Sunday, December 9, 2018

Mind the Gaps

One of the themes I keep returning to with this blog is the business of art. Like artistic talent, people often think business sense is an inborn trait, but, also like talent, is actually a set of skills you can learn.
 
I can't say I have learned them yet, but I keep trying! One thing I have learned is to maximize output vs cost. That sounds so dreary and dry! But it can be fun, like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle. In the case of firing, the cost is propane, via kiln space. Fill as much of the kiln space as I can without compromising the ware (a logic problem of its own) and my cost per piece goes down. Fill it with something fun to make, and charming and easy to sell, and I've got myself a win-win-win. 

I do love to make these mini-bottles! I throw them off the hump and can get myself into a very relaxing, almost hypnotic rhythm. I've just finished glazing them with dots, stripes, and curliques, a simple and fun task like filling in a coloring book. They fit in the space between the bowls and butter dishes, that would otherwise be wasted. When they emerge from the kiln - god willin and the creek don't rise - they will be like jelly beans or gumdrops, sweet and full of bright cheery appeal. I find that sometimes a person who doesn't feel like spending $60 on a bowl still wants to take something of the day home with them...sometimes that person will be happy to spend $15 on a tiny little bottle. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

White Tea & Bamboo

The Fine Mess online store will be open for just 5 more days this season! I will close the store on the 12th, to guarantee any orders will arrive in time for Christmas, and because I have a show on the 13th for which I will need the pieces. I just listed a new soap - check it out here!
To order, click here

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Apple Green Conversion

It's been a couple of years since I expanded my glaze palette. Mixing glazes is not my favorite thing to do (if it's yours, please let me know! 😄 You might be utterly unique.) The glaze kitchen tends to get cluttered up with bikes and gardening equipment, so I have to clear it out before I even begin. Every firing seems to be pushed against a time limit (and whose fault is that?) so adding an additional task - mixing a test glaze - isn't feasible. But! I am starting to get antsy for new colors & surfaces. The green in currently have I rarely use - it's a little dark for the candy-coated vibe of my ware. This, though: this promises apple green! That would be right up my alley.

It's not currently chemically quite right for soda; and I will want to do a ^6 conversion on it also, to have both possibilities. I am doing a lot less ^6 these days - I find the soda glass itself is just not quite as luscious, somehow, so I've been unwilling to quit ^10 entirely. Keeping two sets of glazes and two sets of claybodies is actually something of a strain on the space limitations of my studio, in addition to the ever-present risk of getting a piece or a glaze in the wrong firing, with results either disappointing or disastrous, depending on which way it goes. Right now I fire to ^6 for a couple of orders, both of which have more glazed ares and less bare clay or flashing slip. It works well for these,but one of the questions I need to answer in the new year is whether it's worth the storage space & the risks.

I look forward to the Week of Reflection to decide this and other questions.

The easier conversion, obviously, is the one to make this glaze (hopefully!) appropriate for soda firing. It has the necessary percentage of whiting, so I would only need to replace some of the silica with boron. There's a goodly amount of silica in this recipe, too: 28%. I am thinking to switch out 3% of it with boron and run it up the flagpole. ETA: NOPE

Which is to say, run it through the glaze calculation software & see what  it turns up.

Here's the recipe as-is, which I got from Claybucket

COLEMAN APPLE GREEN CELADON*
Coleman Apple Green
Cone: 9 – 10
Color: transparent green
Surface: glossy
Firing: reduction
Recipe:    (percent)
Whiting …………… 17.95
Custer Feldspar …. 43.59
EPK …………………. 10.26
Flint …………………. 28.20
Totals:        100 %
Also add:
Chrome Oxide ………  0.25
Red Iron Oxide ……… 0.77
Here's how it looks when Elaine Coleman uses it over porcelain:

Here's the recipe with the alteration I hope will adapt it for soda, with the changes highlighted:

Apple Green for soda
Cone: 9 – 10
Color: transparent green
Surface: glossy
Firing: reduction

Recipe:    (percent)
Whiting …………… 16
Gerstley Borate............1.95
Custer Feldspar …. 42.59
EPK …………………. 11.26
Flint …………………. 28.20

Totals:        100 %

Also add:
Chrome Oxide ………  0.25
Red Iron Oxide ……… 0.77

Now, this recipe also has a large percentage of potash feldspar (Custer Spar) at 43%. It's probably worth trying a 1-for-1 substitution of Custer for Neph Sy - that might be enough (again, GlazeMaster might have something to say about it.) If that doesn't do the trick itself, I'll have to remind myself which frits are best for these colorants and for soda.

The first mix is on my to-do list for today; I'll be testing it in my own kiln next week and in the Portland Pottery stoneware kiln as well, so I can see how it performs without the influence of soda.
Photos next week!
After all this, I decided it would be smart to mix it as-is first, because every now & then a glaze surprises me & does just fine in soda. 

*Why why why doesn't spellcheck know the word "celadon?" I mean "tenmoku" & "shino" I get but celadon is just the name of a color. 😕

Friday, November 30, 2018

One Thing I Love About Potters

We are endlessly resourceful! When I arrived at Hallowell Clay Works yesterday to teach my Beginning Throwers, I found that Malley had devised an ingenious solution to thoroughly mixing her terra sigilata overnight:
😃

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

When October Goes



The great Barry Manilow captured the melancholy of late October, as we spin into the dark half of the year. My wallow in that bittersweet feeling needs to be brief, however, because October's end means a very busy time in the studio.

First, I've got new pots in the online shop! Here are a couple of my special favorites:
Got several nice butter dishes out of the last firing! Check this one out at this link

Several sweet little sugar bowls too! Check this one out at this link.

Three big beautiful vases available too! Check this one out at this link
The online store will be open & adding new items every week until the first week in December. 

I'm also preparing for the opening of the Holiday Pottery Shop, which opens in about two weeks. This year the shop is at 160 Water Street in Hallowell. OMG you should see this big beautiful space!! It's the site of the former Harlow Gallery, and has me musing about renting it to open a year 'round store, after the Holiday Pottery Shop pops back down. That's probably little more than a daydream but...it could work. There's space in the back for a wheel & work table & even an electric kiln to bisque, so I wouldn't lose studio time....it could work....

ANYWAY. I've got enough to think about in the present. Orders, consignment stores that need inventory, oh and....

A new cat!

I didn't really mean to get a sixth cat! Actually I tried pretty hard not to get a sixth cat, but cats happen, especially to me. SkinnyCat has been hanging around our house for about a year & a half - he was our neighbors' cat, although they seemed to be a little rough with him; they had small children and Skinny was always limping or seeming injured. Around the beginning of September, we started to notice that Skinny was not looking too good: he was even skinnier, was losing fur and covered with scabs. Then we noticed that he wasn't going home anymore, he was just living in our shed. When we walked over to speak to his people, their apartment was vacant! They had moved away without SkinnyCat! We'd been leaving food out for him anyway, but we started making sure he got two meals a days & had a safe warm place to sleep in the shed while we looked for someone to take him. I actually did find someone willing to take him, but it took about 6 weeks...by which time my husband Doug had really bonded with Skinny, who is an affectionate little lap cat. He (Doug, not SkinnyCat) just looked at me and said, "I don't think I can let him go."

Doug's mother is very ill, & the whole family is having a hard time with it; if one more cat provides him with some comfort, that seems a small ask. So here we are, introducing SkinnyCat to his new family.

Anyway that's my autumn so far! How's yours?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The New Messy Minute is out!

Hey all - long time no post! I'd say sorry but honestly I'm probably the only one who notices. 😊 Hoping you are having a fabulous fall. I just sent out the Fine Mess Newsletter, the Messy Minute - you can sign up for the mailing list by emailing me at info@finemesspottery.com. To check out the Messy Minute in .pdf form, click here. [ETA: A reader clued me in that that .pdf opens as 127 pages long! They are all the same page, but even so it takes like 40 seconds to open. I have no idea why that happened; I built it in Publisher & saved it as a .pdf, nothing fancy. Anyway, you can still read it there if you want, or just shoot me an email & I'll send it to you. ]

I missed a couple of editions, but hopefully back on track now!

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Workshop Adventure!

Just wanted to offer a heads' up about what looks like an amazing workshop featuring Maine's own Tim Christensen in Palermo, Sicily!

In this exciting and multifaceted class, participants will learn two different, though related, media and techniques: Black and white sgraffito on porcelain, and dry point etching on PET resin. We will focus on the skies and sea of Sicily, working outside as much as possible to capture the light drenched and ever-shifting natural beauty of this enchanted place. Artists will leave with bisque-fired porcelain pieces suitable for display or further firing, and stabilized for travel, as well as a number of plates for printing. If time allows, artists will learn to wipe and pull prints from their plates. Artists should expect to be able to make one completed sgraffito piece or etched plate per day of class. All tools and materials will be provided, and of course bring your own tools if you have favorites! This will be a fun exploration of technique, with a special focus on strengthening visual memory skills.


The venue, Casa Pergola, is owned by two friends of mine, Paul Mahoney and David Henderson, both artists and American ex-pats. I watched long distance as they transformed the former olive mill into a beautiful destination villa with handcrafted details in every corner. Paul & David are fun & funny, charming & talented, and their company a,one would make the trip worthwhile.

I so so wish I could attend this workshop...but next best thing would be you going & coming back to tell us all about it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Late Night Company


The weeks leading up to an art fair usually involve some late nights in the studio. Last night was one, as I try to squeeze out one more firing before the Common Ground Fair. My summer studio is outside, and I never know who will drop by: raccoon, skunk, even an opossum once. They are hard to photograph - mammals mostly have the good sense to skedaddle once they're spotted.

Last night I moved a toolbox out of my way and discovered this praying mantis whiling away the evening & listening to the Savage Lovecast with me. Honestly if anyone could use Dan Savage's advice, it's a praying mantis.

I was charmed by her steady gaze, as though she were as interested in me as I was in her. Sorry there's no object in the photo to give you a sense of scale; I didn't want to spook her. A mantis is a pretty big bug; this one was about 4 inches long. I relocated her shortly after the photo, despite her obvious charisma - I didn't want to have to worry about accidentally squishing her.

I finished up some Jaunty Jars last night, trimmed a few bowls, decorated some tall vases; today I'll throw small things to fill the firing. It's my last day to make stuff for this bisque, and I intend to make the most of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

All the Pretty Cones


They will be prettier once they are all lying down, of course, but it's hard to get a photo of them, then! The pots, too, are never so beautiful as when they are glowing with the heat that creates them. All those little knobs belong to sugar bowls, and all those sugar bowls are coming with me to the Portland Fine Crafts show on Saturday. Come see me in Booth 69!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What Do You Do While the Kiln is Firing?

Me, I clean. There are some logical reasons for that - the studio is never more empty than when all the ware is in the kiln - and some squishier ones, like for some reason I just can't make myself start a new making cycle in the midst of the old one. NO OVERLAP, it's some kind of brain-cramp of a rule that I can't get past. So, I clean.

Sometimes I clean my house. Often I clean my studio - see above. Sometimes I drag all the random crap that has drifted into the shed like seaweed on a beach, throw three-quarters of it away, and then organize the rest. It's lucky I have firing days, because some stuff only happens then.

Today I had a flea infestation to address. As you may know, I live in the House of Many Cats, not entirely accidentally. We apply flea preventative medications regularly, but fleas do love hot, humid weather, and I found one on Finn McCool just yesterday - only two weeks after he'd had his monthly treatment. Time for drastic action! Which means, time to close the cats up in bedrooms, drag all the furniture into the kitchen, and shake Borax on all the carpets to kill flea eggs. It has to sit for a few hours before getting vacuumed up, so I still had time to do dishes & laundry & all my regular cleaning stuff as well. I did straighten the studio a bit as well, and re-arranged things so it's easier to glaze in there. Maybe that's why I don't like crossing the streams - I use the space differently during the glazing part of the cycle.

The bisque is nearly done now, and Doug & I will settle down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

I love Groot, don't you?


Thursday, August 2, 2018

'Tis the Season - for Raku!


I never tire of glowy-kiln images! I am always the one with the tongs, so not in  position to appreciate the visual spectacle while it is happening; I'm busy making sure all the pots survive the journey & no one gets burned. That's me, there, in the silver jacket & face shield. I know lots of people who raku without all the protective gear, and I will never be one of them! Just call me snowflake, I see no reason to be in pain if it can easily be avoided.

The photo above was taken after about half the pots were out.


We got some lovely pots out of the firing! I find I get better results if I don't try to cram as many pots as possible into the kiln: fewer pots means I don't have to hurry before the last ones cool off. I can take my time & position the pieces in the sawdust in a way that will benefit them, instead of just however they land. For example, bowls should be place rim down in the combustible pile! Copper lustres will turn bright & metallic, and all glazes will avoid the unfortunate crusty texture that comes with getting sawdust (or dry leaves or newspaper or whatever) in the puddle of still-molten glaze inside a bowl. Here are a few results, with thanks to Holly Johnson of Hurricane Mountain Pottery for all the photos I used today.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

TTFN, Pottery Stairs!

Just checking in with my pottery peeps! It's been a month or so since I posted, and in that time I have been busily making. Wholesale is all delivered for the season, and my next event is not until the end of August, but I am (for once!) not waiting until the last possible second.

And of course there are also consignment outlets to keep full.

Usually in the summer I would have a steady drip of income from the Pottery Stairs, but things have gone awry this year. While theft has always been factored in to the cost of my honor-system stand - occasionally someone would take an envelope & not send the money, or even every once in a while an outright theft of a piece or two - this year it's crazy. Like, every day a couple of pieces just disappear. Even when people took envelopes, which I take as meaning they intend to pay, only one of four envelopes returned to me with payment.
The Pottery Stairs in better days

While it's tempting to see this as further evidence that the world is getting shittier, I think two things account for the change. The outright thefts - someone just seeing something they like & taking it - are probably one person, or maybe two, together. The payments that never arrive are probably due to economic strains: people intend to pay, but every pay period, that pottery envelope is the least important thing, until it falls behind the radiator and is forgotten. Gas, oil, power, and food costs have all risen. Augusta's not a wealthy city, and real wages have fallen particularly hard in rural areas since last summer. People are hurting.

Whatever the cause, for now there's a moratorium on the Pottery Stairs. It's not just the loss of product - these are seconds, so any cash that comes in from them is essentially found money - but it bums me out. And with only one of four envelopes coming back with payment, it's not worth the hit my mood takes when the thefts occur; no one like to be stolen from, however minor the loss. So it's Ta-Ta For Now, Pottery Stairs.

Was that a bummer? Could you use a cute cat pic to cheer you up? If so, here is a cute cat pic:
Jack (orange), Petey (grey), Noodle (white w/ black) & Finn (black w white)





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