Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Week of Reflection, 2015

There were many weeks in 2014 that I felt like this tree. 
I think it's telling that I questioned whether I even had time to do a week of reflection this year.

On the other hand, this is the first year that I haven't had to put heating oil on my credit card. My business is in the black! This is largely due to two factors; I've blogged about both before:
  1. A new pricing equation, that starts with how much money I need, divided by how much I can make, to arrive at a per pound price. 
  2. Work more. Work all the time! like this:

That is only a slight exaggeration. It's so nice to be profitable, however slightly, that I hesitate to change anything, but common sense tells me this is not sustainable. That is a blog post for another day, however.

I did make a change to the way I work in 2014, as well: I shifted the balance of my working hours between long-term business activities - blogging, research, networking, social media, and experimentation - and short term ones - teaching, making, and sales events. In short, I spend more time making stuff and trying to sell it, and - surprise! - I make and sell more stuff. I would never delete teaching from the equation, because so much of my joy in clay is sharing what I know; but though I could probably find more teaching opportunities pretty easily, I don't want to shift the balance any further in that direction.

One thing that I am still dead set against is trying to produce what I think will sell: as I've said before, that only results in pots that even I don't like, and I am no better at selling bad pots than good ones. But I do allow myself to sit with a good idea longer. Whereas before when I made mugs, say, I'd make a dozen of the same shape, and then decorate them all differently, now I decorate all twelve the same; then make another twelve for my next decorating idea. I trust the process - and the kiln - to produce variation. I make more pots this way, and I explore ideas more fully.
A board of pots following a single design scheme
I sit with a shape for longer, also; instead of making five casserole dishes and then moving on, I'll make fifteen. Keeping my mind in the same groove makes a smoother work process. I hope this is in part due to my aesthetic maturing: I've reached a point where I am pleased with more pots than not when I unload the kiln. Even as I type that, my mind flags a danger, of the work becoming too rote, but some of my very favorite potters return to decorative schemes repeatedly, and the work does not get stale. Instead the ideas ripen and mature into a fully realized body of work. That is what I am hoping for.

Next up for the Week of Reflection: 2015 goal setting!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

8:5:3:1 Plus Honey

As you will have noticed, my joy in making things does not end with pottery! Soap has been a major interest for the last couple of years, and now I am trying my hand at lip balms.

Lip balms are both simple and complicated: you can just melt beeswax and coconut oil and get something that will serve. Because I can never do things the easy way, I've been trying out various proportions and kinds of wax, oils, and fragrance to get a balm which is, in the words of the infamous Goldilocks, "just right." Not too hard, not too soft, not too oily, not too strong-smelling. Also important: doesn't melt if you keep it in your pocket!In some ways it's like formulating a glaze: I need the right balance of flux and refractory at ^body temperature.

This batch is made of beeswax, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, vitamin E, and honey. The proportions of the first four are 8:5:3:1; the honey a half-teaspoon in 60 grams, I'll have to figure out later what that comes out to in parts. I'll probably also switch out the grapeseed oil for sweet almond oil next time, only because the grapeseed oil has a shorter shelf life.

I am starting to have a fantasy of a retail store selling handmade home goods.(I even have a name for it: Nesting Instinct.) In my dreams I make all the pottery and bath and body products...and somehow also manage the store. Guess I'll have to ask Santa for an extra 48 hours in every day.

Happy Festivus, all. Keep on making.

Update: Like Papa Bear's chair, this batch was too hard. Need to increase the proportion of liquid oil.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The After

I can't remember whether I promised to post the "after" photo to go with the "before" here or on my facebook page; in any  case, here it is. The gravy boat halfway up on the right was my favorite from this firing; if it doesn't sell over the holiday shopping season, I'll photograph it so you can have a closer look.

This was Wednesday, a rough day at my house: we had to have a cat euthanized. William was almost 17 and in some ways the heart of our household. He greeted visitors, spent every possible moment in a lap, and the other cats adored him. (not exaggerating: one in particular followed him around like a shadow.) It sucks to lose them but it's the price of loving them, and well worth it in my book.

Folks who only know me online probably think that all I do all day long is say goodbye to pets because I always mention it. We do have a lot of pets, so we lose a lot; and it feels...not right, I guess...to carry on as if nothing happened. Rest easy, Sweet William; I'll see you on the other side.

Back to our clay story, already in progress:

This firing reminded me how very small differences can make a big difference in results! There was a tiny gap between the bag wall (recently rebuilt) and the back wall of the kiln. I stuffed it up with a bit of wadding, and thereby addressed this issue I was having that there was an area in the center of the kiln which seemed a little dry. Some of the soda vapor must have been being sucked straight up the stack.

Lesson 2 of this firing: salt is not soda! I tried adding a small amount of salt this time, and discovered that some glazes that perform just fine in soda do not like salt much! I had a few pieces get blistery and bubbly. Not so badly that you can't use them but they are definitely seconds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lisa Orr on Ceramic Arts Daily

I'm sure many of you subscribe to Ceramic Arts Daily, and if so you know how they just deluge your inbox with videos, book suggestions, and I-don't-know-what-else. It's really out of hand, so I just have them go to a separate folder; otherwise they will fill up my inbox and maybe cause me to miss important emails. As a result, I have a folder with hundreds of emails from them, that I almost never open. Hint, CAD: send a few less and people might actually see them!
It's churlish to complain, though, when much of the content is so valuable. You can't possibly watch all the videos - or anyway I can't - but I have a little time now that my classes are on their December break so I am watching a few this morning. This one is really cool:
I was doing something like this with porcelain slip on paper, to make snowflake Christmas ornaments (yeah-yeah, ornaments: so sue me); but I never thought to use them to build with, or to slip both sides. So clever! As I was typing this it occurred to me that they would make good sprigs also. I'm off to deliver pots this morning; but when I get back I need to make pots, so I can try this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Show! And a dumb story

Last night was Portland Pottery's big holiday party! Every year I tend the bar for this event, and I like to overdress for it, just for fun. This got a lot harder last year when I reached size 12, officially plus-sized. Here's me shopping in Goodwill for this year's dress:

Me, flipping hangers: Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. HEY THERE'S ONE THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT WAS MADE FROM THE CURTAINS AT MOTEL 6!! Oh, wait, it's a size 6 that someone put away wrong....[Keeps flipping] Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

I did finally find a pretty fabulous dress, that fit...size 14. Even though I'm no heavier than last year at this time! Whatever, looks great, I'll take it.

I get dressed, get in the car, and....rrrrrrrip. Right up the back.

So I went in my dowdy office-party dress.

FML. Going to the gym. 

The show's still up until Sunday. You should go!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Full Kiln, Full Day

Few things make me happier than a kiln filled right up to the arch. Sorta gives you that I-done-good feeling. I'll brick it up in the morning - I had to bring the doormud inside to thaw overnight! I'm working at the Holiday Pottery Shop from 10-6 tomorrow, so will candle this load from 6 - 10 pm, then fire it off overnight Sunday into Monday morning. That will allow me to unload Wednesday morning, so I'll have all day to grind, sort, price, and pack the pots for Portland Pottery's big holiday sale which opens on Thursday. That will be my last event of the season - good thing, too, I'm pooped! Sort of tempted to spend the last two weeks of the year alternately cleaning my house - that's been pretty neglected -  and sleeping.

That's not yet, though. I'm not even done with today yet! Still have to make a batch of soap - lilac, by special request from my mother. I suspect that lilac will be sort of an old-lady-ish soap scent but then my mother is, well, an old lady. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I'll make this batch hot process so it will be ready by Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is It Supposed to Look Like That?

Why, no. No it is not.

Not entirely sure what happened to this mug! I had adjusted this glaze - Magic White - with the addition of a small amount of silica, because it was inclined to crawl, and a bit of CMC gum, because it was very fragile in the dry state. Only this mug and one other exhibited this very weird curling and flaking, though I used the glaze on many pots in this load, which is scheduled to fire on Monday. The other possible contributing factor is that this bisque got a little hotter than usual - probably ^04 - 03, where I prefer not to bisque above 05, because the ware gets too vitrified to accept glaze well. I guess that could account for it: the body is not absorbing moisture, so the glaze is only drying from one direction.

That doesn't explain why it only happened on two pieces. Not that I'm complaining! Just a weird vagary of the ceramic process, I guess; or the action of one of those five demons I was telling you about.

No matter! I'll wash it and glaze it again - in something else, thankyouverymuch.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Drive-by Soaping

Buttercream soap! Unfortunately it won't be ready to use until December 21.

I am squeezing in a couple of hours of studio work this morning before I have to work my day at the Holiday Pottery Shop, located in Hallowell this year. I am bisquing tomorrow and hoping - most likely in vain - that the ware I finish this morning will be dry in time. Can't put off the bisque, because the glaze firing has to happen December 8 in order to be ready for Portland Pottery's Holiday Show, my last event of the season. After that I'll be restocking the online Pottery Shop - it was just getting too picked over and needed refreshing, but all the ware I have right now is committed elsewhere.

After a day sick in bed yesterday still feeling a little rocky but up and about. Hope you all had a fabulous holiday!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It Finally Happened

No, not the zombie apocalypse.The Cubs didn't win the World Series. I didn't learn how to use an iPod. No, the true long awaited event is this: the bill basket is empty.

It went down like this:

I deposited a check into my household account. I try to treat my business like a business, and give myself a monthly payday; in addition, I get paid for teaching at Portland Pottery. So with all that there are five or six paydays of varying amounts every month. Usually I deposit my check and then reach into the bill basket to determine which envelope most needs my attention, and which can be deferred. And lo, there were no envelopes.

I'd caught up.

I've heard of that - people who have money they haven't even spent yet! - but thought it was mythical, like the Yeti. It didn't last, of course: bills came in, I wrote checks, and so on. But then on the next payday, there were again no bills waiting!

I'm not rolling in clover, mind you; there are big expenses in the offing. My car is making a funny noise, and one of my cats has a tooth that I think needs to be removed; and Portland Pottery takes a five-week break through December, so those paychecks will soon be suspended. But I still take it as proof that the scheme I arrived at (with the invaluable help of business consultant Maureen Renner, for whom arts businesses are a specialty: just sayin) is working! It works! (And it isn't, actually, even fully in place yet; I flinched at the last minute and didn't increase my prices as much as the equation called for, fearing a total sales-stall. I did have a scary moment in the spring when I thought I was going to be buried in a mountain of unsold pots but then things evened out and even picked up.)

Also necessary has been the work-without-ceasing piece of it, but I can handle that, as long as it doesn't come with a side helping of poverty.

Speaking of work, I am trying to squeeze in one more firing before Portland Pottery's big Holiday Sale, which opens on the 11th of December. This will be a big mug-and-bowl firing,  with a few taller vases, because those are things I can make quickly without compromising on the aesthetics. Here are the pots on the drying board:

The red poppies, in the back, are Amaco's Radiant Red, which I have had good luck with even at ^10. These will be the first real pots I have used it on, as opposed to tests. Keeping fingers crossed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So, you saw this, right?

Bon Appetit magazine recently ran an article about restaurants using handmade ware in place of the chilly, manufactured white china you usually find when eating out. Awesome, right? Awesome, right!! The article seemed to be written by someone not particularly familiar with handmade ceramics, or maybe just written for people less familiar. (For one thing it makes no distinction between stoneware and earthenware. You can put high-fire stoneware in the dishwasher all day long. Not that you'd want to. But IF you did want to. Anyway.) It's a brief article, that contains a shout-out to Portland's own Eventide.

Here's hoping this is, in fact, a trend! But here's the funny part: Since this article came out, I've received two emails asking me to DONATE pottery to newly opening restaurants, for the exposure, dontcha know.

Let me think about it...lol...NO. 

Now, I'm happy to donate ware to a handful of charitable auctions every year. That's one way I can support charities. But I don't do it for the dubious benefit of exposure, and I'm damned if I am going to start donating to businesses.

I wanted to write back saying that a business I am associated with holds a huge social event every December, and would the restauranteur care to cater this event, for free, for the exposure? How many takers do you think I'd get?

You know what I do for exposure? I write this blog. I market my work in stores and galleries. I advertise. I go to trade shows (or at least, I used to, and may again.)What I don't do? Give it away and hope somebody sees it and wants to buy it.

Artists are notoriously bad at business, and I might be the poster child (er...poster lady of a certain age); but jeez, even I ain't falling for this. I hope nobody does.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clay All Day, Soap All Night

 Although sometimes it's the other way around. Timing is everything. And in November, time is short.

I finished loading the kiln last night around 7:30. I won't have a full day to fire until Saturday, so I am considering doing an overnight firing tonight.

There was a time when that would have been no big deal...those days are gone! On the other hand, it's not like I wouldn't get any sleep; it would just be fragmented. Still, just thinking about it makes me tired.

Usually I have lots of ware leftover after filling the glaze kiln, because I can fit so much more in the bisque. I had several items explode in the bisque this time, though - when was the last time that happened? I can't even remember. That's what comes of hurrying. This time I only had these few pots to left out:

I've also been making soap whenever I get a chance, so much that I ran out of coconut oil, which is my signal to go online and order new scents and colors at the same time. Shopping for soap scents is big fun! I've got several fruity scents, some sweets like Buttercream Frosting, a sea breeze type,and a more masculine musky fragrance on the way. For the first time I have a soap order, which is obviously cool - selling things keeps me in business - but also a little nerve-racking: what if the batch doesn't turn out well? Same concerns, I suppose, that I have when I take orders for pottery.

So, assuming that I do actually fire overnight, I'll be unloading this kiln Sunday morning. Much of it is off to Rochester, NY and to Blue Hill, but I'll still have plenty for the Holiday Pottery Shop.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

PLATE is Live!

PLATE: A Celebration is live online at MudFire! So excited to be a part of this show. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you see the works that have already sold. None of mine yet, but I'm just pleased as punch that wares are selling from this show. And it only opened yesterday!

So, what else is new? My ongoing flirtation with burnout continues, and it's still working, sort of. I am teaching a raku workshop today, and glazing with the hope of firing the soda kiln on Wednesday. I need to send wares to Belfast, Rockland, Portland, and Rochester, NY.

Plans for this year's Holiday Pottery Shop are chugging along: we have a location! We will be at 184 Water Street in Hallowell. The shop will open early this year; the plan is to have the doors open by November 14th.

Also looking forward to Portland Pottery's First Friday event, which will feature works by faculty and staff. That's November 7th from 5-8.

And in between clay work, I'm still making soap. Because the bars need to cure for a few weeks before they are ready to use, I need to be making now so they will be ready for December. Here's a peek at the curing rack: the green soaps in the center - Mango Sage - and the white & blue ones to the right - Cool Coconut - will be ready by Cyber Monday.

 Keep on keepin' on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yellow Copper Lusters, Beading Glazes, and Other Special Treats for Raku

I am more or less of a recreational raku-er. Ceramics can be a solitary pursuit; raku - for me at least - is a team sport. I regularly offer raku workshops for Portland Pottery, and occasionally do a firing with my classes. In a communal studio like Portland Pottery, students have little exposure to the hot side of things. They make the work, put it on a cart and then...well, it goes away for a while, and comes back changed. It's not practical to involve students in the firing of the stoneware kiln, apart from peeking into the spyholes on occasion, but we can load, fire, and unload the raku kiln all in one evening. It gives students a chance to be directly involved and take some of the mystery out of the firing process.
The workshops are a bit different. Often they are folks who already know and love raku, but don't have their own kilns, sprinkled with a few beginners who have heard about it and want to try it. It's been a great season for raku, with the workshops filling up quickly and we've had some gorgeous results. I've got one last workshop to teach, and I want to shake things up a bit, with new glazes and some terra sigs to use with horsehair and feathers.

Our last raku of the season is Saturday November 1. Give Cooper at Portland Pottery a cal if you want in; 207-772-4334. 


Colemanite  75% (Sub. Gerstley Borate)
F/4 Soda Spar 25%
Copper Carb 3.0%
Manganese Dioxide  1.5%

Lemon Luster

Gerstley Borate 1500
Copper Carbonate 45
Manganese Dioxide  20 

Glass Bead Raku
 50 gerstley borate
 40 borax
 10 flint
 50 magnesium carbonate
 10 zircopax

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

To That Beginning Student

You know the one. Maybe it's you. The student who struggles time after time, collapsing pots and making misshapen lumps. The student beside you seems to sail effortlessly forth, her very first efforts round and smooth. I've seen you both before, and I am here to tell you, it's okay.

Hand-eye coordination is not talent, and should not be taken as a measure of your potential as a potter. I've taught clay for twenty years, and I can say, early skill makes no difference to the kind of potter you'll become. The truth is that anyone with sufficient patience can master the skills of throwing, handbuilding, glazing, firing. If you want those skills, they are yours, if you devote the time to it. For some it will require a greater tolerance for frustration. That steep initial learning curve looks daunting, and it is steeper for some than others, but it is the least part of your life as a potter.

The differences I see between students who go on to become fine potters and students who either wander off into other interests (nothing wrong with that!) or become makers of dull ware are: a love of the material and intellectual curiosity about it; a deep interest in process; and a willingness to make the extra effort to make the work good. The detail work, the exploration, the mindfulness, the willingness to risk failure: these are the things that lead a potter to fine work. Early skill? Not so much. It's not a hindrance, I'm not saying that. It just doesn't matter.

In fact I kind of hate the word talent. It implies a kind of some-got-it, some-don't fatalism. There are the Picassos of the world, people whose minds work so differently that they change the way we all think about something, but they are so vanishingly rare they need have no part in this discussion. If you think you need to be the Picasso of clay - or if you think you are the Picasso of clay - you're wrong. Okay, technically, somebody reading this could be the Picasso of clay: see again vanishingly rare. And that's okay.

Keep throwing. Keep making. A little extra time in the studio makes a big difference. Comparisons are odorous: they stink. So don't side-eye they person beside you with their tidy little board of sleek pots. They could go on to make incredible, engaging, fascinating work. Or not. So could you. At this point nothing points to the one over the other.

Hang in there. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Resourceful Artist: What Can You Monetize?

Being a potter sometimes means finding yourself in a tight situation, moneywise. (Oh, sure, I can think of potters who never have that trouble. I hate them, don't you? KIDDING. Really I want to BE one of them.) To stay afloat, we have to be resourceful. Who among us hasn't torn through their house muttering, "Surely there's something here I can sell on Ebay...!" Oh...you haven't? You either?? Okay, it's just me then.

This time what I turned up is a k-cup coffee maker, a fancy-schmancy one, the Keurig K75 Platinum. I feel a little twinge of guilt selling this, as it was a loving gift, but we received it in July and still haven't even opened the box, and to be honest, are unlikely to. Better to sell it to someone who will use it, and use the cash to keep on keepin' on.

Which brings me to: Want a coffee maker? It's brand new, literally never even opened, and comes with 72 k-cups to get you started.  Starting bid is $85, which is a mad steal over the lowest price I found for it elsewhere, which was $149. And that didn't even include the k-cups!

Check it out here, share it if you can think of someone who might like it. Thanks!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Maine Craft Weekend, Day Two

So, Day One didn't suck, or not too badly, anyway; which is to say, at least I'm in the black on this event. We got about seven visitors, all of whom were either students of mine, previous customers, or drive-bys. Knowing that I won't actually lose money puts me in a much better mood to appreciate that events such as this often need some time to grow, and I can hope for improvement every year. Also, I've still got all of today! At art fairs Sundays are usually the least-good day, but not always, and today is much warmer and sunnier than yesterday - a great day to get out for a drive, maybe visit some studios.

The craft beer - Gritty McDuff's - was a huge hit. With Doug. I favor the hot spiced cider, though I learned it's best to enjoy it also in moderation. Otherwise, surprise juice cleanse! Not to be all TMI.

It's odd to do a post-mortem before the event is over, and I don't wish to disparage anyone's efforts; I know a lot of hard work at the Maine Crafts Association went into the creation and planning of this event. They are taking a different approach than I have in organizing the Pottery Tour, which happens in the spring, and it's valuable for me to look at what they've done and see how it compares to my approach. So, a few thoughts:
  1. In creating this event, MCA went with the-bigger-the-better. They probably didn't have much choice really, since they are a huge statewide organization. I've been taking a grow-as-we-go approach, the idea being to grow the audience at the same time we grow the event - I don't want 100 customers to have 80 studios to choose from. My thinking is that I'd rather the participating studios all have successful events, and then invite nearby studios for next year, instead of everyone having a slightly crappy event in the hopes of growing into success in following years. As it happened some people had crappy events anyway, so starting small was no proof against that. 
  2. Not sure the craft breweries are a logical pairing. Sure, there's bound to be some overlap in the audience, but a brewery tour seems like a very different event than a craft tour. If you are on a brewery tour, do you really want to stop at the pottery studios? Alternate? Also, not to be a pearl-clutcher about the whole thing but is a beer-tasting road trip really a good idea?
    I sent a few people to The Liberal Cup yesterday - though they were looking for lunch, not brew - but got no visitors who came to me from there, or any other brewery.
    Also, I can't say the word "breweries." It keeps coming out "brurries."
    Ooops, customer, gotta go.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Pot for Every Chicken

I think of pottery as artwork that is not finished until it is in use, so once in a while I like to post image of my work, truly finished! This is an oversized casserole - four quarts? I forget. Big enough, anyway, to cook a whole chicken, with carrots and basil, and stuffed with an onion.

I put the chicken in the oven in the morning, so I wouldn't have to fuss with preparing lunch or dinner. I spent the day instead preparing for Maine Craft Weekend, which starts tomorrow. I'm all set up, got Paypal at the ready, threw a bunch of earthenware plates for visitors to paint, and got mini-kegs of Gritty McDuff's IPA and Best Brown Ale. Still, I admit I am not optimistic about this event. Every time I mention it to anyone (who is not another potter!) they've never heard of it. I haven't seen posters around or read any press about it. Maybe I'm wrong; I've been accused before of living in a Lori-and-Doug-sized bubble, so I could be missing the buzz. We'll see.

And, really, it's all good. Worst thing that happens is I have to box all this stuff up again and haul it inside. With no more money than I had before. But with two mini-kegs of really good beer! No matter what the outcome, that won't go to waste.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Did I Mention Maine Craft Weekend?

This weekend, October 11th & 12th, is Maine Craft Weekend! Craft studios, galleries, and craft breweries are holding events for the public to visit, see what we do, and shop! My studio will be open Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 11-4, and, getting in the spirit of things, I'll be offering craft beers to visitors while they last (which, truth be told, might not be all that long at my house...fair warning!) We'll have pottery, handmade soap, photography, and my husband will be signing copies of his book! I'm also going to throw a few earthenware plates to give folks the chance to paint on themselves (for a small fee, of course!)

My studio is only open to the public twice a year: once for the Maine Pottery Tour and again for this event, so don't miss it! I'll be looking for you, brush in one hand and an amber bottle in the other.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Great Idea!

You can never tell where your next great idea might come from, although Pinterest is a good bet. That's where I got this one. It was on a blog dedicated to Christmas projects - I think?? It's in French and I am, sadly, unilingual despite growing up in Maine where half the population speaks French. (Well. Not half. About five percent of families speak French at home.) I've often wondered why nobody here wigs out about all the signs reading "Ici on parle Francais" the way they do elsewhere about the Spanish equivalent. I guess it's just what you're used to.

ANYWAY. Enough about my linguistic deficiencies, moving right along. THE IDEA! is this:

In the original, it was a suggestion to make your own gift wrap. I think it would be great for texturing slabs or
printing with slip or glaze.
Quick, somebody try it & send me a photo!

Today I am throwing. Lidded casseroles for sure, perhaps those days-of-the-week mugs I mentioned, some jaunty jars and a cake stand for an order. Though yesterday still felt like summer (until the sun went down!) I am beginning the last of my Christmas orders. If they don't get 'em by mid-November, they don't want 'em!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Final Five

Yesterday after much internal debate I finally selected and shipped out the plates for Mudfire's October show, simply entitled "Plate." SO excited to be a part of this! Show opens October 25.

Other quick hits:
  • We've scheduled one final raku firing for the year for November 1st, a Saturday, from 1-4. I've asked the studio staff at Portland Pottery to mix us up Lemon Luster (recipe coming soon!), a gorgeous metallic yellow that can also do peach and turquoise and copper; and I've mixed two terra sigs, a white and a red art, for anyone who'd like to try horsehair raku. 
  • I have this dopey idea that I want to make Days-of-the-Week mugs, like the underpants you loved so much when you were nine. Or the ones I loved so much, anyway. I'll give them some scalloped designs and lacey edging...I dunno, the very dumbness of the idea is what appeals to me.
I have half a dozen partially written blog posts in queue - just can't see to finish a post of substance. But I'm still here, still plugging away, and I hope you are too. TTFN.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Rena Hamilton

This work shares some qualities with my own: the decorated surfaces, the soda vapor softening the patterns. You can see lots more of Rena's work here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our Friend Failure

I have a couple of student who need to see this! I told you guys:  If you're not failing, you're not trying! Keep counting down: 999, 998, 997...

From "Be Friends with Failure," by Stephen McCranie: http://goo.gl/6L5CF

Monday, September 8, 2014

Finally Finished!

You've probably heard me say that pottery is artwork that is only really finished when it's in use. I love when people send me pictures of the ware, finally finished! My friend Ellen recently sent me this one:

The colors look great together, and I am especially proud that the plate shrunk to exactly the diameter of a standard cake, U.S.

Thanks Ellen!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Kenyon Hansen

Here's the link to Kenyon's website; I know there are images there because people are pinning to Pinterest boards from there, but no images show up when I click. Maybe you'll have beter luck. In any case, I think the the work is amazing and wanted to share!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Butterdish in the Pottery Shop

I listed a new butter dish in the online Pottery Shop today. It was the only item from my last firing, aside from a couple of mugs, which did not immediately have a destination right out of the kiln. This is really cool, of course, but also a little weird for me.

It's got to be good, though, that it makes me doubly motivated to get in the studio and make stuff. No matter how much I love making, full shelves always discourage me.

Next firing is, hopefully, September 24th. I know I always end up pushing it back, but I need to have a date to shoot for. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Unloading Day Plus the Secret to Success

Unloaded the kiln on Wednesday. I didn't take any formal shots of any of the pots, because almost everything needed to be packed up & shipped off right away, to The Cat Doctor, to Handworks, and now, to Gray Fox Gallery in Rockland.

The pieces toward the center back were a little dry - I used the same amount of soda but the shelves were in a different configuration to accommodate a bunch of plates for an upcoming show. (I needed five to be perfect, and I got five, but I'll still probably put 10 plates in the next firing, so I can choose the five most fabulous.) The shelf configuration affects the flame path, in this case limiting the amount of soda that got deposited in certain areas. A couple are so dry that I think it's worth refiring them. . 

And oh, BTW, I've discovered the secret to financial success...if by success we mean having enough money to pay everything on time and pay some extra to a credit card. And the secret seems to be work all the time.

This is not as bad as it sounds, but I'd be lying if I said I can keep it up forever. I get out of bed, get coffee, and start reading and answering email. Then I have breakfast and either go into the studio or off to teach whatever class or workshop is on offer that day, or to deliver pots. In the evening I send out invoices or do website work, lately for other people but sometimes for myself. Or I pack pots or soap to ship in the morning. Every day. No exceptions. For four months now.

I accept every class or workshop offered me. I spent my husband's 50th birthday running a raku workshop, and our wedding anniversary teaching classes. My own 50th birthday was a 12-hour glazing marathon. I've hardly blogged at all. I cancelled our Netflix account because we just haven't been using it. I haven't been out on the river all summer, and forget about the gym entirely. The laundry pile in my bedroom is possibly sentient. And for once, the big push is working. I guess that's what it takes: I finally stitched enough patches into the patchwork quilt of my income to get some traction (to mix a metaphor, somewhat nonsensically.) Could be worse: I could have done all that and STILL not had enough.

If I can keep it up for another month (assuming no surprises!) I can maybe relax a tiny bit, once I murder my smallest credit card balance. 

Tomorrow, though, I am taking a real day off. Tomorrow we are taking the canoe out on the Kennebec, with some refreshing beverages, plenty of sunscreen, and the camera. Cheers!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Karen's Clear

Karen's Clear ^10 (Reduction or Oxidation)

Custer Spar     2700
Whiting           2000
EPK                2000
Silica              3300

Bentonite          200

Good to go in soda. Dove gray over iron bearing claybodies, cool white to pale gray over white claybodies. Photos to come!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday was a busy day! In the morning I sorted, priced, and delivered pots for Quench, a new store in Belfast, Maine. The owner, jeweler Jennifer Lisa, got in touch with me last month. We met in December, during the Holiday Pottery Shop open house and were a Mutual Admiration Society from the start. Jennifer makes some amazing things. Belfast is a cute little town on the coast, nice for a day trip. Lots of unusual shops (my 2nd favorite is City Drawers!), restaurants, and pubs.
Afternoon and evening were my regular classes.

Today I unmolded my most recent soap! The scent is warm vanilla sugar, simple but one of my favorites. Like glaze, soap doesn't always do what you expect; in this case I had placed some sugar pearls on the top, which just got absorbed into the bar. They will still serve a function - sugar in soap helps make a nice lather. I had also expected the gold mica line to be more pronounced, but overall I have no complaints. Soap has to cure for a few weeks so this won't be usable until late September.
Today is also glazing, for my upcoming firing - either Friday (my birthday!) or Saturday.
And just before bed I hope to finish up another website, this one for my friend Diane Harwood of Mudgirl Pottery. I'll post the link when it's finished. 

And tomorrow? tomorrow will be household stuff: bill paying, grocery shopping, vacuuming, stuff like that. Also ordering signs for Maine Craft Weekend! That's not until October but preparations start now. Then meeting some friends for lunch before teaching my Thursday night class.

I'm pushing hard to get work out for my new accounts, and also doing website work, so time for blogging has been a bit limited! It's a good kind of busy, though, so no complaints here. Okay, one complaint: no time to work out! I might squeeze in a long walk after lunch tomorrow, just to get the blood flowing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Book!

Glaze: The Unltimate Ceramic Artists Guide to Glaze and Color
Kate Doody & Brian Taylor

I know Kate Doody and Brian Taylor from my Watershed days; Brian was a resident and Kate, summer staff. They were kids then (or seemed so to me...) but now they've gone and written a book! Can't wait to check it out.. Looks like potentially a great resource for students and more experienced potters alike.