Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Beautiful Balloon Basket

Woven clay baskets present some challenges. Because there's a lot of air space, they obviously don't hold up well without support, at least until late leatherhard. Building within a mold is one solution, but gravity works against you: the horizontals stick to the verticals and complicate matters. You can build over a plaster or clay hump mold but then there is a very narrow window between "dry enough to stand on its own" and "oops, shrank too much and cracked around the mold."

Answer? Balloon molds! Balloons come in many shapes and sizes. The great advantage of them is that they are compressable, to accommodate the shrinkage of the clay, and they naturally shrink over time as they lose air. You can leave your clay basket over the mold all the way to bone-dry if you wish. Here's my demo from class:

Like a lot of my demos, I didn't spend a lot of time on spiffying up the details of this pot; mostly I wanted to offer the technique to my students. I used flattened coils, but you could extrude straps if you prefer a more consistent look. It begins with draping the verticals over the balloon. I use short-ish coils, and attached them at the "top" - really the bottom - but you could use longer straps and have them hang down on either side. 

Then I wove the horizontal pieces over and under the verticals. This is much easier than when you are building inside a mold, because you can get the vertical coil entirely out of the way, and put the horizontal piece exactly where you want it. The rubber of the balloon is just tacky enough to hold the coil in place until you put the vertical piece back down. I score and slurry at each contact point (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)

When I have all the cross-pieces laid down, I fold the remaining length of vertical strap over the last horizontal piece.
Last, I attach a flattened coil to be the foot. A thing I did not do, that you should: level this piece while it is still on the balloon! Place a bat or light board on the coil once it is leatherhard, and a level on top of that; shave away clay as needed to balance the bubble.
(Mudtools makes a great tool for doing the shaving. Love this tool!)

 And violet! Or something.Did you find this post helpful? Buy me a coffee!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Misty Water-Colored Memories

This photo recently appeared in my Facebook feed. It's my graduate school cohort, in 1992 (I think?), at the Wagner Complex, which was where the art department of SIUE was housed back then.Wagner is where my passion for clay really took root. That's me, in the middle, in the light-colored dress.

So many faces, so many old friends! Some I am still in touch with, some I had forgotten, one who died tragically young. It was an intense time! A community of artists, engaged every day in the practice of clay...The way I remember it, we were utterly immersed. We ate,drank, and slept clay. It was magic.

I've never done anything quite like it since then. Now I am daydreaming of a Watershed-session reunion of this group.
Good times.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Done List

I'm a big list maker. Without them I sort of flail around, starting things and then getting distracted. I keep my lists on paper - going to my phone or computer to check a list just gives me another opportunity to get distracted. Usually, I have one to-do list, divided into sections reflecting current goals and priorities. Today, for example, looked like this:

A reasonably doable and balanced to-do list, right? Here's how my done list reads: 

  • Dishes
  • Change bedding 
  • 2 loads laundry
  • Make soup
  • Unclog bathroom sink
  • Clean litterboxes
  • Pay CC1
  • Check balances


Notice anything out of balance? Yeah, me too. Now granted, it's only 10:30 in the morning; plenty of time to get some studio & fitness items in. The point is that I tend to prioritize home tasks over fitness or studio goals. The financial stuff gets done, too, because there are immediate consequences for not doing so, but, ya know, there are no immediate consequences of putting off changing the bedding a few more days. On the other hand I've put that particular task of several times now, and some day has to be the day I do it. None of the items on the "Home" list are busy work; they all needed to be done. It does kind of point up, though, why I never seem to have enough studio time, or workout time for that matter: I put everything else first. I don't think today is an anomaly; quite the opposite. 

The Done List was a very useful exercise for me! I have to be mindful to prioritize my priorities, or, put more simply, put first things first. 

I can now add "Blog Post" to my Done List! Now to off to the studio, to even things out a bit. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Location: Stable on Front, Bath, Maine

In keeping with my goal to add a new account every shopping season, Fine Mess Pottery will now have work at Stable on Front, a fine craft store in Bath, Maine.

SOF is owned by an artist, Caroline Davis, and her background informs the mix of work on display. She carries two other ceramicists, Liz Proffetty and Tyler Gulden, both fine potters and good friends of mine.

I feel so good about Caroline, the aesthetic of the store, and the company I'd be keeping, that  I broke a couple of my rules: first, I agreed to do consignment. I don't rule consignment out entirely, but I much prefer wholesale, for practical reasons - a check in hand - and squishier ones: I think the store is works harder to sell pieces if they are literally invested in them. It's a reflection of how much they believe in the work.

This store is also relatively new. I've had relatively new stores go an entire seasons without sending me a check; I've  had stores have no idea what they actually sold until I came in to check. I've had stores vanish with my pots. These are all reasons I avoid new stores. But Caroline has been involved with retail through the Stable Gallery in Damariscotta, of which this is an offshoot; she is not what you'd call a flight risk. Also, Bath is only a half hour from me, I can easily stop in the bring new inventory or just to see how things are going.
It's spring, time once again for list-making and goal-setting! Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

And The Winner Is...

The 2016 Maine Pottery Tour is officially at an end.

We had great weather: warm & sunny Saturday, cooler but dry Sunday - the predicted rain held off until this very minute. I had more visitors than last year, but about the same in sales (EDIT: After I counted it all up, it was actually a bit more, about 25% more.) I sold a lot of studio seconds & bargain pots. I am quite content to sell those pots instead of "firsts" - I have other places I can sell the firsts, but the seconds I only sell out of the studio. (Well: Portland Pottery does hold a sidewalk sale event year, and I put a few second-pots in that.)

I also made a contact for a possible workshop, got the name Fine Mess Pottery out to hundreds if not thousands of people, and made some new friends. And - I shit you not - somebody actually did hop on a plane to visit!
Patty & me
Patty Magdziarz of Paradise Bay Pottery came from Arlington Heights, Illinois, to visit several studios on the tour. We should have had a prize for furthest-travelled! Thanks, Patty, for making the trip.

One of the potters on the tour - Cathie Cantara of Homeport Pottery in Kennebunkport had a piece featured in today's's Boston Globe! We don't know for sure how they found her, but I did just send information about the potters on the tour - inlcuding links to out websites - to several lifestyle reporters for the Globe. Maybe it did some good!

And last but not least, the winner of the soda-fired stoneware casserole: Heather Abt, of Portland! Heather was the very first visitor I had Saturday morning, right at 10 am, which set the tone for a successful event! Thanks, Heather, for visiting, and I will deliver your prize next week!