Saturday, March 30, 2019

Off-Topic: Some Thoughts About Public Art

What makes you want to visit a city? I'd argue public art is instrumental in creating a sense of place, a uniqueness that draws people.
I hiked three miles across the city of Minneapolis to take a photo of the iconic Spoon Bridge. That was no hardship - I like to walk in cities I am visiting, and I like to have a specific destination. Which kind of proves my point: monumental and very visible art creates landmarks and reference points, and brings the city into focus. It interrupts the sameness of cities, in the same way that a focal point in a painting will do.
I wanted to take a photo of the Spoon Bridge, even though there are thousands of better photos of the Spoon Bridge online. I wanted to touch it (visually only!) and make it one of my places, in that way. The Spoon Bridge helps anchor my sense of place and sets Minneapolis apart from other cities I have visited. I've already forgotten the convention center and the airport (even though I am currently sitting in the airport!); the hostel was fine and interesting but could have been a crumbling mansion in any city. The Spoon, though? The Spoon defines the visit, though I was only there for a few minutes, and creates commonality between visitors. It's a shared, and memorable, experience.

Anyway. More public art please, cities! It's always what I remember about my stay.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Arthur Gonzales Sculpting a Hand

(This is cool - I saw Arthur demonstrating at the first NCECA I ever attended. )
Flatten ball, make hollow for palm. Makes life line and head line.

(Then I missed a whole bunch of stuff figuring out how I will be able to get the bus back the the hostel ugh this conference has been all logistics)

Make stand for sculpted hand, so fingers will stay upright once attached

You want the coil that becomes the fingers to be carrot shpaed, not undulating out & in. Fingers taper
Compare where the lines on your fingers land, how they line up (or don't ) with each other.

Sizes each finger to his own finger, puts in the lines, cuts at the widest part - where it attaches to the hand - at a 45 degree angle. Just spritzes, no scratching or slurrying. Cutting at angle naturally creates the crease where your finger meets your hand.
Takes clay from the middle of the bag because it's the wettest there.

Pinky finger attaches on a downward slope away from the others. Makes coil (like the others) with his own hands at opposites, right on top, fingers over left wrist. Making finger too curved "defeats the believability" of the finger. First knuckle straight, 2nd knuckle slightly bent. a relaxed hand.

Pokes a finger into the hand, pushes out from inside to fill out the fat part of the hand below the thumb. Notice difference of thumb: not a carrot. (I dunno, mine kinda is.) Only two section. Is attached at different angle.
Common error: attaching thumb too high, too close to finger. Double distance between index finger attachment & head line, that is the distance from index finger to thumb. Thumb has to attach so the pad side faces toward the fingers, not outward.

Palm first because that's where the muscles are, more detail. The knuckles on the back are defined by what's happening in the palm side.

Fingers are still pliable enough to bend, or squeeze pal, to create the gesture. He brings middle finger to touch thumb, straightens index a bit.  "It's communicating more"
Now he can look at his own hand in that gesture and see where lines and bulges occur. Adds a little bit of clay on the spot where the knuckle lands. Finger is three short straight lines with angles at the knuckles.

Adds clay where dents occur.
Arthur started sculpting hands in the mid 80s.
Question: Do you do life drawing?
A: Yes, but not as a studio practice. Teaches drawing, so sometimes does as part of class.

Back of hand looks puffy (beestung) Hand should round from side to side, straight lengthwise, along the bones.
Talks about how people will make BONES curve around the torso when they want the arm wrapped around, instead of making the flesh push in.
Paddles with the pinky side of his own hand back straight along the plane of the bones. Uses hand because "I don't have the patience to pick up a tool" but also because it makes everything soft & organic, no tool marks.
Will go back & make knuckles look more believable.

Cuts off the bottom edge to start with a fresh edge to make the wrist. Will make the wrist bend more, because the angle will make the shape more interesting, aesthetically pleasing "that's a very old rule."

As he adds coil he pushes on the inside. One coil at a time, not overlapping (snaking) one around. More control. Squeezes on outside to resize the wrist. Pinches to even the wall and create the desired shape.
Sprtiz, adds another coil.
(Oh I just realized people are making hands right along with Arthur at the tables near the front. Dammit I wish I'd been here for the beginning. )
Creates curve of wrist. "More dynamic" "How do you make a painting more interesting? Add angles. Your eye likes that."
How do you make a sculpture more intereting is add negative space. Why he made the thumb touch the middle finger, to creat the loop of negative space.
Uses fettling knife so the opening at the wrist is pointing in the right direction.

Makes lines of hand & wrist with his fingernails, because it is a soft line.
Adding third coil to wrist. Joins coil completely, no seam inside or outside, will create a vulnerability to cracking.
"That's the key, to everytime you make something, you have to look at it like you didn't make it. You have to see it. When you get to the point that you don't know what you are seeing 'I don't know whether this is good or bad' you have to stop. Take a break, go have lunch. When you come back you will see it right away. "
I guess they are going to take a photo with all the make-along hands? So I'm out. Super excited to be seeing my old studiomate, Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery and Tile tonight for drinks!

Thanks for following along with my NCECA notes. It's more fun with you along for the ride!

Oestreich & Peltz, Day 2 NCECA 2019

Jeff altering a leatherhard pot, Aysha throwing parts
Oestreich: My training (apprenticeship) gave me skills of how to make, how to photograph work, how to approach galleries, how to market, how to budget
Peltz: I didn't get that at all. We weren't supposed to do anything but artistic research. She found it freeing. Didn't have to worry about selling.

Oestreich: That's what graduate school gives you. Also 50K debt

Oestreich talking about wood firing. His fascination lasted 10 years, then it got exhausting, couldn't fire alone. Started altering, spending more time with each piece. in 1990, discovered oxidation soda at Alfred. "I'm beginning to miss some of that tradition," will be building a stoneware kiln.
Note: look for Nick's Misfire glaze

Aysha throwing an amazing bottle form, fluted with a trimming tool then puffed outward like a cushion.

Jeff talking about feeling a new interest in curved shapes, not so much sharp angles, the romance of a wood kiln.
Aysha now trimming heavily altered bowl from yesterday.

Audience question: Practice "How do you think about practicing playing music? " wait what
Jeff: "I feel there are so many similarities between music and clay." Talks about his music teacher making him learn the foundation before making music. Each pot practice for the next one. Don't fall in love with your idea because it's going to change.
Telling a story about Warren: He wasn't searching for the perfect pot, he was on a different adventure. When you look at one of Warren's pots, you could get a sense of what he was passionate about. Often you look at a pot & it doesn't create its own backstory.

Aysha: It's a knowing in the body...
Jeff: I know that with music I lose something if I am not able to play for a couple weeks. Clay is a different story, can pretty much just jump right back in even after months.
Aysha: "I have a hard time warming up to it, awakening the body memory," when she has been away from it for some time.  Has to go thru getting to know what my arms & body & fingers need to do.

Question: It seems like each potter maybe especially young ones are under need to make pots that would not be confused with somebody else's pots. Questioner doesn't think that was true in 1970s.
Jeff: More & more pressure as more & more people entering field, continuous pressure to be unique. Used to be a calming aesthetic that everyone was working towards, trying to retain a certain tradition. "The cup is the most difficult pot to personalize."

Aysha trimming double ring, scooping out excess weight to prevent differences in thickness between wall & floor. Aysha: had to opportunity to watch Voulkos work, so much fun to watch. The way that he used clay & made marks & was so thoughtful in the decisions he was making was important to see. Everything was slow & contemplative.
Questioner: Cheese cutter: take the original wire out, put a coiled wire in.
Jeff: Used a stretched spring first. Used one from a cigarette lighter, then one from an old ball point pen. Hardware stores, kitchen supply stores. "Linda Christiansen just uses 5 tools. I have a thousand tools."
Aysha: Also likes kitchen supply - can't find melon ballers or butter curlers anymore.

Questioner: Can you talk about finding your own voice after working at Leach Pottery
Jeff: It took 30 years. Had been saturated in the leach tradition since undergrad. Wasn't until he started to teach himself - that opened him up to be able to receive other expressions & take in otehr things. "The work I do now is coming from design principles. I miss hte pots that come from the heart. " "Design principles are what's fueling me."

ooo that plump bottle form Aysha threw is actually the lid of a jar! She's trimming it now.

Jeff: social security takes some of the pressure off to make as many pots, allows him to spend more time with each pot.
Aysha: using the pot as a chuck for the lid
Jeff: leaving seam visible, love when the pot tells something of its construction

Question: what was your hand movement when making the stretched vase yesterday?
Aysha: used sponge, makes sweeping motion. It;s body memory to know how to make the motion without hesitation.
Jeff: what I am thinking about now is how this will pour. though it may end up being decorative it still has to function. Function is at the core. Pitchers don't come together until the spout; the spout makes it or breaks it.
Aysha: Now making splash bowl. Demostrates new bat design from

Ayash centers large balls of clay like I do, in two pieces.
Jeff cutting a curve into the spout to make it relate to the curve of the body of the pot. Cuts a flat spot to attach the handle. SilverHut, where the St Croix Pottery Tour show is happening
"You have to learn to make handles the Leach way" Pulled directly from the pot.
Shapes fat coil roughly. Hugs Linda Arbucle.

Aysha throws with two sponges!

Jeff attaching coil to rim of pot, holding pot so coil hangs vertically

Aysha: This pot came out of making things the way I usually do, pushing mostly from the inside, so mcu evidence of building, was distracting. Labor & process were too evident. Started to think more about architecture. HOw could she try to introduce some of that into work.

Jeff's handle is much wider than I wold have expected. Snips bottom with scissors! before attaching. Jeff says his handle is not long enough, is crap. I dunno, looks good to me. He doesn't press the handle against the body but gently pushes so the handle just kisses the pot.

If I did that I'm pretty sure that handle would pop off.

He's now pushing upward on the curve of the handle, saying the pot is perky so the handle needs to be perky.

Aysha using butter curler to flute the interior of the bowl, to cause the glaze to pool & flow.

Ooops it's 4 o'clock & they are done!

Lecture: The Write Stuff - Megan Guerber

Learning to write a more effective artist's statement. Writing is a skill that can be learned

What is the point of artists' statements?
  • Explains your work when you aren’t there
  • Informs audiences what you made & why
  • Used by curators etc to know if work is a good fit
  • Used to promote show
  • Used by scholars, critics, students
  • Marketing tool
How to begin 
  • Write a draft
  • Revise draft
  • Check for spelling, grammar, formatting erros
  • Get feedback
  • Revise
  • Check for errors again
  • Writing an artists statement is an iterative process
     How to approach it:
  • Remember you are writing this for people who don't know anything about you or your work. Explain so anyone can understand your work
  • Write how you talk (use common language)
  • Write in the first person
  • Avoid generalize statemtns, especially ones that many artists share ("I love color!") Be specific. Focus on the important ideas you are expressing
  • Be honest. Work doesn't have to provide the meaning of life to be valuable or interesting. If your work is about perfecting handles, say that.
  • You don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can follow the structure of an artists' statement that you like. Use template?

  • Free write
  • Or free talk! Explain your work to a friend to clarify your ideas
  • When starting draft, focus on clarity rather than spelling or grammar
  • Get your thoughts down first

To get ideas, read alot

  • Other artists' statements
  • Books, magazines (Ceramics Monthly has lots of artist-statement-y articles)
  • Articulate storytellers

Questions to ask yourself when writing

  • Why did I make this work? What response do I hope to invoke?
  • What do people need to know to understand this work?
  • Explain references you make in your work, technique, materials
  • Which aspects of my work are most important for people to take away?
  • People have limited time, be concise & get to what you really want people to know
  • You aren't trying to impress. You are trying to communicate
  • How would you explain your art to your grandpa
  • Imagine a person who isn't a part of your inner circle, nor in the clay world

Examples of artists' statements

  • Risa Pumo: I make…I like to think about…I hope to create…The key to understanding my work
  • Ayumo Horie: My work attempts to…I use ____as a form to…
  • Doug Johnson: I have been focused on…The work utilizes ------history….I have worked to build a vocabulary


  • First sentence: what do you make
  • 2nd: Why do you make it? What inspires you?
  • What do people need to know to understand your work
  • Why does you work matter today? How does it fit into the world?


  • Wait at least a half hour, better longer
  • Get spelling & grammar right

Get feedback

  • Be sure to ask pointed questions to get the feedback you need
    • What do you understand about the intent of this work
    • Are there parts you don't understand
    • What is your takeaway?
  • Feedback isn't personal
  • The goal of your statement is to convey the meaning of your work, it's not an art object itself
  • Even editors need editors

A Jumble of Pots

Went to three openings last night - the Northern Clay Center, the Vine Arts Center (which is, in fact, covered in vines!) and the Potters of the St Croix Valley. I didn't take a lot of photos - there were too many people - but I took some. I should probably have carefully documented who each artist was, etc, but maybe this way is better - it gives a sense of the swirl of wonderful pots & potters all around, far too many to hold all the names in your head.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

NCECA notes: Building a Marketing Funnel - Paul Blais

"Using social media to funnel customers to the checkout"
In spite of my somewhat snarky commentary, I found this talk the most useful thing I attended at this conference so far!
oh wait i know this guy, he's the potter's cast guy
Topics: marketing & social media
Picking up where the art degree ends - figuring out the business part of being an artist
 yeah this is right up my alley
Instagram, how do you translate it into sales?

  • New world? 30% of sm businesses still don't have a website, but practically all artists do. If you're selling, you are a business. 
    • Business 
    • People are on the web. 89% of Americans are online. Spend 24 hr a week online. 
    • Money Retail sales online in trillions "The spout where the money comes out"
    • If you build it they won't come unless you bring them there
  • Social Media strategy
    • You can be hyper specific: gender, age range, zip code,interests - okay but HOW Paul
    • Can be location independent OKAY BUT HOW PAUL 
    • We build community
      • Access - to you, your audience, to your field
      • Community: talk to each other, learn the needs, foster belonging
      • Learn the needs: figure out what someone wants & needs in order to sell to them
      • Foster sense of belonging - concept of branding. We can start to cultivate w soc media
      • 3 rules*: 
        • Don't be stupid
        • Don't be boring
        • Don't be a jerk
          • Suggestion: engage jerks, turn relationship around. Doesn't always work. Or at least, you don't be a jerk, even if they are. 
        • Growing followers:
          • All of social media is about being social. Ask questions, reply to other people's posts
          • Giveaways & contests - ask people to follow you to win. 
      • Knowing what's up - why do people go on social media
        • FB to check in w friends
        • LinkedIn - checking opportunities
        • Pinterest - inspiration
        • Checking out
        • Twitter - what's happening in the world
        • YouTube - check all the boxes
      • How long does content last? 
        • Twitter 19 minutes
        • FB - 5 hours
        • insta 21 hours
        • Linked 24 hours
        • Youtube 20+ days
        • Pinterest - 4 months (frm personal experience - sometimes much longer! I get visits from Pinterest to posts I made years ago. )
      • What to do
        • Twitter: think news, schedule your use
        • FB Think Me & you, engage, pics & videos
        • Insta: eye candy. participation is big, time your posts (every 2 hours? yeahno, not doing that) Google when's the best time
        • LinkedIn Think "work", Career angles
        • YouTube: Education & entertainment, be concise, title it well
        • Pinterest: inspiration, Double-dip IFTTT, you can change link destination to sales page
        • Hashtags: think findable, unique matters, Don't cluttery, put hashtags AFTER the post
      • Your website
        • Best social media! wait what
          • It's your property, your rules
          • Powerful? (hmm) 
          • What is the purpose
            • Communicate
            • Connect
            • Collect
            • Commerce
  • The Funnel 
    • Conversion - moving person into an action
      • Ask + do = conversion
        • Convey: tell them what your product is about & what you have for them
        • Convert: become a follower or a buyer
        • Continue
      • Customer
        • Attracted
        • Award (with email address, sale, purchase...)
        • Await what you do next
      • Convey & Convert is a lot of work, continue is easier. 
    • Building the funnel
      • Know who you are talking to
        • Hashtags
          • Don't just use clay-related :#iwantthis #coffeeshops, etc, to find audience
          • What are you specifically asking people to do?
            • Ask explicitly for comments or likes. (I'm from Maine, I'm probably not gonna do that)
            • A specific goal in evey post
              • New followers
          • The Bio is important, apparently. Make sure website link is in the bio
        • Your website is the hub. The goal of social media is to get them to your website. Get them onto our email list. 
    • Separate personal & business accts? Maybe, not nec
    • Don't use Etsy! You are building Etsy's business, not yours. 
    • The more engagement, the more people will see a post
    • reaching other than potters: interior decorators, gardeners, cooks
*Am I wrong or are these rules super obvious? "Oh, don't be boring, what a great idea, I never would have thought of that" "Don't be stupid? Damn it, I've been doing this all wrong."

Oestreich & Pelt, NCECA 2019

Jeff Oestrich keepin it real: his income still only about 25K. Ayasha Peltz also speaks of having an alternative source of income (making & selling bats w a punch press?), & accepting that you'll never have much money, in exchange for very satisfying work.
[I guess I don't suck as much as I thought.]
Oestrich speaking of learning to do things yourself - carpentry, etc. Also of the clay community supporting each other.
"Instagram Potter"…is that a thing?

Peltz discussing thin glazing to let the form through, not "encasing" the pot in glaze. Talking aboutr choosing the right pot for the qualities of the glaze. 2 coats thin glaze, skim milk consistency. Matt glaze with more saturated color, layered with more fluid less-colorant glaze.

"Things at their most ripe." "right now the work is feeding itself" >>I know this feeling very well.

Both acknowledge the difficulty of pricing..."All this work for not a lot of money" ..."We both just hit this 'this is nuts' stage a couple times a year.

Oesteich using a piece of stiff clear plastic on the rim of a freshly thrown pot to float the spacing tool.  >>Good idea

Peltz describes different shapes of glaze container - a pvc pipe with a plastic bat glued to the bottom, to dip a tall vase. Dips pot in clean water before dipping in runny glaze.

A question about safety. Oestrich telling stories about the CRAZY bad safety risks that were just ordinary decades ago.

Pelts talking about having enough bats influencing work - leaving the pots stuck to the bat to be able to push firmly to create altered volumes. She likes masonite (hardboard) bats. (I hate them personally, they warp pretty much instantly.)
Pelts throwing porcelain now. Speaks of how her early strategies for dealing with insufficient skill grew into her aesthetic - faceting, folding, stretching, stacking.

Oestreich, re pinterest & the like: "Maybe there's too many resource now; it's like trying to take a sip from a fire hose." Interesting thought! Does it make it harder for one's aesthetic to develop independently?
Jeff mixes his own clay for control - softer, or add grog. "I mix my own, and I let it age for about 15 minutes" LOL "I don't like clay that's really plastic, it feel slimy." "I like to have to struggle a bit"

Aysha : I'm exactly the opposite, I want clay that's really plastic, so I can stretch it & it won't crack.

She's speaking of making vases but thinking about form instead of how flowers would look in them: form before function.
Oestreich cut only part of the bottom to oval the piece!
Peltz compressing facets with the rib.
Oestreich faceting with what looks like a 10" kitchen knife.
OMG you guys you should see Aysha Pelts EMBRACE THE WONK here
Oestreich speaks of over doing "you can kill the freshness."
Peltz, working in series - The first one is a reminder of the process.
Oestreich:" one thing I think about often is when an idea is over.""It's very hard to let go of an idea that you've got a lot of mileage out of."
OMG Jeff Oestreich teaches at the Northern Clay Center! I used to teach there.

Is anyone selling a cheese cutter-like clay faceting tool?

Peltz facets bottom-up.
Oestreich says anyone who has used a Leach wheel for decades has a bad right hip. Good to know!
Peltz: I do all my altering right after having thrown them, it's about trying capture this wetness. " Warns of messiness & overworked qualities.
Oestrich making a really great, angular faceted foot with his fettling knife.
Peltz: "I want this to be like it just grew into this shape, like I didn't have to do anything"
Oestreich: "If I say 'that's good enough', that's my red flag. It has to be 100%. It just has to."

oops lunch time more later.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Minneapolis in the Early Spring

What to pack? Probably not sunscreen, I guess.

Checking the 10-day forecast, I see it's predicted to be well above freezing, and cloudy, during the NCECA conference, parka necessary, either.

I don't fly. I mean, I don't not fly, either; it's just, this is only the second time in the last 20 years that I'll be getting on a plane, so the rules and rituals associated with it seem arcane to me. I have to get to the airport two hours early? So, at 3:45 AM? I have to pay to check a bag - super inconvenient but tons of space in the plane- but can carry one on for free - super convenient, but very limited space on the plane - how does that make sense? I can bring shampoo, but only in particular-sized bottles, gotta go look up how small the bottles need to be...

Speaking of carry-on bags: the rules say 45 linear inches, which, if I am reading them correctly (BIG IF HERE) means I add the measurements in each dimension & it has to add up to 45 inches or less. This suitcase measures 22 x 13 x 9, so 44. Will that gormy* thing fit in the overhead compartment? The airline says so, it must be so.

Mustn't forget to pack my contribution to NCECA's fundraiser cup sale! Just got it out of the kiln at Portland Pottery this morning:
Actually it's not all that hard being green, Kermit
If you won't be at the conference but you really like this mug, you can also get one in my online shop, while they last. 🙂

*A Maine word meaning clumsy or ungainly, or awkward-because-oversized.

Are you ready for Mug Season?

The month of April may be Mud Season in the rest of Maine, but in Kennebec County, it's MUG SEASON!! The artists of CMCA join up with local coffee shops in this annual fundraiser to support local arts programming. Last year we were able to offer more than $500 in support of arts education in Central Maine. Buy a handmade mug for only $20, and get a your cup of coffee free at these participating coffee shops.
If the Maine Pottery Tour were a movie, Mug Season would be the trailer.

The Central Maine Clay Artists - the potters' guild who organizes this event - got together last night to tag & sort the mugs. As usual when potters get together it was laughter & work in an equal balance. 
I love how, in every picture I have of Robbi, she's laughing.
Visit her at Maple Lane Pottery during the pottery tour & see for yourself!

So, what's in Mug Season for you? Well, free coffee for one thing, and a chance to pick up a mug from one of your faves for only $20. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Maine Pottery Tour!

March is when my work organizing the Maine Pottery Tour really ramps up. Some of it is tedious - writing press releases, sending emails nagging potters for money or photos - but some is really fun! For example, I love making the postcards each year.

Just finished the image for 2019! Now I need to write the blurb for the back (probably just a minor re-work of what I wrote last year), figure out how many we need, and place the order. All that takes longer than it should (doesn't everything?) but I expect cards to be in mailboxes by mid-April. Or maybe there's a marketing person out there who cold tell me: is it better to wait? If they arrive too early, people will forget. If they arrive too late, people won't have time to plan. So: what's the optimum time for an announcement of an event to arrive via snail mail? A week before? Two weeks before?
In addition to the postcards, press releases, and our usual social media blitz, this year we have a sponsorship campaign on Maine Public Radio. Beginning in mid-April, we will have 18 spots on various Maine Public & Maine Public Classical programs. My thinking is, we need to reach people who are not already connected with one of the studios on the tour.

If you'd like to be on the mailing list - snail- or e-  - shoot me an email at

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mugs and Minis to the Rescue

I got chatting with a far-off potter online yesterday, while I was waiting for my kiln to cool. Foolishly, I said it had been years since I needed a trash can nearby while I unloaded. I forgot about the demons! The five demons devoted to the tormenting of potters. One of them must have heard me, because this was a moderately crappy firing, and some pots were fit for nothing but the bin.
There's no saving these losers. 

Eh. It happens. But the kiln gods also giveth, even as they taketh away: the items I really needed - mugs for the upcoming Mug Season event - those were fine. More than fine, those were beautiful!
For now these are only available at Mug Season coffee shops. :)
Here are a few of them . Another blessing? I had enough good mini vases alone to pay for the propane. A third: most of the unhappy pots can be refired. It was a pretty windy day, the day I fired the kiln, and I think the wind sucked the soda vapor out of the kiln too quickly for it to really circulate around well. As a result, some of the pots had one juicy side, and one quite dry.

I spent the afternoon photographing the pots that were not immediately needed elsewhere, and posting them to the shop. Got a couple new bargain  demo pots, too. Check it out here! Remember to scroll down for the 2nds & Demos section.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Waiting Almost Patiently

Tomorrow is unloading day, always my favorite day! The kiln is probably cool enough to unload now, but I don't want to rush it - I've got classes to teach in Portland this afternoon - and the upper shelves may still be a bit too hot. I couldn't refrain, however, from reaching my arm thru the spy & pulling out this mini vase! I'm even more eager to see the rests of the load now.

Monday, March 18, 2019

FINALLY: Mug Rounders 4U!

Remember, like, a year ago (no, it was more than that...) when I told you I'd made myself a new tool? The Mug Rounder works like this:
This looks like a job for...The MUG ROUNDER!!
Oooo, look it's round again!
Press it in, lightly collar the rim inward towards the rounder, give it a little spank & a twist, and presto! Your inadvertent wonk has been corrected. (Also a good option: Embrace the Wonk!)

If you throw, you could easily make one, of course, but if you don't, or just don't feel like making your own, waiting through a bisque cycle, could always buy one of mine! I finally got around to listing them in my online shop. To be fair to myself, the main reason I didn't was because I was selling them to friends & students. I've caught up with the lucrative people-I-know market, so now I can offer them to the world at large. 😊

Sunday, March 17, 2019

First Firing 2019

I always think I am going to get tons done during a firing. I have all day, and I have to be home for the kiln! In practice I'm lucky if I get a couple of loads of laundry done, and maybe scoop the litterboxes. The flame is so pretty! and I am so tired form the couple of day so intense work that precede the firing.
Here's the back pressure shortly after adding the last soda load for this firing. Just waiting for that last cone to fall now.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Checking in: 19 for '19

Back in January, following a suggestion I heard on a podcast, I made myself a list of 19 things I want to do in 2019. Some are one-time experiences ("NCECA") and others are habits I want to acquire or maintain. Mid-March seems like a good time to check in with myself and see how well I am progressing with these goals. Some, of course, I can't tell how I'm doing; how do I know if I am doing well or poorly on #2, for example. "At least one canoe trip?" It's still winter. Some others, tho, I can judge:

Pedal 100 miles a week - this is probably my most successful resolution, made possible by the Fitdesk, which I am pedaling right now! Usually I do about 120 miles a week, and I really hate to break my streak, so I'll make an extra push if it looks like I am going to fail. 

Finish the kitchen counter - Working on it. 

Learn how to felt soap - Haven't gotten to this yet, but I'm optimistic

Get credit card down to 7K - Making enough progress that it looks like this will happen, barring some disaster. 

One social thing per month - This is actually the hardest one for me! I failed at this in February, unless a funeral counts as a "social thing." I have plans for 2 in March (counting seeing friends at NCECA) to make up it. 
Studio work & firings on schedule - I need to actually write the schedule to know if I am sticking to it! So, yeah, can't count this as a success, not yet. 
Declutter hallway desk - Haven't gone anywhere near it. ☹️

20 hrs per week in the studio - This I have been doing pretty well, although I did amend it to include photographing & delivering work. 

Use Instagram better for business - I've been using it more; i don't know if I've been using it better

5 postcards to voters per month - I am 3 for 3 on this! Win!

Almost-daily 2 minutes of yoga - C+...but that reminds me [unfurls mat...]

1 blog post /wk - Pretty close!

Drink more water - I'd say I'm drinking the same amount of water, but spending less on it, as I am now in the habit of keeping a jug in the refrigerator. Half credit? 

Increase online sales - This has been a successful effort! I could still get better, but it helps to list more stuff & share the links to the listed stuff. That should be obvious, I guess, but I tool the resolution to make me do it regularly. 

NCECA - Got everything lined up to go! 

Brush + floss teeth 2ce daily - I'm embarrassed that this even has to be on the list, but I noticed that when I get really busy, sometimes I forget, especially the flossing. Having it on the list has been a huge improvement. I know I should do it 3 times a day, and sometimes I do, but twice seemed like a more manageable goal, again especially the flossing.  

All in all I am pretty pleased with myself. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trying Something New: Nichrome Wire

Nichrome is a non-magnetic alloy of nickel and chromium. The wire made from it is commonly used by potters for kiln repair, such as the little pins that hold elements in place in an electric kiln. It may also be the material of the elements themselves...I didn't dive that deep. I have used it to hold kiln wool (ins wool or kao wool) in place by making flat stoneware disks with holes in them, then pushing the wire through both the wool & the button, and twisting it in place. 

Recently I have been playing around with a different use for it - as handles or decorative elements on pottery. Nichrome wire will easily withstand ^10 (okay, maybe not "easily!" It will bend if you make big loops or place weight on it, as with bead stands.) I just push the wire into the clay at early leatherhard, then smooth a little clay over the holes. 

Using needle nose pliers, I bend the wire like this:
The little hook-shapes on the ends insure that the wire will not pop out after the piece is fired.

I can see that there are some trade offs in utility - it would be a bad idea to put this piece in the microwave, for instance - I love the tension of the delicate (and yet sort of industrial!) linear element of the wire versus the mass and solidity of the clay.

I have ideas about this - like, could I make a loop handle on a lid & maybe thread a clay bead on it? Would that stand up? - and will be playing around with it more eventually. I have to put it on hold for a few weeks, though - got a firing this weekend, then next week is all grinding, sorting, pricing, packing, & delivering, then after that NCECA! - but I wanted to record it here so I remember to come back to this idea.

This butter dish is available in the 2nds & Demos section of my online store

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Demos & Seconds & One-offs, Oh My!

Every pottery teacher amasses demos. I teach 5 classes, all mixed skill levels, so I make a lot of demo pots. I don't fire all of them, but I do a lot of glazing demos, also, so many of them do eventually emerge a a finished product. It's the nature of teaching that I teach many techniques and forms that are not in my usually body of work, and also, I don't do the types of detail work - sanding the bottoms, for example - that I do on what I think of as my "real" work.

In addition, my firing method - soda-firing - generates a fair amount of seconds. Pasty, not-enough-glaze pots, big blobs of soda in unfortunate places, warps, minor cracks...all of those fall in the category of aesthetic seconds: flaws that don't compromise the function of the piece.

What to do with all these oddballs? In the summer I sell many of them from my front yard "pottery stairs," but in the winter they just pile up. Since one of my 19 for 2019 was to increase online sales, I decided to offer these imperfect-but-fine pieces a place in my online store. Upside: maybe sell some pots! Downside: photographing & listing takes time - way more time than just sticking them on shelves in the yard & letting them sell themselves. It may turn out to be not worth it. Also, the flaws do not decrease the cost of shipping, so they are not as much of a bargain for online shoppers as they are for drive-bys. In spite of these, I decided to give it a try. Here are the pots I've listed so far:

Serving Bowl w Green Dots, $30
(Some of the dots are smudged)

The flaw is the blotch, obviously! But this one is nevertheless my favorite. 

Green quilted mug, $22
I got distracted while doing this demo for my class, and mis-spaced one of the quilting lines.
See that funky diagonal? That's what I get for trying to do too many things at once. 

We'll see how it goes. Worst case, they don't sell, and will find homes when summer comes.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Wax Erosion

I've been demonstrating this technique in my classes this week: wax erosion. The short of it is, you apply wax in an image or pattern to bone-dry ware, then wipe with a sponge. Wherever the wax is will not erode, wherever the wax is not will. This creates a low-relief surface. You can do several layers - foreground, middle ground, background - for an illusion of depth.
Starts with a porcelain greenware cup
First layer of wax
I want to say a word about wax, here. I've used paraffin in the above picture, but the cup at the top of the post was made using water-based wax. The paraffin is harder and doesn't rub off as easily, but it has drawbacks too (besides fire danger) which we will see in a minute.
After rubbing with wet sponge
I wipe the surface of the pot with a wet sponge. The wax resists the eroding action of the water, while the clay around it gets worn away, leaving a raised pattern. Careful not to use too much water! If your greenware absorbs water too quickly it will crack.
More wax, on top of or around the first wax
More wiping...
Now, waaay over do it & wipe right through the wall of the pot!
You can skip that step if you don't feel like being a giant fuck-up. This, though, was the disadvantage of the paraffin wax; because you can wipe away a lot of clay before it starts to remove the paraffin, wiping all the way through the porcelain is possible. That would be a lot harder to do using water-based wax, because you either have to create a much shallower relief, or stop every minute or so, examine the pot, and re-apply wax where it has begun to erode.
Here are the two side by side! Water-based wax on the left, paraffin wax on the right.
 The wax - either kind - will of course just burn away in the bisque. I'm thinking celadon or clear glaze, or maybe just let the soda vapor do its thing.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Spring 2019, Coming Up Sooner Than You Think!

A few of the Central Maine Clay Artist, the group responsible for Mug Season!
In one of my favorite signs of spring, the Central Maine Clay Artists have begun preparation for Mug Season, during which we partner with local coffee shops to raise money for school arts programs. Customers buy a mug at a crazy-good price ($20 for mugs that usually sell for $36) and get their coffee free. Mug Season runs for the month of April. (That reminds me! Updating that website is on my rather long to-do list for today.)

But before we get to that, I've got NCECA to think about! Super excited to be heading back to my old stomping grounds in Minneapolis (well...close to my grounds. I actually lived in St. Paul.) In addition to seeing the folks I only see at NCECA, I hope to see friends whose smiles I have been missing since September 2000, when I drove that U-Haul outta town, dragging the Dauntless, my old Dodge Caravan, behind it.

And after Mug Season, there's the Maine Pottery Tour!  I'm already working to get that organized. The weekend is May 4th & 5th this year. I organize the tour every year, so lots to do for that! If you are a Maine potter who would like to be a part, give me a shout at Do it quick, tho - the deadline is any minute now.

It was a hard winter in many ways; it's not over, not really. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It'll be busy in the studio, for the next few weeks.

Busy is good.