Friday, August 16, 2013

pitcher 29

This is pitcher 29.  Sadly, it cracked, so I think I'll hang it outside and fill it with succulents.  It's a simple stoneware form, pretty straight sided, and I cut down the base to form the spout.  I was moseying around on pinterest one day and saw a beautiful self portrait by Frida Kahlo that was full of flowers- I borrowed these flowers from her.  The sugar bowl is one I made to fit this vintage pressed glass top I found in a thrift store box when my sister in law was moving.  I liked its shape and wondered if I could make a bottom to fit it.  It *almost* fits perfectly.  I might go after the base with a sanding tool to make it more secure.  Our sugar bowl has seen better days and I'd like to keep it from breaking entirely (it is part of my wedding McCarty pottery stash).  Pitchers 30, 31, 32, and 33 are waiting for their bisque fire.

And almost every time I unload a kiln full of porcelain I consider switching to it entirely.  I LOVE the stuff.  Love love love.  I have gotten to the point where I can throw tall forms (thank you, pitcher project!) and I understand what it requires of me in terms of handbuilding (dry very very slowly), but plates are still scary.  It is less forgiving, more demanding, but, oh.  goodness.  This little teacup was a test piece that I'd applied another layer of decoration to, hated, and scraped off.  The rim bears evidence of the scraping, but I love it anyway.  So far from perfect but still lovely and useful.  And maybe better because of its scrappiness.  So that may be my 2014 goal- switching to porcelain.

I am having big issues with getting this URL to redirect to my new website, which is up and ready to go except for the URL.  I am keeping my etsy shop open and stocked with everything I have (including some special sale pieces coming soon) and will keep it open for certain things but will move others, like this blue and white line (and the speckled egg pieces that I'm going to reintroduce this fall) to the website.   This journal will also move over in its entirety (I hope).

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Friday, August 9, 2013


This week has seen so much change- I feel almost like my world's spinning like my pottery wheel- but in a good way.  New orders, new clients, new opportunities.  I just brought home a friend's long-neglected Lockerbyie kick wheel and am setting up an outdoor studio for temperate weather.  A new client has requested somewhat rougher/rustic work than what I usually make, and I plan to make it all on the kick wheel.  There will be a learning curve, to be sure, but the work will be somewhat more playful and decidedly less pristine than what I usually aim for.  I'm excited for the opportunity to stretch my skills.

I also began working on a new comprehensive website this week- a catalog of what I make, an online store (planning to keep my etsy store open, at least for the time being), and I'll be moving this journal of my days making pots over to that space.  The url should stay the same, but I hope that the feel, as well as my vision of my work and its progress, will be clearer.  There's a learning curve there, too.

Until next week- have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

new new new

School began yesterday and I'm getting my groove back on.  Between the obsessive canning of tomato products (salsa, marinara, bbq sauce, plain tomatoes, soup) and list-making for fall business, I'm making plans.
New website
New local shop
New ideas
New styles and products

I always feel like I've got a fresh new start with the new school year.  You?

Monday, July 29, 2013

25, 26, 27, 28

Finally, four more pitchers.  I was really pleased with this batch.
25- porcelain, thrown, handbuilt spout, carved.  I really didn't know what to do with this pitcher when it came time to glaze it but wound up choosing the bucket of "mystery glaze".  This is an ever-changing bucket of glaze solids left over from my day's glazing.  I wash my brushes in a bowl of water as I'm working and at the end of the session, there is a half-inch or so of glaze sludge at the bottom of the bowl.  I mix the water and glaze up and pour it into the 2 gallon bucket, let it settle, scoop out some of the clear water (for the next round of glazing), then mix the resulting glaze with my drill attachment and dip vases, pitchers, bowls into the resulting glaze.  This time last year it was a light celadon green, but this year it is a transparent glossy pale blue.  Because I am mostly working with white, clear, and aqua glazes right now they form the base, and odd bits of cobalt wash also wind up in the bucket.  It's one piece of my sustainability practice.  I only wish it were as easy to recycle my clay!

26- also porcelain, thrown, trimmed, and cut away for the spout.  Floral mishma decoration that turned out quite well here but I'm not sure I'll use it again.  I was working with this sketch-like floral design for wedding platters but they don't work as well as I'd like somehow.  Still, this is pretty.

27- front- a shamm, short, squared off stoneware with cascading circles in cobalt mishima.  The spout is handbuilt and added when the body was leather hard.  This is one of my favorite new patterns.

28- rear- stoneware pitcher, thrown in two pieces.  I went back to my love of antique china for this one and added a scalloped border at the top and bottom, painted with cobalt wash.  I used the edge of one of my platter templates to make the scallops and will repeat this for my work for the cookbook I'm working on.

And lastly, I'm just tickled with this cake plate.  The top is a slab of faux bois clay fitted into a flat (like, abnormally flat) glass IKEA plate.  The bottom is a thrown/flared cylinder.  I bisqued the pieces separately and then glaze-glued them together.  I was afraid that the plate would slump over the base and dithered about firing them separately and using epoxy afterward.  In the end, I ran out of space in the little kiln and decided to risk firing them together.  YAY! It worked!

This is our last week of "summer".  School begins next Monday and we have lots to pack in this week.  I'm looking forward to a regular routine and work days again, and being in this space a bit more regularly.

Have a lovely week, friends.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


This summer I have been working on building a body of work to serve as photo props for some friends upcoming cookbook.  I'm tickled to be included and stretching my skills to come up with a diverse but unified collection for them.  These ramekins are part of what I've made.  Working in less figurative, more abstract manner is difficult for me, but I'm pleased with these.

Also this summer I've been talking to a good friend, Brian Pera about art, work, working at home, and film.  The week N was at camp he came over for the morning while I worked in the studio.  I was nervous and reticent to participate, but I'm glad he talked me into making this short film.  I shared it last week over twitter and my personal facebook account, but neglected to post it here.  Quiet Brain: Melissa Bridgman from Evelyn Avenue on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

This week my boy has been at camp all week so I feel like I've had so much time to be in the studio- both working and cleaning.  I feel like I was really productive and have been so happy to have uninterrupted days.  Countdown to school has begun- we start again on Aug 5, so I will be spending the rest of July doing as much fun summer stuff as we can stand, and very little time in the studio.

As promised, here are my chicken tiles.  I'm planning to install them on a beam that spans the length of the run from the door to the coop.  There's a lot of red with some aqua accents- the faux bois and chicken wire impressions.   My favorite tile isn't visible in this shot- a drawing of chicken feet!

And also promised, there's a batch of honey pots in my shop right now.

Have a good weekend, friends!

Monday, July 8, 2013

blue and white party in the studio

On Friday I unloaded my super-full itty bitty kiln to find a veritable blue and white party.  I did a lot of work in porcelain a few weeks ago- some cups, three pitchers, some cafe au lait bowls, and a few little pieces to experiment on.

First, a happy little bud vase with a botanical sketch rendered in mishima I drew directly from here.  I'll be using this again.
This may be my absolute favorite pitcher from this series.  #22, porcelain, thrown in two pieces, and etched with this loopy garland on the bottom and the inside of the top.  Happy happy happy.  I'll be making many more things like this.  Two pictures because I like it so much.
#23, also porcelain, with a much wider strap handle than I usually make.  Thrown, altered to a squarish shape and etched with a herringbone pattern at the top.  Instead of working with mishima, I watered down my cobalt wash and brushed it over the etched area and the top ice blocking portion that I copied from some of my silver pieces.
#24 porcelain, and I tried to make this a more simple, modern, minimalist shape.  it really doesn't work for me but it's fine.

Lastly, a set of 4 honeycomb impression cafe au lait bowls in porcelain and cobalt.  I like these a lot.  I made them for a friend with whom I trade horticultural knowledge and goods for pottery.  I like how simple and happy they are.

Later this week: the new chicken tiles I made and a batch of honeypots.  Have a lovely week!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

high summer

we've hit a blissfully cool spell this week- yesterday's highs were in the 70s, today's, low 80s.  So it was a very good time to suit up (and I'm so glad that I did!) and go into the beehive to fix some messy situations I'd observed from the window and then a big huge mess at the front of the hive.  Top bar hives are supposed to be REALLY good for the bees.  More like natural cavity hives, good for bee health and population growth.  Not so good for honey harvest, because sometimes the combs are built in a crossing, intersecting pattern, especially if they are near full honeycombs that are big and fat, broaching into territory that is meant for other combs.  So I knew I had work to do.

In the photos below, you'll see a straight, perfect comb.  The hive was full of these.  And next to it, a bowl of uncapped honeycomb that was built perpendicular to its surrounding combs.  I cut these out and preserved the straight combs.  There was one section that had 3 honeycombs fused together at the back of the hive.  I left those and marked them so I'd know not to move them, but could let the bees eat them.  After I removed the crossed combs and combs that were fat on one end, skinny on the other, I alternated these straight combs with empty bars to encourage the bees to build new straight combs.  One doesn't really reason with bees, but this was my attempt.  The uncapped honey doesn't keep but ferments easily, so I will either use this immediately (ice cream?) or give it to a friend who makes mead.

Above, you see the brood comb.  I was happy to see lots of larvae, capped brood, and eggs.  I checked three frames but didn't go back further than that.  There was plenty of cleanup at the front, some of which I harvested, some of which I set aside for the bees to clean up and reuse.  Lastly, you see my half-gallon jar, filled with chunks of capped honey, which I then crush and strain.  The cleanup at the front of the hive was quite intense, and the bees were less than happy with me.  I was grateful that I'd accidentally ordered a full suit instead of just a jacket.  They were ready to sting, but so far, the suit's kept me sting free.

My garden is going- tomatoes coming in.  Ajax enjoys the unripe roma tomatoes a little too much (he, incidentally, is never allowed to be outside while I'm working with the bees.  He is curious and looks too much like a small brown bear for his own good), and the yellow pear tomatoes have all succumbed to wilt.  I have pulled them out and will replace them with pole beans and cucumbers for the rest of the season.

Later this week I'll show you a) pitchers and b) a tile project I've been working on in preparation for the first city-wide Coop Tour in Memphis.
Have a lovely week and a happy Independence Day, friends!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

half way point

this week marks week 26 of my pitcher project.  Pitchers 22, 23, 24 are in the kiln.  25 is on the drying shelf because a) I forgot I'd left it in the damp box and b) it wouldn't have fit in the little kiln anyway.  I've given away two pitchers, #3 to my mother for mother's day and #7 to a friend who, quite simply, needed it.
Here are the other 19:

I am still toying with the idea of showing these as a group next year. After that point, they'll (almost) all be for sale, either at the showing or in my shop.  Not sure yet.

This morning I went to one of the local shops that carries my work and did a refresh and swap out.  Later this week I'll list some of the things I brought home in a sale section in my shop.  And hopefully I'll glaze the other pitchers and have them to show you, as well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


just listed in the shop! and I'm bisque firing honeypots early next week, glazing Weds or so. They'll be listed shortly thereafter.
hello Thursday!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

blue and white/ 21

I am feeling extremely unmotivated to work these days.  Extremely.  Not good for the self-employed.
There are ideas swimming around in my head, but not coming out in the studio.  Pressing on, wanting to or not.
Here are some pieces from my last kiln load that I was happy with:

First, a set of blue and white tumblers.  Plain creamy stoneware, etched designs, cobalt inlay.  There is also this one, but the clover is a smidge too dark.  The think I like best about this cup is the smeary edges that came from glazing immediately after I applied the wash, not giving it time to dry properly.  The floral pattern, which you see repeated below, is the same one I lifted from the vintage bird platter I bought at an estate sale last summer.  I do like combining the traditional china decorating imagery with more abstract, subtle designs.  And the cascading blue circles is just about my favorite of the bunch.  These blue and white pieces will show up again, but I'm holding them back for a while.

And pitcher 21.  I'm still making them, but I'm a bit behind.  This is week 25 and I just finished pitcher 22 yesterday.  So today, 23, 24, 25.  This clay is a leftover piece from my faux bois platters that I rewedged with some fresh clay, so there is some slight blue marbling here and there.  I like the forthright shape and precise design blended with the running blue and marbling.

Later this week: I have berry bowls to list!  I'll post here once they're up.  Have a good week, y'all.

Friday, June 14, 2013

friday to friday

and they're finished. the bottom broke off of one in the kiln- not quite blew up, but not intact.
watery, yes?
I think he'd be happy.  I layered so many glazes and raw cobalt that you can't really even see the mississippi river slip, but I'm glad it's there.  Not my style, but I think they feel peaceful, and I hope they bring peace.


Friday, June 7, 2013


Last year I had a conversation with one of my oldest friends about making an urn for her, when the time comes.  She wanted an unfired piece that would return to the earth along with her ashes.  Later that summer, I made an urn for a college friend for her mother.  Then, when my dear friend Papatya died, I made several small urns for her family to divide her ashes.  Since then I've made several pet urns, including one for my Birdy.  I was happy to make them, especially in small sizes, for pets.  Much less happy to make Papatya's, but glad that I could.

Saturday we received a phone call that our son's best friend lost his father.  It was very sudden, and we were all very sad. When his son, who is much like my own son, told me that his father wanted his ashes sprinkled at the Mississippi River, I offered to make a keepsake urn for his family.  His wife, who is also a good friend, requested a water/river theme.  Her husband grew up on the water near Boston and loved running on the river here as a young man. 

This week I threw three large lidded vessels and yesterday after I trimmed them I began thinking about River.  Rivers defy precision.  They aren't necessarily neat and tidy- a little wild, untamed.  I brushed iron oxide-heavy slip that I made from the clay I dug from the banks of the Mississippi on each of the pieces and let them run a bit.  The gray color you see here is a cobalt wash.  I plan to coat the pieces in a sheer blue to let the darker colors come through.  Working this loosely is a challenge for me, but I'm excited to see how they turn out and which piece the family will choose. 

I'm honored to make this for his family and also glad that urns are not my main product line.

I didn't make a pitcher this week, so next week will be a 2 pitcher week.
Hope you all have a good weekend.

Monday, June 3, 2013

pitchers again! 17-20

17- red mishima- I love the ticking at the top and bottom.  red and white and blue and white just make me really happy.  clean and crisp.
18- hand-painted cobalt stripes.  my cobalt is a mix of cobalt oxide, frit (I think), and water.  cobalt is so intense, it rubs off on everything.  I think that I need to add some gerstley borate to stabilize it a little.  this reminds me of rough mediterranean tourist earthenware pottery.

19- one single four leaf clover, white glaze.  tall-ish pitcher.
 20- I love this one.  I took the scrap from my cobalt faux bois pieces and wedged it to reuse, which caused the marbled blue streaks throughout the pitcher.  It's a small, chunky milk-type jug with mishima bees and honeycomb. 

Friday, May 31, 2013


this year I've been working towards a lot of different things, including streamlining what I make (more in terms of finishing and surface design than forms), expanding my repertoire, and looking at the best way(s) to grow my business.  Here's some of what I've been working on lately:

cake stands- I used to throw these in two pieces, but they'd slump or come apart.  Frequently.  It was really frustrating.  I've learned how to throw them in a single piece and they're doing much much better.  Still refining this form, but I'm happier with these and their potential than I was with the others I used to make.  Jeanette has made seemingly (possibly literally) HUNDREDS of cake stands this spring.  She's been a huge inspiration in my relearning cake stands.  There are still some ticky little things I'm not happy with, but I like the direction I find myself moving.

faux bois- the response to these has been overwhelming- both online and in person.  I can't say that these will be a huge part of my lineup, but right now it's fun and fresh and helps me to crank out more of the same old forms.

pet urns- I think I've finally settled on the appropriate sizes and prices for these.  I've made some test pieces and have a few more to make, but they're coming.  For dogs AND cats.

I am still working on pitchers, but I've been so busy with work and life that I haven't taken photos of the last three or four.  This weekend.

Lastly, if you're local, I'll be at the Overton Park Day of Merrymaking next Saturday.  I'll be sharing a booth with Sweaterlove.

Monday, May 20, 2013


last week completely got away from me.  The pitchers are in the kiln (one or two, that is), and I have several other pitchers in various states of being made or fired or completed.  I am working towards a festival in Overton Park in lieu of a home sale this spring/summer, trying to keep my retailers stocked, and working on the planning and experimenting stages for a really big project.

When Gary and I got married in 2000, I had already begun a collection of blue and white dishes.  Some old blue willow, spode, asian-import bowls, an antique set of wedgwood.  I loved to mix and match the very old and fancy with mass-produced transferware and heavily mass produced restaurant ware, all unified by their blue and white color scheme.  Many of these are still my every day dishes, and I've begun adding my own blue and white pieces to the set. 

I'm working on a new idea, combining the more traditional floral (and bee!) patterns I played with heavily in 2012 and mixing them with more abstract, organic, geometric blue and white renderings.  Sometimes in the same piece, sometimes in coordinating pieces.  I'm very excited about this project and will have some pieces up in the shop and locally, but I am keeping most of these back until the new year.

Fifty percent of my making time has been filling orders and making many of the same things I've always made (but I am dropping a few things here and there), and fifty percent is dedicated to R and D mode. I hope, at the end of this year, that I'll have a more unified body of work to streamline my making, my supplies, and my time.  Refining has been my underlying goal for this year, and I'm beginning to see things that I like.

Hope y'all have a good week this week.  School ends for us on Wednesday.  I am not ready!

Monday, May 13, 2013

bees, take 3

On Thursday, I went to check on my bees and was a little alarmed to see that they had taken up almost ALL of the available space in the hive.  Saturday morning, I let the dog out and noticed a dark blot in the very top of my fig tree.  About 20 feet up.  I got out the binoculars (closer at hand than my glasses) and gasped to see this:

This swarm was about three times the size of the swarm I'd captured  in March.  I guessed that they'd come from my over-full hive, and a quick check through the window showed that it was still quite full, but not so full of bees that I couldn't see the comb.  I sent my bee mentor an email, and within an hour, Richard was over with his swarm capturing equipment.  We got the bees, but it took almost 2 hours.

After we knew we'd gotten the queen, we checked on my hive.  Richard explained that the old queen leaves the hive with 60% of the worker bees when they swarm.  Typically, they do this after they've capped several new queen cells, which you see here:

That peanut-shaped bump is a queen cell, filled with royal jelly and bee larvae.  To the right, you see some raised bumps, which are drone brood, and the flat capped cells are worker brood.  We found five capped queen cells, plus several other empty queen cups.  Because Richard raises queens, I had him take three of the five capped queen cells back to his apiary.  In another few days, the new queens will emerge, determine which queen will be queen (it's a death-fight), then take her mating flight.  After that flight, she'll spend the rest of her life inside the hive, laying eggs.  Unless, of course, the colony outgrows its space and they swarm, in which case she will leave with 60% of her colony and begin again.

Because my intention with beekeeping is increasing bee health and the bee population, I'm happy to see my colony grow and divide like this.  If I were keeping bees for honey, swarming would mean less honey for me to harvest, but that's secondary.

Interestingly, late Saturday afternoon I got an email from Rebecca detailing her family's swarm adventure.  Seems to be the season!

Later this week: more pitchers and maybe some mishima.

Have a lovely week!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

14, 15, 16

pitcher 14.  inspired by this.  I made a chrysanthemum-type stamp years and years ago and pressed it into the not-quite leather hard clay, then brushed low fire blue glaze over it before I bisque  fired.  I don't remember if I tried to wipe it off or not (but I think I may have).  I coated it in clear gloss before firing to ^6.  My favorite things about it are my finger marks on the inside and the almost ikat streakiness of the blue on the handle.

#15 is an upsized version of a creamer that I made before Christmas and my friend Brian has.  Sadly, when I was moving it to bisque fire, I knocked the handle off, and some chunks of the rim.  Because it was still green (unfired), I got the pieces wet and stuck them back together.  So it has a bit of a "make do and mend" quality to it.  I have to say that while I was disappointed that I broke this piece, the mending is my favorite part of it.

#16 After I made the faux bois trays with the cobalt wash, I wondered how that technique of drawing the wood grain and then expanding it would work on a thrown object.  Not so well.  Not terribly, but not great.  I threw a thick cylinder and coated it in iron slip.  After it had set up a bit, I drew the wood grain pattern into the piece and put it back on the wheel to try to manipulate a bit more.  Problem with throwing is that you typically put pressure on both the inside and outside of the piece, so I effectively erased a lot of the pattern.  I think, honestly, that it looks a little hokey and while I've had good responses to the slab faux bois pieces, I won't ever repeat this variation.

#s 17 and 18 are ready to glaze and I threw #19 yesterday.  time flies!
Thanks for reading, friends.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

faux bois

In mid April, while trolling pinterest, I found this tutorial on making faux bois.  I'd seen one eons ago on the old martha stewart show about using a faux finishing woodgrain paddle on a slab and throwing it on a wedging table to stretch it out (I believe Jeff Bridges was demonstrating? who knew the Dude was a pottery person?  And completely aside, I have a lot of respect for his humanitarian work- he really makes a difference).  I was in a slump and needed to do something to spark my creativity (and to get back to work), so I shook up my bottle of cobalt wash, rolled out a thick slab, and went to work.  Here are the results:

The platter in the foreground is very rough/rustic.  It was the first slab and I didn't trim it at all, just laid it into a mold*.  I think I'm going to use it outside on my porch.  The second slab became the four dessert plates to the right.  In the background is the last slab I made, and I cut it to fit an oval platter form I have.  I took the leftover bits of clay and rewedged them to throw with.  I hope that there will be some cobalt marbling in the finished piece, but I didn't see anything as it dried.  We'll see!

I'm going to try this with my Mississippi River clay slip, as well, and see how that works.  I'm not sure this is something that I'll make a lot of, but it was a fun diversion.

Tomorrow I'll be back here with pitchers!

*speaking of molds, all of my molds are platters, plates, trays that I've found in thrift stores, antique/junk shops, and occasionally I'll splurge on the melamine trays they bring out at target every spring.  They have some great shapes that I haven't seen elsewhere, but I'd admit that my favorites are the small ceramic pieces I pick up at thrift stores for a song.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

two dogs

I made this urn for Birdy the day after we knew it was time.  I was glad to be able to do it and glad to find a small family-run company to help me.  She came back to me last Monday.

I will be making more of these in the future; I just need to get the sizing down before I offer them in my shop*.  Having her with me is special.  I wasn't financially able to keep Pete with me when we put him down in 2007 and I've regretted it ever since.  But Birdy was my first baby, and I knew that I needed to keep her with me.

(*ETA, yes, I'll have cat sizes as well)

And here's Ajax.  He is almost 12 weeks now.  Sweet, crazy (only sometimes), calm (mostly), loving, eager to please.  Already has sit and come down pat.  Stay, not so much.  But we've got time for that.  Very interested in the chickens, and the bees, unfortunately, think he's a bear.  He's learning to stay away from them.  He doesn't look like a bear to you, does he? I just can't wait until he's big enough to start running with me (3 more months for his bones to be strong enough for running)

Thank you, friends, for your enthusiastic response to my cup project for my friend's children.  I am just bowled over.  Right now I have 30+ orders to fill and the amount headed to the kids is approaching $400.  I could have never done that on my own, and I am so grateful to you.

Later this week, two more pitchers.  Or maybe later this weekend, 4 of them.  depending on if I can get them glazed or not.  Life is moving fast and I'm working on figuring out what goes where and when.  Balance.

Friday, April 26, 2013

loss, grief, doing something about it, joy

My family has faced tremendous losses over the last six months or so.  A dear friend of my husband's succumbed to cancer after a long, vigilant battle.  I lost my closest friend to suicide, have seen another sweet friend's marriage fall apart, job loss and the associated struggles, we watched our dear pet decline, and discovered that a family in our church community was struggling with emotional and physical abuse, much much too late to help.  This week the authorities found the mother's body and her husband was arrested.  She leaves two children that I know well.  One is my son's age, and the other was in my sunday school class for four years.  I have fought with how to deal with her senseless death, how to help her children, how to help other women in her position.

When I began making these cups in 2012, they were intended to help bring hope to a friend.  I want to continue that mission.  For the next month, 30% of the sale of each cup will go into a fund for my friend's children.  After that, a percentage will go to my local domestic abuse shelter.  I can't do a lot, but this I can do, and it gives my heart solace and joy to be able to make some sort of difference through my work.

The day we found out about my friend's death, we brought joy back into our household in a big way.  We brought home an 11 week old chocolate lab puppy.  His name is Ajax and he has really lifted our hearts.  He is curious and sweet and everything you want a puppy to be.  And he reminds me to be present and not dwell in the past, but to notice and take each day on its own, finding the joy in the small things.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

11, 12, 13

it occurred to me that I forgot to share the last batch of pitchers.
eleven- pencil stamped hexagons, stoneware, thrown and altered, glazed in yellow.

my yellow glaze had been behaving very badly and I was afraid to try it, so I thinned it a lot and did a test glaze on a cracked cup the kilnload prior to this one and it surprised me by being just fine.

twelve- thrown cylinder, handbuilt spout and base.  I used newspaper stencils and underglaze here

I really like this technique and how clean and crisp the stencils turned out.  These are the same birds from pitcher five.

13- I am really excited about this piece.  It is heavily influenced by contemporary Japanese surface design and I repeated the idea on some

The cobalt wash was way more than I intended - I wanted this to be as white as the plates, but I'll tinker with it and try again in another pitcher.  You'll see this again, a LOT, but the project that it's intended for is still top-secret.

Pitchers 14 and 15 have just been bisque fired, and 16 is awaiting more work.  It is now week 17 and I'm ready to make it today.  I'm excited to see how these pitchers have progressed and stretching both my potting and surface design skills.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

first batch

My first spring batch of berry bowls will go up in my shop at 9am CST tomorrow, Monday April 15.  I'll have another batch up in May.  I'm planning to do a listing of these once a month, no reserves, so that I don't get completely overwhelmed with making them as I have in years past.

Also, think good thoughts for my family this week.  We're putting our beloved pup Birdy down midweek.  She is 14 and has been steadily declining in health and in what she'll consent to eat since last fall.  I got her when she was 6 weeks old.  I was 24, in graduate school, trying to figure everything out.  She's been a faithful friend to me and my whole family will miss her deeply.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Today was the really nice day we've had in Memphis in a good long time.  I spent quite a lot of it outside in my garden- checking the bees (new brood!)- chicken-proofing the back garden (mostly successful)
 Edna got over, but no one else did, and after I popped her out of the garden, she didn't try it again.  I planted some onion sets and some strawberries, which leads me to these:
It is ALMOST time for berry bowls.  I'm going to have them in my shop, 10-20 at a time, as I make them, in quarts (these are quarts) and pints.  Saucers will be in a separate listing, for those of you that want them.  In the past I've let these take over all of my making time, which I'm resisting this year.  So no special orders or special colors, just what I feel like making when I make them and when they're gone, they're gone.  I am very grateful for the widespread enthusiasm that these bowls generate, and I'm even more grateful that I figured out how to keep them from cracking the last go-round.

I'll post here and on twitter when I list them, probably later this coming week.

Happy Spring, Friends!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

chickens! and breakfast

This winter I worked on making new drawings of my chickens for my pottery.  Also because I just really like my chickens.  See?
Several weeks ago a friend, who is the editor of Edible Memphis asked me about people I knew who had chickens, cool coops, and might be willing to show off their chickens in the spring issue.  Well, besides me?  There are a number of us who are obsessed with our birds and are happy to share the love.   Edible is by far my favorite local publication and I look for its sister publications whenever we travel.

But back to the chickens.  All winter I watched the girls roam and forage and run (there is nothing funnier than a chicken running at full tilt), taking pictures of them and making sketches.  One of my retailers asked about carrying the chicken cups after she'd snagged a pair at an auction and asked me to make some, with little plates to match, for her shop.  Here is the result:


I delivered several sets of these to Diane's this morning and put the rest of these little tumblers, plates, and egg cups in my shop this afternoon.  I'm trying to do a better job of keeping the shop stocked this year and am adding pieces as they're ready.  I'm also building inventory for a May home sale and a small local summer event or two.  And I have a BIG project on the horizon that won't roll out until fall and into 2014.  I'm staring down a pottery elephant, trying to figure out which bite to take first.

Thanks for coming along with me.

Monday, April 1, 2013

the trick of living well

Last month a friend contacted me about making a special gift for a colleague she admired who was retiring.  For the past while, this graceful lady had been preparing for her retirement and posted this passage from Ellen Goodman's retirement column over her desk:
There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over -- and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out. The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well.

She asked if I could make a cup with some of this text on it; I immediately said yes.  I'd been wanting to play with text in my work a little more (I still want to play with text a little more.  What else would one expect of a liberal arts major?) and and a little more loosely than I had incorporated it previously.  I love my calligraphy-style text in my hope cups, but that didn't work so well here (I tried and got a large hand cramp!).  So I threw a few  mugs, trimmed them, and sat down with a ball-point pen and started writing.  I was really tickled with how the text flowed around the cup and how tactile the piece was once it had dried a bit.

 I coated the entire cup with a mixture of water and raw, dark clay I dug from the sandbars in the Mississippi River a few years ago.  I'm not sure where that big bag of clay is, but I have a jar of slip that I made from it that I keep with my underglazes.  After the slip dried, I wiped it off and fired it.  Then, earlier this week, I coated it in glossy clear glaze and fired it again.  This morning, when I unloaded the kiln, I was really happy with it.  The look is softer than I imagined it would, some words are slightly hazy, others crystal clear, but it feels just marvelous in your hands.  I'm really tickled with this and can't wait to repeat it on other dishes.  I hope that the recipient is pleased with it when she opens it later this afternoon!

It is a gorgeous spring day here- I've been glazing and shipping today and am looking forward to trimming  pots I threw on Thursday tomorrow.  I'll be back later this week with 2 more pitchers.
Have a nice week, y'all!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

shop alert!

I've been missing these cups.  Hope to get them (and then keep them) back in regular rotation.  And there are also a few of my valentines cups, plus some springy things coming.  Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I am so excited that these are finished, and 11, 12, and 13 are in the works.  This is week 13, and I hope after this week I'll be back on track to make a pitcher each week.  Not working - not throwing, trimming, not much glazing- has been a drag.  I'm happiest if I'm busy.  Take away my pottery, my knitting, and, frankly, the sunshine, and I'm not the happiest of all campers. Slowly but steadily. . . .

Pitcher 8 is one of the tallest things I think I've ever made.  I used my kiku mon stamp and cobalt wash (it is cobalt oxide, frit, and water I think.  don't quote me).  Very happy with it.

Pitcher 9 is perhaps my favorite so far.  But it did not like me.  I glazed it with my not-frequently-used celadon glaze (not frequently used because it crawls like crazy, doesn't want to stick if there's any moisture in the piece, and fires spotty) and it came out of the kiln just a hot mess.  I put more glaze on the very bare spots and refired it.  The glaze did run towards the foot, but I love this deep celadon color.  The glaze may be too thick (it probably is because it has never ever been this dark before), and after I finish this gallon I currently have, I'm retiring it.  But I use it so infrequently that won't happen for a year or three.  I have very little knowledge about glaze chemistry, but this glaze has been lovely and ill-behaved since I began using it in 2001, and as it is a commercial glaze, I have very little idea about how to fix it's issues, but it seems to be not related to clay body, as many of my other glaze problems have been.

Pitcher 10 turned out exactly the way I'd envisioned.  Happy.  May make more of these for sale once my arms are better.  It's a very springy happy eggy thing.

I hope to get back here later this week with more, and I never did take my shop out of vacation mode last week, but I also hope to do that before the end of this week.  The bees are settling in nicely.  I taped their entry shut for 24 hours (they managed to get out anyway, through a crack in the viewing window that I should caulk closed from the outside), and they cozied in for the cold spell we've been having over the weekend, cleaning the hive and eating the syrup and taking short orientation flights around the hive.  I'm happy to see them flying around on sunny afternoons, and my neighbors are excited to have a hive back in the yard, as well.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

bees, take 2

on our way back from new orleans two friends contacted me about a swarm that was fairly close to my house.  I didn't think I'd get back in time to collect it but finally got around to getting in touch with the woman who'd identified it Monday.  She let me know that it was still there and unclaimed last night, then that it was still there this morning.  I talked to my bee mentor about it, took notes on capturing a swarm and installing it, then waited to hear if they were still on their tree this morning.  They were, so after school called it, I gathered my veils, brush, and air-holed bankers box and went to capture a swarm (half praying that they'd flown away).
As you can see, they did not.  They were clustered around a young weeping willow tree in someone's front yard, almost unnoticeable from the house and from the street.  I brushed them into the box, sprayed them with sugar water, taped the box closed, and tried my hardest to keep them from getting out.  Once home, I put them in the shade and went inside to glaze for the day.  At 3pm, I went outside to check on them and saw that they had begun to let themselves out- chewing through the knife slits I'd made in the box, beginning to fly around and check out my open beehive.  By 4 pm, almost 100 had gotten out so I bit the bullet, suited back up, sprayed the inside of the hive with sugar water, and deposited them in the hive as quickly and efficiently (which should be translated: not very) as possible.  The lid to the box fell off and onto the ground and it got a little messy.  However, I did see the queen in the cluster that was on the lid (the queen looks like a cross between a cockroach and a bee- her abdomen is long and shiny and dark golden brown, while the bees look pretty short and fuzzy in comparison), so I grabbed it, shook it into the hive and did my best to close it up and get myself away from the (justifiably) angry cloud of bees.  I left one back bar open and the lid propped up so that the rest of the bees could smell the queen's pheromones and join her in the hive.

I took this photo after they'd been in for about an hour and weren't ready to chase me away anymore.  In another little bit I'll completely close them in- I closed up the entrance holes and will put the final bar back on and close the lid- for 24 hours and hope that they decide they like my hive.  In another week or two I'll start checking for brood.  After my hive died I ordered a package of bees that will arrive in May.  I haven't decided what to do with them yet- if I'll cancel the order, try to sell them locally, or add another hive, but right now they're insurance in case I only thought I saw the queen or they decide to abscond.

Still working on finishing my glaze load, but that will happen tomorrow.  I have three pitchers glazed and in the kiln already, and will top that with about 30 cups that are waiting patiently on my glazing table.  Today feels like it's been three full (but good) days rolled into one.

More pots and bees later, friends.

Monday, March 18, 2013

a break

my tendonitis and carpal tunnel flared up a few weeks ago so I've taken an extended break from pottery, from knitting, from typing.  Still thinking and dreaming and researching and visiting good pots.

Saturday I was at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and spied these gems by Shearwater Pottery (of Ocean Springs MS) and George Ohr (Biloxi MS).  I think that big pitcher might come out in my work, and maybe that little bitty one, too.

More when I have it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

ten and the written word

pitcher ten!  I wanted this pitcher to be simple and somewhat egg-like.  I threw a giant ovoid form (after having spent a lot of time last week making egg vases for spring),  threw a spout to cut down, and pulled a handle.  This pitcher will be glazed just like my speckled egg vases and then I'm calling that particular glaze combination quits.  I love it, but except for egg vases and egg cups, I'm ready to move away from it.  Why?  it is heinously messy and I have to separate these pieces from anything else in the glaze firing because the iron oxide doesn't completely adhere to the glaze and flies around, sticking to anything else close to it (or on the shelf above or below).  I just got a few of these speckled pieces back from a shop that was closing, so I'll list the remaining teacup and saucer sets, pitcher, and platter next week. 

Early this week, after I'd thrown about a dozen mugs, a friend contacted me about a special order for a friend.  She gave me a lengthy quote that inspired her idea and we played around with ideas.  I'd seen an enamelware cup that had a lengthy inscription, showed it to her, and we settled on a similar idea.  As someone who spent her entire academic career buried in words, reading, writing, editing, writing, and reading more, it seems appropriate to me that I find myself enamored with these words on the mug.  I've been working on my handwriting for years, tightening and loosening it up, ever-evolving, copying handwriting I like, exploring calligraphy (and developing my own style of fake calligraphy).  I like that this cup, which I coated with slip made from the iron-rich clay dug from the banks of the Mississippi river some years ago (yes, really, and it is rich and black like the darkest coffee), is tactile as well as visual.  I like that I can feel the rise and fall of my letters, as well as see them.  I'm not sure how much more of this that I'll do, but I sure do like this one cup.

Friday, March 1, 2013

eight, nine

eight is in the rear- I threw a tall cylinder and kept the spout from the previous week's pitcher.  I am particularly proud of the handle.  Very simple, stamped with my kiku mon stamp in cobalt.

nine is in the foreground.  I really like streamlined versions of Georgian, Regency, and Victorian silver hollowware, upon which this pitcher is loosely based.  I redid the handle multiple times.  I threw the body in one piece, waiting for the clay to set up a bit before I brought the neck back in.  The spout is applied- I think that I threw it and cut it down to fit, then trimmed the piece on the wheel.  I think this one will be a solid color, maybe celadon green.

that's all for now!
Have a good weekend

Thursday, February 28, 2013

six and seven

I love love love seven.  Six, ugh.  But I think liking six out of my first seven is pretty good.  Back tomorrow with eight and nine.