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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

One Good Thing

A little over a year ago, I did the first cat dish fundraiser, followed quickly by the second. Together we were able to sponsor the adoption fees for 3 shelter cats, all of whom found their forever homes shortly thereafter.

At that time, I had 5 cats; in the intervening months, a sixth cat has managed to worm his naughty, adorable way into our home. Six really is the limit, though; if I needed any further persuading, Skinny is my first-ever sprayer, which means finding and wiping up cat pee is my new hobby! Toward that end I bought a blacklight, to help find the invisible pee spots.
Like they use on Bones. only it's for pee!

But I digress.

It's time once again for the Sorta-Annual Cat Dish Fundraiser! If I can sell 10 of these sweet little dishes, I can sponsor a cat's adoption fee at KVHS.  I've got my eye on an older cat named Sweatpants, if she hasn't found a home by the time this fundraiser is done. 

Let me highlight a couple of my favorites: 
Cat Dish 2: Serene Green
Cat Dish 1: Spring Tartan
There are lots more in the online shop. Check them out & choose your favorite! I sold some during the Maine Pottery Tour, so I only need to sell five more to sponsor a cat. 

Because I can't adopt them all! 

I know this may not come to you at a good time to buy; and I know you have causes & obligations of your own! Believe me I understand not having money to support every good cause that comes along. If you can buy one, awesome! If not, maybe you can share this post, so it can reach a person who can. Thanks!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Building Community

I had a date on Friday, with my community! I gave my students at Hallowell Clay Works an assignment, to make a serving dish perfect for a specific food, then make that food & bring it to our studio-wide potluck. I of course also brought a dish, in a dish; I made a tomato & cucumber salad. We expanded the invitation to the whole studio, so we could meet the people who make the beautiful things we're been seeing on their shelves.

Most of the time I write about being a studio potter, but I am also a ceramic educator. I've successfully built or had a hand in building ceramics programs at three or four institutions now; in a couple of cases the programs doubled in size during my tenure (not all down to me, of course, but I did my part.) I find that the key is community. Clay has a really steep learning curve! It's easy for students to get frustrated and give up when the beautiful items they dream of making remain out of reach for months and months. What keeps people coming back, to pay money to be frustrated over and over again? Community.

Friends. Encouragement. People to tell your stories to. People to commiserate with when things don't go well, and to cheer for and with you when they do. I have come to realize that my main contribution as a ceramic educator is not merely to teach people how to make stuff, but to knit together communities of supportive friends.

Almost 20 years ago, Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. In it, Putnam describes the decline of social capital in the late 20th century, with decreasing participation in activities and groups that pull people outside of their existing in-groups. 
Bowling Alone was written prior to the existence of social media, but I tend to think, despite its name, that social media has the effect of dividing us further rather than bonding us. People we don't interact with in mundane ways can be reduce to one point of view we disagree with. Thus we grow ever more isolated in smaller and more limited circles.

So what, tho, right? The answer: 
But does it really matter that social capital is declining? Putnam argues that, indeed, it does, as social capital "has many features that help people translate aspirations into realities." (p 288) Putnam identifies five such features. First, social capital makes collective problems easier to resolve, as there is less opposition between parties. This results in improved social environments, such as safer and more productive neighborhoods. Second, it makes business transactions easier, since when people trust each other, there is less of a need to spend time and money enforcing contracts. As a result, economic prosperity increases generally. Third, social capital widens our awareness of our mutual connectivity. This can improve the quality of our civic and democratic institutions. Fourth, it helps to increase and speed up the flow of information, which, in turn, improves education and economic production. Finally, social capital improves our health and happiness through both psychological and biological processes which require human contact.
In particular, in 2019, we are politically polarized as we've never been before. We need places where we can come together and see the whole person, not just their ideology. Places where we can experience our commonality.  We need community.

Art is positioned to serve that function! In fact it happens naturally, but I've learned in my role as instructor that I can foster and nurture the bonds that create community.

That's what Friday night was. A bunch of fun people, great food, and the salvation of our society.

Or something.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Still Worthy

Luckily I haven't had to in a while, but longtime readers will remember that sometimes I write about depression in this space. With that in mind, I enjoyed a particular moment in Avengers: Endgame, which Doug & I went to see last night. Technically I suppose a Spoiler Alert is in order here, but I don't think I am giving away much of the plot or its resolution with this. But, I'll put in a page break, just in case.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Pottery Tour Wrap Up

It's Monday, May 6th, and real life has resumed after being submerged in work to make the Maine Pottery Tour happen.
For my event here at Fine Mess Pottery, I really can't complain! We had, idk, 80 visitors? Sales were about 15% above last year. My guest artists each had some sales as well, so I am pretty happy. One odd thing: there was a HUGE disparity in attendance Saturday vs Sunday. Like, more than 60 people Saturday vs less than 20 on Sunday. I was a bit surprised, because the Kennebec Journal sent a reporter & photographer out on Saturday, and the article came out Sunday morning. I thought that would bring some folks out. Still, not complaining!
My Raffle Prize
Some things that worked:

  • When I remembered to ask, most people said they learned about the event thru social media. 
  • I did get some repeat customers who were reminded to visit by receiving a postcard.
  • Another studio on the tour, Peeper Pond, in Scarborough, felt that their 15+ signs were a bigger driver of traffic. Ash Cove Pottery in Harpswell had a similar experience. They are both on a less-beaten path, so I can see signage being super important for those locations. 
  • I again offered a raffle item to collect address (e- & physical) for my mailing list. I got 27 new addresses - a goodly number! - but several people filled out the form with just a phone number. My signage was not clear enough, apparently! 
  • Martha & me!
  • So glad I had my guest artist, Martha Hoddinott of A Lakeside Studio Pottery, there to help me! I underestimated how many people would be there at one time, and I'm sure I would have missed sales if I had been there alone. Thanks Martha!
  • We saw a huge jump in visitors to the website when the Maine Public & Maine Public Classical spots started airing - 200 to 400 visitors a day in the week before the Tour. But I didn't hear anyone say they learned about the tour via public radio. So, I'm not sure how to evaluate the success of that approach. I mean, clearly hundreds of people were interested enough to visit the website. Lots of them came from facebook, but many, many people just typed the name into their browsers or cam to the site via google or bing, too. I hope to continue the sponsorships next year -but will have to see how the other studios feel about it. 
  • I'm not sure I need to offer snacks! It feels rude not to have anything, but nobody except em ate the snacks. Next year maybe just coffee, tea, and water. 
  • Martha bought flowers for the displays! It really, really punched up the visual appeal. Maybe next year we'll direct more money to flowers & less to brownies. 
On to the next thing: a new cat dish fundraiser! Once again I've made some little catfood-sized dishes, and once again, if I sell 10 of them I will sponsor a cat at Kennebec Valley Humane Society. We're halfway there: with the dishes that sold during the pottery tour, we only need to sell 5 more. It's
on my list this week to photograph these individually & get them listed in the online shop.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Good Pots Good Day

Too tired to say much more, but here are some photos from Day 1 of the Maine Pottery Tour.
We had a nice crowd for the unloading - that was fun! Especially because the firing was good. It would have been...well, less fun if I were unloading crap pots.
One of my visitors was a photographer, & she volunteered to take my cell & snap some shots. Good lesson here, for me: always wear a hat, if I think there's a chance someone might take my picture! I always hate my hair, in photos.

A reporter and photogra[her from the Kennebec Journal also came by. They spent a couple hours talking to me & visitors, and I'm told we'll be in the paper tomorrow! Pretty excited about that.
Excited, but, as I said, super tired! Gonna go take a bath, then maybe watch a show or otherwise shut my weary brain off.
If you're anywhere near me, come visit tomorrow! The Pottery Tour continues, 11-4.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Watch the Load

...then visit on Saturday morning to watch the unload! I am mildly nervous about this - I occasionally have crap firings, and it would NOT be fun to have an audience for the unveiling of one. But, you know, that's part of the process...and what I htink is crap might be perceived differently by visitors.

Come visit during the tour! To learn more, click here:; or to download a map of the Central leg of the tour, click here. For a Google map you can follow on your phone, click here

Monday, April 29, 2019

Almost Time...

...for the Pottery Tour, of course, but also almost time for another Cat Dish Fundraiser! Together, last year we were able to sponsor the adoption fees of three shelter cats, and all found their forever homes!
The dishes for the next round of kitty-saving are in the kiln right now! I always have fun glazing these because they are low-consequence: I can try anything I want, I can't lose money I wasn't going to make anyway! Here's how they looked before I loaded them:
This load will fire on Wednesday, unloading Saturday morning at 10 am, during the pottery tour! hope to see you there.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Pottery Tour Event: Kiln Opening!

An excellent idea that was totally always part of the plan and not at all forced by timing! 😉 Either way, stop by the studio at 10 AM Saturday! I will be unloading a firing. You can help, or just get first dibs.

131 Cony St

Or, download a map of the Central Region and visit all 12 Central Maine stops!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Pinker Shade of Pale

Ugly pink bisqueware! But it will get better. At least I hope it will.
With just over a week left before the Maine Pottery Tour, I am scrambling to get a firing cycle completed. It's a nice problem to have - I thought i had plenty of inventory, but sales over the winter were better than expected, so I need to squeezed out enough to fill the shelves. Today I have two classes to teach, so I may not get much studio work done; Friday & Saturday promise to be glazing marathons, in order to fire on Sunday. If that doesn't happen, I may quite accidentally be including a kiln opening as a tour event on Saturday morning! that wouldn't be the worst thing, although, given how disappointing my last firing was, it's a bit of a roll of the dice - I wouldn't want an audience for the unveiling of a crap firing.

On the other hand, people DO love an unloading! And it's not like i have no pots, I'd just like more, to give the shelves that compelling sense of abundance that makes people want to take some home with them.

Probably my best plan is to shoot for firing Sunday, then, if need be, I can push it back.

So much to do!
Local peeps - all of you peeps, actually - I hope I see you! May 4th & 5th.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Karen Makes a Textured Vase

One of the many things I love about the clay community - our community - is the enormous generosity of my fellow potters. When we learn something, we don't hoard it; we are excited to share with others. Case in point: my student Karen Carpenter recently demonstrated for the class a technique she learned from another potter, to make an evenly textured surface on a curved vertical vase.

The roller she uses here is from MKM Tools.

Did you find this post valuable? Buy me a coffee!

^^LOL if anyone does this for *this* post I'm gonna have to buy Karen a coffee!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Pottery Road Trip!

Above is a Google map of the 37 stops on the Maine Pottery Tour, plus a couple of lunch & shopping suggestions (AKA sponsors.) You can send this map to your phone - or so I'm told - or if you are old-school like me, you can download maps of the legs of the tour you want to visit at these links:

Central Region of the Maine Pottery Tour -12 Stops; Fine Mess Pottery is one of them!
Coastal Region of the Maine Pottery Tour - 11 Stops
Southern Region of the Maine Pottery Tour - 13 Stops

Hope to see you then!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Joyful Abundance

Do you have a magic twanger? I do. Something in my brain that just lights up under certain stimuli. It sounds like I'm talking about a sex thing, but I'm not - my magic twanger responds to aesthetic cues. Like, making these minis! Like a lot of artists, I spend some time thinking about why I make what I make. Not why I make stuff - the inherent satisfaction explains that well enough - but why I make the specific things I make, in the specific way. The magic twanger provides a clue.

The minis give me a feeling of abundance, a sense of thriving. There are so many, all different, all the same! A healthy lilac in bloom will give me the same feeling: so much, so much bounty! Actually lots of the metaphors that come to mind are garden-related: a tomato plant heavy with fruit, bees trundling over blossoms. Teeming life.

Reading that, the word that comes to mind is "fecundity," so maybe it is a sex thing after all. 😄

Friday, April 12, 2019

Test Recipe: Honey Celadon

Firing temperature : cone 10 | Surface texture : matte | Color : golden yellow | Atmosphere:Reduction Soda Wood

Published in "Atmospheric Glazes" by Lisa York, in the Dec 2015 issue of Ceramics Monthly.



Do not apply thick or it may shiver or become runny.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

New Pots in the 2nds Shop!

 Two tiny tiny rough spots on the interior are what renders this gravy boat - otherwise my favorite piece from the firing! - a 2nd. Not enough to compromise the function, mind you! Juuuuust enough of a flaw to put it over the line. Silver lining? Somebody out there will get a great bargain, and this pot will serve its useful purpose in the world.

 This pot doesn't actually have a flaw - just a demo that doesn't really belong anywhere. I was demonstrating a couple of things - the spiral pattern on the inside is a pattern of dark clay inlaid in white. The resulting slab was placed over a hump mold, so my beginners could see that process. Got lucky with the Malcolm Davis Shino - the Mad Dog, as my friend Peg likes to call it - like you sometimes do with that glaze and its wonderful carbon-trapping properties.
It's about 6 inches wide. Check it out here!
Nothing wrong with this pot either! It was a throwing demo, which I then used to demonstrate stamping & slip trailing. Just a basic workhorse shino on this one; pretty nice all the same. It's also about 6" wide, destined to be somebody's go-to bowl for cereal, soup, mac 'n'cheese, even ice cream.
Maybe you? Check it out here

I used this pot as a glaze demo when the little loop on the side proved to be too small for the pate knives I bought for that purpose. That'll teach me: Always do the math! This little pickle fork fits just fine, though, so this pot has found a new purpose in life: it's a pickle dish! Do you need a pickle dish? 


As usual I wanted to buy allllll the pots & alllll the tools. As usual I kept my spending in pretty close check. I came home with three new pots. (These photo are distinctly half-assed! Just wanted to something posted.

A Willem Gebben mug to replace one my husband Doug (aka "Buster") broke years ago...

A Linda Christiansen mug, DITTO. (Buster has been forbidden to use these. We have dozens of mugs, most of which are seconds of mine! Break those, instead, Buster!)
And a lovely little tray made by my dear friend Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery and Tile.

As for tools, I got myself an unglamorous shelf grinder, made of the same material my Advancer kiln shelves are made of. I do most of my shelf clean up with an angle grinder, but it's awkward for edges, and sometimes I just need a quick spiffy-up, and it's a pain to drag out the power tool & extension cord when a little scrub from an abrasive tool will do. I've had the one with the red plastic handles before, but they cost as much as a diamond cup for the grinder & really don't last long. We'll see how this performs.

What did I almost buy, you ask?
I was pretty interested in the Slab Mats. I meant to order some new kiln shelves while I was there but it didn't happen.

Also, allll the pots.

But, as they say, the real NCECA loot is the friends we see along the way! (Oh, what's that? Nobody says that? Well, they do now.) I spent time with dear friends I only see at NCECA, and others I haven't seen since I moved away from Minnesota in 2001. (Poverty is a rough bitch on friendships!)
Quiz: In which of these images was I mildly intoxicated?
If you guessed ALL OF THEM, you are correct!

Next year is Richmond, Virgina; after that, Cleveland (I think?) Will I make it to those? Hard tellin not knowin, as we say in Maine. 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Off-Topic: Some Thoughts About Public Art

What makes you want to visit a city? I'd argue public art is instrumental in creating a sense of place, a uniqueness that draws people.
I hiked three miles across the city of Minneapolis to take a photo of the iconic Spoon Bridge. That was no hardship - I like to walk in cities I am visiting, and I like to have a specific destination. Which kind of proves my point: monumental and very visible art creates landmarks and reference points, and brings the city into focus. It interrupts the sameness of cities, in the same way that a focal point in a painting will do.
I wanted to take a photo of the Spoon Bridge, even though there are thousands of better photos of the Spoon Bridge online. I wanted to touch it (visually only!) and make it one of my places, in that way. The Spoon Bridge helps anchor my sense of place and sets Minneapolis apart from other cities I have visited. I've already forgotten the convention center and the airport (even though I am currently sitting in the airport!); the hostel was fine and interesting but could have been a crumbling mansion in any city. The Spoon, though? The Spoon defines the visit, though I was only there for a few minutes, and creates commonality between visitors. It's a shared, and memorable, experience.

Anyway. More public art please, cities! It's always what I remember about my stay.
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