Monday, June 1, 2009

Inspiration Flys By

By now you know I'm out in my gardens much of the year, especially this time of year. From sun up to sun down, there's watering, weeding, and harvesting of lavender, fruits, vegetables, and lots of other duties. I have plenty of ideas for new pieces to make in clay, but truthfully I wasn't allowing myself to make anything new till I got around to firing a test firing in my kiln. This was my pact with myself so I would finally just get around to firing it. Now that the firing is behind me I'm now 'allowed' to make new work in clay.

I have plenty of inspiration in the garden surrounding me every day. Flowers, trees, shrubs, insects, butterflies, birds, lizards, wonderful mountain views and on and on. I've had several pieces forming in my mind for the last month or so, but I'm not quite ready to start on those. One of them is a triptych of a blue heron. This will be a large piece and I want to start on something smaller first. Sometimes I have a feeling there's an idea just around the corner waiting for me to discover it.

We get a lot of bird traffic here since the river is at the rear of our property. Every day I see hawks, blue heron, robins, mockingbirds, bluebirds, blackbirds, sparrows, egrets, and I even see owls at night. For some reason, this year there have been a lot of ravens flying overhead. As you probably figured out, I love ravens. Remember the raven I received from Cindy Shake?

The other day a pair of raven were flying by and they started doing acrobatics in the air directly above me. I also happened to have my camera, so, of course I started taking photos. The ravens looked like they were doing a ballet in the sky just for me. It was if the ravens were saying, "Hey Linda, look up here, here's what you need to work on now". Wouldn't you know it, right when you least expect it, inspiration flies by. I knew I wanted to do a series of pieces with ravens.

I love the ends of the raven wing feathers and the shape of their outline against the sky. I was mesmerized by the ravens flying together as if one, and then they flew off in unison. Thanks ravens for the great air show and for the inspiration. I'm working on a couple of raven pieces right now and I'll post them in a day or so.


  1. Wonderful photos of the Ravens in flight, they must make a very impressive sight with their aerobatics. The NZ native pigeon can put up a nice display of its own. It will dive down and build up lots of speed, than pull up vertically until it stalls, then down it goes again. It is a fair achievement as the pigeon has rather small wings for its bulk and a very high wing loading.

    Well done mastering your electric kiln. A nervous moment, but you'll soon be in the swing of it.

    With my old electric kiln, which has no computerized controller, I can still set it to cut off at temperatures that I select. So, to steam out the work, I turn the dial round to 212 F (100 C), and let it come up to that temperature with the spy holes open. It will shut off when it gets there and takes a long time to really cool down again. Every so often when it has lost a few degrees, I restart the kiln until it gets back to that temperature again and shuts off. I keep going that way until no steam shows on a piece of glass held over the top spy hole. With my kiln, I cannot prop the lid open and run the kiln as it has a cut off switch when the lid is opened. Sometimes I will open the lid after it has reached the 212 F cut off point and let out the build up of steam, especially if the work is slightly damp. It usually takes me about 4 hours to steam out work this way (occasionally 6 if thick and at all damp). Good luck!

  2. Love the birds- they are truly inspiring.
    We always preheat a kiln on low the day before we fire it- keeping the temp low but allowing the water to vent out of the work.
    This also gives us a better feel about how quickly we can turn the kiln up.
    Now- we have a new kiln with a computer on it- we have done the first fire, to season the kiln. Today we will going program it for the first bisque. We want it to start in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.
    Keep your fingers crossed and let us know how your kiln comes out!

  3. Hi Peter, I was amazed that they stayed right above me with their ballet. Then later I read that these flights are part of their mating dance and courtship. Those pigeons must be amazing. When I lived up north there used to be pigeons that would fly along the highway faster than I was driving - and since I have a lead foot that was pretty fast.

    I wrote everything down and I may have to keep all the spy holes open to get my kiln to climb more slowly. I knew about the boiling point of water and also the 600 F temp being critical - not sure what I will do about that one. I may give Skutt a call and see what they say. I called them when I first got the kiln and they were very nice. That is the good thing about my having a Skutt.

    Hi Meredith, my test tiles have been drying for some time but I guess they can absorb moisture from the air. I hope all didn't blow up or crack or anything - if so I have more test tiles. I may have to keep all the peep holes open next time. I plan on calling Skutt to see what they say.

  4. Hi Peter and Meredith, thanks for your encouragement. I just looked at the pyrometer and the kiln is now at 150 F so I will wait till it is completely cool to open it up. I have watering to do anyway and that way I don't rush it. It is now 6 am and it has sat over night cooling. I think this will be a good schedule for me - fire in the morning and let cool over night.

  5. How exciting you are firing your kiln!! Being a newby and learner myself :o) I keep a journal of firing temps, glazes, results etc.Amazing how quickly I can forget how what was fired when! I fire my electric kilns with all peeps open until about 500 degrees. The only things I've lost was Mr.Moon's Butt(!) and he was just too thick and may have had an air bubble. I lost a couple of the masks because I rush bisque firing them and two were damp in the thick parts :O( In the beginning I also set up cones on different shelves and areas to see what my cool and hot spots were -both of my kilns are older and used. I have an electronic kiln controller and a ^04 fast bisque fire is taking 9.5 hrs and shuts down at 1945 F. I'm going to e-mail you the Excell Firing Profiles that came with the Controller, it's very informative.

    Your Guardian Spirit Ravens were indeed talking to you! Wonderful shots -I can see some tiles made by you based on those images... :o)

  6. love ravens... ravens and their cousins crows (both corvus i believe) are my favorite birds, apparently very smart and they sat, one each, on odin's shoulders... one thought and the other memory... when do you see your test results?

  7. Hi Cindy, thanks so much for offering to send me the excel spread sheet. I am firing to 06, what is the advantage of firing to 04 for bisque? I made up a firing log and now that I am looking at it, I am learning a lot about how it just fired. This bisque to 06 took 6 hours which is think is way too fast for handbuilt stuff - I am going to adjust it for the next bisque and see how she goes before I put any work in there. I already have quite a bit of Cone 5/6 greenware already made with three different clays, but I don't want to risk firing them till I get the firing schedule worked out. Some of that is Cassius Basaltic which is subject to dunting and should only go to Cone 4 or 5 (turns a beautiful black after firing - can't wait to see it). I saw Mr. Moon's butt - so sorry about that - were you able to repair him and use him?

    I was thinking of some tiles and some bowls, I am working out the details of how to wrap the ravens around a bowl in my mind.

    Hi Jim, I am so glad you mentioned Odin as I was unfamiliar with that Scandinavian mythology. My husband's family is from Finland, not sure if that country also subscribes to that mythology. I will read up on this, perhaps this will bring me more inspiration for these two ravens who danced above me in the sky.

    I will be opening the kiln very shortly to see what lies hidden in there for me to discover.

    More later.

  8. I like ravens too--they are so resourcheful and smart!

  9. Thanks Gary, kind of like me, he, he he.

  10. Lovely photos Linda. You know I am a sucker for birds --- ALL birds! I can't wait to see where their inspirational dance takes you. And I'm anxious to see the results of your kiln firing!

  11. Hi Becky, thanks. I love birds too. Last night two great horned owls were sitting together in the top of the deodar tree and were serenading me as I turned off the irrigation - I felt so lucky to be able to see them and hear them too. I will post tomorrow about the kiln results.

  12. I have a love/hate thing with ravens - it's weird. But, I love your photos!

    Several years ago, I purchased a used Paragon - also for a song and I had it a full year before I worked up the guts to fire it. Now, I'm afraid I take lots of risks with the firing, but I suppose that is because I've used it enough to feel comfortable with it. Last year, I bought a new digital skutt which is much bigger, but I hardly fire it since I don't make enough work to fill it on a regular basis. :(

  13. Hi Cynthia, thanks, the only thing I don't like about the ravens is they survey from above and steal other bird's eggs and babies to eat - Ugh! I tell myself that the the law of nature, but I still feel sorry for the other birds. I am going to keep my eye out for other used kilns, hopefully a Skutt because I think they are good. Perhaps we will sell our house and I will then get one of these kilns that I can easily load from the front door that is at waste lavel - Gary was actually talking about one of those last night - I think he is getting into the clay thing little by little.


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment