Monday, September 18, 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Inconvenient Ideas

 Does this happen to you? You've got important stuff to do - in my case a firing deadline to meet - when an idea pops into your brain and just will not! leave! you! alone! until you make it real. That happens less than it used to- or maybe I'm just better at stomping them down until a better time -  but every so once in a while such a notion will hijack my brain. 

On my commute to class on Monday, I started thinking about a series of images reminiscent of Tarot cards, only more personal: the Three of Cats, the Two of Kayaks, the Page of Snacks; and some Major Arcana: The Potter, The Kiln, Caffeine. I really don't have time to do all of these, but I did do one:

It took me all day, because I really don't know how to use graphics programs; I made a lot of false starts & did a lot of clicking around; in particular I had struggled to make the background transparent, which it needs to be if I am going to use this image for anything. I did, already, upload it to my teespring site where, much to my aggravation, the featured image keeps reverting to the BLANK back side. That seems to be a system glitch, so I am going to have to let that go. 
It has seemed to satisfy whatever noisy, insistent muse put these ideas in my head in the first place, however; at least for now. Tomorrow I will be back in the studio, trimming & slip trailing & mixing glaze - like I should have been doing today. But whaddaya gonna do? 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Monday, August 7, 2023

A Sigh of Relief

Ooo looks pretty good!

Pretty good indeed!

Even in the back!

A few pieces from the firing

What a relief! After what I started referring to as the Murphy's-Law firing, I was very anxious what the results might be. Well, I can put that to rest - it's all peachy-tan & pearl grey, no disasters of any kind. I did have one plate warp too badly even to be a second, & one lidded jar crack, but every firing yields a few failures. 
Takeaway: those burner/blower/damper setting once again produced results. I'm starting to get this kiln dialed in. 
I'll photograph these properly on Wednesday (assuming my dental appointment isn't too horrible) and list some in the online shop. Of the rest, some will go to Portland Pottery, & some to the Maine Potters Market; but the majority will be held back for the Common Ground Fair. See you there, September 22, 23, & 24. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Murphy's-Law Firing

What's inside?? I hate not knowing

 Man, I was not even lying when I called this the Murphy's Law firing! Let's have a brief recap of all the things that went wrong, chronologically:

  1. I originally planned to fire Wednesday BUT, though I candled overnight, first one then the other of the pilots fluffed out. I caught the right one pretty early, but woke up to the left blown out around 4 am.
  2. I made the fateful decision to relight & candle for only another hour before turning the burners proper on
  3. This is a big one: THE CONE PACK BLEW UP. 
  4. I let the kiln cool & unloaded the entire thing to eliminate the cone pack debris, reloaded, & rescheduled the firing until Friday (today)
  5. I thought I had left the hex (or whatever it was!) behind, because this shaped up to be a picture-perfect firing, just like the July firing was. Humming right along. 
  6. Yeah no
  7. Halfway through the application of the soda, the sprayer stopped working. Not clogged - that I could fix. Just wouldn't take on any pressure, so couldn't spray. At this point I had a gallon of soda mix left and cone 9 was over. 
  8. What to do, what to do?? It might be fine as is, but it might not! I left Doug to keep an eye on the kiln & started driving around town looking for a suitable sprayer, with a metal wand. I had NO luck with this. 
  9. But I did find a little hand-held pump spray bottle, which I hoped might serve to get the soda into the chamber. But the time I got home 11 was over up top & ten was down on the bottom. 
  10. I sprayed the rest of the soda anyway. I dunno how well it worked. By the time I finished & gave the soda time to vaporize & burn clear, eleven was flat all around. Like, flat-flat. 
I can not stand the wait!! This could still be an amazing firing or it could be all manner of fucked up.

There are lessons to take, of course, some of which I already knew; always make cone packs WAY in advance, always do a full candle, always have a back-up sprayer (I ordered 2 online today.) The truth is, we never runout of mistakes to make, but - a further truth - things turn out ok a ridiculous amount of the time. Let's hope this is one of those times. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Mind the Gap

Details matter! The image is of the gap between the kiln shelf & the bottom of the pot, which is raised up by three wads of high-refractory clay material (called wadding*) which prevents the pot from sticking to the kiln shelf when the soda coats everything in the chamber with soda glass. After the firing, the wadding just pops off, leaving pale marks where it previously stuck. 

I find the higher this gap is, the more glaze gets deposited on the bottom, creating some color & sometimes a bit of shine. The wad marks - pale dots where the pot rested on the wadding where no soda vapor could get deposited - are often quite handsome. 

Wad marks on a mug

Because the wadding is basically wet clay, the weight of the pot tends to squish it almost flat. It will still do its job of preventing the pot from sticking to the shelf, but the bottom won't get any soda, so will just be white. Not the end of the world, & not the end of the pot, but I do like the ones with more distinct wad marks better. 

To achieve this, I find I have to make the wads ahead of time, so they are a bit drier & stiffer when I place them on the pot. I can't make the wads too early, because if they dry to much, they won't stick to the bottom long enough to get the pot into the kiln. Like a lot of things in clay, the pots are fine if I don't do it, but they are just a little bit nicer when I do. 

Speaking of things that I should really remember to do ahead of time: I was supposed to fire today, & I would have, except my cone packs exploded! Regular readers must get tired of hearing all the ways I manage to screw up, but maybe you can draw inspiration from it: If a ginormous fuck-up like Lori can do this, so can I! Actually I don't know if I screw up more than most people, but since I am a ceramic educator as well as a potter, I believe in being open about my mistakes. I make em! A lot. But then I fix em & move on. 

The culprits. You can just tell they are plotting something.

I fixed the exploded cone pack by unloading the entire kiln to dump out the little bits of debris inside the pots, then reloading the whole thing. I was mad at myself at first - the exploding cone pack was definitely caused by my dumbness - but it's summer in Maine, I was outside, the birds were singing, & loading kilns is fun! If that's the worst mistake I make this week, I can live with it. Anyway, the last firing was absolutely picture-perfect, the cones falling in synchronicity, so I was overdue to have a Murphy's-Law firing. 

Anyway, once I got over calling myself a moron & started enjoying the work, I decided that, far from a moron, I am in fact a genius! (LOL ALL DAY) Or at least reasonably clever in this instance, as I realized that when I scheduled the firing I built in some time in case something goes wrong! So I'm still on schedule. 

Barring some other mishap, I'll be firing this load on Friday, probably unloading Monday. I hope to have new work in the online shop on Wednesday! 

*Wadding Recipe

1/3 Kaolin

1/3 Alumina Hydrate

1/3 Coffee Grounds

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Coming Soon, I Promise!

Weirdly, I had a Facebook post go mini-viral this week: more than 3/4s of a million views, 23k likes, hundreds of comments. It was just an ordinary, throw-away post: a pic of the footring of a bowl in which I sliptrailed a little filigree. I have no idea why that one took off when my posts usually get 20-30 likes, at most. I tried for days to keep up with the comments, but just couldn't get to all of them. out of like 850 comments there were maybe...8? negative ones. Of course those lodge in my brain. It reminds me that there is a person behind every social media post. Being publicly negative about a handmade item just seems like a jerk thing to do. Like, why go out of your way to ruin someone's mood? 

One can't predict virality, of course, even of the mini variety, so I was completely unprepared to take advantage of it! Many people have messaged or emailed me, wanting to buy pots...and I don't have any, because I'm in the middle of the making cycle. I make stuff, then I sell it. I don't just leave it laying around! I respond that I expect to have ware for sale in mid-August, and give them a list of stores where they can find my work; but I can't help but feel like this was a missed opportunity. 

This was the post: 

See what I mean? Perfectly ordinary post, nothing amazing. Has this ever happened to you?

Anyway, firing a bisque this week, glaze next week, post for sale the week after that! Hope your summer is going amazing. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

PINCHED at Maine Craft Portland

 I missed this opening, but the show is still up for the rest of the month. Ingrid is a friend - I met her when I worked at Watershed - and a rare professional pinch potter. CHeck it out! 

Monday, July 10, 2023

Goodbye Twitter, Hello Threads!

If you do the socials at all, I'm sure you've hear of the slow, unscheduled disassembly of twitter as its new owner, Elon Musk, methodically eliminates everything that made twitter fun and replaces it with Nazis & bitcoin pushers. I deleted my Fine Mess Pottery account months ago, stopped using my news-&-politics account then too, and just deleted that one today. I kept it for so long because when Musk purchased it I had just gotten to the coveted 5k followers, which meant I could follow other accounts with reckless disregard for the ratio. I held out hope that he would hire somebody competent or just get bored with his toy & sell it. 

I have accounts on alternative sites - notably Post & Spoutible - but neither of those sites has enough active users to generate the level of activity that makes it fun. Enter Threads! 100 million users strong after 5 days. Yeah, yeah, I know - Zuck. You don't like him, you don't trust him, he gathers your info, etc. But I'm already on FB & Instagram, & as an artist those are very valuable ways to reach people who are interested in what I do. If, in exchange, some algorithm learns that I like superhero movies, home organizing listicles, and that I often click on but rarely buy boho clothing, well, I guess I am ok with that. YMMV. 

Anyway, if you followed Fine Mess Pottery on Twitter, you can now find me at lorikwatts on Threads! Currently there is no desktop version, so I can't link, but I hope to find you there. I am following all the clay people & craft artists that I can find. Let's make a community! 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Throwing a One Piece Lidded Jar


Next week I'll have a video of the trimming and decorating process! 

If you found this post valuable, toss a coin to your witcher potter at this link

Thursday, July 6, 2023

A Potter's-Eye View


After a couple of false starts - including wearing the thing backwards, generating a long, close-up video of the top of my head - I've figured out the GoPro I bought secondhand a couple of years ago. I originally got it for outdoor adventures, but I'm starting to see some professional social media uses for it as well. Only problem - and I know there must be a way around this - is it takes hours for the GoPro video to upload.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Outlook: Headache

 Guess what I am spending my afternoon doing? Did you say, Rebuilding your entire Outlook contact list? You're right! I am rebuilding my entire Outlook contact list, hundreds of addresses, because of an update that provided me with a new "view" tab. I do not give a shit about a new "view" tab! I absolutely DO give a shit about my entire fuckin contact list! 

There might be some technical fix; I've tried several. It finally occurred to me that it might be faster to just rebuild it than continue to try things that don't work. 

Doesn't mean I'm happy about it. So, Microsoft, do us all a favor, huh? Don't update for shit that doesn't matter - nobody cares about a new "view" tab, nobody, AT ALL - and in future make sure your updates don't fuck up what's already there. 

Love, Lori