Author Archives: Fields Brian

About Fields Brian


Low-tech clay reclaim system

One of the things I like about having my own wheel at home is having control over my clay scraps.  At a community studio, you don’t always have the ability to save your trimmings and slop easily, and I found that a lot of my clay went to the scrap barrel.

Here’s what I’ve set up to reclaim my scrap.  First, everything goes into a 5 gallon bucket to wait until there’s enough for a batch. Then it goes into my homemade ‘filter press’ I made from several old cat litter pails that are the perfect size for me.

I start with one unaltered bucket:


Then a second bucket that I’ve drilled a bunch of 1/4″ holes in the bottom gets stacked inside:


Some day I want to try cutting larger sections out of the bottom and putting in some hardware cloth to hopefully improve drainage.

Then a double layer of fabric cut from a plain cotton bed sheet goes inside:


After mixing up the slop well, in it goes. I’ll usually mix it well with an impeller attachment on a drill a few days before, then let it settle. I pour off the clear water that comes to the top just to minimize the time it takes to filter, and also make sure it will all fit into the pail:


I’ll usually let it set like this for a few hours. I’ll periodically empty the bottom pail of water by just lifting out the top one and putting it into another one.  The cotton also helps remove water by wicking.

After about a day, I’ll fold over the fabric:



And then put another pail on top with weight (clay, water, cat litter).



After the clay sets this way for a few days, the sheet will be less drippy and just damp.  That’s when I pull it out of the bucket system and start drying it either on the concrete floor, or the wedging table – still wrapped in the sheet like a burrito. I turn it over twice a day to get air on all sides. The sheet will continue to wick moisture out of the clay.

Soon, when you open the sheet and lift one side, it will roll cleanly away from the sheet.  It’s still very soft inside, but I remove it from the sheet at this point and continue working with it until it’s firm enough to throw again.

Tech Tip Tuesday – FeedBurner

I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a while now. My time in the actual clay studio is still so intermittent that I just can’t seem to get a lot accomplished. I’ll get there, but it’s slow going for now.

I also thought I’d share some of the knowledge from my ‘other’ life in IT. I read a lot of pottery/art blogs (200?!, jeez, how did -that- happen?? Look for a future tech tip on how I do this without spending all day, or losing my mind.), and occasionally see a tech question or issue pop up. When I can, I try to suggest an answer, or point them in the right direction to a solution.

Yesterday, the question came up about how many subscribers my wife had on her blog. Not an easy question, but there are ways to at least get an idea.  The tool we’re going to look at today is FeedBurner. Yes, it’s by Google, and you’ll need a Google account to use it. Since a lot of the blogs I see are Blogger blogs, shouldn’t be a big deal for most of you. Let’s head on over to and get started. Don’t worry, I’m starting out with an easy one here. It’s not hard, and Google actually has pretty good help docs to get you set up.  Here’s my ‘Quick Start’

Step 1- Get your google account and sign in at  Done? good.

Step 2 – ‘Burn’ your feed.  (hey, don’t blame me, I didn’t come up with this lingo..)  Just type your blog URL or your feed URL if you happen to know what it is, in the box ‘Burn a feed this instant’  and click [Next]. More than likely, FeedBurner will say that it has found multiple feeds, which one do you want to use?  For Blogger users, the default Atom feed is fine. It should look something like  /feeds/post/default. Make your selection and press [Next]

Now finish up by giving your feed a name. It defaults to your blog title, so you’ll probably just want to leave it as-is. Below that, you’ll see your blogs ‘new’ feed address. You could write this down for later, but theres an easier way. Press [Next].
Now just [right-click] on your feed URL and [Copy link address] or [Copy link location] -depends on your web browser.
You can continue on and set up some additional tracking features, but hey, we’re just getting started with this whole thing, so let’s keep it simple. You can always go back and play with the advanced settings later…
Press the [Skip directly to feed management] link. You should now see your feed listed in your control panel.

Step 3 – Redirect your Blogger feed.
So now, go log into your Blogger account, and go to your Dashboard.  Click the [Settings] tab, and [right-click] [Paste] your feedburner URL into the ‘Post Feed Redirect URL’ box.  While you’re here Make sure the ‘Allow Blog Feeds’ is set to ‘Full’, or at least NOT set to ‘None’ (again, look for more about this in a future TechTip) then click [Save Settings]

You’re done!
You now can check your feed stats by logging in to and selecting your feed. If you have multiple sites or blogs, you can set up a feed for each of them and manage them here.
It usually take about a day for things to sync up and data to start coming in, but soon you should start seeing subscription info and other stats in your FeedBurner reports. Poke around a bit, there’s some neat stuff you can find out, some things might surprise you.

Goodbye 2009!

In the spirit of New Years, new beginnings and all that, I’ll be making a fresh start here on the blog and in the studio.
After a particularly frustrating 2009, not being able to do what I WANTED to do, or felt I SHOULD be doing or COULD do, I’ll be focusing on what I CAN do. Until my recovery and PT and various other procedures are done with, I can still make work. I may not be as fast as I was, or be able to throw for hours and hours, but I can make work. Pain or not, working with clay helps me stay sane through it all.

Pricing in a bad economy

Just read a blog post about the temptation to lower your prices when things aren’t selling.
Assuming your prices are set correctly (whatever that is) in the first place, it makes a lot of sense.

Looking around, I sure haven’t noticed many other sectors slashing prices. Sure, there are the department stores that have huge retail markup having 50% of sales, but you can be sure they are not selling below, or anywhere near, cost. If they are, they’re making it up elsewhere (loss leader to get you in the store) or they’re teetering on bankruptcy.

I thought this really fit in with a common theme I’ve been seeing out in the pottery blogosphere about how people are doing in the down economy. The thinking that makes the most sense for me is that, yes, the big expensive pieces might not be selling right now, so you might want to offer smaller, less complicated, time consuming pieces if you don’t already. But offer them in addition to your other pieces, because you just don’t know what will sell on any given day.

Check out Molly Gordon’s blog here:
Why lowering your prices doesn’t work and how to resist the urge

Starting again

The blog posts have been few and far between for quite a while now. It’s been everywhere from physically impossible to just painful or inconvenient to do much pottery at all since the accident last fall. While I have been able to keep up with the day job, it just doesn’t leave much time or energy to do the fun part, POTTERY. I really find it hard to blog about it if I’m not doing it.

Since I can’t do much myself, I have been trying to keep up with all the other pottery blogs and see what everyone else is up to. I’ve also spent a lot of time incubating ideas for forms and techniques I want to explore when I get back to it.

And so I began.

First, I had to renew my studio card, which I’d barely used in the past year. Then reacquaint myself with the studio. They’ve changed white stoneware clay bodies 3 or 4 times since last year I think. I still had a nearly full bag of one of the old ones hardening in my locker…. I wasn’t wild about it to begin with, so I got a fresh bag of Loafers Glory, and started over. Little Loafers had been a favorite of mine, so I was happy to see it’s big brother. LG is apparently cone 6-10, where LL is strictly 6, so they went with LG to simplify what they had to stock. I’m actually pretty excited to see what it does in a saggar firing.

I threw a couple 2 lb. ‘vase-like objects’, just to see if I remembered how, and get a feel for the clay again. The first one was hard, nothing seemed to flow. But the second one went a lot easier. This all took about 90 minutes – pretty much the limit of my endurance at this point. I never was the fastest thrower in the world, I like to take my time, but this was slow!

High tech from the 1700s

A while back, I read an article in Ceramics Monthly about ‘kacheloffens‘, or tile stoves. The idea intrigued me of having a large massive wood stove that used the fuel to heat up the tiles and slowly release it back into the room. This is accomplished by burning very hot, and using a long fule/chimney that winds back and forth through the oven so that most of the heat from the fire and smoke is absorbed by the brick and tile. 

Then a few days ago, I ran into another article on Low Tech Magazine about the same thing. Apparently developed in Europe due to shortages of firewood, they are very efficient, more so than the metal stoves known here in the US. Metal heat up quickly, but cools just as fast, requiring continuous tending. The tile stove is only lit once or twice a day, burns very fast, hot and more completely, with less fuel, and slowly heats with a more moderate warmth all day or night.
Is there anyone out there using one of these 18th century marvels?