Busy, Busy, Busy

… But is it a good busy? Is it a productive busy, or is it just spinning wheels?

Just this weekend, it’s been 2 days of loading and test firing the gas barrel kiln. It was start and stop as new brass nozzles were spun into place. The factory #40s definitely passed more gas, but judging from the smell of unburnt propane, even with the shutters on the burners open full, we couldn’t get the kiln breathing well enough to fire past candling. After shutting down the kiln in order to crawl under the kiln to change out the nozzles, we also switched out the variable pressure regulator with the factory fixed regulator. It worked well enough through candling and the first 1000 degrees, but stalled out flat at 1200. After calling “bullshit” on the second experiment, the variable pressure regulator got put back on and it was a race to bisque temp before running out of gas.

Made it to 1740 and the take away lesson for next time is that we’ll be running the line under 5lbs of pressure with the old nozzles in. Also need to install new gauges on both the regulator and the line so we can properly work our way through the problems, testing until we get the results that we feel comfortable with.

Managed to glue together another plastic positive for an embossed print to add to Wendsdays’s positive. Looking forward to this week’s printing session.

Made 3 great dinners. (Always a plus). Had friends over for dinner to hear everyone else’s studio stories… always a favorite.

… and settling into recovery from Andor’s Highschool graduation last Sunday. (Super proud of his accomplishment!)  … my birthday was on Tuesday, and my Mom and Dad took off for their drive back home on Wendsday (which left me time for a nice long talk with Troy).

Jess kept puttering around, with multiple meetings, cutting prints, playing at the silver bench, and generally being patent and supportive of the world around her.

Like I said… busy. But other than the dinners, nothing much got actually got done. A lot of doing, but not many finish lines got crossed. There were a few celebrations, but all the busy work that I famously measure myself by just didn’t seem to happen. I’m suspecting that I’m becoming numb to the common movement that graces our days here at home. That’s taking a lot for granted that probably shouldn’t.

Product Testing

Summary… The practice of using an underglaze as a base coat under a slip stenciled surface is proving to be hit and miss.

So here’s where this stuff gets real. I know the work that’s currently being made by in the slow makers movement is more arts and crafts and less product, but it it ok for a piece that’s in hard daily use for 5 months to have a wardrobe malfunction? Art is Art. It’s not expected to function without repercussions… right? But truly functional work is expected to be heirloom worthy, something that’s kept and treasured, a spalling surface kind of disqualifies the work. I guess I don’t really need validation for that point.

Dispite building up slip layers to help enhance adherence of the finished surface, the thickly applied slip is susceptible to popping off. At several points I noticed that I as having problems with the slip adhering to any surface that’s been underglazed, in particular, the black underglaze. 

The answer (untested answer) is to move back to using colored slips as a base instead of underglazes to build stenciled designs on.

I wonder if anyone else is having this problem and just not bringing it up?

Studio Notes, Orifices

During the initial firing of kiln earlier in the year, Jess and I had problems hitting temp. (Actually we had problems getting anywhere near hitting temp dispite burning through 3 tanks worth of propane.)  Before the inogrial firing, we had switched out the brass orifices. Originally it came home to the studio jetted for natural gas. Big hole. Propane needs much smaller holes. Im not sure how it happened, but we were given fitting drilled out to the wrong size. In the picture below, the one on the left is the fitting from the last firing. The fitting on the right is the recommended #40. Big difference. We’ll see how this plays out. From here on out, I think we’ll stick to doing our own light machining.

The correct #40 orifice for our propane burner is on the right.

Remnant Embossing 

I’ve been saving these bits and pieces of leftover plastic cutouts for years, remnants from cutting out the paper stencils that I use on my ceramic surfaces. They’ve been squirreled away in shoeboxes boxs until the I could get access to a press bed to try using them to emboss designs into sheets of paper, and if it works, scale it up and play it out in larger designs.
In swoops Jess, dropping a 1300lb press into our lives, now is obviously the time.
The premis is pretty straight forward and is being used mainly as a proof of concept, but it’s simplicity lead to compelling results.

* Use the plastics stencil remnants to block out simple compositions, cutting and glueing them into place on a fresh plastic sheet.

* Soak a piece of drawing paper (watercolor paper for this round) and towel dry.

* Lay the plastic sheet with the design face up on a protective layer of newsprint that’s situated on the the press bed.

* Overlay the predampened paper over the plastic design centering the paper as needed.

* Cover with felt printing blankets.

* Adjust the roller to give a firm squish (7 threads showing worked for me).

* Roll print through one pass.

* Pull back the blankets and peel back the paper to reveal the embossed print.
VaLa! It works!

What are they used for?

Well the readability is perfect for what it is, a nice embossed print, but it’s all shadow play and being fairly dependant on optimal lighting to carry across any real distance, I don’t think it’s suitable for framing.

At the scale of this test, the prints could be used as interesting extra, a “thank you” for studio patrons. Anyone that’s bought work from us over the past decade knows how I like to tuck little extras into the boxes going out. Those small nuggets of silver used in the years past have now gotten pretty rare. These might be a welcome change.


Let’s just see how this plays out…

I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time, but getting past the gatekeeper that guarded the etching press that’s sitting idle at UOP had proven problematic. The problem mostly being that the gatekeeper is a complete bitch, ( I guess some see granting access to a community resource as a small game of “king of the hill”).

So when Jess dropped her press that she just pulled off the mountain top into place downtown, I knew now was the moment I’d been waiting for. 

Jess’s Sturges Press in place at the Write Place

The plan is simple. Use the plastic remnants left over from cutting out paper stencils to block in a design. Soak a sheet of watercolor paper and use the press to emboss the design into the sheet. Simple…

… and it worked!!!

Just Daydreaming

This was what was in front of me…

The work always starts with knuckling under and flowing into the details…

But Jess has my head floating somewhere else. With added encouragement from friends, we’ve been looking for a space downtown or a cleared an vacant property to drop our kilns into. We need to stabilize our studio and set down some roots and in the process, start training a new generation to burn kilns. ( I can’t wait to describe Jess’s full idea.) The evil plan has gotten pretty well rounded out… not overly complex, but it’s simplicity has the power to make changes. 

Out of all the logistical and financial questions floating around, the big question is “Will the city let us do this?” The city of Stockton isn’t currently known for being open to progress and definatly not known for its long standing defense for the arts. In a relitivly short time, this space could house a kilnyard with multiple gas kilns’a learning studio, gardens, and basic quarters. Everyone has to just not say “No”.

We are thinking about dropping in a Q Cabin for the main kiln shed. 

Simple studio spaces can be stacked up as needed. The quarters and gardens… well who knows.

Back to the details in front of me. Enjoying spending a short hour in the night studio with a glass of wine, engaging conversation with my favorite smile, and more collab work with Jess. This is what we live for.


Still touching base on my firefly obsession with a new test design. No point in letting the motif go just yet. Using the fireflies as a metaphor for love just makes so much sense to me… That and they are compositionally compelling, adding variation and rhythm to the design. They even seem to lend a feeling of nastalgia, like an old simple block print. 

All of this is just speculation until the final firing, but it’s still a nice after work daydream that Jess and I get to pass back and forth. 


Filing those wareboards up slowly but steadily in batches of 2’s and 5’s. 


Fucked up is easily more interesting than pretty…

It’s a simple statement that, if it’s taken at face value, says quite a bit about the maker that believes it to be true. It’s a safe leap to assume that anyone using this as a precept to propel a body of work forward is a sure sign of someone perpetually in search of problems to work through and/or problems to rally against.

Unfortunately, I believe in this precept.
I apparently need drama in my story line in order to validate the story. 

There’s no real story happening without the story being shaped by at least one struggle.

No struggle.

No story.

It’s as simple as that.