Trays, Planters, Beer, Santa Fe, and American Craft.

I admit it, I’ve fallen off blogging for the last 3 weeks. There’s just been so many things happening. To catch up from the last post, the new silver trays are, well, really silver. I’m interested in using silver for a few reasons, but mostly because I can’t make a glaze that color. Here’s a quick pic from the studio…












Moving forward, the beginning of May was the Mothers Day Planter Sale here at the Bray. It was quite an event, we even had a petting zoo. Here is a Bray Blog post about it. It was a bit more special Mothers Day for me and my mom, because she came out to visit. We had a really fantastic time, and played in the studio quite a bit. What a cool mom I have, she brought bisque ware from CA, so we ran a glaze kiln while she was here. A pic of my mom (at right) looking at all the planters…












There are a lot of preparations happening for the upcoming he 60th Anniversary Celebration. And one of them is beer! Our local brewery, Blackfoot River Brewing, is making a very special limited edition Strong Belgian Ale. ‘Bray Brew’ is the working title, and they needed volunteers to help bottle the beer. Now that’s my type of volunteer work! A full writeup with pictures is here on the Bray Blog. It was really entertaining.

The next piece of news I’d like to share is that I’m going to be part of a 3-person demonstration at Santa Fe Clay with Mike Jabbur and Tara Dawley on Saturday June 11th. There are just a few spots left, if you’d like to take the demo, please contact Santa Fe Clay at 505-984-1122. The demo is in conjunction with our show “Decorum”, which opens on Friday June 10th. We will all be there, and I hope if you’re in Santa Fe I’ll see you there. Here is the image of the mailer…











Finally, one more bit of good news. I’m mentioned in the upcoming issue of American Craft. Actually, I’m in there a couple of times. First, the show I was just talking about at Santa Fe Clay is picked as one of the “Shows to See”. Later in the issue, I have a quote and an image of my work in the article about the Bray. Here is the link to the article.

Well, that’s the big update. Thanks for reading, more to come soon.

Blaauw results

Here is a quick lineup photo of some of the cups I just fired in the Blaauw.

What the photo doesn’t show, is that 6 of these cups have glaze defects, and will need to be refired. But I don’t think those defects have anything to do with being fired in gas instead of electric. That is an application problem…the downside to pushing work into a kiln at 3am after a 16 hour day. I should know better by now. Anyways, the side by side comparison of the clay and glazes shows that the clay has a cooler color. See below…

So that answers my question, kind of. The Blaauw combustion works by percentage. Default is 100%. The reduction firings we ran in the other Blaauw over in the pottery (yes, the Bray bought two Blaauw’s, one for the community class studio, and one for the resident center) were at 83%. I just ran this kiln at 120%. From emailing with Gerard, the next firing I’m going to up that percentage to 140%. This is the type of control and precision that I feel makes the Blaauw different from other kilns.

The difference in the color of the glazes was negligible. My conclusion is that when I can make enough pots that would equal one and half large skutt kiln loads, then its worth it to fire the Blaauw. However, since my work is now revolving around making sets rather than singles, I won’t be able to complete a set with pots that some were fired in electric and others fired with gas. Overall, the difference in the clay and glazes between electric and gas is just a little different, I don’t think one is really any better than the other. I’m curious if 140% will warm up the color of the clay a little. This isn’t the first time that running a test has led me to do more testing.

Its running

Right now I am test firing the new Blaauw kiln that was just brought online by Gerard and Rick Blaauw last week here at the Bray. It was really fantastic to meet them, and to learn how to use their kiln from them. Here are 2 pics, one of the kiln and the other of the controller…

This controller is complicated, but absolutely amazing. This is a gas fired kiln with all the programmability of an electric kiln, with a bit more on top. That other bit? Its a software/webpage combo that tracks the kiln’ progress. This is the key feature that I feel all current computerized kilns are missing, is the ability to see the difference from what I asked the kiln to do in my program vs what actually happened. Below is a screen shot from the Blaauw website that is tracking the kiln. The beauty of this? I can track the kiln from anywhere I have internet access.

Blaauw Graph










Blue is the air, Red is temp (C), and Yellow is gas. You can barely seen the Green graph, which is the program plot. Meaning, in this case, the kiln executed the program almost exactly. Awesome. I unload tomorrow, so I will wait until then to confirm my absolute commitment to this new firing method.

A little background on why I’m testing this switch from electric to gas firing. Recently the Bray did a very in-depth evaluation of firing costs. Turns out, the cost of gas is significantly less than the cost of electricity here in Helena. This is completely regional, and will be the opposite elsewhere. So yes, I’m interested in reducing my production costs. Especially when my other production costs just went way up from doing the CNC’ed trays with Automotive paint. The other reason is the Blaauw kiln. This is the kiln technology that I have always wanted to use. I have also heard some ceramic rumors that there is a difference in the color of the clay and glazes between electric and gas firing in oxidation. This seems feasible, but I’m a skeptic of any information attained this way. So there’s really only one true way to find out, test it. I’ll see tomorrow.

One more thing… After crunching the numbers, it cost me $36 to fire the Blaauw, which has 45 cu/ft of stacking space. For comparisons sake, it would cost me $39 to fire the Freddy (a frontloading electric) which is 20 cu/ft, or $21 to fire the large Skutt which is 10 cu/ft. Pretty easy conclusion, but I’ll need to see the results of the pots. I really hope they look good!