Sunday, July 11, 2021

Begun Is Half Done

 ...or so a wise friend once told me! By that metric I am done the deconstruction of the kiln. 

I took down the stack, down the the level of the shed roof. I stopped there because I am going to need some pallets to put the soft brick on, rather than the wet ground; and also because it seemed like a good place to stop. I am not crazy about heights, so I am relieved to get all the roof-of-the-shed work out of the way. 

Next steps:

  • Get some pallets! I think Portland Pottery has some, or sometimes hardware stores give them away; in a pinch I could always buy pallets
  • Take down the rest of the stack
  • Borrow some post jacks to jack the arch form up under the arch. I need to lift the weight of the brick so I can remove them without destroying them. 
  • After that it's just brick by brick until only the angle iron frame is left. That'll be fun, getting that to the dump. 

Here's all the brick I unstacked, tossed down & restacked today! No wonder I am exhausted & smell like a goat. 

This is happening! If you want to support this project, or just want a new mug, you can order a mug out of the first firing here. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Nice Day to Start Tearing Down a Kiln!


Yesterday, not so much! It was a deluge of rain among the last shreds of Hurricane Elsa. I drove to Belfast, to deliver pots to Mainely Pottery, a lovely little gallery & studio who started carrying my work just as the pandemic descended up on us. 

(As a side note, Mainely Pottery is for sale! 5 waterfront acres in Belfast, Maine - a shopping destination - with a long-established business. There are 2 buildings - a full pottery studio & the gallery - and plenty of room to put up a little house or a yurt, if you wanted to live there or supplement pottery sales with AirBnB. As you can see, I have given this some thought! If you have a little money or are the kind of person banks don't laugh their collective asses at,  this is your chance to live the dream: make & sell pots on the coast of Maine. Me, I'd have to win the lottery a little to make this work but you? Maybe you could do it.)

Ok, back about me! After weeks of talking about it, today I am taking the first steps in the kiln-rebuild process: ordering the shelves & beginning the arduous task of taking down the old kiln. I'll start with the stack, which means (EEK) a ladder on the roof the get to the highest courses of brick. Not sure how long this will take but the answer is "forever" if I don't get started. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Law Of Old Kilns


Are you familiar with the Law of Bad Hair? That refers to that phenomenon that happens when, after weeks of hating your hairstyle & wanting a change, the day of your appointment finally comes...and on that day, you wake up & you hair looks perfect, exactly as you hoped it would when you chose that style in the first place. 

Call it the law of old kilns: my last few firings - all of the ones I have done since scheduling the rebuild - have been amazing. This one is no exception. I used about 6 lbs of soda (1/2 ash, 1/2 bicarbonate) in a 20(ish) cf kiln. 

The very first piece I unloaded sold as soon as I posted it. It's unlike my other work - mostly I was determining how the underglaze decals from San Bao would perform in soda. Answer: like a champion! I don't expect to use decals in most of my work, but they are a fun change. This one was applied at leatherhard. There's no glaze on the exterior, so all the color you see is just the Bmix clay interacting with the soda vapor. 
Also in that kiln, work for the upcoming group show at Monkitree, Exploring Maine: A Maker's Journey. Here are the pieces (probably!) for that show. 

Just about everything in this kiln was spoken for, headed to a store or gallery, right down to the gap-fillers: these minis are on their way to Maine Local Market, a new store in Hallowell. 
Additionally I have pots for the Portland Pottery Café, pots for Bayview Company, pots for Mainely Pottery. 
One of the reasons I need a new kiln - aside from the ever-flattening arch - is exactly that: when I unload a firing, a few days later all the pots are gone! Not what you would call a problem, exactly, or, at least, a nice problem to have; but it meant I can't take on any more shops, and I can't build up inventory for shows. My kiln capacity is the bottleneck to how much work I can make. 

It remains to be seen if I can budget the time to fill the new kiln in a timely manner; I mean, I will, because I'll have to, but whether I can do it & still keep all of my classes is the question. 

Anyway! Usually when I unload I have a few pieces to list in the online shop, which I offer here, but this time I don't think I will, once I sort out which pieces are going to what shops. Sorry! 😞 If you'd like to order a mug out of the first firing of the new kiln, you can do that at this link

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Goodbyes are Hard...Even this One


The last firing of the old kiln is loaded. I'm feeling, as the cool kids used to say, some kind of way. 

I built this, with my own hands. I laid out the plans & placed each brick. It served me well. Could I have done better? Why, yes! But it worked, and it changed my life. 

Since I left SIUE in 1992 I always planned on building a salt or soda kiln. I didn't know it would take 18 years to make it happen! And when it did, my work could come into its own. 

I am excited, of course, for the new kiln: a hinged door! tice as much stacking space. It's an investment but so worth it. Not to mention: check out that ever-flattening arch. I could fix it again, but I'd have to keep fixing it every year, until I couldn't anymore, and then I'd be desperate. If I have learned one thing as an adult it's to deal with stuff before it's a crisis. 

Anyway! One last voyage. I've spent 11 years learning this kiln, & it gives me good results every time now. Here's hoping this is the best ever. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Tomorrow! cried Toad

Tomorrow!" cried Toad. "I will do it all tomorrow!"

It me. I'm Toad. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

First Raku, Broken Toe & All

The first raku of the 2021 season was a great success! It was a promising beginning. I made some minor adjustments to the kiln, trying to get that perfect fuel/oxygen balance in the firing chambers, the perfect interval of time between pulling the pots from the chamber & placing them in the post-firing reduction chambers (which is a fancy way of saying, piles of sawdust under trash cans!)

This flame? The perfect backpressure. 

We got some fabulous results; some from Laguna glazes, some from mixed glazes. Next session my  

This one is FAB - I actually do have this

R-13, a glaze available from Laguna
I don't have this White Crackle recipe, sorry!
Bright Buff, also available from Laguna

It was a long & sometimes uncomfortable day for my poor little tootsie. I am taking today to put it up & hopefully give it like a second to heal; but no more than a second because I need to be unloading, glazing, and firing my orders. 

My Tuesday classes will be rakuing next session. Already planning some things to try! 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

It's Always Something

 The painters finished our house this week - I have been wanting to get this done for 10 years! 15, really, but 10 years ago I did as much as I could myself, and then just had to tolerate being the junky-looking house on our street. Painters cost money! & rightfully so; it's a shit-ton of work, and people deserve to be paid for work. Anyway it's finally done, & we are delighted with the results.

Next on the list is, of course, the kiln rebuild. Tyler stopped by yesterday to take some measurements & assess how much brick from the existing kiln could be reused. In the meantime I am working on one last firing cycle before the big teardown. Loading a bisque today & firing tomorrow... 

...only slightly hindered by my broken toe.

Yep, I'm hobbling. I stubbed it hard on a rock, and it blew up & turned purple. It can be hard to know if a toe is actually broken or just bruised but a friend who works as an ER doc saw a photo I posted on social media & called it: "That is definitely broken." 

Not that it matters; the treatment is the same. Buddy-tape it to the toe beside it, and stay off it. LOL, as if that is an option. I can put off gardening & housecleaning, but I have classes to teach & a kiln to load, so putting my feet up & eating bon-bons is just not in the cards. 

My poor little toe!
 It's always something, isn't it? One damn thing after another. But I like to keep in mind: if that's my worst problem, there are no problems. 

Anyway! Off to load my bisque. I'll do a little bit, and then take a break if the toe starts to throb. 

If you'd like to pre-order a mug from the first firing of the new kiln, you can do that here. The rebuild is happening one way or another, but pre-orders will help pay for it. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

A Maker's Journey

I & the other members of the professional organization I belong to, the Central Maine Clay Artists, will be part of a group show at Monkitree this summer! I've done many fairs & sales but it has been years since I've had work in a gallery show. 

There are reasons for that!

When I was young and full of energy, right out of grad school, I planned to be the kind of academic potter who got on the cover of Ceramics Monthly. I applied to themed gallery shows alot. I got in sometimes, too! Trouble was, I had to charge so much to cover the jury fees, which were $25 -$45 (a pile of money in 1992 making $6.75/hr) - and you have to charge enough to cover the shows you applied to & didn't get in, also - the shipping to & from (and again, prices had to cover the shipping costs of the ones that didn't sell - and the packing material. The galleries always took 50%, too, which I never minded - a good gallery earns that fee, and it costs money to keep a business like that open - but it meant I had to double all those previous fees in order to cover them. I was making functional ware, so if I applied with, say, a pitcher, it might have to be three or four hundred dollars. Which made it harder to sell. Which meant the price of the ones that did sell had to go up to cover the shipping and so on of the ones that didn't, etc, etc, world without end, amen. Were there people willing to pay those prices, in the 90s, for functional ware? Sure, and there are now, too, but mostly for the work of potters they've heard of. If the price was a vicious spiral, reputation was whatever the opposite of that is - a fortunate spiral? If you became known, more people were willing to pay more money for your work, and that increased your reputation so that more galleries wanted to carry you, creating scarcity, pushing the price you could ask up, etc, etc, world without end, amen. It does work for some people! Maybe they are better potters, maybe they were luckier, maybe they were better at networking. No shade here - I'd have done it if I could have picked that lock. 

All of that also applied to time - the time I spent applying, packing & shipping ware, unpacking the ones that didn't sell (not to mention the time & cost of bringing pieces to a professional photographer, which was the only option, then) was time that I didn't spend making stuff, resulting in fewer pieces to sell. 

Anyway I stopped doing that once I started doing art fairs & discovered the joy of selling directly to the people who were going to use the pots. Art fairs cost money & time, too, but the ratio of time making/time selling/money made was a happier one for me. I supplemented - I still do - with consignment & wholesale. 

Yikes that was a long & mostly irrelevant story. But a gallery show after all this time is exciting! Especially since I get to skip over all the tedious applying and shipping. The show is called Exploring Maine: A Maker's Journey:

Potters explore new shapes and designs with Maine in Mind.  

Central Maine Clay Artists offer artistic and functional designs that allow you to take Maine with you. Each of the clay artists has their identifiable style but with this show they are exploring new shapes and designs that gather inspiration from the state that offers so much- powerful ocean, scenic lakes, rugged mountains, delicate wildflowers, exceptional dining, dramatic seasonal changes, and so much more. 

I love the theme, because, you know how you've got your body of work, and you like your body of work & want to keep making it, but there are also a bunch of other, half-formed ideas pressing on the inside of your head? Maybe you make them but they don't fit with your main work so they sit in the studio getting dusty, or maybe you don't quite find the time to make them. This show is specifically for those ideas. For me, it's the torn-edge dark clay slab plates & platters. I have a few, and have committed to make about 15 pieces for A Maker's Journey.  

Sunday, May 30, 2021

My Annual Attempt at Bleeding Hearts

 Every year in May, when the bleeding hearts bloom, I set myself the challenge of replicating them in slip. They seem like naturals, with their precise rows of heart-shaped blooms, but like everything clay-related, it's harder than it looks! Here's my clumsy attempt from 2017:

Not terrible, and the foliage is actually pretty good, but it does have a little bit of that baby-drawings quality. 

This year I tried it a few times on the flat table surface before moving on to three dimensional forms. As often happens, I got better with practice! In particular I was pleased with the last one. 

Buoyed by this success, I felt ready to try it on a mug form. Not as great! Ah well, if it were easy it would hardly be worth your time to read about. Anyway it's not terrible, just, you know. Needs practice. 

In other news, it's 48° & pouring out, not a great day to work in the summer studio. We really need the rain but I imagine a lot of people are disappointed it happened this weekend. My wheel is in the summer studio, so I recycled clay today & started on some handbuilt work I need for a group show at Monkitree this summer. 
Pottery stairs are out, for local peeps who want to brave the rain! 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Mugs & Stories

 As I have mentioned here before, the wildlife imagery I use is never of the "iconic" variety. I'm not opposed to moose & lobsters, but they are not really personal to me, so until I have a story to tell, their images don't interest me much. Dragonflies, now those are a different story! Conttontails, pumpkin seeds, ladybugs...all more interesting to me than the critters the tourism department has decided stand for Maine. 

I just listed a whole bunch of new mugs, all with a wildlife story to tell. 

Read my ladybug story at the link! 

Read my salmon story at the link! 

Read my cottontail story at the link!

Read my dragonfly story at the link

Lots more in the Fine Mess Pottery shop

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Problems with Square Up - Anyone Else? (ETA: got it fixed, this time)

WHAT THE HELL? I don't know, 
and nobody at Square knows either. smh

UGH so frustrating. I spent all day Sunday photographing pots, then Sunday evening I started to list them in my online retail shop, hosted by Square Up. Technically I guess it's hosted by Weebly? I don't know what the exact relationship is there - I just know that some of the things I need to do to sell online happen at Square Up, and then for something I get transferred to Weebly. Not this particular problem - this one is new - but I have had a lot more problems with Square Up since they partnered with Weebly. It got super complicated just to list stuff & now items are not even available for sale when I do list them! 

After trying everything I know how to do, I reached out to their support team - no answer yet - and on social media - the folks there suggested a few things but ultimately were unable to fix the problem. I have been using Square for years but I am thisclose to just deleting the whole page & going back to building my own listings on my website, with Paypal Buy Now buttons. Each one is a little more work but at least I know they will work. 

There are other options, too - Wix, Squarespace (which is a different company from Square), Amazon Handmade , even Etsy 😬- but honestly I don't know if I want to make a big change just to be in a position again where someone else controls whether I can sell items or not. 

(What I would really like is a Square Basic option: just list items with photo, description, price, and how many you have. It's available until someone buys it, then it's not. Easy-peasy. All that other shit just makes it complicated & creates more things to go wrong.)

Anyway, has anyone else had this problem? More to the point, does anyone out there know how to fix this problem? 

ETA: I finally got on the phone with Square Support. Via email they suck & had not gotten back to me within their 48 hour promised window, but on the phone the hold time was short, and though I did have to talk to 2 separate people to get it solved, it did get solved. (Whoever responds for Square via social media tried hard to help also but they couldn't figure it out.) The problem was a new setting under fulfillments that Square (or Weebly? who knows) now requires the user to set. I don't know how I was supposed to know about this setting that I have never had to deal with on any listing before, especially since the first 2 people I talked to at Square did not know about it either. So, on the plus side, at least it's fixed. On the down side, Square, that is some really crappy service. 
Also, Square? quit adding shit & changing shit. Just when I get it figured out you change some random thing & I'm back where I started. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021


Some of you have been readers of this blog for a loooong time - maybe you remember that time I built a soda kiln in my backyard. That kiln has served me well, but now it's time for an upgrade. 

11 years is not a ridiculously short life for a kiln, and it is true that soda is harder on brick than salt is. Nevertheless, this kiln would have lasted longer if I had chosen a heavier gauge of angle iron for the exoskeleton. I'm very glad I had the experience of building it myself, but I found when I contemplated the rebuild I was just dreading it. UGH LIFTING HEAVY THINGS UGH BRICK DUST IN MY EYES 

I knew it would take me most of the summer - time that I would much rather spend making pots. With that in mind, I decided to call in an expert: Tyler Gulden. In addition to making pots & teaching at Bates College, Tyler is a master kiln builder! You can see a few of the projects he has worked on here

Worked with Tyler at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, back in 2006, & we've been friends for years. Every time someone tells me they want to build a kiln, I send them his way, because not only is he the best - this is not a glow up, he really is - but his rates are crazy low, compared to other kiln builders. 

So excited about this kiln! It will be modelled on the soda kiln at Watershed, with some adjustments necessary for the different fuel & pressure. The stacking space will be almost twice that of my current kiln, and - the very best upgrade of all - the door will be on a hinge. You know that feeling when you're like WOO-HOO, DONE LOADING followed immediately by oh crap still gotta brick up? Yeah well that's all over for me (after these next 2 firings, at least.) The additional cost is pretty minimal - about half a day of labor - and when you factor in the cost of replacing broken door brick & the time mixing door mud, bricking & mudding up every time - it is more than a bargain. 

Here's the kiln design it will be based on. Now imagine a sliding-hinge door!

In the meantime, I am squeezing out two more firings before deconstruction begins. Tine to get making! 

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 29, 2021

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!