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Friday, May 24, 2013

German pottery roots in Blue.

I shall tell you the tale.... Once upon a time, a Rhineland potter thought he had enough wood for one last firing before having to head out into the forest, with his wagon and ax, to do all the hard labor of cutting, splitting, and hauling the wood back to his pottery. Besides, his merchant friend wanted his latest pots ready to ship in four days; it would take longer than that just to replenish his woodshed.

He stacked his kiln and started the firing. Dark red, cherry red, red-orange, orange, then yellow glowed the kiln. But, disaster! He was out of wood, with the kiln almost to temperature, but not all the way. If he stopped the firing now, his efforts would be wasted; he would have to start the firing all over again once he chopped more wood. And worse, the pots wouldn't be ready for his friend, and friend or not, merchants dealt first with the potters who could supply them on time.

What to do? Desperate, the potter scraped the woodshed floor and scrounged the last few splinters there. He then charged into the house and flustered his wife greatly. Wildly, he looked about the place. "Wood! I must have wood!" His wife, eyes wide, pointed to the storeroom.

Throwing open the door, the potter rummaged through their household stores. There! In the back! His thrifty wife had saved some old sauerkraut barrels!

The potter and his wife hurriedly hauled the sauerkraut barrels back to the kiln, where the potter promptly broke them apart and began pitching them into the firebox. He saw the salty crust of dried up brine on the inside of the barrels, but thought little of it at the time.

The kiln was fired to temperature, fed on the salt-encrusted staves. When the kiln cooled and he unloaded it for his merchant friend, the pottery within was coated with a magical, glossy frosting of glaze. And thus, German potters discovered salt glazing.

The blue on pottery is Cobalt, a mineral found in many countries including the USA and in Connecticut.
And Cobalt Blue?...

A kobold is a small, goblin-like spirit who can be both helpful and mischievous. He often helps with household chores, but sometimes hides tools and implements. His favorite prank is to kick over stooping people.

He can get very angry if he is not fed properly. He also loves to sing to children. There is an expression "to laugh like a kobold" because they are often pictured with their mouth open laughing.

Some kobolds are believed to be spirits dwelling in caves and mines. Other kobolds have specific names, like Hodeken or Goldemar.

The name of the color Cobalt Blue comes from the kobold. Miners blamed the tricky kobold for accidents in the mines. They also accused the malicious goblin of stealing precious silver and leaving behind worthless rock that looked as though it contained metal but didn't. They mockingly called the false ore Kobold. The name stuck even when the stone was found to be useful as, among other things, a blue pigment.

Kobolds can be found in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The word kobold comes from the German word kobalt or kobold meaning "evil spirit", and is often translated in English as goblin. Kobold is often used in German to translate the word 'Leprechaun', a type of Irish fairy goblin.

It is possible to catch a kobold spirit by going into the woods at midsummer and finding a bird on an anthill. This will be the kobold in disguise. You will then have to talk to the bird and when you lulled him to a false sense of security, catch him and put him in a bag to carry him home.

As mine fairies, they take pleasure in frustrating miners' work. If they are neglected or insulted, they become malignant, however, they will sometimes take a particular miner under their wings and direct him to a rich seam of ore. In centuries past if a man was seen to find more seams or possess more skills than his fellow miners, it was said that he was "under the protection of kobolds".

Kobolds in the home are very loyal if they feel wanted and welcome. Some kobolds will follow a favorite family to a new home. When the kobold first settles into a home, he tests the disposition of the family by bringing saw-dust into the house, and throwing dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the kobold will stay in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

Kobolds are usually depicted as very ugly beings; around two feet tall (60 cm), with dark green or grey skin. They also have hairy feet instead of hands. They wear conical shaped hats, pointed shoes, and dress in red or green. Mine kobolds are more similar in appearance to the gnome.

Variants: kobolde, kobalt, koblernigh (welsh), coblynau (welsh).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spodumene and the Food Safe Controversy

My real job is making pottery.  Over the years now, 30 or something, I have been traveling down different clay paths.  I liked yellow ware pots, so I worked out the formulas and fit to make that type of ware and sold a lot of wholesale. Yellow ware is a historical pottery, made in England in the late 1700s and here in the USA till around 1920.  Some of us can't ever get enough history, so I also learned about red wares and since I am from New England, mostly red clay is found here... a lot, I got interested in bricks, and old red ware. 

Potters have known for a long time about lead (a bad word). Potters use lead because it is a great flux. It lowers the melting point and flows into a soft shinny coating on a piece of low fired pottery.  A glaze is basically a coating of glass, melted onto a clay vessel to hold liquids and to look nice. Glass (silica sand) melts at a higher temperature than red clay, so a flux must be added to the mix so it will melt onto the clay pot without melting the pot itself. A red clay pot fired high enough to melt the silica sand without a flux, and you would have a molted mess.

So anyway, we use wood ashes, sodium, potassium, lithium, boron, calcium, magnsium, barium, strontium, lead, zinc and iron. These minerals lower the melting point of the glaze and also have different effects.. gloss, matt, etc.

We now avoid lead.

Spodumene also crops up in glaze formulas.  I have some glazes that use spodumene in the formula. Spodumene is a lithium flux. Someone I know, has brought up spodumene many times in conversations, so when we recently went back to the Connecticut Antique Machinery Museum in Kent, I saw that they had samples of many rocks from our area including Spodumene. This got me interested in learning more about the mining and uses of Spodumene in my pottery.

It seems it is a controversal subject about food safety too. Here is an interesting article I found...

History. It's always interesting and you never know what you will turn up when you start looking into things.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Duck Pin Bowling in Connecticut

Laurel Lanes, the town’s duckpin bowling hall  owner George Noel and his crew made many improvements to the facility.

The lanes have been in Noel’s family for more than 60 years. Noel’s great-uncle, Angelo DeSanti operated the lanes until he was 82 years old, and Noel said that is when the decision was made to close. “He kept the place open for as long as he could,” Noel said.

We had a great time. It's like a blast from the past. Go back to the 50's and 60's, a great place to bring the kids.

And... it has a 2 cool ladies room toilets!

Here we are leaving on a late sunny spring evening... but we will be back!
A friendly place to hang out some evening instead of watching the tube or wandering in the computer!