Friday, September 12, 2014

IT ALMOST BRINGS ME TO TEARS - CRACKED BONSAI POTS

There's only one thing worse than opening the kiln full of bisque pots and finding cracks, its opening a glaze firing and finding them.

I guess things had been humming along quite nicely over the last year as I'd finally found a clay that could withstand the stress and strain of drying and firing.   There had been very few bonsai pots that had cracked during the firings.

However, over the last month there seems to have been a bit of an issue with my larger pots once again.

I'd fired 3 larger oval pots in the kiln last week.  Because of their size it is difficult to add extra pieces to fill up the gaps in the kiln.  As a result there is a bit of empty space inside and the kiln tends to cool down quicker than if its really full.  Usually I pack small bits of shelf offcuts and kiln props into any empty area to hopefully hold a little more heat for longer.  For some reason it didn't work this time!

This was the result
Yes, it looks fine in this pic.......but take a look from the top.!

 
The crack goes through one of the large drainage holes and a smaller tying in hole.  If something is going to crack it will go through the weakest spots.  This happened on 2 of the 3 pots. 
 
There were a few "choice" words muttered........ but all is not lost.  This pot was still in one piece even though it had a nice large crack, so yesterday I got the Araldite out and filled in the cracked area.  The pot is still very useable, just a wet looking mark down the back of it.   I've planted it up already with one of my bonsai.  They don't go into exhibitions or anything like that, so it's just fine
for me. 
 
My daughter pretty well summed it up in the pic she created below.......love the likeness in the unhappy middle photo!! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SPRING HAS SPRUNG - WELL AT LEAST FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS!

No doubt about it, in the bonsai world spring has arrived.

My larch now have little green buds the size of a match head.  My hawthorn have little green shoots bursting out -now too late for repotting (same problem last year).

A quiet realisation that I hadn't even started my repotting this year hit me.

The first plan of attack was to repot my deciduous trees first, only the ones that needed it.....which is most of them.

I had some "peaty' potting mix left, so decided to do the alders, oaks, dawn redwoods, swamp cypress etc. From experience most trees that loves moisture tends to thrive in a peaty mix.

I was a bit shocked to see the root growth on this dawn redwood.  The roots had grown out the bottom of the pot and anchored themselves firmly into the bark chips.  Hunting for moisture no doubt.


I have a love/hate relationship with this tree.  It loves to grow upward, and I hate wiring it down again.  It struggled a bit last year with the dryness.  That side root has to come off too, its not feeding anything up top.

Its reasonably large, so there's usually a bit of grunting and groaning going on during the lifting and repotting.
 

The roots had circled the bottom of the pot many times over, this was all cut off, it filled the paint bucket. Hmm....should have made more effort to do it last year.
This alder struggled with the dryness last year as well, its quite huge, so I decided to pot it into a much larger oval pot.  This is a beautiful tree, its leaves have slowly reduced down in size over the years.  Hopefully with this repot it wont suddenly decide that it wants its bigger leaves back.




Once again I hadn't taken a "finished" photo.  But it did look a bit more in proportion with this larger pot.
 
After walking past some yellowing pines all afternoon, I decided it was their time for a bit of a shakeup.
 
This is what greeted me when I prized the pot off.  Absolutely wonderful!!  All that michorizza (not sure how you spell it), its got to be a good thing.
 
I mixed quite a bit of this in with the potting mixture.

The white tips of the roots are the growing tips.  It was a shame that some of them had to get trimmed off, but it needed done.  The pines were starting to have that hungry yellowish look about the foliage.  There weren't any new buds appearing, so hopefully this repot will kick start some much needed vigour into them.

All happily done and back to their shelf, hopefully that yellow tinge will disappear shortly.
 
I must mention the main tool I use when I start repotting.
 
Mixing the pumice etc in with the store bought potting mix is a bit of a chore when its done in a bucket.  You have to keep stopping what you're doing and make up new mix's all the time.
 
Hubby thought I'd gone a bit strange when I spotted an old hand concrete mixer on trademe a few years back.  They were selling it as a garden ornament...... not likely, I had a use for it!
 
It's brilliant, I can make up 3 pain buckets of bonsai mix in it, and get my daily exercise as well. No mucking about with motors/electricity/noise etc.



 Another added feature is the automatic iron addition setting.  What's that you may ask?
Well, its fairly rusty inside and as you turn it, little bits of rust splinter off the sides into the mix.

There's still a few days repotting left to go....mostly the larger ones, but the beauty of bonsai means that it can perhaps wait until next year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A BIT OF COMPANY MAKING MY BONSAI POTS??

I'm normally quite happy potting away in the garage alone.....the radio blarring, the occasional head popping in the door letting me know where they're off  too, or there's a phone call for me etc.

BUT NOT TONIGHT!

I had company all right.  I had one other set of eyes glued to every move I made.

If only sheep could talk, I'd love to know what she was thinking.

For those who have been following my blog, you would know that when I put my shelves up for my bonsai pots in hubbys garage, there was a bit of  quiet rebellion with a broken down mower put beside them so I wouldn't steal any more of his space. 

Well it was my turn today to steal a bit more.  You see, as I went to shift my huge flock of sheep this morning (all 12 of them) I was surprised to see one standing proudly in a puddle of mud with 2  newborn lambs, unfortunately there was another laying dead beside them.  My first thought was "I gotta get them inside out of the rain and mud"  After a bit of pinching gates and some hastily bought straw I had them safe and sound and more importantly dry, in the garage.


I have to admit that in between rolling out clay for the bottom of an oval pot, I spent a lot of time just looking at her and her two lambs.  I'm sure she's used to hearing Shania Twain and Adele blaring from the garage, she didn't seem phased at all. (did turn it down a smidgeon though)


I suspect she might be keeping me company for a day or two yet....the forecast is for cold wintery winds, hail and even a little snow.  Here's hoping we don't get any more unexpected surprises - otherwise his mower will have to go!!

Just thought I'd mention that the untidy side of the garage is HIS.

Totally unrelated to pot making I know, but its nice to have something a little different now and again.

Friday, August 8, 2014

MAKING AN OVAL BONSAI POT

After the "kiln gods" had a bad day, I was left with 2 cracked pots from the last firing.

Its the larger pots that cause the problems.  Judging by the sharp edge of the crack I would say that its occurring as the kiln is cooling down as the glaze hadn't melted over it.  Being unable to control the rate and temperature of the cool down doesn't help in the least.  Once again its in the hands of those "kiln gods".   Perhaps one day we'll get a new kiln with fancy electronic controllers etc and be able to eliminate most of the firing problems that occur.

Anyway, back to the replacement pots.

As usual, I forgot to take photos of the first stage of throwing the outer pot.
This is the pot after the sides have been shaped into an oval and the bottom joined on.  Its quite hard to get a perfect shaped oval as the clay still has to be pliable/soft enough to move into shape, and firm enough to pick up without distorting the shape.  Leather hard is sometimes too hard, so its ideal to do this just a bit before this stage.
 The pot is then filled with rags until its level with the top rim.  This is to support the pot bottom when its turned over.  If there wasn't support of some sort, the bottom would sag.  Some potters use columns of clay placed around the inside of the pot, but I find this easier and less messy.
 
 An oval board (wood for mothers day) is placed over the top of this.  Checking to make sure that it sits on the edge evenly.  Sometimes the odd rag will get caught  and it leaves unwanted marks around the edge. 
Now comes the tricky part........ flipping it over.

It's easy with two people doing it, one on each end.  But with hubby being at work and the kids at school I do it on my own. Hence the need for light boards.  It's easy enough to handle the weight of the clay and boards together, its just ackward!
I'd already cut out some feet .  The oval boards are really handy for getting the shape approximately correct.  They are trimmed up to the correct size before being put on the bottom.  Once again there is a bit of guess work as each pot is a different size and shape.
  The feet have been trimmed up to the correct size.  I find it easier to add a smaller length in the middle area of an oval pot, it just gives it a little more support during firing.

The feet are all smoothed off.  My name etc is added.
 
Small pieces of leftover clay from the foot making are cut and placed evenly around the bottom.  These help support the bottom of the pot when its flipped over again.  Its stops sagging as its drying.  Two or three of these are also placed under the pot during the bisque and glaze firing as well. 
 
It's flipped over to the right side again.  Covered in newspaper and plastic and left to dry slowly.  Drying slowly isnt an issue at the moment though, it's winter.
 
 Off topic in a big way.......this is what we woke up to this morning.
Yesterday afternoon I was "mucking about" getting a few cuttings etc, once again I hadn't tidied up, thinking perhaps I'd have another go today.  Hmmm....not likely!



Saturday, August 2, 2014

NEW BONSAI POTS

The kiln was opened a couple of days ago.

Here are a few BEFORE/AFTER pics of some of the bonsai pots.

My favourite once again is the crackled effect pots.

Before bisque and glaze firing
After final glaze firing

 The crackle stands out beautifully. A very nice pot.
 
The pot in the background behind this one turned out wonderfully as well. Love the different shades of texture.


 When I take the pots out of the kiln, I can tell a good pot by the feel or it.  Sometimes they just have that little "something" that you cant describe in words, but the look and touch of it is different to many others. I know it sounds a bit odd, but its a bit like people, some have the X factor and others not so much.
 
There are many more pots from this load, some of which I've added in the Pots for Sale page, and others I'll use for my trees. Repotting time has arrived already!!
 
I will be adding more Pots for Sale during the next week again.
  
 


Friday, July 25, 2014

BONSAI POTS FOR SALE, FINALLY!

  

A place where you can look at my Bonsai Pots for Sale. (click Pots for Sale on left column)

Over the next few weeks I will be adding more bonsai pots as I get time - this is just the start.

So if you want to keep an eye on it, just press the SUBSCRIBE button (to the left) and any new updates to this page will be automatically emailed to you.

If you're interested in any of the pots,  or want to make any enquires, just get in touch by emailing howimakebonsaipots@gmail.com.

Thanks for looking

Cheers
Fionna Burgess



 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WHATS THIS......MY KOWHAI HAS FLOWERS??

I keep this bonsai on my deck.....in full view, walk past it a dozen times a day.

We had a 10degree frost the other morning and all of the trees were glistening as the sun was coming up.

Great,  I'll take some pics I thought.

The kowhai was first on the list.

To my amazement it had at least 5 little yellow flowers nestled away in amongst the foliage. 

Crickey..... doesn't it know its the middle of winter!
  
A closer look,  couldn't believe my eyes. 
 
 
 There's a bit of a story behind this tree.
 
About 4 months ago (summer) it suddenly lost its wee leaves and I thought it was on its way out.  Perhaps it has gotten too wet or too cold.
 
I popped it in the shade house for a month and it came back to life.  It had me puzzled as to why this had happened.
 
Then I realised.
 
I usually keep the vegetable cooking water and pour it over my trees on the deck over the summer time.  A few extra vitamins and minerals wouldn't hurt.  Unfortunately I think that perhaps I had put some salt in with the veges as they were cooking and had poured the slightly salted water over this kowhai.  Its a wonder it didn't die completely!
 
Perhaps I'd given it so much of a shock that it's tried to reproduce itself by producing flowers, regardless of the season. 
 
Why its happened is a mystery.....but a very welcome one. 
 



Friday, July 18, 2014

WET CLAY AND FROSTS DONT MIX!

I know its the time of year, being winter and all.  But I never really get used to the frosts!

Yesterday we had the first decent hard frost for the winter.  Followed by another hard one this morning.

While it looked pretty out the window, it was too cold to venture out to the garage to make any #bonsai pots.

I'll show you why.




 I'd spent the previous afternoon making some small pots using warm water from the house.  Kind of got side tracked and never got back to clean up my mess.

 

This morning when I went out there was a nice layer of ice in my water bowl and icy wet clay in the basin of the wheel.
 
 

Yes, the frost managed to freeze its way into the garage.  There's usually no need for heating out there, its only a garage after all.


Even the inside of the garage windows had a layer of frosty ice.  Really beautiful though.  The crystals almost look tree like with branches spreading out from the main trunk.   It reminds me of the decoration some people use on pots called "mocha".  It has an identical look......must try it one of these days.
 
The real worry with a hard frost is the fear of the freshly made pots freezing.  They contain quite a bit of water and it can freeze just like the water in the bowl.
As it freezes it expands and it will crack the clay into pieces. Especially with freshly made pots. 
 
You might think "what happened to your #bonsai pots?".  Well, it was pretty clear that there was going to be a beauty frost, so I cleared the small table in the lounge, covered it with newspaper, and one by one brought my wet pots inside. The larger ones went underneath.
 
It's the second time this week I've done it.  Its just not worth the risk when you spend so much time and effort hand making them.
 


These few that I'd made were still quite sticky and wet, I'm absolutely sure that if they'd have stayed out in the garage, they would be ruined.

 
Still loving the cracked look, I make these quite often now.  Been playing around with adding a little white colouring into the silicate before "cracking".  It'll be interesting to see how it shows up when they're fired.

 
Oh well, ....... it looks like his jigsaw table will be out of use for quite a few days yet.  Perhaps even a couple of months! 
 
Just love winter time.
 

 
 

Friday, May 23, 2014

LARCHES NAGGING AT ME TO BE WORKED ON

They'd been shoved from one part of the garden to the other.  They were in the "get round to it" basket.  Unfortunately that was a couple of years ago.

I took one along to the club workshop last month and only managed to get 2 or 3 branches trimmed and wired up.  It's been sitting on the deck in front of the lounge ever since.  Taunting me, begging to be finished every time I walked past.

Enough was enough!  I bought her inside out of the rain and worked on it during the evening.  So much better than sitting back watching tele.  I didn't take a before and after photo of these, but they looked quite overgrown and neglected

 
I was quite pleased with how it ended up.  Its quite a feminine looking tree.  In a few years once the foliage pads fill out it'll be better.  Its well and truly over potted, but she's still growing strongly and is healthy - that's important to me.
 
 
This one was also taken inside and tidied up during one long evening.  Its still got lots of growing to do as well.  It was put into a crescent type pot that matched the shape of the trunk.  It looks better in person than it does in the photo.
 



It's also a feminine looking tree.  The larch's look beautiful in the winter when you can see the silhouette of the trunk and branches.  Once again it needs the foliage pads to fill out.
 


I'm no expert at wiring, but was quite pleased with the result.  Hopefully by the end of winter the wire wont have tightened up too much, so I'll have to keep an eye on it as the copper wire is quite fine and tends to dig in a little more quickly than the thicker aluminium wire.

 
 
In the background trying to hide away is the last of the three to be tidied up.  It's a little different as it has a very straight trunk.  It also has lots of growth from the previous year.
 


It hasn't quite lost all of its needles yet for some reason, so perhaps it will have a lucky escape for another few weeks.  Hmmm.... might leave it on the deck until I decide what I should do with her. Perhaps a major makeover is necessary as it looks a little stumpy.

I've decided to take the photos at night as it gives them a dark background and they stand out more.  Must try it again with different trees.