I only had a year to come up with this. Allowing for the intricacies of lunar year cycles, only about about 350 days in fact, but admittedly it should still have been plenty. And, yes, it did take me 350 days to do. More precisely, 348 days to get round to doing anything, and no room for errors. So of course there were errors, and I ended up needing 351 days (which I didn’t have). Which is why I have a seder plate with bubbles in it where there should be none. Now, luckily for me, this was a design with bubble-like elements in it anyway, so the effect was passable. But still. Once again, nul points for organization.
So the story begins 3000 years ago two years ago when due to a certain amount of family horse-trading my sister-in-law had my husband’s bachelor china, we had the great-grandmaternal pesach china, and my sister-in-law’s cast-off* discarded seder plate, which is hideous. Now to be completely frank about this, and very venal, I’m not a huge fan of a festival that forbids me to consume my favorite thing in the entire known universe for a week. Actually, eight days. Normally, I’d say, ‘let’s not quibble. What’s a day between friends?’ But a day – another day between me and my baguette crust is something I can’t just ignore. I have ludicrous bread dreams, pathetic bread torture nightmares and produce interesting Freudian slips like ‘sandwiches’ for ‘sandals’ (don’t let’s go there).
On the other hand, a chance to pull out some different china for a week? What’s not to like about that? Shipped from Stoke-on-Trent to a little general store in a sleepy town in Natal, and seventy-something years later whizzed back on an SAA flight into Heathrow, I love the fact that it’s been around for so long, experiencing the same ritual through so many years; that it’s never seen bread; that one dish has so clearly held a lifetime – or three’s- of chopped liver, and the bowls are almost visibly steaming with phantom chicken soup and kneidlach…
The seder plate was another matter. An item of unrivalled ugliness, using it was not an option, but it got me thinking about making one.
I knew I didn’t want a flat plate, but one with indentations, but I couldn’t find a suitable mold, until eventually I came across the rather fabulous sounding Kaiser Lee Board (KLB). After another while a UK supplier started to stock it. (Now I think of it, maybe my total procrastination time on this project is only the time since I bought the KLB, in December).
I used two 3mm discs of Bullseye glass, one Tekta, the other a very pale blue tint, and between them, six smaller overlapping discs of varying blue and gray hues. I fused this all together in one go to full fusing temperature. I should have known this was a recipe for disaster. However slowly I heated the kiln, and however much time I left for the air bubbles to escape (I can look it up if it helps anyone), it wasn’t enough. Had I had an extra day (yes, any one of the 347 previous days would have done nicely) I’d have fused the blue/gray discs to the clear layer on one day, and then re-fused with the tint the second day, and slumped on the third day. [I note that when God made the world, He is not said to have sat and thought about it for five days and played solitaire instead, thrown everything together on the sixth day and then gone to the pub. Although, that version of Genesis would explain a lot, now I come to think about it.] I do have to say that whatever the other failings, the overlap of the upper layer over the rest was perfect. I was happy with that, if not so happy about the big bubbles. The color was also superb. I’ve never really used tints before, although I’ve wanted to. The clear is cheaper, and that tends to be a significant factor, but this time I allowed myself to be swayed by hiddur mitzvah (beautifying the commandment) and went with the tint. Also, the design was incredibly simple, so the color was an important element of it.
Meanwhile, I cut the KLB, which was as easy as it’s made out to be (I used a craft knife, which was a little too short to go all the way through the full 1″ of board, and a boning knife from the kitchen to complete the job), and less dusty than I expected. Maybe I was particularly slow and cautious abut raising more dust than necessary because – you guessed it – I don’t have a dust mask (or more accurately, I’m sure I do – somewhere). It’s possible I could have carved/scooped the mold out of the board and not gone through the full thickness, but this way I get to make funky things out of the carved-out discs some other time. The not fun part of this exercise came when I realized that I did need to kiln wash it. If you read the literature, the first thing likely to spring to the forefront of your brain is the “no need to kilnwash it” part. Well, yes – if you cover the mold with shelf paper before using it. Duh. So, basically, if paper won’t conform nicely to the cute shape that you cut out (and you are probably only going to use this for the cute shape you can’t do any other way) you won’t get away without the kilnwash. And yes, you’re right: of course it takes kilnwash like an alcoholic takes the first drink of the day. And it takes the second drink the same way it took the first drink… I only gave it one-and-a-bit coats because I didn’t have a spare week to sit and wait for it to absorb the half gallon of expensive kilnwash I was so pissed off about using because I’d been gleefully thinking “no need to kilnwash it”. Then I popped it in the oven to dry for a bit (the sloven’s approach, I know. Forgive me.)
Day two. Which should have been at least Day Three, or possibly even Day Four. Slump firing. I assembled the following in my kiln:
- the bubbly glass blank resting on
- a large drop ring with
- a smaller KLB insert inside the drop ring standing on
- a bisque plate mold standing on
- the kiln shelf in the bottom of the kiln
The drop ring was because the KLB sheet was much smaller than the plate I wanted to make, so I needed to Heath Robinson a rim. I remember to position the blank so that the centers of my overlapping colored discs were nicely over my KLB holes and realized at that point that I would need to watch the firing carefully because it occured to me only belatedly that one inch of KLB was way, way deeper than I wanted my indentations to be.
OK, enough already**. What did it look like? This.
It looked really nice once it had all the seder items on it, and went well but non-overwhelmingly – as I’d thought – with the blue dominant color of the family china. I almost (almost) forgot about the bubbles. Maybe I can live with them, maybe I’ll try to get round to attempting a rescue in the next year. That would involve re-flattening and re-fusing the whole thing and I’ve no idea if it could even work. I suppose I’d learn something either way, but perhaps I should try on a piece I know I actively dislike.
Now I only have to get through another twenty-six or so hours of matzo and that’ll be it for another 350-odd days. Tomorrow night, pizza is calling me, and I can hear it faintly already. Can’t you?
*I’m getting sensitive about ‘cast-off’ as an insult. As my husband is touchy about ‘gone south’ as the route to perdition.
**Disaster number two, completely unaccounted for was the bisque plate mold cracked. I have absolutely no idea why this happened and it’s scared the life out of me. I loved the KLB to bits, but I can’t have it do that to a kiln shelf. Or maybe… hang on – maybe, if the heat went straight through the KLB, I should have put the bisque mold on props…?
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