Sunday, May 10, 2009

Around The Shop In Several Days

I get my clay pre-mixed. In fact, rather than having a custom blend, I chose a commercial body. It's a way of hedging my bets on clay quality -- that is, if there are problems with the clay body (and there always are with something that, like clay, is mined), I am more likely to find out quicker with more potters using the clay. I currently use three types of clay -- a stoneware, a white stoneware, and porcelain.

I order 2400 pounds at a time. The picture below is a stack of the stoneware. When I get the clay, the stack of 50 pound boxes of stoneware is about five feet high, covering over a window.
When I make my way down the stack of clay boxes, sometimes I find someone waiting for me outside the window. Look!'s Ariel! ....can we go for a run, Pop?!

Inside the fifty pound boxes are two plastic bags of twenty-five pounds each.

I am a fortunate guy. I have not just one, but two pug mills. I bought the second one from a retiring friend. They are both these Vencos (made in Australia) -- the Cadillac of pug mills. The clay goes into the hopper, the plunger arm comes down and levers the clay into an auger that runs the length of the tapered barrel. When the clay comes out the other end it is de-aired and homogenized.

It's a funny thing, but even though the clay comes to me mixed, and even though it is in plastic bags, the water content of the clay will still migrate to the bottom of the lump of clay, making the slug of clay harder on one side than the other. What that means is: If you've ever turned wood on a lathe and run into a knot, you know how important the consistency of the material is to making something round. On the wheel, if one side is hard and one side soft as it passes through my fingers, I will end up pressing too hard on the soft, or pulling the clay right off the wheel when the hard spinning clay trys unsuccessfully to pass through my fingers.

Tomorrow, the wheel...


  1. John I commented on your post dated April 8th,2009. I was interested in the recipe for the Ken ferguson glaze--read my blog answer and you'll understand. I hope you get this message.
    Have enjoyed your wit--especially liked the comments about valuables and values.

  2. Hi Lynn,

    I'm still getting used to what seems to be a pretty clumsy way of communicating -- blogging. I noticed that I have trouble tracking when I get a new comment on a post.

    Anyway, sorry I missed your earlier comment.

    I've heard of a Ferguson green glaze but I don't have the formula. Do you have any photos of finished work glazed in it? If so, I might have a glaze that's close. Meanwhile, here's the Ferguson Yellow glaze. Perhaps Ken Ferguson merely substituted colorants?

    Custer Feldspar 50
    EPK 24
    Dolomite 16
    Whiting 10
    Tin Oxide (and as I explained, this is better if substituted with zircopax) 5
    Bone Ash (tri-calcium phosphate) 8
    Red Iron Oxide 1

  3. I agree that blogging seems clumsy way to communicate. I actually asked two of my potter friends to check your website to see if my blog actually was posted. I wondered if perhaps my comment was only on my computer and not out in cyber space. Thanks for this glaze. I'll try to figure out how to send the photo file. Can this be done on a blog?

  4. I don't think you can post a photo on my blog, but feel free to email it to me .

  5. hey john... wish i had a pugmill, wondered if you saw this article...

  6. Thanks for the heads-up. What a terrific overview! There's some fabulous work on etsy these days. I keep meaning to figure out how to join that "mudteam" but so far it's eluded me. I suppose it a simple application or something, but so far every time someone has sent me a link that is supposed to be about joining it, the link has always taken me to something other than a "join the etsy mudteam" page.

    re: pugmills. I know I'm lucky to have one, much less two of 'em. I got by without one for a long time (10-15 years), but now I wonder how!

  7. I think I found some of your pieces at an estate sale. I am trying to confirm. What does your stamp look like on the bottom of your pieces ?