Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Pots!

I want to thank everyone for being so kind after my last post, about depression. I won't say I'm over it - though I wish I could - but some days are better than others. Today didn't suck. Most of it, anyway.

Yesterday I took a U-Haul (did I mention my car died a couple of weeks ago?) to collect up my pots and shelves from the pop-up Holiday Pottery Shop in Gardiner, which closed on December 24th. The shop did okay but the weather was against us; we lost a couple of weekend days, and the last three shopping days before Christmas due to storms and poor conditions. And it was a shorter retail season to begin with. A thing I noticed: people were buying smaller things: ornaments, magnets, pendants, like that. Next yer I will keep it in mind. Also, non-pottery items seemed to do well. Next year I will have soap.

As an aside, I think the soap is finally at a level that I would feel okay selling it. When the newest batch - Cocoa Loco - is ready, I'll post some bars for sale.

Anyway. I still have lots of pots left, and pretty good ones if I do say so myself, so I photographed a few to refresh the website. Today was one of those winter days when it never quite gets light, so the pics were pretty dark - I had to lift them using Picasa. They are still accurate, color-wise, but not the best photos I ever took:
Orange Butter Dish Blue Dots

Cream Butter Dish with Teal Dots
Bowl with patterned exterior

Oribe Butter Dish with Stripes

Blue Butter Dish with Gray/Orange Dots

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Week of Reflection Has Been Indefinitely Postponed

Normally the week between Christmas and New Year's is when I do my best thinking. It's a kind of limbo in which the old year is kind of over, with the big bang of Christmas - but the new has not begun. I look back, consider what I did well and what I could have done better, and think about what I'd like to achieve, and who I'd like to be in the New Year.

Yeahno, not happening this year. My one reflection is more of a confession, one which will come as no surprise to those who know me personally: the truth is I spent much of the latter half of 2013 down the rabbit hole of depression, my old nemesis. The further truth is, I'm not out yet.

Depression, as you may have noticed, is not great for blogging. I hate the sound of my own voice and everything I type sounds insipid, so after a while I just stop. Add to that, I'm just about as broke as it's possible to be and still be under a roof, so basically anything I do that doesn't make money seems self-indulgent. There are a lot of heads depending on me to keep that roof up there. Not even sure how pottery is going to fit in, if I'll have to get a's all too much to think about.

My husband and nephew went out of state to my in-laws for the holiday. I had planned to go as well, but then the ice storm took out our power around 11 pm on the 23rd, and I felt someone should stay with the pets and the house, to guard against frozen pipes and other calamities. I also felt there was no point all of us being cold. I'm sort of a grinch even in the best years, so missing out on all the Christmas festivities was no hardship; in fact in other years I have thought of a couple of days alone in my house as my Christmas gift to myself. This year, sitting in the increasingly cold dark, wondering when or if the heat and light would return, I thought I had inadvertently created my internal world on the outside.

But then I saw the flashing yellow lights go by around 9 pm. Unfortunately for my corny little metaphor - but very fortunately for myself and the four-legged ones - CMP had come to my neighborhood. As so often happens in this mental state, I sort of hate myself for even having depression: tens of thousands of people in Maine are still in the cold dark, what have I got to be depressed about?

In what might be a positive sign, I spent the day cleaning the house, which had gotten into a dreadful state. My husband and nephew are both slobs, and my choices are a) clean up after them; b) nag them daily; or c) just leave it. I lost energy to fight that battle sometime after Thanksgiving. It's clean now, though, and it feels so much better.

Not sure I'll post this; if I do it's unlikely that I'll leave it up long, because as soon as I re-read it I'll delete it as despicable whining. Or whinging; the British way sounds even lower. I still have a few days to fight my way out; I'd hate to start 2014 this way.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last Load, 2013

I've spent the last few days smoothing bottoms, grinding woogies, sorting, pricing and packing. Most of these pots are destined for stores: the Holiday Pottery Shop, a pop up store I participate in with about a dozen other clay artists; Portland Pottery's Holiday Sale; Summer Island Studio; and of course Kennebec River Artisans. 
Lots of butterdishes in this load! Also mugs, and mixing-sized bowls. I may grab a few minutes to take better photos of my favorites this afternoon.

The mad Christmas rush starts early for potters, and ends early, too. It's too late for me to make work for this shopping season, so I am relaxing a bit, and making soap. It's also too late to sell soap for Christmas, as it requires at least a couple of weeks, even by the quicker process, to cure. I give it as gifts to family and friends. I've made two batches so far: a Kiwi Lime that turned purply-brown - in my impatience, I think I had the batch too hot - and a much more successful Coconut Bar. They looked like this:

Soap is like ceramics, in that it's all applied chemistry. Making soap is also like soda firing specifically, in that I can do everything the same and get different results, and like soda firing, this is both a good thing and a bad thing.I'll probably make a couple more batches before coming back to clay: the stretch between now and the end of February is fun for me because I can concentrate on making larger, more detailed pieces, like the Bustier Baskets, because I am deadline-free. (Also nearly cash-free, but that's another story.)

Today is all pricing and packing for the Portland Pottery event, which opens tomorrow night. The sale is open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. If you're in Southern Maine, check it out! If you are closer to Gardiner, maybe you'd like to visit the Holiday Pottery Shop, at 287 Water Street.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Silver Lining Made of Mucus

I woke up on Tuesday of this week with a painful sore throat, but decided to just power though - no sick time for classes, and I sure as shit can't afford to not get paid. So, give me some throat lozenges and I'm off! That actually went okay most of the day - you know how sometimes you feel better once you get moving - but around 8:30 pm I hit a wall, and ended up bagging out a few minutes early. My students cleaned my wheel, bless their hearts.

I spent the day in bed Wednesday, though I could ill afford that, either, with holiday events coming up, but sometimes your body just says, "Tough shit. You're down, and you're staying down. Get used to it." Thursday was better and I again scraped myself together enough to get to class. There was that little matter of the delay caused by a plane landing on the interstate, but wevs, it was fine.

I swear there's a point to this recitation. Oh, and here it is!

On Friday, still sick but a little better, and unwilling to give up another working day, I spent the day in bed compiling the Glaze Notebook! You remember: the popular reward for Kickstarter backers, that was due in September? Yeah.

Like so many things, it seemed daunting before I started. Most of the testing and revising work is done, so really it was just assembling the best recipes and typing up notes on firing. And like so many things, it's fun once you get started. I want to thank my backers for their patience, and I hope it's worth the wait. I expect to have PDFs out by the end of the month [edit: turned out to be by the end of the day! :)], and hard copies going out shortly after that. Once those are all completed, the Fine Mess Glaze Notebook will be available for general purchase.

Thanks again.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Inspiration: Marion Peters Angelica

Last spring I renewed my intermittent subscription to Pottery Making Illustrated. I like the magazine, as well as its older cousin Ceramics Monthly, but magazine subscriptions are not always in the budget. I chose PMI over CM because I am often looking for ideas for class demos; some of my students have taken my classes many times over, and I like to be able to show them something new once in a while.

November's issue features a how-to for slab-built champagnes flutes which are clever and elegant, but easy enough for beginners to do. I demonstrated these for my classes last week, and saw some delightful pieces come out of those sessions.

The author of the article, Marion Peters Angelica, makes tons of amazing slab-built things, in addition to the champagne flutes that were the focus of the article. Lookie here:

See lots more of this potter's amazing work at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

This One's For You...

...Liz Proffetty, of Liz Proffetty Ceramics! I am sending out this, the last of the Kickstarter mugs today, as well as two last teabowls, to some very patient backers. This mug is going to my potter buddy Liz because I think she will love the delicate colors.

The glaze recipe book is almost done as well, needing only a good ^6 version of Shino Sauce. It's still on my list to write a post about the last firing, in particular the test glazes. It ain't happening today but I might get to it tomorrow!

Friday, October 18, 2013


Anybody wanna buy pots?

The light was perfect for my living room to become my ad hoc photography studio, so I shot some pics and posted new items on my website this afternoon. It was a brilliant sunny day, very warm for mid-Ocotber, and I can think of ways I would rather have spent it than all the fiddly tapping and clicking that is website work, but I keep remi
nding myself that if I had a straight job, I'd go to work rain or shine, no matter how shiny. Discipline!

Here are the new items. Click the photos to see more:

Pop quiz: can you tell which of these items are ^6, and which ^10? Oh, speaking of: several of the ^6 glaze tests came very nice out of the recent firing, including Tenmoku, Amber Celadon, and Magic White. Soda Cobalt was a little puny, and my ^6 version of Shino Sauce was...well, it was different, as they say in Minnesota. I've lost my light, so photos will have to wait until tomorrow. (Aside: is it weird that Blogger does not recognize the word celadon? Tenmuko I can understand; oribe, shino, sure. But celadon? That's just the name of a color. You'll find it in, like, the J. Crew catalog. Huh.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Basket Jag

Do you ever go on jags, during which you are interested in making one particular form, and not much else? That was me and these narrow vase-baskets a couple of weeks ago. There are bunches of them in this kiln.

Sometimes it's colanders or berry bowls; once in  blue moon it's teapots; often, of course, it's mugs. I know I can sell all of those things, but these baskets? I feel like I will need to individually explain to shoppers how you would use them. (As a vase, I guess. I was more interested in the form than the function, truth be told.)
Also in this load: salad plates, ice cream bowls, several lidded casseroles, a big serving bowl, a teapot, and a world of mugs. And, ^6 glaze tests! Here's another I am trying out.

Recipe Name:  Shino Sauce ^6

Cone:  6     Color:  Rust Gold
Firing:  Reduction     Surface:  Glossy

Amount     Ingredient
27          Spodumene--Foote
41          Nepheline Syenite
11          Ball Clay--Old Mine #4
5          Kaolin--EPK
9          Soda Ash
7          Gerstley Borate--1999

100         Total

2          Iron Oxide--Red

The original, ^10 recipe came from Keith Phillips blog, Mudstuffing Sketchbook.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Last Outdoor Glazing

Finishing up the last glazing today for a ^6 reduction soda. This will probably be the last firing for which I can glaze outside, which is a bummer: glazing is such a messy business, and my studio inside is pretty small. In the winter I have to do a minor re-arrange every time it's time to glaze. It's a bit chilly out there today, but I don't mind: I've got my hot flashes to keep me warm.

This firing will include 8 test glazes and two flashing slip variations; basically to bring a flashing slip from^10 to ^6 you can usually just add 5-8% Neph Sy to the existing recipe. Write that down! That's my pearl of wisdom for today. That, and, if you are in a hurry, a kind of boilerplate approach to dropping a glaze from ^10 to ^6 is to replace to feldspar 1-for-1 with Neph Sy, and add about 10% gerstley borate. This isn't always the best way to preserve the color or the hand of the glaze but it will get you in the neighborhood. (Always keeping in mind the proportions flux of alumina and silica, which is what I have Glazemaster to help me out with. Yes, it's working again!) Alternatively, you can add 10-15% Ferro Frit 3134, which is now my favorite frit, as it is well-balanced enough itself not to require a lot of adjustment when used in this way.

Among others, I am trying again with the Amber Celadon. Here's the recipe I am testing at ^6:

Amber Celadon test

Alberta Slip          32.2
Wollastonite         12.7
Kaolin                     7.2
Gerstley Borate      9.0
Whiting                   6.8
Silica                    12.7
Neph Sy               19.5

Yellow Ochre         7.6
Bentonite               2.0

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Five Glazes and A Freeze

Gah! I finally get a couple hours to work on my glaze conversions, and  - boom! - five formulas in, the Glazemaster software just ceases to work. So aggravating! It just keeps giving me the Hourglass of Despair. I've sent an email to the folks who sold it to me; I think I may have to de-install and re-install, with a new installation code, which I have to get from them.

Anyway! Here's what I was able to do before the derp dropped:

Recipe Name: Magic White ^6 Test 3A

Cone: 6 Color: White
Firing: Salt/Soda Surface: Semiglossy

Amount Ingredient
19.5 Feldspar--Custer
6 Zinc Oxide
18 Whiting
9 Kaolin--EPK
19 Silica
15 Zircopax
4.5 Spodumene--Foote
9 Gerstley Borate--1999

100 Total

Comments: Careful not to get it too thick! Will crawl or even split ware.

Recipe Name: Magic White ^6 Test 4A

Cone: 6 Color: White
Firing: Salt/Soda Surface: Semiglossy

Amount Ingredient
18.3 Feldspar--Custer
5.6 Zinc Oxide
18.6 Whiting
8.4 Kaolin--EPK
19.4 Silica
13.9 Zircopax
4.2 Spodumene--Foote
11.6 Gerstley Borate--1999

100 Total
Recipe Name: Tenmoku ^6 Test 1

Cone: 6 Color:
Firing: Surface:

Amount Ingredient
53.3 Nepheline Syenite
19.5 Silica
15.2 Whiting
7.1 Ball Clay--Old Mine #4
4.8 Lithium Carbonate

99.9 Total

7.6 Iron Oxide--Red
2.1 Bentonite

Recipe Name: Tenmoku ^6 Test 2

Cone: 6 Color:
Firing: Surface:

Amount Ingredient
45.6 Nepheline Syenite
22.2 Silica
17.3 Whiting
8.1 Ball Clay--Old Mine #4
6.8 Frit--Ferro 3134

100 Total

8.7 Iron Oxide--Red
2.4 Bentonite

Recipe Name: Satin Black ^6 test

Cone: 6 Color:
Firing: Surface:

Amount Ingredient
59 Albany Slip
13.5 Feldspar--Custer
4.5 Strontium Carbonate
6 Talc
15 Whiting
2 Kaolin--EPK

100 Total

1 Chromium Oxide
3 Iron Oxide--Red
2 Manganese Dioxide
1 Cobalt Carbonate

Will be mixing these up today, as well as full buckets of the successful test from last time, for the next firing - hopefully this weekend.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Inspiration is Where You Find It

When I drive down to Portland to teach my classes, I always bring a bin of tools and materials for my demos. At a minimum I bring my throwing tools, and my box of stamps. Students are free to borrow the stamps; I'm not one to worry that their pots will look like mine - I'd like to think it would take more than a stamp mark to duplicate me. Students who find they like the technique often make their own corral of stamps.

On Thursday, when I left class, I forgot my box of stamps.

This is sort of a big deal, as Portland is an hour away, and Friday, Saturday, Sunday are usually my most productive studio days. This happens to be a wetwork week - if I were glazing or firing, obviously less need for stamps in those cases. (And by "less" I mean "no".) I was thinking of driving down - maybe throw a bunch of ware, and make the drive while it's drying to a leatherhard, stampable state - and then my eye fell upon my new swimdress. (And by new I mean bought-used-on-Ebay-four-months-ago. What? That's why God made washing machines!) I'm not gonna go long about the swimsuit, but I am gonna say, if you're resisting buying a swimdress because it's what old ladies wear, give in and get one already! Much better for climbing in and out of canoes.

But I digress.

It occurred to me that the pattern on the swimdress would look very nice slip trailed. In the past I have just trailed simple lines or dots, but hey: no stamps? A great opportunity to expand my slip trailing skills. Here's what I came up with:

After that I started looking around the house for other fabric inspirations. And lo! the curtains right beside my desk had potential. Here's how that pattern played out:

Obviously I didn't try for a literal copying of either pattern, just let the fabric suggest botanical shapes to make. One thing I learned: I need some smaller needles if I want to do more detailed images.

Both still need handles. They are of B-Mix 5, and will be in the next ^6 firing, which should be soon, but my working time is so unpredictable lately that I am loathe to pick a date. In it will be the remaining ^6 conversion tests, which will allow me to publish the Glaze Notebook!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bigger Wads Make Better Bottoms

That sounds vaguely obscene, doesn't it? But no:

I've always been inclined to use small wads, because to conserve wadding, because mixing it up is sort of tedious. I see now that I have been cheating myself! When the wads are too tiny, the flame, with its load of soda vapor, can't get under the pot; so the bottoms are pale and pasty and dull. Okay, that's harsh; but using bigger wads does allow vapor glaze to be deposited on the bottom, resulting in this soft, peachy, flame pattern. It's the subtle things that make a piece sing, and a beautiful bottom is definitely a plus.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Trimming Bat

My student and friend Ginette came to class one day with a great tool: a foam-rubber trimming bat. The "grippiness" of the foam saves time wadding, and allows you to trim without risking deformed rims. I made myself one:

First I cut a piece of foam rubber into a circle the size of one of my bats. I got the foam rubber at Jo-ann Fabrics; it's the sort of thing you'd use to fill out a sofa cushion.I used Gorilla Glue but I think almost any kind would work.

The bat is the sort that has pinholes.

Using a Sharpie marker, I drew concentric circles onto the foam, to help me get pieces

And Bob's your uncle! It really was much faster than my usual method of centering and trimming.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Do Today

Today is the last day of August, and the start of Labor Day weekend - the cultural if not the astronomical end of summer. It's been a busy summer, not always in the ways I would have chosen, but I am trying to get my time back until control. With that in mind, I'm utilizing that old favorite tool of mine: the to-do list.

I unloaded a kiln on Wednesday, which never stops being fun and exciting. Thursday was sorting, pricing, packing, and delivering pots to Monkitree, Portland Pottery, and Kennebec River Artisans.

This was a ^10 firing; I've been alternating between ^6 and ^10 all summer, as it turns out that no, I can not go the whole summer without making new inventory in order to focus on the glaze conversion project. My bad! Nevertheless I am pretty much on schedule - still owe a few pottery Rewards, as well as the glaze books (of course!) but the upcoming ^6 firing will hopefully be the last of the 'test" firings, and contain more than half "real" work.

So! to the boats:

To do today:
  • Scrape and grind kiln shelves. Six of my shelves are Advancers, which are crazy-expensive but necessary, as lifting the heavy regular shelves above my shoulders at arms length just had to stop. The Advancers need minimal grinding - an obvious perk - but not none. 
  • It's a throwing day: cake stands are on tap (watch for a video!) and as well as pitchers and butterdishes.
  • I still have pots that need homes from the last firing, so I will be preparing pots for delivery to The Artisan's Barn, Summer Island Studios, and the Bay View Company.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Soda Firing Workshop!

In conjunction with Portland Pottery and the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, I will be offering a Soda Firing Workshop this fall! It's happening Saturday & Sunday, September 14th & 15th at the Watershed Center. I will bring glazes,flashing slips, brushes, and trailing bottles; you bring two clay boxes of bisqued, ^10 stoneware. (I can't guarantee it will all get in the kiln but I will do my best!) We'll spend Saturday morning glazing, then break for lunch, and load the kiln in the afternoon. Portland Pottery will provide lunch on Saturday.
On Sunday we will fire the kiln. Students will learn about glaze application, loading, firing, and and have an opportunity to spray the soda mix into the kiln! I'll also provide wadding, kiln wash, and glaze recipes to interested students.
The firing will be unloaded the following Wednesday. Students are welcome but not required to attend the unloading. If you can't be there, please make arrangements to pick up your work at Portland pottery. The cost for this two-day workshop is $125.Call Portland Pottery to register, or for more details. (207)772-4334

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Inspiration: Karen Hamilton

See lots more of Karen's intriguing work here and here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What Do You Do When Inspiration Flees?

As regular readers know, my family obligations have expanded this summer. It's not that it's so much more work - though there is some - but it takes up a great deal more of my mind. In the interest of privacy, I won't share much of what's happening on that front, except to say some parts are going well - arguably the most important parts - and in other ways it's much harder than I expected.
One thing I find difficult is really feeling it in the studio. I can make stuff, but I can't get that so-excited-to-make-stuff feeling that is the reason I love clay; that feeling that results in the best pots. I page through the Thursday Inspiration posts, which used to send me spinning onto the studio post haste, but that hasn't been working; so I'm trying a different tack.
I purchased Kristen Keiffer's Surface Decoration video!
(I tried to post an image here relating to the video, but Blogger is giving me a raft of shit. Of course it is.)
I can't yet say whether this will awaken my snoozing inspiration, but I can say this: this video is wonderful. Though the general techniques are things I am familiar with, Kristen has different approaches to all of them. I've only watched the first two chapters and I've already learned so much! Just wanted to share this with my readers: if you've been considering this DVD, it's well worth the $50 purchase price.
I'm off to watch the rest of it. Hope you are having a good summer.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Test Tiles!

They're less blurry in real life.
Though I am sort of on a blog break for the summer, I couldn't wait to share my recent ^6 test results! This was a mixed firing - lots of tests, as well as several "real" pieces glazed in Julia Galloway's Water Blue, a glaze I can rely on not to suck.

It didn't suck, but it was a little too sweet and...bland?...for my taste. I may not have reduced heavily enough, or early enough, to get the deep, varied, mysterious blue-to-purple I had in mind.
The look I had in mind.
Nevertheless I think the recipients of these mugs and teabowls - my Kickstarter supporters - will enjoy them. It's definitely a pretty glaze.

I got lots of good information from the tests, and at least three keepers. See if you can pick the winners from these images:
^6 Amber Celadon test

^6 Brown's Blue tests

^6 Magic White tests

^6 Oribe tests

^6 Old yellow tests
The Amber Celadon test ran like a mad bastard - and let me tell you, mad bastards can run, even at ^6. None of the Magic White tests made me happy, but I got keepers of Brown's Blue - the tile on the left; Oribe - the bowl on the left; and Old Yellow - the tile on the far right.

This was the first test firing in my own kiln; the others occurred in Watershed's soda kiln. I was concerned about uneven temp, but that concern proved unfounded - there was probably a full cone difference between the hot and cold areas, but it was not enough that the glazes reacted badly, or not as far as I could tell.