Sometimes a little magic happens when the pots are quietly sitting in the kiln getting fired. Once the fierce glowing heat has done its thing and all is calm and cool once again, the kiln opening to see what magic has been created is quite an event in itself.
I had no idea what would happen with this layered double dipped glaze. Fortunately the combination was written down in hope that some magical glaze could be recreated! Loving the almost crystal like light green combination on this pot.
You never quite know just how fine the "crackles" will appear on the pot sometimes. You have a fair idea, but the very finest fissures are the most stunning.
The difference between a single/double layer of glaze is certainly obvious.
I get that same feeling when it comes to housework inside. Not something that's to be enjoyed.....but it has to be done. No matter how long you put it off, it magically doesn't disappear.
That's how I feel when it comes to grinding off glaze dribbles and flaky kiln wash from the kiln shelves.
If you leave glaze dribbles on the shelves, your pots can get "hung up" on them and they're unable to expand and contract freely during the firings. I suspect it may be the culprit during the last couple or 3 firings where there have been cracks appearing on pots in the same area on the offending dirty shelves.
Hubby thankfully got the grinder out and cleaned most of the remaining flat shelves outside....that's the worst job, quite dusty work.
There were 4 shelves that had a significant bow, so they will have to be replaced. Two of them were thinner and weren't up to the high firing temperatures that I get up to. The replacements will have to be a bit thicker.
I use bought kiln wash. In the past I've mucked around with homemade recipes but have had issues with it flaking off after only one or two firings, so just not worth the effort.
The kiln shelf wash is thin once you mix it with water. You have to use at least 2 or 3 coats with it drying in between.
Why do you need to coat the shelves with kiln wash? It helps the pieces being fired to move on it as they expand and contract during the firing. They would tend to get "stuck" and crack or tear apart without it. A bit like having a fine layer of ball bearings for the pieces to slide around on.
The jobs all done, and they're about to get dried out properly in the kiln before the next firing....which will be very shortly.
Sandra Quintal is a bit of an expert when it comes to Shohin bonsai.
When the opportunity arose to go to one of her workshops in Dunedin on the 6th of February it didn't take much persuading. Even though I don't have any shohin it was great to learn about them.
Sandra also has great knowledge about bonsai in general so I didn't worry too much when I rocked up with a largish Hwangshan Pine. (almost everyone else had a shohin or two to work on)
There was a Coprosma that needed a bit of a trim up, but it wasn't the right time to do it, so a small tag was put on the offending branch to be removed later.
That is something that's incredibly hard to do. So often there's a branch that looks like it needs nipped back, but nowadays everyone says to leave it on to strengthen the branch and cut it back late winter/early spring. Sorry, but most of the time the branch will get cut back when I get fed up looking at it! I can only guess that he wished he could cut it off now.
One thing that I felt a little self conscious about was my tools.
Looking around everyone had their nice shiny sharp tools all laid out in their nice leather rolls. Well.... I have 3 tools. Two of them have been left out in the rain and weather and are now a brown earthy rusty colour. I still use them as they are all I have. Unfortunately hubby has stolen back my third tool, a pair of his pliars….they were great for cutting bonsai wire, but I guess they were needed elsewhere.
The only downside of working on your own trees while Sandra is away helping others is that you miss out on tidbits of information as you're sometimes not within reasonable hearing range. Only one thing for it....drop your tools and casually meander on over and listen in.
Sometimes I wonder if its more worthwhile being an "observer". At least you get to hear the advice given to each participant about their bonsai. Sometimes we are so focussed on working on our tree that our brain shuts off from everything around us.....well, it does for me any way.
There were a couple of nice Shohin pines, "Mugo" and "Radiata".
Personally I learned quite a lot during the workshop. It was all frantically written down as soon as I got back. Followed by another frantic morning working on my trees at home. Funny how when you learn something new, you run around applying it to those trees that will benefit.
It was a 5 hour round trip to attend this one day workshop in Dunedin.....absolutely well worth it!
Just looking at this picture, it's hard to imagine the many hours that have been spent making these 8 ovals so far.
They have been made and bisque fired, but still have to be glazed and fired yet again before they are finished.
Recently I've been strongly encouraged to factor in the real total time spent making each oval bonsai pot.(not just a rough guess as I have been doing for the past few years) It has been interesting comparing the total time making a small oval compared to a larger one. Not as much difference as I thought there would be.
The other thing I'm struggling with is what to charge as my hourly rate in working out the real pot cost.
Pottery is a skill, with many years of practice to develop an acceptable standard and style. Perhaps a potter doesn't have the written trade qualifications like an electrician or mechanic, but that doesn't mean that the skill learnt over the years is worth any less than the so called "qualified trades person".
Then comes the hard part....combining all of those real expenses into the pot price. If only people could see the time and effort that goes into some of these pots, they wouldn't grumble and groan that they're more expensive than the "imported" ones.
I guess that's the purpose of this blog....to share just what is involved in making bonsai pots and to enlighten peoples perception of how a pot is made from a lump of clay.