Monday, 24 September 2012

Post 38 Camphor Laurel

There are a couple of indusputables about the camphor laurel tree. One is that as a mature tree there are few its equal as a beautiful majestic tree. The second is that there is no doubt about it's toxic invasiveness in the southern Queensland and northern NSW environment. It was introduced here from China, Taiwan, Japan in the early 1800s and many people will be familiar with its use in the old days for building clothes chests. The camphor oils in the timber are an inbuilt insect killer.

I have been aware of a couple in my back yard that have sprung up presumably from bird droppings. They have taken off and it's time for them to go. But they do make a beautiful tree, so why not experiment with a half way house through a bonsai experience for them. They are classified as a class 3 weed in Queensland, along with the Celtis and the Privet so I think I'm not offending any laws by growing them in a pot. Control by landholders is not mandatory, you just can't 'supply' it.  Class 2 weeds can't be supplied or kept.

I cut the first one back over 2 years ago never thinking about recovering it. But then some months ago after it had reshot substantially, I cut it again and pulled it out and replanted it in the ground where I can keep an eye on it. The extraction was quite a job. It had a tap root that was about 100mm in diameter and went straight down.

With spring here the stump has shot very well with many more still coming so it has survived easily. I'll probably leave it there for a year before I top and tail it again.

This was what I chainsawed off the bottom. You can see the tap root that supported it.

And this is the second of the two.  Like the first one it has been a multiple seed germination and the seedlings have now fused into a simgle trunk mass. At this point it's about 750MM high. It was about 3 meters high but I've cut that off, sealed the cuts and trimmed the roots all 'round. It now has small shoots coming out all over and in a couple of months will be a mass of foliage.
I'll force the shoots back down the trunks cut the tap root and then let it stay here a little longer. It should make a spectacular bonsai in 10 years - I'll just have to give it a different name!!

I'm looking forward to making pots for them.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Post 37 Juniper Dreaming

Like most people I’ve got a couple of Junipers. One of them is a good 20+ years old and the trunk is not something you’d blog about, despite the fact it is a very attractive little tree.
In short it doesn’t look like this one.


The approach available to most of us then is the sometimes controversial technique of attaching young live plants to a weathered piece of wood. It might be frowned on by the Japanese purists but in other places it’s a recognised way for the average enthusiast to approach an impression of age in a Juniper. Unfortunately in some places the collection of such timber specimens may be regarded as a little less than sustainable. Here in Australia we have two problems with this. One is that the deadwood needs to be dense and ‘grainy’, and such specimens are not readily available. Then survivability in our environment is the second challenge with hundreds of species of fungus just waiting to destroy any piece of unprotected dead timber before your eyes. 

Can we take the artificiality of a Phoenix Graft one step further and ‘create’ the required deadwood out of another medium entirely, or would that be going too far? How about a nice white piece of ceramic, that will never absorb water or grime, never rot and last FOREVER.

Ok so I’ve been thinking about it for a while and time comes to have a go.
These shots are with the clay still wet, so it looks greyish. It will fire white. It’s about 220mm high. Note the groove for the tree location. Clearly it's designed for the 'roots' to be under the potting medium. It still has one clay prop holdingit up while it dries.

This is the front.

 And the LHS.

 And the Back

 And RHS

And a detail shot.

 It’s a few months away but I will follow up after firing when it is joined with a small Juniper I have ready.
I have made another trunk too, a little larger and more complex than this one and it needs more work yet. Here it is still wet and propped.

Happy Potter

Post 36 More on slumping

I did a test a while ago on pyro-plastic deformation - slumping, of the clay I have been using.
On the last firing I repeated that test using the RGH Stoneware as well as the LGH which is its base. It was suggested to me that the RGH which has an iron colourant added to give it the buff colour may be fluxing the clay, making it more flexible in vitrification.

This is a picture of the test pieces. The white one in the front is the LGH.

I can't really say there is any difference.

So what do I do now - start a series of trials on all sorts of different clays, research the firing cycle I'm using to test the level of vitrification, or conduct some work to test a number of additives to change the clay characteristic.

And so I have prepared some samples for the last test above. I've taken 200 gms of my RGH stoneware clay for 8 samples and then added 10gms of either Silica, Aluminium Hydrate, Kaolin, Magnesium Carbonate, Woolastonite, Rutile flour, Talc, Dolomite. I'm most hopeful of the talc test.
These are drying now and so will be a little while before I get to fire them to maturity.
It would be really great to crack this one.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Post 35 Pots in Society Show

This weekend saw the Bonsai Society of Queensland annual exhibition at the Botanic Gardens Auditorium.

There have been close to 100 trees and suiseki on exhibition in a number of classes. With beautiful spring weather with us many of the deciduous species were in fresh foliage and looking great. The range of species and age of trees on display by Society members is pretty impressive, as is the general arrangement for the show. The merchandise/plant sale area has been very busy on the first day with a big range of trees in training, pots, potting medium etc etc for sale.

I was happy to have three pots in the show. They have featured before in the blog but it's good to see them now supporting a tree and all dressed up for exhibition. All the minor imperfections that you might be aware of as a maker become less important and less apparent in the matching with the tree. These shots were taken just as they were to be put on display.

I've had a great reaction so far from all design aspects, shape, colour and surface texture. The mustard oval has been particularly popular. It was great to see the sky blue deep oval matched with a very nice old Eugena in the entry gateway presentation.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Post 34 Another firing - two new pots

It's Father's day here today in Australia and while there are good cooking sounds and smells coming from the kitchen I've had the pleasure of unpacking the kiln which I fired yesterday.

I'm still working on glaze formulation and so the load was mostly more test tiles. This time I used the one Post derived glaze covered previously to try to find the spectrum of coulurs I could produce.

This is what it looked like as I lined them up.

It came to 83 tiles in total. Using the one base glaze made the process a lot simpler. I just mixed up one big batch and then distributed it evenly to the test cups with the oxide colourants. The test delivered the same consistent satiny surface with minor differences from the fluxing of the different oxide colourants. They are all pastelly tones which come about in part because of the formulation and then the level of opacifier. More vivid colours would be available with glossier formulations. I think that will be quite enough testing for me for the time being.

The two pots I glaze fired were No 17 which is the ribbed rectangular model of earlier pots, but this one with a taller foot design. I think I posted a picture previously in bisque. It ends up in this colour as a pretty 'assertive' pot. The colour comes from a mix of RIO and Managanese. A slightly higher Manganese level was applied to the area around the rib to give a patinated feel which I think I've gone some of the way towards.

The other pot is the first of the new oval design, No 20, in a mustard coloured Nickel glaze. I'm very happy with the geometry of this pot and with both I might just have cracked the high temperature slump problem, or at least worked out how to manage it.
I do have some ideas about manipulating the clay composition to reduce the slumping characteristic, but that might be something for the next time I fire.

Here is  No 17. Final dimensions are 378 x 275 x 92

And No 20. Final dimensions are 405 x 304 x 81