Monday, January 30, 2012


Unloading is like Christmas and your birthday and also like the day you find out your crush likes your sister. There were lots of great pots in the kiln. There were a couple of heartbreakers: one sushi tray I was excited to see caught a bunch of shelf flack, for example; and a platter warped badly.

Couple of notes:
  • I am done putting Oribe on the insides of things. Two otherwise-lovely casseroles will need to be re-fired because the oribe is pebbly inside. And recently a student showed me a bowl of hers that had held salsa over night, and the oribe changed color where the salsa touched! It was a different recipe (glaze, not salsa!) than what I use, and there's nothing in either that could leach out and harm someone (copper, yes; but so little of it) but it creeped me out.
  • The changes I made to my cobalt glaze, to make it better suited for soda firing! Win. Smooth and buttery, almost purple where there's less soda, glassy and deep blue where there's more. Check it out here:

About half the pots in this firing were pet urns, headed for The Cat Doctor in Portland.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Old is New: Flower Bricks

I've been interested lately in a shape I've seen while searching for the Thursday Inspiration artists: Both Kristen Kieffer and Lana Wilson make flower bricks. I thought it was a relatively new idea, but as I should know, in clay there is nothing new under the sun; it is in fact a very old idea. Here are a few antique flower bricks I found on the web.

Being inspired is not a euphemism for copying, however. I am shooting for my own take on flower bricks. These are use three pounds of clay, which is a bit heavy, but for this function I think a little ballast is a benefit.
I throw an closed form, sort of bullet-shaped, then immediately drop and roll it on each side to flatten. After they are leatehr hard, I will cut openings to hold the stems; one of my students described it as "an integrated frog."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disciplined like a House Cat

"Discipline is remembering what you want.” David Campbell (whoever that is. )

While I agree with this sentiment, failures of discipline are not all bad! Case in point:

After circumstances conspired to thwart my plans to load the kiln during the day on Wednesday - a surprise vet appointment, a meeting that really needed to happen, and had already been re-scheduled twice - I tried to make myself finish loading Wednesday night, in the 15 degree dark. I was gritting my teeth, growling to myself,"No! I will not let this be de-prioritized!" And then I just thought, Fuck it, I'll do it tomorrow.

All I can think is how much happier I was, loading in the brilliant sunshine and above-freezing temperatures. The wadding wasn't freezing to the furniture; my hands weren't numb and dropping wads that I had to go search for, lest they ruin work below; I didn't make dumb mistakes due to tiredness.
Of course, it also pushed the firing to Friday, unloading Monday, as I decided there was nothing to be gained by staying up all night firing. That would almost certainly have put me in bed with a migraine all day Friday. There's determination; then there's obstinance; and then there's plain old stupidity.
Failure of discipline seems to be a bit of a theme this week: I also noticed, that, despite my best intentions, I can rarely make myself do any other productive thing while the kiln is firing. It's this weird kiln of Genesisian Seventh Day, pardon the blasphemy. I had big plans to clean up my studio (and house) and to get some pots made for the next firing cycle. The most useful thing I managed was a load of laundry. I spent most of the day reading a big book: The Better Angels of Our Natures: Why Violence has Declined, and napping intermittently, like a cat. And I can't say I regret it a bit.

Unloading Monday, January 30!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday Inspiration - Matthew Hyleck

See lots more of Matthew's work here. I am greatly enamored of these pots, and, with my new-found appreciation for web design, I really enjoy his website.

A Different Drum

My student and friend Peg, who writes her own blog here, has been working on a drum in class. I've never made a drum; I am learning so much watching her. The head of the drum will be made of goatskin (which you can get at Yes, really. I don't know why I find that so amusing.) I'll get some shots of the top being finished, when Peg brings in the goatskin.

Can't wait to see it finished.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thrown, Altered, and Assembled

Workshop: Thrown, Altered, Assembled
Portland Pottery
Saturday, February 25
1 - 5 pm
An interactive workshop featuring forms thrown on the wheel, then cut, squeezed, folded and otherwise altered and assembled. Here's a sample of the kinds of things I will be demonstrating.
$45 for current Portland Pottery students
Call to register: 207-772-4334

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Inspiration - Joy Tanner

See lots more of Joy's wood and soda-fired pots here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Look!

I've made some changes to my blog template. (Captain Obvious strikes again!) This was not as easy as I expected it to be, as blogger doesn't give you a user-friendly way to manipulate their existing templates, but instead you have to choose "edit html" under the "design" tab. I found this handy page for html color codes, which I expect will come in useful in future projects as well.

I made the changes for a more integrated look with the website. Some people change their blog addresses and build a new blog which is an actual page of their websites, but I really didn't want to do that. I can't see the benefit, and it seems like many readers would get left behind in the shift. I am not sure I like the new look, though; luckily I saved the old template so I can switch back if I'm not pleased after I get used to it.

*Yeah, I don't know. I just did the click through from I'm not convinced it's any less obviously a jump to a different site than it was before. Well, I will give it a few days. Switching back, if necessary, will actually be easier than making the changes in the first place.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cottage and Lodge

One of the decisions I made during the week was to start packaging my wholesale offerings into two lines. This comes out of a conversation with Jamie Oates and Jeanette Faunce of Maine-ly Pottery, about how a unified look is more appealing, and partly from my donut-shop reflections. Also rattling around in my thinking is the study out of Columbia that suggests that, confronted with too many choices, people are LESS likely to buy, which makes me want to simplify my offerings. Not by making less stuff - like that would ever happen - but by organizing it in a way that people are looking at fewer, more similar pieces.

Because I live in Maine, and my work is sort of casual and carefree, I am calling the two lines Cottage and Lodge, after the places where Mainers go to unwind. Well: we also go to the beach, and to Three Dollar Dewey's, but no one brings pottery to those places. Folks with cabins and summer places often furnish them with greater attention than they do their homes.
So. My job today (while waiting for the vessel sinks to dry) is to make a list of the pieces I will need for such a line. I am starting with Lodge, becuase it's 3 F outside and I am in a Lodge kind of a mood. There will, of course, be some overlap between lines, both will need plates, mugs, and bowls for example. Lodge will incorporate the thicker, faceted pieces I have been working on, and utilize the darker glazes: tenmoku, amber celadon, June Perry Oribe, Satin Doll Black; all contrasted with unglazed areas of flashing slip.

  • Mugs
  • Plates
  • Soup/salad bowls
  • Sugar/ creamer set
  • Baking dishes
  • Casserole
  • Serving Bowl
Okay, into the studio I go.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Thing You Didn't Know About Vessel Sinks

Two actually:

1) At least half the time when I type the phrase "vessel sinks" I mistype it "vessel dinks."

And, more importantly:

2) You need a special kind of drain for them(sinks, not dinks. I don't want to know what kind of drain you need for vessel dinks.) A normal pop up drain (the image on the left) won't do, as a vessel sink (usually) has no overflow. Most building codes require a grid drain instead, which has slots out of the top and is 1/8" larger than a standard pop-up drain. Okay, maybe you did know that, but I certainly didn't, and wouldn't have, if it were not for the help of David Smith, of SmythCid Pottery, where they've forgotten more about stoneware sinks than I will ever know. Check out some of their sinks here.

After shrinkage the measurement of the lip would now be 2.5".

A thing that I did know, if I thought about it, is that the edge of the drain must sit below the bowl, or an icky little pool of water will collect at the bottom. I knew it, because I know that water can't flow up; but would I have thought of it before or after I fired the first sink? I am spared finding out, thankfully, since David pointed this consideration out in his email in addition to the drain information.

So! Off to reconfigure the drain hole on my first sink. I had not yet made the hole in the second.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vessel Sink Thinks

I am approaching this all wrong, this vessel sink thing.

Perhaps because I am a middle child, I have a strong people-pleasing streak. I have about as much faith in birth order personality traits as I do in dream interpretation, which is to say, not much; but that dream in which you are naked in public and nobody notices probably does mean you are feeling self-conscious about something that is really no big deal. Our shared human experiences probably cause us to manifest certain feelings in similar ways in our dreams. Astrology, on the other hand, strikes me as somewhat amusing bullshit. In fact....

Ooops, I think the Irrelevancy Alarm just went off.

Back to the post. Oh, right, people pleasing. Okay, so, what's wrong with this picture?

Nothing, except, it's just a big bowl. A jolly-jigger or Ram Press could do it just as well, only faster and easier.

I find that I am focusing so much on the utilitarian aspects, that I am forgetting to make it a good pot, a pot that I like. Something unique and special, that could only be handmade. What's that to do with people-pleasing? I've been so determined to make something that no one will hate, that I've forgotten to make a pot that someone will absolutely love.

There! Fixed it!

I need to remember, a really big bowl is just like any other pot: I can't let it get so precious that I am unwilling to risk ruining it; otherwise it's condemned to be ordinary.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Circling the Drain

Throwing a big bowl is the easy part. The tricky part began today: figuring out how the holes work with the plumbing. I have a sample drain pipe, with the little gasket thing that lets you fill the sink.

The outer dimension of the pipe is 1 5/16"; which means that the hole through the bottom has to shrink to larger than that in order for the pipe to fit through. The flange is 2" wide, which means the lip surrounding the hole has to shrink to at least that large. The spec for B-mix Sand is 12% shrinkage, plus or minus 2%. I had a momentary freak out when I saw that plus-or-minus business, but the tolerances must be...sufficiently tolerant, or no one would be able to make vessel sinks. SO. Assuming 13% shrinkage, because it's better for both hole and flange to be too large rather than too small:
  • The hole I made 1 5/8"
  • The lip around the hole I made 2 3/8"
I cut the hole once and had to fill it in again before I decided to make a run to the store for a compass. Things went much more easily then.

Gaah! I have to go turn up the bisque. I've been so engrossed in this project I forgot I was firing!

Thursday Inspiration - Lana Wilson

Learn more about how Lana makes her intriguing surfaces here. See lots more of her works here.

Vessel Sinks, Part II

Couple of things:
  • I am throwing with Laguna's B-mix 10 with sand. It's the first time I've used this body and I am quite delighted with its performance: centers easily, doesn't sag. I only bought one box, though, to test it out, so won't have enough clay to make many samples.
  • I started using 12 lbs to make a 14" diameter, 5.5" high bowl, 0.5 inches thick in the wall. I was hooting for 16" diam, 6.5" high in the wet state. 12 lbs was not enough to do this; it fell short by a lot. 12 lbs was not even enough to make a similarly thick & tall bowl with a finished diameter of 12". Despite liking the shape, I wedged it up, because I didn't want to commit kiln space to a large piece that was destined to be not-quite-right.
  • To get the bowl that will eventually be the 14" sink, I needed 18 lbs, which is the pot on the wheel in the photo above. It's surprisingly small for 18 lbs, but of course it had to be thick. I am not convinced this one is thick enough, so I will try again with 22 lbs.
  • To that end: to save my poor median nerve (healthy, but I intend to keep it that way!) I center these large amounts in two equal chunks. When the first is on center, I scrape it dry with a metal rib, and then plop the second half on top. Much, much easier than trying to muscle the whole lot under control all at once.
  • After my third attempt, it seems that 20 lbs will be the right amount to make the (eventual) 14" sink. Which means that the 16" sink - 19 inches, wet - will need to be around 28 lbs. My mind has jumped ahead to pricing: I don't think I can possibly get less than around $280 for these -- and that's the wholesale price. Which means someone, somewhere will need to be willing to spend almost $600 for a lavatory. I need to talk to my client before I get too far into this, in case that is a deal-breaker. The vessel sinks I have found online have retailed for between $90 and $1600; not sure what range he had in mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vessel Sinks, Part I

I promised myself, and a potential client, a vessel sink design by Feb 1, so I better get on it. As often happens when I am intimidated by the technical aspects of a project, I often stall beginning it(see The Kiln Project!), because there are other, easier projects I can work on - or, if not easier, ones that I have a clue where to begin.
However, begun is half done, and it's time to find a clue. The first place to look is how other people have made vessel sinks before. am finding that they are made as small as 12" in diameter, and I found a few as large as 20". (I am sticking with round, for now, although they come in many shapes.) Many are 5.5" tall. There's a nice, very specific set of specs at Coyote Glass.

I think I will shoot for 16.5" in diameter (fired dimensions, all), 5.5" high, and .75" thick*. I know, that last seems like a lot, doesn't it? I need to remember that the functional demands of a sink are different than those of a bowl: after installation, no one will be lifting these, but they will get frequent - constant, really - use, and need to be immune from chips and dings, as replacing a sink is a much more onerous proposition than replacing a bowl. The tricky part will be making the drain hole accommodate a standard pipe, what with shrinkage and all.

If it isn't obvious from the post, I haven't made a sink yet, so none of the images are my doing. they are, respectively:
*Yikes! This necessitates a thrown dimension of 19" in diameter, and 6.25 inches high (plus a little for trimming; let's say 6.5") I could do this the last time I tried, but I haven't tried anything that large for years. Oh, well: time to channel my inner Steve Jobs. "Don't be afraid. Get your mind around it. You can do it."

My Students are Awesome!

Have I mentioned that I love my students? Not only are they up for any class project or game I throw at them, they make up their own challenges! This group, Portland Pottery's Tuesday night class, chose to challenge each other to make the tallest thing they could out of three pounds of clay. These are all in the neighborhood of 12 - 13 inches.
Want to be a virtual part of Tuesday Night Awesomeness? If there are clay students out there reading this, sing along with Mitch! How tall can you throw three pounds?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Couple More Pots from the Firing

I have to take photos in brief bursts in the winter, as the hours of good light are brief indeed, and many days it just never gets bright enough. I took a couple more shots today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Little Help from Perfect Strangers

Isn't the Internet awesome? I mean in in the original sense of the word: the internet fills me with awe. One thing I am learning isthat anything you want to do, technology wise, somebody out there knows you or someone like you wants to do it, and wants to help.

So you know I've been rebuilding my website, right? (If you don't know, you haven't been paying attention, because I haven't stopped yammering on about it for a week now.) I got it in my head that I wanted a slideshow, but Kompozer doesn't have a slideshow function, and I haven't got the first clue how one might go about writing code for such a thing. The internet to the rescue! The first site I found was 1-2-3 Slideshow, which creates flash animation slideshows. I was a bit daunted: while these are very professional-looking bits they are a bit...slick?...for what I had in mind. Like the cleverness of the device would itself be distracting. I tried it anyway, and it's easy to use: upload the photos, and the site builds the show for you. Unfortunately my photos looks pixel-y and horrible, as though all the pots were made from tiny Legos. Or maybe that was fortunately, because I kept on looking and found This is a much simpler and more straightforward slideshow, and also easy to use: just upload up to 10 photos, and Ricocheting does the rest. There's even some code provided in the comments if you want to use more 10 images.
I'm like Goldilocks, of course: the first was too slick, this one is too artless. I'd like for the controls to look less like nuts and bolts, less alien to the rest of the page. I hate, for example, the thin black border around the table at the bottom; but my best efforts to discover how I could persuade that border to hide itself have been for naught. But, w'ev. I'll take it.

You can see the slideshow here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Inspiration - Farraday Newsome

See lots more of Farraday's work here; show some Facebook love here.