Making more pots for Xmas Sale

Janine and I are back in the studio making more pots to re-stock the shelves for the next Open Studio Weekends coming up on the first two weekends of December.

While I am back throwing on the wheel. I am making a vanity basin for my friends Roxanne and John Lillis who lost their house in the Black Summer Fires, on the same day that we lost all our pottery, sheds, orchard etc.

I wanted to do something nice for them and their new house which is currently nearing completion. I wasn’t able to be of much assistance during the construction, as we were flat out working here to get our building done. So I promised that I would make them a bathroom vanity basin. This is my 2nd attempt, as the first one cracked. I will use it as a pot planter, as it has a hole in the bottom ready to go.

I have to make the hole in the base 12.5% larger then the plug fitting, as this clay shrinks that much. Actually, I’m making it 13.5% bigger , just to make sure that it will fit easily. Silicon hides all manner of sloppiness, if it turns out to be a little bit too big 🙂

With all this warm wet rainy weather, the garden is growing faster than we can find the time to weed it. So it’s looking a little bit neglected and over grown. I will have a garden blitz as soon as the open studio weekends are over.

In the mean time there has been a wonderful crop of artichokes. The just kept on coming and coming. These last few were a little bit past their best and getting a little bit wooly with lots of choke fluff. I peeled them, split them and extracted the ‘choke’ them boiled them and dressed them with a slightly soft mustard flavoured mayonnaise like sauce. something new for me. I liked it and will try it again.

I mixed a pretty standard olive oil and sherry vinegar dressing, added a spoonful of mayonnaise and a spoonful of dijon mustard, whisked it all together. Instant, easy and very delicately flavoured to go with the artichoke hearts.

For breakfast I’ve recently got a taste for an unusual combination of umami flavours. I toast a slice of my home baked rye bread and spread a little bit of aka miso over the toast, then a thin spread of Japanese fermented seaweed paste, and finally some organic, un-hulled tahini. It’s really savoury and very nice. I wonder if I’m lacking some sort of mineral in my diet, to make me want to eat this unusual combination?

We picked the last of the broad beans yesterday. They are such a wonderful springtime treat. The season is so short. Broadbeans are so particular. If I plant them too early, they flower and flower, but refuse to set any beans. If I plant them too late, they refuse to germinate in the cooler soil. I don’t know if it is my particular situation here and my terroir, or if other veggie gardeners find the same thing? I have just got used to them flowering for some time until the conditions are right for them to set beans. The ripening of the beans always seems to coincide with the winter/spring (sprinter) winds. Just when they are tall and laden with a heavy crop of beans, the winds come and knock them all over. I’ve learnt to stake the plot and run some rope around the plants to keep them vertical.

This spring I grew the same red flowering and purple podded peas that we have been growing here for years. Collecting our own seeds each summer as the plants dry off, so as to replant the following year.

We probably have just one more picking of the peas before the hot weather arrives to desiccate them. However, it seems that this year is declared to be a La Nina event year, so the onset of the heat mat be delayed. Apparently we can look forward to a wet and steamy beginning to summer.
Even though the garden looks like it is more or less abandoned, there is always something to pick for dinner in amongst the weeds.  The blue berry bushes are loaded and just starting to ripen. we can pick a punnet every other day at the moment, but there will soon come a time are the season peaks that we will be eating blueberries in everything and even preserving some.

Even though the garden looks like it is more or less abandoned, there is always something to pick for dinner in amongst the weeds. We are always so busy. There is always something to do. I can’t imagine that I will ever find my self being bored!

Open Studio Weekends

We have just had our first Open Studio weekend. It was good. Not too busy, just right. We had an influx on Saturday morning with half a dozen cars in the first hour. We even had a queue at the wrapping table for a short time. but after that it settled down to just one car after another until lunch time and then a long spell of quiet. In the afternoon we had several more visitors spread out more or less evenly until just after 3pm when it stopped.

We were lucky that there was a big function on at Sturt Workshops in Mittagong all day Saturday, so we picked up a few car loads of visitors that called in here on the way past, coming from Sydney and going to Sturt.

We have had only 4 stoneware glaze firings in the 3rd hand gas kiln that I bought back after 26 years out in the wild. It’s now back in captivity and working well.

Sunday was quieter, but still good. We had the same lull in the middle of the day but a much quieter afternoon. It was a great start to this 4th pottery iteration after loosing the first 3 to fires, we have been a lot more cautious about what sort of garden and just how much foliage we can accept near our house and workshop. As this new 4th pottery is almost entirely made of steel, it is a lot less flammable. Steel building can still be ruined by intense fire – they bend and collapse in intense heat. So that is why we have decided to build this new studio in the middle of our block well away from any bush. I have already plumbed the building with fire fighting sprinkler lines. Although as it is so wet they year. I haven’t got around to fitting the sprinklers yet.

I decided to spend those couple of days in the pottery making work for the sale. Everything in it’s own time.

We almost sold out of Janines painted unomi beakers and inlaid lidded boxes, as well as my breakfast bowls.

So on Monday morning we were both back on the wheel making new stock for the up-coming December Open Studio weekends as we have elected to be part of the Southern Highlands ‘Pop-up’ Artists Open Studios on the first two weekends on December, – 4th and 5th, then the 11th and 12th.

This image of us by Eva Czernis-Ryl. Thank you Eva.

3 firings in one day. Preparing for our Open Studio Weekends

Yesterday we had all three kilns firing at once. A bisque in the little electric kiln, a stoneware reduction glaze in the big gas kiln and another stoneware reduction firing going on in the old relocatable mini wood fired kiln. I recovered it from the ashes of the fire. As it was built from a stainless steel monocoque frame with insulation brick lining, it mostly survived the fire, because it was stored out on the verandah and didn’t get too badly burnt. It just needed some cosmetic TLC on the frame and a new set of castor wheels. Lucky!

It was designed and built as a possible dual fuel kiln to be fired with either wood or LP gas from BBQ bottles. However I had never fitted it with burners and only fired it with wood previously. Now is the time to finish fitting it out with burners. I spent a day making shiny new burners and gal steel mountings. I chose to only pack and fire the bottom half of the kiln , as it is designed to be in two sections. A bottom half with the fire box opening and burner holes – which ever is chosen to be used. Then a top half composed of a removable ceramic fibre ring and lid. The ring can be removed and the lid placed on the base section to make a smaller half sized kiln. Which is what I did yesterday. As it was the first test firing of the kiln, I thought it best to go small for a first firing.

After an initial tweaking and tuning, It worked perfectly and fired to stoneware in reduction easily in 2 1/2 hrs. using less than one 9kg bottle of BBQ gas. I had 2 set up ready with a change over switch just in case, but the 2nd bottle wasn’t needed. I also set them up in a tub of water that can be warmed. In this way I can fire them to dead empty without them freezing. But none of this was necessary yesterday.

I’m a bit more confident about our local rock glazes now after 3 rounds of test firings. The hares fur/teadust tenmoku is a little more stable.

Both Janine and I have been investigating the use of colours over tenmoku.

and I have managed to stabilise the local Balmoral dirty feldspathic stone and wood ash opalescent Jun glaze.

Janine has made some slip decorated lidded boxes.

The stone fruit orchard is looking great after a wet start to the spring season and everything is green and luscious.

The almond grove is also very lush and green. All these mature almond trees were burnt and transplanted into this area that was formally a native garden. We have decided to keep the more flammable native bush at a much safer distance from the house now.

The pottery will be open this coming weekend, the 13th and 14th of November as part of the Australian Ceramics Assn. Open Studios weekend that will operate nationally. We will be open in conjunction with Megan Patey in Colo Vale. Megan makes beautiful Majolica and Smoked Arab lustre.

click on the QR code to find your local potter.

Janine and I will be also open on the first two weekends in December and the Southern Highlands Artists Pop-Up Open Studios group.

We will be open on the 4th/5th and in conjunction with Sandy Lockwood, on the 11th/12th of December.

We look forward to being able to show you around the new pottery on one of these 6 days.

We will be following the government recommended COVID19 safety protocols. So please come if you are double vaccinated and have your vaccination certificate. There is our Service NSW, QR code poster on the door for login

We have a covid-safe plan that includes keeping the space very well ventilated and limiting numbers to 4 sq.m. per person.

Please don’t bring dogs, as we have recently had both wood ducks and brown ducks hatching clutches of little ducklings that waddle all around the property with their parents feeding on the lush grass. These are timid wild animals and we have no control over where they wander. So please keep a respectful distance if you are walking around the garden.

These last two photos by Janine King.