Raku on a Winter’s Day

One of our friends asked about our raku firing process. Some of the steps are just like any other pottery process: think of the great idea, make something close to the great idea, and bisque fire it. The glazing process this time was only slightly different from the norm: 2 thin coats of a copper matte glaze, versus the usual 3 coats for most other glazes.

 

Getting ready for the actual raku firing today involved some extra steps.

  1. Unload half of the shed, including all the patio furniture you stored for the winter, to get to the raku supplies. This confuses the neighbors and makes them wonder if you’re having an unusual yard sale.

    Not-a-yard-sale
    Not-a-yard-sale
  2. Spend a minimum of 5 minutes fussing about how cold it is. Briefly admire how awesome you look in your fuzzy red hat.

    Baby, it's cold outside!
    Baby, it’s cold outside!
  3. Get out the instructions so you can remember how to build the kiln.
  4. Make about 15 trips back and forth, in and out of the house, getting supplies you forgot.
  5. Make 20 trips to and from the shed to get all the fire bricks, shelves, and stilts to set up the kiln.
  6. Load your pieces and start the firing. Rex was in charge of all things combustible, including running to the nearest gas station to get another tank of propane because we have learned from past experience.
  7. Prepare the metal cans with newspaper and other combustibles. Jen was firing some special, delicate pieces today so she was in charge of this. Plus she is picky.

    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
  8. Check the state of the kiln at least 4 dozen times.  Huddle around the kiln when you need to get warm.

    Toasty
    Toasty
  9. When all parties present agree the pieces are ready, put on your kiln-unloading gear. This includes a welder’s mask, leather apron, and Kevlar gloves. You won’t be recognizable, nor will you be able to hear anything, so plan to spend a minute or two shouting instructions at each other.
  10. Lift the lid off and get busy with your assigned task. Today, Rex was the unloading master, and Jen was the newspaper and can lieutenant. There are no pictures of this, since there were only 2 of us and no free hands to take photos.
  11. Burp the cans – take the lid off, fan it until the fire re-ignites, let it burn briefly, then cover again. Move to the next can and do the same thing. If thee can woofs at you, it’s even better. Note: do not lean over the can while doing this, as it is risky to the eyebrows.
  12. Walk away from the cans. You will want to look… don’t do it. Let the pieces cool down, and you can peek soon enough.
  13. You are already bored waiting on the cans to cool, so get out the router, a work table, and some wood you’ve been wanting to run through the router.
  14. Repeat step 4.
  15. Discuss how to use the router. Decide to read the instruction manual.
  16. Use the router together. Fuss about who is tilting the wood more. Decide that you are both under-equipped to use power tools. Make several attempts and decide your efforts are enough for today.
  17. Open the cans and see the awesomeness that has hatched. 2 pieces are pretty but cracked from the thermal shock. Breathe a sigh of relief that the others survived and are pretty! Pictures to follow soon…
  18. Go directly inside and take a hot shower, put on fuzzy pants, and take a nap.

Happy Accidents

I wanted to share a little something we’ve been working on, in hopes of conjuring more spring-like weather.  This fused glass plate started out as an accident and was compounded by a second accident.

 

photo-29

Initial plan: use Glassline pens to “draw” a flower onto a yellow glass disk, tack fuse the design, then full fuse to a clear glass disk (same size).  Outcome: we accidentally ran a full fuse instead of a tack fuse, and glass being glass likes to be thicker than the single layer we fired.  (This happened to an entire kiln load, by the way.)  The edges pulled up and rounded beautifully, while the middle was a bit thinner.  It wasn’t what I had in mind but I thought it had potential… I just had to let the ideas percolate.

 

Next plan: I landed on the idea of making the yellow flower disk the foot of a clear glass plate.  Around the edges of the plate, I would write “loves me” and “loves me not.”  Rex suggested adding little bitty flowers between the phrases, losing one petal at a time.  I was not sold on the idea initially but decided to try it.  Tack fuse to set the lettering and petals: initiated.  Outcome: pretty close to what I had in mind.

 

Next step: we discussed at length the next steps of the fusing process and decided to slump the plate onto foot and into the plate mold in one step.  Outcome: I expected the plate to tack itself to the foot, but it slumped around the foot just a bit.  Not exactly what I had in mind but it wasn’t bad… except for the devitrification on the plate.  Argh!  We’ve done quite a few firings and almost never had devit.  After getting input from a super talented glass artist on what happened, we concluded that the yucky cloudy devit happened because we fired just a few pieces (instead of a full load) on the lowest shelf (which gets hotter on the bottom and had no shelf above to help radiate the heat downward).  Now what to do.

 

Experiment: Rex taped off the foot and sand-blasted the bottom of the plate.  The outcome is pictured… I’d call this one of the most pleasant surprises.  We hope you like it, too.

Finished! Yard Art Stained Glass Project

Yard Art

We finally finished assembling and glazing the window.  Now we have to decide where we want to put it.  All of our original locations in the yard and garden don’t seem right for it anymore.  We originally that building an easel so it could stand up or a place next to the house where it could lean.  But we are afraid of wind knocking it down or a stray rock (or baseball) going through it.  Any suggestions?

Yard Art

Yard-Art Stained Glass Window – Continued

Window with Copper Foil

Let me start this post with a correction.  I had been calling this a “Barnhouse” window and Jen asked me why.  These window frames are clearly not something that would be put in a barn.  I think in my daze I meant to say “Farmhouse” window.  Regardless, these are destined to become various forms of yard or garden art.  So the work continues on it.  I thought this week’s update should highlight one of the individual panes.  By the way, this has been the easiest so far.

Window PatternFirst you cut out the pattern and number all of the pieces (before you cut them out).  A complicated pattern would be worse than a jigsaw puzzle on trying to reassemble.

Window with Glass cut

Then you cut the glass to match the pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window with Copper Foil

Then you need to apply a metal to the edges of the glass to give the solder a base to adhere to and helps to hold the pane together. This can be lead caming or copper foil. In this case, I chose to copper foil the pieces of glass. I used two types of copper foil in this pane. For the transparent pieces I used a foil with black backing and the opaque pieces I used copper backing. On the transparent pieces this will provide a better view of the edges when looking through the glass. The “foil” will disappear.

While corny, I can’t help but say, “Curses, foiled again!” everytime I get to this stage. Do you have any silly things that are part of your routine in an art project?

Cityscape Enameled Copper Pendant

Cityscape

Original design of sunrise over a city skyline.  Cloisonné silver polished smooth for striking effect.

Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments to the metal object by soldering or adhering silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel, which are often of several colors. To make this cloisonné enamel pendant, I made enamel powder into a paste, then needs to be fired in a kiln.

Cityscape