Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mug Progress

Here are three more. With 43 days left to go, I have twenty finished mugs and around sixty in the green state. The one on the bottom came from The Firing That Wouldn't End, which finally ended with spanking clean shelves this morning; the other two came out of Portland Pottery's stoneware kiln.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Enough Navel Gazing...

...let's see some pots!

Here are the pots from the firing that wouldn't end. It isn't over yet, either -- still have to finish grinding and washing the shelves. There were the expected sacrificial pieces from the exploding kiln pack, and a couple more will need attention due to soda globs -- I used about 50% more this time. But all in all I'm very pleased with the results, and see no ill effects due to sitting, loaded but cold for several days. A couple close up:

This mug is one of the 100, and that great rarity: a pot that emerges from the kiln exactly as I pictured it when I was making it.

I couldn't resist a shot of the interior of the port. So beautiful!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I feel like I have lost focus a bit, between work, illness, visitors, and so on. I was really moving forward, not only with 100 Mugs, but also sorting out how to take Fine Mess Pottery to the next level. All the distractions and other obligations are very much the point, of course; this always happens and usually, I lose focus and never get it back again. This time I have the 100 Mugs show to pull me back into making, thankfully. As for the other, the mental work I am doing, I think it is time for a visioning session.
A few weeks ago, I did a post on a typical (more or less) day for me. I want to try to piece together what a typical day might look like two years from now (or, you know, however long it will take. That is something I am still working out.)

  • Up at 5:30; this is unlikely to change. Make coffee, feed critters, read news and blogs. Breakfast, bathe and dress.
  • Office hours: open mail and prepare deposit slip for any checks, fill out fair applications, respond to emails. Transfer any Paypal monies. Post new Etsy item; print out shipping labels for the Esty sales that have come in. :) Place these on a clipboard over the packing table. Call Mom or anyone else who needs a phone call; write to-do list; call or email new possibilities. 
  • Leash up the dog for our errands: the Post Office, the bank (all those checks, you know!), the library.
  • Return and do the Home Blessing, which other people call housecleaning.
  • Lunchtime & breaktime!
  • Pack the pots that need to go, either for shipping, or in bins for consignment outlets.
  • Time to make stuff! Spend the rest of the afternoon throwing, trimming, handling, glazing, or whatever needs to be done.
  • Dinner & hanging out with hubby
  • Load kiln if appropriate; otherwise it's time to relax.

Some days, of course would be given over to delivering work to outlets. Some days we'd be sitting in the sunshine at some art fair somewhere. I don't see tons of those; maybe three or four a year. It's not tremendously different from my typical day now; there's just a lot more meat to it. I already sort of know the steps from here to there: it's just that pictuing what form my reforms would take makes them easier to accomplish, and refocuses and motivates me.

Plus, you know, I'm stuck gallery sitting today.


I've been thinking a lot about the business of art, as a part of thinking about my life and how I want to live it. I feel like I've got the personal stuff all squared away - seriously, I don't want to jinx myself but I can't imagine any possible way that could get better - and now I want to improve the financial and professional aspects, hopefully at the same time. Anyhoo, I found this cool site called Academic Earth, which posts lectures from the best universities in the world. I started watching their series on Entreprenuership. A lot of what's on there (including this clip) is sort of motivational speaking, but who couldn't use a little encouragement from time to time? I am hoping they get a little meatier, but for now, here's Joe Liemandt of Stanford telling us to stick to our beliefs: that a large factor in success is perserverance.
Academic Earth has all kinds of other subject matter, too. If you ever wanted attend Harvard lectures for free, here's your chance!

Fashion Week at Kennebec River Artisans

Man, gallery sitting is boring in February! At least I can noodle around online -- and blog. And, try on all the hats.

BTW, the hats (and the purse) are created by Julienne's Hats & Bags; the scarf is by Susan Butler. Body by Ben and Jerry's.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Finally a Firing

Still no photos, sorry. Unloading tomorrow, hopefully.

 I nearly postponed the firing again, as the weather service predicted 8 to 12 inches of snow, but knowing what alarmists they are, I decided to proceed. Good thing, too - we got less than six inches in Augusta, and no more than two in Newcastle, where the kiln is. 

When I arrived Thursday morning. the pilots had gone out. I decided to turn on the burners anyway, and one of the cone packs popped! I only lost Cone 8, but surely the debris and the cone itself are in the ware, ready to become glaze flaws. So, let it cool, unbrick the wall, clean out the remains, new cone pack?

Oh, hell, no. A pox on this firing; I decided to just get it over with. The bad news is, the thermocouples were completely shot - that's why the pilots went out - so I did the whole firing with weights on the baso valves. This is a major no-no, as the valves are there to prevent propane build-up should the burner blow out, which could result in a explosion. Because I had overridden this important safety feature, I had to stay beside the kiln, in the snow, for the entire eight hours. I often have thermocouples in my car (along with one of every other man-made thing) but not this time. I couldn't feel my feet by the time it fired off; but I could see them, so I knew they were still there. 

All I can say is, it had better be a good firing. I have my doubts, though, as the door seemed  a little loose. I was trying a new sealing method, as Reed, the facilities manager at Watershed, prefers that I not use the very effective newspaper-and-slip method, because of the mess. Reed is an awesome facilities manager precisely due to this slightly obsessive tendency, so I am happy to accommodate; but I am not sure I got the new method (coils of door mud between the bricks) right. Lots of red in the kiln, so a loose door is likely to create a disappointing firing. 

I increased the amount of soda fifty percent, from four pounds to six, three each of baking soda and soda ash. Because the #8 cone was gone, I started the vapor glazing when nine was visibly soft. 

I'll see results tomorrow. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Firing That Wasn't

The way it all shook out, I was going to have to spend the night at Watershed, snoozing kilnside in the car in between checking the cones. After I had loaded, candled, and kept the burners on low for a couple of hours, I said to hell with this noise, and I turned the burners off and came home. I have in-laws visiting and I hated being there in the cold while everyone else was hanging out drinking wine and watching movies; plus we have smelt fishing plans this morning at 7 AM. I just can't do everything at once. Will I ever learn?

At least this time it was not really my idea; when I learned they were coming, I had planned to reschedule the firing. Then my hubby asked me to go ahead and do it, because he thought my niece and nephew would enjoy seeing the soda glazing process. Well! I should have just said no. Even if things had gone perfectly, it would have meant me away from home for ten to sixteen hours during their visit, just so they could watch the 45 minutes of vapor glazing. Not to mention all the hours of prep and packing up tacked on to the shopping, cooking and cleaning to  prepare for their visit. I knew it couldn't work, but I said yes anyway, because I wanted to please and it's hard for me to say no; there is  a lesson here, Grasshopper.

Anyway. The kiln will stay bricked up and cold until Wednesday night, when I will candle it all over again to fire Thursday. I've never done that before. It's very likely to get below freezing (stay below, more like) but I can't think it will do any harm; all the moisture has been driven off. Right?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Mugs Out of the BIsque

I once heard a quote attributed to Toshiko Takaezu saying something to the effect that she feels pots are alive when they go into the bisque, and dead when they come out; and it's her job to bring them back to life with glaze and fire. I understand how she feels. I've always hated the bisque stage. I hate the horrid pinky color (even the slight pink of white claybodies) and the feeling of it is like a tactile version of fingernails on a chalkboard.
Nevertheless, these are the first of the 100 mugs, out of the bisque, dead and awaiting reincarnation. I am surprisingly hesitant about glazing these pieces; I feel like my beginning students, whose pots are still so precious to them that they can barely stand to consign them to the glaze and fire, with its uncertain results. Of course, half the issue for them is unfamiliarity with glazes and application; you wouldn't think I'd have that problem. No, in this case, it's that I so want these mugs to be something special. that my standard palette of glazes seems...I don't know...insufficient, somehow. Between the flu and the IPTOG, I haven't had time to test new glazes, and now the firing is upon me. In addition, I have a friend's 40th birthday to attend tomorrow, and in-laws coming to visit on Saturday, the same day I am loading the soda...Arrrgh! My head is going to explode. Better go glaze before that happens.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Work is great...'s jobs that suck." In my life, this is one of those random thoughts that become an enduring truth. It emerged from a conversation with my best friend, during which I commented on his hobby of devotion. He plays fantasy league sports, which involve following the play and statistics of not one team but every player in the league. He's committed to it, so he often wins; but the money is negligible compared to the time.
"Sounds like a lot of work," I remarked. He laughed.

"Lori, everything you do sounds like a lot of work to me," he replied.

I realized he was right. Pottery, gardening, cycling, and now blogging and home imporvement all demand a meaningful effort, and sometimes require activities that I don't especialy like, such as glaze mixing, or effort when I don't feel like it. But the satisfation outweighs the effort by tons. I am poor by most American standards; I am not conventionally ambitious; but I am by no means lazy. I love to work. Work is great. It's jobs that suck.

"Suck" is a strong work, of course.  The job that I have now (the Inconvenient Part Time Office Gig, or IPTOG) is perfectly fine. It's not difficult, the pay is reasonable, the folks are pleasant, and they are quite flexible and accomodating. But just the fact of having to be where someone else expects me for great chunks of my time makes me wish I could ditch it. (There's a whole 'nother post it the guilt that comes with wishing I could quit, when so many other folks are just wishing they had a job.) But I don't, because of another random, defining thought: You get what is really important to you, whether you know it or not. That's not all you get, naturally; you also get random crap from the random-crap-generator called life. But you get what you really care about, mostly, and you can tell what that is, because it is what you prioritize. Apparently security is one of my prioritites. I can willfully change it, or I can accept it, or even embrace it; probably for now, I'll just think about it some more. 

All this is a long way of saying, I don't have new pots to post, because I've been working full time at the IPTOG, filling in for co-workers vacations. But I do have bunches of thoughts, and will share them all.