Sunday, August 20, 2017

FAB Raku Results, & Recipe



These pieces are all wearing the same glaze: the aptly named FAB Raku, a copper luster variation (Thanks, Captain Obvious.) It can also do some brilliant turquoise crackle results, and some yellow/peach/puce (I know, it's a terrible color name! But a beautiful color. All I am saying, is give puce a chance. 😄)
It is a very variable glaze, but all of its variations are great - provided it gets hot enough. It also does an interesting toadskin thing when it is not quite hot enough which most people probably would not consider a successful surface but it has some nice qualities, especially on sculptural work.
It is a glaze that likes to be hot, though: maybe 03? Hot enough that thin or delicate earthenware bodies warp in the kiln.

Because Portland Pottery is right in the middle of an urban neighborhood, we try to use a minimal-smoke approach - which means combustibles on the ground, trashcans over top after a few seconds of free burning. We use pine or cedar pet bedding as our combustible - it's cheap & easily accessible, but contains some pitch which will create black smoke marks on the finished piece that need to be scrubbed off to see the colors. Different combustible material will give you different glaze results, to a certain extent - it's all about how fast they burn and how loose they are to let oxygen through. My very favorite combustible is dry leaves: they burn quick and clean, and create very little rough texture - but good luck getting enough, in June.

 It's tricky to get the FAB into the pile of combustibles while it is still molten enough to get the wonderful copper results but not so molten that is gets a crusty sawdust texture. You can see a bit of the texture on the third photo.

Here's the recipe. This ia for a 4000 gm batch, so WILL NOT translate as percentages - you'll have to do the math on that. (Hint: multiply everything by 2.5.)

FAB Raku

Frit 3110             2800
Gerstley Borate    200
Flint (325)            200
Soda Ash              400
EPK                      200
Copper Carb         140
Bentonite                80

More oxygen in post-fire gives more turquoise, less gives more copper. Join e for the next raku workshop at Porland Pottery on September 16th, from 12-4 pm, or mix it up yourself & have some fun!

To register for the workshop, call 207-772-4334. Bring 5 - 8 bisqued pieces, made of porcelain, groggy stoneware, or a body made specifically for raku. Wear cotton clothing & closed-toed shoes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Interrupt This Blog...

...to bring you a special bulletin:

I, Lori Keenan Watts, potter, teacher, wife, sister, daughter and Mother of Cats, denounce Nazis, Nazism, and all forms of racism and white supremacy. At this moment in our history, I feel it's important for all of us, as citizens, using any platform we have, to be clear about this. There is only one side of decency, and it is the one that stands against bigotry.

My grandfather was a gentle person. (He was known in his hometown as the guy whose chickens died of old age.) Nevertheless when his country called, he went. He went to Germany to fight the Nazis, and he was awarded the Purple Heart when he was shot.

Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents didn't fight that war just to have that vicious ideology take hold here. We, as a people must reject it, and not just in our hearts: out loud, to our friends and family, and even on our blogs! I know it's awkward to talk about it, because politics or whatever, but this is too important to politely pretend it isn't happening and just go on about our business.

I have no doubt that the vast, vast majority of Americans feel the same way as I do: racism has no place here. But with the horrifying events in Charlottesville, it appears the Nazis and other hatebags have been emboldened.

I denounce them. Say it with me: I reject them and their hate-filled ideology as evil and UnAmerican.

Thanks for reading.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The August Messy Minute, and the new Pottery Puzzler!

The August edition of the Messy minute is out! You can check out a half-assed version* of it at this link, or, if you'd like to get The Messy Minute (the real one, without all the blank spaces!) in your inbox, shoot me an email with "Subscribe" in the subject line.

A favorite feature has returned: The Pottery Puzzler. See if you can get it right!

*EDIT: Here's a better one.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Garden Inspired Slip Inlay

This time of year inspiration is right outside my door. Blooming now: purple coneflowers! Their simple and easily recognizable shape makes them naturals for slip decoration.





To do this slip inlay, I first painted my image with food coloring.
Next I coated the interior of the bowl with water-based wax. Paraffin will work, as well, but it is a little more brittle, so harder to cut cleanly through.

Once the wax dried, I carved out the image with a sgraffito tool. Then I brushed on a white slip - underglaze will work for this as well. The slip sticks to the carved surface, but beads up on the waxed surface. I used a rib to remove the excess slip - one of the red one from Mudtools works great (I call them Gummy ribs...like Gummy Bears, get it? ) because it's soft enough not to scrape any of the wax away.

The wax will burn away in the bisque firing (Thanks, Captain Obvious!) I'll choose a transparent or translucent glaze t show my slip work to best advantage. I'm leaning towards a shino, but I could see this in Amber Celadon...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In the Groove


Hey all, it's been a bit since I posted! For a good reason, though - I'm not in a depressive funk this time, I am making pots, boatloads of them. I've got my groove back.

My groove likes to have an endpoint, a goal in sight, apparently; and in this case I am filling a kiln for the Portland Fine Craft Show. I'll be in booth #98, y'all, come see me! This is the third year of the show, and the first year it will be happening without its sister show, the WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival. Though I am sorry to see the art festival go - it was a long-standing tradition - no one knows how it will affect the craft show. More visitors? Fewer? I could see a case for either.

Anyway - I am making stuff as if it's going to be a blockbuster, because once I'm in the groove, I stay there for a while. Today was my last wetwork day, shooting for a bisque next weekend.


While I've been doing all this making, I am enjoying a newly discovered pleasure: podcasts. (Yes, yes, I am old and behind the curve. So sue me.) While I enjoy Invisibilia and Hidden Brain and the rest of NPR's brainiac lineup, my current fave is less intellectual: I've been queuing up the Savage Lovecast, columnist Dan Savage's call-in sex advice show. To be sure, it's not for everyone! But I find it entertaining, and not so intellectually demanding that I have to pay close attention. It serves my need to distract just enough of my brain so I don't overthink forms and decoration. What's your favorite podcast?

Anyway! I'm tuckered out after my long day in the studio 😊😊😊! Pots are drying now, and on Wednesday I'll start scraping & washing kiln shelves.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Berry Bowl, in Berry Season

It's raspberry season once again, and my unmowable slope is earning its keep. For a week or so in July, I get a full colander every day.

The little berry colander is one of mine; the scallop tray beneath it was made by my friend Joanna Skolfield, of Blarney Stone Pottery.

For more about my Maine garden & a raspberry dessert soup recipe (I know - but it's good!) check out my other blog, Wicked Cozy.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New Pots, Born on the 4th of July

Today is my favorite day! Not Independence Day - it is, and I like that too - but Unloading Day! As usual I am excited and a tiny bit worried about what I will find. I don't have any reason to believe things didn't go well; the firing itself was uneventful. Most of of the posts in the kiln are for orders, though - someone somewhere is waiting for these pots. The demons that torment potters seem to know that sort of thing, and plague us accordingly. I'm off to find out...

I'm back! Here's how it went:
First peek looks a little pale

That side's better!
Here's me unbricking the door:


So, good news/ bad news: The good news is, everything that I needed for my orders came out exactly as I hoped it would! The area in the kiln where they were loaded got the most soda. The bad news is that there were some dry/ cool areas, so some items will need to be refired. The further good news is, everything - literally everything - was either good or salvageable - no losses. 

If it doesn't sound like I'm dancing around and whooping for joy, well, I'm not. The pieces on order were good - THANK YOU KILN GODS - but of the other pieces, nothing really made me want to whoop for joy.

So which would you rather have: a kiln load of pretty-good, easily salable pots, or a load with some stinkers and some fabulous, whoop-out-loud pots?

I guess I know now which I would choose.

However! I did manage to complete the collection I need for my little side-project: I need 15 good cat dishes for a fundraiser I hope to run. Looks like I have 16 good ones!
Will keep you posted on this.

So, some good some bad, tralalala life goes on! It's Independence Day, so enjoy a video to celebrate the birthday of the USA!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

As I Always Say...





This is something I tell students all the time: round is overrated. Some of the most beautiful pots in the world are asymmetrical; if ya like em perfectly round, they've got plenty of those all Walmart.

Skill comes, with time and practice. In the meantime it's important to enjoy and appreciate the wonky, spontaneous qualities of your early pieces. Once you can make them round every time, you'll strive to get back dome of the wonk!

Get the shirt here.

To Dad with Love - CHECK OUT MY TOMATOES


It's sort of a running joke in my family - my Dad and his tomato plants. There are reels and reels of home movie footage of beautiful green growing fruit. He was so proud of his garden.

So, not for nothin', I grew up to be a gardener, and I sort of specialize in tomatoes. And this year I have blossoms already on some of my plants! In the middle of June.

Dad would be proud.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Garden Inspired


I loooove sliptrailing. Usually my sliptriailng is just dots or other patterns, but occasionally I get inspired to do some representational marks. Even the abstract marks are botanically inspired, and in June there is a lot of botanical inspiration to be had in my garden.

Bleeding hearts have tugged on my mind for some time. The simple repetitive shapes, the multiplicity, the distinctive foliage - they seem made for slip decoration. It's harder than it looks, though, and my first several tries were either just bad - blotchy, unrecognizable - or just didn't really capture the charm of the plants. Theses are a bit better, but I'll keep working on it.

The green you can see peeking out from beneath the slip is food coloring - I find it helpful to loosely paint out my marks. It saves me wasting slip by trailing, wiping off, trailing, wiping off, and so on.

These blossoms are loosely inspired by creeping phlox.

These are more generic but I think I could minimally adapt them to reference poppies. The difficulty with slip trailing is with depth - trying to represent some blooms or petals behind others can sometimes turn into just a blobby mess! On these last two the food coloring serves to mark out the spacing for the scalloped design - this has greatly improved my placement! It has he advantage over pencil or needle tool in that the lines are clearly visible but do not have to be removed later - the food coloring just burns away. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Yeah, That Was Me

...firing a raku on the hottest night of the year.
At least I hope it will turn out that was the hottest night! I kind of feel cheated: May and June are two of the three nicest months in Maine - the third being September - with temperate days and cool nights. This year, and last year, we had 45° and rain right up until we were catapulted into the 90s. Temps in the 90s are not supposed to happen in Maine! Or at least not for more than a few days each summer, in late July or early August. It plays hob - HOB, I TELL YOU - with the gardening season. I'm hoping things will mellow out in the next few days.


Nevertheless, the raku must go on! Well - technically that's not true, I've cancelled raku for all kinds of reasons, often weather-related, once mostly because I was just not feeling it.

It was sweltering, but we got some amazing results. I had all beginners! But they listened well and followed instructions, and we got some of the nicest copper lustre results I've seen in a while. The students have since taken theirs home, but mine are still at Portland Pottery, for people to check out. .

If you are thinking about doing a raku firing or taking a workshop, let me share a couple of things with you to make it a better experience:
The first couple are safety related:

  1. Wear cotton clothing! It's hard for cotton to catch fire. Not impossible, but a stray ember is unlikely to light it. Polyester, nylon, rayon? All bad choices.
  2. Wear closed-toed shoes! You may be called upon to stomp out flames. You want to be able to answer the call without harming your tootsies.
  3. If your hair reaches your shoulders, tie it back.
  4. If you are manning a post-firing reduction chamber, once the chamber is closed, don't open it for any reason for at least about 6-10 minutes. If you deprive the flame brielfy of oxygen and then suddenly allow an influx, you can get what's called a backdraft, which sounds kind of tame but is in fact a ball of flame, with you in the middle of it. You won't like it. 
These next apply more to workshop situations than private firings. In a small, one-person kiln, some things are easier than in the large kiln, so these suggestions don't apply in those cases. If you are firing your own kiln, handlling your own tongs, put in any size pieces you want, for example! These are more like workshop etiquette:

  1. Don't bring teeny tiny things. No beads, no buttons, no earrings. I once had a workshop participant bring like 30 1-inch pots. It wasn't her fault, nobody told her! But it was a misery getting those out of the kiln before they cooled too much too get any nice metallic colors, without getting burned. (Mostly my hands. The fireman's jacket protects the rest of me, but the gloves can only do so much as I reach repeatedly into the glowing kiln. So, yeah. Don't do that. 
  2. Don't bring anything you wouldn't want to lift with three foot tongs and drop into a pile of wood chips right next to other clay pieces. No huge things, nothing delicate or with long fragile appendages. Raku is hard on pieces, both the thermal shock & just the thumping around that's going to happen putting them in the reduction chambers and into the water. 
  3. Make sure you have used a claybody that is appropriate for raku. There's a pretty broad range of bodies that will work, and some that aren't great but will probably work for some pieces. The best ones are groggy stoneware, or porcelain, or bodies made for raku. 
  4. As noted above, raku is a risky process for the ware. Sometimes stuff breaks. Don't do it if losing a piece is going to break your heart. 
I'll post some photos of the ware and a fabulous raku glaze recipe here next week.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Etsy Wholesale Update


Received this ^^ in my inbox today!  I've started my linesheet already. As of this second it's only got one item on it but check it out if you like. 

Am I the eternal optimist? Or do I never learn? Or are those different ways of saying the same thing? Either way, I am quite excited about this, in spite of my previous experiences with Etsy. If it goes well, if it goes poorly, you'll read it all here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Here We Go Again: Etsy Wholesale

Remember my love/hate relationship with Etsy? I love to shop there - mostly for supplies* - and hatehatehate to sell there. Or rather I'd love selling there, if I ever actually sold anything! (I technically still have a store - two in fact, one for pottery and one for soap, but there's nothing in either of them.) Two things made me walk away from Etsy last time:

  1. I realized I was spending as much time promoting as I do making stuff, chasing after the Etsy dream. 
  2. I noticed when people buy things from Etsy, that's how they describe it: "I got it on Etsy." The seller's name is lost to the mists of history. So all that promoting? Benefits Etsy more than the seller.I decided if I was going to promote, I might as well be promoting me.
     
The fees were adding up, too, as I had to keep listing and re-listing to keep my items visible a search. 

Ugh, I am having flashbacks. I swore off Etsy more than once but now? Now there's Etsy wholesale. The thing is, I've been wishing there was a high profile online means to reach wholesale buyers - kind of an ACC Baltimore, online. Wholesale show are crazy expensive, and I am small enough as a business that I couldn't fill the 50K worth of orders that would make it worthwhile. The only other way to find accounts is to email & follow up with in-person visits - suuuuper inefficient. 

Etsy Wholesale would allow me to expand my handful of wholesale accounts, to maybe two handfuls. I wouldn't need to expand to "a truckload" just to make a show worthwhile. 

No listing fees, that's big. It doesn't make sense, to me, to be asked to pay before I sell anything! You do have to apply - I have started that process already - and who knows? Maybe I'll write all this angst and get declined anyway. I'm not entirely sure what they criteria are, and I am reading comments from lots of established Etsy sellers that their application was declined, so I guess that's good, right? It means they have standards, you won't have paper-clip-on-twine necklaces, unless they are really amazing paper-clip-on-twine necklaces. 

As I poke around further, I've discovered that Etsy Wholesale has existed since 2014. How did I not know this? I just found out recently because I saw a Facebook ad. It the intervening time, have you had an Etsy Wholesale shop? Is there another online wholesale venue that I've missed? What have your experiences been? Would love some input on this. 

*Now I guess there's Etsy Studio for supplies. When did that happen? 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Magic of Science

Fresh compost & happy tomatoes!
Got the new raised bed in, and filled both the new and old beds with compost.

Can I confess something that is gonna sound a little weird? I 💜 compost. I heart the idea of compost. What's basically a useless nuisance - fallen leaves, grass clippings, food scraps - turned into valuable material, just by letting it sit around in a pile! The wee beasties invisibly do all the work.
New bed, pre-compost
Extra lumber? Tiny bed for pole beans!

She is a cat lady, too!
In my head, I am writing a book called The Magic of Science. (All my books, so far, are in my head. It's getting a bit cluttered in there!) Everything I love to do involves transfiguration. Professor McGonagall would be proud. The only difference is the transfigurations I specialize in involve some chemical or biological process. (I'm not as good with a wand & incantations, I'm afraid; sorry, professor.)

Lately you see people walking around in t-shirts reading "Fuck your feelings." These people, as a rule, do not seem to be big fans of science! But they should be: nothing is less sensitive to your feelings than those pesky laws of physics. You really, really liked that piece, you worked so hard on it, but it dried a bit too fast? Cracked anyway. You loooooooove copper red but didn't get the kiln in reduction soon enough? Tough titty, said the kitty. Science doesn't care if a particular outcome is convenient, or fair, or conforms to your world view. It is what it is.

Putting the greenhouse effect to work
with an upcycled window!

The laws of physics can be good and useful tools, though, if you don't expect them to be your friends.


Fats + lye + time = soap
Waste vegetation + time = compost
Clay + heat = ceramic

One of the things the proper application of those laws of physics can do is make delicious tomatoes!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Gotta Hustle

Many years ago, when I lived in the Twin Cities (the Minnesota ones, not the Maine Twin Cities), I was driving on Lake Street on a Sunday morning. A big-hair woman in surprisingly brief clothing was making mighty efforts to get drivers' attention, although not mine; she was smiling brightly, tossing her hair, and energetically waving at passing men. I turned to my passenger and observed, "She works hard for the money." My friend deadpanned in response: "Yeah, well: you gotta hustle, if you wanna be a hustler."

I tell this story not to ridicule that young woman - I don't know anything about her life or circumstances - but because his reply stuck with me. You gotta hustle, if you wanna be a hustler - or a potter.

I remind myself of this when I slack on the tedious parts of the job: the selling. Posting pots in the online store, calling shops, sending emails to teaching studios to ask after workshops. When I slack off, unsurprisingly, my income stream diminishes. No hustle, no bustle. No bucks.

The flip side of it is, make the effort, see the rewards. It always seems like it takes more effort than it should, but push hard enough and things happen. Sometimes I feel like that smiling, waving working girl: Look at me, look at me, I am worth your attention! 

I really don't like that part, but I do like the getting paid part, so what's a potter to do? I am trying a new approach, inspired somewhat by Cindy's post at Dirt-Kicker Pottery, in which she describes trying to balance her work cycle so she doesn't get stuck with a mountain of the less enjoyable parts to do all at once. Something like this happens to me! I'm lucky, in that I like all the making parts: I like throwing and altering and decorating and loading the kiln and glazing and firing; I can even sort of like the peace of the zone I need to create to mix glazes. What happens is, I do all that stuff, and put off the selling part, until I have too many pots, and I need to sell them. Shelves full of pots really bum me out, and I don't feel like making until I clear them out, so I won't make for a long time, and sometimes I'll take a chance on a consignment outlet that I don't, actually, think is all that promising, just to empty those depressing full shelves. And then later I end up with the awkward task of telling a store that, sorry, but it's just not working out, bummer, I know, but it happens...yadda yadda yadda... and then having to go and pack up the work.

That I then have to go and try to sell somewhere else.

SO. To avoid that inefficient & demoralizing cycle, I am trying to incorporate the hustle more into my routine. Every week, several times a week, I will make some effort to sell something. I will call an account, see if they need pots. I will send images to stores that don't currently carry me, to see if they want to. I will photograph pots I have here, and post them online. I will follow up on emails from people looking for ware.

The idea being that a little every day is easier to manage than a solid week of banging on doors (metaphorically) and it takes a while for the responses to come back anyway. I should always have something in the works.

Gotta hustle.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Matching Plates Are So Over

I've posted four new items in the online shop - plates! Check 'em out here, here, here, and here. I've been having some fun with the descriptions. It's like a lot of things: once you give yourself permission to have fun, it gets easier.

Here's a thing I sometimes wonder about: many people like to have their own personal mug. It's not unusual for a household to have no matching mugs (is it? I've never owned a set of mugs, handmade or otherwise.) But plates? Culturally we look upon matched plates as the only way a normal household can have plates.

I want to push back on that idea, and not only because I like to make plates but I hate to make sets. I think it's an opportunity to appreciate plates as object d'art. Each plate its own little vignette, a circular frame around an arrangement of texture, color, and pattern. It's a chance for creative hosts to mix styles and colors together to create an artistic table. Plates are also naturals for display storage; on plate rails or in glass-front or open shelving.

Matching plates? So five minutes ago. Set your table with plates as individual as the people using them!

PS. Don't forget: type in discount code BLOG BUDDY to get 10% off!

Stackables, Shadows, and Stone

The rough stone wall behind and the directional lighting give this stack of bowls more drama than one might expect, from cereal bowls. Almost sort of spooky, like a killer might jump out of the shadows...maybe even a cereal killer!😄

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Notes of a Mundane Nature

I almost typed "Notes of a Mudane Nature," which would have been sort of appropriate.

After much rumination ('cause that's what I do), I have started using SquaredUp as my retail page. I like the look of the custom-built shopping page better but it's so much quicker to just upload photos & write descriptions to the pre-made store that I went with that, for now. I've got enough on my to-do list without always doing everything the hard way. I went for months with nothing in the online store because I couldn't find the time to do it all.
I do still find SquaredUp confusing from the admin point of view (there's the admin page, and the editor page, and the dashboard page...which all do different things...OTOH you can easily create discount codes, which is a thing I wanted to do but couldn't through my paypal links. Here, I'll go ahead & do one for you guys: type in BLOG BUDDY in the promo code box if you make a purchase, and get 10% off!)  It's very easy to shop from, and - for no reason that I can see - my sales have been better than when I was custom building each page. There's more than one factor involved there, to be sure - this was after the long spell of nothing available online, so there may have been some pent-up demand; I think I got better at writing descriptions; my Facebook and Twitter audiences are larger; and so on. So I can't say SquaredUp is necessarily the cause of the improvement, but I am feeling a little bit superstitious about it now.

Even though I know superstition is bullshit.

[knocks wood.]

Now I just have to track down everywhere that I have a link to my shopping page and make sure to replace it with the new link.

Other notes:

It's spring, going into summer, which means I have a little more money than I sometimes do, which unfortunately does not mean I will be eating fancy chow and drinking fancy wine, or even buying a cool pair of steampunk boots. Lumber for new raised beds in the garden and an upcycled-bureau-turned-kitchen-island are more likely. In addition, some less exciting purchases are in my near future, it seems:

Thing one: Boxes, packing peanuts, newsprint and rolls of corrugated cardboard. I've located a new supplier to replace Uline, and they are local! Local is always a plus. I need to top up packing materials. EAB, Inc is located in Lewiston, about 5 miles from INFAB Refractories, where I get brick inswool and refractory cement for kiln maintenance. Which brings us to thing two: I probably need to get some wool, and some softbrick to spiffy up the kiln a bit, tighten the door and the spies, etc.

Thing three: This damn burner.

Would you look at that crack? How does that even happen, unless being a million years old is cause enough? Obviously all firing is off until I get this fixed. I've got a call into a welder near me, he has to look at it to know if he can fix it, if not, a new burner sleeve is on my shopping list. 😕 I'd much rather have a pair of steampunk boots.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Remembrance, on Memorial Day

Dad, looking so handsome in his uniform. 

I enjoy a long weekend as much as the next person - maybe more, if the next person is a curmudgeon! - but I do want to take a moment to recognize the people who risked all, and in some cases sacrificed all, to make the gardening and the barbecues possible. Thank you to our military service members, active and retired, past, present, and future. A special and heartfelt thanks sent to heaven for those who lost their lives defending our freedom.

My father was in the Air Force, before I was born. It was how he paid for college. He was stationed in Germany and though he came back well and whole and singing German songs, he enlisted during the Korean War. He didn't see combat, but he could have. He was willing to risk it, for his country.

A friend of mine (who's also a ceramicist) is a veteran of the war in Iraq. She suffers with a disability due to her service. Today she posted photos on Facebook of friends she lost in that war. It was so hard to see smiling young men and women, and to know they were gone, lost in service to their country.

It's a luxury for Memorial Day to be abstract.

My nephew is a soldier today. He is training right now for his specialty, and I fear in my heart he will be sent to Afghanistan, or some new war. He is a brave young person - they all are, to be soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in the first place - but I can't help but hope that his courage is not needed. I'm not much good at praying but I use whatever ability I have to ask that he be kept safe, that all our young men and women in the military be kept safe; that, if they should be forced to fight, let it be for a good cause and let justice prevail.

Enjoy the weekend, and thank those who made your enjoyment possible.

Be well.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sweet Hearts Sugar Bowl

New item in the Pottery Shop - this little soda-fired sugar bowl. Best thing about it? THE BOTTOM. (I can say that, because you all are potters, and you understand.)


The rest is nice too. Check it out here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Glaze Challenge

People often ask if I offer classes. I teach, but not at my studio. I'm not set up for that, and more than that I am far, far too much of an introvert to feel comfortable with other people in my space on the regular. Just in the last year or two introversion has become fashionable, with entire articles written about how to interact with us, as if we were some rare species of  gnu that might shy away or bite if not handled properly. Or maybe an orchid, that would wither if exposed to too much personal interaction.

These articles make me laugh - I promise you, you've been successfully interacting with introverts all your life without an instruction manual! I'm not a fragile flower (although I am a snowflake, I must be, strangers [mostly unpleasant ones] tell me so every single day!) and I don't require delicate handling. I do recharge myself with alone time, and being social is work for me. But as I often say, anything worth doing is a lot of work! Some things which are work are also fun.

ANYWAY. Got off track. As I was saying, I don't offer classes here, but I do teach a few classes at Portland Pottery. I teach adults, at mixed skill levels. Beginners are the easiest - anything I show them advances their knowledge. ANY project will grow their skills. My later intermediate & advanced students are trickier; I want to help them pursue their own projects but I also want to push them a little. It's easy when you are finally making things you like to stop striving for new skills - that's why you need a teacher.

Our latest class project was designed to push people to try new surface treatments. I found and printed out some color/ pattern swatches, snipped them to about 2" x 2" so they wouldn't be recognizable as paintings, fabric, ceramics, or whatever. I put the bits of paper in a bowl and had students reach in & pull one out. That then was their assignment: replicate that as a ceramic surface, using any method available. Here are some of our results:






I am missing a few - I swear I took photos of all of them but somehow the photos are nowhere.

Underglaze was a popular approach, and some people tried underglaze crayons for the first time. There were wax/latex patterns, and brave efforts to try and apply glazes in such a way as to replicate the look.

I often do some version of a class project, and thins was one of my favorites! It was great fun for me to see the different approaches people took. I will find ten more snips online, and we will do this project again.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Firing at Watershed: Results!

As commonly happens, the firing at Watershed was great! That soda kiln is a joy to fire.
Look at these even cone packs!
I had six participants in the workshop - small enough that (I hope) everybody got a satisfying number of pots in the kiln. A couple of people had some larger items, always a challenge, but it worked out. I was especially pleased that my friend Cindy of CC Ceramics got in a big piece that she has carried around to four firings now, trying to fit it in! Sh hasn't seen it yet but it's fabulous - you can just see it, it is the carved piece in the rear on the left side, it's peachy & silver, I think she'll be delighted.

I myself had only a few pieces in; this firing wasn't really about me, although I like to have a few things just to dial up the fun factor. The lidded jars at the very top are mine; they will probably eventually find their way to The Cat Doctor, to house the remains of someone's beloved feline.

Look at the very bottom shelf - see that large oval piece? That belongs to Jeanne Hardy, a potter from Belfast. Jeanne participated in the Maine Pottery Tour, so we have emailed back & forth but this was the first time I'd met her. She got lots of nice pieces out of the kiln but that one sticks in my mind, such a great shape. She called it a "hod" which I keep thinking is maybe a kind of boat? Basically any word that I don't know what it means I decide it must be a kind of boat. Anyway I loved the form, a wide, simple oval. It would make a great salad serving dish. Except for the dots (I 💙 dots!) it doesn't look at all like something I would make but I could totally see it in my house.

Here are the pots unloaded.
At this point we still had to grind and wash the shelves, a dreary job but a quick one, as I had so many hands to help.

It's a rainy start to Memorial Day weekend here, and I am doing an biggish indoor project - I am transforming a bureau into a kitchen island. I'll be posting progress over at Wicked Cozy, my Maine-lifestyle blog. I've also got a couple of small orders to knock out, and a few pendants to assemble. Holidays don't mean much to the self-employed! Luckily the work is mostly fun, like I'm always on holiday. Well. Except for kiln maintenance. Oh and mixing glazes. Not fun!

Hoping your holiday weekend is fun, or productive, or meaningful, or whatever you wish it to be.
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