Sunday, October 30, 2011

sunday morning

It is a foggy foggy morning- I'm in a quiet hotel room and all of my family is asleep after a late night at my cousin's wedding.  I'm thinking about pottery- specifically picking up a box of porcelain and some new white glazes to test.  I'm still having problems with glaze shivering off the edges of my pieces- it seems to happen at random, and even though I've switched glazes and even the formulations of the glazes, I think I'm ready to try a new clay.   Maybe it's the clay that's been reformulated rather than the glaze?   I've been yearning for porcelain for some time, but my normal clay supplier, as wonderful as they are, doesn't carry much in the way of porcelain.  They have 2 that I've tried but once finished, there's not a perceptible difference between it and the smooth smooth stoneware I usually use.  So, that's tomorrow.

Last week my boy was sick, sick, and I focused on tending to him and delivering pots rather than making anything new.  I boxed up twenty little cups and saucers for my friend and client, Lane.  I finished the botanical dinnerware set, finally,  as well as the bowls for another client who's ordered her dishes by component.  I also delivered all of my bee pieces.  I spent last Saturday hanging them on the wall of my dining room and shooting them.  I'm really really proud of them and can't wait to see how they look all hanging together at the same time. 
 This is a set of 8 small dessert bowls I threw on the wheel and decorated.  Honestly, if they don't sell, I will be more than happy to keep them.  I'm just tickled with how they turned out. 
 And this is a detail shot of one of my larger bowls.  It's a slab piece, one that Natalie made for me.  She really has been invaluable- she and I worked and worked on figuring out how to use the honeycomb foundation to make a nice impression before we laid the enormous, heavy slab into its mold.  I inscribed a bit of Emily Dickinson's poem 58/"the bee" into the side rim. 
All of these pieces hang on the wall- either with traditional plate hangers, small holes I drilled into the foot of the piece, or little lug loops I added to the backs of the larger platters.

I'm ready to begin working and throwing again.  I have very little inventory.  Mugs and bowls are platters and ornaments for the holidays are on my to-make list, as are travel cups.  A friend found some silicone lids for her mugs in her etsy shop.  I'm on a search for some lids to make cups to locally.  This week I'm finishing up my "hope" pieces for the St. Jude event- hopefully early in the week.  I'm motivated to clear my plate and emerge from the land of "swamped" and start being creative again. 

Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I can't tell you when I've felt such a sense of accomplishment (well, yes, I can, it was when I finished with my dinner set, but that was erased when I broke three of the dishes.  they're almost done!).  I needed to have 10 pieces (or groups of pieces) for the annual invitational at St. George's Independent School.  Now I need to go through them, separate them into groups, and price them.

There is no way I could have possibly made all of these without the help of my friend Natalie.  She wedged clay, rolled slabs and cut out all of the molds for my platters.  I did the finishing, decorating, and throwing, but she was instrumental in helping me work through this task.  I'm grateful and excited and ready to finish my last big assignment.  But before I do, look at what's coming! 

I made and bisqued some hex stamps to speed up my honeycombs.  One of my "eureka" moments came at Heath Ceramics when I was talking to Ali, the kiln-daddy and glaze mixer-master.  I kept staring that the hex nuts on the kiln and finally realized that they were the key to my honeycomb problems.  I'd been using a template to draw them, but I wanted larger shapes.  Hex nuts don't make a good impression in clay, but they do make a fine template for clay stamps.  I know it's obvious, but I'd been stumped and the answer was waiting for me in my hardware cabinet. 

Y'all have a nice end of your week and weekend.  My boys are going on a group camping trip and I'm taking the "extra" time to do a little housekeeping in the studio, pushing through the last of my production obligations, and get started on holiday production.  I'm late in the game and my work will be limited, but I'll have enough for a small studio sale, etsy restock, and to stock my local retailers. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SF, 2- some things I learned

I learned a lot when I was touring pottery studios and galleries- by looking and talking to folks.  Some new techniques- like this, which is very similar to the crayon scratch-art we did as kids- though I don't think I *quite* got it, I'm mostly pleased with the results.  And wondering how I'd like it with another color as the base layer.  It isn't what I anticipated, but I'm not disappointed with the results, either.  I saw some pieces in process like this at Fourth and Clay, so I'm not 100% sure how they were supposed to turn out.  That may be good, because where I take the process from here will be entirely up to me.  It's very painterly, isn't it?

I also learned that I need to take greater care with the bottoms of my pieces.  Sometimes I don't catch things in time to make the bottoms smooth and pleasing, or trim them quite properly.  There might be a rough spot from an air bubble that I let pass because it's on the bottom.  I need to pay more attention to those details.  On the flip side, I saw some very expensive pieces by celebrated potters that had some quirks would have made me scrap the pieces entirely- handles not attached smoothly, some uneven/peely glaze issues.  Potters aren't perfect.  Neither is the work of our hands.  We aren't factories and some things slip by us.  Lesson for me- Melissa Bridgman needs to cut herself some slack.  Point taken.

So- it is Tuesday, the kiln needs loading and firing, and I'm looking forward to a large pot of soup on this first really cold day of fall.  Hope y'all have a good week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

R&D- San Francisco

This trip was fantastic.  I toured Heath Ceramics (This is such a wonderful small company.  Everyone there was so incredibly kind and open and I learned SO MUCH), several individual pottery studios (Diana Fayt, Fourth and Clay, the studio of Josie Jurczenia, Rae Dunn, and Christa Assad), and Trax Gallery, which is both a ceramics gallery and studio for Sandy Simon and Robert Brady.   There was a drive-by of Whitney Smith's studio and shop in Oakland.  Bought unavailable-locally glazes, underglazes, and tools.  Spent several hours at SF MOMA, which, happily, featured a ceramics collaboration .

I returned home inspired to clear my plate of my obligations (this week will be a veritable glazing festival) so that I can work on new pieces, using new techniques I learned on the studio visits and try my hand at adapting some pieces that were particularly inspiring.  I am ever grateful to Diana Fayt for sharing her time, knowledge, and passion for this medium with me, and even more grateful to call her my friend.

(top, L-R Josie Jurczenia's studio, Heath Ceramics, test tiles at Diana Fayt's studio.  middle, L-R Rae Dunn's studio, Diana Fayt's studio, Trouble Coffee and my friend Monica Bodnar-Pharr's teacups.  bottom, L-R Heath Ceramics, work in process, Christa Assad's cup, Nest, Louise Nevelson at SF MOMA)