Thursday, July 30, 2009

Up Date

Yes I have been busy. No, I haven't been blogging. Or taking pictures. Or doing anything beside being busy. 
I have worked at our little shop. 

I have taught a morning workshop in paper weaving to 7-10 year old kids. 

I have taught a weekend workshop in temari balls to 6 adults. 

I did 6 hours of spinning and dyeing demonstration for the New Brunswick Crafts Council at their summer shop. 

I spent a hot sunny day washing clothes and hanging them on the neighbours clothes line because my dryer broke.

I don't want to talk about it. 

I've cooked and cleaned and tried to wrestle with some of the piles of things in my house.

I got a call that my grandmother lost her battle with cancer. 

I have ignored the big garden and tried half heartedly to do something about my irises that are rotting because of all the wet and weeds. 

I am scheduled to start my Fredericton Arts Alliance Artist in Residence week tomorrow so I have been getting ready for that.

I found out that I start back to work a week earlier than I thought. August 24 instead of August 31. 

I feel like my summer hasn't happened and now I am looking at it being over in three weeks. 

I am tired. 

And in case you haven't noticed, I haven't felt very much like blogging.

I feel slightly over extended.

Having said all of that, I think that I am going to take a small break from blogging. 

Maybe something will show up here before Sept 1, but more than likely not.

Thanks for all your love and support and I'll see you in September

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Iris Garden

I decided to try something a little different when I did my dye session a few weeks ago and put together colours that I normally wouldn't.

Here is the result of my experiment.
The singles.....
And the yarn. The colours are a bit washed out.
This is a little bit better. I am actually going to keep this one and find something to make out of it.

Iris Garden
138 yds
4 oz
my own hand dyed fleece
100% merino

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One fish two fish....

One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a fish alive;
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let him go again.
Why did yo let him go?
Because he bit my finger so!
Which finger did he bite?
This little finger on the right!

The fish are finally wired and hung! The are swimming on the way into the bathroom. One of the few previously empty wall spaces in the house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hot summer days (and nights)

A few weeks ago, I had a dye session where I dyed about 2 pounds of fleece. I love days like that! Over the past few weeks, I have been spinning a lot of that fleece into yarn. Victoria has been given quite a workout! I love spinning on her, but I still prefer plying on the S10. The bobbins are bigger for one, and the bobbin lead drive feels better to me when plying.

This is "hot summer days". I think that maybe it was a wish and a prayer this summer that we would have some hot summer days. So far, the only really hot day that I remember was the one that I was pulling pots out of a 900 degree kiln. That wasn't quite what I had in mind.
I usually just ply the yarn on itself, but this time I thought that I might try something a little different. I had spun some black merino a while back and it was just sitting on its bobbin still. The original intention was to ply it into a black 2 ply for use in my hand spun scarves.
Instead it ended up with the hot summer days.
So I guess that it can be called "Hot Summer Days and Nights"

100% merino
Orange- my own dyed
Black -Commercially dyed
170 yards
6.3 oz

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bike Bugs

The older kids biked to the farm yesterday. It was raining a bit, but they didn't seem to care. Which is a good thing this summer, because around here, if you don't want to get a little damp, most days you would end up huddled inside.
But I digress....
They all made it home at the appointed time and Mira comes in looking like this....

It seems along the way, they stopped and picked some cattail leaves/fronds/spikes/ whatever they are called, and stuck them in their helmets so that they would be like bike bugs. I had a really good laugh.

Mira's comment, spoken with great enthusiasm...."The cars all stopped for us! Every one!"

Small wonder!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Raku Pots

When I was a full time student, I took first year clay. After I graduated from the textiles program, I went back and took second year clay. I could have gone back for third year but the student loans were adding up and I figured that it was probably time to find a job. Sigh.

I spent the first day that we were making pots focused on throwing. It was not quite like riding a bike. The first pot that I threw was beautiful. The second was alright. And the third ended up in the muck pile. Peter gave a throwing demonstration and along with the explanations I started to remember a bit of what I had learned about 17 years ago.
I managed to get some measure of control over the forms that I was throwing but by no means was I in complete control.

I had taken a night class in 2000 so I had thrown since my student days. It was good to get back to it. I just counted and I threw 17 bowls! Oh my!
One of the other things that I really enjoy doing is building boxes. I hand built some during my 2000 night class and was planning to make some more this time around. Peter showed us a couple of videos and one of them had a fellow that uses an extruder. After a quick look at the extruder forms that the school has, I decided to make some extruded boxes.

I made some little boxes and some bigger ones. There were also some end bits that I thought would make interesting as small vessels.
Here are two more boxes and a vessel of sorts.
Another box.
On Wednesday, our last day to build, Mira came by and made a cup. She came back on Friday to glaze it. Liam came with her and I gave him a bowl to glaze. They both turned out really well.
Yet another box.
This one is my favorite box.
One of the other things that I made years ago was a mold for fish. I built clay fish and a friend helped to make a plaster cast of them. I brought the mold in and after I had made some fish I offered the mold to anyone else that wanted to use it. By the end were were referring to the fish as "those damn fish". They were slightly awkward to place on the small bricks because the backs were slightly hollowed out but had a hanging flap of clay on the back that made them uneven.
More fish. I think that my two favorites are the two in the front.
There are a few more pots that are less successful that I didn't take pictures of. Now I have to find a place to put a bunch of these. And of course there are some of you that will be getting some when you visit.


Yesterday was the last day of the class and as such, we had a lot of work to do. A lot of pots to glaze. A lot of pots to fire. A lot.
Here is the class photo. Peter, our teacher, is second from the left in the back. He is a great teacher. Very patient and willing to help. The students were Erica, Ken, Jose, Ralph, Sean, and myself.
Peter was also willing to pull out the big heavy pot that I wasn't wanting to risk dropping. By this time my arms were getting sore and a little shaky.
I used a different set of muscles from the ones that I normally do. Grabbing objects with long tongs and really really not wanting to drop them is more difficult that one would think.
You can see a bunch of pots sitting on the top of the kiln. This warms them up a bit so that there is less shock when they get put into the kiln.

And some times you have to bend and stoop. Keep in mind that yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far and we had to put on protective clothing because the kiln is nearing 1000 degrees. It was really hot sweaty work.
We fired late into the night. Erica's husband came by with their two beautiful dogs.
When the sun goes down you can really see how hot the pots are when they come out of the kiln.
You can see the fire too as the paper that we put in the barrel ignites.
In this photo, you can also see Heather, who is a potter and LOVES to load and unload the kilns. I was more than willing to step aside and let her take a few turns.
And the smoke. I really smelt bad when I finally got home.
I was ready to fall down after the last firing and so I left at about 10. There was still some clean up to do and the last person left at about 11:30.
All in all it was an awesome week, but I have to admit that I am not all that keen to repeat the process. I loved building the pots and glazing them, and I really liked seeing what came out of the kiln, but the firing was a bit too physically demanding for my liking.

Next post...... the pots!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dirty Potter

I guess that I have been absent for most of the week. Sorry about that , but I have been playing in the mud. I have, for the last few days, become a dirty potter.

I have been taking part in an EdVentures workshop. As some of you may have read earlier, I am teaching a workshop in Temari Balls this summer as part of a workshop series . And since Monday, I have been taking a Raku Pottery Workshop. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were devoted to making things to fire. They were then bisqued so that we could glaze them and then glaze fire them in the raku kiln. Bisquing is basically cooking the pots so that some of the chemicals are driven off and the pot becomes hard enough to handle without fear of breaking.

So sorry for no photos of the actual making of the pots. I spent most of the time with my hands (and various other parts of me) covered in clay. Clay and camera don't mix, and ever time I thought of taking pictures, I would think "I'll take pictures as soon as I wash my hands". Unfortunately, washed hands were quickly followed by something else equally dirty. So, sorry. no pictures of any sort of production.

Here is the set up for out raku firing. Normally, pottery is fired to a bisque then glazed and fired to what ever temperature the clay body can stand before melting. This process takes a couple of days. In raku, the clay is bisqued, then glazed and fired quickly. In fact, it takes about 45 minutes from the time that the pots get put into the kiln until they are ready to be taken out. It is TOTALLY AWESOME!

Here is the set up that we have. We first put the kiln in place (which you can't see here) then put the metal garbage cans at the ready. The garbage cans have a layer of sawdust in the bottom to give a good surface for the pots to sit on once they come out of the kiln.
Here are the different glazes that we are using. There are 11 different ones. So many possibilities! Erica, one of my class mates, is contemplating the possibilities.

Here is the kiln. It is a gas fired kiln that, once warmed up, takes about 40 to 45 minutes to reach about 920 C. We gradually increase the temperature over the time by turning up the burner.
This is the first firing in the kiln. It is easy to load because the kiln is cold. After the initial firing, the kiln is hot (oh baby so HOT) and it is a little more challenging to load it.

Here you see me and Shaun getting ready to unload. We have in protective leather jackets and aprons. The heat is intense. By the end of the first unloading and reloading, my face was beet red and stayed that way for about 40 minutes. After that, I used a face shield. As I said to someone, I am NOT a "real man".
The caution tape is to keep the general public from wandering in and burning themselves or getting in the way.
The pots come out of the kiln and go into the sawdust bins. After a few pots get put in, some newspaper gets dropped in and because of the heat of the post starts to burn. This causes what is called reduction. The burning paper causes the oxygen in the garbage can to burn out and the oxygen molecules that are in the various glazes start to be leached out by the oxygen deprived environment and a shift in colour occurs.
The lids are put back on the bins after each pot is put in it to keep the oxygen low.
Here are a few of the test pieces that some of the students have done just after being put in the bin.

We had a lot of interesting observers. There were periods of waiting......and waiting.....and checking of the kiln......and then suddenly a flurry of activity.

After the kiln was unloaded, the small pieces of fire brick that each pot was sitting on had to be unloaded and then new fire brick put on the shelves and on each piece of brick, a new pot was placed. It was very challenging to load the kiln. it radiated heat and so each fire brick needs to be put in with the long tongs (relatively easy) and then a new pot needs to be gently placed on each piece of fire brick with the tongs (not so easy). The pots can not be too close to the edge, nor can they be touching and you really don't want the pots in any place that is in a "hot spot", which is where the flames lick along sides of the kiln and the pots and makes a localized area where the temperature is hotter. The problem with this is that the glazes have all been tweaked to melt at about the same temperature ( thank you Peter!) and hot spots will melt the glaze in that area sooner. Melted glaze is molten glass and molten glass runs. Which can create one hell of a mess.

After the pots have sat in the sawdust and newsprint bins for about 15 minutes, it is time to quench them. The tongs are again used to lift the pots from the bins and gently placed into vats of water.

After a few minutes the pots are then cool enough to handle and the black from the smoke is scrubbed off. And there you have it! Raku pots!

And by the end of the day, I was totally bagged. This was just about the first day that we have had all summer that actually felt like a summer day. The sun was shining and really really hot. When we weren't "on duty" ( we each took turns loading and unloading the kiln as well as being the one who watched the kiln to make sure that it didn't over fire and run glaze all over the place) we would duck back inside to glaze a few more pots or grab a drink of water.
After we fired the last kiln of the day, most of us went out for a beer. And I meant to take a picture but... I have to admit that once that tall frosty beer was set in front of me, thoughts of pictures flew away.

Tomorrow, Day two of firing and .... my pots.
But be warned, it will be late in the day or maybe not even until Saturday. Tomorrow, we will fire until we are done. No matter now late that may be.

Oh my.

Friday, July 03, 2009


The new new washing machine. It's a Maytag. It was more expensive than the other new washing machine, but guess what! When I plugged it in, it worked!

Dad came and we loaded up the first new machine and the dryer, brought them back to the store and basically traded them in for a higher end machine. It was quick to hook up and when I pushed the power button, there was POWER! Can you imagine?

Thanks Mamoo and Grampie for all your help in this ridiculous song and dance. You two are the greatest!

And for those of you who wandered over here to see something soft and fluffy, here is 208 yards of soft merino goodness. My own hand dyed of course.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day, the 09 Edition

Yesterday morning, while checking my e-mail, there was a knock on the door. It was delivery man holding a box.
A slight turning revels the name "Victoria" along with "Louet"
I've been wanting a traveling wheel for quite a while and lately the time was (monetarily) right. So Victoria was duly ordered and anxiously awaited.
She comes with her own carrying case that converts to a backpack.
Everything fits happily into the case and there is enough room to stuff fiber and a kniddy knoddy too.
The set up was really quick and (so I've been told ) the take down is equally as quick. It is a little bit different from my old S10. It has scotch tension (which will take a little getting used to) and the bobbins are quite a bit smaller, but it is easy to treadle and doesn't take up much space.
Unfortunately, the day was slightly overshadowed by laundry.

Monday, while doing a load of laundry, there was a loud CLUNKTHUNK, and things stopped happening. Ever hopeful, I stopped the machine and started it again. Maybe it would be just a badly unbalanced load. Unfortunately, the same loud noise was heard and it was equally as disturbing.
Being handy with a screw driver, I undid the bottom panel to see if anything came loose.
And boy oh boy! Something really came loose!
See the two flat parts on the gray thing? Those are part of the concrete ring that acts as a stabilizing device on the front loading washing machines. They are suppose to be level with the floor. They are so not.
I felt this warranted further investigation and so I took the top off. And this is what I found.
See the coiled spring? The hook on the bottom of it is suppose to be attached to the plastic casing that surrounds the drum. Do you see that beige cylinder that has the cord running through it? If you visually follow the cord down to the plastic liner, you will see that there is a little tear in the plastic where there is sort of a hump. That is where the spring is suppose to be. Not good.
Seeing as the wash was in the middle of a load of towels, and there was no quick fix for the machine, I loaded it in to the wagon and dragged it all to the nearest laundry mat, which, thankfully, is only about a ten minute walk.
I was talking to the world famous Mamoo later the next day and she said that she could come and pick me up and we could go washing machine shopping together. So off we went.
And bought a new washing machine and dryer.

Ain't it pretty? It was the floor model so it was a good price. Or so it seemed. Unfortunately when we got it in the house (which meant moving a hutch and book case) got it all plugged in and ready to go, pressed "Power" and......nothing. I downloaded a repair guide (seeing as there wasn't an owners manual) and looked and looked to see if there was something that we missed and ...nope. Calling it a night, we went to bed so as to be able to tackle the problem in the morning. Thankfully the obnoxious noisy neighbours were, for once, quiet.

Morning comes and after coffee, Bill decides to take the top off thinking that maybe there was a wire that was jiggled loose in transit. And lo and behold, there are a whole bunch of loose wires. In fact every wire that is suppose to go into the Central Control Unit which is the, let's call it, BRAINS OF THE MACHINE! And where was the Central Control Unit? Back in Mexico I guess. It certainly wasn't in my brand new washing machine.

Ohhhhhh. We are not amused.

What made the day even better was that one of my boys came down with the flu. And you with kids know that kids with flu mean , well, lets just call it laundry. I wasn't letting THAT sit around until tomorrow, or heaven knows when this whole mess get straightened up. Being Canada Day, everything is closed today. Except for the laundry mat. So guess where I spent a quiet hour today.

Oh oh oh! I almost forgot the icing! Yesterday, the phone company sent someone to fix the neighbours phone line. There was something wrong with the voltage between the house and the pole so the whole line needed to be replaced. Fine. We had been having sporadic problems over the past couple of weeks and I could live without the phone for an hour or so. The fellow came and checked our lines after he had done the "repair" and everything seemed fine.
Fast forward about 6 hours and suddenly the phones don't work. There is a hum. The neighbours phones are fine, so I use it to call the company and the earliest that they can get someone to come look at the line is Thursday. Holiday today, don't you know.

13 (or so) years ago, when the phone company was N.B. Tel, we had someone come and install a second line on a Sunday. Because there was always someone on call. Apparently Alliant, or Bell Alliant as they are now called, doesn't feel the same way about customer service.

Welcome to the new New World Economy. Where you pay top dollar for crappy service and a premium price for incomplete products.

Happy Canada Day!