Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2019 Christmas Sales

A nice Large (30cm diameter) flat bowl serving dish; perfect for serving up the Christmas Goose or Turkey.

This year I will be having a stall at The New Bridge Community Centre Christmas Fayre on Saturday 30th November, 10am to 4pm. The Community Centre is located in Bridge Sollars church located just off the A438 on the road to Madley. There is parking available across the road from the chuch.

I will also have a small selection of pots for sale at the CUP Ceramics Community Cafe and Gallery throughout December. CUP Ceramics is based on the Foley Trading Estate in Hereford next door to the Hereford Yoga Centre.

I am also happy to have visitors at my studio by prior arrangement. Please see the contact page for details of how to get in touch.

 

Posted November 13, 2019 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art 2019   Leave a comment

Its that H.Art time of year again. Throughout Herefordshire artists’ studios and Galleries are open for 9 consecutive days displaying the work of local artists and artisans, the first day being Saturday 7 Sept. The majority of venues, including my own, are open from 11am until 5pm each day. Some are open for longer.

I’ve spent the last week transforming our summerhouse into what could reasonably be considered to be a gallery (if a little rustic), and the preceding 6 weeks firing both my wood fired kiln and my electric kiln to produce some (in my somewhat biased opinion) excellent  pots.

The garden is still looking very colourful and you are welcome to enjoy exploring it and relaxing in it.

A selection of salt-glazed pots

Posted September 4, 2019 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art for Christmas

A nice Large (30cm diameter) flat bowl serving dish; perfect for serving up the Christmas Goose or Turkey.

After what I considered a very successful first involvement with H.Art week in September and as a result of quite a few people asking, during H.Art week, if I would be opening up for Christmas I am going to be open for business on Sunday 25th November and Sunday the 2nd December from 11am until 4pm. There are new pieces to look at as I fired my electric kiln 2 weeks ago.

My tech-savvy wife tells me we will be able to accept credit cards as she has a new gadget which talks to her phone. It is, as yet, untested. Rather than risk disappointment I would also bring cash, a cheque-book or your phone + banking app with you.

Posted November 21, 2018 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art

I’m participating in H.Art this week. Its Herefordshire’s arts, artisans and crafts week-long festival of open studios, gallery openings and assorted craft venues . I’ve spent a fortnight turning the rubbish packed summerhouse into a gallery and making safe(ish) footpaths to it and my wood-fired kiln so visitors can see what I make and how I make it.

mug shelves

A display of my stoneware mugs

 

I’ve been clearing out rubbish, re-homing useful stuff, dusting and vacuuming, putting up shelves, building tables from scrap wood etc. etc. and today had a pleasant flow of visitors and good sales.

Tomorrow my wife is going to offer ‘tea and cakes’ (and coffee etc).

Maybe see you here.

 

Posted September 8, 2018 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

This week I have been mostly making….a ware chamber.   Leave a comment

The first course of the ware chamber is bedded on ceramic fibre paper to ensure it has a perfectly level surface

The first course of the ware chamber is bedded on ceramic fibre paper to ensure it has a perfectly level surface

The kiln I am building has the ware chamber (the area – strictly speaking volume – where the pots are placed for firing) located above the fire boxes. The ware chamber floor is the fire box roofs. It has approximately the same length and depth dimensions as the base of the kiln and is just over a metre high , however this varies because the top of the chamber is arched. The internal volume is approximately 0.85 cubic metres (30 cubic feet) although not all of this can be used for stacking pots as shelf-free space must be left over  the flues which bring the heat, gasses and flames into the chamber from the fireboxes below.

 

 

 

Once the first ware chamber course is complete the corner supports can be put in place. These are held in place by threaded rods.

Once the first ware chamber course is complete the angle iron corner supports can be put in place. These are held in place by threaded rods.

The ware chamber is built with HTI (High Thermal Insulation) bricks. These are similar to, what in the UK, are called ‘breeze blocks’ or ‘Durox’, but they are very high temperature tolerant and even more thermally insulating. The material is like pumice but with a uniformly small bubble size. I read somewhere, many years ago, that it was developed as part of the US space programme for insulating the Space Shuttle during atmospheric re-entry and earned the craft the nickname ‘the flying brickyard’.

 

 

 

 

By the time the sixth course is finished the chimney outlet has been bridged using a piece of kiln shelf as a lintel. Note the thin slivers of HTI brick needed to make this wall the same length as the firebox walls and the way the bricks have been cut to allow a vertical panel of bricks to be removed

By the time the sixth course is finished the chimney outlet has been bridged using a piece of kiln shelf as a lintel. Note the thin slivers of HTI brick needed to make this wall the same length as the firebox walls and the way the bricks have been cut to allow a vertical panel of bricks to be removed

The HTI bricks are cut from a larger slab of material after it has been made and are therefore very uniform in size.  This is in contrast to the firebricks used for the base which are cut before they are fired and can vary in length by as much as 5mm with the majority being slightly longer than their nominal length of 230mm. This means that a row of 6 HTI bricks is almost always shorter than a row of 6 heavy fire bricks and necessitates cutting thin slivers of HTI brick to make up the length. Fortunately HTI bricks are easy to cut. The second, third, fourth and fifth ware chamber courses  have a gap in them at the back where the flue to the chimney will join and at the front of the chamber the bricks are laid such that they can be removed to allow the pots to be placed into the chamber. Although strictly speaking this panel of bricks is not a door, for simplicity’s  sake that is how I will refer to it from now on.

 

 

 

 

 

The ware chamber walls are complete, the door bricks have been cut so it can be laid in row-lock and two 'spy-hole' bricks have been put in.

Viewed from the front, the ware chamber walls are complete, the door bricks have been cut so the brickwork can be laid in row-lock and two ‘spy-hole’ bricks have been put in.

The remaining 7 wall courses are straightforward and similar and and when they were complete I took down the door bricks and cut one of each alternate course in half so that the door wall could be built more stably. In a couple of places I replaced a brick with two wedge shaped bricks one of which was slightly too long for the space available for it. This made it stick out from the wall which will allow me to pull it out during a firing to see what is happening in the kiln and pull out test pieces.

Finally, on each side of the kiln, a piece of angle iron is supported by brackets on the corner supports just above the top of the chamber wall. This is the ‘arch support’ which will prevent the arch, which forms the roof of the ware chamber, from pushing outwards and collapsing.

Next, the tricky bit, building an arch.

 

This week I have been mostly making …. fireboxes.   1 comment

Heavy firebricks are laid on the concrete floor to protect it

Heavy firebricks are laid on the concrete floor to protect it

The wood-fired kiln I am building has a lower and an upper half. The lower half is where the wood is burnt to generate the heat needed to fire the clay pottery. It is built from heavy fire-bricks which, although they need to be heat tolerant do not need to be particularly good insulators. They are cheaper and more robust than the High Thermal Insulation  (HTI) bricks which will be used for the upper half. The kiln has two fireboxes – each one the equivalent of a hearth in a domestic fire.  They are located at the front and back of the kiln with one of them being stoked from the left hand side of the kiln and one from the right.

The first course of bricks protects the concrete base from extremes of heat.

 

 

A hole is drilled into the concrete where each set of 4 bricks meet.

A hole is drilled into the concrete where each set of 4 bricks meet.

While laying the floor bricks holes are drilled in the foundation slab to allow steam to escape easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firebox course 1. This is the trickiest course to lay as the bricks are not all exactly the same length and the side walls have gaps in them.

Firebox course 1. This is the trickiest course to lay as the bricks are not all exactly the same length and the side walls have gaps in them.

The first course of bricks must be carefully planned to make sure the corners are square. Lots of measuring and set square usage. It incorporates supports for the ash grates which hold the embers from the burning wood until they are thoroughly burnt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire bars on the left support the long billets of wood used to fire the kiln. As they burn they break up into embers which fall onto the ash grates below.

The fire bars on the left support the long billets of wood used to fire the kiln. As they burn they break up into embers which fall onto the ash grates below.

The ash grates and the fire bars (brick course 4) are made from mild steel angle iron and weldmesh. I measured and cut the pieces of metal and a friend in the village welded them together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire boxes second course. The outer bricks are laid flat whereas the inner bricks are laid on their sides.

Fire boxes second course. The outer bricks are laid flat whereas the inner bricks are laid on their sides.

The second and third courses are pretty straight forward except that a number of bricks must be cut. For the heavy bricks I used an angle grinder and for the HTI’s I used an old panel saw which was no longer sharp enough for wood.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1570

Fire boxes third course. Ash grates in position.

No mortar is used. The slight unevenness of size in the bricks is accommodated by adding a thin layer of fire-clay slip mixed with sand between courses.

 

 

 

 

 

The fourth course supports the fire bars

The fourth course supports the fire bars

The fourth course supports the fire bars. The inner wall, just below the fire bars is partly made from HTI brick as it is easier to cut and is not subject to much wear and tear in this location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course 5. The fire bars are not in position as the weight of the sixth course bricks is needed to prevent the central support bricks being pushed downwards by the unevenweight of a single set of fire bars on one side.

Fire box course 5. The fire bars are not in position as the weight of the sixth course bricks is needed to prevent the central support bricks being pushed downwards by the uneven weight of a single set of fire bars on one side.

Fifth course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course 6

Fire box course 6 with fire bars in position.

Sixth course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course seven. This serves as the foundation for the ware chamber.

Fire box course seven. This serves as the foundation for the ware chamber.

Seventh and final firebox course. Great care is taken to make sure the brickwork is level from front to back and side to side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire box roof. Kiln shelves laid on ceramic fibre paper. The gaps at each end are where the heat from the fires will rise into the ware chamber.

The fire box roof. Kiln shelves laid on ceramic fibre paper. The gaps at each end are where the heat from the fires will rise into the ware chamber.

The fire-box roof, which is also the ware chamber floor is made from 25mm thick kiln shelves laid on a couple of layers of ceramic fibre paper (which is more like felt than paper) This provides a good seal between the upper and lower parts of the kiln and evens out the minor unevenness in the final course of firebox bricks.

 

The next stage is to build the ware chamber – the place where the pots to be fired are placed – out of HTI bricks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This YEAR I have been mostly making …. Home Improvements   Leave a comment

A view from what is now the utility room past where a shower room and a WC had been to the guest bedroom and where the back hallway had been.

A view from what is now the utility room past where a shower room and a WC had been to the guest bedroom and where the back hallway had been.

This time last year the house was in chaos. Building work had started at the beginning of September and was scheduled to last 12 weeks. As is often the case with old houses, things cropped up which required additional work and expenditure and in this case the work over-ran by 25% and the expenditure over-ran by 30%. The builders finally left in mid December. We had allowed 10% in the budget for over-run so all our remaining savings were cleared out leaving no funds for painting and decorating, paving and landscaping or building my wood-fired kiln. It was time to put our DIY outfits on and work our way through to the end of the building project. First came tiling, painting and varnishing in the kitchen in an attempt to make it a suitable work space for hosting Christmas. We managed to get the tiles on behind the worktops and the new oak door varnished, the windowsills painted and some of the walls painted particularly in areas where food splashes and fat spits  might permanently stain the bare plaster.  Once the festivities were over tiling, painting and varnishing spread to the utility room and guest bedroom. I also put up shelves and coat hooks in the utility room and pantry/boiler room, roller blinds and curtain rails generally and mirrors and toilet roll holders in the downstairs loo and new upstairs bathroom. The painting went on for weeks as there were 4 large rooms, a small loo and a pantry and a stairwell, staircase and landing all of which needed laborious preparation with filler, sandpaper and knotting solution and at least 3 coats of paint.

 

 

Paving panel with quartz pebble and kitchen tile offcuts standing on edge

Paving panel with quartz pebble and kitchen tile offcuts standing on edge

Outside it rained and rained and rained – the wettest winter in living memory. The paths around the house either turned to mud or became dangerously slippery – the local stone is porous but fine grained which allows a thin film of slippy  algae to grow but has little grip. One path was even completely flooded where it dipped close to the old well the water in the latter rising above ground level during the heaviest downpours. It became clear some new and/or replacement paving was needed. As all our spare income was being spent on paint and tiles and carpets and vinyl flooring and curtains and a dozen other decorating necessities it was clear the paths would have to become another DIY project.

Paving panel with round pebble and broken roof tiles standing on edge

Paving panel with round pebble and broken roof tiles standing on edge

The incessant rain also highlighted the fact that not all the roofing and rendering were totally waterproof and that practically all outside paintwork had remained neglected for a decade or more. So as winter turned to spring and the internal decorations neared completion my attention and effort turned to matters outside. My wife had taken a full time job so was less involved in the out-door works concentrating her efforts mainly on the garden. I clambered about on ladders and roof ladders, filled gaps with mortar and caulking, painted neglected woodwork and applied bitumen to roofs, mortar flashings and timber framing, re-painted rendering, repositioned and re-secured roof tiles, pulled up paths and laid new ones all on a minimal budget and at the same time trying to keep on top of the garden and to ‘tame’ new areas of it.

 

Paving panel with half-brick surrounded by pebbles

Paving panel with half-brick surrounded by pebbles

For the paths I mainly used materials I had to hand – bricks from the walls taken down by the builders, stones from the veg. and flower beds, slabs from the pre-existing paths and bits of old sandstone roof tile which litter the garden all held in place with concrete which provides good grip underfoot.

 

 

 

The house with its new timber framed porch and kitchen wall

The house with its new timber framed porch and kitchen wall

By early Autumn the house was looking good both inside and out and attracted nice comments from neighbours and passers-by (we are on the route of the Wye Valley Way), there were only a few bits of paving which needed ‘seeing to’  and the garden, all of it, was more or less under control. However one more thing had started to irk me. The summerhouse in the garden had been pressed into service for a variety of purposes when we first moved in. Bike shed, night time accommodation for our 3 cats, pottery store for the stock I had brought with me  from Cambridge, kindling prep and storage area (for our wood-stove) and glaze making ingredients and kiln building materials store. After I had converted the garage into my pottery studio, although the glaze ingredients moved out, my workbench, trestles and table, DIY and decorating tools, ladders and timber, paint and other materials, and sack barrow were all moved in. Floor space was a precious commodity and all available shelf space was full. We bought a Barbecue, the chaps from Calor Gas who came to move the gas tank left me 3 bags of cement, the builders had over ordered the (non-returnable) floor tiles so we had two boxes of those, our bumper crops of onions and shallots and garlic needed to be stored somewhere, the boxes which the previous owners had used for storing apples and pears needed a new home rather than the loft space the builders had converted into a bathroom. The summerhouse was full to bursting and if you wanted to get something out you had to move several other items to get to it and several more to get the desired item to the door. What we needed was another shed.

New shed with split roof. The rear is strong so that it can be stood on for house maintenance, the front is clear plastic for internal light.

New shed with split roof. The rear is strong so that it can be stood on for house maintenance, the front is clear plastic for internal light.

It would be my DIY workshop. There was an obvious place to site it, out of view from the house and most of the garden, but close enough to both pottery and house  to quickly grab that vital tool. After looking at commercially available sheds of the size I wanted I decided I could get something closer to my needs for significantly less money if I built it myself. In my mind the saving equated to well over 100 lightweight thermal insulation bricks. It took me around 3 man days (spread over two weeks due to bad weather and other interruptions) to build the shed … time well spent.

Initially, at the beginning of this DIY marathon I had tried to continue potting but  I lacked focus and drive as my thoughts kept wandering to the long list of DIY  jobs that still needed doing. I also wasn’t getting into the studio every day so things got forgotten. I lost count of the number of pots I had to throw away (recycle) because they had dried out too much before I got back to them. It was very disheartening. It also wasn’t getting me any closer to the wood-fired salt-glaze dream and it soon became clear to me that I would be happier if I stopped trying to be both potter and painter/decorator/builder and concentrated on getting the DIY out of the way. Its taken longer than I thought it would, and the DIY to-do list still exists but I can see that the time when I will be able to get into the studio every day is now in sight; so much so that I recently searched  out the CD which holds the details of the wood-burning kiln I am going to build and had a good look at what is in store for me next.

 

 

Posted November 25, 2014 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

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