Thursday, June 28, 2012

and it clicked

I'm excited about pottery again.  I realized that I'm going to have to stop using big bessie kiln for the summer (I'm looking at a week plus of 100+ days, and firing her requires 10+ hours of no AC) and fire more frequently with my little kiln, which was stripped of elements last night and half-replaced.  I was so proud to do it myself (with significant coaching from my friend Mike, the ceramics engineer), but my back gave out before I could finish.  Also, hello, sweaty.

I've been throwing a bit again this week and pulled out some new supplies I bought this spring before everything went haywire.  Here's one piece I just finished working on:

The blue is underglaze carbon paper, for lack of a better term.  I drew these zinnias (based on Walter Anderson's zinnias) last summer and made tissue paper templates.  I have high hopes for these- if I draw directly on the paper, the lines are incredibly fine.  If I draw through the templates, they're a little blotchy, thick and thin.  I think I like it.

Earlier this week I played around with more blue and white- I think it's a direction I'll pursue.  All of my wedding dishes were blue and white, and I've collected different blue and whites over time.  I'll be back to show you the results in a few weeks.

Friday, June 22, 2012

high summer

This week has gone by fast- we had guests.  My friend Angela and her husband Devin came through on their way to Albuquerque.  We enjoyed their visit and are glad they arrived safely. We stayed in and relaxed with many pool visits, fresh summer drinks, and a pedi treat, a small break on their long journey.

Our summer is heating up.  Every morning I go out to water- turn on the hoses on the front of back yard gardens and let the water drip into the garden beds.  They dry out so fast.  My plum tomatoes are ready- a few coming in every day.   The air is on almost all the time, and I watch the extended forecast for days/nights that it's cool enough to fire the big kiln (we have to turn off the air for the highest/longest firing cycle.  I try to time it for the hours we're asleep so that we don't wake up to a hot, humid house).  I can run the little kiln while the air is on, so perhaps it's time to get started on replacing those elements?  Hmm.

My boy finished two weeks of tennis camp, so for the next two weeks we have few plans but reading and self-entertainment in the mornings while I try to squeeze in a few hours worth of work, followed by pool time in the afternoons.  Things seem to be looking up with pottery-finally.  The kiln is full of test pieces in the new stoneware that I hope will work to replace my old favorite stoneware.  I also have two bags of dry glazes to mix and test in my basement glazing dungeon.  I'm looking forward to a smooth period of making and restocking after such a rocky spring.

Summer's here- I hope you'll enjoy yours.

Friday, June 15, 2012


This morning I spent some time outside in the golden light with my coffee, watching my birds (big and little chickens and tiny songbirds) and bees in the back yard, wondering at the sprouting seeds and life what exactly it is that I'm supposed to be doing.  And I came inside and began drawing on plates and cups- bees and chickens- exactly what I'd been watching outside.  I am doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

Twice this year I've gotten really nice notes from friends thanking me for what I'm doing- honesty in my process and struggles with figuring out my work and keeping on with it.  I feel like I've done a huge amount of growth in the first half of this year because I have struggled mightily.  I have a professional friend who is working like gangbusters, producing and producing and really cranking it out.  And I remember a few years ago when I was doing that and I marvel at it now, because really, that's not sustainable for me.  I think that I'm finally coming to the point where I'm ok with the lull in my professional journey.  I still feel bad that I haven't restocked my stores or filled some individual orders because of my trials with the clay and glaze and kilns (really, I feel really bad about it, but not bad enough to keep beating my head against the brick wall that's presented itself squarely in my path).   So I'm working on throwing better, drawing every day, still experimenting on finding that right clay and glaze fit, and realizing tactile leaps forward will come with time, and progress isn't necessarily measured by your output.

Speaking of journeys, I want to thank all of you who helped me with this project.  My friend Angela is coming through early next week on her way to her medical relocation to New Mexico.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me help her.  This project has been immensely satisfying to me, and I'm so grateful that my work could provide so much financial assistance.  I am still making these cups and hope that their sale will continue to provide some small measure of assistance as Angela and Devin start fresh in NM.

It is Friday and I am going to a specialty nursery later this morning to buy succulents to fill my growing klompen wall outside my back door.  I hope you have something fun planned, too.

As always, thanks for reading and being on this journey with me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


This past week I spent more time worrying about my bees than doing anything else.  The city mosquito truck came by and I noticed some bees on their backs, little legs flailing, inside the hive.  I called Vector Control and had my house taken off the spray route, and plan to cover the hive the next time they come spraying.  We already knew that the spray was bad for bumble bees and butterflies, and the supervisor I spoke with was very responsive and concerned about my hive, which I appreciated.  Then, later that day, when I went into the hive to really do a full check (something I do every couple of weeks, and I'd noticed some problems I needed to take care of), I let one of the frames of honey, quite large and weighing almost 10 lbs, get too warm and it collapsed/fell into the hive.  What a mess.  I salvaged about a quart, cleaned up as best I could, and let the bees clean up the rest.   It wrecked my day.  But, I learned what NOT to do next time I go in, and I learned how to manually extract honey and render wax with a top bar hive.  Not the best day I'd ever had, but the results, well, they were sweet.  And my bee mentor came over the next day and helped me do a frame-by-frame inspection to check for mosquito-spray damage and melissa-inflicted damage.  Not much of either.

I also spent a lot of time grinding down my kiln shelves and had to stop before I was ready because an hour + of using the grinder aggravated my tendinitis. Gary ground more for me, but I've realized that I will need to finish the rest in stages, mix the kiln wash and grind/coat several shelves in each firing I do for the rest of the summer.  I hope that new thicker kiln wash will save some of the porcelain-sticking issues I'd been having this spring.

This week will be a busy one.  Two friends are in from out of town, I'm ready to work again, and I've been bit with the purging/reorganizing bug.  Tennis camp (this week and next week) begins in the morning, and I'm ready to get rolling.

Hope yours is a good one.  Night, friends.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I hadn't realized

That it's been almost a month since I posted here.  Before we left for our vacation, I was almost ready to stop pottery.  Ordered more glazes and realized that all of my kiln shelves needed to be ground off and re-coated with kiln wash.  One kiln, the littlest of my two, needs to have all of its elements replaced.  So I gave myself permission to stop before I made myself insane, ordered my new parts, asked a friend to help me with the electrical stuff when we returned, packed our bags, and left.

 I love the shells.  Brought back entirely too many of them.  

 Found what might be my favorite ever sun hat.  Wore it at every opportunity.  Freckled anyway, despite the sunscreen and the shade.

And- is it a cliche to come back inspired by the colors and shapes of the sea?  These looked so pearly white, translucent almost like baby toes (they are all smaller than a nickel or a dime), but on closer reflection, they're varying shades of cream (a divine reminder to be satisfied with my creamy clay bodies?).  The shells left me dreaming of organic, imperfect shapes and washy cream and grey glazes in see-through thin porcelains.  I'm almost ready to work again.  First, the grinding and re-coating of all of my kiln shelves, a bit of re-wiring.  Those are things I can do accompanied by a young man who doesn't start camps until next week.

I had planned to have a home sale next weekend- but it isn't going to happen.  There will be some small pop-up (in my house) sale this summer, but all of the firing and glaze mishaps mean that I have no inventory, and what I have needs to go to my local shops who have been waiting so patiently for me to solve my problems.  Stay tuned.