Thursday, April 22, 2021

I will never not be a fck up

I got so much done yesterday! In addition to laundry & dishes & all the never-ending household crap, I created an ad for the Maine Pottery Tour (running in the KJ & Waterville Sentinel 4/25 & 4/30! More on that later) I got the bisque loaded, & did a 4-hour daytime candle before beginning the firing proper. Only then did I notice...I forgot to put in the cones! 

UGH! Luckily I left myself some time, on the assumption that nothing ever goes smoothly. I turned off the burners, waited until morning, and then carefully placed the cone pack - on the side that I could reach - thru the spy hole. I could do a very short candle, because the moisture had already been driven off; no problem. 
But the day dawned windy as hell, and I have been fighting one burner fluffing out all day. I basically built a fence of junk around it to shield it from the wind, and it seem s to be working, because 012 is falling. FINALLY. I have more flexibility in my bisque than some potters, but I'd like to get 08 to fall. 

I can always tell when I am trying to do too much, because I start forgetting things & making little mistakes. I set up the coffee maker but forget to put the water in. I send off a bill, then notice the check still on the table. I start a bisque but forget to put in the cones. 

Anyway! Soon this cursed bisque will be off & cooling. Still plenty of time (LOL) to glaze, load, and squeeze out a firing before the pottery tour. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Maine Pottery Tour: Download the Map!

Correction: mapS. The tour is divided into 3 regions: Central, Coastal, & Southern. As you can imagine there are no clear boundaries for regions, & studios like to be grouped with others close to them - it makes it easier to share publicity & send visitors to your neighbor - so we have ended up with a few oddities like a Harpswell studio not being in the "Coastal" region, and studios in Bethel & Paris being in the Central region, despite those places being in Western Maine. (I would actually love to have a Western region, I just feel like we need more than 3 studios to constitute a "region." )

Here are the links to download printable maps: 

Central region

Coastal region

Southern region

If you've got one of those newfangled, ever-so-clever phones, you connect it to the online map to plan your pottery road trip. Find that at this link. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

So What is Aesthetic Tension Anyway?

In my upper level classes I talk a lot about aesthetic tension. It's a design tool, like repeat with variation, or unexpected proportions, that we can use to engage the viewer, or in this case the user. Aesthetic tension is when two competing or even contradictory aesthetics are in evidence. It is one of my favorite tricks to employ. 

This mug gives us an example! The throwing lines are soft, but fresh; the decal image is crisp but degraded. 

This concludes our lesson for today. 

Dotopia Mugs, Pre-Dot

  Two weeks before the Maine Pottery Tour! What's more, I've promised visitors that I will unload a kiln Saturday AM...what was I thinking?? I must have been thinking, "I shall just work an insane amount, however much it takes, and make it happen" or else I was thinking, "Eh, I'll make what I can & fill the rest with huge bowls."

The latter, probably. Maybe I will make the huge bowls today. Yesterday was all about the mugs. They got stamps, handles, rib marks, and slip trailing. These will become Dotopia mugs. 

I use images of Maine wildlife for the stamps, but I tend not to go for the iconic ones: no moose or lobsters here. The critters I choose are ones I have childhood memories of or memorable experiences with. For example: my family went boating & fishing a lot, when I was a kid. I was afraid of dragonflies, until my father had me hold still & look at one, on his arm, seeing how beautiful (& how harmless) it was. I cam to love them & look for them everywhere, so many different colors! 

Bisquing Thursday, firing Wednesday. I hope. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Torn Slab Platter

 Well, that was fast! Between my wholesale accounts & social media, basically all of that last firing is sold now. (I now have to squeeze out a firing before the pottery tour, but that is a good problem to have.) I do have one piece left, maybe because I haven't even tried to sell it yet: the first of the torn-slab platters has come out of the kiln.

I have to make a lot of stuff, pretty fast, and there's demand for both Dotopia & Sweet Life (I've been wanting to use that name!) so now would be a really bad time for me to go haring off after yet another aesthetic whim. [Insert some quote about discipline here, I'm too tired to dig one up.] But this platter - more of a plate, really, after the shrinkage - well, it did turn out very well! Once things calm down a bit around here I will definitely be making more. 

If you are interested in Dotopia, you get get those pots at Gifts at 136 or at Maine Local Market; if you like Sweet life, you can get those at Monkitree

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Fattie of the Firing


These pots can be purchased at Monkitree, on Water St in Gardiner, Maine
Contact Clare at the link if you see something you like! 

Good firing! Mostly good pots, a couple of great pots, a few refires. I was most excited to see how the soda vapor interacted with the bare bmix, on the pots that I had sliptrailed with porcelain. Answer: pretty nice! 

As I sometimes do, I chose a mug out of this lot to be my mugs for a while. I'll use it until the next firing, then wash it (OBVS), slap a price tag on it, and sell it. If you come to the Maine Pottery Tour & you want to purchase the best mug, ask for the one that I kept out for myself for a little while! It got

very peachy-tan in the background, a nice contrast with the bright white of the porcelain. 

Lots of Dotopia pots in the firing, too! 

Almost all of the ware is already in boxes, on its way to Monkitree, Gifts at 136, Maine Local Market, and Bay View Company. I'm going to have to turn around another firing very fast to have pots for the Maine Pottery Tour! 

ETA: LOL so much for that! This piece sold a few hours after I posted this. Not that I'm complaining! 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

My Busiest Week

The week leading up to a glaze firing is always a busy one at Fine Mess Pottery. This one is compounded because we are less than a month out from the Maine Pottery Tour - I am working on the flyers right now. Did I tell you how much I hate that job? I am determined not to do the thing where I dread a task for longer than it would actually take to do the task, so I hope to have those finished today. 

Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday were glazing days. In accordance with Hofstadter's Law, glazing always takes longer than I think, even when I take into account Hofstadter's Law. My glazing is (usually) a

several-step process: trailing, waxing, dipping, pouring. I really go through the wax! I find that the flashing slip is smoother & glossier after firing where it has been waxed. I do not have a good explanation for this. 

I also needed to prepare the kiln shelves. Between every firing, I have to scrape & grind the kiln shelves, because the soda vapor makes glaze on them as well as the pots! I also do not love that job but again, if I eliminate the period of dread before I begin, it's over before I know it. 

Pre-made wads
This firing I glued on some of the wads in advance. The other wads I made up ahead of time & stored in a lidded plastic container; this makes loading go faster 7 helps keep my hands clean, so I don't get wadding smudges on the pots, or have to keep dipping my hands in water on a cold day. 

This had an unanticipated benefit; the wads were a little bit stiffer than usual, which meant that I could use taller wads that would not squish down with the weight of the pot. Taller wads mean more soda glass on the bottom. Bottoms matter! 

I space the pots with about 1.5 inches
between them for better soda distribution.
Then, the actual loading: it's always a push-pull between "get lots of pots in" and "leave plenty of space between them." Lots of pots, of course, has the benefit of being lots of pots! Plenty of space between has the benefit of better soda
coverage. I want as many pots as possible, but if I have to choose between "more pots" and "better pots," I know which one I want. 

If it still works I use it
I finished loading yesterday around 3. I take plenty of breaks, because I know from past experience that just powering thru will give me a sore back the next day, when the actual firing
will be happening. I got everything in that I needed to - yay - with some pots leftover for the next firing, also yay! Because I need to make, bisque, glaze, load, & fire so I can have an unloading even Saturday, May 1 for the pottery tour. 

The kiln is at ^05 now, in a light reduction. Probably about 7 hours to go. 

God, I'm tired. 

Oh, & happy Easter, if you are celebrating! 

Friday, April 2, 2021

You're Invited!

It's April & I am officially stressed. 

I have orders due imminently - not to say late (not to SAY late but) - and of course we are less than a month out from the Maine Pottery Tour! I am creating the flyers & mailing out the postcards & delivering the signs & filling out the community calendar forms & managing the public radio sponsorships. And all my usual stuff - classes, finding lost cats!, car trouble. SEND VIRTUAL HUGS

If you are on facebook, you can here more about the Maine Pottery Tour (May 1 & 2) on our page, or you can check out the website. If you are ready to plan your pottery road trip, you can use the interactive online map at this link

If you are on Facebook, you can accept this invite to the tour! You don't have to - you can just show up, for sure - but I always get a little joy-zing when somebody says they will be there.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Wadding in Advance

My new line - at least I think that's what this is - has another advantage, that I didn't think of: because there's no flashing slip on the pieces, nor any glaze on the outside, there's no need to wax the bottoms! Which means I don't have to depend on the wet stickiness of the wads to hold them onto the pots while I get them into the kiln; I can glue the wads on in advance. I can also use smaller diameter, taller wads, because they will be dry & solid by the time I have to put the pots' weight on them. Smaller, taller wads mean more soda glass on the bottom. 

Here's how I dream these: the background - just bare B-Mix 10 stoneware - will be peachy & dove grey & cream. The slip trailing, which is just Laguna's 570 porcelain, will be bright white & shiny. The interior (of these, at least; I may expand on this) is simple Leach White. 

Hmmm...just had a thought. I've never tried gluing wads on waxed bottoms, because I assumed it wouldn't work, but maybe it would! I use paraffin, so a very smooth, hard wax surface; that's why it seemed unlikely. But it's worth a try! 

Mugs with glued-on wads

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Jab 1 is in the Books!


Doug & I got our first COVID vaccine shots today! Such a relief to get this started. It's been a long, hard stretch, but I am feeling optimistic. This feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. 

What it feels like literally is like someone punched me in the arm, like I lost a round of The Circle Game. No other side effects - though I have read that people experience the worse ones with the second shot. We got the Moderna vaccine, which is reported to be 94% effective at preventing COVID-19, and 100% effective at preventing serious illness with the virus - nobody, in tests, died who got the Moderna vaccine. We have to wait 4 weeks for our next appointments. 

In Maine all adults will be eligible for the vaccine April 19th. A week after the first dose, some studies suggested as much as 85% protection! But even if it were only 50%, that's more than the flu vaccine most years. What this means for me is that most people will have a pretty high level of protection from COVID-19 at the time of the Maine Pottery Tour. I am really looking forward to a fabulous tour this year, but I am not an asshole - if it weren't safe, I wouldn't do it.  The governor's mask mandate will still be in effect, which is fine with me; I hope I don't run into any of those anti-mask goofballs. Stay home, anti-mask goofballs! Do not come out on the pottery tour. 

I unloaded a bisque kiln today, and glazed enough stuff to fill about a quarter of the glaze firing. Those pots I was doing with the slip trailed friezes? Super easy to glaze! I thought I would have to charge more for them because they take so long in the wet stage, but the time saved on the glazing end of things might just make up for it. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Update: Maine Pottery Tour

 As every March (well, except last March!) I am currently in the thick of organizing the Maine Pottery Tour. Though I was a little trepidatious (not a word! but you know what I mean) in January when I made the decision to try go forward with the tour, I am feeling much more confident now. Here in Maine we are now scheduling first shots for 50 year olds & up; in mid-April the vax will become available to any adult who wants one. By the first weekend in May the majority of adults in Maine should have had at least one shot. 

So, happily, I am moving forward. Today the giant box of postcards arrived! 2500 this year. Now to get them sorted & mailed to the various studios on the tour. 

Also happening: we are making arrangements to sponsor programs on Maine Public. The Maine Pottery Tour will have 18 sponsorship spots on Maine Public & Maine Public Classical in the week leading up to the tour. Each spot will read "Sponsored by the Maine Pottery Tour, celebrating ceramic arts in Maine with more than 40 studios around the state, including [Studio Name] in [Town]." This approach lets individual studios sponsor individual spots, get mentioned on the air, and spread the cost around. The exact wordinf may change; it has to come in under 8.5 seconds, and the FCC has arcane rules about what you can & can't say in a sponsorship spot. This should be starting April 25 - listen for it on Maine Public & Maine Public Classical.

The Tour is May 1st & 2nd...just 5 weeks away. Still so much to do, not least of which is, making a lot of pots! Hope to see you there.