A Celadon Sea

I’m a tad tired.

Since the last post I reconsidered my position on the blue celadon. I was in the throes of indecision all of Monday. And then decided to take the plunge and mix 3kg of my recipe.

I also decided to amalgamate the three smaller batches that I had  – three different recipes, each of which was lacking in some way – and use that for glazing too. So Tuesday morning I was there at the Shadbolt centre, ready to glaze.

The thing about celadon though, is you have to get it thick or it won’t be blue.

And the thing about glazing. If you glaze the inside of a pot, you have to wait a while, even a day, for the outside to be completely dry – the pot will lose its moisture through the outside, and the glaze. Won’t. Stick. To. The. Outside. if you don’t WAIT.

So Tuesday was a waiting game. Glaze. Wait for it to be dry enough. Do a layer on the outside. Wait for it to be dry enough, Do another layer… each time more and more moisture, each time a longer wait. You try to get it dry enough so there are no glaze drips along the sides. But it’s hard and you get drips. The pots are cold, saturated with water. They’re all celadon except a test pot and the other people make fun of me (‘would you like some celadon with your celadon, sir? how about some salad on your celadon’). All good fun of course 🙂

Then we load the pots. And it takes 3 long hours. There are 7 of us. And one of us makes buttons. The most exquisite little things. But she comes in with more than a thousand, of which a few hundreds are carefully placed between the other pots. With tweezers.

Then a few anxious days while the pots are hopefully drying in the turned off kiln. You hope that they will dry enough so the super thick glaze doesn’t crack/flake off/crawl. You have nightmares about thick glaze running onto kiln shelves and wrecking them.

Then Friday comes – firing day. I’ve been training to fire the gas kiln, and so I wake up at 6AM, drink a cup of tea, and get to the centre at 7AM. The firer is not there and I can’t do anything on my own. She is usually very punctual and I start to get worried, but it turns out her car was blocked by some inconsiderate fool getting his coffee. And so we start.

The first part of the day goes without incident. I light the kiln, and add air and gas at requisite times, and the kiln is chugging along. So after the initial reduction period, I go to the studio to do some work. It’s 1PM and my day is just starting. I finish a few mugs, throw 15 glaze testers/espresso cups, and then after some soup, decide to make cereal bowls and throw a baker’s dozen.

All that time we’re checking the kiln’s progress. And in the evening we run into trouble. The kiln slows down. Which is tricky because it always does at that point, so it’s hard to notice something is out of the ordinary. But by 8:30PM it is clear that it’s not moving as fast as it should. And that we can’t do much. We’ve given it all the gas pressure that we can and it’s barely moving.

We check the cones at 9PM. And cone 8 is not even down – We need cone 10 to be at 2-3 o’clock. And we realize we’re at sea. They will come lock up at 10PM and we’re not nearly there.

Salvation comes in the form of Linda, the centre technician. I mention to her that we seem to be stuck, and she comes down to the kiln shed to look. One look at the flame and she says we have it in too much reduction (not enough oxygen for the gas to burn). Then she pulls out the plug out of the spy hole and a long, blue flame, about 10″ long, comes shooting out, as if to confirm what she says.

Seeing her fire the thing was impressive. She is calm, confident, and handles the situation deftly. First of all by fending off the security people and letting us stay until the firing is actually over… What she does is counter intuitive but it works – to make the temperature rise, she lowers the gas. So the flame is a lot weaker, and less blue, and the kiln starts moving along.

But by now it is 10PM and the firing is far from over. And I realize that I am very tired and that I have had nothing to eat since that soup at 3PM, and that there is nowhere to get food, until I remember the old apple tree outside, and go out and shake it. Apples fall to the ground, I look for them in the dark, they’re a bit wormy but I bite off the parts that are ok and barely even chew them.

We check the cones a few more times. And finally at 11PM it seems close to the end – cone 9 is over. We wait some more for 10 to start to bend but it doesn’t, so we decide to call it a day at 11:20PM, almost 16 hours after the firing started, and 17.5 hours after my day started. I drive home in a daze (luckily I was not on my bike that day), certain that if the glaze thickness and drips didn’t get my pots, the weird firing would.

I sleep a lot over the weekend. We catch the latest Manoel de Oliveira film at the film festival. Have steamed buns at new town bakery. Go visit Olivia, of Treasure Green tea store fame. And then it’s time to unload the kiln.

And it’s beyond my wildest dreams. One pot caught a flame and dripped a bit,  a civilized drip that was done away with summarily. Two or three iron spotted slightly, in a modest and not egregious way. And one was a little less blue than the others and will be re glazed.

But I put my pots on the table, and it was like looking at the sea after a storm. The blue celadon sea. And I allowed myself a sleep deprived smile of satisfaction.

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This is on my balcony this morning. The light is less than ideal – it’s been pouring for days. I added some non celadon mugs just for contrast…

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This is a close up of one of my pinch pots. I love making them there is something very basic in taking a piece of clay and doing what a 5 year old would do – pinching a hole in it. Except the wall is thin and regular, and the clay is a pristine translucent porcelain. And the glaze is a luscious blue celadon.

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One of my hand built slab mugs, with my stamps on it. These are surprisingly hard to make – both technically, because they are thin and the slab likes to slump. And conceptually, making them work as a pot. I made this glaze especially to go on this type of work. I love the mystery of them, and, when I get them right, the balance between slump and rise, between (lack of) foot and rim, between being adult and being child like, like some forgotten childhood day dream.

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More stamping. And you can see how the glaze goes well on an indented mug.

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The handle, ahem, fell off this one as I was holding it to glaze it (always a bad idea), so I decided to use it to test my satin clear. I love this clear – it’s not quite shiny, and it’s a little blue. Just a shade. And it goes well with texture – precisely because there is not shine to detract from the texture. This is actually the base glaze for one of the celadons that I scratched – it doesn’t look very good as a celadon but looks great as a clear. My concern is that it may be a bit too tight – and so I will check it for thermal shock after I finish this post. But I love this pot and I hope it makes it – not to mention that I’ll then be able to use this glaze on more pots.

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3 thoughts on “A Celadon Sea

  1. pricklypotter Post author

    Thanks for the comment – I am a huge Tolkien fan and yet it hasn’t occurred to me – sometimes you need an extra set of eyes to see what’s under your nose!

    Reply

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