Thursday, April 20, 2017

Not Remotely Pottery Related, but

,,,I made a new t-shirt! I took the photo last summer while delivering ware to Handworks, a gallery in Blue Hill, Maine. Doug came with me and we decided to make a day of it.

We visited Blue Hill Falls, which changes direction when the tide comes in or goes out. So cool! We waded in the gelid water and made a remarkable discovery: starfish come in colors! Beautiful, jewel-tone colors. There were masses of them, but I just couldn't capture the colors with the underwater shots; but I did get this small grouping on a rock that the departing tide had just uncovered. On the way back we stopped for lobster rolls at a little roadside stand. It was a great day.

So, I made a t-shirt commemorating my very Maine day. You can get it on a tank or a tote, too! Check it out here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pop Quiz!

This is for the clay students reading this blog. I know you are out there!

My upside down plates have come out of the bisque, and guess what? One of them cracked pretty spectacularly. I sort of thought it might. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to why the one cracked and the other didn't?

Turn your computer upside down for the answer!

Actually, there's a bit more after the break.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Upside Down Plates

Potters, in my experience, are generous folks. One of the joys of teaching in a communal studio like Portland Pottery is learning from my fellow potters. It's a regular even to see something wonderful and ask the maker to share it.

Last week I learned from Brian Buckland how to make these upside-down plates, with undulating lines from a twisty cut-off wire. Brian learned it from Tyler Gulden, and so on and so on, it's turtles all the way down.

It's also a joy to be the one sharing!

Here are the steps, pictorally:
Center a three pound hump low & wide, as if you were throwing a regular plate
Throw a foot ring
With a wooden rib, make a deep undercut - about a half-inch 

Cut of plate from the bat with a twisty wire, but leave it on the bat. You can cut straight or not, depending on the pattern you want. 

Place a second bat on the foot ring. Line up the pin holes to get the plate as close to the center of the second bat as you can. 
Flip the plate between the two bats, like a clay sandwich
I couldn't get a good picture of the next bit, but you have to reach between the bats and get your fingertips (gently!) into the undercut, and peel the plate off the first bat. Be very careful , as it's easy to mess up the rim. This bit takes some patience, and some practice.

Even if you are very careful, it will look like crap when it first comes off the bat. Don't worry! It's supposed to.
See? Looks like crap. 
It should be pretty close to center, because you lined up the two bats pretty well, but make whatever adjustments necessary to get it as close as you can now that it's unstuck. Now you are going to snap the bat back on the wheel, and with a sponge, persuade the wall to come up until it is shaped like a plate or shallow bowl:
Optionally, you can trim out some of the center. This is probably a good idea so you can compress the center - I am a little worried that the ones I didn't trim out will crack.

If you are really, really good, your plate might be done! Mine all needed trimming underneath after they'd dried to leatherhard.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Maine Pottery Tour 2017

Though the snow is still thick on the ground (and filthy. And ugly. I hate snow this time of year) spring has, in fact, sprung, which means it's time to start preparing for the Maine Pottery Tour. 39 studios this year! This little slideshow gives you a preview of work you might see.

The Tour is Saturday & Sunday, May 6 & 7. Find out more at

It's Mug Season Once Again!

Yesterday I delivered mugs to the Downtown Diner in Augusta, one of eight local coffee shops participating in Mug Season, a fundraiser for local arts programs. And local potters, including yours very truly. Here's the list:

Downtown Diner, Augusta, Maine

Slates Bakery, Hallowell
134 Main St, Winthrop
Bagel Mainea, Augusta
Gardiner Food Co-op, Gardiner
Green Bean Coffee Shop, South China 
The Olde Post Office Cafe, Mt. Vernon 
Sheepscot General Store,  Whitefield 

Here's how it works: Stop in one of the shops, buy a handmade mugs (for the low, low price of $18!), get a free cup of coffee. I love the win-win-win aspect of this event: customers get free coffee and a bargain, the shops get customers seeking them out for the Mug Season event, school districts get a little cash, and us? Well, the potters get a check during a time of year when checks are a little thin on the ground. 

Mug Season is brought to you by the Central Maine Clay Artists, and the word WOW. 

Check it out! 

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. πŸ˜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. πŸ˜•) 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. πŸ˜„

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. πŸ’—

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Flames Good, Flames Bad

A dramatization
Ugh, there is SO much to learn, in clay, so many new things to go wrong! The best that we can hope for is for things to go wrong when they don't do any harm, and by that measure I am a winner today.

I finally had a chance to fire the kiln I loaded last week. Candled just fine, no of the valves was locked in ice, but I chipped/ melted it out, all good. Reached body reduction, all good...but when I went out to check if  ^05 was falling yet, I noticed one of my burners was behaving weirdly.

It's a measure of how dedicated I am to you, my darling readers, that I almost went for the camera before shutting it down, but then I thought: no, when propane and fire are doing unexpected things, the time to put an end to it is right freaking now. So I turned it off, then waited a bit and relit it - and it did it again.

The flame, which ought to come out the end of the burner and (mostly) into the kiln, was igniting way down at the primary air. I have never had that happen before, and I don't know what has caused it to happen, but in addition to just not being a safe state of affairs, it meant that a bunch of the heat was not going into the kiln. The firing was not going to proceed properly no matter what.

Luckily I have no urgency about this firing - it's always good to have pots but nobody pounding down my door in the middle of February. I have time to ask people way smarter than I am (Hi, Tyler Gulden!) what the problem might be and how to fix it.

So, now I have a sunny Sunday afternoon off, with just a tiny nagging worry that I might have to invest in a new burner. It's pushing 50°, and in February in Maine, it's criminal to let such a day go to waste.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pinch, Pinch, Slab

One advantage of a Maine winter is the joy of watching birds at the feeder. Not only do we get a greater variety, but they are more clearly visible against to backdrop of the snow. My morning routine involves a stop at the picture window to smile at my little friends, who have no idea or capacity to wonder who their benefactor is; they are the poster children for living in the moment.

I have two of those plastic tube type feeders - super cheap & functional, the birds love them - a thistle
Oops, thistle sock is empty!
We'll have to settle for sunflower seeds
seed sock that's always covered with finches, and a suet cage that the squirrels already know how to open. I have dedicated squirrel feeder as well but do they appreciate it? Noooooo.)

All those are fine, but lacking something in the aesthetic department. "You know what I'd love?" I asked myself. "A handmade feeder. But they are so expensive!"

Because they are cool and fun and always up for something new, I decided to do this as a project with my handbuilding class. This feeder is constructed of two pinch pots - the body, and the tray - and a slab roof. There's a hole through the bottom and the lid, through which a leather cord is threaded, allowing the feeder to hang, and allowing water to drain out so the seed doesn't rot.

One important feature are small slabs attached on the interior above the openings through which the seed falls. Without these the seed will just flow out, like a bucket with a hole in it! The feeder is of an unglazed brown stoneware, brushed with red iron oxide - fully mature stoneware does not need glaze to make it impervious to water. 

I think I will add a version of this piece to my spring line. My next step is to work out this design as a thrown form. I think it would need to be 3 parts: tray, body, and lid. I could throw the tray and body as one piece, but that would make cutting the seed holes harder. 

I'll try it both ways.

Also, not sure the leather cord is the best solution. It looks nice, especially with the iron-brown surface, but might it rot, or fray? This is, of course, the purpose of a prototype, to get the bugs out. Though hopefully there aren't any bugs in there, yuck. Another advantage of winter, I suppose: at least there's no bugs. 

Today is mean to be a cleaning day - and boy does my house need it! - but I feel this new design calling me into the studio. 

*J/K Resistance is not futile. Never.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Well, the Damp Box Works

So, remember last year when I came back from NCECA & made myself a damp box? (Quick reminder: it's just a rubbermaid container with a lid, from the supermarket, with about an inch of plaster in the bottom.)

I had mostly been using it to help students - often they pull handles and then don't have time to attach them in the three hour class period, but the damp box will easily preserve a handle until next week's class. In December I made a bunch of press-molded buttons and pendants, stored them in the damp box...and then promptly forgot about them.

Today - yet another snow day, no drought this year! - I was cleaning up my studio. Well: cleaning is maybe an exaggeration. I was picking things up from one place and putting them down in another, and I came upon the long-forgotten damp box full of buttons. They are as wet as they were when they went in. In fact, I am having to leave them uncovered for a while, because they are a bit too wet to finish the edges and backs. I'll finish these off, then drill the holes: tiny, 32nd/ inch holes for buttons, bigger, 16th/ inch holes for pendants.

Best part: I did the work so long ago, it feels like a bonus, like when you find money in the pocket of a coat you haven't worn in a while. 😎😎😎😎😎

Saturday, February 11, 2017

During the Storm, After the Storm

During our most recent Snowpocalypse, I felt the sudden urge to make soap! Today was the big reveal:

I was a little worried due to a mishap that occurred in the making - I had gotten it all poured, with all the swirls and flourishes just how I wanted them, and then realized I'd forgotten to add the fragrance. There followed some frantic pouring and mixing (and spilling) and re-pouring, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the finished batch, but all in all I'm quite pleased. 

The scent is After the Storm, and I'm hard-pressed to describe's very fresh and clean. If I say, it smells like a patch of violets in the air after a thunderstorm, I sound ridiculously corny but that's as close as I can get. 

Snow again here today (six inches, or what we call a "dusting" here in Maine) and then Snowmaggedon Sunday and Monday. Every time we have a major storm, it lands on a class day! This winter is getting expensive. I try to make up for it by getting into the studio and making pots every snow day but while that does represent income, payment is deferred until I finish and sell those pots. 

Anyway! This soap, After the Storm, needs time to cure. It will be available March 9th (right around the time the first crocus greens will be up!) and you can be sure I'mm share the link to purchase here. 

Mwah. πŸ’‹

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Long Time No Soap

I've heard some people clean their homes, on a snow day. I take the opportunity to make an additional mess.
Soap mess before

I was thinking of firing today, but when it came time to candle I wasn't 100% sure that my Thursday class would be cancelled - which would mean I couldn't fire. Also, I was snug and warm in bed & didn't want to go out in the cold to turn the burners on. πŸ˜„

Instead, I dug out my tools and materials and made a batch of soap. It's been a year or so since I had the urge, and I had to concentrate a bit to remember the steps. Just when I had the swirls the way I wanted, the molded gold stars in place....I realized I hadn't added the scent. Nobody wants an unscented soap! Well - dogs do, But that's another recipe.

So, I scooped it all out of the mold, put it back in the crock, added the scent, divided it into two batches, added more colorant, started to make new swirls...and dumped a tub of it all over the
Soap mess after - and a Fine Mess it is, too
counter. I started scooping like mad to get it off the counter before it started to harden, because then cleaning it up would be a nightmare...and in the process smeared it on my arms under the rubber gloves. Lye burns don't suck as bad as you might think, but they don't feel good, either. πŸ˜•

I had enough to fill one mold, and half of another. This was fine as the second one was destined to become color inserts in future batches, anyway. The shade of purple is a bit redder than I had in mind; I hope I am remembering correctly that this colorant continues to develop as the lye reaction occurs. It maybe more in the violet range tomorrow morning.

The scent is After the Storm, which is meant to have lighter and darker purple swirls, with some gold mica streaks, but with all the pouring and re-pouring and mixing, who knows what is will be? It'll smell nice, that much I do know, because my whole house smells nice now. I'll have to wait until morning for the rest of my answers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Between the Storms

We got snow yesterday and last night, enough that I cancelled my Tuesday classes. We are forecast to get snow - big snow, actually - tomorrow. Today, though, it's in the mid-40s and sunny: perfect kiln loading weather.

I had to dig out the kiln from yesterday's storm first, of course. Not to mention the driveway.

So, funny story! When I shovelled out my driveway. I pushed some of the snow into the parking lane on my street. Not a lot, and certainly not into the travel lane, but I don't have a snow blower, and sometimes it's hard to find places to put the snow, as we get later in the winter. We are the only ones who ever use the parking spot in front of our house, so no harm, no foul, right? Wrong.
Turns out it is illegal to put your snow in the parking lane. How do I know this? Because some very responsible citizen called the cops on me. No lie. The officer was very nice, and quite apologetic. even; he even stayed to help me push the snow back into a more acceptable configuration. It could have been a sour experience but the young man was so nice it wasn't, at all.

Anyway! Back to the firing.

This load is mostly refires and pots that were already glazed but didn't fit into my last firing. This will be the first firing since I added and additional layer of brick to the stack, to increase the draw, so will be the tell whether one layer was enough. If not, I'll be hauling my cowardly ass back up the ladder and onto the roof to pile on one more course. Be afraid, do it anyway: good advice.

Weather forecasts are sometimes wrong, and storm predictions are often overblown, so I am not sure how tomorrow is going to go. If it looks like big snow, I will cancel my Thursday class and fire at home. I hope it doesn't - rescheduling classes is inconvenient, for me and for students. But on the other hand there is no better way to spend a snow day than firing a kiln. My favorite kind of situation: win-win.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

House Numbers: Mission Accomplished!

A few weeks ago I started a project that has been on my list for over a decade: replacing the address numbers on my house. Finally, the finished result!

I'm delighted with them, although if you look close at the photo you can see the top 1 is broken - I was careless in transporting them green, and that's what happens. I decided to go ahead and use it anyway, because after waiting 10+ years I didn't want to wait another firing cycle. 

The lady at the hardware store where I bough the screws suggested I sell these. An obvious idea, I guess, but not one that I thought of. Whaddaya think, $10 per number, limited selection of colors. four week turnaround...would it be worth suspending my no-custom-orders rule? 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Drive-by Post: A Demo in 5 Pics

Just wanted to share something fun I have been demonstrating in my classes this week: an underglaze decorating technique involving carving through a layer of wax to create an image and low relief texture at the same time.

It starts with bonedry greenware. Bone dry is better than late leather hard only because the water-based wax resist dries faster. I brush on a layer of wax; water-based wax resist is better than paraffin because it is less brittle, but either one will work. (Optionally, you could paint your intended design on the greenware with food coloring first, if you don't want to freehand it.) It needs to dry completely, which will take a little longer on greenware than it does on bisqueware. The rest goes like this:

Carve thru wax and into the clay with a sgraffito tool

Brush on underglaze

Second layer...

Wipe excess off with sponge

Do it some more...
This piece will get some more carving on the lid, then I will re-cover it with wax, allow it to dry, and then repeat the process with a different color of underglaze; I'm thinking white. It will be bisqued, which will burn away the wax, and then either glazed with a transparent stoneware glaze - maybe celadon - or I might just let the soda vapor do its thing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Welcome, Fire Rooster

Can't say I am sorry to see that dratted Fire Monkey make his exit. Bye-bye, Fire Monkey, don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya. 

Truth be told the Fire Monkey kicked my ass

The year of the Fire Rooster brings better things! It portends an increase in civility, which will be a welcome change, and promises we'll see "maximum integrity." Seems like that is already underway. 

The good news is that I was born in the year of the Dragon - the Wood Dragon, to be exact. (I know
Me, before coffee
Zodiac of all kinds is bullshit, but read that description and tell me it doesn't sound like me! Especially the "wasting time over-analyzing" bit.)

"The year 2017 of the Fire Rooster will be full of positive events and very good news, career progress and profitable businesses for those born in the year of the Dragon. "
Me, after coffee
Looking forward to this! Of course, I don't expect the Rooster to do all the work. I have been more energized in the last few weeks (The lexapro has helped! Which I couldn't get without the ACA. Just sayin'.) Positive events and career progress don't just happen by themselves, with or without the help of mythical beasts.  Like all goals, they require planning; I hark back to my favorite inspirational quote: "A goal without a plan is just a wish."Antoine de Saint-ExupΓ©ry
 Now is a good time as any to start setting those goals and making those plans. 

Goal Setting 2017

  • Rebuild my inventory. That's job one. The rest all depends on this. To that end, I will block out my glaze firings, to give me a framework in which to schedule other aspects of production. 
  • Start sending out a newsletter! I actually spent the bucks - AND YOU KNOW HOW I HATE TO DO THAT - for Publisher, to reify this. The right tools matter, and I tried dinking around with OpenOffice to get this done last year, and it didn't go well. 
  • This actually needs to be an annual event, but it doesn't get done unless I type it out, so: I need to review my accounts, decide which are performing well as is, which consignment accounts would be better as wholesale, and which, sadly, are not making money for either of us. 
  • Get a truck! This is a biggie and a toughie. It's been an obstacle to doing art fairs for a while, so I decided to do it in reverse: apply for a fair I want to do, which will then force me to get a truck to make it happen! Of course, I might not get in the fair, there's never a guarantee; but either way I need a truck. I have my eye on a real vintage doozie, but any truck (that runs) is better than no truck. 
  • That's probably enough.  I have not forgotten that pushing myself too hard resulted in the Great Burnout of 2016, so will continue to build in self-care. I'm kind of excited that there is now a yoga studio in downtown Augusta, just a half mile from my house! I can't afford to go every week - most weeks I only have $15 (or less) discretionary income, and a yoga visit is $12 - but I promise myself to get there once or twice a month.  

    Welcome, Fire Rooster, and be blessed, my muddy buddies. πŸ’™

    Monday, January 30, 2017

    NCECA Demo, at last on YouTube!

    So, hey, remember when I went to NCECA in Kansas City to demonstrate thrown and altered butter dishes? The video of that demo is finally available!
    Well. Sort of. Turns out you have to purchase the Process Room videos. You can catch a bit of my demo in the teaser, though; enough to get a sense of how the tray to the butter dish is stretched. I'm tempted to buy the video - not for my demo OBVS but because it looks like the others were pretty fab, which I was too nervous to notice at the time.
    Anyway, check it out. My bit starts about 11 seconds in.

      You can get a copy here, if you're interested.

    Update: AAAARGH for some reason the embedded video keeps vanishing. If it's not appearing, you can see in here on Youtube. 

    Sunday, January 29, 2017

    Better Be Today

    Today, a Sunday, is the last day above freezing predicted in Central Maine for quite some time, so I guess I better get as much of my kiln maintenance done today as possible, or be cursing myself out in the bitter cold. My to-do list today looks like this:

    1. Prepare kiln for firing
    • Clean out burner channels
    • Grind shelves
    • Rebuild bag walls

    1. Mix Wadding
    2. Make Cone packs
    3. Postcards to Senators
    4. Handles on mugs
    5. Cat flea treatment

    Sounds like fun, right? (If you said "NO," you are today's winner!) As you can see above, the wood curls method of soda application makes a much bigger mess than the spray-in method. The kiln fires better if I pull down the bag walls in between every glaze firing and clear out the channels. I am considering switching for this reason alone, but I hate to give up the pronounced directionality and rivers of soda that I get from the wood curls. So, I dunno. 

    Beauty is where you find it. Just look at these bag wall bricks! Maybe I will save them for garden edging, and rebuild the bag wall with new brick. Which will necessitate a trip to the Dirty Lew and INFAB Refractories. Which may or may not have Superduty hardbrick. And aren't open Sunday. Ugh, maybe I'll just keep it simple. 

    Anyway! I'm wasting daylight, so catch ya later.

    UPDATE: The channels are cleared, the bag walls rebuilt, the shelves are ground, the wadding is mixed! Not a moment too soon, either - snowflakes have just started flying. Doug took care of the flea treatments, so that just leaves postcards and cone packs. And it's not even 2 o'clock! 
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