Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Kiln Day

Well, another kiln day has come and gone. 

Unfortunately, I overfired a little bit so half the stuff didn't come out as well as I wold have liked.

But, things will be changing in the new year!  I used to produce so little pottery that the goal of each peice was simply survival.  I'm now making stuff fast enough that I can be a bit more picky. 

For a long time, I was firing everything at cone 5 1/2.  Then I moved up to a true cone 6.  With this experiment, I have learned a few things.  Some glazes really like going hotter.  They come out more vibrant and melt better.  Especially the clear and the shinos.  However, some of my prettier glazes run like crazy and some of the color burns out when firing that hot, especially my hyacinth and some dark blues.

So now that I'm producing quite a bit more, I'm going to start separating my glazed ware according to the temp favored by the glaze on the piece rather than just the size and how I can fit the most into each load.

So I'll be taking all sorts of glaze notes from now on and hopefully I'll be losing less items during the glaze firing!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modest Needs

It's the time of year when a lot of us exchange gifts, spend as much as we can on our small businesses to get that end of year tax break, and occasionally think about those who aren't as fortunate as we are.

I've always believed that when I was in a financial position to assist others, I would contribute to charity regularly.  But as the years have gone by, I've simply never found myself in a position of having so much money that I couldn't find a necessary use for it in my own home.  I have a list of home repairs that are simply waiting for the bank account to catch up to so I can get them fixed.

I'm also a bit of an all or nothing kind of person.  When I think about those who are in need more than I am, I immediately get overwhelmed with the amount of need in the world and can't focus in on what my paltry little contribution can actually do.  How can I donate $100 to a cat shelter when people are starving in Africa?  Contributing that $100 to cancer research feels like throwing it into a black hole of need rather than actually helping.  And how do I decide which need is the greatest and therefore the best place to put my money?

And what about those people in our neighborhood who just need a little bit of money to keep them afloat?  I've certainly been that person.  When the car goes south and I have an unexpected $300 repair bill that completely blows my budget.  In that kind of situation, the need isn't so bad that you're eligible for charitable help, but you still really need that little bit to keep you going.  I've been fortunate enough that my parents have always been in the position of helping me out and have had the inclination to do so.  But not everyone can spare a couple of bucks to help out a loved one through a little financial emergency.

So I came across an article today about http://www.modestneeds.org/ on CNN.  This is a site where they take those small requests and people pool their small contributions to help out.  It's a place where you can actually see what a $10 donation can do and how it will make a difference in someone's life.  I can spare $10.  I can probably spare $20, quite regularly. 

I've bookmarked this site.  I hope I'm able to trickle a few bucks there from time to time throughout the year.

I have no closing statement for this blog post.  I just read about the site, it looked like a great idea and I wanted to write about it.  So I've written about it.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicken Roaster Trial Run

Well I finally got the fabled chicken roaster out of the kiln and we put it to use!  Learned a few things along the way but all in all, I'd say the design is about 85% there.

And here we go.

Here's our first look at it all nekkid.

Here's what we're going to stuff into the chickens butt.  Mostly lemon lime soda, a dash of worcester (I'm so not looking up the spelling for that), some garlic, and fresh rosemary.

Woo hoo!  It fits perfect!  The chicken slid right on so it was small enough to fit, and the chicken holds itself up with no problem so it's big enough to support the weight.  Awesome.

Hubby added some olive oil, salt and pepper to the outside of the chicken to get a nice crisp skin.

And it's time to go into the oven.  It's best to put pottery into a room temp oven and let it warm as the oven heats up rather than to put it straight into a hot oven.  Severe temp changes cause thermal stress and can lead to cracking and overall shortening the life of the pottery.  Just a little tip for you there.

Here's what we see after a half hour at 400 degrees.  Notice some of the juices flowing into the pan.

Ok, not very visible, but trust me, there were juices.

After the first half hour, hubby lowered the temp to 375.  So, after an hour and a half in the oven, hubby added some zucchini and potatoes.

And back into the oven for a half hour.  Oh boy, here it comes!

Oops!  A little spill.  That's because there was a lot of juice from that chicken and the walls of the pan need to be a bit taller.  And the handles need to be a little wider to make it a bit more stable when pulling it out of the oven.

That's a good lookin bird.

Carve right there on the roaster.  Can be carved at the table if you're so inclined.

Look at how juicy that sucker is!

Ok, this next pic is a bit gross.  This is what's left on the roaster after carving the breast.

And here's my dinner! 

So, conclusions!

1)  For a prototype, this is awesome.  Works just fine.  We're gonna keep it.

2)  Some of the moistest chicken I've ever had.  Seriously.  It wasn't stringy at all.  By the time I got my plate to the table, it was swimming in juices.

3)  If it hadn't been so late, hubby could have easily made gravy right there in the pan.  There was about 2 cups of chicken drippings in the pan.  Tasted them (to see if it was from the chicken or from the soda dripping into the pan) and he said it was a perfect chicken stock.  That's in the fridge now for cooking with later.

4)  The walls need to be a little bit taller.  They are about an inch high on this one and should be about 2 inches high to properly hold all the juice.

5)  The handles should be wider.  Having them narrow and centered made it a little wobbly taking it out of the oven.  And wider handles would be easier to grip with oven mitts on.

6)  Need a stronger flavor.  We'll be expermenting with various marinades and alcohols and sauces to see what flavors work best.  The lemon lime was a good idea but the flavor was too subtle so you didn't really taste it in the chicken.  But damn that chicken was moist.

7)  It cleaned up really easily.  All the hubby did was rinse it off and it looked ready to use again.  And it fit in the dishwasher with no problem.  I hate those things that take up 1/4 of the bottom shelf of the dishwasher.  This was able to sit on its side so more stuff could still fit.  Awesome!

All right!  So now all I need is some heat in my pottery studio and a couple of months to get some of these made with the new design improvements and we'll be in business!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kiln day!

Yay!  It's Kiln day!  Kiln day is to a potter what Christmas morning is to a 5 year old.  Promises of wonderful things to be found under the lid.  Woo hoo!

Let's crack her open and see what we find shall we?

It's more of a personal load of stuff than commercial today.  A friend of mine made some Christmas gifts in my little studio.  Looks like the doggy dishes came out great!  We're also looking at a couple of tealight candle holders.  My first attempt at piercing.  The rims came out really nice!

Ok, let's see what the next shelf has in store.

Uh oh, that's not good.  I must have mismeasured the kiln stilts.  This mug was touching the shelf above it and fused to it.  Even worse, I don't have kiln wash on the underside of the shelf so it fused directly to the shelf itself.  Did a little damage getting the mug off.  Crud.

Well, the chicken roaster came out awesome!  My husband has been asking about that because he's anxious to use it.  I'm anxious to get it tested as well because I've had a lot of requests for them since I mentioned I was trying them out.

The two mugs on the other hand.  Obviously, they are really pretty colors.  Unfortunately, those colors ran like crazy.  I might be able to grind the bottoms well enough to make them useable but they won't be sellable.  I'm getting a little sick of having "useable but not sellable" mugs in my own cabinet.  Not sure it's worth the trouble of grinding them down.  So on the outside table they sit until I can make up my mind of what to do with them.  If there are any mosaic artists out there looking for shards, I've got a bucket full that I'm constantly adding to.

Ok, what else will we find?

More mugs and 2 of the upside down flower pots.  The pink mugs will probably end up on my artfire site even though I could have made better color choices.  They're perfectly attractive, just not eye catching.  The larger mugs belong to that friend of mine.  The dark brown mug ran a bit too but it's salvageable.  Another "good enough" mug for my cabinet I guess. 

Looking forward to planting a couple of things and trying out the flower pots though.

Ok, let's check out the bottom shelf.

That's 2 more of the little tealight holders, an incense burner, a cup that my friend made, and a big bowl.  The bowls rim is pinched in an alternating pattern to create a flower around the rim.  I'm not sure what I think of the green streaks.  Another friend of mine claimed this bowl and directed how to glaze it.  She wanted the streaks.  If it were up to me, I would have done this same color combo, but the dark would have been just around the rim to make a line that showed the pinched pattern more.  I like how it came out, but it's not how I would have chosen to do it.

So, that was my Kiln day.  Kind of a Christmas morning with one cool toy that I was really hoping for, and a lot of socks and underwear.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We have a winner!

WOOT!!! We have a winner! Julie Behm will be receiving this lovely 4-way incense burner (along with instructions)!

Keep encouraging people to fan my facebook page because when I get another 50, I'm giving away another one.  And everyone who is currently a fan will be entered into the next drawing as well.