Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's been going on around here

Hey folks,

I haven't been blogging much because it's been boring stressful stuff.  So here's a big ole post to catch you up on what's been going on around here.

When we last heard from Buster, he was at the vet.  He was a very good boy and took all his medicine.  He got very accustomed to hanging out in the laundry room and now tends to follow us into the house whenever he gets the chance.  He showed up at just the right times for the week we had to give him meds and he healed very nicely.

Then a few days later, this walks in.

That's not rain water folks, that's mud.  Pure mud.  Layers and layers of mud.

That's what the towel looked like after the THIRD time wiping him down.

Even brushing him the next day yeilded a big pile of dirt on the floor.

We think some mud got into his eye because it's been watery and a little crusty.  We've flushed it out with warm water a few times (oh yeah, he loved that) and have been checking him several times a day.  It seems to be pretty much cleared up now.

In other news, the big deal around here has been our electricity.  I had the electrician come by to consult about upgrading the wiring in the pottery studio and to find a way to heat the place.  While he was here, all of the power in the house blinked and we tracked it down to the primary breaker leading to the house.

Two main circuits power our house and one completely blew out.  So for about a week, we were living off extension cords and such so we could get light and computer use in the parts of the house that no longer had power.  And all major appliances had to be shut down so no cooking, no laundry, no fun.

After jackhammering a portion of our carport and digging a 4 foot hole in the ground, our power box has been completely replaced!  Yay!  Our house isn't going to burn down now!

As long as we were at it, we went ahead and upgraded the studio.

I know that picture doesn't show much, but it shows what's missing.  No more cords and power switches hanging from the ceiling!  When I walk in, there's actually a light switch that powers the light!  YES!  Of course, I still automatically reach up when I walk in the door, but I'm sure I'll get over that soon.

And check it out, a properly installed heating unit.  *drool*  It works great.  I can actually work in the middle winter now!  And Buster is thrilled of course.  He has his own private heated little house.

So now that I'm able to work again, I'm trying out a new tool.  Specifically, The Steve Tool.
Loving it!  And it demonstrates my trademark cleanliness as it sits on the counter caked in mud.  Oh well.  I do a lot of other things well, cleaning isn't one of them.

I'm also working on a lot of lidded forms right now for some reason.  So here's a few things I've made with my new tool, in my newly powered studio!

So that's what I've been up to. 

Buster thanks you for stopping by!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Test Tiles Part 2

Ok, months ago I promised a second post about test tiles and I'm finally getting around to writing it.

These are test tiles to show what different glaze combinations look like.  The problem is that for every glaze you have, the amount of combinations grows exponentially.  Wow, didn't think I'd spell that right but my spellchecker is giving the ok.

So if you have a total of three glazes, there are 9 possible combinations (if you include the same glaze for both layers as a combo).  If you have 4, there's 16 combos, 5 and 25 combos and so on and so forth.  Part of the reason for that is because you want to see how they combine when you apply one glaze on top of the other, as well as the other on top of the one glaze.  That is a whole lotta test tiles to make and fire!!

I have a ton of glazes.  Seriously, I buy glazes like a Sunday comic strip female buys shoes.  There is not enough kiln space in the world to test all of the possible combinations I could test.  So we're narrowing this down a bit and making one big tile to test several combos.

Pretty cool eh?

And before you tell me, yes, that one broke just before being glaze fired and I had to glue it together after the fact.  But it still gives me the info I need.

What you're looking at is a test tile of 4 different glazes in every possible combination they could have with each other. 

And here's what other information I've designed into the tiles.  I use several clays because I make a lot of agateware.  Each of my new glazes is tested with a white clay and a dark red clay.  But I've never tested with my recycled clay which falls somewhere in the middle.  So for my combo glaze tests, I use the recycled stuff!  So now I have a test tile of each of these colors individually on recycled clay.  See how they are labeled on the diagonal?  And each tile as a divot cut out of the center so I can see how the glaze combination breaks.  And while you can't see it very well, the lower left segment of each tile has a rubber stamp impression to see if a stamp would be visible under that combo.

Making these things -

Obviously I make a slab.  Usually a pretty large one. 

I press a wire shelving cube thingy (you know, those wire squares that you can attach to each other to make cube like shelves, really cheap and portable, common in college dorms) into the slab to make approximately 1 inch squares.  Then I carve off the edges and see how many squares in each direction I have.  If I have more columns than rows, I cut off a column to make it square.

Originally I was going to go for about 7x7 but I found that those broke really easily.  That's how I ended up with so many 3x3 kickin around.  The largest I've made that has survived as been 5x5 and that ended up splitting in the final glaze firing.  Still gives me the info I need though so it's all good.

Grab a tool and carve a diagonal divot through each row.

Hole punch a couple of holes at the top in case I want to string it up at some point.  Don't think I ever will, but you know, options are good.

Stamp each lower left portion of tile.

Let dry and fire.  If it breaks, try to salvage at least a 3x3 section if you can.  Very nice to have if you just want to check one or two glazes with each other.

So now you have your fired grids.  How do you keep track of what goes where?

It's imperative that each glaze is tested as both the top layer and the bottom layer.  Oh you don't think so?  Trust me, it is.  The same glaze combo might look completely different depending on which one is applied first.  Here are the two samples of Blue Hare Fur with Stellar Rust.  The one of the left is BHF under SR and the one on the right is SR under BHF.  If you only test one combo, you don't actually know what the two glazes are capable of doing together.

Ok, so back to keeping track.  I always paint my horizontal lines first.  So the horizontal lines will always be the bottom layer.  Then, I go back and paint my vertical lines. 

By doing this, I end up with this: 

Of course, you have to somehow mark the tile when you're applying the glazes so that when it comes out of the kiln, you know what combo is where.  I write the glazes in underglaze pencil along the top of the back of the tile.  But remember, when you flip the tile over, it's now backwards.  So as you write across the top, remember to write it as Glaze 4, Glaze 3, Glaze 2, Glaze 1.  So if you put your thumb on the front and your forefinger on the back, the appropriate label will match the tile you're touching.

Then go ahead and label the tiles on the diagonal. 

So now you can test your glaze combinations quickly, easily, and efficiently in terms of space and time.  All sorts of combos at a glance!

Oh, and I have all of my glazes listed in an excel spreadsheet heading both the columns and the rows.  So when I do a tile like this, I can mark off which combos I've already done. 

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The money comes in, the money goes back out

First up, a bit of Buster news.  He's back from the vet and the limp is gone.  We kept him inside for a day because we were afraid he'd run off if we let him out and we wanted to make sure we could medicate him and his limp had healed.  He was really not happy about being locked in a room for a day.  We let him out today and 2 minutes later he came back inside.  And we've let him out again and he's been out most of the day.  But I called for him this evening so I could give him meds and he came running.  He's so awesome.

But the real drama has been the electrics in the house. 

Yesterday we finally got the electrician here to do a consultation about upgrading my pottery studio.  The studio electrics are a luxury in our household.  Because it's not my primary living, it's been low on the priority list.  But we finally got the money together and decided to go for it.

While the electrician was here, we discovered that the electricity for the whole house is in the process of blowing up.  Now before you cry shenanigans, I watched him the entire time he was here.  He didn't even lift a screwdriver or flip any switches.  He did nothing that could have possibly sabatoged things.  We talked, that's all.  He was referring to the main power box to the house and gave it a little tap, and all the electricity in the house blinked.  Now I know the tap didn't do anything, because I tap even harder when I flip the circuit to turn off the power going to the kiln.

So the next two hours were spent kneeling at the box.  He'd touch the breaker and we'd listen to it buzz and a few sparks would fly while the house power blinked.

The wiring in the house is really old and has been jerry rigged numerous times prior to our purchasing the house so I'm not very surprised.  That's why I've been so paranoid about getting an electrician in to check out the studio before even plugging in a space heater.  Well, since the last time we got the electrics inspected, we've added an industrial size treadmill and a big ole freezer to the load.  So by increasing the load so dramatically, we've pretty much blown the circuit.

What's also odd is that there are actually 2 breakers bringing power into the house.  One of them is being pretty reliable while the other is completely burned out.

So now we're in emergency mode.  He patched the power as best he could and we lightened the power load in the house by unplugging the large freezer and all sorts of other things so it would be safe overnight.

The primary electrician came out to check on it today.  We're going to have to get the power company involved, take out permits, have the state inspect the work, blah blah blah.  We're looking at $2,200 just to fix the emergency stuff and probably another $1,500 to upgrade the studio.  As much as it hurts to do so, we're going to go ahead and do both.

So at the moment, half of our house has power and we have extension cords running all over the place so we can have tv, my computer, and a few lights.  The power company says it's going to be about a week before they can get someone out here but the electrician is trying to light a fire under them and speed up the process.  We may be without power completely for a few days.  When they are able to start work, the power company has to shut off power to the house completely and they won't be allowed to turn it back on until the state can come out and do an inspection of the work.  The electrician is doing his best to get everybody streamlined so hopefully it will just be about one work day but we'll see how that goes.

So the bad is that we're looking at spending an unexpected $4k.  So much for our vacation in the spring!  But here's the good things - if the electricity in your house is going to blow up, you really want it to happen when the electrician happens to be standing there watching it happen.  And because he was right there when it happened, he was able to secure things enough to prevent a fire hazard that might have otherwise killed us.  And my parents were very generous with Christmas this year.  They know what grown-up kids want, cash.  So usually this kind of thing would completely wipe us out and put us into debt, but at the moment, we have enough to cover it.  Also good, while we've got this sudden emergency expense, my husband is wonderful and even though he's as frugal as the day is long, he's decided we should also invest in the studio at the same time even though it's a luxury.  So I'll be getting my upgrade.

That's the drama around here.  Oh yeah, it's fun.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Buster at the doctor

We all know Buster is just awesome.  Totally awesome. 

But apparently he's also a bit of scrapper.  As with most outdoor cats, he got himself into a bit of a fight.  Nothing out of the ordinary for a kitty like him.  He gets new scrapes and such quite often.  He's territorial so he's probably the one who starts them.

But this time he got a big ole bite on his paw.  He was limping a little bit a few days ago but it got much worse last night.  We had an appointment for him to see the vet on Monday but suddenly didn't want to wait.  So my awesome vet had me drop him off today so they could fit him in between appointments.

It seems that because the bite was on the paw, there's very little room there for a wound to swell so it hurts quite a bit.  They have him on antibiotics now and are getting him thoroughly vaccinated.  He was already vaccinated for FIV and Kitty Leukimia so those shouldn't be an issue but they're testing just to make sure.

He cried last night when we locked him in the laundry room.  He does not like to be trapped at all.  But I didn't want to risk him getting into another fight with a raccoon or something while he was injured.  And since it would be too easy for him to escape the laundry room (it's our main point of entrance and exit from the house), we decided to leave him at the vet for a few days.  He'll get his meds and we'll try to lock him in the laundry room for a few more days when he gets back, but we'll see how long that lasts.

So yeah, he's fine, but he's not here.  Kinda sucks.