Thursday, February 15, 2024

Major Arcana: The Potter


I was supposed to fire yesterday, but it was too windy. I could have worked at the wheel but for some reason it's hard for me to start a new making cycle before the end of the last one. 

I mean, who am I kidding? There are lots of things I could have been doing, from cleaning the studio to working on the pottery tour. I didn't do any of those things! Instead I finished a tee shirt design that's been in my mind for quite a while. I want to do a series of them, all tarot-inspired, but creating major arcana that feel more relevant to me. The first was "Caffeine"  - you can see it here - and now, The Potter! Because it seemed appropriate, I made that one available as an apron, too; not to mention a poster, a shower curtain, and a sticker. 

Can't wait to wear my new shirt to NCECA! Maybe I'll see you there in a matching one. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Kiln Wash Continents

If I ever write a fantasy series that requires world-building, I'm gonna get my inspiration for the continents from the patches of kiln wash that are left after grinding.
If George RR Martin had been a potter, Westeros might not have looked so much like the British Isles upside down.  


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Rough Week

 Some weeks are harder than others, ya know? I can go long stretches with nothing more serious going wrong than a bad thermocouple, and then I hit a week when ALL the crap happens. That was last week. 

My husband Doug has a lot of difficulty with his teeth at the best of times, but he broke a tooth and lost a filling on Tuesday. One of my elderly cats (I have 3 who are 17) got an abscessed tooth & stopped eating - and he can ill afford a day of no food - necessitating an urgent vet visit Thursday. Friday night, halfway home from class, one of the tires blew out on my car. I couldn't get the lugs loose on the tire so Doug had to drive down at 10 pm to change the tire. Saturday morning was spent driving around to every tire dealer in Augusta looking for someone who carries this apparently unusual size. (Answer: Sam's Club. I had to buy a membership, & they wouldn't let me make an appointment for later, so my only option was to rattle around the warehouse for an hour and a half - I feel certain this is a deliberate strategy to get folks to spend money there - but still, after the tedious wait, I did have a new tire.)

On weeks like this I like to remind myself that some people have real problems! Chronic pain or serious illness, lack of housing, living in war zones. A little flat tire is nothing. It's awful when a pet is ill, of course, but Happy Jack is recovering. Doug has access to good dental care. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. When I am feeling hard beset by these minor misfortunes, it's time for a little gratitude practice.

I'm grateful for my health, & the health of my loved ones - including the pets! 

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to love my elderly cats for as long as I have. 

I'm grateful for my husband, who came out in the middle of a cold winter night to get me home safely. 

I'm grateful that although these things are all unexpected expenses, we were able to handle them with only a little discomfort. 

And I'm grateful for you, readers! No reason you should care about some random lady from Augusta, Maine, but you do, and I thank you for that. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Shop Update: Chubby Cats!

Remember that story I told you, about losing the wand in the burner channel during the firing? I was lucky the copper & zinc in the brass didn't do more harm. One thing it did do, though, was interact with the items in the kiln that were wearing Bauer Orange Flashing Slip. The white clay pieces turned blue (luckily just a few seashells intended to be refrigerator magnets) which they brown clay pieces achieved almost a wood-fired look. Several of the pinch-cats fell in this category. (LOL CATegory, get it?)

I've been putting a few of these critters in every firing lately. They amuse me to make, and it is not secret that I am a cat lover. I like thinking up their names & personalities, which are loosely based on the many cats I have known. As usual, most of these sold the day I listed them! I do have two left: Gaia and Woody

Today is packing & shipping, putting away the photography equipment (can't wait til I have a dedicated space for this. Such a pain in hte ass to put up & tear down the whole thing), posting the functional ware in the shop, and working on the Maine Pottery Tour! 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

So, Funny Story...


You can recognize the copper blue in 
the burner channel
It's time for our favorite game, that we play after every firing, called How Did Lori Fuck Up This Time? 

I'm kidding, sort of! But I am serious about sharing my goofs, large & small, because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels like a screwup most of the time - & I want you all to know: you can screw up, even big-time, and still do okay. I do! All the time. 

So, what happened this time? Well, it was kind of funny...or rather, it is now, now that I know it didn't cause any serious mayhem. Before the firing I took apart the sprayer & cleaned out any clumps of crystals of soda ash that might cause it not to work properly when I needed it. I was actually pretty proud of myself for doing this! Like, look at me, all preventative & stuff! I am one competent human! 


That crusty black material is what remains 
of the spray wand.

Apparently when I put it back together, I failed to screw on a little collar that keeps the brass wand attached to the sprayer hose. How did I discover this, you may ask? Well, my first clue was when, while spraying soda through the port, the pressure from the tank blew the rod right off the hose...and right into the port. 
There was nothing to be done about this in the moment, of course, except replace the wand (YAY EXTRA PARTS), continue spraying, and hope for the best. Brass is about 2/3s copper and 1/3 zinc - both will volatize well before ^10. I feared the fugitive copper might cause some flashing, and I really had (have, lol) no idea what fugitive zinc might do. 

I saw little evidence, actually, that the copper did much. It seemed only to affect pieces that had a specific flashing slip - Bauer Orange. The BMix pieces wearing Bauer turned blue - not the teal blue I would expect of copper, but what looked like a watery cobalt blue. Those are quite nice. There were only a couple items in brown stoneware wearing flashing slip, and good thing, too, because those were less nice; a dull mud-brown color with little shine. 

These shells had only Bauer Orange 
Flashing Slip applied.
So, weird but could have been worse! Overall a very successful firing; I will photograph some pieces on Wednesday & update the online shop on Thursday. Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Glaze Goals 2024

On New Years Eve, a friend & I took a hike on the Cliff Walk in Scarborough. (Maine, of course.) It was a grey and overcast day, cold but not too - a day that I once would have stayed home & wished for spring. 
I hike in winter now, with the persuasion of a good friend, and I highly recommend it! I don't hate winter anymore, & I've found that if I dress right (layers!) I don't get cold, thanks to the exertion. 

Anyway! The Cliff Walk has a lot of low cliffs (duh) and also a few stone beaches, where we found oyster shells. They have the most amazing color, and a surface like a frosty-matte glaze. I didn't keep this one (leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories) but I did snap this photo...I want to see if I can do something like this with glaze. 

More for the fun of solving the puzzle than for my studio work, although who knows? My clay journey has surprised me more than once. I'm thinking RIO & copper carb, brushed on a textured white stoneware under Rhodes 32

I hope 2024 brings you joy & the world peace. Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Bowls for the New Year

 Making bowls for the New Year's Eve firing! (At the rate I am going to New Year's Eve firing might be a bisque!)

Because I can never *quite* take my teacher hat off, I want to point out a technique in the video. This is only 4 pounds of clay, but it's really useful for larger pieces: centering in sections. I weigh out my clay, then cut the ball in half (or more! There's no limit on how many pieces you can center on), put the first piece on the wheel & center that; then scrape it all dry with my rib and slap the next half on. See how easily the 2nd piece comes on round!
I've also opened the way I would a larger ball - using my right pinkie knuckle & the strength of both hands. Again, very useful for when you are throwing a larger ball.

Monday, December 11, 2023

This Year's Cookies!

 My compulsion to make stuff - & make it fancy - does not end with pots! I also make soap, & in December, I make Christmas cookies. The fun for me is the decorating, & I'm happiest when I am learning new things. This year I tried out an airbrushed design. Check it out here:

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review: 23 for 2034

In late 2018, I made a "19 for 2019" list of things I would like to do or habits I would like to acquire in the new year. That went well the first year, less so the 2nd (for REASONS!), and I didn't even try in 2021. I just revisited my list for 2023, Some stuff I acheved, some I made progress on, & some I forgot I had even planned to do it! We did get a dishwasher installed - it's awesome & saves me even more time than I thought it would. I do my stationary bike ride nearly every day, I am selling much more online, and I got a time tracker - I average about 11 making hours in the studio a week. Those are some successes, and then there are the items like "learn to use instagram to sell!" & "kayak the Nonesuch" and "get back to writing postcards to voters." Yeah, those didn't happen. Like, at all. Nor did I start cleaning out my car regularly or making clay videos for Patreon. I made a little progress on the attic - called a carpenter, started talking about how much it might cost.

All in all I think the lists help me focus on how I would like my life to be, & help me identify steps to bring the reality closer. So even though I failed dismally at some, the exercise brought about enough positive changes that it's worth doing again. 

Who's with me? (LOL! Like last year, I literally do not know if anyone at all is reading these. I took out the stat counter a couple of years ago, so I may just be shouting into the void.)

Sunday, November 26, 2023

3 Days in the Studio

 Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Yesterday: Packing & shipping! I think I mentioned that in the last few months, online sales have finally become a significant income stream for me. Keep in mind that "significant" probably has a different meaning for me than for most folks; this month my online sales will be about $500. For many people that would cover their lunches out, or their wine consumption, or something else fun but trivial. For me, if it sustains, it is life-changing. Well, at least a little life-changing! Obvious best part, more money. Less obvious: connecting with these folks online who love handmade ware. 

Of course, it's not money for nothing; I have to photograph & list all these items, then promote them online before sale. After sale there's packing, & shipping. Not complaining! I've never shied away from work. I might have to teach one less class in the spring, though, because there's just not enough hours in the day to do everything. This makes me sad even though it was the plan all along. 

Today: more packing & shipping (yay!) and then re-arranging the studio into wetwork mode. Then I can sit down at the wheel & make stuff. I always have more on my list than I can actually do, but I am sorta hoping I can carve out time to make another batch of soap. 

Tomorrow: Mondays are teaching days, from 10 am to 9 pm. Not really time to get anything else done. This will be the last week for 2 of my classes, as Portland Pottery is winding down into the holiday break. 

I hope all is well with you, clay friends, & your holiday season is delightful. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Chonky Cats & Rustic Pots


Another firing is in the books! This time the excitement came when I ran out of propane at the very end of the firing. I don't know if other people fuck up as much as I do, but I always try to be honest about it, because if we're all pretending to be flawlessly professional, then we all secretly feel like losers. I make mistakes, but somehow I'm still afloat as a potter, & doing better all the time. So, if you are also a screw-up, welcome to the club! Pretty sure it contains everybody. The fun people, anyway. 

After many years of having to explain why I needed propane in the middle of the summer, or shortly after a delivery, my LNG company had gotten on a good automatic delivery schedule - their algorithm or whatever was correctly assessing when I would need a delivery. But then I started firing more often, because I am selling more pots! & that threw everything off. 

Anyway. Cone 10 was already down, & I was letting the kiln fire a bit longer. I came out to check it after the last soda application, and - huh - it was firing in oxidation.  I suspected bad news then, but I just pushed the damper further in, until I got the backpressure I wanted, & went back inside. Checked again 10 minutes later, and again, no reduction. I knew then what the problem must be & that it would not sustain a reduction, so I just shut it off, closed up all the ports & damper, & hoped for the best. 

"The Best" is, of course, subjective. When I first opened this kiln I was not entirely thrilled. The surfaces were more rustic than I've previously gotten - drier & more mottled, gray, bone, & tan rather than peachy-gold. I took advice I have often given to students: live with it for a while before deciding. Well, those rustic pots have grown on me! I've been using some of them & I find the subtle surfaces intriguing. 
Anyway! Long story short (too late LOL), I've listed the new pots in the online shop! They'll be available online until December 14th. 

Oh, one more weird thing: Facebook has started to send me money. I don't exactly know why, but I did fill out some kind of online form to be able to take payments thru fb; I thought it was to sell directly from the site. I still think it's something to do with that but what happened instead is, facebook sends me money I guess based on engagement? Not a lot but still, yay money! Especially money that doesn't cost friends & followers anything. So, if you enjoy this blog and want to see work in progress, unloading photos, a few demo videos, follow Fine Mess Pottery on facebook. Like & share stuff if you like it & think your friends will like it! 

I hope I didn't break some kind of rule doing that. 😄