Archive | Studio set-up

Finishing up the spray box

The last few days we have been assembling the working area of the spray booth. This part is separated from the fan by a length of ductwork. The idea was to make the area pleasant for painting, which meant isolating it as much as possible from the sound and vibration of the fan. I have found that I have a bad habit of angling myself away from booths as I paint, largely because the noise bothers me. A spray booth doesn’t provide much protection if you don’t spray inside of it!

The other problem I have found with most spray booths is that they have so little light. This is a big problem when working with ceramic underglazes because the layers do not have a lot of visible contrast. We decided to install five puck lights – two on each side and one overhead – to ensure a well-lit working area. The lights are 20w compact fluorescents daisy-chained together. This gave us a great deal of light without adding a significant amount of heat to the box. Since underglazes don’t show their true color until after the final firing, we didn’t have to worry about the types of lights and their effect on color accuracy.

Here is the almost-finished box with the filter installed. For simplicity, Alan designed the box to use the same size filters as our home HVAC system.

The filter just slides in to a slot along the back of the box. The filter sits in front of a plenum box. That’s an area where the air can circulate after it is pulled from the workspace. There is a second plenum located at the fan, too. (The two hooks on the top left of the plenum are left over from when the piece was hung for painting. They’ll be removed before the box is finished.)

Here is the placement of the exhaust duct. (It had not yet been attached when this picture was taken.) The box will have a solid back when it is done, but that piece is just leaning against the filter in this picture.

We’ll finish the box up this weekend, and then it will be time for me to do the final finish work. That will mean an extra coat or two of paint, and a bit of white electrical tape on the exposed light wiring. Meanwhile Alan will start working on the box that will hold the squirrel cage fan. Two more weeks to go, and I’m beginning to think we’ll make it!

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Making progress

I have to admit that I’ve been skeptical that we would finish the spray booth in time for Addi’s visit. I had set that as my deadline because I knew that using my tabletop spray booth was going to present a problem. My studio is small – just a converted dining room – so I have one workspace that doubles as both an airbrushing station and a general painting table. Having a removable spray booth fit that need, but it wasn’t going to work well with two artists working together.

But perhaps more important, the booth’s fan was underpowered. This wasn’t a big concern with the transluscent underglazes that I use for most of my painting, since they aren’t especially toxic. It was, however, an issue for the leaded glazes that go over the underglazes. To stay safe when using them, I would take the airbrush and compressor and spray outside. Delays to accomodate the weather have been fine with my own erratic schedule; I have far more disruptive things at work most weeks! But if there is one thing I’ve learned about artist visits it’s that time gets really tight. I didn’t want our firing schedule governed by the weather. It seemed like a good excuse to upgrade my spray booth.

Of course, this all looked so very easy to do by mid-October, back in July when the plans were being made. I simply forgot that nothing gets done around here until the last minute. Whether we decided to undertake the project in July or not, no one was going to be making a booth until September!

So I have been scrambling to prime and paint all the pieces these last few days. Here Alan has rigged a clothesline for them. This allowed me to paint all the sides at once, without having to worry about laying them down to dry. This worked really well while I primed them with Kilz, which dried almost as soon as I applied it.

The white enamel paint was a different matter. It took forever to dry, and I kept bumping into the still-wet pieces as I moved along the line. It was like returning to my cold-painting days, when friends rarely saw me without paint on my clothes, hands and hair. (One of the joys of ceramic paints is that they rinse off immediately with plain water.)

I did get them done, though!

Here Alan is assembling the box. I’ll still need to apply another light coat of paint once it’s all together, and then my part will be finished.

In the next post, I’ll try to get some shots of the box and explain the design and how it will work with the fan and filters.

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