Friday, February 25, 2011

Works in progress

Unloading the kiln is always a surprise.*  Yesterday I unloaded two large (as in, many pieces) commissions- I was so pleased that they came out how I'd hoped- as well as some pieces I was experimenting with.  Sometimes you have a concrete image in your mind of how something will look when finished.  Then, once the work is completed, it falls short.  Sometimes a smidge, sometimes greatly short of the mark.  I think we all experience this in cooking, in artwork, writing- almost any endeavor in which we have some creative input.  Here's my example- two cups:
The cup on the left is the first cup I made.  I wanted something simple and less expensive than the other cups I've made in this technique .  I had a small handmade cup that had nice clean, straight lines, so I used that form and added the bee.  I didn't feel like it hit the mark.  The text was wrong, my surface design was way off (I took some shortcuts and just plain old did it wrong), but the cup felt good.  I like drinking from it, but it isn't visually pleasing to me. 
The cup on the left is closer to what I had in mind.  It is slightly wider and shorter, and I cleaned up my surface decorating process.  There are three of these, with three different drawings,  and with two of them I feel like I'm 95% there.  I'm not shooting for perfection (perfect = not made by hand= no room for personality= graceless), just another tweak or two.  I'm happy with this one and will make more soon.

I really had the best day yesterday.  In addition to the good kiln-unloading, I had studio help (a friend is coming over once a week for a few hours to help me in the studio- it's a godsend!), yoga class, shipped several big orders, and best of all, received so much really affirming feedback from a little profile that ran in our paper.  It is always nice to hear from friends, family, and acquaintances who let you know that you're on the right path.  I'm so grateful for the life I live and the blessings I receive from everyone in my life.

Have a beautiful weekend, everyone-

*last week I opened the kiln to find that either my glaze was contaminated or some sort of ash/mineral/who-even-knows had settled on the top of two large white platters strewn with ginkgos.  They were so nice, except that they were randomly speckled with black.  I was so upset and have since shop-vac-ed the kiln thouroughly and strained my white glaze.  The problem must have been solved as these pieces aren't speckled with the same black.  But oh, it was disappointing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

a debate: gettin' grabby?

I took my camera outside with me this morning for a fast photo of my girls.  Merigold wouldn't cooperate for the photo (No surprise.  She is not a cooperative chicken).  Pearl (L) and Edna (R) are happy to cozy up for a little more feed.  They make me feel a just a little Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-in-the-City-ish.  Especially now that I have a woodstove to heat the back of the house with, and our rain barrels capture almost as much water as we need for the garden.  I'm watching seeds come up under cold frames and poking around for the first purple asparagus.

So have you heard about the new Urban Homestead debate*?  I'd like to think that I was on my way to having one, slowly (ahem.  very slowly) moving there with a more productive garden and chickens, making my own pots- to sell and to trade for other goods and services.  For instance, a neighbor is painting my studio in exchange for pottery and some eggs.  I've also traded pottery for electrical work, and dried figs for specialty jams from other parts of the country.  My 3-5 year plan includes both solar cells on the studio to offset my kiln usage, and bees.  This way of living and working seems- well, cooperative (unlike Merigold).  Helping one another to live better lives without having to necessarily exchange cash.  Being less dependent on cash and "work" and more dependent on skills and each other.

But this?  It just seems grabby to me.  The term is far older than I am.  I am all for protecting one's intellectual property- there has been more than one occasion that I've found the words I struggled to craft attributed to someone else- and in print, no less.  But to try to exclude an entire body of people- authors, free-lance writers, bloggers, libraries, teachers, activists, and just plain old folks- around the world who are trying to make a better life for them selves and their communities by trademarking the best all-purpose term that you (the trademarker) didn't even coin?  Well, that's just selfish.  And boastful, in the most misplaced egocentric way possible.  It would be as if I were to trademark the term coffee cup.  Or berry bowl.  Really?  Why?  Because in the end, it doesn't protect my sales of coffee cups or berry bowls.  It would only serve to make me look sad and misguided and desperate- or else the recipient of some very, very bad advice.  

I think we're all going to keep gardening, bringing chickens into the city, and doing our best, no matter what we are (or aren't) calling it.  Oh, and if anyone has goats in Memphis, I'd love to trade some pottery (or eggs or figs) for it!
Have a good week, y'all.

*there is an awesome how-to book by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of this same now-copyrighted name.  They are facing a lawsuit because of this issue.  Two ways to support them and this little take-it-back movement.  1) go buy the book.  You won't regret it.  Even if you just plant strawberries and basil in your front yard, it's something.  2) make a small donation to EFF, the advocacy group representing Knutzen and Coyne.  There's even a paypal link!  Go plant something!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Hi!  I just unloaded my first "big" dinner set from the kiln this morning.   Actually, this is the first half of the set.  8 luncheon-sized plates, 8- 8oz tumblers, 8- 6 oz cups.  They are super bright, simple, mixable-matchable.  There are a few little spots that will need a re-glaze, and then I'll deliver them either this weekend or the first of next week.  It feels really special to have done this- I put off making dinnerware for the longest time.  I really sweated the plates,  but I'm happy with them!  I made a few extra of each piece just in case, and I'm glad that I did, because one plate cracked and one little cup adhered itself to the kiln shelf because I applied the glaze too thick and it ran.  The second half of this set will include egg cups and some bowls, and probably something else, but I'm not sure what.  I hope my client is as pleased with it as I am. 

Gary's described some of my work as handmade fiesta-ware - I can definitely see that in these pieces.  It's funny to me how the these forms, rendered in bright colors, are a world apart from the same pieces glazed white with a simple green leaf or two.    I have several examples of both the botanical pieces and these vividly colored pieces sitting next to each other on the kitchen table - one set is definitely more quiet and formal while the other is vivacious and happy (if dishes can be vivacious. . . ).

Over the next few days I have to wrap up my 2010 taxes to take to our accountant, glaze a small load of pottery, attend a few meetings about our community's schools, and visit with some relatives who've come in from out of town for the weekend.  We're having lovely sunny spring-like weather (today's high is 70!) and it energizes me.

I think I won't be back in this space before next Monday- I hope your week wraps up well.
Enjoy some sunshine!

Monday, February 14, 2011

good morning!

I am 99% sure that I've shared this with you before- it is a cup that I made for one of my favorite customers who is also a volunteer at the Memphis Farmers Market- he takes the early shift and usually helps me set up my  tent- those last few pulling it out steps that one person can't do alone.  And he is always so happy and sunny- as is his wife, who plays the harp (!) at the market (!).  I wanted to give them something happy and sunny.

Text appeals to me- maybe because I love reading so much, and I love calligraphy (but don't really practice it myself) and vintage fonts.  Red on white reminds me of old redwork embroidery and vintage enamel kitchen-ware.  This morning I saw this bit of happy text on my flickr contacts stream.  It made me really happy, and made me wonder how I could take this idea and make it my own.

I think we'll be seeing more "good morning" pieces in the future- and maybe some happy welcoming wall tiles.  We'll see how this percolates.

Have a beautiful week, friends, and happy Valentine's day!  Tell someone how much they mean to you- it will make their day.  You being here, reading, commenting, means so much to me.  Thanks for being a support system!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Color is funny, isn't it?  How we feel about color is deeply personal and sometimes unexplainable.  I love love deep cobalt blue,  I adore jolts of red.  But purple?  I have an almost visceral reaction to purple.  Never mind that my favorite flower, lavender, is very decidedly purple.  I like green quite a lot, but I haven't been using very much green in my pottery lately.  And my beloved cobalt?  Well, it doesn't sell terribly well for me, and as I look at the body of my work, it doesn't really "fit" with it anymore.  I haven't been using it for much in the past year or so.  Cobalt will still show up on the occasional honeypot or egg cup.  It will still be available for special requests, but I may be finished with it in terms of large bowls and mugs and things.  Or I may not.  I haven't completely decided yet.

But back to the green.  Late this fall a friend gave me several buckets of glaze- the same brand that I currently use, some colors that I've used, some that I haven't.  I passed on the more earthy colors- browns and bronzes that I knew I wouldn't use- and kept a few that I would.  There was an entire gallon of celadon, which I took as a sign that I should begin using that again.  These egg cups are the first pieces I've glazed in this deep celadon green in almost a year.  I forgot how much I like how it pools in the ridges at the base.  I also did a set of teacups and saucers for a friend who sent me a huge box of lemons from her tree. 

This color can be tricky and often requires two glaze and firing sessions (that equals three trips to the kiln).  It also varies in its intensity- sometimes it comes out deep jade and sometimes it is very pale green.  I think that after years of trying to make everything the same in every firing, I'm starting to embrace the wabi-sabi in my work.  It won't be perfect.  It won't be the same every time.  And that's just fine by me. 

We're supposed to have a snowstorm tomorrow.  I'm going to hole up in my basement and finish glazing that set of dishes I showed you last week.  More on that next time.
Have a good week, everyone!

Friday, February 4, 2011

this week

I feel like a lost a bit of my motivation this week.  I know that the root of this is that I worked so so hard last year, and since Gary was hired on his contracting job as a full time employee with benefits, I felt like I could finally take a little break.  So so much relief at my house- I just can't even tell you how relieved we feel.  But a little break became no-motivation to work week.  I threw a little, trimmed a little, fired a small kiln-load in which two big bowls blew up because they were, alas, still not dry.  Alas, alas.  Glazing is always hard for me to start, but there's no point in making pots you aren't planning to glaze.  So I've glazed, babysat the men who are installing our wood stove, and strangest of all, I waxed the floors in the dining room, living room, kitchen, and bath.  I'm not sure what wild hair got into me.  They look good, but ahem, I'm still glazing.

Thank you, thank you for the teacup love.  More are coming. 

This pile of bisqued pottery is the first half of a dinner set that a local customer ordered.  It's a set of 8, so I made 10 of everything to give a margin for error.  The plates were the biggest stress point for these, but I threw 2 at a time over a few weeks and they turned out well, I think.  They're smaller than commercial dinner-size plates, maybe 9" in diameter.  Luncheon or breakfast sized.  I still don't plan to make plates as a rule, but it was really nice to get these done.

Today I have an acupuncture appointment, more babysitting workmen, more glazing, hoping for no snow, and hoping to go to an art opening tonight.  Tomorrow I'm going on a silent day retreat.  I'm excited about that.  Excited about quiet?  You bet.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!