Friday, November 5, 2010

Haiku is home....

What's green and blue, cuddly and sweet, noisy and gentle?

Why, it's Haiku!

He's only three months old, a Blue Crowned Conure....

He loves to cuddle and have his head rubbed, and he chirps and flutters his wings like a baby..

And if Maia could shoot fire out of her eyes, he would be a charcoal briquet!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finally... new carpet and paint!

You know, carpet is something that you take for granted until you begin to realize that it has gone waaaaaay past its time. When it is covered in spots that don't come out,and you begin to buy throw rugs to cover them. When it has gone so flat that even the strongest vacuum won't make it fluffy again. When it... smells. Like old dog, and gym shorts, and abandoned school lockers. Ugh.

So, we ordered new carpet... good old Home Depot credit card! No interest if paid within six months. We bought our furniture like that, and just paid it off, so we had room in the budget for carpet payments. I knew it would be a hassle... especially the china cabinets... but I kept that goal in front of my mind, like a beacon.

And boy, did I need a beacon. A beam of light. A torch in the darkness. Because it was MUCH more work than expected.

We wanted to paint first, of course. No use putting in new carpet and then having to cover it, so that you can paint! Who knew that Southern California would experience the wettest fall in decades... and it always rained on the weekends? We bought a zero VOC paint (no volatile organic compounds) so that we wouldn't kill Maia, because paint fumes are toxic to birds. It is great stuff! Craig and I usually get a headache from paint fumes, but no headache this time! We could even close the windows at night and not be halfway sick. It's about $10 a gallon more, but since it only took five gallons to paint the living room, dining room, and hallway... no headaches for $50? You bet! The colors were more limited, but I am in LOVE with the color now that its up! It dried quickly, too. Very nice product.

We also decided to replace the baseboards. The old baseboard was the very cheapest, small junk. We wanted something more updated. Craig ("Mr. I-have-a-compound-miter-saw-and-I-know-how-to-use-it") was enthusiastic about doing that, since he knew how good it would look. You know, it went pretty well all considered. I was hesitant about using the pneumatic nail gun but it's pretty safe and easy, once you figure out how to put the nails in. (The instructions said "put the nails in". That's it. All the rest was warnings, cautions, and bold exclamation points inside of nuclear triangles I swear)

We also had to tear the old carpet and pad out ourselves... they wanted $600 to do it! Took us one day, and one dump load, for a total of $25. Not counting the backache and lost work time... and the nose full of dust. Oh, and stepping on the tack strip... twice... barefoot.

Took four days to pack the chinas up, because I kept inhaling so much dust that my nose would run and I couldn't pack any more. Then I moved them out onto the patio, in cardboard boxes, and the china cabinets out into the front yard. And it promptly rained. All night. We were out at 11 pm covering everything with tarps, in our PJs. Sigh.

Well, to cut a long story short, everything is done, and back in, and all that remains is the china collection needing to be put back into the cabinets. They moved to the dining room, they look super there!

Casper shows off the new tile that Bob and I did (my pattern, I am so proud of myself!) and the new door, with the carpet, tile and wall color.

The dollhouse is now over next to the door. My Grandfather built this dollhouse from scratch, when I was young. We took the floor plan and front style from a 1910 architecture book. Everything in it is hand made, including the window frames and door, the staircase, hardwood floors, and turned brass fixtures. Eventually, it will be decorated with decent furniture now that the kids are grown...

And to match the new wall color, the new bird... Haiku! What a sweetie! More on him later...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Maureen glazed this Maydee

Just wanted to share the photos of this Maydee that was painted and glazed by Maureen Love, probably back in 1953-1954 when the original production run was done. Makes you suspect that there was a Wrangler too, whose brown pinto color was simplified by the factory into the basic Wrangler that was produced.

Love her!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Haiku coming soon!

Maia is such a delight... I never knew that birds could be so loving! Maia is, however, Craig's bird, so I wanted one of my own. After a lot of research, thought, and soul searching about what I wanted in a bird, I found the kind that most seemed like a good fit... a Blue Crowned Conure. They are a bit bigger than Maia... she is about 12" from beak to tail tip, and Blue Crowneds are about 14"... and not as colorful, but more likely to talk, and very amenable to learning tricks. (who doesn't love a parrot that can do tricks?) The breeder that I chose is in Georgia, and she will be shipping the bird at the end of the month. We already have an extra cage (because Maia has two!) and enough food for a flock, so we are ready for him any time.
Here he is with his breeder, at least this might be him... she has three and they are identical in the photos. She is going to mark his beak and take more pictures tomorrow. (There is one nest mate left for sale, btw, if anyone wants a fantastic companion bird! Her link is here:
Brightwood Aviary

I chose a woman breeder because it seems more likely that the bird will bond with a woman, after having been hand fed since about 3 weeks old by a woman. Also, she is a great gal, a horse woman, a dog lover (she has an Eskie!) and just the nicest to talk to. We chatted away like old friends! Her birds are very hand tamed, very vocally responsive (a good trait if you want a talker) and very healthy.

His name will be Haiku... like the Japanese poems. Small, nuanced, layered in meanings, and sometimes with a surprise twist at the end. That's how conures are, they are often called "mini Macaws" because they are thinkers. It's been so fascinating, watching Maia during the day as I work... she has definite rhythms, an internal schedule, moods, and preferences. Different than the dogs, but if you watch her, she communicates just as clearly... the language and accent are different, but the meaning is the same. She has learned a couple of tricks that I will put up movies about later.

He will be shipped from Georgia in a cage/crate, traveling just like a dog or a cat would, with food and water and toys. He will have a direct flight to San Diego, where I will pick him up at the terminal. Apparently this is done all the time with birds. Even with the flight costs, he will be less expensive than Maia was... the difference between buying from a pet store, and buying directly from the breeder.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Maia has a new play tree

Thanks to Jeanene Bernardin, Maia has a new play tree! Jeanene visited recently and brought us a new cage (smaller but useful for outside or for traveling) and a play stand. But I wanted to change the top of the play stand, and put a tree on it instead. So, I unscrewed the "T" top with the feeders on either side, and went out seeking a nice branch. Cathy, who is Johnny's mom and has a wholesale florist shop, had some manzanita branches that were just right... and at the right price, too!

$25 bought this gorgeous sand blasted manzanita branch. I brought it home and lopped off all of the little branches, all of the pokey bits, and sawed the end straight. Then I just drilled and screwed! The white chain is from the hardware store... it's plastic... and the toys are from PetSmart (on sale!) So for less than $35, Maia has a new play stand... isn't she a pretty bird?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maia plays with Legos

Craig has a Sun Conure named Maia, we bought her around Easter time. She's a neat little bird, very attached to him, and she likes me too. I was doing some moldmaking with Legos the other day, and she was very interested.... so I gave her some to play with. That little ratchet jaw of hers can take chips out of Legos! So I had to take them away from her.

"What's that, Mom? Can I have it? Please?"

"It's Yellow! Like Me!" 

"Doesn't taste like banana... actually, it doesn't taste like ANYTHING!"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pour Horse Pottery-- a new blog

I'm not one to jump into new technology. I stick a toe in the water, pull it back out, look for sharks. Go up to my ankles, stand until the tide pulls most of the sand from under my feet. Then, and only then, do I venture out to my knees.

Knees, mind you. Nothing higher. Can't tell what's in that foamy water down there. Could be starfish, could be stingrays. Caution is the name of the game.

Sometimes, because of that, I hang back and see what other people are doing, and how it works for them. Let them find the hazards! I'll be waaaaay behind them, still rolling up my pant legs and stowing my sandals on the cliff.

When I started Yasha's Bonsai Blog, I didn't know for sure what I wanted to write about. Or whether I would write at all, once the novelty wore off. Would blogging become a burden? An unfulfilled promise, like many early business endeavors? Or would it take over my life?

The answer is, neither. It's not a burden, and it doesn't take too much time. With a decent camera, and a better understanding of how to edit and upload photos, it has become a very easy way to communicate with people. Not too many people follow the blog, but enough to make it worthwhile.

But now, my ambivalent name (intentionally non-Pour Horse since I was wary of having to do a lot of business posts) is becoming a problem. It just doesn't tell anyone exactly what the blog is about. So I have decided to split the blogs. Yasha's blog will be about the dogs and home life, cooking, etc. Even a little more personal stuff... I may share more fun things there. And the new blog, Pour Horse Pottery, will be all business, and all ceramic ideas/techniques/tips. It will also be a place to discuss older molds, such as the PH editions, and the Marcher Ware editions. A place to chronicle the factory information. And a place to show off new work!

So please join me over I'll begin posting tonight, and will set up all of the feeds and subscriptions in the next few days.

See you there! Have a great weekend!

Super-Matte on a September Day

(click on photo to enlarge)

When is a matte glaze even more than a matte glaze? When it is 'super-matte"! A load came out of the kiln this morning with two matte glazes pieces in it, and I am stoked! They are not what I was intending to do.... but the kiln gods were kind and they decided to give me a special present!

This Toot Sweet, by Adalee Velasquez, is a Traditional SCALE miniature mare, which means that she is about the size of an Owynn, a bit smaller than a Dafydd. With a kind, gentle expression and an explosion of typically mini hair, she really has a lot of fun possibilities. I will be producing a few for sale (because I made the master mold and traded labor for one mold) and this is the first one that I am offering! She's up on MHSP now.

(click on photo to enlarge)

What is so special about this glaze finish? It makes her look like a Royal Worcester or an Animal Artistry or Horsing Around matte bone china! She has a much whiter, cooler tone to her colors, and the feel is delicious! It is smooth but very, very thin. All of her details stand out like a crispy bisque but the glaze is smooth enough to cover and protect her. Her eyes are glossy, and her nostrils and hooves are satin finish, little touches that give her a realistic feel. As I explore this new glaze, I will be playing with those kinds of details.

(click on photos to enlarge)

The other horse to come out of the kiln in super-matte is a Dafydd, but he was already spoken for! He looks so much like my RW "Palomino" that I wish that I could keep him! :-)

(click on photo to enlarge)


Saturday, August 28, 2010

If Stormys were made of chocolate...

(click the image to enlarge)

This one would be Moonstruck! That's one of the tastiest chocolates in the world, and this Stormwatch is an incredibly tasty, rich, deep and delightful guy. He took a total of eight firings, and several weeks to complete... and he challenged my new china painting skills, but he's done! He was custom made, step by step, overseen by his new owner and will be on his way on Monday.

Several people have asked whether I will show the full photos of these Stormys, instead of just bits and pieces. Well, maybe later... but for now, it is the right of the new owner to show them off, or not to. Every new owner has received a set of photos that she can use to show her horses (if anyone needs them again, or in a different format, let me know!) All of the photos are also being kept in a file, using the horse's final name, so that I can keep track of what was done, who received it, and what the horses name was when it left here.

The next Stormy will be going up to auction, and I will be splitting the final auction price with Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig... (sssssshhhh she doesn't know this yet....) I have a couple of colors in mind, but if you would like to see a particular color on a ceramic Stormy, send it along. I'm always looking for ideas!!


Friday, August 27, 2010

I like my bacon smoky, not my compressor....

There are just certain things that we all take for granted every day. We sort of assume that the refrigerator is keeping things cool, we expect that the oven will make things warm, and we don't spend our nights worrying about whether our compressor is going to catch on fire tomorrow.

I hate fire (strange, for a potter) and am extremely suspicious about anything that is likely to burst into flames. I've been known to wander out to the workshop in the middle of the night in my nighties if I wake up and smell something unusual. I have good reason to worry... had a couple of incidents that really made me wonder if I was perhaps not paying proper homage to the fire gods or something.

One time, at the big model horse show held by Sheryl Leisure called "Jamboree", I was giving a workshop on glazing. It was either pins or Boxing Shires, can't remember which. Anyway, Jamboree was held at the Pomona Fairgrounds, in a giant Fairgrounds building. I had asked about plugging in my little kiln... (his name is Sumer, by the way) and they pointed me to a sort of janitors closet that had a steel sink, a few mops, a tile floor, and... a plug. So, that's where I set up the kiln. When the workshop was over, I filled the kiln with the little glazed items, and the last thing I did before they locked the door to the fairground building is turn on Sumer. Little Sumer. All along, clicking along in that little closet in that big old building.

In the early morning hours, suddenly the hotel (which was next to the fairgrounds) was awakened by sirens, and all of the power went off. The entire hotel... full of Jamboree attendees... the whole fairgrounds... sirens wailing in the distance. What did I immediately think of? Poor little Sumer! Had he caught fire? Had he shorted out the building??? OH NOOOOOO..... My second thought was, "Sheryl is going to KILL ME!!! Heart beating, I panicked... what in the world am I going to do?

A few minutes reflection, and a look at the sun coming up, and common sense came to the rescue. Sumer had shut off hours before, and indeed was probably quite cool.

We found out later that it was actually a car accident that had taken out a power pole.

Scared the pee-wadden out of me, though. (It's a family word...but click the link for a possible meaning... who knew??)

Anyway, incidents like that do make you realize that electricity, heat and fire are all very good drinking buddies and like to play pranks when they hang around together too much.

So, today I headed out to the workshop early, because a horse needed just one more touch up of color. Just a leeeetle bit. Not more than ten minutes of spraying. The compressor began to act funny... clicked on, then immediately turned off. off.... went out to look at it (since it is noisy, it lives in a little Rubbermaid bin behind the building, that has ventilation and a hose that goes to the workshop airbrush station) Looked fine. Went back in and tried again, and it did the same thing... then I heard a long, low screeeeeeech and I headed back out to the bin. Sure enough, it was smoking and smelling like burnt rubber. DAMN!! BLAST!! Turned it off, ran in to get the son, and we took it out to where it wouldn't cause any harm if it suddenly burst into flame. Which, of course, it didn't.

(on the left is the naughty Husky compressor, on the right is the new Emglo)

So off I went to Orco (I call it 'the hardhat store' because it has contractor tools) and came home with a good, dependable Emglo. This is the kind of compressor that I had for ten trouble-free years. The stupid Husky is headed for repair, and then will be the back up compressor. Naughty Husky. Go sit in the corner. Bad boy.

Anyway, after that bit of excitement, back to work this weekend. And both kilns are firing tonight...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moldmaking makes me weary...

Day seven of moldmaking...
my back hurts
my neck hurts
my arms hurt
my hands are dry and itchy
my Birkies are covered in plaster shavings

I've made a LOT of molds. Here is the tally so far:

2 Kulfi molds
2 Toot Sweet head molds (I owed Addi a head mold, one that I made before was not so good)
1 Toot Sweet body mold
2 Taboo head and tail molds
1 Taboo body mold
2 Dafydd tail molds
1 Dafydd body mold
Partial Brownie body mold
Partial Brownie head mold
Partial Brownie leg mold

One more day and I can stop doing plaster for a while, having gone through 90 pounds of #1 moldmaking plaster. Just finishing the Brownie body, head, and legs and one more Taboo will get me to my goal for this session.

Then, on Friday, I will start with the rubber mold of Little One. I am going to document the process of rubber moldmaking of Little One for a possible article in The Boat, so it will take more time since I will have to pause for photos and writing text each night.It should take about five days, depending upon the weather, since one pour of rubber has to cure for at least 12 hours before doing another one. Then I will go up to Santa Ana and pick up another 100 lb bag of plaster, and do some more plaster production molds. Another Dafydd, an Otto, another Brownie, and maybe two Little One molds should about polish off half of that bag, then we'll see.

In the meantime, here are a couple of little tips for those of you doing plaster molds. Most of which you would know... some of which you might have forgotten... you may have a better method but these work for me.

1. #1 Pottery Plaster has a mix ratio of 100% water to 150% plaster. In other words, you want one and a half times as much plaster as water, by weight. Always put the water in first. Quickly sprinkle/disburse the plaster over the surface of the water... don't dilly dally. Then, let it slack for several minutes.

2. Fresh plaster is smooth, powdery and mixes well. You can feel that it is very soft. If your plaster is grainy, or rough textured, throw it away. You're wasting your time. It won't seal well with the mold soap, and the mold will stick together and possibly risk your original.

3. Apply soap with a soft flat brush, without diluting the soap if you use some variation of PlasterLube. Smells a bit like saddle soap. Apply cleanly, don't flood near the edges, brush it on and don't foam it or agitate it. Wipe with a clean, just slightly damp natural sponge. Reapply like this, twice. Don't apply it to fresh plaster too soon... the plaster needs to set up well. Wait until the plaster has cooled, at least half an hour after pouring it. Otherwise it doesn't seal, and will stick.

4. If you have to do any scraping of the fresh plaster pour, such as removing small blemishes or cleaning up the edge along the model, then take a clean, almost dry sponge and wipe the area that you scraped. This seems to settle the particles down and makes a better seal when you hit it with soap.I didn't used to do this but I swear, it helps.

4. If you sealed the edges of your mold, so that you could remove plaster that might run around the edges and stick to the sides. scrape off the soap when you finish your mold. Sealed edges never evaporate the water from casting as well as unsealed edges. Took me a long time to figure that out. So anything that you can see from the outside when the mold is closed, should not be sealed with soap when you go to use the mold. Just scrape it with a flat metal blade, anything handy. You can tell when the soap has been scraped off.

5. Keep your sponges separate, never dip the soaping sponge (used for large areas, not for the areas nearest the model) into the water. Never dip the water sponge into the mold soap. It dilutes the mold soap, and by the end of the day the soap won't be able to seal anymore. Just as your pour your last pieces, just in time to ruin the whole mold... so watch that mold soap dilution!

6. Rub a finger tip dipped into mold soap onto your mold boards as you begin boxing up your mold. Even with acrylic or well sealed wood, the mold soap will help to release the plaster and keep your boards in good shape. Don't bother to wipe it off... just rub it on like you would grease a muffin pan (obligatory food reference)

Speaking of food... Carlsbad now has a hand dipped chocolate store. Not as good as the one in Boise, but pretty good. A piece of chocolate after a long day of moldmaking does help.

Oh, the photo above? Yasha supervising, of course. On our newly sodded back lawn.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


What does $848.00 worth of foam look like?
Funny you should ask....

I was down to TWO BOXES worth of foam last week, a frightening low supply. Though I don't do as many horses every month as I used to, still.... it's like having two boxes of Mac'n'Cheese in the cupboard. Just call me Old Mother Hubbard....

Since I'm not doing OF production now, which generally meant one horse shape produced in quantities of about 300, I can't predict what configuration the foam needs to be. Some horses are narrow and straight, some have a turn or outstretched limb, some are much smaller. So, this time I ordered blocks of foam that would completely fill a box that is either 12 x 12 x 10 or 14 x 14 x 10. Each block is either 12 x 12 x 4.75 or 14 x 14 x 4.75. That means that each horse will have a hand carved hollow in which it rests, for maximum protection-- and maximum flexibility. Surprisingly, the foam prices didn't go up as much as they could have. Each foam block is costing me approximately $5, so each horse takes about $10 worth of foam. (the smaller pieces are a little cheaper, the larger ones a little more, of course) That's only $1.00 per box more than I paid two years ago. Since the foam is a petroleum product, the pricing varies with the changes in oil costs. I won't complain about a buck!

The order is a total of 200 blocks. It will ship fifty large horses and fifty small horses. It's about all that I can store comfortably, along with the small 7 x 6 x 6 foams that I still have left over from mini production.

Today, Bob and I will store this foam up in the loft, before it gets dirty and dusty. The weather has turned warm... it's the first really warm, sunny day so far this summer! So it will be hot work, but very rewarding, like a squirrel hoarding its nuts.

I'm also making molds this week and next week. Made one and a half yesterday, with a nice long stretch of good weather and unencumbered days ahead to do what needs to be done. I'll be making the rubber mold on Kelly Savage's "Little One", for a limited production custom run. I've also made a new mold for Kristina Lucas's "Kulfi" and will be shipping it to her as soon as it is dry. There has only ever been one Kulfi mold, Kristina didn't intend to do him in production, but with our advanced techniques and knowledge, she wanted to take him out and dust him off and consider re-issuing him. Sia has been a ripping success, now Kulfi (one of the best-loved of Kristina's horses) may make a comeback! I will also have a Kulfi mold, after Kristina gets hers, and will take a VERY limited number of custom requests into consideration. I want to play with more color options that are now possible! I'm also making new molds on Dafydd, Pixie, Brownie, Taboo, and maybe Otto.

Off to work!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stormy Days...

(click on photos for larger image)

It's hard to be quiet about horses that turn out so well. These two Stormys, sneak peeks shown above, were finished in the last few months. The pinto was finished, actually, this morning. Still warm out of the kiln. I've really be stretching my technique on the Stormy mold, trying things that will enhance the color (as long as I can pull it off successfully) because Stormy challenges, and brings out the best in a painter. Whether resin or ceramic, Stormwatch throws down the gauntlet and tells you to GO FOR IT!!

There's another bisque Stormy sitting on the shelf, ready to go, and it will be a lot of fun to see him come to life as well.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dancing with Physics

Tango... it's a dance. A fast-paced, precise and unrelenting dance. South American in origin, the genre fuels the intensity of Latin American dance and culture.

Tango... it's a sculpture by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig, a delightful Spanish stallion strutting his stuff in a balanced, intense yet relaxed pose.

When Tango was introduced into the Marcher Ware line, he was the third horse that Marcher Ware tackled. The first batch of pieces were cast by Mark Farmer of Alchemy Studios, and shipped to Pour Horse for glazing. A few sets of three were made... one for Sarah, one for Mark, and one for me. (You know, like parceling out Halloween candy... ) I honestly don't remember how many were made... three sets? Four? Five? No more than five, but I think that there were fewer than than. In other words, fewer than twenty total pieces. (Maybe someone will be kind and email me with a list, I'm too tired to look in back records...) When Mark headed off to some new, unknown horizon, I was left with one bisque sitting here. Unsure what to do with him, he has been sitting here ever since.

So when it became apparent that Melissa Gaulding needed our help, I immediately thought about the Tango. What better ending for Marcher Ware, what better use for a unique bisque, than to give Mel what she needs? Sarah and I donated the bisque, and I headed off to the barn to paint and glaze him.

His hooves had already been painted and fired, so a cleaning fire (to remove the dust) happened first, to the relatively low temperature of cone 010. (that would be about 1600 degrees... it sure will burn off dirt) Then the first layer of dappling was applied. At this point, the horse is white with colored hooves, and I sprayed a very thin layer of a dark brown underglaze over strategic areas to be dappled. Then a few areas of an underglaze that has more reddish tones, just like the horse that I was basing him on. Dapples were done with a typewriter eraser pencil, and the dust from dappling was removed with either a Q-tip or a soft brush, depending upon the type of dapple and location. He went into a bisque fire for the first layer to set, about 1900 degrees F. Several more layers of dappling were added, augmenting the first layer and enhancing and deepening some of the dapples. Obscuring others, as well. This technique, while very labor intensive, sets the dapples into the color and gives them a softness that can't be beat. Finally, his palomino golden over color. Yes, the palomino is sprayed *over* his already set dappling, totally obscuring it. This is the part that takes nerves and faith. By applying the palomino body color over the top of the dapples, the dapples become a natural looking part of the coat. However, too much color and the dapples disappear! That brings us to the pictures...

Why is he wet? See, on his hoof, the water drop? See the wet drops on the ground? After he was fired, I checked my work by running him quickly under the faucet and looking at how his dapples show through. Not a perfect way, but a simple way, to see how he will look when the glaze brings his colors to life. His eye is unpainted, and none of the details are done yet.

So here is where the story gets interesting. These horses, as all ceramic castings, are hollow. So there is air inside of the casting. We poke a little air hole into the casting when it is drying, so that the air can come out when it heats up in the kiln. When the Tango was pulled out of the bisque firing just before this photo was taken, I had dreamed the previous night that the horse had no air hole. Just a quick dream, nothing interesting... just the fact that he had no air hole. Sure enough, I checked him when the kiln was cool enough to touch him, and THERE WAS NO AIR HOLE. Whoever cleaned the bisque at Alchemy had forgotten to punch him one!

That's a problem.. a big scary problem. When the air inside gets hot, it builds up pressure. With no escape, the pressure is held inside of the horse body. With an earthenware casting, that air will slowly escape through pores in the clay. (Remember, earthenware is porous) It won't (probably) blow up. It won't take glaze well, however. The glaze will form craters and be very unpleasant and bumpy, because the escaping air pushes the softened glaze away from the thousands of little pores where it is escaping.

In a bone china, the clay is not porous. Once it has been fired to maturity, it is impermeable to air or water. So, with no place to escape, the pressure builds.. and builds.. and builds.

He had already been through several bisque firings. Either that was proof that he could hold the pressure, or he did have a tiny hole somewhere that I couldn't see, or he was going to blow up one of these times. What to do? What to do??!!

When I wet him down, I tried to see whether there were any tiny bubbles forming in the water layer. Nope. So I dried him with a blow dryer. One spot... one little spot.. on his rump stayed wet for a little longer than the rest. It was wet from the inside, it was holding water in the body cavity. I couldn't see the hole, but it had to be there. Otherwise there would be no reason for that spot to stay wet. But would it be big enough to mess up the glaze?

I 'candled' him, in case there was still water inside of his body, which would be even more pressurized than air. He fired for an hour at about 500 degrees, then cooled.

His details got painted.. eyes, leg chestnuts, etc... and he was sprayed with glaze. Then, into the fire for a last time, which is about 1800 degrees F. Checked him when the kiln shut off about midnight... I could still see an intact horse silhouette against the glowing orange kiln bricks.

Today, he came out of the fire just fine. No flaws on the glaze, no explosion. His pictures were taken while he was still reassuringly warm.

Now he is up at auction, at My Auction Barn, 100% to Melly. He has more of a story than most pieces do... one of the more unusual journeys that a casting has taken, here at Pour Horse.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flying Heart Fundraiser

There's so darn much for sale, including FIVE DAYS AT POUR HORSE for glazing or moldmaking, that it's just easier to give you all the link:



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

There are some people in the world who give with their hearts... who brighten the cloudy days, and soothe the angry words. Who reach out and nurture. People who we can't help but love, people who make a difference.

Yet they do have their own problems, and when they ask for help, you know that they really need it. It's amazing to see how many people are coming together to help our dearest friend Melissa Gaulding.

Mel's husband has cancer, and it is crucial that they are able to pay the medical bills, to keep the care coming. When she let us know that she is desperate enough to sell her beloved collection, gathered over years, in order to pay for what Herman needs, the options were clear....

There will be a series of auctions, sales, and fund raisers for people to participate in, which will be hosted on this website:

It is quickly and beautifully being put together by Heather Malone-Bogle, and there will be updates frequently, so bookmark it and keep going back. Please note: don't... I repeat DON'T... use the word 'donation' or anything like that, because paypal will shut down her account if they see it. We aren't running a scam, but they don't know that, and we can't risk causing her problems. Check it twice before you submit your payment, and thank you for your help!

There is already one auction up, for a gorgeous Ferseyn painted by the uber-talented Karen Gerhardt, you can see it here:

ALL of the funds will go to Melly, and Auction Barn is waiving the auction fees! Everyone wants Melly to have the most that we can give her.

I will be working on a horse, as well.... Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig and I own the last bisque Tango, and we have decided to donate it. I will glaze him and put him up as soon as possible on Auction Barn. 100% to Melly, of course. Other people have already pledged or donated, see the list of donors on the website, and watch it grow as our help for Melly grows!

Several of us will also be glazing tiles that have been sculpted, pressed, and fired by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig. Those tiles will be available as soon as they can be finished.

When we give with our hearts, we find purpose beyond our everyday existence. We find strength and resolve. Please help however you can. Every little bit makes a difference. For Mel.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I walked until my pants fell down... and then I walked some more

There's no denying that sitting around cleaning greenware, glazing and firing, are sedentary pursuits. Add in a love of good food, and the recipe for weight gain is complete. I've never been one to exercise, either... I prefer intellectual exercise, not physical. As I have told my Grandmother, when we drive along the coast on the way to her hair appointment... looking out at the vast array of people jogging, walking, strolling, stretching and biking along the boardwalk... "I love exercise, I could sit and watch it all day".

However, the dogs have a different idea. They love exercise... they crave it. A good long walk, a quick run, a wrestle and tumble...they glory in their young muscles, in the cool weather, and in the joy of being a spoiled dog. Life is good, for the dogs. So, they have gotten me into the habit of walking them every morning. Somehow, it has become a custom with us, we hitch up to the bike, they pull Casper and I to the park, we then put their leashes on and walk for a full hour. Casper keeps up pretty well, since the pups have already done five or six blocks of vigorous exercise and have the edge taken off. In total, we walk for between one and a half and two hours every morning. Unless it rains. Which it probably won't do again until October.

So much physical movement has begun to show the logical result... I am losing a little weight. Not too much... not enough to be in one of those annoying internet "before-and-after" pictures. But, a little. My pants fall down now. Going to need a new size soon. Yesterday, tired of having to hitch them up every few steps, I did what any reasonably female would do... I used a bungee cord for a belt. Worked like a charm. Maybe a trip to Target to get a real belt is in order?

So I posted this picture in part to show what I looked like a month ago, so that in another month or two I can post again and show some progress. Oh, and my "Yorkshire Terrier" hair is now dyed a very pleasant and natural brown. My great-Grandmother was completely white haired when she was thirty... I started greying in my 30's and now have a quite frosty head. When it's fully white, I will glory in it, but for now, the grey does not compliment. So, with a good hairdresser who has an excellent eye for color (she's like you, Lesli, but does her magic with people hair..) I look much better than shown below. I'm in my fiftieth year of existence on this Earth, and I am trying a little harder to take care of my health and looks. Guess it had to happen eventually!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Carlsbad Iditarod

When you have three energetic little dogs, how do you keep them exercised? First you take a three-wheeled bike... a couple of harnesses... some ingenuity... and voila!

If you lived here, you would see us going by every morning, early, before it gets too hot. We either go to the field, or the park. Then we all get unhitched, put on our regular leashes, and we take a long walk. Back again to the bike, get hitched up, and we trot back home for bones!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bread Baking

Happy New Year everyone!
What did you get for Christmas? I was lucky to get some new cooking equipment, so that in 2010 I can prepare more meals at home, and we will eat healthier but tastier food. I usually cook at home, but have to go to the store every few days to stock up on food that is appealing. Veggies, meat, and bread don't keep for very long. Now I am going to try to change that, with my new FoodSaver (that's for a different post) and with a book that I hope will really help.

I read Clayart, a usenet kind of email list for potters, and the subject turned to bread. Strangely, potters and bread seem to have an affinity. Bread and clay have many of the same attributes, and potters seem to like to eat well. Someone brought up a book that they really use, that has a recipe for bread that can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, and only takes five minutes a day to prepare for baking. You don't have to do it every day, either, as you do with sourdough starters. The bread will sit until you are ready to bake! Well, I thought and thought, and decided that I wanted to get the book and try it.

I won't give away the recipe here, because the authors of the book deserve to make sales for their effort. The book is well worth the price, and you can follow along and see if my efforts end up making something that you would also like to be able to make. But the idea is that a very wet dough keeps well in the refrigerator, and actually develops nuance as it sits. Then, whatever portion is desired can be removed, allowed to sit for 40 minutes, and then baked.

The recipe was simple: all-purpose unbleached flour, instant yeast, warm water, and salt. That's it. I had a lot of bread flour, but not as much all-purpose since Allison did some baking here over Christmas, so I used half bread flour and half all-purpose. The bread flour has a higher protein content and might be a little tougher in the baked product. I deducted a little flour when making the recipe, as they said to do if using bread flour. I might have deducted too much....

Anyway, the KitchenAid was an invaluable tool for mixing. Have I TOLD you how much I love my KitchenAid? It gets a workout around here! Almost daily. It's my most beloved kitchen appliance. (Granted, the competition is small, because I have an ancient toaster, a crock pot, and a rice cooker... the microwave doesn't count, that's for the guys) If the KitchenAid were human, I would give it a raise, or maybe I would adopt it like a child. Any way you look at it, the stand mixer does more than its share, and the cookies were a breeze this year! But I digress.

Back to the bread!
You mix up the dough, by putting the yeast and salt in the water and then adding the flour, all at once. When it's fairly well mixed (it took about four minutes) then you put it into a container that will allow it to double, and set it out on the counter for a few hours. Two hours did the trick, but the book says that more or less is all right too. Finally, into the fridge it goes. I divided the dough between a Corning Ware casserole deep dish, and a big measuring cup/bowl. Covered them each with Saran and sure enough, next morning they were both doubled.

I ran out to the Carlsbad Outlet Mall and caught some after Christmas sales, buying an oven thermometer and a baking stone. Those were the bare essentials, everything else I either had, or could improvise. I'd been wanting an oven thermometer, suspecting that my oven runs hot, and sure enough it does, but only about five degrees. The baking stone is interesting, it's like a big flat piece of light terra cotta clay. It is porous, so it absorbs the moisture from the baked goods and gives a crisp, crunchy crust. It was only about twenty bucks.

So here is one container of the bread dough, ready to start baking:

It's quite soft and sticky, not like the usual bread dough. The book warns that it will be soft, and you just have to get an eye for adjusting it! So I sprinkle cornmeal on top of a cookie sheet with no sides (because I didn't want to buy a pizza peel, that flat wooden board with a handle that they form pizza on and then slide it off onto the pizza stone).

I pull up and cut off about as much dough as a size of a grapefruit, and then with floured hands it gets pulled and stretched down each side, like you are pulling it from the top and tucking it underneath. Turning and pulling, turning and pulling. The dough is still very sticky and doesn't want to stay in a ball. I begin to think that it's a little too soft, but will fight the instinct to add flour. Try it this way first, then adjust in future loaves. Here is the dough, resting...

Forty minutes later, the oven is preheated, the stone is preheated, the oven is about right,


the dough is looking like a cross between a frisbee and a pita.


Determined not to give up, I slog ahead... dusting it with flour and then cutting a crisscross pattern on top. But the dough is so soft, it doesn't cut, it just sort of... oozes. Well, maybe it will taste good anyway.

Maybe? Like Nan bread or something? Hmmmmm.....

So I open the oven, put in a pan with about a cup of water in it, then sprinkle the stone with cornmeal. Which immediately smokes a little and smells like popcorn. Not bad, at least it doesn't catch fire and burn my arm hairs off! I grab the cookie sheet with the dough on it, and try to slide it onto the stone. It's supposed to just sort of skid off, intact. Nope. Standing in front of the hot oven, with the smoking cornmeal, I try to slide it off, but end up rolling it over on itself as it .... sllllluuuuurrrrrpppppps off and onto the stone.

Apparently it WAS too soft. Way too soft. Well, nothing to be done now except plan for the next encounter.

Here is the cookie sheet with the skid marks:

It's been about twenty minutes, let's take a peek....

Hey, it's rising! Aside from the odd shape, and the surface covered with cornmeal, it's not half bad! This just might work! (with a little adjustment, wait till you see what I try next!)

It's then that I notice that the light streaming through the window has a distinct bluish tint. I clean my glasses, but the blue remains. It's the smoke from the cornmeal! I TOLD you it was smoking! So hey, it's a lovely day, open the window... and see the little birdies in the garden, eating from the feeders:

The bread is done, or at least I think it is, so I pull it out....

It's kinda cute, in a lumpy sort of way. I've grown attached to this first effort. Think I'll call it Fred.

When I asked hubby if he wanted a piece of "Fred and butter" he was a little hesitant, but he shouldn't have been... Fred tasted about like he looked. A little bland, and not very confident. I think that the dough needs a little more salt, maybe. Also, a couple of days in the fridge to get a little 'nuance'....

EDIT, later- Making another batch, I realized that the recipe didn't need more salt, I needed a brain implant. TABLESPOON, teaspoon, TABLESPOON, teaspoon (face plant) Just send me to remedial reading class, please.