A true trial by fire

•May 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is a group of photos I took the other day while loading a glaze fire (click any photo to enlarge).

In this first image, top right, the kiln is partly loaded and I’m building the setting to hold the various sized pieces for this firing. The way the kiln is stacked – how tightly and whether the shelves are staggered – all affect how the kiln will fire. Air flow, heat distribution, oxidation, reduction, intake, exhaust, gas and chemical reactions, shrinkage, timing between changes… It is always slightly different with so many variables. Just firing a kiln is an art and science.

In the second and third photos the kiln is fully loaded. It’s 1pm and I’ve lit the burners.

The 4th shot, at right, is of the kiln ~12 hrs into the firing at 1am. The peephole plugs are out to show the effect of reduction on the kiln. The intensity and color of the flame is an indicator of the strength of the reduction. This firing took 13.5 hours to reach 2350f.

The final photo was 36 hours later, after the kiln had cooled to ~250f.

Until the temp is below 400f we barely open the door…

The finished pieces go through quartz inversion at ~400f – a time of rapid shrinkage when they will easily crack. One can hear ting ting ting through the cracked door. In high fired stoneware and porcelin, there is approximately 13% shrinkage – about 10% of this happens during the glaze fire – torturing the pieces. A true trial by fire.

We’re in a creative zone

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

click any image to enlarge

After a lot of refining and studious work, I finished several unique new glazes this month. With them, I have been throwing porcelain instead of the brown stoneware clay. I’m loving the way the new glazes are reacting with it! The colors are more vibrant than ever.

We’re at a high point in experimentation success and expression.

As I write, Peggy is in her studio filling color in on pieces she wax decorated over the past few days. I’ve been making a lot of new pieces in preparation for our expansion in Studios on the Park.

The photo above is of two slab vessels I carved with geometric intertwinning imagery, along with new wheel thrown porcelin teapots, and a large porcelain covered jar.

The photo below is a group of bisque fired porcelain bottles and vessels waiting to be glazed. Tomorrow is glaze day and I plan to finish some of them. I am developing more new glazes for the porcelain and revisiting some of the combinations I loved in my past porcelain work.

Templeton Day in the Shade and larger gallery space

•May 9, 2010 • 1 Comment

It was really a day in the sun – about 80 degrees with a light wind – absolutely perfect weather. It was a great crowd and we had very good sales. Again this week, as at Saratoga, patrons bought some very nice pieces of both our collaborative work and my individual work. There was a great funk/R&B band playing, wine tasting, BBQ, and art. What more could you ask for?

Our daughter Emily, with her daughter Zoë, and our son Josh, with his daughter Heidi and son Carter all stopped by for visits. It was a wonderfully fun day in Templeton.

We had our first weekend of expansion at our gallery at Studios on the Park, too. We are both thrilled with the new displays and more cohesive space. We’ve been working so hard in preparation that the space is already full! We’re very excited and looking forward to showing off the space… Here are our first photos.

Saratoga rotary show is always good

•May 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We did the Saratoga Rotary Art Show last weekend. It is a great show. During the show we often marvel at the superb jurying process. Every accepted artist is tops in their field. They’re not just good; they’re outstanding.

To get a feel for the quality, take a look at the art and artists in their program.

The attendees at the show are equally impressive. During the show we had some really wonderful conversations, gaining insight on favorite symbols and discussing some of the ancient tribes who we capture in our work. Quite often we are educated by a customer who knows the the intricate historical detail of a symbol. We love this!

Hopefully we’ll see you there next year. The show benefits the Saratoga Rotary, who are actively involved in the community.

Quick reminder: Day in the Shade is this Saturday. It’s a tiny show in Templeton, CA. It’s in the park and there’s live blues until 5pm. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday if you’re near by.

And if you stop by Templeton for the show, you should also stop by Studios in the Park where we have our gallery space. There are 40 artists in an open environment. Visiting both the show and the studios is a good way to get a weekend art fix before Mother’s Day :-)

Butterfly Woman

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Title: Butterfly Woman
Spirit Figure wall piece. Design and glazing by Peggy Vrana.

Dimensions: 7″ x 16 1/2″

Turtle and Dragonfly – $160

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment



Title: Turtle and Dragonfly
This small round vase holds the designs most preferred by Peggy in her geometric repertoire. One side is a turtle and the other side is a dragonfly. The turtle symbolizes mother earth, female fertility, and long life. The dragonfly symbolizes transformation.

Dimensions: 6″ x 8 3/4″
Price: $160.00

Inspired by wine and music

•April 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Peggy’s collaboration with D’Ambino Winery and Cellars, a winery owned and operated by a family of talented and fun loving musician/winemakers, has shaped and inspired her to make pieces with music as a central theme.

Like the D’Ambinos, we’re a family of music lovers, too. Many years ago – way before MySpace, color computer monitors, and almost before the Internet was invented – we were in the band Up in the Air. Peggy played flute and Michael played conga drums. It was great fun and we still have our original instruments decorating our home.

Peggy has always enjoyed illustrating and glazing people in her wax-resist work. It’s a natural next step and adventure to capture musical life, and she is eagerly exploring and inspired to do more musical designs.

The photo of the hanging plate above is the 3rd piece capturing musical life. It’s not for sale – we’re keeping it. The first two, including “D’Ambino Family at Play,” were sold during the Art of Wine auction on April 16th, 2010.