Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The After

I can't remember whether I promised to post the "after" photo to go with the "before" here or on my facebook page; in any  case, here it is. The gravy boat halfway up on the right was my favorite from this firing; if it doesn't sell over the holiday shopping season, I'll photograph it so you can have a closer look.

This was Wednesday, a rough day at my house: we had to have a cat euthanized. William was almost 17 and in some ways the heart of our household. He greeted visitors, spent every possible moment in a lap, and the other cats adored him. (not exaggerating: one in particular followed him around like a shadow.) It sucks to lose them but it's the price of loving them, and well worth it in my book.

Folks who only know me online probably think that all I do all day long is say goodbye to pets because I always mention it. We do have a lot of pets, so we lose a lot; and it feels...not right, I carry on as if nothing happened. Rest easy, Sweet William; I'll see you on the other side.

Back to our clay story, already in progress:

This firing reminded me how very small differences can make a big difference in results! There was a tiny gap between the bag wall (recently rebuilt) and the back wall of the kiln. I stuffed it up with a bit of wadding, and thereby addressed this issue I was having that there was an area in the center of the kiln which seemed a little dry. Some of the soda vapor must have been being sucked straight up the stack.

Lesson 2 of this firing: salt is not soda! I tried adding a small amount of salt this time, and discovered that some glazes that perform just fine in soda do not like salt much! I had a few pieces get blistery and bubbly. Not so badly that you can't use them but they are definitely seconds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lisa Orr on Ceramic Arts Daily

I'm sure many of you subscribe to Ceramic Arts Daily, and if so you know how they just deluge your inbox with videos, book suggestions, and I-don't-know-what-else. It's really out of hand, so I just have them go to a separate folder; otherwise they will fill up my inbox and maybe cause me to miss important emails. As a result, I have a folder with hundreds of emails from them, that I almost never open. Hint, CAD: send a few less and people might actually see them!
It's churlish to complain, though, when much of the content is so valuable. You can't possibly watch all the videos - or anyway I can't - but I have a little time now that my classes are on their December break so I am watching a few this morning. This one is really cool:
I was doing something like this with porcelain slip on paper, to make snowflake Christmas ornaments (yeah-yeah, ornaments: so sue me); but I never thought to use them to build with, or to slip both sides. So clever! As I was typing this it occurred to me that they would make good sprigs also. I'm off to deliver pots this morning; but when I get back I need to make pots, so I can try this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Show! And a dumb story

Last night was Portland Pottery's big holiday party! Every year I tend the bar for this event, and I like to overdress for it, just for fun. This got a lot harder last year when I reached size 12, officially plus-sized. Here's me shopping in Goodwill for this year's dress:

Me, flipping hangers: Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. HEY THERE'S ONE THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT WAS MADE FROM THE CURTAINS AT MOTEL 6!! Oh, wait, it's a size 6 that someone put away wrong....[Keeps flipping] Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

I did finally find a pretty fabulous dress, that fit...size 14. Even though I'm no heavier than last year at this time! Whatever, looks great, I'll take it.

I get dressed, get in the car, and....rrrrrrrip. Right up the back.

So I went in my dowdy office-party dress.

FML. Going to the gym. 

The show's still up until Sunday. You should go!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Full Kiln, Full Day

Few things make me happier than a kiln filled right up to the arch. Sorta gives you that I-done-good feeling. I'll brick it up in the morning - I had to bring the doormud inside to thaw overnight! I'm working at the Holiday Pottery Shop from 10-6 tomorrow, so will candle this load from 6 - 10 pm, then fire it off overnight Sunday into Monday morning. That will allow me to unload Wednesday morning, so I'll have all day to grind, sort, price, and pack the pots for Portland Pottery's big holiday sale which opens on Thursday. That will be my last event of the season - good thing, too, I'm pooped! Sort of tempted to spend the last two weeks of the year alternately cleaning my house - that's been pretty neglected -  and sleeping.

That's not yet, though. I'm not even done with today yet! Still have to make a batch of soap - lilac, by special request from my mother. I suspect that lilac will be sort of an old-lady-ish soap scent but then my mother is, well, an old lady. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I'll make this batch hot process so it will be ready by Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is It Supposed to Look Like That?

Why, no. No it is not.

Not entirely sure what happened to this mug! I had adjusted this glaze - Magic White - with the addition of a small amount of silica, because it was inclined to crawl, and a bit of CMC gum, because it was very fragile in the dry state. Only this mug and one other exhibited this very weird curling and flaking, though I used the glaze on many pots in this load, which is scheduled to fire on Monday. The other possible contributing factor is that this bisque got a little hotter than usual - probably ^04 - 03, where I prefer not to bisque above 05, because the ware gets too vitrified to accept glaze well. I guess that could account for it: the body is not absorbing moisture, so the glaze is only drying from one direction.

That doesn't explain why it only happened on two pieces. Not that I'm complaining! Just a weird vagary of the ceramic process, I guess; or the action of one of those five demons I was telling you about.

No matter! I'll wash it and glaze it again - in something else, thankyouverymuch.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Drive-by Soaping

Buttercream soap! Unfortunately it won't be ready to use until December 21.

I am squeezing in a couple of hours of studio work this morning before I have to work my day at the Holiday Pottery Shop, located in Hallowell this year. I am bisquing tomorrow and hoping - most likely in vain - that the ware I finish this morning will be dry in time. Can't put off the bisque, because the glaze firing has to happen December 8 in order to be ready for Portland Pottery's Holiday Show, my last event of the season. After that I'll be restocking the online Pottery Shop - it was just getting too picked over and needed refreshing, but all the ware I have right now is committed elsewhere.

After a day sick in bed yesterday still feeling a little rocky but up and about. Hope you all had a fabulous holiday!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It Finally Happened

No, not the zombie apocalypse.The Cubs didn't win the World Series. I didn't learn how to use an iPod. No, the true long awaited event is this: the bill basket is empty.

It went down like this:

I deposited a check into my household account. I try to treat my business like a business, and give myself a monthly payday; in addition, I get paid for teaching at Portland Pottery. So with all that there are five or six paydays of varying amounts every month. Usually I deposit my check and then reach into the bill basket to determine which envelope most needs my attention, and which can be deferred. And lo, there were no envelopes.

I'd caught up.

I've heard of that - people who have money they haven't even spent yet! - but thought it was mythical, like the Yeti. It didn't last, of course: bills came in, I wrote checks, and so on. But then on the next payday, there were again no bills waiting!

I'm not rolling in clover, mind you; there are big expenses in the offing. My car is making a funny noise, and one of my cats has a tooth that I think needs to be removed; and Portland Pottery takes a five-week break through December, so those paychecks will soon be suspended. But I still take it as proof that the scheme I arrived at (with the invaluable help of business consultant Maureen Renner, for whom arts businesses are a specialty: just sayin) is working! It works! (And it isn't, actually, even fully in place yet; I flinched at the last minute and didn't increase my prices as much as the equation called for, fearing a total sales-stall. I did have a scary moment in the spring when I thought I was going to be buried in a mountain of unsold pots but then things evened out and even picked up.)

Also necessary has been the work-without-ceasing piece of it, but I can handle that, as long as it doesn't come with a side helping of poverty.

Speaking of work, I am trying to squeeze in one more firing before Portland Pottery's big Holiday Sale, which opens on the 11th of December. This will be a big mug-and-bowl firing,  with a few taller vases, because those are things I can make quickly without compromising on the aesthetics. Here are the pots on the drying board:

The red poppies, in the back, are Amaco's Radiant Red, which I have had good luck with even at ^10. These will be the first real pots I have used it on, as opposed to tests. Keeping fingers crossed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So, you saw this, right?

Bon Appetit magazine recently ran an article about restaurants using handmade ware in place of the chilly, manufactured white china you usually find when eating out. Awesome, right? Awesome, right!! The article seemed to be written by someone not particularly familiar with handmade ceramics, or maybe just written for people less familiar. (For one thing it makes no distinction between stoneware and earthenware. You can put high-fire stoneware in the dishwasher all day long. Not that you'd want to. But IF you did want to. Anyway.) It's a brief article, that contains a shout-out to Portland's own Eventide.

Here's hoping this is, in fact, a trend! But here's the funny part: Since this article came out, I've received two emails asking me to DONATE pottery to newly opening restaurants, for the exposure, dontcha know.

Let me think about 

Now, I'm happy to donate ware to a handful of charitable auctions every year. That's one way I can support charities. But I don't do it for the dubious benefit of exposure, and I'm damned if I am going to start donating to businesses.

I wanted to write back saying that a business I am associated with holds a huge social event every December, and would the restauranteur care to cater this event, for free, for the exposure? How many takers do you think I'd get?

You know what I do for exposure? I write this blog. I market my work in stores and galleries. I advertise. I go to trade shows (or at least, I used to, and may again.)What I don't do? Give it away and hope somebody sees it and wants to buy it.

Artists are notoriously bad at business, and I might be the poster child (er...poster lady of a certain age); but jeez, even I ain't falling for this. I hope nobody does.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clay All Day, Soap All Night

 Although sometimes it's the other way around. Timing is everything. And in November, time is short.

I finished loading the kiln last night around 7:30. I won't have a full day to fire until Saturday, so I am considering doing an overnight firing tonight.

There was a time when that would have been no big deal...those days are gone! On the other hand, it's not like I wouldn't get any sleep; it would just be fragmented. Still, just thinking about it makes me tired.

Usually I have lots of ware leftover after filling the glaze kiln, because I can fit so much more in the bisque. I had several items explode in the bisque this time, though - when was the last time that happened? I can't even remember. That's what comes of hurrying. This time I only had these few pots to left out:

I've also been making soap whenever I get a chance, so much that I ran out of coconut oil, which is my signal to go online and order new scents and colors at the same time. Shopping for soap scents is big fun! I've got several fruity scents, some sweets like Buttercream Frosting, a sea breeze type,and a more masculine musky fragrance on the way. For the first time I have a soap order, which is obviously cool - selling things keeps me in business - but also a little nerve-racking: what if the batch doesn't turn out well? Same concerns, I suppose, that I have when I take orders for pottery.

So, assuming that I do actually fire overnight, I'll be unloading this kiln Sunday morning. Much of it is off to Rochester, NY and to Blue Hill, but I'll still have plenty for the Holiday Pottery Shop.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

PLATE is Live!

PLATE: A Celebration is live online at MudFire! So excited to be a part of this show. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you see the works that have already sold. None of mine yet, but I'm just pleased as punch that wares are selling from this show. And it only opened yesterday!

So, what else is new? My ongoing flirtation with burnout continues, and it's still working, sort of. I am teaching a raku workshop today, and glazing with the hope of firing the soda kiln on Wednesday. I need to send wares to Belfast, Rockland, Portland, and Rochester, NY.

Plans for this year's Holiday Pottery Shop are chugging along: we have a location! We will be at 184 Water Street in Hallowell. The shop will open early this year; the plan is to have the doors open by November 14th.

Also looking forward to Portland Pottery's First Friday event, which will feature works by faculty and staff. That's November 7th from 5-8.

And in between clay work, I'm still making soap. Because the bars need to cure for a few weeks before they are ready to use, I need to be making now so they will be ready for December. Here's a peek at the curing rack: the green soaps in the center - Mango Sage - and the white & blue ones to the right - Cool Coconut - will be ready by Cyber Monday.

 Keep on keepin' on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yellow Copper Lusters, Beading Glazes, and Other Special Treats for Raku

I am more or less of a recreational raku-er. Ceramics can be a solitary pursuit; raku - for me at least - is a team sport. I regularly offer raku workshops for Portland Pottery, and occasionally do a firing with my classes. In a communal studio like Portland Pottery, students have little exposure to the hot side of things. They make the work, put it on a cart and then...well, it goes away for a while, and comes back changed. It's not practical to involve students in the firing of the stoneware kiln, apart from peeking into the spyholes on occasion, but we can load, fire, and unload the raku kiln all in one evening. It gives students a chance to be directly involved and take some of the mystery out of the firing process.
The workshops are a bit different. Often they are folks who already know and love raku, but don't have their own kilns, sprinkled with a few beginners who have heard about it and want to try it. It's been a great season for raku, with the workshops filling up quickly and we've had some gorgeous results. I've got one last workshop to teach, and I want to shake things up a bit, with new glazes and some terra sigs to use with horsehair and feathers.

Our last raku of the season is Saturday November 1. Give Cooper at Portland Pottery a cal if you want in; 207-772-4334. 


Colemanite  75% (Sub. Gerstley Borate)
F/4 Soda Spar 25%
Copper Carb 3.0%
Manganese Dioxide  1.5%

Lemon Luster

Gerstley Borate 1500
Copper Carbonate 45
Manganese Dioxide  20 

Glass Bead Raku
 50 gerstley borate
 40 borax
 10 flint
 50 magnesium carbonate
 10 zircopax

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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