Setting up a studio (in the real world)

Oh boy! It has been a long, long week. Thanks god it’s semester holidays right now. If I would have to set up a studio, work at my parttime job and attend classes I would probably not sleep at all.  This week I spend most of my time at my aunts place trying to get rid of junk, sort out things and tools that you can still use and those you can’t use anymore, driving to the trash station, buying heavy duty shelves, painting, cleaning,…. Since the whole basement was flooded last june it is a lot of work. Now that the basement is quite dry the walls were fixed and we could start to paint. I also decided to set up the studio not in the inital space my aunt had set it up in but in a part of my dads woodwork-shop. He doesn’t use it anymore, because he moved to live in the south of germany with my mom, but since the house and all the basement and halls attatched to it still belong to the family he also still has tools there. We also put most of the stuff we found in the water there when the basement was flooded. Plus there was not much water in my dads shop when the flood happened, so there was not a lot of damage done and therefore it was a “good” place to put stuff. Only that it was never moved someplace else. So this was what I was doing the past week. And trust me it was not really fun. Luckily my dad drove up here this weekend and helped me and my mom set up the studio and clean out the basement. We threw away a lot and really cleaned the floor thoroughly. Because there was not a lot of water there were no rocks or other big stuff on the floor, that was dragged in by the water, but there was a very fine, if dry very sturdy layer of mudd on the floor. Of course right after the flooding we tried to clean it up by scratching it off when it was dry, but this was not a longterm fix.
So today when we had most of the space emptied, we put water on the floor, scrubbed it and vacuumed it up with a wet-vacuum cleaner. We did that twice for the whole floor. In the back of the shop we even found two sturdy workbenches that I can now call my own. One of them, the big one (9 feet long) will be for glazing and small claywork like attatching handles, doing sgraffito and stuff, the other one for  making plaster molds. Another good thing about setting up the studio in the shop of my dad is, that it has an oven in there. It is meant for burning sawdust, but it happily also burns other types of wood. It has two walls with air inbetween. When the fire is burning it heats up the air between the inner and the outer part of the oven and then blows it into the shop using a big fan. This is really nice because otherwise it would not be possible to work there in winter or spring simply because my hands would freeze off. Since the shop used to be a bread baking factory, or part of it, it is not super well insulated. Some might say it is not insulated at all. This is why it gets pretty cold in winter and why you need an oven to keep you from freezing.

I did not unpack my wheel yet, but I shopped it last friday and also bought ingredients for making porcelain slip. Only to find out, that the kiln my aunt bought (a huge used Nabertherm from 1972!) can only fire up to 1200 °C (2192 °F)…. I love the shimmer that highfired porcelain gets and I am wondering if it will get this shimmer at such a low temperature. We will find out I guess, but still I was disappointed, because she told me it would fire up to that temperature. It is clear, that she did not really check it first and it makes me sad, that she spend all that money, if there might have been an option that would’ve been better fit for our purposes. Maybe even one that would not have been this big and sucked up so much energy (21kW!!!). Anyways, I am curious how the porcelain slip will work. Here in germany it is very hard to find porcelain at all as I mentioned before. When I talked to the people from the pottery-supply store they said that since there was a mass production in porcelain, traditional potterers were not very interested in using it since the big industry always produced cheaper and faster. The store itself only sold two kinds of porcelain slip. One was very grey if fired at 1220 °C and one was very white but veeeeery expensive. That was because the ingredients for it were imported from new zealand. They also did not make it themselves, but bought it from the guy who imported his kaolin and feldspar from new zealand. I bought grolleg and have used it in the US too, so I was thinking that it shouldn’t be too hard to make a nice white porcelain slip, but I also did not conisder, that the feldspar could be the problem. Here I only had one choice of soda spar: Natronfeldspat LF 90. The store couldn’t tell me the exact analysis of the feldspar, but they thought it might be the reason for greyish porcelain as well since it might contain a certain amount of iron which would make it turn yellowish/greyish. I will need to call the company who mines it since there is nothing to be found on the internet about LF90 Feldspar and ask directly. And of course I will also just try things. I am very curious after all. Tomorrow I have a doctors appointment because of my knee and can’t work in the shop, but my dad promised to set up some additional shelves for glazeware and bisque ware on the wall. After my appointment I wanna shop for some old huge T-shirts in the thriftstore to use in the studio as well as a wax-table cloth for the plaster workbench. I hope I am lucky.


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