Domestic Chemistry Lab

I turned our kitchen into a chem lab this weekend! I had bought a bulk pack of baking soda (Bicarb) in error when I meant to buy washing soda. Since we don’t generally refer to either of these in everyday use in the UK, it was an easy mistake to make. Also, their chemical names are very similar, so double chance of me not getting it right :/

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(Baking soda (left) and Washing Soda (right)

Anyway, the main reason for the purchase was a plan to make own laundry detergent from a recipe I found on Pinterest. Luckily, Penny at the Penniless Parenting Blog (click the photo to visit her) had found the recipe and knew a bit more chemistry than me, and very helpfully mentioned in the comments that you can convert bicarb to washing soda by baking it in a domestic oven. It seemed simple enough, so I tried it on Saturday when I’d already heated the oven for pizza.

I spread out a few cups of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) in the oven tray, and cooked it for 40 minutes at 400F (205C), stirring occasionally to help it along in the process of becoming Sodium Carbonate. See how it can be confusing? Apparently the baking removes carbon dioxide and water, and that’s the difference in the two.

So I now have a decent quantity of Sodium Carbonate to use for my detergent. But even better news, Soda Ash, as it is ALSO known, is a common ingredient in Ceramic Glaze chemistry, acting as a deflocculent when your glaze is too thick, thinning it down, as well as producing some interesting effects on pottery during firing, in its own right.

I feel more experimentation coming on 😀

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New year, new pots

We’ve had quite an extended break over the holiday period. Some of it was recharging and some dealing with family stuff, but we’re back on the pottery train and raring to go.

I got myself back on my potter’s wheel this week. Last time was almost four years ago, and before that, my last bulk period of throwing was in 2004, so quite a long time. I was assured (by someone who doesn’t throw) that it was probably like riding a bike (in that they both have wheels?) and that it would all come flooding back to me.

Well, two days in the studio has produced 23 pieces of thrown work, trimmed and ready to fire. For a production potter, this would be an hour or two’s work, but I’m not that person 😉 and don’t do ‘mass produced’ anything. I’m rather pleased with this first foray back to throwing after such a long time only hand-building and I’m sure it’s the start of a long and happy reunion with my wheel.

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In other news, MoKa Pottery is now signed up for the Forth Valley Open Studios event in June, where we will open the studio to the public for a 9-day stretch. It’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure but we’re really looking forward to it.

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Also this year, we’ve got a few more ‘Little Birds’ markets planned as we had such a lovely time at the November one and made lots of lovely new friends and we caught up with a few old ones, including a couple I hadn’t seen in 22 years!

We may do a few other markets later in the year but our main focus will be the open studios event in the summer where we will feature lots of lovely pottery and also some of Mo’s fab paintings.

Looking forward to 2013 and all the new challenges it will bring.