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