Saturday, April 21, 2018

Chillin' at the 'Shed

Chillin' indeed; though the calendar says it's mid-April, the weather says it's more like the 109th of January. Nevertheless anytime is a good time to hang out at Watershed; it's a magic place where magic things happen. Well, sometimes.
I was firing at the 'Shed because the arch of my own kiln needs some work; after the last glaze firing, a tie rod broke and the arch spread a bit, causing a few brick to slip out of the curve, like snaggly teeth. this repair promises to be like a lot of jobs - begun is half done...but I haven't begun yet, and it's unlikely that I will before the Maine Pottery Tour. I did go ahead & bisque in it, with no noticeable difference. I am tempted to try a glaze fire, but I need to shoo that lazy demon off my shoulder, and listen to the angel on my other shoulder that says I might as well fix it instead wait until it causes a real problem.



Now you see 'em...
Now you don't!

I loaded & bricked up on Thursday, and fired on Friday...today is technically my day of rest! HAHAHAHAHA as if. Today I am doing all the housecleaning that gets neglected when I am preparing to fire.













Some of the magic this visit was happening next door, at Straw's Farm,
where the spring lambs were doing whatever it is they do.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Harley, the Pottery Tour, and Other News

A couple of weeks ago I ran a little fundraiser to sponsor the adoption fee of a cat at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society. That cat - Harley - has found a home! When the world seems to be getting shittier and more hateful by the minute, it is a balm to do a kindness, however small. (Here's a lovely thread on some other good things happening in the world - just stumbled upon it while I was editing this post. Coincidence? I think so!)

This will definitely be a recurring event, but probably not again for several months; I am currently knee-deep in organizing the seventh incarnation of the Maine Pottery Tour. There are still some cat dishes left, though (including what I thought was the best one!) if you want to beat the rush.


Speaking of the Pottery Tour, you should come! 43 studios this year, all spiffying themselves up, making new work, and planning adventures for visitors. Check out a full list of studios at the website, or plan your pottery road trip with this online interactive map.

Though much of my time has been spent lately organizing this event, I am making new work! I just finished up some jaunty pitchers, and a couple of heavily slip-trailed baskets. I am hoping the action of the soda vapor will cut the sweetness a bit, like a pinch of salt (!) on a caramel.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Demo: Thrown Vase with Contrasting Clay Spirals



This was the demo I did for my Tuesday night class! A couple of notes about this:

  1. Clay matters! In addition to their contrasting colors, you want to use clay bodies that fire to the same temp (thanks, Captain Obvious!) and have approximately the same shrinkage rates. 
  2. No matter which two clay bodies you choose, let your vase dry slowly
  3. It's not shown on the video but after the vase became leatherhard, I trimmed the rim a bit. Adding the clay makes the center imperfect, so it came up doing a bit of a hula. I don't always think of irregularity as a flaw; I've been known to exhort my students to "Embrace the wonk!" In this case though it just seemed distracting. 
  4. The music quits about 2/3s of the way thru. Sorry about that! I could have spent more time tweaking it but decided the clay work was the important part. 
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maine Pottery Tour 2018


For the past seven years, much of my time in the late winter & early spring has been occupied organizing the Maine Pottery Tour. This year the tour is bigger and better than ever, with more than 40 studios participating. You can see full list of Maine Pottery Tour studios here, and plan your pottery tour roadtrip with our online interactive map.

One of the more enjoyable tasks of this big job is designing the postcards. I want the cards to look nice, obviously, and to represent the three regions and the diversity of work on the tour. It's a tough balance, as I always have more images of amazing work than I can use, yet I need to have more than I can use to have a selection that fits together nicely. The image above is the postcard for the 2018 Maine Pottery Tour. Refrigerator worthy, you think? Watch your mailbox, and save the dates. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Good news & Good news

Last week I posted the second online the second fundraiser cat dish sale. It took a few days this time but I did manage to sell 10 cat bowls - enough so I could sponsor a cat's adoption fee at KVHS. That's the good news.

The other good news is that the cat I had planned to sponsor - Grizzle, who had been at the shelter since November, found his family before the sale was over! Which means I got to go in today & choose a different cat to sponsor.  Meet Harley!

Harley is a 7 year old spayed female, with medium-long gray fur. Her details state that her intake to the shelter was March 19th, but that was because she was returned to the shelter after a previous adoption. Harley needs a family with some patience for her slow, cautious adjustment. (Sounds like a not-atypical cat reaction to a new environment to me, tbh. Some cats hide for a while until they know they are safe. General Chamberlain stayed under the bed for 3 weeks! and then only emerged when I was in the room for a couple of months after that. Nevertheless he became one of the most affectionate cats I've known.)

If you've been thinking about getting a cat, here's a chance to take home this sweet girl for free!

Still a few dishes left! I can start building towards the next adoption sponsorship.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Little Good in the World

Help a cat find a home! 

You probably know that I suffer from depression. (If you don't, you must be new here! Welcome.) That is, I am not always in a depressed state but the way my brain chemistry works, I am susceptible. I've been in this brain for a long time, and I know what that slippage feels like; and I have learned some steps I can take to avert it.

Getting plenty of exercise, getting outside - those are a couple of steps. (I would say "Getting plenty of sleep" but that's a useless prescription, as sleeplessness is as much a symptom as a causal factor of depression.) Also really helpful? Do some good in the world. That's where I was going with all this. Today the good I want to do, is to help a cat find a forever home.

I had an online fundraising event for this purpose early in February. The two sponsored cats were adopted soon after, and let me tell you, that felt good, to know that I had a part in that. I don't have much money (hello, I'm a potter) but I do have a little skill, and I can put that skill towards doing some good in the world.

Here's how it works: I've listed a bunch of these little dishes in my online shop. They are about 4" in diameter, and maybe 2" tall - just sweet little bowls appropriate to feed sweet little cats! And sweet big cats, too. If I can sell ten of them, I can sponsor a cat's adoption fee.

Click the link, scroll down a few inches, and choose your dish. Help lift my winter funk - and maybe your too! - by doing a little piece of good in the world. And, bonus, get a little gem of a dish, to feed your kitty, or catch your change, keep your keys, or serve your dipping oil. 😊

https://squareup.com/store/fine-mess-pottery

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rice Paper Underglaze Decals

One of the joys of teaching ceramics is it keeps me exploring new techniques. This week I brought to class some rice paper underglaze decals that I found online. I got them from The Ceramics Shop, but they appear to be discontinued there, so I found the original source: Ying Zhou Rice Paper decals. 

They are so easy to use!! Choose a design, cut the shape you want, press on the pot; wet the back, pat it down, let it dry, peel up the paper. You don't even have to peel up the paper, strictly speaking, if you are using it on leather hard because it will burn away in the bisque. My students loved them - I did, too! 



Probably did not need this much water. I might should have just used a damp sponge or soft, wet paintbrush. 

I pressed down gently with my fingertips, because the surface was curved & if the paper is buckled at all, or there are air pockets between the decal & the pot, those spots won;t transfer. Wait about 10 - 15 minutes for the paper to dry a bit. Doesn't have to be 100% dry. 



This is a slightly different dish - the left edge isn't a flaw, it was cut that way. 

You can also use these on bisqueware. 

Obviously they will want a transparent glaze on top. They are said to be suitable for cones 04-11.

The decals are (I guess?) adhered to the paper with honey, so they have a shelf life, and they are somewhat delicate and need to be stored with care so they don't flake off the paper before you get a chance to use them. As delightful and fun as these are, I sorta feel like I am cheating, using a manufactured design. Next I am search for a company that lets me upload a design and make custom rice paper decals.

After I have played with these a bit more. 😉

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Meet the Artists of the Maine Pottery Tour

It's 9° outside, with a bitter wind. We still have most of the accumulation of snow from our three major storms in the past two weeks. Despite all that, spring is on its way! As is the Maine Pottery Tour, an event I put together every year to promote and celebrate ceramic arts in Maine.

This year the tour includes 43 studios, including 14 new participants. Start planning your pottery road trip! 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Gertrude's Day!

I think I've found my personal patron saint! My professional one, of course, is St Spyrdion, he of the potsherd metaphor, patron saint of potters.

Today is famously the feast day of St. Patrick of Ireland, who drove out the snakes and today inspires great feats of song and alcohol consumption. My own brother and sister-in-law perform Irish music (go see them today at Billy's Chowder House!) and my favorite Pandora channel year round features the Pogues and the Irish Rovers. There is, however, another saint honored today: St Gertude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats, cat lovers, and gardeners.

St. Pat gets all the attention, but St. Gert sounds like my kinda gal.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Slab Built Pickle Tray

I have a little quirk. When I am making something, I like to imagine a specific use to which it might be put. I think this results in better pots - I'm sort of running a simulation in my head which helps me to anticipate needs for handles, or a wider rim, or other functional feature. But really, imagining the pots in use is just part of the fun.

I recently made a small serving tray that I decided would be perfect for pickles, or relishes - the kind of little dish that is often on the table for special-occasion dinners, or that you might bring to a potluck. It's made of a single slab, folded, with flattened coils added to the rim. Check it out:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New Toy....er, Tool!

Good news! The second of our sponsored kitties, the shy, sweet Patcha, has been adopted. In celebration I treated myself to a new tool: the Bat Mate, from Xiem tools. Firstly, though, a question: why, why-o-why, did they not call it the Bat Mat? Hear how it trips off the tongue: Bat-mat. Bat-mat. Bat-mat.
I would have called it the Bat Mat, because that what it is: a circular chamois (I think?) mat with holes spaced for bat pins, that goes on the wheel head under your bat. It prevents the bat from doing that annoying shimmy thing while you are trying to center. I've been preventing that by smudging some clay on the wheel before putting the bat down, but that takes a minute, to make sure it's nice & even, and wastes a bit of clay. I have known about these for a while but was resistant to buying one because, as the the World's Cheapest Human, I didn't want to spend the nine-ish bucks for something that I could do without. I've changed my mind about that! My time has value, too, and a device that makes my studio work a little more efficient every day is easily worth the price.

After using it, I can say, it very effectively prevents the aforementioned annoying shimmy! It does not, however, solve the other problem I had hoped it would, of the bat being so firmly stuck down to the wheel that I need a tool to lift it up. I guess next I'll be needing a bat lifter. Or just keep using the paint scraper I keep by the wheel for just such purpose.

In other news, I placed the seed order today! Sugar snap peas, Czech black hot peppers, four sorts of tomatoes. Spring inches ever closer!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Anything But

There exists a thing that I call "procrastination energy." I get a boatload of stuff done when I am trying to avoid an unfavorite task. Here's me doing literally anything but starting on my kiln repairs:

OH LOOK WE'RE OUT OF LIP BALM! Can't have that [makes lip balm]

GETTIN CLOSE TO VALENTINE'S DAY I COULD SURE USE THE TWENTY TWO BUCKS I MAKE IF I SELL EVERY BAR OF A BATCH OF SOAP....[makes three batches]

OH MY THE RUG IS LOOKIN A LITTLE DINGY...[shampoos rug]

It's not quite true that I haven't even started; I replaced the threaded rod so at least it can't get any worse, while I am getting around to it. I brought my castable bricks inside and repaired the breaks in them with a high temp air-set mortar called Quickbond 3000. I had to do this a few years ago, and  I wrote a blog post about it then, too. I thought I had, and when I found it, I was amused at the difference in how the brick look! Though they are somewhat resistant to soda, they acquire some every firing...enough to make them look like there's lichen growing on them, after 7 years in service. The white steaks on the bricks are old repairs; the grey ones are the new. Sticking them back together is tiresome and messy but not at all difficult, and they will be ready to use in a few days - not that I'll be ready to fire in a few days! I still have to tend to my sagging arch.

Oh, btw, here's a link to that soap, if you're interested!

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