Defying Entropy

I’ve been out all day way down south, doing a repair job on a kiln. Not one of mine. Fortunately most of the kilns that I have built have not needed repairing — so far. They seem to last a very long time. I’ve made it my business to build out any chance of obsolescence. Everything is so over specified that it is my intension that they out-last me. This was a repair job as a favour for a friend. I don’t do repair work generally. I prefer to custom build from scratch. However, I’m also committed to the concept of reducing waste and not throwing anything out until it is really worn out and not able to be repaired any more. There is so much embedded energy in all our modern ‘stuff’ It is a crime against society to throw ‘stuff’ away.
Our parents generation had an excuse, in their time there was a place called ‘Away’ and things could be thrown there. But now that we have taken an interest and gone out looking. We have found — or not found, that place called away. It isn’t anywhere to be found. Everywhere is some where and what’s more, it’s someone else’s backyard, and they are not too happy to have everyone else’s junk dumped there. We don’t have our parents excuse. We’ve been told. We know. So we can’t go on doing it. Pretending that we can just throw things ‘away.’
This is why I will do some repair work on other manufacturers kilns. To forestal waste and preserve the embedded energy a little bit longer. But everything has a time, and that time has to come to an end at some point. Life is terminal and all flesh is grass. I’ve spent my life so far trying to defeat entropy. I know that ultimately I will fail, but like King Cnut (Canute) I’ll give it a good try.
So as a special favour to my friend, I spend the day re-furbishing this old kiln. I’ve taken along a lot of new furbishes to replace all the old furbishes. So now it’s totally re-furbished. Actually it’s still an old piece of worn out junk, but it will keep on going and working for a few more years now. I can’t make a silk purse out of it, at least not for a few hundred dollars, I can’t. Still, everyone is happy with this outcome it seems.
When I return home. I find that that my very own lovely Mrs Beaton of garden, kitchen and household management has our friend and garden helper Kate here to do some work in the garden and pottery, but the weather is so windy and unpleasant outside, that they have spent the day in the kitchen, making marmalade, candied peel and other culinary delights, like spinach and ricotta cheese pies. She has also been baking Ethiopian cabbage and mustard greens, rubbed with a little olive oil, so that turn crispy and delicious, add a little salt and they are just like crisps. This works well with all sorts of other firm green leaves as well, especially the brassicas like kale.

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Kate makes the pastry from the recipe that we got off Marta Armarda from Spain when she was visiting here. It’s so quick and works a treat. I don’t know how we got through life to this point without knowing about this simple recipe. I suppose that it was because we were always so head-down and butt-up everyday, that we just didn’t get out enough. It’s so simple. Just 1 tablespoon of oil, and another two of water and wine each, then firm it out with enough flour to bring it to consistency. It couldn’t be easier or quicker. We don’t chill it or leave it to settle, just roll it out and cook it.
We dine on hot pie from the oven for dinner.

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A full tummy and a glass of wine makes entropy all that much easier to defy.

Kate and Janine crush pumice (ignimbrite) that we collected on our mid-week, weekend down at the coast recently. Pumice is such an amazing rock. It’s an aerated volcanic glass composed mostly of felspathic minerals. These minerals (magma) are very viscous when hot and when forcefully ejected from a volcanic explosion, the trapped gasses in the rock, created under the intense pressure of the volcanic process are suddenly released. They can’t escape from the viscous magma quickly enough and so expand rapidly exfoliating the rock as it cools. Fluffing it up, like aero chocolate, Not unlike the way that grains of rice are ‘exfoliated’ into rice bubbles in a similar synthetic process.
My very own Mrs Beaton of household and pottery management grew up at the beach on the far North coast. Back in the early seventies, she collected beach pumice from the wild beaches up there to make her own local celadon. This recently collected ‘weekend’ pumice is rather paler than that which we are familiar. We hope that it will make a paler glaze.
We also found cuttle fish on the beach, so I have this crazy idea that cuttlefish ‘bone’ is possibly made of calcium? It’s possible. Many sea creatures utilise calcium from sea water to create their shells and carapaces. It occurred to me that it might be possible to make a sea-blue celadon glaze from the products of the sea? Sealadon?
Janine Beaton has just the recipe in her cornucopia of “The Woman Potters Big Book of Useful Recipes and Techniques for Every Glaze Situation,” No doubt soon to be serialised in 24 convenient monthly instalments. She fills a grid-tile of possible recipes and ‘control’ reference tests.
I’m keen to try her drift-wood, salt glaze, wood ash recipe!
Thanks to her stirling efforts, the ‘StONeS of beaches’ glaze tests are all made up and ready for the current firing.
I feel compelled to play something by Elgar to celebrate!

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The pumice is quite damp from its journey across the sea. We have been told that this current appearance of pumice has come from a massive underwater volcanic eruption somewhere in the Pacific near Samoa or Tonga, and has spent the last few years floating it’s way here, driven by wind and sea currents.
It passes through the big ‘jaw’ crusher OK, but needs some encouragement, as it tends to stick to the jaws because it is so fresh and still damp. We try it through the other crushers, it won’t grind well, it jams up the small jaw crusher and will only passes through the Cornish rolls with some persuasion, as it packs into a damp ‘clag’ and binds up the milling process. It really needs drying well first. It packs to the wall of the ball mill and I have to switch it off and break up the mass, then add water and do a wet milling. This works OK but, no butts, it’s a pain in the butt. It mills down well, however, now it will need to be settled, dewatered and finally thoroughly dried out before we can use it for weighing out the glaze tests that we need to do to find the best recipe for this particular batch of unknown mineral. Mrs Janine Beaton, manages this one evening on the side of the wood stove after dinner.
To get things going we put the remaining rough crushed granules from the primary crushing into the electric kiln, packed in bisque-fired bowls and fired up to 400 oC to thoroughly dry it out, prior to dry milling. Pumice is a very soft rock and is very easy to dry mill, but only when it’s quite dry. In the past, my lovely Mrs Beaton of sea-side glaze management, would dry it in the sun and wind for a few weeks or months before milling, as there was no real rush, it was just a constant flow of material that was well understood. A job that needed doing to keep ahead of her usage. This time it’s something new and we want to see the results of this new material and what it will do. So Mrs Beat-on gets the heat-on.


We have just had a weekend wood firing workshop with another 10 potters working with us to make it a great success. All very enjoyable, but hectic. Everyone enjoyed roasting marshmallows for breakfast over the firebox towards the end of the firing. Janine has Beaten the rush, worked so very hard to get everything ready for this latest workshop. There is so much prep to do, but Mrs Beaton can’t be beaten when it comes to workshop management.
We have our sea glaze sealadon/celadon tests in this firing now thanks to her, so we are keen to see the outcome next weekend and just like everyone else, it will be like Xmas for us too.


With love from Mrs Capability Beaton and her workshop assistant, Mr Furbisher, The Kiln Whisperer, who are attempting to be so well organised — defying Entropy.