Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Twist on a Tradition: Seed Ball Easter Eggs


Given the holiday's roots - the name itself is derived from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of fertility; and its Christian connection to new life and rebirth - that's what the egg symbolism is all about - I thought it made sense to create Easter Eggs that contribute to new life.

These are made of clay, coffee grounds, and wildflower seeds. Toss them into meadows in April, when the showers will dissolve them and release the seeds. The coffee grounds provide some nutrients to get them started. Well-aged compost is probably better, but I didn't have any of that lying around.
As a bonus, the wildflowers will help support bee populations, which need all the help they can get right now.

For fun I painted mine with some food coloring.

Here are the steps:
Make a little pile of coffee grounds, and one of wildflower seeds, and a few balls of clay.

Flatten out a ball of clay and press it, first into the coffee grounds...


...and then into the seeds.

Roll it into an egg shape. 
Can't wait for spring!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Check Out This Press Mold Tutorial


If you've ever thought of making press molds to make tiles and other flat items easily reproducible, Shawna Barnes has got those mad plaster skills.Check out this tutorial, and the rest of her blog.

As a bonus, Shawna is smart and fun and funny. If you aren't reading her, you should be!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bowl of Cuties


Though most of the pots out of my last firing had places to be before I could even get photos of them, I did score a bunch of minis that made me very happy. These tiny pots are what I make when I've been throwing off the hump, and the last bit of the hump isn't big enough to make one of whatever-I've-been-making. They help me use kiln space efficiently, because I can tuck them into corners that would otherwise be wasted. I sell them for $15 each.

I am thinking of displaying them in a bowl, like this, next time I do a show. They look so appealing all together like that, like Easter eggs, or candy.

Sometimes it's literally the little things that make me happy.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Soap's Up!

Making soap is like making pots in a couple of ways. One, it feels like a marriage of science and art. And two, it involves a fair amount of patience.

With clay, the wait involves drying and firing. With soap the wait is all about the lye and fats doing their chemical dance, sapoinfying their little hearts out. Once the deed is done, there's no more lye; it's all been consumed in the process. That's why the wait is so crucial.

But now, dearhearts, the waiting is over! The soaps that I made is February are finally cured and ready for sale. Choose your favorite, and get 'em while they last.
After The Storm - click for more

Green Granite & Onyx - click for more

Peppermint Soap - click for more

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring Projects

Though the bitter cold is insisting that winter has much fight left in it, nevertheless it is time to be preparing for spring projects. In addition to orders, I'm getting the ball rolling on two big events: Mug Season, and the Maine Pottery Tour.

Mug Season is coming up first: an annual fundraiser in conjunction with local coffee shops. A clay group I belong to (Central Maine Clay Artists - check us out here!) organizes this every year. It works like this: we potters offer mugs for sale for short money (only $18!) at participating coffee shops. The shops provide free coffee for anyone who buys a mug. We give half the proceeds to local arts program and spend the rest on beer. (J/K, really it's wine. Or Fireball.) It's my favorite kind of transaction: win-win-win-win. ๐Ÿ˜ƒTomorrow we potters will meet and bring our mugs; next week we'll each deliver a mix of mugs to various coffee shops, who will begin selling them April 1. Mug Season, a play on Mainers' name for early spring (or, alternatively, any season that isn't winter.)

A more labor intensive project for me is the Maine Pottery Tour. When I switched over to my new laptop, I lost much of my email contact list, and all my old emails. (No, there's no way to get it back. ๐Ÿ˜•) So I've been trying like hell to reconstruct it, but every couple of days I remember someone I should have contacted. If you were supposed to be on the Pottery Tour & you haven't heard from me, email me right away! I started putting the map together today. Here's how it's shaping up so far:

I took advice I got from several people and switched to Google Maps, which I'm told are more user friendly, and also have the advantage of being free; but I am still figuring out aspects of them, like how to number the markers, or how to include a list.

With regard to the pottery tour this year, I am sorely tempted to make it an extravaganza, and invite like 5 other artists to join me and put up tables and tents in my yard - have a little mini art fair. My hesitation is that I then feel guilty if other people don't do well; that, and I am such an extreme introvert that spending the day with 5 other people no matter how much I like them is FAR more exhausting than just hanging out, waiting for visitors. Hmm. I'll cogitate on it a bit longer.

In other news, my truck surprised me by inspiring a name within a week of joining me: she is the Gray Lady. She has two namesakes; one is the ghost of Ravenclaw Tower, who all you Harry Potter fans out there sill remember from The Deathly Hallows.
The other is the venerable New York Times, which has long worn the same nickname, in the hope that my truck will share some of the newspaper's longevity and reliability.

Since it is named in part for a ghost, let us hope Helena Ravenclaw will forgive me for saying: long live the Gray Lady!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Shining like Brand New

After a couple of days of auto drama, I am pleased to introduce my new vehicle:


I've yet to give this truck a name, but I am open to suggestions!

I am pleased all to pieces with it, but there were a few bumps in the road getting there. In fact, we bought a different vehicle on Thursday! I didn't take it to my class in Portland, because I still had the rental vehicle, so I thought I might as well get my money's worth for it. GOOD THING!!! Because Friday morning, I took the new car- which we will call the Red Devil - less than a mile to the supermarket. When I drove back in my driveway, I noticed a puddle of oil where the Red Devil had been parked the night before. Not a drop, not a splotch; a puddle. Alarm bells!

Doug placed a clean white piece of paper under the engine and let it idle for a minute - it was covered in oil. So he put a pan underneath it and let it run for ten minutes - there was more than a quart of (thick, filthy!) oil in it. He came back in the house and suggested I stop payment on the check.

The dealer came and got it, after we insisted that NO WAY ARE WE DRIVING THIS VEHICLE. I was kinda pissed off at him anyway - I watched him put a sticker on this truck that turned out to have a major, fire-hazard-sized oil leak, so I was feeling uncharitable.

Thank heaven I didn't drive it to Portland. It would have seized up on the highway.

I still haven't decided whether to report the dealer to the State Police. I don't want to be a jerk, but I don't want somebody else to be cheated. It's a crime in Maine to sticker an unsafe vehicle:
4. Issuance of certificate for substandard vehicle.  A person commits a Class E crime if that person knowingly causes an official inspection sticker to be attached to a vehicle that does not conform to the inspection standard.
...and I don't see how he could have failed to be aware.

Anyway: if you are in Maine, don't buy a car from McKeon Motors in Gardiner.

But now: flip the script!

After those disheartening events, I logged onto the List of Craig and made some appointments for today to check out private sales, then rented a car (again!) for today. Shout out to my new friends at Enterprise Rent-a-car in Augusta, who have been so accommodating on short notice, and even found me a small discount when I had to rent a car a third time in a week.

The first vehicle I looked at was this 2004 Dodge Dakota, a 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive truck with only 73000 miles on it. This truck is pristine. Engine is virtually silent, not a drop of oil or bit of smoke out of the exhaust. In the glove box was the owner's manual with the notepage in the back documenting all the maintenance over the years. This person - an older fellow, who passed away a few weeks ago - was religious about changing the oil, rotating the tires, changing the belts. I told Doug during our test drive: "It's like my Dad maintained this car." My dear old Dad, gone more than 15 years now, was a bit obsessive about things like that. That's my excuse for being bad at car maintenance: with my first couple of cars,  I never I had to check a fluid level or tire pressure, because whatever it was, my Dad had already done it.

Coming upon this car - for a price that I could come up with in cash - is enough to renew my belief in angels. Thanks, Dad; I'll do better with this one, I promise.

In other news, I have been accepted into the Portland Fine Crafts show in August, and now I have a truck to transport my stuff!


Glad to have a happy car story for once!

Friday, March 3, 2017

RIP Ghost Pony; We Hardly Knew Ye

Last month I gave my car a name: Ghost Pony. After three years, causing me...well not nary a headache, but relatively few, I was just fond of it. So I named it.

And then it died. It joined Honored Dead in Sto-vo-kor, and became a part of the silent majority.

Or, I dunno, maybe it didn't! Perhaps it's only pining for the fjords. Here's the story:

Technically, I suppose, if it's dead, I killed it. The timing belt broke, flung itself around the engine and (probably, I guess?) bashed things up in there. I replaced a timing on this car long before it had a name, almost three years ago, and I drive about 20,000 miles a year. I knew it had to be done soon. It was on my list, but I kept putting it off. Well, that'll teach me! (It probably won't.)

To be a little more precise, I don't know for sure that the timing belt did any damage when it broke. The only way to find out, say the dudes at VIP Auto, is to put a new timing belt on and see if it still has enough compression to run. (That sounds...I dunno, not quite right? Like, can't you see the damage? But they are the experts, and "Lori doesn't understand it" is not the same thing as "It's not true.") But it costs a bunch of money to put the belt on, with nothing remotely like a guarantee that it will be drivable again.

So I find myself as I so often have, carless and needing to get this sorted sooner rather than later. A few months ago I had a hope to buy a (relatively) late model compact truck, but now the Magic 8 Ball says recession coming soon (I shook it three times, y'all, just to be sure!), so I don't want to be stuck with a car note. I have my eye on a couple of little pick-ups at a local shade-tree dealer. He's just this retired guy who buys old cars, fixes them up to pass inspection, and sells them. He's a bit of an oddball - doesn't really need your business, and doesn't care if you know it. But he seems honest enough. Anyway, he's got two trucks that fall into my price/size/ mileage range, and I am going to check them out today.

Meanwhile the Ghost Pony sits in my driveway like Schrodinger's Cat, neither dead nor alive. I could put $500 into it and maybe have a good-as-new car, or I could set $500 on fire; or I could sell it for short money on Craigslist and be done with it. Or I could just not decide.

I'm going with option D. Obviously.

Soon I hope to introduce my new vehicle, but though it has long been my custom, I am starting to feel a little superstitious about naming it. Some people knock wood; maybe I could stave off bad luck by keeping up with the maintenance.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Drop It Like It's Hot

Click here to order!
Once again I am amusing myself on Teespring.

Give the world a peek through the spyhole! Like a secret language, other potters will recognize those falling cones - dropping like they're hot! - while everyone else is mystified.
Because I am a second grader, apparently, this amuses the hell out of me.

Like Liz Lemon, it will haunt your dreams. ๐Ÿ˜„

If you might want one for your very own, check it out here.





With apologies to Snoop Dogg.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Make Pots and I Know Things

Well...I know some things. I actually had in mind the delightful multitude of fellow potters who emailed me to help me out with my burner trouble last week when I designed this t-shirt:



You can get one for your very own, or for the potter or ceramics instructor in your life at this link.

Game of Thrones fans will recognize the inspiration!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Love is a Clean Burner

Remember my funky burner thing from last week? This one:

The consensus of my equipment-clever friends and readers was that the burner for some reason did not have enough gas pressure to create its Venturi effect. The burner was turned all the way up but the pressure definitely did not seem right, just before the flames appeared where they weren't supposed to be.

The possibilities included something -  a bit of rust or debris - blocking the tiny little orifice thru which the gas flows.

Luckily I never discovered whether that was, in fact the problem. On Monday night I had a conversation with my husband - I told him about the burner troubles and the possible fixes. You may think this is the dullest possible thing one could talk to a non-potter about, but Doug is an unusual guy. The physics of things interests him, and the kiln and burners are apart of that. I told him what our friend Tyler suggested as a remedy - taking the burner apart, removing the brass orifice plug, etc. He didn't say much, made some sympathetic noises - he knows how much I hate kiln maintenance.

When I came home from class on Thursday he had taken it apart, cleaned it all out, and put it back together! It hums along just like it should now. No more FLAMES BAD.

Now, he has taken a burner apart & put it back together before - I have an old one lying around. But that was years ago. He took apart the old one first, to remind himself, and then cleaned & thereby repaired my burner! It's sooty and gross and he barked his knuckles on the kiln brick getting it off the pipe, and now I don't have to do it.

Some guys bring you flowers and candy. Some write you poems.

Mine cleans my burners. ๐Ÿ’—

Oh, and he writes songs. Check 'em out!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Clay & Community: Killing Hate Together

A mind is like a glaze recipe: you throw in ideas, give them some time and energy, and they blend to create something new.

I've been cogitating on a handful of stories I encountered around the same time, and in my mind they are fitting together to form thoughts. First was the Roberto Lugo video I shared earlier; it's powerful, and one of the ideas Lugo discusses is the power of ceramics to bring people together. Second is this story out of Nebraska, about a man who hated Muslims until they became his neighbors, and in getting to know them he found his heart changed. And the third, sadly, is about the distressing events this week in which nearly 70 Jewish community centers had to be evacuated because they were the targets of bomb threats.

Yeah. That happened, in our America.

Like so much that has happened lately, I feel powerless to do anything about it, but I don't feel like I can just say, "Oh, yeah, a bunch of Nazis threatened to bomb my friends, neighbors, and compatriots, totally normal, no big, let's talk about my wacky burner situation!"

It's not totally normal, or any other kind of normal, and anyone who has any kind of a platform has an obligation to say so. My Republican friends keep saying "Just because I am conservative doesn't mean I am a bigot" and I believe them - so this is for them, too. All who reject bigotry as an American value should condemn this intimidation campaign. Politics is one thing, but surely all reasonable people can agree on rejecting Nazis. Our grandparents fought and died for this!

(This goes without saying, but if you are a Nazi, or any other kind of bigot, you should boycott this blog! I totally deserve to lose your readership, so buh-bye.)

Which brings me back to my thesis: in clay I see one road to an understanding of our shared humanity.

I taught my first pottery class in 1994. Over the years, I have had thousands of students, of a broad variety of races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious persuasions. I currently have many Christian and Jewish students, and a handful of Muslim students, and of course many whose beliefs are unknown to me.

I have never once observed or overheard bigotry in the clay studio.

It may be that clay just attracts a certain good-hearted kind of person, but I think the causality goes both ways. Like the Nebraska man who found he didn't hate Muslims once he actually knew some Muslims, it's hard to hate a person who seems just like you. In clay class, students all struggle with the same challenges: learning to center; oops, collapsed; how do I get this dang handle to stay on; rats, it cracked in the firing; yikes, massive glaze run! And we celebrate successes together: Look, first handle! Biggest thing I've ever thrown! Kiln unloaded today, show everyone your beautiful pots. Clay studios are tight-knit communities, and communities have the power to transcend differences. We make dear friends based on our shared enthusiasm and experiences.

Now I hope we can take the love we've grown in our clay spaces into the wider world. A Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, and an atheist walk into clay class. They talk, they laugh, they commiserate and they encourage one another. They walk out friends. They take that friendship into the world, and become a shining example of what can be when we recognize that we are all just people.

Keb Mo says it better:
Well I feel just like you
and I cry just like you
But I heal
Just like you
and under my skin
I'm just like you....

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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