The plaster is kept wet in order to maintain humidty, slowing (if not stopping) the drying process.

However, I haven’t used the wet boxes in a long time.  I’ve found it much easier and more convenient to simply wrap each piece in it’s own plastic trash bag.  Pieces stored in this manner can be trimmed weeks or even months later.

Ware placed on MDF bats and wrapped in plastic trash bags.
Ware is placed mouth-down on an MDF board to prevent warping. The boards mold easily, alternatively only wrap the ware.
After two months the ware is still wet, although the moisture is now distributed more uniformly.
Bags of clay are double-bagged in large heavy-duty plastic bags. A piece of soaked plaster is placed in the bottom of the bag.

Finally Sunny

Work usually slows to a crawl during Winter in Jingdezhen.  Although it rarely dips below freezing, the weather is very wet.  Apart from the fact that it is quite uncomfortable to work in unheated studios, clay also dries slowly.  On the rare sunny days one can find balconies filled with drying porcelain as well as heavy blankets being aired out.

Kiln & Firing

This page is in progress and will cover my kiln and firing.  For now it is just a place to store my notes.

The older bottles can be very dangerous. Sometimes the top pressure-release valves leak, even after closing.
Electric water heater and gas filter.