Tuesday, 22 July 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, 18 July 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, 23 May 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.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

GUESS WHAT I GOT FOR MOTHERS DAY!!!!! (SOME WOOD)

I gave my daughter instructions that I didn't want anything for the kitchen.  To be passed onto her dad.

Never in a bunch of Sundays would you guess what I got.  And I loved it, exactly what I wanted, couldn't have got anything better.

It was 2  sheets of wood

I bet ya no other mothers in New Zealand  happily got what I did!

Here it is.....it was all nicely tied up and wrapped in some lovely gift wrap too.  I quickly got rid of that stuff and got down to the business of figuring out how to draw a couple of perfectly shaped ovals.   With the help of a piece of string, a ruler and a hammer I soon had a couple of decent sized ones marked out.
 


These ovals are about 60cm long by 45 cm wide.

The reason I need these board shapes is for when I want to flip over an oval bonsai pot to put the feet on.

At the moment I'm just using any bit of board that will fit.  Some of them are quite long and heavy and I really struggle to flip them on my own.  Hubby's been helping me lately which makes it really easy, but when I'm on my own, the last thing I want to do is wait for hours until he's home from work.

I figure that if I can make some ovals about the same size as my pots I might be able to flip them over on my own alot easier.  This board is reasonably light as well.

The reason why the ovals are marked out this big is because of the last pot I made.   Its the biggest so far.


Its 51cm long and just barely fits sideways into the kiln.  There's alot more room at the sides than it looks in the picture, but I suspect its getting up to the maximum size I can make for the kiln.  Thank goodness it shrunk alot during the drying!

I seem to have a bit of a problem with the kiln cooling down too quick, so I bulk up all the empty spaces with kiln furniture and bits of broken shelves etc.  It just seems to retain the heat a little longer, especially around the sides of the pot, as these cool down before the pot bottom and feet.  It seems to work for me, so I'll just keep doing it.

So that is why I was so happy to receive 2 sheets of wood for mothers day!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

SAME CLAY......BUT DIFFERENT?

I've never come across this before.

While I was assembling an oval bonsai pot, I noticed that the bottom layer of clay seemed to be a lighter colour than the ovals sides. Oh I thought,.... perhaps the sides are just that little bit dryer than the bottom. I need to be careful as its quite important to have everything the same level of dryness when joining pieces.

 
 
 
Its just the bottom layer that's different, the darker area above is where the clay was compressed on the join and has got slightly burnished a bit.

I carried on and completed the pot. However, I kept looking at the difference in colours and thought that perhaps in the morning when the moisture level evens out it will all look the same.

I waited..... and waited....checked and rechecked, and no the clay colour was certainly different.

After checking the bag I got it from, I realised that it was from a new batch of the same clay that I'd received recently.

"Oh gosh...bother I said!!". Perhaps I even said a few other words that I'm not going to mention.

Lots of things went through my mind. The main one being "what if the two different coloured clays had differing shrinkage rates when fired? Will they pull apart? Will the sides and the bottom be a different colour? I'd just spent a couple of hours making and completing this pot, and I certainly wasn't going to smash it up just at a whim.

I pushed together all the scraps of left over clay and this is what I found. Certainly a different colour.
 


I wedged it all up and used it for another small pot.
 
 
 

Back to the original pot. I decided to bisque fire it.........no problems there although a slight
difference in colour remained. I took a risk and continued on and put it through a glaze firing. And guess what, it turned out perfectly!! I'm not really sure what happened with that particular bag of clay, but having checked the remaining bags, they all seem fine.

Lesson learnt....................always construct and complete a pot out of the same bag of clay?

Out of all the bags of clay that I've used, I've never come across this before, hopefully it wont happen again, but its something to be aware of. Clay is dug from different areas and its composition may be just a little different. That's my explanation anyway.

Happy potting.













Sunday, 13 April 2014

SOME NEW LITTLE BONSAI CRESCENTS

I've started making 3 or 4 smaller crescent type bonsai pots for someone recently.  Thought I share some pics of them as they are drying. 

 They will have to be bisque fired before they are oxided to a light brown colour and then fired again to 1260-1270 degrees celcius.



Normally when I make a pot for someone I dont just make 1, I always make at least 2, preferably 3.  The chances are that one will suit, and the other two can be used by someone else.


The overhanging piece on these crescents is quite hard to get right without it sagging or wanting to drop backwards. Especially when the clay is quite soft.

I cheat by helping it firm up with a $3 hairdryer from the second hand shop.  I wasnt too popular when I pinched the teenagers hairdryer and managed to get it covered in clay!


The white looking sandy stuff on the bats is a bit of coarse grog.  It just helps the feet from sticking to the bat, I also use it on some pots for texture.
 
 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Some New Shelves and Bonsai Pots

 
 
I was getting a bit sick of squishing up my pots together onto the two shelves in the husbands man cave.
 
Splashed out a whole $19.85 each at the Warehouse and got myself 2 sets of aluminium shelves.  The other two were screwed to the garage wall and the workbench so it was only a matter of screwing the two new shelves to them as well.   You just never know when an earthquake might strike and rattle these pots to a sad ending on the concrete floor.
 
Its much easier to see exactly what you've got, instead of lifting up/moving over and shuffling them around. 
 
 
It was all good for me, but the realisation that his garage space was being decreased a little more, made me feel a tiny bit guilty.
 
In an act of defiance or marking his territory, I noticed a mower in pieces plonked fairly and squarely in what was once his parking space.  Almost as if to say no more space for you....THIS IS MINE!   Oh well..... perhaps when he's at work I might just give his mower a tiny wee nudge further over, after all I need room to move about. 
 

The big plan was to make quite a few more pots so I could get rid of my old plastic containers that are floating around my bonsai area....yes, I was going to keep more for myself this year.  I made a few large ovals and round bonsai pots.  However it doesn't seem to be enough and I have plenty of gaps once again.  The beauty of it is that I can always make another.



I seem to be accumulating a few of the smaller pots.  Some are made to test out glaze experiments and others are to try out new shapes and textures.  I know I wont use them myself as our annual shortage of water makes keeping too many small potted bonsai a risky business.  However, they are lots of fun to make.


These wee cascade pots I made turned out to be quite a revelation.   The glaze on them had lots of room to move down.  It gives them a bit of life and character instead of a plain block of lifeless single colour.


I seem to be having a bit of a run on the textured dark brown pots.  I've tried using a couple of different oxides and have found that some react quite differently when a glaze is put over the top.   Others look good with out anything, the texture speaks for itself.



The kiwi style pots seem to face a bit of opposition.  I can guarantee that if I'd put a Chinese or Japanese marking on them they would more popular.  Yes I know that bonsai originated from these countries and that tradition has alot to do with what people think is acceptable as far as pot styles etc go, but what is so wrong with trying to create your own style?  Are we all too scared of being told that "that's wrong you shouldn't be doing that"  Frankly, I don't enter in serious shows or conventions, its my garden, my trees, so whats wrong with using something that I like. 

Anyway, I'd better think about what I'm going to make tomorrow.  After all, if I don't fill up these new shelves I might go out one day and find them filled up with HIS tools - the battle over garage dominance continues!!




Sunday, 2 March 2014

SOME NEW POTS JUST OUT OF THE KILN

The kiln was unloaded a few days ago, and a couple of pots caught my eye for different reasons.

I love glaze colours that run into each other and mix and mingle.  Single block glaze colours would be my worst nightmare.  But thats just personal preference....everyone's different.

The pot below has a glaze that I added iron spangles too.  Just for a bit of an experiment to see what would happen. Iron spangles although quite fine, tend to sink to the bottom of the glaze bucket, so if you want them in your glaze, be prepared to stir it alot.




You can almost see the iron spangles melting and flowing down the sides.  I scraped the sides of the glaze bucket and brushed some "extra" along the top rim.

Another pot that I really love is a "kiwi style" oval.  Yes, I know that plain and subdued is the way that many like their pots, but sometimes I like to do something a little different.  I've made a few smaller ones of this same style, so decided to sit down and concentrate for half an hour and carve out this pattern around the rim.

The Japanese and Chinese have beautifully painted and decorated pots showing their past history and culture.  Perhaps little old New Zealand should start tinkering with their own style too......just a thought.





If I want to make a decorated pot like this, I have to think ahead a little as my normal clay has a little more grog which tends to snag and tear if you try and carve out a design. It's a bit of a catch 22, as the finer the clay is, the higher the likelyhood of cracks appearing during firing, especially on large pieces.

Any way, back to the garage, I've got another oval half done.  Just waiting for it to firm up a little before tidying up the bottom and feet.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Bonsai Pot YouTube Videos

Just for the curious, I've done a couple of Youtube videos showing a few of the bonsai pots that have been made over the last month or two -  unloading the kiln, my workspace (um...actually my husbands man cave, but I've taken half of it over!)  

I apologise for the quality, as I just use a cheap wee camera, and haven't quite got the hang of the editing just yet. Hmm...perhaps I should just stick to making pots.

Here's the links https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTODN8Y_iO4






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcsZjzo-XiE


 




Thursday, 23 January 2014

FIRED CRACKLED BONSAI POTS



Really pleased with the textured fissured effect on this one, it's one of my favourites.
 
This one started out with a brown wash on it, but with a layer of clear glaze over the top it fired to a very dark green colour in the crackled fissures, so it pays to experiment a little.


This was a surprise as well as the clay mixture (experiment) went quite buff with the clear glaze over it.  Once again the brown was in the cracks went a black colour in the final glaze firing


This was another experiment mixing different clays together at different percentages to see if I could change the fired colour.  With a clear glaze over it, it fired to a chocolate brown.  The pot also has a bit of a "chattered" texture to it, something else that I'm experimenting with at the moment.