Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kiln Unloaded

I unloaded another glaze firing this morning to find these beauties staring back at me! I do love the good firings!

Enjoy! Oh, and I will be out of the studio until the middle of next week. But when I return I will have dozens of new pieces ready to glaze and shortly thereafter ready to share with you!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Early Valentine's Day Gift

For those of you who are already planning ahead, you are well aware that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I tend to think of things on a monthly basis, so in my mind Valentine's Day is next month, and therefore far away. It was however brought to my attention that February is quite literally only a few days away. I was shocked to realize that this means I will soon be celebrating my 25th birthday.. one of those big mile marker birthdays, and it is even closer than Valentine's Day. Wow!

For me that really puts into perspective just how close Valentine's Day really is! If you are looking to purchase a handmade gift for Valentine's Day your shopping days until the holiday are even fewer! So, plan ahead and start looking now to ensure shipment of your items before the 14th. Here are just a few of the Valentine's Day gifts found in my store:

All these items can be found in my shop: Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Series

Today I began working on my next series. I have made five of these new items so far. I hope to have about five more by my bisque firing this weekend. These mini pots stand at just two to three inches tall and are smaller versions of my normal designs. I wanted to create an affordable and collectible version of my regular porcelain vessels and decided tiny was the way to go.

It may be difficult to imagine these moist tan pots as the pure shiny white pieces they will soon be, but trust me.. I am on to something here! Be sure to check in over the next few days to see these tiny pots transformed. Just wait until you see these adorable mini pots paired with the new brightly colored gazes I am formulating! Not, to mention the very purse pleasing price tag that will accompany them!

Its a short one tonight, but thanks for checking in! Enjoy the rest of your week!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crazing, Cracking, Crawling

Three of the worst possible things to see when you open the kiln after a firing. I have become very familiar with crazing over the past six months while working on a custom order for a set of dinner plates. Crazing can happen for a number of reasons; bad clay/glaze fit, peak firing temperature, rate of cooling, kiln opening... I understand, through personal experience (a.k.a. failure) most of these reasons.

Cracking is more dramatic than crazing, and yes, I have experienced this recently too. Now, crawling.. sounds gross and looks pretty gross too. I haven't had many issues with crawling. Just a few times back in my very early ceramic days. Well, until I unloaded the kiln this morning that is. Yup. It was one of those firings. To recap from yesterday-- this was one of those full range of negative emotions and serious career revaluating for a good hour afterwards firings.

Thankfully not all was lost! A few things did turn out really nicely! I just love this new Caribean Blue glaze I made that is on the interior of this vase:

However, what I really needed to turn out nicely were two plates so I could finally be done with this order. But, of course, keeping with the pattern of this project something had to go wrong even at this seemingly final phase. The thing with these common ceramic problems is that they are all caused by something very simple. Something so simple in fact that it is often not considered important, thus overlooked.

Last week I unloaded the kiln to find two crazed pieces. They had small barely noticeable cracks on the glaze surface that began to grow the longer the pieces sat. Thankfully, I understand crazing enough now to know that these two plates were salvageable. I simply re-fired them and made sure that I allowed adequate cooling after the firing before opening the kiln. Crazing is now almost a welcome mistake for me now because 90% of the time re-firing will repair these tiny lines now that I have a happy clay/glaze fit.

Then cracking, well, I added a picture of cracking a few days ago. That is about as bad as it gets. Imagine the feeling, you open the kiln, which you have somehow managed to leave alone for two whole days and right on top what was once a beautiful plate is now four jagged splinters of a plate. That was pretty bad. I may have almost cried. Another plate was also cracked but a layer of glaze was holding the pieces together. For some reason this was slightly less upsetting. Both pieces went into the trash with a very emotional sigh.

Today, crawling. Ewww. It makes me think of bugs, or brains.. or something else gross. My mother would not like this at all. She has a weird thing against "intricate bumpy things." Pretty sure that was an exact quote. Well, this is exactly what crawling looks like. A little parasitic even. Now, It can be an interesting surface on sculptural works, or if it is intentional. However, when you are expecting a smooth, finished surface this peeling away buggy texture is not what you want to see. Up close there are even more variations on the glaze surface than what is visible in the photograph. My example is actually very mild, but still annoying! Google "glaze crawling" images if you are curious just how intense the results can be. It is so bizarre!

Wondering what caused the crawling? Well, I have three possibilities and they are embarrassingly simple variables I, in retrospect easily could have changed. One: pieces were dusty. I did wipe them with a damp sponge, but maybe there was still dust left behind. Two: Maybe, I did wipe away the dust but left behind too much water from my damp sponge. Three: Glaze was too thick as I had just mixed it and after glazing the plates I added water to thin it out, noticing it was a little thicker than normal. So simple, and all possible causes for crawling.

Thankfully I have three more replacement plates left. I glazed these today and will be turning the kiln on first thing tomorrow morning. I will also be adding in some other new items for my shop. I really need this firing to go as smoothly as possible! I just want to finish this project so that I can completely  move on to the next without my mind lingering in any small way on these plates.

The somewhat funny thing is that this order is only for eight plates. But, with all of the clay and glaze issues I had for months on end I have made over 100 plates since beginning this project in June. Admittedly, I have encountered every imaginable problem along the way. Now after switching clays three times and testing several glazes on the three different clays I have found a combination that works! I am now so close to being done! Just two more plates! Hopefully tomorrow's firing will bring this closure! Wish me luck!

New Items

Today's big task was listing new items to my Etsy shop: I have been looking forward to this day for weeks! After moving at the end of November and then dealing with the vacuum effect that is the holidays, life is only just beginning to get back on track.

First it was unpacking my studio, then setting up my studio and then I was completely away from my studio for weeks. It feels wonderful to be back in there working each and every day! So wonderful in fact that I seem to no longer have the desire to sleep. I am forcing myself to live as normal a life as possible each day... as in, I am forcing the consumption of food and the recommended eight hours of sleep.

If I wasn't on some level aware of the abnormal tendencies prone to us creative types, who knows what sort of manic state I would be in now. It is entirely possible that I would have exploded from my keeps going, and going, and going momentum if I did not force this basic amount of normalcy.

I did have a small human response to all of this activity after being up for a few hours this morning. For about an hour or so my energy was completely gone. I allowed myself the rest and then... POP! I was up again and ready for what has now been another 14 hours, most of which has been spent working.

I listed eight new items to my shop today. Be sure to visit and let me know what you think! I am really looking forward to tomorrow because I will be able to (finally) unload the kiln! The suspense! I also have a few exciting custom orders that I will be working on in the studio. It will be a busy day! If I am thrilled with the glaze results I may just spend another day glazing new pieces and firing the kiln again.

Opening the kiln has two possible effects on me. One: I am beside myself with giddy excitement and have to glaze everything in my studio all at once. An example of this happened just the other day. I even made new glazes in all my enthusiasm! Or, Two: I am devastated and then furious and then depressed and I swear I am sick of working with stupid dirt; and that I am tired of wasting my life on all these stupid pots; and that I need to get a real stupid job and forget all of this stupid pottery nonsense forever. And...well, some other less adorable utterances. Hopefully tomorrow is an example of result type one. Fingers crossed! And, sometimes that's all you can do with pottery!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Not enough OM4! OMG!"

An exact quote from earlier today. To start, I unloaded the glaze firing first thing this morning. All in all it was very successful! Not a part of the "all" were the two plates I unloaded that were broken in half. But, those were my fault. I increased the temperature in the kiln too quickly in the beginning of the firing. Those two plates were on top, and well, heat rises... so problem. Check! Lesson learned. I have learned so much making these plates. Hopefully these two broken plates were the final lesson!

So, with two lost plates I now had to glaze two replacements. But, I was out of glaze. Wonderful. Luckily, I had all of the materials I needed to make the glaze. Unluckily, I picked up my bag of OM4 Ball Clay to find a nearly empty bag. "Not enough OM4! OMG!" So, after some challenging multiplication and double checking division I was able to adjust the formula to a smaller gram batch.

I even mixed a few small batches of colored samples. I also made a much needed glaze shopping list. Interestingly, I apparently purchase the same materials over and over again. I don't know why I always think I am out of Silica. It has become an impulse purchase every time I buy clay. Note to self: I have plenty of Silica.

Kiln is firing again! These items will be ready to be added to my shop on Tuesday: Tomorrow I will also be listing new items, thanks to Kim's wonderful picture taking this weekend! I am so very excited about these new items. I am using a new clear glaze that I mixed. It is perfect. I will add a few pictures of these new items tomorrow. Well, that's all for now. It was a very busy pottery making weekend! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sweet Saturday

So far today has been the perfect Saturday. After working until very late last night, (I finally found my way to bed at 2:30 am after a very productive day in the studio) today started slowly. As a result of yesterday I have several pieces drying for a bisque firing that will take place mid-week. Also as a result, I am exhausted today.

Despite my plans to spend the entire day in the studio I was saved by friends who invited me to join them for brunch. One of the most wonderful things in life is a leisurely late breakfast with friends. While I was having breakfast, of course I talked about pottery and thought about pottery, but I wasn't doing pottery so it was by all standards, a break from the land of pottery.

Once I returned home, freshly jolted with some stronger than normal diner coffee I gravitated back to the studio and made a half dozen coffee mugs before I realized what had happened. Each mug is a different size and shape, which I think is a fun way to make a collection. This method allows me to explore different forms until I find one that really fits me. I plan to use similar glazes or color themes to relate the varied mugs into a cohesive group. All of these mugs have spent the last few hours covered with plastic and then more recently air drying to a slightly firmer state so that I can attach the handles properly.

The beginning of my new coffee cup collection.

Handles seem like such a simple thing. I have been making handles since my first pottery class, but they have always been a struggle. Even now, I can pull a nearly perfect handle in just a few quick strokes, but I am not always happy with the placement of the handle, or the curve, or its roundness, flatness or overall relation to the cup. Last night I made a change to my normal handle routine and, so far I am pleased with this new direction. I am not saying much more at this point, because there is still drying time and firing variables which may interrupt my current feeling of handle enthusiasm. But, I will say that flipping what is normally the bottom of my handle to the top may have been just what I needed to do all this time! Imagine that. So simple!

At this moment a glaze firing is cooling  in the kiln. I think that makes four glaze firings this week. Maybe three.. I have at least lost track. Once the kiln is cool enough it is unloaded, reloaded and re-fired. This has been a working mantra for the last several weeks. I have been working on these lovely organic white porcelain plates for nearly six months now. It was a much more labor intensive process than I originally speculated. I will save the details of the plates for an upcoming post, but did want to mention that the final plates for this seemingly never-ending project are in the kiln cooling right now!

Tomorrow the kiln will be unloaded and Kim will be back in town. She will be taking her amazing photographs of all my new work for my shop ( I tried to take my own pictures in her absence, but I was not loving the results of that little experiment. I will stick to making the pots and let her take the pictures. Why change a good thing? I can't think too much more about the kiln. The suspense is almost too much for me as it is. I go through this every time I fire!

Though the kiln turned off last night and the pots are "done", they still have to cool to what I prefer to be room temperature before the kiln is opened. Each potter has their own temperature preference for opening the kiln. While my preference used to be on the hotter end of hot, I have ruined enough pottery to know to wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. So that is what I will be doing. Until tomorrow I plan to enjoy this wonderful Saturday in the same quiet way it started. A hot cup of tea, Beethoven on the record player and of course, more pottery. Thanks again for stopping by!

Almost Midnight

Some days are like this. Not, that "this" is something negative. "This" is just very long. Very tiring. But, the ideas keep coming, so even though my body is tired I am somehow finding it in myself to continue working. It is on these such days that I wind up producing a large portion of my monthly inventory, all at once. For example, the bisque firing last week which contained nearly eighty individual pieces were all made since New Years. I suspect in a few days I will need to fill the kiln in a similar manner. I have already run out of shelf and table space in my studio. Which, isn't really that difficult to do considering the pieces for my large shelves are still packed somewhere from my move.

I would make more use of the floor, but one of my cats really enjoys my pottery. She walks on it, climbs in it and even sleeps in it! And, this is before it is fired, so it is very fragile! She has done this since she was a tiny kitten, and I guess my delicate chides were not enough for her to change her preference for dry dusty pots. Today she broke two plates I had on my table drying. They were rim side down and she just walked on top of them. With a thud and a soft crumple her foot broke through the center of the first while startled she ran to the second. Lovely. Hopefully I will find my shelf hardware so I can at least lift things four feet off the ground. Thankfully, she is a terrible jumper. So, four feet is the safe zone in my studio.

In the meantime, I will continue firing the kiln every few days so I have fewer items in my studio in this super fragile state. Or, maybe I should forget about the shelves, accept the small sacrifice of a few pieces here and there and continue to work with frenetic energy to make, fire and glaze dozens of pieces each week! Well, it is now past midnight. I have to run back to the studio to attach a few handles to some new coffee mugs I threw earlier. Goodnight!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catching Up and Planning Ahead

After an insanely busy holiday season I am left with the huge task of catching myself up with my own life. After firing a very tightly packed kiln I am for the moment caught up on the initial bisque firing of every piece in my studio. This is something to celebrate. But, no time. I have since glazed, loaded and fired the kiln again with glaze results currently cooling. The plan is to glaze all of the pieces removed from the bisque and fire those this week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It is reasonable that by this time next week I will be caught up!

Pottery unloaded from this week's bisque firing. See something you like? Over the next week or so all of these items will be glazed and added to my store:
Simple, Organic and Sophisticated Porcelain Art.

In the midst of catching up it is important to remember that time moves forward and within a few short weeks Valentine's Day will be upon us. By then I will be beyond this blur and I don't want to find myself unprepared. Valentine's Day gifts are some of the most fun to make and to give. I want to be a part of this holiday! So, while packing the kiln required serious patience and creative stacking I was able to slip some Valentine's Day items into my "getting caught up" load! Yay! With bursting excitement I have already added my new (super adorable) little love doves and porcelain pebble tea-light holders to my shop: A simple way to add that daily reminder of love to your home year round!

I plan to sneak these little love pieces into each and every firing this week. Not only does it give me a little extra something to look forward to, it also reminds me that while I am in some ways stuck in the past working on projects I hoped to have already completed, life still moves forward and this slight frustration is only temporary. I really hate being behind in my work. This is one of the struggles when you work for yourself.

I am my biggest critic and my biggest boss. It can be hard not to become obsessed with the details and to just accept that I can only work at a normal human pace. The mean boss in me wants to deny food, sleep, water.. until the project is complete. Thankfully I recognize my emotional gage is a bit weighted because this is my business, my life and my passion. I manage to find the time to take a deep breath and accept again that this will pass and I will make it through!

Soon it will be Valentine's Day, then Springtime and then the busy Wedding Season! Yes, I do think that deserves the capitalization. As I saw last year come mid-May the Wedding Season is an event! I am thankful that so many people appreciate the art of handmade goods and desire to include these items in their own celebrations! So, while this week may be mostly catching up, it is in a bigger way the beginning of planning ahead for the many exciting events right around the corner!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year. New Studio. New Blog

Welcome to my new blog! I created this blog to chronicle my life in the studio and to share my creative process with others. I am so surprised that within the past year or so I have been able to make pottery my full time job! I feel so lucky to have this unique opportunity! Everyday comes with a new set of challenges and chances to grow both personally and artistically!

The rewards of this artistic lifestyle are endless. But, so are the frustrations as anyone who works with clay will quickly confirm! From start to finish so many things can go wrong. There is a certain thrill that accompanies such a high rate of failure. One success is worth one hundred failed attempts. And so, each day I approach my work with the strange sensation of tightrope walking.

Within the past few months I have relocated both home and studio to Greensboro, North Carolina. In retrospect moving at the end of November may not have been the best idea. The holidays completely overwhelmed production. Despite desperate attempts to stay organized the move was like any other move, completely chaotic.

Last week I was able to make some serious headway, firing the kiln four times since returning home after New Years. At the moment a bisque load is cooling with nearly eighty individual items inside! Thanks to Kim (who is for intents and purposes my amazing studio assistant) and her unparalleled Tetris skills there is not an inch of unused space. I would have probably managed half of the items she was able to pack! Hopefully later tonight the kiln will be cool enough for me to unload so I can get started on some glazing! Long day today! But, by the weekend I will have several new listings available in my shop:

Oh, to be back on track! I cannot wait! Thanks for stopping by! Best,