Sunday, June 16, 2024

Shop Update June 2024


New pots in the Fine Mess Pottery online shop! Check out this preview slideshow for a promo code good for 10% off through the month of June. 

Now I'm off to clean the studio before the next making cycle begins. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

The Luck of the Draws


I learned something today: I learned that I have been using way more soda than I needed to. Also, draw rings are fun! 

These are the 3 rings I drew from my current firing, which will probably reach temperature while I am typing this post - so if I disappear for a minute, forgive, I've just gone to check the kiln. 

They are in order of draw, left to right. When I drew the first, I was shocked but how shiny it was, since I had only sprayed once into each port - I expected it to be almost dry. With this new information, I drrew the 2nd before the sprayer was half emptied. I was tempted to stop then, because the ring has a satiny, orange-peel surface; but I couldn't believe - despite evidence! - that I could possibly have applied enough soda. Besides, the front of this kiln always gets a heavier spray, so for goos measure I sprayed twice more into each of the rear ports. I left the kiln burn clear, then pulled the third ring - and saw the first faint evidence of pitting, a sure sign it's time to stop. I still had nearly half the canister of soda solution. 


^10 is soft, not quite half over. I wish I had another ring to draw! I'm definitely doing that every time now. What mainly stopped me in the past - well, besides basic laziness, and anyway, I didn't think I needed to, because I was getting good results - I thought it would be hard to see the top cones. that was no problem at all! 

By the Hum of the Burners


I've really dropped the ball with keeping my website updated. I am well aware that search engines will regard a site as abandoned if it doesn't get updated regularly - & they have a much more frequent idea of "regularly" than I do! If a site hasn't been updated in a month, it starts to fall in ranking, making it harder for people to find it. Last week saw 27 visits to my website. This is actually better than I expected considering there's been no new content for like 2 years! And also no meta tags, nothing for a search engine to latch onto. More than half of these came from google.This tells me making time to keep the website current is worth the effort - if 27 people visited when I put in zero effort, how many would I get if I actually tried?

The last update was so long ago that the cover image no longer represented my main body of work. It's been so long that I had to relearn how to do it - & I'm not even writing code, I use a (now pretty old) software called Kompozer to update my site. To avoid this in future, I'm implementing a new approach: when the kiln is firing, I'm updating. Updates don't have to be major to intrigue the web-crawling bots that search engines use! I changed the cover photo & added a link to my Patreon page and my Instagram; I added a link to a signup form for my newsletter, The Messy Minute. (I tried to embed a signup form but nope! that is not happening.) I reminded myself where to put meta tags, and typed in words like pottery, ceramics, handmade, stoneware, sodafired, Maine. I think of these like paint primer: you can't see them so you're tempted to skip them, but they make a huge difference in your results. 

Next - though maybe not today - I want to add an FAQ page. For the obvious reasons, of course, but also because Frequently Asked Questions are frequently googled questions, and people searching for things like "Is handmade pottery food safe?" are the kinds of people I want visiting. This is a suggestion from my friend Milly's Guide to Marketing Art & Crafts Online. Blogger is being stupid about creating this link, but you can find it here:

Anyway! Time to go look at the cones! The kiln is in its climbing reduction, so doesn't require a lot of attention, so after I peer through the spyhole, I think I'll lie in the hammock & read the new Longmire novel. I'm interested in your ideas about keywords or other strategies you use to make your website a better business tool. Comment if you have ideas for me! XO L

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Firing Update

Kiln is loaded, cones & draw rings in position, door is bolted! We're candling tonight & tomorrow is the big day! (Sorry, I know I should be used to it by now but firing is still a big deal here at Fine Mess Pottery! 😀)
I'll be using less soda & cooler water, and employing draw rings to get a picture in real time of how much glaze is accumulating in the kiln. 

Unloading will be Wednesday AM - which I will be doing live on my Patreon page.  Join us, it will be fun! The photography always takes longer than I think it will, but the shop update should be live but next weekend. 


Thursday, June 6, 2024

Rings of Fire

My loopy little friends

Since I built my first soda kiln in 2010, I kinda got out of the habit of using draw rings. I had the old kiln so dialed-in, so I didn't need them, then it seemed like too much trouble after we built the new kiln. 

My last firing, though? was not great. Everything was gray, and there was some pitting & blistering of the soda glass. The pitting is its own problem - Jeff Zamek has some thoughts on that - but the gray coloration is simply too much soda. Though I (obviously!) weigh out the material so I use the same amount each time, last firing I used my new, snazzy sprayer, which unlike the old one was able to spray all the liquid into the kiln, instead of leaving a few inches in the bottom. Also, without thinking I used hot water, which can hold more soda in solution, so I may have inadvertently sprayed more soda into the kiln than usual. 
I have some ideas of how to correct my unhappy result, but instead of just guessing & hoping, I'm going to employ a technique used by smarter potters than I am: draw rings! These small, looped-shaped bits of clay are placed near a spyhole so they can be drawn out during the soda process, to assess how heavy a coat of glaze has accumulated. I actually have not used draw ring since graduate school, so this should be interesting.
They are cooling in the bisque right now, along with the pots for the firing. I plan to make a little video of this process for my Patreon page - click here to subscribe

Monday, May 27, 2024

Slab Built Coffee Pour Over Cone!


The necessary proportions for a slab built cone are the same as those for the  thrown version, but getting there obviously requires different steps & a different set of skills. I've got a new post up new post up for Patrons of my Patreon page detailing the process step-by-step. 
This one is for paid members, but there's lots of free content, too. Mosey over & check it outnull

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hi, I'm Lori, Your Friendly Neighborhood Potter

After ditching the Nazi-infested social media site formerly known as twitter, like a lot of folks, I searched for a new text-based app to take its place. I tried a few & settled on Threads, an imperfect but passable substitute - the main thing it has to recommend it over similar sites is the level of activity. 

I find myself in the art-entrepreneur corner of Threads, where there's an ongoing conversation about making and selling art while maintaining your vision, your sanity, and the roof over your head. The differences in priorities, the different strategies...I find it all fascinating. Since a lot of what I have written about here for the past tumpty-ump years is about the business of art, and my clay & business journey, I wanted to introduce myself to my new friends on Threads. 

I've been a potter since before some of you were born - took my first class in 1987. I've worked production & had various non-pottery jobs over the years but since 2011, it's been all clay, all the time. I teach classes Portland Pottery for some of my income, and the rest is selling soda-fired ware. 

I want to say that I know that I am lucky, in more ways than I can count. I am able-bodied (so far!) & have never felt any urge to have children. To some people that might sound distinctly unlucky, but if I had wanted children, I'm not sure I could have chosen clay as a profession. Especially in the early years - which would have coincided with my childbearing years - the income stream was too unreliable. When I only had myself  - & later my husband - to consider, a rice-&-eggs month was no big deal. Oh, what's that, we're out of oil? The wholesale check should be arriving tomorrow, turn on the space heater & put on a sweater! No big, we could ride out any calamity, at least of the financial kind. If there I'd been responsible for a child, it would have been a different story. & there were a few sticky spots like that!  

Another way that I've been lucky is I bought my place before prices went insane. Granted I was willing - 3 times! - to purchase in what were considered less-desirable places to live, but that's been the economic role of artists forever. We move into economically challenged areas, & by our presence make them fun & cool. Those are harder to find now, but not impossible - living someplace that wasn't my first choice was a price I was willing to pay. 

I've also been lucky to have pottery teaching gigs basically every step of the way. In Minnesota it was the Northern Clay Center & the Bloomington Art Center; here in Maine, I've been at Portland Pottery for more than 20 years. I teach 5 classes a week. Could I make a living without the teaching bit? Yes, but there's no question it would be a lot harder. Part of why I can do stuff like refuse custom work is because I have that net to catch me. More importantly, though, I don't want to! Everybody needs community, and the PP studio provides me with that. 

I hope it doesn't sound too arrogant to say it hasn't all been luck. That's where priorities come in. I've been willing to tolerate some of the discomfort & inconvenience that comes with a spotty income stream. I've driven ugly, unreliable vehicles & worn almost exclusively secondhand clothes. My furniture is all secondhand, too. I cook instead of getting take out. My floors have needed to be refinished since I bought the house. I do almost all the repairs. We take camping vacations. 

All this has been worth it to me, to be a potter. I decided early on that, since we spend SO much of our waking lives at work, my job should be something I enjoy doing - and that that was more important than fancy vacations or flawless flooring. That might seem obvious to some folks, but so often I find people who say they want to be a full-time artist but aren't willing to give up any of the nice aspects of conventional employment. So, my friend from the arts-entrepreneur section of Threads, that's a thing to think about: what are you willing to do without, to bring this dream within reach? 

Nice to meet you! Looking forward to more conversations about the business of art. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

My YouTube Discovery!

 You're gonna laugh, because you've probably known this for years, but it's a revelation to me: hashtags make ALL the difference on YouTube! 

Anecdata: I made a throwing video last week, the remnant of a live wheelcam event. I don't know if anyone watched live - there's probably some way to discover that, but I don't know how - but in the days afterward, it gained 2000 views. That's a lot, for me - it's an order of magnitude more than any other video I've posted, and some of those have been up for years. Greatly encouraged, a week later I made another. 

It got 24 views. And four of those were me. 

At first I threw up my hands: social media, whaddaya gonna do? Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn't. But it nagged at me, & I ruminated on it, & remembered: the first one, I chose some hashtags. I didn't really think anything of it, just did it because I was prompted to. I didn't do so for the next one, not for any reason, just clicked by the prompt. I went back yesterday & edited the post to include hashtags, and now it has 1.2k views! The hashtags are not especially clever or amazing, just stuff like #pottery and #potters wheel. 

Anyway! Just wanted to share that here. Part of our journey here has always been the business of art, and in this-here 21st century that includes social media. I don't have a great grasp on it - the best I got is "post a lot more than you think you need to" - but when I learn something, I share it with you. 

Here's the video! This might not be the audience for it, as it's just me making pitchers, and most of my readers are potters - watching someone throw is not as fascinating for us as it is for other people. But in case you want to check it out: 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Tending My Brand Garden

I read this phrase today and it made me laugh: "tending your brand garden." Not sure why it was funny to me...maybe because I am far lazier as a gardener than as a small business owner. In fact I barely have time to garden, because I am a small business owner. 

Nevertheless it's a pretty good metaphor! One I feel I am conquering lately - a pretty rare feeling for me. I'm photographing, I'm writing, I'm making videos, I'm posting, I'm interacting, I'm getting responses! I'm watering my brand flowers or whatever. Now I need to do all that & also make more stuff. And also teach my classes. 

Sometimes I think what we do is almost literally impossible - except some people are doing it! Are they just that amazing, are they just lucky, or is it an illusion that looks quite different from the inside? I suspect that last; it's possible they also feel like they are dancing as fast as they can, even while they  make it look effortless. 
Anyway! Tend your brand garden, even if it's all dandelions. 

Oh, speaking of watering! There's a new post on my Patreon, free to all members. Check it out! If I get to 20 paid subscriber I will publicly do a happy dance. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake


When your 90-year-old mother asks for cheescake for Mother's Day, you make a cheesecake. It's the law. It might even be in the Bible. I know this is not remotely pottery related! I couldn't even bake it in a stoneware pan - you need a springform pan for cheesecake. but I made a cheesecake, it was amazing, and I want to share it with you. 

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake


  • 1/2 package of chocolate wafer cookies
  • 3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
You'll also need cooking spray
  • 3 packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels, melted in double boiler
Preheat oven the 325°.
Grind cookies in food processor to coarse crumbs. Melt butter in microwave (takes about 30 -45 seconds) Mix crumbs, butter, brown sugar, and chopped almonds well in batter bowl. Spray interior of springform pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom of springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, then remove from over & place on cooling rack. 

Meanwhile, put softened cream cheese in bowl & beat with stand mixer or hand mixer until creamy. Add sugar & beat until uniform beige color. Add eggs, milk, and almond extract; beat until well blended. Mix in melted chocolate. 
Pour into crust.
Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes (at least, that's what the original recipe said. In my oven, it was more like 45 minutes.) until the center barely jiggles. Turn off oven, crack open door but leave cheesecake inside for an hour or more, to cool slowly. 
Cover with foil & place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

Enjoy. I plan to have the last piece for breakfast! 

PS! I meant to mention, I swapped out the amaretto for almond extract, because we're an alcohol-free household. Tastes exactly the same!
Just seeing if you're paying attention. 😄

Friday, May 10, 2024

My First Live Wheelcam Event

Many people love to watch potters throw! With that in mind, I did my first live wheelcam event today, throwing bowls & mugs for about 40 minutes. You can see this video below, but if you'd like to get invites to future wheelcam events, subscribe to my Patreon page at the $5/month level. Bonus: if I get enough subscribers I can buy a quieter wheel! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

D-Days & Z-Days

I borrowed a term from Appalachian Trail thru-hikers: zero days. On the trail it means you achieve zero miles that day, but it's the day you get everything else done: shower, laundry, food shopping. For me it's more literal: a day I get zero accomplished. Although it never quite works out that way: there're always the everyday chores, like dishes & litterboxes, as well as other errands that can't be avoided, so in a way it's the same: I get zero done in the studio. A Z-day.

The "D" in D-days refers to dopamine, the hormone of motivation and accomplishment. I am a dopamine queen, and I love the satisfaction of getting things done - which is 3 times better when it's studio stuff, since there's immediate gratification, creativity, and longterm accomplishment all generating that brain reward. 

Side note: do not get me started on the other happiness brain chemicals! They are each amazing in their own way. 

Normally I love D-days & hate Z-days, but I do keep in mind that those zeros happen for a reason. In this case, this is the first day since - well, don't know when! - that I haven't had to be busy, due to the Maine Pottery Tour, or my classes. I thought I was going to be doing all the stuff that gets put off in the runup to the tour: lowkey studio tasks like kiln maintenance and mixing glazes, sketches of new sliptrail designs, a good, long, meditative throwing day...but after doing the basic household cleaning, getting my car registered (there's a fun story there for another day!) and taking it to the garage for an inspection sticker, I turned on Young Sheldon and put up my feet. That was 3 hours ago. 

Z-days are still not my faves, but I recognize when my mind is telling me it needs a break. I'll be back at it tomorrow - I can feel those new designs, restless in the back of my mind; those sketches are definitely happening soon. In the meantime, another episode is in order, then smoothies for dinner. 

I'll be back on the D train tomorrow. 

Oh, yeah: if you feel like it you could subscribe to my Patreon page! Just putting this here so I feel like I got something done today. 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Today is the Day: Maine Pottery Tour 2024

Though I got off to a rocky start this year, and continued to a rocky middle, the end looks to be strong- we are set up & ready for the tour, with SO MANY demo & development bargain pots. While I wish I had gotten my shit together earlier so I could be unloading a kiln today, the fact is most of what I sell at the pottery tour are bargain pots anyway.

Weather looks good (today anyway!) We still need to put out the signs & get the snacks but other than that we are ready to roll. 
If you are in Maine this weekend, come see me at Fine Mess Pottery. Plan your pottery road trip at the website. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

How to Make Pour Over Coffee


The first time I encountered a pour over coffee, I was in a painfully hip coffeeshop in the painfully hip Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is absolutely awash in coffeeshops. I picked one at random.
When my order arrived, it was a carafe of hot water, a ramekin of grounds, a stoneware cone with a filter, and a cup. I was like...what? I have to make it myself?

It came without cream, which I asked for, but when I asked for sugar they acted like they'd never heard of sugar in coffee! Nevertheless it was an excellent cup.

A few years later, I learned from a fellow instructor at Portland Pottery the correct dimensions for how to throw coffee cones on the wheel. I make them regularly now.
I also regularly encounter people who don't know how to use them, although it couldn't be simpler, so I put together this little video. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll show you A) how to throw a pour over cone; B) how to handbuild one and C) how to make a form to use in handbuilding a pour over cone.
I expect to have 3 or 4 pour overs in my next firing, happening (hopefully!) the third week in May.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Full Court Press


This did not clarify things even a little

First, a confession: I have no idea what phrase "full court press" means. I know it's some sports thing...maybe basketball?...and I know it has come to mean giving something all of your effort, on all fronts. Or at least I think that's what it means. If only I had a device through which I could access the answers to these questions! OH WAIT

OK I googled it, read the definition, and I still don't know what it means, so, moving right along

After my weeks-long bout of dopamine deficiency, my motivation and energy have returned and it feels like a miracle, and like all good miracles, it came with an epiphany: I know what I need to do, I know what the next steps are for Fine Mess Pottery! Like all good epiphanies, it felt like I had always known it; like the conclusion of a particularly corny fantasy series, the answer has been inside me all along.

This is a long & overblown way of saying, I just need to do more promoting. Like, a lot more.  2-3 Facebook & Instagram posts a day, maybe 10 Threads - those can just be random thoughts, too much promotion turns followers into unfollowers - a blog post or two every week, at least one free & one paid Patreon post a week, 4 newsletters a year. 
Like all good epiphanies, this one comes at an inconvenient time. The next four days are totally devoted to the Maine Pottery Tour, & likely any posting I do will be related to that; but I want to create a posting schedule & strategy as soon as I have time. 

Speaking of the tour, I hope to see you this weekend! 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Happy Accidents

Remember the firing when I accidentally shot the brass sprayer wand into the kiln? That was funny*! It could have been much, much worse, but as it was only the pieces wearing flashing slip were affected, like these seashell refrigerator magnets. They were supposed to be tan, grey, & bone - you know, seashell colors! The copper in the brass that fumed the kiln when that wand melted turned them all varying shades of grayish blue. Worse, it fluxed the flashing slip so that the wadding fused to the backs. 

Well, I decided blue is not the worst color for a seashell - and wadding is soft & easy to grind off, deliberately. I got to grinding & finished by gluing magnets to the back. The epoxy is curing now - these will be available for the Maine Pottery Tour, next weekend. 

*No it wasn't.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

Bonus for Pottery Patrons!

I have an exclusive offer for Patrons at the $5/month & up levels: get 10% off your purchases at Fine Mess Pottery during the Maine Pottery Tour

Check it out at this link to become a patron or learn more. Thanks in advance for your support! 

Signs of Spring: Cleaning up the Summer Studio

It's one week before the Maine Pottery Tour, and I am determined not to put off all the hard work until the day before. One of the most daunting tasks? Clearing out the summer studio of it's months-long accumulation of junk, actual trash, leaves & dirt. It's meant to be upwards of 60° & sunny today - perfect outdoor cleanup & hauling weather. I mean, I can think of things I'd rather be doing, but duty calls. I once read a quote from David Campbell: "Discipline is remembering what you want."I unfortunately can't remember what he actually did that was noteworthy, but the quote itself makes sense: when I keep my mind on the outcome I want - eyes on the prize, you could say - it's pretty easy to motivate myself to do the work that needs to be done. 

Usually. Longtime readers will remember that I sometimes struggle with depression. When that rears its ugly head, it can interfere with my discipline, because not only do I not remember what I want, I don't actually want anything! Not enough to make an effort for it. I had a longish bout with this in the early spring, that I finally connected with the creeping-up of my dosage of the weed gummies (legal in Maine) that help me sleep. For a couple of years, I've been taking a 5 mg dose nightly, & sleep-wise, it's been magical: I fall asleep & I stay asleep for 7-8 hours. In March, trying for a bargain, I bought a bag of 20 mg gummies, thinking I would cut them in 1/4s; but sometimes I forgot & bit them in half. Once or twice i even took a whole one. This bumped up my tolerance FAST & as a result I was taking a lot more than previously. Turns out that stereotype about weed is at least partly true, or true in some cases. It interferes with dopamine production - dopamine being both the motivation & reward hormone for accomplishment. I knew it didn't feel like my normal depressive episode, because there was no attendant Black Despair - I just felt no desire to do anything, and no little zing of satisfaction when I did manage to get something accomplished. None of usual tricks to break my low mood cycle worked. I went through my days feeling like I was dragging a jersey barrier behind me. 

Anyway! A couple weeks ago I dropped back down to my micro-dose, and my attitude & energy levels returned to normal, but by then I was badly behind on tasks that needed to be done. Now I am scrambling to catch up, but some things I am just going to have to let slide. 

Not the summer studio, though! That will get done today. I also have mugs that need handles & decoration, & a few shelves left to grind & wash. I hope you find some time to get outside today, & do something more fun than grinding kiln shelves! 


Portland Pottery on MaineLife

Friday, April 26, 2024

Three Days in the Studio

 Yesterday, today, & tomorrow

  • Yesterday: was not a big day, work-wise! I addressed & sent out postcards for the Pottery Tour*, answered a few emails, & taught a class. What can I say? I had a new book. 
  • Today: will be a bigger day! I need to mow the lawn (only a studio activity because I need the yard to look nice for the tour,) finish scraping kiln shelves, start sorting & pricing pots for the tour, create some social media posts about it, & make mugs upcoming orders. 
  • Tomorrow: finish those mugs, create a post for my Patreon page, mix glazes, more pottery tour posts. 

*If you think you might do the pottery tour, visit the site! You can choose which studios you want to visit & the Plan My Tour app will build a map for you. Just click the red "add to trip" button on the right, for the studio you'd like to see. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Embedded Contrasting Clay: A Slab Built Serving Dish

Made this loose checkerboard pattern dish with my Thursday night class! If you try this in your studio, make sure the shrinkage rates of the claybodies are compatible. 

If you enjoy this content, consider joining my Patreon page


Friday, April 19, 2024

Finishing The 6-Pound Pasta Bowls

 I've got a new video on my Patreon on page for Pottery Patrons: Trimming & decorating the 6-pound pasta bowls I threw last weekend. Check it out here: 

New video for Pottery Patrons: trimming & decorating the 6-pound pasta bowl

Monday, April 15, 2024

New Video: Throwing a 6-Pound Pasta Bowl

There's a new video available for Pottery Patrons on my Patreon page! It's a wheel throwing demo on larger pieces, in this case a 6-pound pasta bowl. There's info on centering, opening, and pulling up larger pieces. Check it out here!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

One Month to the Tour!

The month of April is busier for me than the month of November. It wasn't always like this! About 12 years ago - or 13, depending on how you count - I started an event called the Maine Pottery Tour, intended to showcase the incredible well of talent of Maine's community of ceramic artists. 

This year we have 71 participating studios, over 100 artists - the largest tour so far. It's been a long road, getting from there to here. I'm proud & excited about the success of the tour, and also exhausted, if I'm honest. The bigger it gets, the more work it is. I have a lot more help than I did those first few years - Ellen McCarthy of Peeper Pond Studio has been amazing, as has Milly Welsh of Zwellyn Pottery, whose secret identity is a wed developer - Milly built the Maine Pottery Tour website, and this year has made for use an incredible app to help visitor plan their pottery tour weekend. They are donating their time -as am I - so if you feel like showing them some love on their Facebook pages, you'd be doing me a solid. 

As often happens in April, I am a little stressed. I've got to complete two firings between now & then - one that I am loading today - and schedule social media posts on all fronts, and do a number of ad buys both online & in print newspapers. As usual - maybe more than usual - I feel like I am falling down on the job. I keep reminding myself: there are ONE HUNDRED artists on the tour. All of them are (or should be!) promoting, too. It's not all down to me. 

Actually pretty good message to carry into the rest of my life: it's not all down to me. There are other people pulling their oars, too; if I need to stop & catch my breath, nothing terrible will happen. In fact, that's what I've been doing, as I write this: taking a break from loading the kiln. It's chilly out today, although pretty seasonal, & after our two big spring storms, it's a mudpocalypse out by the kiln. Gotta hope for a dry stretch, coming up to the tour. 

Back to it! I expect to unload Tuesday - Patreon subscribers at the Medici level (& up) get first access. Oh & speaking of! Subscribers at the Pottery Patron level get 10% off in-person purchases during the Maine Pottery Tour. Click the link to learn more.  

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Another Spring Snow!

After a virtually snow-free winter, we've gotten clobbered by TWO big early-spring snow storms, but honestly? I don't mind. I feel for the folks who have lost power, of course, and that's about 20% of the state of Maine. But for me? There's something about a snow day. All your errands & obligations will just have to wait. It's enforced downtime, which is the only downtime some of us feel entirely comfortable taking. 
The charm wears thin, & those put-off tasks start to pile up if it happens too often, but two per winter spring is an acceptable number - especially when I know warm weather will make it all go away within a few days.
So, what will I do with my snow day? Make spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, & go into the studio to glaze. Still hoping to fire this weekend!

One month until the Maine Pottery Tour! If you haven't checked out the new Plan My Tour app on the website, you should! Just choose the studio you want to visit, and Plan My Tour will make a map for you. 

Anyway! Off to glaze. I hope you still have power, that you are warm & safe & dry wherever you are. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Last Things before the Bisque!

Just before the bisque firing is when all the little stuff gets made: refrigerator magnets, button, ornaments, stuff like that, while I am waiting for the bigger items to dry enough to fire. Today it was soap dishes. These are fun & easy to make, and fit between big bowls to prevent wasted space in the kiln. 

I start with an oval ball of clay, like an oversized potato, then cut it in half with a curly wire - you know the kind, they are shaped like a stretched spring, and actually you can make one yourself by stretching a spring! But I got mine from Mudtools.  The wire leaves an undulating texture on the surface of the clay,'

I then stretch each half of the ball until it's about 3/8" thick, and pat in the sides to make them curve upward, giving it a bit of dish. 

You can see a video of this process (free!) at my Patreon page. Check it out! 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Let's Talk About Slip!

Sgraffito tile with decals

The word "slip," in a clay context can be kind of confusing, in that it can be applied to so many different things that are similar in form but vastly different in function. Slip refers to any mixture of clay and water, so, the lumpy slurry that we use to attach handles is slip; the smooth, deflocculated mixture that one would pour into a plaster mold to make ware is slip; the yogurt-thick material used for decorative trailing is slip, and so on. These each require different proportions of clay to water, different clay material ingredients, different additives.

A key thing to know about your slip: what clay condition is it meant to be applied to! key thing to know about your slip: what clay condition is it meant to be applied to! Leather hard (or wetter) is pretty common, but by no means universal, so make sure you know before you mix or use a slip: is it for wet/leatherhard clay? Greenware? There are even slips intended to go on bisqueware....Read more

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Got My Handles Done!


I mean, at least I got that done. 

I also won an epic battle with MS Word to force it to comply with my Mail Merge request, & Doug & I have been plugging away at getting the snow shoveled away. There's a lot! Like 13 inches ,and it's heavy as hell - I broke a shovel on it! 
There's more to do, too, so I better get on it. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Mail Merge & Handles & Snow, Oh My!

 That's basically my to-do list for today. 

The mail merge is for the Maine Pottery Tour postcards that need to get out to the studio early next week, so they can get them out to their mailing lists. It seems like a long time since I've had an office job - and in fact, it has been a long time! - but I still sometimes use skills gained during that era. Excel is one of them. 

I hope I have the right mailing labels in, though, because I am not going out in this snowy mess today. After a mild, dry winter, Maine is gifting us with one big storm now that it's spring. I find I don't mind! (Ask me later, after I've shoveled, or if the power goes out! You might get a different answer.) The whole of next week will be above freezing, so it won't last. 

And last but certainly not least, I have to get handles on some mugs I threw on Thursday. I am planning to do a short handle-pulling video to post to my new Patreon. If you are interested in demos, tutorials, glaze recipes, tips, & techniques, follow me there! I have several videos available at the free subscriber level, and a $5 membership tier that will give you access to more videos, first access to shop updates, and the occasional coupon code for discounts on Fine Mess Pottery. If you like what I do & hope I can keep doing it, becoming a patron will help ensure that. You can check out my Patreon at this link. Thanks in advance!! 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

New! A Patreon Page


So, I got a wild hair this morning & decided to create a Patreon page. I hope to share videos, tips, & tricks gleaned from my 30+ years as a pottery & ceramic educator. You can join the page for free - eventually I hope to have paid subscribers but I haven't figured that bit out yet. (This is another opportunity to LOL ALL DAY at the folks who think I'm soooo tech-savvy! I am whatever the opposite of that is.) 

I've posted an instructional video this morning, on throwing a mug. Check it out

*Actually I just realized: it would do my page a world of good in terms of visibility if you would join, even at the free level! More popular pages rise in the search. Thanks in advance!  😘

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Monday, March 18, 2024

Maine Pottery Tour, May 4th & 5th


Regular readers know that I annually organize the Maine Pottery Tour. I'm in the thick of it right now, ordering postcards, making ad buys, gathering up longitude & latitude for each studio on the tour. My favorite part is always creating the postcard. I'm especially pleased with this year's version. These postcards have become collectible! Shoot us an email at if you'd like to receive one in the mail. 

We expect to have more than 70 studios on this year's tour - the largest ever. We have somewhat less funding than in previous years, so we're having to skip the spendy magazine advertising, & will need to double up on free and low-cost social media & small newspaper ads. 

As I have for the past few years, I will be doing a kiln opening Saturday morning of the tour. There will also be wheel demos, plates for visitors to paint, a drawing to win a piece, and - new this year! - bonuses for folks who rack up visits to 5 or 10 studio on our new applet, launching next week. I'll announce that here when it's ready to go. 

I'm hoping to see you at the 2024 Maine Pottery Tour! 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Reeves Green Glaze recipe


cone 10 reduction


Sunday, March 3, 2024

So Long, Solenoid!

This winter, man. I don't even dare to ask what more could happen. 

We've had car trouble, dental trouble, veterinary trouble - one of my elderly cats passed away in February. A dog I loved like family died last month also. Losing the pets was devastating, of course - the rest is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and sometimes expensive. 

Add one more to the list: I was supposed to fire a couple of weeks ago - my annual load of student work - but a solenoid on one of the burners died. I don't actually know why it did - it looked like it melted from the inside out. Burners are not my area of expertise (to say the least! LOL) but I had watched Tyler Gulden - who does know a lot about burners - replace this very solenoid two years ago. That time I knew what had gone wrong - it was, let's say, operator error. I left the power burner out in the rain! 

Anyway, I had a pretty clear memory of that process, and I emailed Tyler to refresh that memory, just in case. Replacing the solenoid is a 3-step, 3-step process: remove the plug - held on by one screw; remove the metal clip holding it in place; slide the solenoid off the spindle. That last was the hardest part, as it did not want to come off, maybe because there were melted bits on the inside holding it in place. Then do it all in reverse.

See that weird melty blob? 

Took the plug & the little metal clip off...

...and pulled the solenoid off the spindle
Easy peasy! 
So, with that out of the way the firing could finally proceed. It was blessedly uneventful! Cooling now. I won't be able to unload Monday, because I've got classes all day, so Tuesday it is. Again, this is mostly student work, so there won't be a web store update. I plan to fire again the last week in March. 

If you had any plans to buy a t-shirt, though, or a tank or an apron, now would be a great time to do that - help get some of these car repairs & dental bills paid. ("Buy my product, I need the money!" Some pitch, huh? I suck at marketing.) More colors & styles here

Here's hoping spring is a luckier season. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Major Arcana: The Potter


I was supposed to fire yesterday, but it was too windy. I could have worked at the wheel but for some reason it's hard for me to start a new making cycle before the end of the last one. 

I mean, who am I kidding? There are lots of things I could have been doing, from cleaning the studio to working on the pottery tour. I didn't do any of those things! Instead I finished a tee shirt design that's been in my mind for quite a while. I want to do a series of them, all tarot-inspired, but creating major arcana that feel more relevant to me. The first was "Caffeine"  - you can see it here - and now, The Potter! Because it seemed appropriate, I made that one available as an apron, too; not to mention a poster, a shower curtain, and a sticker. 

Can't wait to wear my new shirt to NCECA! Maybe I'll see you there in a matching one. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Kiln Wash Continents

If I ever write a fantasy series that requires world-building, I'm gonna get my inspiration for the continents from the patches of kiln wash that are left after grinding.
If George RR Martin had been a potter, Westeros might not have looked so much like the British Isles upside down.  


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Rough Week

 Some weeks are harder than others, ya know? I can go long stretches with nothing more serious going wrong than a bad thermocouple, and then I hit a week when ALL the crap happens. That was last week. 

My husband Doug has a lot of difficulty with his teeth at the best of times, but he broke a tooth and lost a filling on Tuesday. One of my elderly cats (I have 3 who are 17) got an abscessed tooth & stopped eating - and he can ill afford a day of no food - necessitating an urgent vet visit Thursday. Friday night, halfway home from class, one of the tires blew out on my car. I couldn't get the lugs loose on the tire so Doug had to drive down at 10 pm to change the tire. Saturday morning was spent driving around to every tire dealer in Augusta looking for someone who carries this apparently unusual size. (Answer: Sam's Club. I had to buy a membership, & they wouldn't let me make an appointment for later, so my only option was to rattle around the warehouse for an hour and a half - I feel certain this is a deliberate strategy to get folks to spend money there - but still, after the tedious wait, I did have a new tire.)

On weeks like this I like to remind myself that some people have real problems! Chronic pain or serious illness, lack of housing, living in war zones. A little flat tire is nothing. It's awful when a pet is ill, of course, but Happy Jack is recovering. Doug has access to good dental care. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. When I am feeling hard beset by these minor misfortunes, it's time for a little gratitude practice.

I'm grateful for my health, & the health of my loved ones - including the pets! 

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to love my elderly cats for as long as I have. 

I'm grateful for my husband, who came out in the middle of a cold winter night to get me home safely. 

I'm grateful that although these things are all unexpected expenses, we were able to handle them with only a little discomfort. 

And I'm grateful for you, readers! No reason you should care about some random lady from Augusta, Maine, but you do, and I thank you for that. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Shop Update: Chubby Cats!

Remember that story I told you, about losing the wand in the burner channel during the firing? I was lucky the copper & zinc in the brass didn't do more harm. One thing it did do, though, was interact with the items in the kiln that were wearing Bauer Orange Flashing Slip. The white clay pieces turned blue (luckily just a few seashells intended to be refrigerator magnets) which they brown clay pieces achieved almost a wood-fired look. Several of the pinch-cats fell in this category. (LOL CATegory, get it?)

I've been putting a few of these critters in every firing lately. They amuse me to make, and it is not secret that I am a cat lover. I like thinking up their names & personalities, which are loosely based on the many cats I have known. As usual, most of these sold the day I listed them! I do have two left: Gaia and Woody

Today is packing & shipping, putting away the photography equipment (can't wait til I have a dedicated space for this. Such a pain in hte ass to put up & tear down the whole thing), posting the functional ware in the shop, and working on the Maine Pottery Tour! 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

So, Funny Story...


You can recognize the copper blue in 
the burner channel
It's time for our favorite game, that we play after every firing, called How Did Lori Fuck Up This Time? 

I'm kidding, sort of! But I am serious about sharing my goofs, large & small, because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels like a screwup most of the time - & I want you all to know: you can screw up, even big-time, and still do okay. I do! All the time. 

So, what happened this time? Well, it was kind of funny...or rather, it is now, now that I know it didn't cause any serious mayhem. Before the firing I took apart the sprayer & cleaned out any clumps of crystals of soda ash that might cause it not to work properly when I needed it. I was actually pretty proud of myself for doing this! Like, look at me, all preventative & stuff! I am one competent human! 


That crusty black material is what remains 
of the spray wand.

Apparently when I put it back together, I failed to screw on a little collar that keeps the brass wand attached to the sprayer hose. How did I discover this, you may ask? Well, my first clue was when, while spraying soda through the port, the pressure from the tank blew the rod right off the hose...and right into the port. 
There was nothing to be done about this in the moment, of course, except replace the wand (YAY EXTRA PARTS), continue spraying, and hope for the best. Brass is about 2/3s copper and 1/3 zinc - both will volatize well before ^10. I feared the fugitive copper might cause some flashing, and I really had (have, lol) no idea what fugitive zinc might do. 

I saw little evidence, actually, that the copper did much. It seemed only to affect pieces that had a specific flashing slip - Bauer Orange. The BMix pieces wearing Bauer turned blue - not the teal blue I would expect of copper, but what looked like a watery cobalt blue. Those are quite nice. There were only a couple items in brown stoneware wearing flashing slip, and good thing, too, because those were less nice; a dull mud-brown color with little shine. 

These shells had only Bauer Orange 
Flashing Slip applied.
So, weird but could have been worse! Overall a very successful firing; I will photograph some pieces on Wednesday & update the online shop on Thursday. Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Glaze Goals 2024

On New Years Eve, a friend & I took a hike on the Cliff Walk in Scarborough. (Maine, of course.) It was a grey and overcast day, cold but not too - a day that I once would have stayed home & wished for spring. 
I hike in winter now, with the persuasion of a good friend, and I highly recommend it! I don't hate winter anymore, & I've found that if I dress right (layers!) I don't get cold, thanks to the exertion. 

Anyway! The Cliff Walk has a lot of low cliffs (duh) and also a few stone beaches, where we found oyster shells. They have the most amazing color, and a surface like a frosty-matte glaze. I didn't keep this one (leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories) but I did snap this photo...I want to see if I can do something like this with glaze. 

More for the fun of solving the puzzle than for my studio work, although who knows? My clay journey has surprised me more than once. I'm thinking RIO & copper carb, brushed on a textured white stoneware under Rhodes 32

I hope 2024 brings you joy & the world peace. Happy New Year to all!