09 September 2005

Mystery stains

With less than a week to prepare for the Louisville Show, I have officially finished making beads for the show. The time has come to focus on show preparation rather than manufacturing stock. Over the next week, I will be temporarily stringing beads to sell as strands, creating and printing price labels, creating and printing signs (and laminating them?), and otherwise trying to get ready for the show. I would have liked to have been ready for the show weeks ago, but it's a bit late for that now, isn't it.

I decided at the beginning of this week that anything that wasn't ready to go in the kiln on Wednesday wasn't going to the show. Wednesday evening, after transferring the dry beads from the surface on which they were spread to dry, I began working on things for my own mental health. The stress of preparing for a show, and trying to produce enough stock to make the show worthwhile (not to mention the stress of an increasingly mobile toddler and migraines, etc) was beginning to get to me. From some perspectives, it would be much easier and more lucrative for me to get an office job than to make beads by hand in my home studio. From my perspective, there is too much that I would miss. I spend my days with my baby girl whose world expands every day as she discovers more and more about it. I am doing, mostly, something that I love, mostly, and set my own schedule while I'm doing it. Usually...

Right now, since I've been focusing on the show, I've been trying to get as much time in the studio and make the absolute most of that time. In an effort to create the widest variety possible, I've been working in colored porcelain. I mix small batches of 4-5 ounces which is enough to make 80-100 beads. From each batch, I make one kind of beads.

To add an element of mystery to the process, I've been using stains of dubious provenance acquired from a semi-local ceramics supplier. This supplier has, over the years, purchase large quantities of clay and glaze chemicals, including stains, from other suppliers when they've gone out of business. The stains that I've purchased are decanted into jars and labeled to the best ability of my semi-local supplier. A materials scientist would probably have a coronary at the site of these odd jars with their funky labels and uncertain contents. It is my goal to use all of my collected stains during my lifetime so that Mica is not forced to call in a Hazmat team to clean my studio when I'm gone.

The result of my acquisition of these alchemistic colorants is that I'm really not sure what I'm going to get when I add the stain to my clay. So far, my experiments have not been bad. The "I think it's blue" stain yielded a beautiful blue and the "Green" stain was very obviously green in the jar and in every stage of production. If you make leaves out of green clay, it doesn't really matter what shade of green you get. On the other hand, "It may be Orange" bisqued to a lovely white. I don't know if it will become orange when fired to a higher temperature. I may have made 2 batches of 100 off-white beads. The yellow stain, in high concentration, had previously given me a startling shade which made my eyes long for the soothing comfort of a 1000 watt incandescent bulb. I mixed the yellow clay with considerably less stain this time around, hoping for a milder result.

I look forward to posting pictures once the beads return from their high firing in Kim's kiln. If things go well in Louisville, I hope to hire an electrician to do the wiring for my large kiln so that I will no longer be kept in such unbearable suspense.

No comments: