Tuesday, February 23, 2016

North On 71: Part I

A couple days after we had test fired the wood fired kiln, Veronica Watkins and I met a fellow artist/woodfire aficionado named Adam Jones.  It was honestly the dumbest of dumb luck and the best of lucky timing.  Ceramics was a common thread for all of us, but having just fired the wood fired kiln (which is no small task) helped to demonstrate our level of commitment.  Here is a LINK to a post about our wood fire experience.

Anyway, NCECA (The National Council On The Education For The Ceramic Arts) is having its national conference in Kansas City in March.  Long story made short: we were looking for an exhibition space/venue to have a show during the conference and Adam knew of a possible space we could use owned by his buddy, and fellow artist, Mac McClanahan.

Mac had recently acquired the building -which was still full of 'residue' from its previous occupants.  We met with Adam in late December and decided that the space would be a perfect venue for an exhibition.  At that point we had less than 90 days before the conference.

This is what the space looked like back in December.

So with a little bit of money and a lot of effort, North On 71 was born.  Veronica Watkins volunteered to curate/spearhead organizing the show.  She enlisted the help of Amanda Biddenback to design the post card for the show (we're getting 6000 of these bad boys printed off.  Roughly 5500 of them will be included in the registration packet for everyone attending this year's NCECA conference!)

In mid February, we went to the space to build a couple of walls for the show.  We were impressed with the progress Mac and his crew had made on cleaning up the space.

Not only did they have to jackhammer all of the waste concrete spilled on the floor, there was a bunch of trash/debris/junk that had to be removed as well.

Mac's crew had cleared one end of the building for us to start building, so we were able to dive right in.

Bob Schultz and Tia Calkins assembling one of several wall sections.

You may remember Tia from such family-friendly classics as 'Tia With Chainsaw' this past Fall when we test fired the wood kiln........you can see more of her artwork by clicking HERE (tiacalkins.com)

........and of course you remember Bob Schultz from such meditative classics as Bob Schultz With Goofy Smile In Studio.......

 .....or Bob Schultz Jammed Into Wood Fired Kiln With Slightly Different Goofy Smile.....

....or maybe you just had your face rocked off when you saw his work an earlier POST I wrote about Bob's work.  Or you can check him out at his own website by clicking HERE.

We relied heavily on Brant Weiland's carpentry skills to get the walls built.

You may remember Brant from such classics as 'From Where Did This Big-Ass Chain In The Shape Of The Contiguous Lower 48 States Come?'.........You can also check out Brant's work by clicking on this LINK to his website.

Veronica Watkins and Kwok Pong "Bobby" Tso putting in some corner bracing for the walls.  Veronica is curating North On 71 and Bobby is curating a separate show called: From There To Here, at the Marietta Chair Building (right next to Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Kansas City Arts District).  You can check out Veronica's website by clicking HERE (veronicawatkins.com)!  You can check out Bobby's work by clicking HERE! (BobbyTso.com).

We got the stud walls assembled, drywall in place, and now it is time to start muddin'.

Bob Schultz employs the deadly 'double knife technique'.

Brant makes the seams disappear.

Not entirely sure what Tia was doing, but whatever it was, it deserved three images.

The three B's of mud mastery (Bob, Brant, and Bobby).

Stay tuned for more about North On 71......

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Exploring The Magical Soda Kiln

Before I dive into my first foray into soda firing, I must acknowledge the mega-robusticity of one Mr. Bob Schultz.  Bob just finished all of his pieces for his upcoming show, Joy on The Spiritual Path: The 5 Dhyani Buddha Buddies and Their Friends. Here is a shot of Bob in his studio with everything crated up and ready to be loaded for the roadtrip to Tulsa. You can read about Bob by clicking on this LINK to an earlier post.

So this past weekend I participated in my first soda firing.

I wanted to fire a combination of some of my woodfired pieces and a few pieces that had only been bisque-fired.  There were several steps/tasks we had to accomplish prior to firing up the kiln.  Shelves had to be ground down and recoated with kiln wash (so our pieces didn't fuse to the kiln shelves). We also had to make a bunch of kiln wadding (which is equal parts epk (Edgar's Plastic Kaolin) and alumina) in order to level out some shelves and to place under our pieces so they would be separated from the shelves.  These arrows point to some of the gloppy kiln wadding used between two posts and between the post and the kiln shelf.

After that preparatory work was completed, it was time to load the kiln......

The pieces were spaced relatively far apart to allow airflow around the pieces (which allows the soda to move around a coat the pieces).

After a while the kiln was loaded.  All we needed to do was add 5 test rings and a couple of cone packs, close the door, and kick that sucker up to 80!

Roughly 12 hours after we had turned the burners on, our cones were starting to 'drop', so it was time to toss some burritos into the mix.  By burritos, I mean a mixture of 1 pound of baking soda and 2 1/2 pounds of soda ash, dissolved in water and then sopped up with a bunch of sawdust.  This quasi-oatmeal-esque mixture was placed into 10 'burritos' made out of newspaper.  We alternated between sliding the burritos into openings in the kiln and also spraying soda ash dissolved in water into the burner ports.

Every 20 minutes or so, Bob Schultz would pull out a brick in the side of the kiln door, sneak a metal rod into the kiln and fish out one of the five ceramic test rings we left inside.  Looking at the soda accumulation on the rings we could gauge how the firing was progressing.  Once the spray and the burritos were depleted, it was time to wind the firing down.

2 days later, we opened the kiln......

On the top shelf towards the back, you can see two of Veronica Watkins' pots after the re-fire (she was not satisfied with the results on those two pieces after the woodfire).

As best as possible, I have tried to show the following pieces as they looked before they went into the kiln and how they turned out after the firing.

This next one changed radically from 'before' and 'after'.

The five pieces with color were re-fires from our woodfire back in December (you can read about it HERE).

Here's how they looked after the firing.

A few others......

Some of these works may show up in North on 71......