Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting dirty and doing for yourself

I have been doing a lot of talking and a lot of thinking about my studio recently, what with the new plans to open a full time pottery business. Unfortunately I have not been able to do a lot of working in the studio lately. Thankfully that changed this weekend.

I read an article last week (I believe it was in the latest CM) about what you really need in a studio to make work. It obviously led me to think about what I would actually need to get the new studio started and what I wanted that could wait until later. It also got me thinking about the space I am working in now. Why am I not making pots? Granted, there is the baby aspect; not having as much time and such. More than that, though, I think I have been doing so much thinking and planing and pining over how great it is going to be to have a bigger work space with (hopefully) more equipment and more time to use it that I have failed to make use of the time and space that I have now. So I finished reading the article and thought to myself, "I have space to work. I can make a little time. Get off your ass and make some pots!"

Thus today I got off my ass and got a little dirty. As I have not thrown in a while I decided to start off with some mugs. This also worked well as I have a couple orders for mugs that I need to get finished.

The pieces in front are actually for a single mug order. I was trying out a new form, though, so I made a number of them to get something I was happy with. The request was for a big coffee mug. I think I made them larger than my normal mugs, but I am not very good at guessing how much liquid will fit in a form. I suppose I will see when they are finished.

The rest are my regular mug forms; some for an order and some just to restock the shelves. These I have already tested. I use 3/4 of a pound of clay and they usually end up holding 8 - 12 ounces.

Now I have 20+ mugs to trim and handle, which is a lot at one time for me. Luckily I have Thursday (Veteran's Day) off work, so I should be able to take care of things then.

Now for something only vaguely clay related. I am lucky enough to have been born into a family that knows what it is to work for something and knows the value of doing things for yourself. I am also luck enough to be part of a family that has the means to do these things from time to time. Pictured above are two gallons of apple cider that we pressed a couple weeks ago using an old manual cider press that my folks have access to. (We actually pressed a lot more than two gallons; that is just what I took home.) Granted it is probably not as efficient and modern presses, but it gets the job done. I might have taken pictures of the whole process but, well, we were busy pressing cider. Maybe next time.

Now, as to what is up with the picture. When I have time I like to brew up my own beer. I also have some blackberries that I will soon turn into wine. So naturally when we were pressing cider my thoughts ran to making hard cider. After getting this stuff home I did a little research and discovered that making hard cider is actually a lot easier than wine or even beer. Very simply, you add some extra sugar (this ups the alcohol content, better preserving the cider), pitch your yeast and wait. So that is what I did.

Another optional step was to purify the cider with sodium or potassium metabisulfite. This is supposed to kill any wild yeast and bacteria that may give the cider an off flavor. Since it was an optional step I decided to try a gallon each way to see if it really made any difference. The jug on the left was not purified and had already been fermenting a couple days at the time of the picture. The jug on the right was purified and I had to wait a couple days for the sodium to do its thing. I was really surprised at color difference when I went back to look at them. That was last Tuesday, though, and the purified jug has been pitched and is fermenting away. It too has undergone a dramatic color change. Strange. Now it is just a waiting game.

So how does this have anything to do with clay? If you are going to make cider you darn well better have something to store it in. A nice big cider jug is on the production list for the next firing. I doubt it will look as good as this one by Doug Fitch or this one by Dan Finnegan, but I'll give it a go anyway.

And now it is way past my bed time. Time to put Noah to bed and hit the sack. Until next time...



  1. Not only do I make cider jars, but I make cider too. Very old fashioned, using wild yeasts alone and after a two week period with the lid off, I add sugar and wait until New Years. m-m-good!

  2. nice mugs Rob and I'll be over in a couple of months to check out the cider :)