A Life of Varied Endeavors

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Washington State Enamelists at Grunewald Guild – October 2010

Wood Fired Enameling Kiln October 2010 Scott Dillman

Wood Fired Enameling Kiln October 2010 Scott Dillman

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Update June 2, 2011:

I’ve just received a copy of the April 2011 issue of Glass on Metal magazine which has published an article by Dave Berfield.  ‘Killer Kiln’ is Dave’s account of the genisis and execution of the idea of building a wood fired enameling kiln.  Congratulations, Dave!  Great article, and especially great chapter headings!

For some time I’ve wanted to post pictures and tell about a Washington State Enamelists’ workshop/retreat last October.  The workshop was at the Grunewald Guild in Plain, Washington, and was led by Jean Tudor, Dave Berfield, and Mary Stafford.  They planned a small and informal event that packed a lot in.

Jean taught raku-fired enameling (she is world-famous for this), and Mary taught a session on cold connections (some neat stuff came out of this class). Dave shared information about liquid enamels and built a wood fired kiln to fire enamels in.

(Click on all pictures to enlarge.)

Jean's Raku Samples

Jean’s Raku Samples

The Classroom at Grunewald

The Classroom at Grunewald

Jean Tudor and Mary Stafford

Jean Tudor and Mary Stafford

 

Jean’s impressive raku experience was on display and she shared her knowledge of raku enameling with us.  I admit that I was a bit overwhelmed as I’d had no previous exposure to the raku process.  But being overwhelmed can be a refreshing experience, and this was certainly that.  We used pine needles, leaves, wet newspaper, and  moss (a chartreuse local variety found on the ground around us) for the process, either on its own, or after firing in the wood fired kiln.

Dave is an expert in liquid/porcelain enamels on steel (LARGE enamel pieces – like architectural installations). I found a picture of his enameling shop here.

Liquid Enamels on Steel - Enamels Made by Dave Berfield

Liquid Enamels on Steel – Enamels Made by Dave Berfield

Dave Berfield Contemplating Kiln Design

Dave Berfield Contemplating Kiln Design

 

Lately Dave’s passion has been his ceramics, and at the time of our weekend workshop Dave had been studying about wood-fired kilns; he was planning on building one for ceramics at his home on Bainbridge Island.

For this weekend he teamed with Scott Dillman (Grunewald’s resident potter), to design and build (on the spot) a small kiln that we fired enamels in.

The kiln was definitely inspired.  On Friday afternoon, a couple of us picked up each fire brick by hand from Grunewald’s pottery studio, loaded them into a small pickup, and drove down the road a few hundred yards to the workshop classrooms.  Dave and Scott talked about how they thought the kiln should be designed.

Kiln in Progress

Kiln in Progress

Wood Fired Kiln and Fuel Source
Wood Fired Kiln and Fuel Source

 

Wood Fired Enamelling Kiln

Wood Fired Enamelling Kiln – you can see the yellow wire of the pyrometer on the right side – pyrometer is on the chair

As you can see from the pictures, it was pretty cool (in my opinion!).  They had it completed by mid-day Saturday.  It had a pyrometer laid in on one side, but over the time we used the kiln Scott decided that the right firing temperature (about 1500 degrees F) was best indicated by a very full, red flame coming out of the kiln’s chimney.   Those were impressive visuals.

The door to the kiln was three bricks.   We picked them, up as a group, to check a piece’s progress, check the kiln temperature, and attempt to swiftly get a piece in and out.  My favorite picture is Jean Tudor pulling her enamel piece out of the kiln.

Feeding the Fire
Feeding the Fire
Wood Fired Kiln for Enamels

Wood Fired Kiln for Enamels

Three-Brick Door on Wood Fired Kiln

Three-Brick Door on Wood Fired Kiln

Kiln from the Front - checking

Kiln from the Front – checking

 

The Flame That Signaled Good Firing Temperature
The Flame That Signaled Good Firing Temperature
Opening, Checking

Opening, Checking

 

Taking Jean's Piece Out

Taking Jean’s Piece Out

 

We had a bit of RAIN over the weekend (despite being in Eastern Washington), so we also got to experience what rain drops can do to enamels JUST out of the kiln.  (Hint – rain drops leave permanent spots on hot enamel.)  We also got to experience enameling in the rain.  I’m sure that’s also a pretty unique experience.

Taking the Piece Out, Fired in Fire Jean Tudor October 2010
Taking the Piece Out, Fired in Fire Jean Tudor October 2010
Wood Fired Enameling Kiln October 2010 Scott Dillman
Wood Fired Enameling Kiln October 2010 Scott Dillman

 

In the evenings, we got to talk and share work we had done, either during the weekend or things we had brought.  We were all immensely impressed with Jean’s latest piece.  She now has pictures of it posted on her web site – check it out!  The pictures hardly do it justice.  “Bestiary”is a collection of small panels –but large when you consider what went into each piece!  They are joined together to form a “manuscript” that features “animals we may never see again” that are on the endangered species list.  30 panels, about 5 x 5 inches each, enameled on both sides, cloisonné.  Truly amazing.  I was sorry we didn’t get to spend more time with it.

We had a great weekend, and thanks go out to Jean, Mary, Dave, Scott, all the folks at Grunewald, and all my fellow participants.  We had fun!

Blechnum spicant – deer fern crozier

I think these things are cool, wonderful, beautiful!  The heart-shaped leaves in the background are disanthus cercidifolius, redbud hazel – one of my favorite plants.

Blechnum spicant - deer fern crozier

Blechnum spicant – deer fern crozier

Blechnum spicant - deer fern crozier

Blechnum spicant – deer fern crozier 750pw

Rheum emodii progression of first flower

I’ve had my rheum emodii (himalayan rhubarb) for quite a few years (2005?), but it didn’t get into the ground and find a permanent home until 2007.  I’d read that it would get big, but not as big as a gunnera, which I don’t have room for.  I’d also read that it pretty much dies back and disappears by mid summer.  So far, both of these things are true.

Since we don’t seem to be having much “spring weather” this year – that cold and rain thing seems to be predominating – perhaps the first flowering of my rheum is because of the weather. Or just because it is settling in. And considering the weather, I don’t know when mid summer will arrive here, so maybe it will stick around until September. I think it’s usually gone by mid-July.

These pictures show a progression of this year’s blossom, which is the first ever, and the gorgeous color and texture of the leaves. (See an earlier April picture here: http://nancystrahle.com/2011/04/29/10-early-spring-pictures-from-our-coolest-spring-on-record-%e2%80%93-part-2-the-purples). The largest leaf is about 20 inches wide and 24 inches long. The stalk is about 7 feet tall today, the blossoms getting more spindly as the stalk stretches out.

It will be fun to see how it develops as this season goes on. So far the leaves are far lusher and happier than other years. Despite their size, they are sort of delicate. You can see their great light transmission when photographed from behind.

Steel Wire on My Table Today

Today I plan to work on some steel wire pieces.  I made some earrings last fall, and want to do some more.  Started again a few days ago and have finished a couple.  Kind of a greasy, oily process!

Steel on my table

Steel on my table

Steel wire beginnings

Steel wire beginnings

Steel wire shapes

Steel wire shapes

 

Steel wire earrings in progress

Steel wire earrings in progress

13 Early Spring Pictures from Our Coolest Spring on Record – Part 4: The pinks

Some of the hellebores here were photographed in late February.  The other things are all captured in time on April 16th.

 Several years ago I made some bead adornments for the quince bush next to our front door.  That bush has been trimmed and pruned several times since them, but I have left the branch that holds the beads.  Colored copper wire was wrapped and coiled, magatamas were strung through some green glass beads from India.   The assemblages have held up very well over time, but the branches are now not growing any more.  Thought I’d photograph them for posterity – and they are fun to enjoy in April when the quince is in bloom!