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Member Since 01 Jun 2010
Offline Last Active Mar 13 2015 09:31 PM

#74952 Trouble With Closed Lidded Forms

Posted by JLowes on 06 February 2015 - 11:02 AM

They may just be throwing drier than you throw, or forty years of experience gives them a leg up on this activity.  In my experience the wettest place on the pot is at the top; particularly when you are collaring in the top as lubrication is required for success.  Try using slip from your throwing to lubricate instead of water.  It is slick, stays on the surface, and doesn't wet the pot as much.


Here's what I do after I have closed up the pot. I first clean all the slurry off the outside of the pot, then make the "groove" where i want it.  I keep a heat gun next to my wheel.  When the "groove" is set in how I want it, I turn on the heat gun and direct the air to that location while the pot rotates slowly on the wheel.  It doesn't take too long to firm up that area. I will dry the rest of the pot some too, so it will be firm for my next step. Then, with the wheel turning slowly,  I carefully use my needle tool to cut into the bottom of the groove.  Patience here is important, as you want the wheel to spin several rounds as the needle tool cuts the clay and makes it release the top.  Once it has cut through, I carefully remove the top and set it aside.  I clean up the inside of the pot wall, cutting any clay from the inside without expanding the wall.  I carefully pick up the top and compare its outside diameter to the inside diameter of the pot wall to see if the fit needs to be adjusted.  I firm up the top of the pot wall with the heat gun, then turn the, now lid, upside down and set it on the wall so I can trim it, dry and clean up its interior, and adjust the fit. It takes me five minutes to do all of this, as I have 11 years experience, not 40  ;-)


The idea is that the lid will sit inside the bottom pot wall.  I use this technique in making animal figure treat jars (see example in attached picture), as well as other lidded forms.  It takes making a few before it starts to get easier. 



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#71462 Making Small Handles

Posted by JLowes on 08 December 2014 - 02:57 PM

I'm with Babs, roll an appropriate size coil with a taper.  Cut to length, flatten it a little, add some texture, and attach. 




#71180 How Do You Develop You Own Aesthetic?

Posted by JLowes on 03 December 2014 - 04:06 PM

Frequently other people notice your aesthetic before you do.  My potter friends say they can pick my pots out of a grouping with ease.  We all have techniques we like, or have mastered, and how we process even a new idea will have tell tales from your skills that translate as your aesthetic to others.  I also like to try on forms that I may see in a pottery magazine, or at a display, to see how it may work for me.  I have found that I like making animal figures and curvy, spirallly designs, with lots of surface texture, or worn looking surfaces. These traits show up when I try out the observed forms.  So my aesthetic has emerged from my ability to make a form, and from application of my favorite design characteristics.  I would love to reach deep and find some ground-breaking aesthetic, but that seems pretty unlikely.  I am happy with that, so don't wait to see my name in the trades for the next great thing in ceramic arts.


As Chris said, if you are new keep expanding.  For the first seven years I wanted to try everything pottery related I could get my hands on.  I have settled in with a combination of wheel, hand-build and extruder produced forms. Half of my sales are figurative raku fired pieces, and the other half generally are explorative pieces that may, or may not be functional, but I make for the challenge or design concept.  I started with wheel throwing, then added hand-building as altering the round came into play, then did hand-building as a main method with wheel thrown additions, then I got an extruder and have adapted my main body of work to extruded forms.  Along the way I have electric fired, gas fired, raku fired, soda fired, wood fired, and hope to pit fire and barrel fire before long.


Around 3-4 years in I started selling work at the arts center annual sale and the quarterly shows they put on, then at year 5,  I started selling at art events around the Atlanta GA area.  Now I show about six times a year at various art events.  This year is my 10th year from first touching clay.  Like Mea, I have used my construction management job to build my equipment inventory and  to build skills and test the sales waters.  Next year I retire from construction and will amp up the pottery biz to see if it can do more than be self supporting. I sure hope the aesthetics will support the endeavor.



#68721 How Quickly Do You Get Rid Of Failures?

Posted by JLowes on 27 October 2014 - 11:52 AM

The hopelessly ugly, the cracked, the crazed, the overfired, and generally anything I think unworthy get the hammer.  The merely too old, seen in too many shows, not my style any longer, but otherwise serviceable, get donated to a suitable charity.  I am far enough along in age that I do not worry about my work re-appearing and tarnishing my sterling reputation as a potter (it would be great if this could become a concern) as being less than the current body of work.  If there is a fail at the bisque stage, the hammer falls and the small bits get used inside my raku figures to make them more interesting with rattling sounds.


Many times I will cut open a piece on the wheel to see if I can tell why I am having trouble, or if my thickness perception is matching reality.  I will hold onto a piece that falls short of my vision, so I can use it as the basis for developing the vision further.  I had rather wedge it again than break up bisque.


Like Diesel, I have the first piece I made on the wheel (which is pretty nice), as well as the second piece, which showed me I wasn't a prodigy, but just lucky with the first.



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#68435 Airbrush Recommendation For Underglazing

Posted by JLowes on 23 October 2014 - 12:35 PM

I use a Badger 250-2 I bought from Amazon, with which I also purchased a half dozen extra jars.  Today their price for both items is $27.85, plus shipping It is external mix and a simple as can be, but it does its job, is easy to clean, and a quick finger to direct air down the pick up tube clears clogs well.  It has a pretty good spread and you can vary the width by how close you are to the work.


I picked this particular one on a recommendation from potter Martha Grover.


I also bought a set with with a sprayer and several quick change bottles from Harbor Freight.  It is pretty cool to just unclip a bottle and change to the next to continue spraying and not lose the creative momentum removing, cleaning and installing a new bottle.  It was $9.99 if I recall correctly.


I don't see spending a lot on an air brush that I am going to spray glazes through.  TCP Global has a page with the Iwata Eclipse models here:





#67982 Getting A Bit Of Sheen On A Raw Fired Surface?

Posted by JLowes on 17 October 2014 - 10:49 AM

I have used a soda ash wash and it gave a nice, low luster, finish, while maintaining the red clay color at Cone 6.  I made mine by dissolving the soda ash into the hottest water coming out of my faucet, stirring constantly while dropping the powder into the container until a few crystals wouldn't dissolve.  I decanted and stored the rest in a non-reactive container.  I have not noticed it precipitating out (which is why I assume Chris recommended making only what you use for one time.)  The result is caustic, so please be careful with the liquid, and particularly don't get it in your eyes.


You can search at Ceramic Arts Daily and get more information.  It turns up several discussions in the forum of this subject.



#65183 How Would You Describe Your Current Studio Location. Suburban Garage, Urban B...

Posted by JLowes on 27 August 2014 - 08:57 AM

Suburban basement/garage layout.  My basement formerly had one third dedicated to a woodshop, and now the rest of the basement has been overtaken by pottery needs.  I have just about added all the shelving it will hold, and every time I added one it filled up immediately with glaze making materials from studio shut down acquisitions. One corner holds plastic tubs with finished ware ready to go to shows, alongs with packing materials.  What room is left has been filled with a pottery wheel, a large slab roller, a wedging station, and I screwed my extruder to a board so i can clamp it to my woodworking bench.  My garage holds one small and one large oval electric kiln, and I store a fiber raku kiln there as well.  The kilns have their own subpanel power, and are fired using a Skutt KM-1 wall mounted controller and share an Orton Vent.  The garage also houses my air compressor which gets moved out into the drive when spraying glazes.


I am moving to another house next year that has an unfinished, but studded, basement, that my bride says is all mine to configure.  Mea Rhee's re-do will be solidly in my mind as I proceed with building it out.



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#64362 Skutt 1627

Posted by JLowes on 12 August 2014 - 03:10 PM

I took a look at the Skutt website, and that doesn't appear to be foam. 




It is an insulating fiber insert, designed to keep more even firings by better insulating the bottom.  Your lid is also fiber insulation, same idea, keep more heat in and even out the firings.  So check it out, and if it isn't foam, leave it in.  I would put shelves down on those posts and  I would also contact Skutt to see if they can offer more advice on the loading than is available in the manual, or the brief intro from your installers. 1-503-774-6000  That is an expensive bit of equipment and doing the most you can to treat it right is in order I'm sure you will agree. Skutt support is supposed to be top shelf.


John Lowes

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#64145 Monkey's Fist

Posted by JLowes on 08 August 2014 - 07:51 AM

You might be able to emulate the rope texture using a kitchen tool, a zester.



#62715 Current Opinions On Best Mobile Credit Card Options

Posted by JLowes on 18 July 2014 - 12:49 PM

Diesel Clay -  PayPal pays you into a PayPal account you either set up, or link to your existing account.  The account is accessed via a PayPal Mastercard (I think it's Mastercard) debit card.  You take a customers payment, PayPal takes out their share and places the rest in your account.  PayPal claims this to be faster access, as swiped transactions are almost immediately transferred.  If you are cash or credit card poor, and away from home, having this access for expenses could be a good thing obviously. 


With Square it goes to a bank account I have specifically set up to receive the payments.  A friend had an issue with one of the payment systems tying up their funds due to a customer backcharge, which froze their bank account somehow, so i didn't want to get into that kind of position if it could be avoided.  That is why I set up a specific account for Square payments.  My experience has been from a weekend show, the funds appear in my bank by Monday afternoon or Tuesday.


Brian Reed - I am not sure it is legal to refuse to accept cash in the USA.  It is the legal tender of the land.  My workaround involves pricing to always come out in even dollars.  If your price points match up in $20 increments, you stand a better chance with change, as the $20 is the predominant "coin of the realm" at ATMs.  It may also be the predominant favorite of counterfeiters too, unfortunately.



#60675 Why It Goes Off Center?

Posted by JLowes on 12 June 2014 - 09:24 AM

It seems to me that the wobble developed in the base and was carried upwards with pulling the walls up.  You were good after centering and pulling out to get the clay ready for wall pulls.  it looked to me like the first pull was good, and when collaring some unevenness of the walls may have crept in.  Around 3:20 it starts to be noticeable and from there becomes more noticeable as the video progresses.  As you continue to expand the form the issue becomes more and more noticeable.  Once this develops it is hard to correct as the form starts to push the clay into more unevenness due to the wobbling. 


The continued use of water reduces the strength of the clay, and it would benefit you to learn to use the slip from centering for lubrication instead of more water as you pull the walls up.


I recommend getting all of the height of the cylinder before starting to form the walls.  As you gain the height, slow the wheel down progressively.  Clean off the slip before you start to change the shape. Once you start to change the shape, very slowly make changes from the vertical profile.  The clay consists of platelets that need time to move over and around each other, and making small changes helps this process.  Getting too greedy with pulls or shape changes leads to problems.


You have done a pretty good job of self training from videos.  Now the nuances need to be addressed.  Ask more questions, as this forum is a helpful bunch.  Good luck with your progression of skill.



#57190 What Has Been The Most Significant Pottery Exhibition That Impressed You Fore...

Posted by JLowes on 23 April 2014 - 10:52 AM

I have toured museums with pottery exhibitions in Athens, Greece, London, England, Cairo, Egypt, Madrid, Spain, and in the USA.  TheAttached File  Mesa Verde 1.jpg   56.92KB   0 downloads one museum that struck me most was in the National Park at Mesa Verde, and in particular a large storage pot that had an overturned bowl for a lid. Inside that pot was corn harvested an estimate 700 years prior to my visit.  The pot was discovered by ranchers that had once owned the land there.



#56390 Low Hand Strength?

Posted by JLowes on 09 April 2014 - 03:33 PM

For a very long time I was not able to center clay well; just didn't seem to get it.  I got it "good enough", but never well centered. Then, I saw a Robin Hopper video on centering and his method and explanation worked wonders for me.  Robin pointed out that the spinning clay is coming toward your left right hand and if you oppose the spin with the unmoving left right hand, the clay has to either push you out of the way, or yield and go up.  Up is controlled with the right hand on top.  It is basic, good sense, advice, but sometimes changing your approach to a problem is what is needed.  It may not help you, but it is worth review to see if it may.  You may have developed methods over years of potting that are not working for you with your issues, and a slight adjustment may be just what you need.




If you throw with the wheel turning clockwise, the clay will come toward the right hand and the left will control height.


Best of luck,



#42061 Weight/size Charts?

Posted by JLowes on 04 September 2013 - 03:23 PM

I believe this link will help you:




You should be able to select the text, copy and paste it to a text file, or maybe that PDF I attached will be downloadable.


I think, but not certain, that there is something similar in a Robin Hopper book, Functional Pottery. It might even be the same chart.



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#21264 Glazing Greenware

Posted by JLowes on 24 August 2012 - 01:46 PM

I occasionally once fire/single fire. As Chris said you do have to be careful in application of the glazes, but since you said you want to spray the glazes, in my opinion, you are one step ahead for exterior glazing. In my instance, if I am glazing a relatively closed vessel like a vase, I pour the inside glaze in and out, wait a bit (not too hard if you are glazing several pieces), then spray the outside. For open vessels I spray the bottom first then finish with the inside top side. Some folks like to glaze at leatherhard, buit for me bone dry is when I choose. You have to watch the rims and bottoms and they are vulnerable, but it is managable if you keep your wits about you.

The other important part is the glaze formulation. Since the pot and the glaze are drying together, then being fire together, the glaze likes to have a good bit of clay in it. Formulating your own glazes tends to help when single firing, although I have successfully used commercial glazes with my homemade glazes.

As Jim (Offcenter) mentioned Steven Hill is well known for the technique. There is also an online group I am a member of you can join to benefit from discussions, recipe sharing, etc. There is no reason to go it alone. http://cone6pots.nin...roup/fireitonce and http://cone6pots.nin...in-the-cone-5-7

Pots were fired once for a very long time before the convenience of a bisque firing became common. Steven Hill says his reason for single firing is to reduce the lag between forming and glazing. He feels that he loses the spontaneity (sp?) with a bisque cycle in between.

I have attached some examples of my pots glazed with Steven Hill glazing techniques. With a little diligence you can find his glaze recipes, or you could buy the DVD for a lot of information.


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