Saturday, May 8, 2021

Hello 21st Century! I am in you.

Somebody cash-app'd me money for a purchase from the pottery stairs! That was a real thing, that happened. I added Cash App ($FineMessPottery) as an option to pay, because I think some of the money that doesn't find its way back to me is because the buyer just forgets. Cash App, being immediate, fixes that problem. 

Other stuff has happened, too: the pottery tour was an amazing success - we promoted the heck out of it, both paid & earned publicity; but also, I think the social moment contributed a great deal. People have been dying to get out & do things, they have a little stimulus money and some pent up demand, many people in Maine are vaccinated, and it was a mostly outdoor event. Whatever the reason, I and most of the studios who have checked in had more visitors & sales than in previous years - we had more than twice as much in sales as we usually have. We were digging out old dusty boxes of forgotten pots, just to keep the shelves full. 

So that was fun.

There's always a moment right around mid-April (usually right after I get a "But I don't WANNA use dropbox! Why can't you do the extra work?" email) that I think: fuck this, I'm out. This is the last year I am doing this. But then the event happens & it's so fun & it makes me so happy to do well & to see the other studios do well, and by the last day I am thinking, Can't wait til next year! 

This year is that in spades. 

Tomorrow is Mother's Day - my family will be all together for the first time in a year and a half! Burgers & dogs, salad & yogurt parfaits - nothing fancy. Just so happy to have a chance to be together. 

Hope your spring is also going aces. XO

Thursday, April 22, 2021

I will never not be a fck up

I got so much done yesterday! In addition to laundry & dishes & all the never-ending household crap, I created an ad for the Maine Pottery Tour (running in the KJ & Waterville Sentinel 4/25 & 4/30! More on that later) I got the bisque loaded, & did a 4-hour daytime candle before beginning the firing proper. Only then did I notice...I forgot to put in the cones! 

UGH! Luckily I left myself some time, on the assumption that nothing ever goes smoothly. I turned off the burners, waited until morning, and then carefully placed the cone pack - on the side that I could reach - thru the spy hole. I could do a very short candle, because the moisture had already been driven off; no problem. 
But the day dawned windy as hell, and I have been fighting one burner fluffing out all day. I basically built a fence of junk around it to shield it from the wind, and it seem s to be working, because 012 is falling. FINALLY. I have more flexibility in my bisque than some potters, but I'd like to get 08 to fall. 

I can always tell when I am trying to do too much, because I start forgetting things & making little mistakes. I set up the coffee maker but forget to put the water in. I send off a bill, then notice the check still on the table. I start a bisque but forget to put in the cones. 

Anyway! Soon this cursed bisque will be off & cooling. Still plenty of time (LOL) to glaze, load, and squeeze out a firing before the pottery tour. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Maine Pottery Tour: Download the Map!

Correction: mapS. The tour is divided into 3 regions: Central, Coastal, & Southern. As you can imagine there are no clear boundaries for regions, & studios like to be grouped with others close to them - it makes it easier to share publicity & send visitors to your neighbor - so we have ended up with a few oddities like a Harpswell studio not being in the "Coastal" region, and studios in Bethel & Paris being in the Central region, despite those places being in Western Maine. (I would actually love to have a Western region, I just feel like we need more than 3 studios to constitute a "region." )

Here are the links to download printable maps: 

Central region

Coastal region

Southern region

If you've got one of those newfangled, ever-so-clever phones, you connect it to the online map to plan your pottery road trip. Find that at this link. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

So What is Aesthetic Tension Anyway?

In my upper level classes I talk a lot about aesthetic tension. It's a design tool, like repeat with variation, or unexpected proportions, that we can use to engage the viewer, or in this case the user. Aesthetic tension is when two competing or even contradictory aesthetics are in evidence. It is one of my favorite tricks to employ. 

This mug gives us an example! The throwing lines are soft, but fresh; the decal image is crisp but degraded. 

This concludes our lesson for today. 

Dotopia Mugs, Pre-Dot

  Two weeks before the Maine Pottery Tour! What's more, I've promised visitors that I will unload a kiln Saturday AM...what was I thinking?? I must have been thinking, "I shall just work an insane amount, however much it takes, and make it happen" or else I was thinking, "Eh, I'll make what I can & fill the rest with huge bowls."

The latter, probably. Maybe I will make the huge bowls today. Yesterday was all about the mugs. They got stamps, handles, rib marks, and slip trailing. These will become Dotopia mugs. 

I use images of Maine wildlife for the stamps, but I tend not to go for the iconic ones: no moose or lobsters here. The critters I choose are ones I have childhood memories of or memorable experiences with. For example: my family went boating & fishing a lot, when I was a kid. I was afraid of dragonflies, until my father had me hold still & look at one, on his arm, seeing how beautiful (& how harmless) it was. I cam to love them & look for them everywhere, so many different colors! 

Bisquing Thursday, firing Wednesday. I hope. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Torn Slab Platter

 Well, that was fast! Between my wholesale accounts & social media, basically all of that last firing is sold now. (I now have to squeeze out a firing before the pottery tour, but that is a good problem to have.) I do have one piece left, maybe because I haven't even tried to sell it yet: the first of the torn-slab platters has come out of the kiln.

I have to make a lot of stuff, pretty fast, and there's demand for both Dotopia & Sweet Life (I've been wanting to use that name!) so now would be a really bad time for me to go haring off after yet another aesthetic whim. [Insert some quote about discipline here, I'm too tired to dig one up.] But this platter - more of a plate, really, after the shrinkage - well, it did turn out very well! Once things calm down a bit around here I will definitely be making more. 

If you are interested in Dotopia, you get get those pots at Gifts at 136 or at Maine Local Market; if you like Sweet life, you can get those at Monkitree

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Fattie of the Firing


These pots can be purchased at Monkitree, on Water St in Gardiner, Maine
Contact Clare at the link if you see something you like! 

Good firing! Mostly good pots, a couple of great pots, a few refires. I was most excited to see how the soda vapor interacted with the bare bmix, on the pots that I had sliptrailed with porcelain. Answer: pretty nice! 

As I sometimes do, I chose a mug out of this lot to be my mugs for a while. I'll use it until the next firing, then wash it (OBVS), slap a price tag on it, and sell it. If you come to the Maine Pottery Tour & you want to purchase the best mug, ask for the one that I kept out for myself for a little while! It got

very peachy-tan in the background, a nice contrast with the bright white of the porcelain. 

Lots of Dotopia pots in the firing, too! 

Almost all of the ware is already in boxes, on its way to Monkitree, Gifts at 136, Maine Local Market, and Bay View Company. I'm going to have to turn around another firing very fast to have pots for the Maine Pottery Tour! 

ETA: LOL so much for that! This piece sold a few hours after I posted this. Not that I'm complaining! 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

My Busiest Week

The week leading up to a glaze firing is always a busy one at Fine Mess Pottery. This one is compounded because we are less than a month out from the Maine Pottery Tour - I am working on the flyers right now. Did I tell you how much I hate that job? I am determined not to do the thing where I dread a task for longer than it would actually take to do the task, so I hope to have those finished today. 

Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday were glazing days. In accordance with Hofstadter's Law, glazing always takes longer than I think, even when I take into account Hofstadter's Law. My glazing is (usually) a

several-step process: trailing, waxing, dipping, pouring. I really go through the wax! I find that the flashing slip is smoother & glossier after firing where it has been waxed. I do not have a good explanation for this. 

I also needed to prepare the kiln shelves. Between every firing, I have to scrape & grind the kiln shelves, because the soda vapor makes glaze on them as well as the pots! I also do not love that job but again, if I eliminate the period of dread before I begin, it's over before I know it. 

Pre-made wads
This firing I glued on some of the wads in advance. The other wads I made up ahead of time & stored in a lidded plastic container; this makes loading go faster 7 helps keep my hands clean, so I don't get wadding smudges on the pots, or have to keep dipping my hands in water on a cold day. 

This had an unanticipated benefit; the wads were a little bit stiffer than usual, which meant that I could use taller wads that would not squish down with the weight of the pot. Taller wads mean more soda glass on the bottom. Bottoms matter! 

I space the pots with about 1.5 inches
between them for better soda distribution.
Then, the actual loading: it's always a push-pull between "get lots of pots in" and "leave plenty of space between them." Lots of pots, of course, has the benefit of being lots of pots! Plenty of space between has the benefit of better soda
coverage. I want as many pots as possible, but if I have to choose between "more pots" and "better pots," I know which one I want. 

If it still works I use it
I finished loading yesterday around 3. I take plenty of breaks, because I know from past experience that just powering thru will give me a sore back the next day, when the actual firing
will be happening. I got everything in that I needed to - yay - with some pots leftover for the next firing, also yay! Because I need to make, bisque, glaze, load, & fire so I can have an unloading even Saturday, May 1 for the pottery tour. 

The kiln is at ^05 now, in a light reduction. Probably about 7 hours to go. 

God, I'm tired. 

Oh, & happy Easter, if you are celebrating! 

Friday, April 2, 2021

You're Invited!

It's April & I am officially stressed. 

I have orders due imminently - not to say late (not to SAY late but) - and of course we are less than a month out from the Maine Pottery Tour! I am creating the flyers & mailing out the postcards & delivering the signs & filling out the community calendar forms & managing the public radio sponsorships. And all my usual stuff - classes, finding lost cats!, car trouble. SEND VIRTUAL HUGS

If you are on facebook, you can here more about the Maine Pottery Tour (May 1 & 2) on our page, or you can check out the website. If you are ready to plan your pottery road trip, you can use the interactive online map at this link

If you are on Facebook, you can accept this invite to the tour! You don't have to - you can just show up, for sure - but I always get a little joy-zing when somebody says they will be there.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Wadding in Advance

My new line - at least I think that's what this is - has another advantage, that I didn't think of: because there's no flashing slip on the pieces, nor any glaze on the outside, there's no need to wax the bottoms! Which means I don't have to depend on the wet stickiness of the wads to hold them onto the pots while I get them into the kiln; I can glue the wads on in advance. I can also use smaller diameter, taller wads, because they will be dry & solid by the time I have to put the pots' weight on them. Smaller, taller wads mean more soda glass on the bottom. 

Here's how I dream these: the background - just bare B-Mix 10 stoneware - will be peachy & dove grey & cream. The slip trailing, which is just Laguna's 570 porcelain, will be bright white & shiny. The interior (of these, at least; I may expand on this) is simple Leach White. 

Hmmm...just had a thought. I've never tried gluing wads on waxed bottoms, because I assumed it wouldn't work, but maybe it would! I use paraffin, so a very smooth, hard wax surface; that's why it seemed unlikely. But it's worth a try! 

Mugs with glued-on wads

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Jab 1 is in the Books!


Doug & I got our first COVID vaccine shots today! Such a relief to get this started. It's been a long, hard stretch, but I am feeling optimistic. This feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. 

What it feels like literally is like someone punched me in the arm, like I lost a round of The Circle Game. No other side effects - though I have read that people experience the worse ones with the second shot. We got the Moderna vaccine, which is reported to be 94% effective at preventing COVID-19, and 100% effective at preventing serious illness with the virus - nobody, in tests, died who got the Moderna vaccine. We have to wait 4 weeks for our next appointments. 

In Maine all adults will be eligible for the vaccine April 19th. A week after the first dose, some studies suggested as much as 85% protection! But even if it were only 50%, that's more than the flu vaccine most years. What this means for me is that most people will have a pretty high level of protection from COVID-19 at the time of the Maine Pottery Tour. I am really looking forward to a fabulous tour this year, but I am not an asshole - if it weren't safe, I wouldn't do it.  The governor's mask mandate will still be in effect, which is fine with me; I hope I don't run into any of those anti-mask goofballs. Stay home, anti-mask goofballs! Do not come out on the pottery tour. 

I unloaded a bisque kiln today, and glazed enough stuff to fill about a quarter of the glaze firing. Those pots I was doing with the slip trailed friezes? Super easy to glaze! I thought I would have to charge more for them because they take so long in the wet stage, but the time saved on the glazing end of things might just make up for it. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Update: Maine Pottery Tour

 As every March (well, except last March!) I am currently in the thick of organizing the Maine Pottery Tour. Though I was a little trepidatious (not a word! but you know what I mean) in January when I made the decision to try go forward with the tour, I am feeling much more confident now. Here in Maine we are now scheduling first shots for 50 year olds & up; in mid-April the vax will become available to any adult who wants one. By the first weekend in May the majority of adults in Maine should have had at least one shot. 

So, happily, I am moving forward. Today the giant box of postcards arrived! 2500 this year. Now to get them sorted & mailed to the various studios on the tour. 

Also happening: we are making arrangements to sponsor programs on Maine Public. The Maine Pottery Tour will have 18 sponsorship spots on Maine Public & Maine Public Classical in the week leading up to the tour. Each spot will read "Sponsored by the Maine Pottery Tour, celebrating ceramic arts in Maine with more than 40 studios around the state, including [Studio Name] in [Town]." This approach lets individual studios sponsor individual spots, get mentioned on the air, and spread the cost around. The exact wordinf may change; it has to come in under 8.5 seconds, and the FCC has arcane rules about what you can & can't say in a sponsorship spot. This should be starting April 25 - listen for it on Maine Public & Maine Public Classical.

The Tour is May 1st & 2nd...just 5 weeks away. Still so much to do, not least of which is, making a lot of pots! Hope to see you there. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It just slipped out!


"Slipped" out, get it?? 

I've been making some rustic, torn-edge plates in class, aiming for a loose, spontaneous, almost found-object quality. My own work is pretty tightly thrown (not entirely on purpose!) and over-decorated, although I do enjoy letting the soda vapor have its way with the piece during the firing. There's a wide world of approaches to clay out there, and I wanted to give my students a taste of a different aesthetic. 

It sorta worked - they got the idea - but then another idea popped up in class, one I had talked about earlier: aesthetic tension. Sometimes what makes a piece intriguing is when two dueling aesthetics are mashed together! With that in mind, and because I can't help myself one the slip bottle is in my hand, I trailed some delicate flowers onto my meaty rustic plates. 

I have to credit a student for the poppies! I mentioned that I had been trying to figure out how to make a recognizable poppy with slip; I turned my back for a sec & when I turned back she had made 2 on the worktable! Victoria is a very talented sliptrailer (and formerly a cake decorator!) I learn so much from my students. 

These will probably not be soda-fired, since students don't have access to the soda kiln so it feels like cheating to use that method to finish my demos. SO, I am thinking, iron oxide on the back & edges, then shino on the front face. 

I'm excited about these & plan to make more at home! 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Cosplay Aesthetics


My usual style is a kind of froufy, over-decorated, more-is-more approach: slip-trailing, glaze-trailing, wax resist, soda. I want my students to learn about & appreciate all sorts of ceramics, tho, so I borrowed an aesthetic from the Upper Midwest. I have some clay roots there, anyway, and while they aren't the sorts of pots I make, I do enjoy them. 

These are made from thick slabs, torn rather than cut, and shaped over a hump mold. One thing I as reminded of, making these: that casual, spontaneous look - as if you could almost have just found them that way? That is an illusion. Unless I really work at irregularity, I get tidy, smooth, almost-perfectly-square plates by default. 

I haven't decided how to fire these. Though they seem like naturals for the soda kiln, I made them as class demos so should probably stick with the firing methods available to students. Maybe a brushed-on- wiped off shino? Just iron oxide on the back, tenmoku on the inside? Not sure. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Black Stain to try (recipe)

 Dropping this here so I can find it again. From the Ceramic Arts Network, contributed by Forrest Gard: 

Black Wash/Stain

  • Red Iron Oxide

  • Wednesday, March 3, 2021

    Best Soda/Salt Brick


    Saving this here so I can find it again.

    best soda/salt brick i have found

    updated tue 19 dec 06


    shane mickey on mon 18 dec 06

    hey all,
    just was cleaning up around my anagama and was seeing all the type of brick around. when i came into my glorious brick purchase back 3 years ago, i was very very fortunate to recieve several pallets of a AP green brick with the name UFALA XCR, i believe the xcr stands for extra creep resistent. i sold a few to a client i built a soda kiln for, gave some to a buddy for his wood/soda kilns bagwall, and have tested a few here and there. The good news is these bricks show very little salt build up and in my gama show now woodfired effects or ash deposits! the bad news is when i called ap green to get a price qoute they were like $5 bucks a piece. but they are clearly the best brick i have ever seen. they are a high fire super duty class brick with a 64% alumina content (i could be off on the alumina) the key is their density. i have talked with refractory folks and they agree with me. density is the most important factor in salt/soda kilns. a more dense high duty will outlast a
    more porous super duty. the only other brick i know of that i have personally witnessed totally resisting salt is one called a crystar or crystalite? linda macfarling has them as abagwall and they show no discoloration or glassing! just two more cents.
    shane mickey
    shane mickey pottery and kiln design services

    Sunday, February 28, 2021

    There's Something Happening Here

     About a year and a half ago - seems much longer; I guess because so much has happened in between then & now - I introduced Dotopia, a line I designed specifically for wholesale. The design is easy to replicate (well - "easy" within the limitations of soda firing, which is by nature a bit random) while still communicating the joie de vivre I want my pots to impart. Because the shapes are simple, and the decorative elements consistent - throwing lines, stamps, rib cuts, slip trailing at leather hard; flashing slip, glaze dots, interior glaze either white or yellow - I can make these relatively quickly, and charge a bit less for them than a more elaborately decorated piece. 

    I'm still making Dotopia, and expect a majority of my orders to be from this line. It's the one I offer to wholesale accounts, with a product sheet & samples. But my love of excessive decorating has not evaporated, and predictably, it's back! Check out this new work I am making. 

    I made a bowl like this, a couple weeks ago, with a frieze thick with sliptrailing. I have sometimes told students that sliptrailing is a two-person job; one to do the work, another to bonk em on the head when it's done. But there was nobody there to do the bonking so I just kept decorating. I think there are the makings of another line here! It'll have to have a higher price point; it just so happened that I was keeping track of my studio hours this week, and between wedging, throwing, handles, and decorating, it took 6 hours (wetwork only)  to make 10 mugs. They'd have to wholesale for ...idk, $20? Maybe $25? OK, that's not all that much, in the world of handmade mugs. 

    I also will save a little time on the glazing end, as these - I think - will not even need flashing slip. I am hoping for the peachy-grey of Bmix + soda glass for the background, and the porcelain slip to be a somewhat-glossy white. Probably white inside, although my mind keeps tugging me towards a pale iron-chromate grey. Not a glaze I currently have but easy enough to alter a recipe. 

    Friday, February 26, 2021

    The Postcard is Ready!

    One of the most fun duties of organizing the Maine Pottery Tour every year is creating the postcard. I took advantage of my gallery sitting turn at Monkitree to get that done. Lots of great photos this year! I am always tempted to squash in as many as possible, but I have learned from past experience to be more selective, and let the images have their space. 

    The artists, clockwise from the upper left: 

    Josh Rystad, Bethel

    Jeffrey Lipton, Litchfield

    Fine Mess Pottery, Augusta

    van der Veer Studios, Lincoln

    Jody Johnstone Pottery, Swanville

    Tyler Gulden Ceramics, Walpole

    Delany Arts, Yarmouth

    The Pottery Tour Road sign!

    Friday, February 19, 2021

    ♫ We're S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, We're Shopping! ♪

     Reminds me of old times! Today I am shopkeeping at Monkitree, a fine crafts store in Gardiner which carries Fine Mess Pottery. The owner is ill - recovering! but still not quite back on her feet - so needed some help to keep the store open. When you are self-employed, you don't get sick time! 

    Anyway, here I am, behind the register at Monkitree. The first sale of the day did not go that well! I am lucky that the customer was very kind and understanding, and we did eventually get the deed done, but because the register system and item codes are new to me, it took longer than it should. Anyway, I think I've got it figured out now. 

    And in between customers? I'm shopping! So many lovely things to covet. Let's have a look! First, so cute things for the house: 

    I mean...tea towels! Is there anyone who 
    couldn't use tea towels?

    Then there are the clothes! And jewelry! 
    Ok this? Is SO me. Purple, floral, fancy but cazh, stretchy, comfortable. Want. 

    I could wear the hell out of these! 

    I might not actually be able to resist these fingerless gloves. 
    They're only $24!
    And finally, reading mateial!
    Mostly interested in this one for the "Chasing Frozen Waterfalls" headline,
    which is not a thing I would have said before I started Hiking with Yowie, who has all the good equipment! 

    I *really* need a new book. How many times can I read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms? Maybe one by a Maine author! This one looks good!  

    Sadly, I will (probably!) not buy any of these things. 😞 Between cancelled classes due to snow and vicious oil and electric bills, this month is a bear. It won't last forever & we'll recover soon enough by while we're in it I really can't indulge myself. Luckily Monkitree will still be here!

    And now it's 2:30, my retail day halfway done! 

    Thursday, February 18, 2021

    The Year of the Ox

     I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that the Year of the Rat was a rough one. Rats have different meanings in the modern world than when the Chinese zodiac was created more than 2000 years ago, but after all we do live in the modern world! I am hoping for better things in this, the Year of the Ox. 

    The Ox is a symbol of diligence. hard work, and reliability. That seems at least promising! Things have already begun this way, as I have more orders in February - mostly not due until spring - than I have ever had before. Clearly the sellers of fine handmade items believe this will be a good year. I will need to be diligent, hardworking, and reliable to get these orders out on time. What I will need to avoid is waiting until a month before they are due & then scrambling to do them all at once. 

    I am doing pretty well with this - yay me - which is, I hate to say, unusual for me. My more typical mode would be to tell myself, Plenty of time, that's still months away! and then go into panicked, 12-hour-workday mode when I realize it's actually only 5 weeks away, barely time for a firing cycle. My plan is to make a couple kiln loads of pots while the weather is wintry, then bisque-glaze-fire, bisque-glaze-fire, 2 firing cycles in succession. 

    Wishing everyone a successful Year of the Ox. 

    Wednesday, February 3, 2021

    Decorating Day


    While I love every part of the making process, I do love decorating best; followed closely by throwing & altering. Slip trailing is my favorite form of decoration. My only trouble is timing. I am trailing porcelain slip (no alterations, just water) over a white stoneware clay. The stoneware needs to be quite soft, or the slip will shrink too much & pop off during drying or firing. (Yes, slow drying helps with this.) If I trim a little too late, the slip won't fit. If I trim a little too early, I risk trimming disaster. 

    But when I hit the moment just right - firm enough to hold shape easily, soft enough to accept slip, with plenty of time to spare - I really go to town with the pointy-squirty (what regular people call the sliptrailing bottle.) This is one such bowl! 

    More trimming & decorating to come today, and a virtual meeting with the owner of a new store that will (hopefully!) carry my work; and answering a few email queries about the Maine Pottery Tour. 

    Happy Wednesday!

    Sunday, January 31, 2021

    The Skill of Letting Go

    I put off unloading, because Friday & Saturday were so bitterly cold, and because no one is waiting for these pots. Today warmed up to a near-balmy 23°, sunny and perfect for unloading. Right off the bat, I suffered the traditional unloading nick, which bled like a mad bastard until I finally gave in, went inside & got a bandaid. 

    As inevitable as the nick is the loss of a few pieces. Some firing processes demand more sacrifices to the kiln gods than others; these pots got some bits of wadding crumbled into them from between the bricks of the door. (Not sure why there was more crumbling than usual. I'll have to think about that.)

    In the past I might have argued with myself that I could dremel out the bits, apply more glaze, and refire; or that I should save them for a magical someday when I will have time to make a mosaic with my broken pieces; or that I should place them between plants in the perennial garden. Now I'm just like, Nah, toss 'em. The sooner they are out of my sight the sooner they don't matter. If I saved all the pots that didn't work out I'd be surrounded by now, obstructed in every direction by buckets & boxes of unusable pots. Letting go is a valuable skill, for a potter. It's one I teach my students, when their handle separate or their rims crack: let it go. Take the lesson & let the piece go. Make another one. I try to live my own advice. 

    Otherwise the firing was pretty good. The very bottom layer was a little pale - I stacked differently, and it affected the way the soda vapor moved around the kiln. (I don't have to let go of those, because they don't require any additional work from me - just load em in the next kiln as if it were the first time.) Mostly mugs & pasta bowls, a few dip dishes & berry colanders. Bread & butter ware, so to speak, although no actual butter dishes. 

    Speaking of actual butter dishes, I have some in progress that need assembling, so that's where I'm headed now. 

    Saturday, January 30, 2021

    Let's Try This Again: Maine Pottery Tour 2021


    It always seems too early to think about it, until suddenly it's way late. In two days it will be February, and I have started putting together the Maine Pottery Tour. I am well aware - well aware, thank you very much! - that like last year the pandemic may cause its cancellation, but I am cautiously optimistic for May 1 & 2. 

    I started putting out feelers last week, and got a good response! Not everyone has replied, but so far only two "no" responses. It looks like the tour will have about 40 stops this year. I'm encouraging studios to hold their events outside as much as possible this year, because pandemic. Mine is always outside anyway. 

    If you are a potter in Maine & you'd like more information about the pottery tour, give me a shout at info[at]

    Looking forward to a great year. 

    Wednesday, January 27, 2021

    Cone 6 Falling


    I restarted the firing that I had to give up on  due to wind last Sunday. It's been one damn thing after another with this load! But it's chugging along now, cones falling inside the kiln while snow falls outside.  My 6 cone is falling, but this time I am firing to ^10 - those are the 8, 9, 10, & 11 cones you see still standing. 

    In a conventional stoneware firing, the 6 is just a watch cone - it's there to judge how evenly the kiln is firing (answer, always, with my kiln: not very) For the soda firing, the six falling is my signal to mix up the soda salad. Some firings I start adding the soda right after 6 falls; other times I wait until the 8 is falling. I kid myself that I can see a difference: that I get more even application if I wait, more directional if I start early. 

    This time I think I'll wait. I'll do up the soda mix now, but apply it when 8 falls. We can judge the results together on Saturday!

    Sunday, January 24, 2021

    Stupid WInd

     I candled the glaze firing overnight Sat/Sun, but when I got up in the morning it was pretty windy! Because I am 1 part stupid + 2 parts stubborn, I decided to try to fire anyway. Bad plan! Not disastrous, but, you know, annoying & expensive. The wind was supposed to be only around 17 mph - quite breezy, but not crazy - but every time there was a powerful gust it blew out one of my burners. 

    This isn't a safety problem - that's what baso valves are for, to turn themselves off if the flame goes out - but it was hella annoying. The 10th time it happened - after ^012 had already fallen, unfornately (see above, stupid + stubborn) and after I had already burned a boatload of propane - I called it off. I'll fire Wednesday instead.

    Silver lining? I basically have today off. I'm catching up on some cleaning & reading a book, and fiddling around with my new (used! but still) iPhone. 

    One of these days I'll have some new pottery to show ya, I promise! 

    Saturday, January 16, 2021

    Yeah so... bubble of energy last week? Got abruptly popped when a rightwing mob invaded the US capitol, intent on killing the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. I thought I was back, but no. My productivity is the least of the problems with this, of course, but THANKS ALOT, RIGHTWING MOB. I saw a post on social media asking something like, "Am I the only one having trouble focusing on anything other than the deadly pandemic and the imminent threat to democracy?" No, anonymous poster; no you are not. It's wreaking holy ol' havoc with my professional life. 

    If everything really does have an equal and opposite reaction I am about to have my most amazing year yet - as is America. 


    I finally got the kiln loaded - a little loose, but I often get better pots that way. I went to candle the load but discovered that I need new thermocouples (well - I knew that. I kept putting it off, & now one of them doesn't work at all) and the burners are loud & flame more orange than blue - the burners need a good scrub with a wire brush. Thermocouples are easy to replace, and burners are easy to scrub, but it does mean the kiln is still not firing! Luckily nobody is waiting for these pots...yet. 

    My list today:

    • Order three 36" thermocouples
    • Take burners apart & clean them
    • Pray for America

    Saturday, January 2, 2021

    Loading Tuesday & Wednesday

     Firing Friday. All of a sudden I desperately want to make pots. 

    Friday, January 1, 2021

    Cornbread on New Year's Day

    ...oh & also a soda-fired plate!

    Tradition says that eating cornbread on New Year's Day brings prosperity in the new year. Same goes for sauerkraut, and spinach. There's a little bit of sympathetic magical thinking here: cornbread is gold, spinach and cabbage are green leaves like money. I'm not superstitious but it can't hurt! Anyway I love cornbread. I mean who doesn't love cornbread? I'll probably also steam some spinach for lunch later, to make up for having what is practically a dessert for breakfast. 

    Wishing you gold, green cash, and all good fortune in 2021. 

    Welcome, 2021!

    Glad I could make it. Glad we all could. 

    Except, we all couldn't. We didn't all. I want to go forward, with joy and hope - and I will - but I haven't forgotten the many we lost last year. To honor their memories, let us pledge to do all that we can to stop the spread of this virus, and do so glad for the opportunity to help. 

    Let us go forward with love, and embrace opportunities for kindness. Let us leave in the past the idea that caring is weakness, or that we can only care about people who are flawless. The common greeting in yoga classes, "Namaste" is sometimes said to mean "the divine in me recognizes the divine in you." What I want to say instead is, the human in me recognizes the human in you. We are all flawed, we are all struggling, we are all swimming upstream and doing our best. Let us learn to fight to protect the more vulnerable among us without anger and without hatred. 

    I hope in 2021 I can extend my circle of empathy. We need a year - at least a year! - of healing. Let 2021 be that year, and let it start with me. 

    Happy New Year, friends. Better days ahead.