Remember the 90s? I sure do. We wore old flannel shirts and called it fashion. The bands had the best names: Alice in Chains. Radiohead. Rage Against The Machine. We argued in the public sphere over Keynesian vs Lockean economics (not "what are facts?" LOL) And in business, the buzzword was "value-added." It refers to increasing prices by increasing the usefulness, features, or appeal or the items sold. As a hand-maker of functional items, maximizing the appeal and utility of my ware is a given. That's in my studio work.
I have a whole other hoard of pots taking up shelf space in my basement: the demos I do for my classes at Portland Pottery. I don't fire all my demos, but many I do, either because I need to do a glazing demo, or I just liked the pot; or because I hate to waste them. Many are simple one-serving bowls, because I do that demo alot, but others are odd sizes and shapes whose function does not immediately spring to mind. I often sell demos for very short money from the Pottery Stairs, a little stand in my front yard. Staying afloat in this business has sometimes required me to use a little ingenuity: time to try a little 90s-style upselling!
Enter a 10-lb bag of soy wax. I already have several scents, which I use for soap making. In fact this whole project started when I decided to make myself a chocolate scented candle. I love the smell of chocolate even more than I love the taste, so in keeping with my New Year's Resolutions of self-care, I set out to make myself a present.
This pot started its life as a square rolled slab, with four squares cut out of the corners. It has a wonky charm, but it's small and oddly proportioned; no obvious use comes immediately to mind. I like it (small and oddly proportioned are part of its appeal, for me.) Now it is a chocolate scented candle.
It's burning right now, breathing out its sweet soothing scent. Seemed like a good day to practice some self-love. I didn't use a colorant, because for brown that's powdered cocoa, and I was afraid it might make the candle smoky.
I had some (well: approximately a shit-ton) of wax left over, and lots of little bowls and oddball pots, so hey, while I already had the mess out, decided to make a bunch more candles. I went with chocolate and coconut, the scents I have the most of.
These four are coconut:
I position the wick first. Usually it stays upright, but if it gives me any lip, I melt a bit of beeswax in the bottom using the microwave, and stick the metal plate on the wick to that. Once the wick is in place, the microwave is no longer an option! The wick has a little metal disc at the bottom of it.
With the wick standing upright, I scoop the wax flakes into the pot, and then pour about a tablespoon of fragrance over the wax. Then I put it in a baking pan or cookies sheet, and heat it in the oven, to about 275. Soy wax melts at a pretty low temp. When it's melted, it will fill in the air spaces (like silica fusing in a clay body during a firing) so the level of wax will drop. I top it off and then put it back in the oven.
These have a tiny sprinkle of gold mica, just to distinguish them from the chocolate candles, But then - duh - I should be able to tell by the smell! Soy wax melts at a low temperature, so when the wick has burned down, it's easy to pour out the remaining wax. Run the pot through the dishwasher, and you've got a fresh clean bowl, to use for anything you want.
My hope is to sell these value-added pots, which previously went for $3 - $5, for $10 - $16, depending on size. I'll post a few online, if we ever get a day sunny enough for me to take decent photos.
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.