Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Little Glaze Magic on the Bonsai Pots

Sometimes a little magic happens when the pots are quietly sitting in the kiln getting fired.
Once the fierce glowing heat has done its thing and all is calm and cool once again, the kiln opening to see what magic has been created is quite an event in itself.
I had no idea what would happen with this layered double dipped glaze.  Fortunately the combination was written down in hope that some magical glaze could be recreated!  Loving the almost crystal like light green combination on this pot.
You never quite know just how fine the "crackles" will appear on the pot sometimes.  You have a fair idea, but the very finest fissures are the most stunning.
The difference between a single/double layer of glaze is certainly obvious.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Bit of Kiln Housekeeping

I get that same feeling when it comes to housework inside.  Not something that's to be enjoyed.....but it has to be done.  No matter how long you put it off, it magically doesn't disappear.

That's how I feel when it comes to grinding off glaze dribbles and flaky kiln wash from the kiln shelves.

If you leave glaze dribbles on the shelves, your pots can get "hung up" on them and they're unable to expand and contract freely during the firings.   I suspect it may be the culprit during the last couple or 3 firings where there have been cracks appearing on pots in the same area on the offending dirty shelves. 

Hubby thankfully got the grinder out and cleaned most of the remaining flat shelves outside....that's the worst job, quite dusty work.
There were 4 shelves that had a significant bow, so they will have to be replaced.  Two of them were thinner and weren't up to the high firing temperatures that I get up to.  The replacements will have to be a bit thicker.

I use bought kiln wash.  In the past I've mucked around with homemade recipes but have had issues with it flaking off after only one or two firings, so just not worth the effort.

The kiln shelf wash is thin once you mix it with water.  You have to use at least 2 or 3 coats with it drying in between.
Why do you need to coat the shelves with kiln wash?  It helps the pieces being fired to move on it as they expand and contract during the firing.  They would tend to get "stuck" and crack or tear apart without it.  A bit like having a fine layer of ball bearings for the pieces to slide around on.

The jobs all done, and they're about to get dried out properly in the kiln before the next firing....which will be very shortly.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Waitangi Day Shohin/Bonsai Workshop with Sandra Quintal

Sandra Quintal is a bit of an expert when it comes to Shohin bonsai.
When the opportunity arose to go to one of her workshops in Dunedin on the 6th of February it didn't take much persuading.  Even though I don't have any shohin it was great to learn about them.
Sandra also has great knowledge about bonsai in general so I didn't worry too much when I rocked up with a largish Hwangshan Pine.  (almost everyone else had a shohin or two to work on)
There was a Coprosma that needed a bit of a trim up, but it wasn't the right time to do it, so a small tag was put on the offending branch to be removed later.
That is something that's incredibly hard to do.  So often there's a branch that looks like it needs nipped back, but nowadays everyone says to leave it on to strengthen the branch and cut it back late winter/early spring.  Sorry, but most of the time the branch will get cut back when I get fed up looking at it!  I can only guess that he wished he could cut it off now.
One thing that I felt a little self conscious about was my tools.
Looking around everyone had their nice shiny sharp tools all laid out in their nice leather rolls.   Well.... I have 3 tools.  Two of them have been left out in the rain and weather and are now a brown earthy rusty colour.  I still use them as they are all I have.  Unfortunately hubby has stolen back my third tool, a pair of his pliars….they were great for cutting bonsai wire, but I guess they were needed elsewhere.
The only downside of working on your own trees while Sandra is away helping others is that you miss out on tidbits of information as you're sometimes not within reasonable hearing range.  Only one thing for it....drop your tools and casually meander on over and listen in.
Sometimes I wonder if its more worthwhile being an "observer".  At least you get to hear the advice given to each participant about their bonsai.  Sometimes we are so focussed on working on our tree that our brain shuts off from everything around us.....well, it does for me any way.
There were a couple of nice Shohin pines, "Mugo" and "Radiata".
Personally I learned quite a lot during the workshop.  It was all frantically written down as soon as I got back.  Followed by another frantic morning working on my trees at home.  Funny how when you learn something new, you run around applying it to those trees that will benefit.
It was a 5 hour round trip to attend this one day workshop in Dunedin.....absolutely well worth it!




Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Few New Bonsai Pots Just out of the Kiln

Some of my pots are sold as soon as they make it out of the kiln, so it's been a while since there's been some added to the blog.
For those of you who have subscribed and added me to their mailing list, I've given you first dibs on the 20 pots from the latest kiln opening this morning.  Here's a few of them.
There are quite a few new "crackle" pots ivory/white colour.  Haven't made these in a while, great to get back into the swing of it again.
I normally have a favourite in each kiln load....this one is it.  It looks even better than the pic as it has a quite old antique look about it. Took a while to carve the pattern - hence the price.
There was only one oval in amongst this lot. It's approx 35cm long x 25.5 x 6.5cm high.  A really nice looking pot, the top edge has gone a navy blue colour while the rest of the pot is a dark green gloss.
There's nothing better than to have a few accent pots to fill all the nooks and crannys in the kiln.
All 20 are on the blog/website now, so if you're interested just email and let me know.
For New Zealanders I can send 3 or 4 medium size pots in the same parcel by Courier for $15 (non rural).   

Monday, May 7, 2018

Playing Around with some RIVOTS (Drum Bonsai Pots)

Approx 620 rivots were individually placed on some "drum" bonsai pots today and this evening.
While it kept me rivoted and enthusiastic for an hour or two, after 3 hours it got just a bit monotonous. 

Normally I wouldn't make more than 2 or 3 of the same pot, I decided this time to make 8 all at once.
This one had a total of 126 rivots.   Yes, I got bored enough to sit and count them.  I think perhaps another layer could have been added to the vee shape, as it's a little out of proportion to the extra height of the pot. (maybe tomorrow)
My pottery area got itself in a bit of a state, nothing was put away after throwing them.  Tools of all shapes and sizes everywhere, as I find the best method of finding a particular tool is to chuck them all out on the table and fossick through.  I don't know how some people keep their studios etc immaculate, my clay slip just seems to splat everywhere....door, walls, surrounding shelves and me!  Everything seems to get wiped on my trouser leg, even though there's always a rag handy.
I manage to keep the shelves reasonably tidy though.  These pots have been bisqued and will be glaze fired in the next few days.
Still more ovals drying.  The cooler weather certainly slows the drying down, although I still cover them with plastic and newspaper to slow the drying down even more.
Eeek, kind of overdone this one.  It needs more structure to the bands of rivots.  Never mind, with a nice satiny earthy green glaze running down over the rivots it will look much better.   Some of my best pots are the ones that are a little different.

I'll be dreaming about little rivots tonight.....the thumbs are a bit on the tired side, rolling all those little balls, again and again and again.  GOTTA LOVE POTTERY! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bonsai Pots, More To It Than Meets the Eye

You'd think that once a bonsai pot was completed and taken out of the kiln, that would be the end of the process.
But for me, that is probably about the half way point.

There's a list of things to do next.

1.  Check each pot over for cracks and flaws.

2.   Bring them all inside to take individual pictures/sometimes redo/upload.

3.   Measure each of them in Centimetres and Inches. (not everyone is using metrics)

4.   Make up a tag and label each one (tags all hand made by me)

5.   Sort through SOLD/ON HOLD pots on the blog for a gap.  Pick out the best picture of each pot and add number/caption and export to the blog.

6.    Remove already SOLD pots from blog once received.

7.    Check emails regularly for orders. Reply/quote shipping/waiting on replys/payments all take time. I normally wait a week for a decision on a HOLD pot, for some I wait a bit longer, but I need to tighten up on this.

7.    Then once the pots are selected I go back and check I have the correct delivery address, check to see if address given is a sneeky Rural Delivery one. (yes, I've been caught out by people not mentioning they live in the middle of nowhere) Some try to avoid paying extra RDelivery costs - it then comes out of my pocket, and believe me...they aren't that full.  It only happens once, as I put a big note against their name in case they try it again!

8.     Then I finally get round to actually packing the pots up.
I've learned that to skimp on the packing is just plain stupid.  There have been a few comments about my packing....most say "well done", a few will say "over done".  Really I'm not too bothered if they think it's over done, at least the pot got to them in one piece. Don't even get me started on the cost of bubblewrap, I now have an arrangement with a chap in town who gets it by the bucket loads!  After all, there is such a thing as a recycle bin in New Zealand.  They quite like to gobble up newspaper and bubblewrap and the odd cardboard carton.  We all have to do our bit with recycling after all.

9.  Then after packing and weighing (to make sure I haven't gone over the weight limit) it's out to the car for the trip into town.

10.  Yes, I live in a rural area, so I need to make a special trip into town to send off Courier parcels and parcels being sent via NZ Post. (ahh yes...the cost of extra petrol that I don't pass on for postage)

11.   Filling out the paperwork for Courier Dockets has become fairly automatic and a daily occurance at times. All of these need to be filed away until after the package has been delivered and the buyer has emailed back to say they're happy with them.

12.   Then there is the occasional parcel that seems to get stuck in transit somewhere and needs me to harass the Courier Company to find out "why". There appear to be alot of "New Courier Drivers" taking the blame for delays etc.  Sometimes a parcel going to Auckland may be delivered the next day, while something much closer to home like Dunedin will take 3 or 4.  It's something I have no control over.....everything else in the bonsai pot making process is controlled by me....but not that.

13.   Then before you know it, the process starts all over again.

So if I am a day or two late in sending the odd pot away, just think about the process I go through.  I'm it.....no helpers now...just me and the clay. 

Happy days.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A New "Willow" Bonsai Pot

Waaay back a couple of years ago I made a pot when I was having a bit of a play round with shapes.  It was bought by a lady who was going to use it for her willows.

They need plenty of water and are quite at home being left in a dish full of the stuff....especially from Spring to Autumn.
Another bonsai enthusiast asked me about the middle of last year if I could make another one about the same.   The pot was made in no time at all, but waiting on the creation of another glaze that was similar to the original was...well....as about as time consuming as watching paint dry :)

Well after 8 months I finally have a glaze that is pretty similar.
After the glaze was poured on.  This plain powdery looking glaze doesn't look anything like a blue/green....but after the kiln does its "magic" the result is nothing but amazing.
I use pretty basic equipment to do my glazing.  A glass jug, and a large washing/laundry basin.  Oh yes...and a stirring stick. The glaze ingredients tend to settle on the bottom of the bucket, so there is a compulsory stirring time before I begin of at least a couple of minutes with this one.
Snugly nestled in amongst some other pots.  I was a little worried that it may have been too close to the kiln elements, as sometimes these type of pots can "move" at high temps.  The last thing I needed was a pot stuck to the kiln wall with rock hard glaze.  Closed the kiln up....crossed my fingers and hoped the "kiln gods" would look over it favourably :)
Two days later!!   Really pleased with the outside.
The thicker this glaze is, the darker the blue.  The parts of the bonsai pot with just a single layer on the outside are a greenish colour.  The added grog in the clay adds to the inside texture of the "willow" pot.
I didn't put glaze right down to the bottom of the pot as was asked because I was a little unsure if it would run and stick to the kiln shelf below it.  With a single glaze layer, this one didn't run at all. 
It can be used for lots more....just the name "willow" pot stuck with me after that was what was planted in the original one.

It's always good to try something new.

NOTE:  I've just changed the sending of my email blog posts to "MailChimp" as the other was less than reliable.  So make sure you've subscribed on the form on the right.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another Opportunity to Display our Club Bonsai

That time of year rolled around again.....the opportunity to display/show some of our club bonsai at the Gore Garden Club Show.
They support us every year with quite a long layered shelved space in their hall full of prize flowers/veges/crafts and childrens competitions.
It had been raining for the last couple of days so all of my trees were soaked and heavy to carry.  Not wanting to ruin the lovely material covering the show shelves, I bought the ones I was taking inside to dry out a bit.  They needed a big tidy up and a bit of trimming off of scorched leaves to make them look half pie decent.
Note to self....never leave scissors laying down on the floor.  Wee "Alfie" managed to chew off the end of the thumb hole on my only sharp pair.
Tidied up and put in the back of the wee car.  Quite a snug fit, but at least they wouldn't fall over.
Being the first to arrive with trees, I had the pick of positions in the different categories.  In the back of my mind I was really hoping that the other club members would bring quite a few more along.  It'd be a bit embarrasing to not have enough to cover the large area we had been given.
This group of Alders has been struggling all summer, not alot of leaves left on it.
The leaves on this Chinese Elm are on the verge of turning into their Autumn colours....perhaps the result of stress with a hot January 
I wasn't going to take this Pine, but I thought it was something a little different....as it turned out, quite alot of people loved it.
This maple is displaying its Autumn colours a tad early....just beautiful.
Two days later I ventured back to Gore to collect my trees.  Thankfully another 4 club members had managed to bring along quite a few more trees as promised.   Phew!

We had a nice wee display of different styles and sizes of bonsai....even if we were gate crashed by some rather cute looking handmade dolls.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The First Kiln Load of Pots Since September

LIfe seems to get in the way of making bonsai pots.
I start out with the best intentions to spending most of the day out in the garage making pots, but somehow other things keep stepping in the way,  pushing me in a different direction.  Out to the car, into town, out to the garden, and dread of all directions....inside to do housework. :)
Alas.....after pinching a bit of time here and there over the last couple of months, there's finally a kiln load of finished pots to show for it. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I have to say that I really like the matt green glaze on some of the drum and textured pots.  A thin single layer seems to do the trick, with a double dip on the rim.   Must make more of these.