Sunday, July 14, 2019

An Urn for Traveller

I never take custom orders. I find them very stressful, and as a result put off starting the project until it looms over my head longer than it would have taken to make it. I usually make 3 or 4 or whatever it is, to increase the chances of success, so it takes 3 or 4 times the resources - materials, time, fuel - that it would take to make a similar piece spontaneously. I am left with a couple of oddball pieces that don't fit my usual body of work, and nothing to do with them except maybe sell them as seconds.

Also, they aren't fun.

I did make an exception to this rule, though, for a friend who wanted an urn for a dog who had passed. He wasn't her dog; he belonged to a friend of hers. I had met Traveler, though, and it is no secret that I have a soft spot for animals.

I agreed to this custom order for a couple of reasons. Barbara is a friend - I 100% would not do this for a stranger or a slight acquaintance. She used to own The Artisan's Barn, a craft gallery in Readfield, and carried my work for several years before she retired, so she is well familiar with the concept of handmade variation; and she was willing to let me make ALL the design decisions - color, shape, handle, all the details. My mission was just "make a nice urn" that would fit the cremains of a 110 pound dog.

I did a bit of math to determine the size: with pet cremains, figure one cubic inch per pound of living weight. The volume of a cylinder is
π
r
2 x h
[Pi (3.14 etc)] x [the measurement of the radius, squared (multiplied by itself)] x the height
For ceramics we need to figure in shrinkage; I usually multiply by 1.15 to accommodate 15% shrinkage. 

Even so, I made three. One was too small; one was, idk, it was fine but I didn't love it. One was, to quote Goldilocks, just right.

I think of Traveler, sweet boy, and feel glad that I can honor his life in this small way.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Morning in Belfast

I don't know if I've ever done an art fair in a more beautiful location that Belfast, Maine. It was insufferably hot yesterday, so we didn't get a lot of visitors, but today promises to be sunny and 70s - the perfect Maine summer day.

As often happens after an extremely hot day, we got some thunderstorms last night. I didn't take my tent down but I did remove all the pots from the shelves & put them in crates on the ground. That turned out to be an unnecessary precaution, as winds did not get about 10 mph in Belfast last night! Still, better no to take the chance.
As always, I worried about the display; in particular if I would have enough pots to fill it. I do! Hopefully at the end of the day I will have none. 😉



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Murphy's Law is Not So Bad!

If I didn't clarify before, my last firing was only a Murphy's Law firing if Murphy's Law was about screw-ups. Everything that went wrong in this firing was something I did wrong or failed to do! It's something of a pattern: I have a few super-smooth firings in a row, then I get over-confident - or maybe lazy is the word I want here - and make things harder for myself. For example:
  • The cone pack exploded because 
    1. I made the packs just a few hours before lighting the burners
    2. I didn't poke vents in the clay of the pack with a needle tool, to allow the water vapor to escape more easily; and
    3. I turned up the burners too quickly
  • The burner fluffed out repeatedly because the thermocouple was failing. That's nobody's fault - thermocouples don't last forever - but usually I have extras around. 
  • I forgot to buy wood shavings and soda ash ahead of time
  • And, as I was reminded when I unloaded, I forgot to do my basic kiln hygiene and knock the stalactites off the underside of the arch! These turn into ugly, lumpy grey-green drips in the firing, and I lost some pots on the top shelf to them. 
All in all, though, I have to say I was incredibly lucky. The soda glass is evenly distributed, the colors are rich and clear, even the exploded cone pack didn't damage anything! Most importantly, the steins that I need for Watershed's Salad Days event came through beautifully. (Enough of them, anyway! One was lost in the bisque to a separating handle, and two got the aforementioned ugly soda drips on them. that still leaves more than I need!)
It's 87° today, so I am going to take a bit of a break from the heat. I still need to grind a few bottoms, then sort, price, and pack the pots for Belfast Arts in the Park.

Some of these pots should be available online after the 13th. 

I'm gonna make some notes here about the firing schedule that worked out so well so I can refer to it for future firings:
  • Lit one burner on 1# pressure at 9 pm
  • Lit all burners on 1# pressure at 10 pm (TOO FAST - Cone pack exploded)
  • Tapped burners up just a bit at midnight
  • Went to bed!
  • 4 am - red heat, turned up burners
  • ^012 falling at 7 am, turned up burners & pushed in damper
  • G-D f*ckin burner went out about 4 times between ^012 & ^3
  • ^6 falling at noonish - started adding soda mix
  • Kiln stalled for over two hours at ^6. Stopped adding soda & put kiln in lightest possible reduction
  • ^8 falling, resumed soda. Finished soda maybe an hour before the kiln went off
  • Had only one cone pack, in the typical hot spot, so I laid ^11 down to make sure the cool spot got to ^10

Monday, July 1, 2019

Belfast Arts in the Park

Wow, it's July already, and only a few days away from Belfast Arts in the Park. I'll be in Booth 111, with the hopefully-wonderful pots from the Murphy's Law firing! Come see me.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Murphy's Law Firing

My last firing was smooth sailing all the way - a high pressure day, a steady climb, body reduction by 7 am, all the pretty cones falling evenly. The universe demands balance! So this firing takes Murphy's Law as its inspiration. A cone pack explodes! A burner fluff out, twice so far! Ooops, I'm out of wood curls! Pelting rain last night right when I had to adjust the burners!

It's not promising. I'm tempted to turn it off & try again on Wednesday.

But that's silly! There's no reason this annoying firing can't produce beautiful pots. and firing on Wednesday would put a squeeze on an already-tight timeline for my upcoming fair, Belfast Art in the Park. So I'll just keep an eye on that f*cking burner, send Doug out for wood shavings, and hope for the best.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Week 1 Skill Challenge: Throw a 1-lb Cylinder 6 Inches High

I do these weekly challenges with my students. This session I am tying each one to the week number; week 1 we have a one-pound challenge, week 2 we'll have a 2-pound challenge, and so on.

They wouldn't be challenges if they were easy, but they are doable! You will need to get all the clay up into the wall for this to work - no extra thickness at the bottom! Some tips:
      • The centered hump of clay should be relatively tall & narrow, with a flat top, before you open it. About 3" at the bottom, 2" at the top.
      • Open with your thumbs bent & pointy. 
      • Establish a flat interior bottom before you begin pulling up 
      • Make sure you begin your pull with your outer fingertips right against the wheelhead. 
      • At the beginning of each pull, press in with your outside fingertips (for me that's my right hand) to make a little ridge of clay that you will bring up the wall. 
      • As soon as you begin pulling, move your outside fingertips so they are putting pressure a little bit higher than your fingertips inside the pot. This will prevent the wall from spreading outward. 
      • Pull as many times as you need 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Always a Silver Lining


I've been working like a mad potter for the last few weeks, toward a firing to provide work for the Belfast Arts in the Park , happening July 6 & 7, and immediately after that, Watershed's Salad Days, July 13th. Briefly coming up for air to check what happens after those events, I realized the answer is...nothing.

I mean, not nothing-nothing; I'll still have stores to supply and the online shop. But, since I didn't get into the Common Ground Fair, and was only wait-listed for the Portland Fine Crafts Show, I've got no big events coming up for the rest of the summer. That's not ideal, of course, and suggests that I should review my application images - hopefully I can do better! But a good show is always going to be in demand, and unless you are, idk, Bob Briscoe or someone, sometimes you are going to jury out. Even knowing this, I didn't make any "safety" applications, because honestly I'd rather do no show than price, pack, schlepp, unload, set up, stay all day, then do it all in reverse, for $250.

Well, I got my wish...sort of! My real wish would have been to get into the shows, of course, but failing that, I kinda...have the summer off! Or half of it. I mean, I'll still teach my classes & supply the aforementioned stores but I'll have no big deadlines pressing on my mind, or my time. OH THE PLACES I'LL GO

I have brains in my head
I have feet in my shoes

I can steer myself any direction I choose!*

*With apologies to Dr. Seuss




Sunday, June 2, 2019

Steins for the 'Shed

So, you know about Salad Days, right? If not, I've been remiss! Salad Days is a huge lawn party to benefit the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts. For $40, you get a handmade plate, designed specially for the event, all the salad you can eat, and a day of bluegrass music with all your potter and potter-supporting friends on Watershed's 30 rural acres. This year it's happening July 13th, a Saturday. (The "Days" part of the name is something of a misnomer, referencing the expression which means "the days when you could only afford to eat salad," itself somewhat odd, since - these days anyway - salad is kinda spendy! But I digress.) The event happens from 10-3.

In addition to the famous Salad Days plates, designed & created by a different artist every year, there's a Salad Days Stein Sale. Click the link, go on, I dare ya! WHOSE POTS ARE THOSE, RIGHT THERE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE?? That's right, Yours So Very Truly! I was super excited to get the invite to make steins for the event. I got a start on them last week.

Like, whoa! Those look ginormous. I weighed out 2 1/4 pounds of clay, and they are about 7 1/2 inches high. which our old friend arithmetic tells me will shrink to 6 1/2, not at all an absurd size for  a stein.Trust the math, right? Math don't lie.

And anyway they look a little less silly-big with the handles on:

They've asked for 10-12; I made 15, for safety, but that means that (hopefully!) even if you can't make it to Salad Days, there will be a few Salad Days steins available. Actually, I'm enjoying them so much, I think I might make a few pilsner shapes as well.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Must Be Summer!

The Pottery Stairs are out!

I've had people ask if I can email them when the stairs are out. I can't promise that - the only reason I am able to sell items for $5-$15 is because there's no effort involved beyond putting them out there. But I will try to post it to the Fine Mess Pottery facebook page every time. Deal? Deal.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Meet Periwinkle, Our Sponsored Cat!

I visited Kennebec Valley Humane Society this afternoon, to choose a cat to sponsor with the proceeds of the Cat Dish Fundraiser. With the help of the staff there, I decided on Periwinkle. She is a big beautiful 4-yr-old tabby, brown with russet undertones - truly a lovely cat. She's very spunky & playful. Periwinkle has been at the shelter since March.
Like my Snowball, Periwinkle has food allergies, so will need a special diet. This was part of the reason I wanted to sponsor her - it can be harder to adopt out a cat with any special needs. Her adoption fee was $75, but now it's FREE!
Thank you to all who bought dishes & shared posts to help make this happen! We will keep an eye on Periwnkle online & hope she finds her forever home soon.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

One Left!

We did it! 10+ cat dishes sold; on Wednesday I will drop into the shelter and choose a cat to sponsor. Thank you all who bought a dish, or shared the post to help make it happen.

There's one dish left! I don't need to sell it to sponsor a cat, I already have enough, but selling it would help defray the cost of materials & shipping. Any takers?
Last one! $15, free shipping!
Either way, onward & upward! I will report back on Wednesday. 🙂

Update: Will have to visit KVHS tomorrow! Turns out they are closed on Wednesdays.
Related Posts with Thumbnails