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pioneers wanted

updated mon 24 feb 03


george koller on sun 23 feb 03

hi folks,

first, thanks for help with the uv question! the bid
is now off. the fellow that is handling the bids works
with inks that are not really long term uv stable. it is
a huge tile project. all this got me thinking again about
the rightful place in this world for this mechanical gizmo
i've been working on - and i'm more convinced than ever
that software will have a big role in working with ancient
materials on their own terms.

i haven't been keeping you folks up to date because my
most recent 2 months of work has been in the software
again, and not many will relate to that. but the last thing
that happened in the michigan studio back in december
was i got a pretty nice small load of decorated stoneware
pieces (from my brand new itc'd up 1972 kiln). i've been
sharing around pictures with a few of you.

our machine just does two things. but it is getting much
smarter by way of the software that directs the tools about.
the machine does the kurt wild process using off the shelf
tools. the first thing it does is to scratch around shapes
same as kurt does with his sharp dental tool. only we use
a dental drill. this exposes the claybody and makes a
barrier to the colorants.

the other thing the machine does is spit out soluble
salt solutions through a electronic nozzle. these nozzles
keep getting better and cheaper and we only use one.
this nozzle is moved around in a way something like you
would use a lawnmower to cut and trim a golf course.
the latest thing i added to my software has been the ability
to adjust the flow so i can keep the nozzle as far away from
the edge as possible. doing this also maximizes the flow
at the nozzle, and another result is that it is now about 9
times faster at dispensing than it was when we just used
the smallest flow rate needed for good edge work. now that
i look back that was like cutting the golf course with a weed
wacker. our machine that is designed for routing out wood
now dances about with its little vitamin sized nozzle and
can decorate about two to four square feet per hour.

i'll argue all day long, and deep into the night if you let me ,
that this combination hardware and software makes a lot of
sense for doing some types of projects :

artistically the materials we use seem to me to be true to
the nature of clay and the spirit of pottery. there is a large
variety of possibilities all the way from factory made
perfectly regular tiles to irregular handmade shapes. thick
or thin, low or high fired - it doesn't matter. and the surface
has hardly been scratched for what can be done. i use Kurt's'
idea of iron clay to get freckling into the glaze from the claybody.

economically there is no wasted material. none, even i think
a pretty good savings compared to mixing the colorants direct
into the glazes. sulfates like copper are not only very interesting
but they don't cost much more than a $ per gallon. of course
cobalt & chromium sulfates cost more but not much more than
pennies per square foot because they go so far. to run costs
nothing more than compressed air, electricity, and the metal
sulfate colorants.

we made one of these machines for work at alfred university last
year and it took months and was a real in the butt. i keep the cost
of future machines with every decision and we keep coming up with
ways to control costs in the future. also i have people i've been
working with that would love to start making a few of these machines.
it only makes sense to me to do this first with people that are interested
in working with us to advance the process.

the only way i can see proceeding with anybody interested would be
to invite them up to the northport studio to see first hand what it like
working with one of these beastys. don't ask me for "the brochure".
this is still pioneering work - so if you think you'd rather wait to buy
one at walmart then you are welcome to wait.

nothing like pioneering work to take the "ho hum" out of things.


george koller
sturgeon bay, wi - door county
& northport, mi

i'm reading the new book out by annie proulx ("that old ace in the hole")that
gets into what life was like in the panhandle area of texas. some good
cowboy stories and humor - like how the old cowboys would put a crowbar
out a hole in their shed to test if it was "serious windy". those were real