Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On to The Next Thing

One of the biggest challenges I have encountered since my determined decision to make art my full-time job is the freedom my job offers. I know this sounds like a good thing, and many an eyebrow is probably raised wondering where I am going with this, but truly this freedom is a huge daily challenge.

I am in complete control how I pass the hours, and working from home- complete with all the distractions of my two crazy kitties, my wildly rambunctious dog and an overly accessible netflix account connected right to my TV, does make it hard for me to stay focused. Then you add in those less fun but equally distracting activities like laundry, dishes and dusting and hours can easily melt away.

When I was working on the hotel vases I always had something relating to the order that I could be working on. Now, I still have things to work on but not the same clear direction I had before. Before I could spend a whole day glazing and only make a dent, knowing then how tomorrow would be spent. There was a clear sense of direction. Linear even. My life is usually much more ping-pongy, so a straight line felt purposeful and authoritative. Even though I was still working for myself, I felt like I had a boss. Even though I was setting my own schedule, it felt as if I was less in control, and therefore obligated to adhere to the established order. Sort of like having a "real job" again. I don't miss much from having a day job, but I do miss the certainty of purpose.

With the completion of my large vase order I am left with uncertainty about what to do next. Surely it is time to move on the the next thing. I am ready to move on the the next thing. The big challenge here is deciding what the next thing will be. The vases had me working very vertically for quite some time, so I am leaning now towards working in large open formats such as bowls and plates. Yes, plates! I am also now ready to work in large sets and expect to introduce more collection minded items into my shop over the next few weeks and months. While my mind is racing for a clear idea of this next phase I am reminded to take things one day at a time. The next thing could be anything! I need now to accept this challenge and learn to create from my freedom a sense of purpose and direction. For tomorrow, let's start with bowls.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I've Been Doing - Things I've Been Loving

I'm almost a little too tired to post anything today, but I wanted to share a few images of what I've been up to. One of my last posts made me realize I don't paint enough anymore. So, I pulled out my watercolors (after conducting a day long search and rescue for them) and began playing.

I took this idea to my pots in the form of underglazes and played some more.

The fifty vases are being packed up one by one in layers of bubble wrap. That takes a long time.. and it's very boring.

My kitchen has been overtaken by glazing again. After a two day event these pots are now loaded up in the kiln firing.

And, finally I've been spending a tremendous amount of time on my porch. I love it. My porch is on the side of my house and from the street you can hear people talking, cars driving by, kids on bicycles and my neighbor playing his guitar. From the other side my wild backyard is host to what has to be hundreds of birds. All day long and well into the evening is the sound of melodic chirping. I've been busy enjoying every minute of life these days.

Fifty Finished

All fifty vases are finished! Each signed as requested: "Handmade by Lindsay Emery for Mandarin Oriental, Paris" with a numbered limited edition of 50, and of course the year. (Thanks to my grandfather I always remember to date things! Thanks Grampy!) My hand was pretty tired after carving cursive script into each and every bottom. But, that work is now all behind me. What an incredible project!

I swear I hear the faintest marching sound when I look at my little army of pots. I think I have the pot crazies. They've been everywhere for months. Peeping out from behind cupboard doors, proudly asserting themselves on shelves I don't remember placing them on, and just today I noticed a congregation of five or so guarding it seems, the cats' food bowl. All I can do is shrug at this point, and count again and again to make sure all 50 end up in the box. This project has consumed my life for months. I was tempted to say "Every waking moment" but that is a lie; I've been dreaming about these little guys too. Little stress inducers. I was thrilled this morning to unload a perfect firing! Sigh of relief! I'm lucky again! Now it is into the bubble wrap they go. Off to see the world! Next stop Paris!

I already have a new round of pieces for my Etsy shop all glazed and ready to fire tomorrow. I haven't seen my inventory this low in quite a while, which is in no way a complaint! I am so happy to be this busy! I just can't wait to have a nice full shop again. Within the next few days I should be stocked up. I'm really excited to share some new projects with you all! I've been working on side projects here and there while completing this vase order. But I haven't had the time to work on my wheel as often as I like. I ran out to the clay shop a few days ago and now have 100 pounds of porcelain sitting right next to my wheel just waiting for me! So many possibilities!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I wanted to post something tonight but I was really struggling to find a topic or a picture that would relate to anything other than my big order. I found myself very frustrated this evening because I was still touching up vases for this order. I have been "almost" done for days. And today it was really getting to me that I was still working. Yes, I am a perfectionist but this frustration is beyond my normal neurotic tendencies-- I'm used to those.

Today I was frustrated because I am so ready for the next thing. Like, so so so ready. Which, made me feel pretty terrible. Why is it so hard to be content in this moment? I have loved this project. I still love this project yet my mind is already gone, somewhere out ahead of me. Once I realized this and pulled my thoughts back to the present they began to float backwards into the past instead. Also, a problem. After hours of this push-pull mental momentum I decided to just go with it.

I realized my thoughts of the past and future were basically equal so they at least average out at the present moment, right? Humor me, because this post is something of the same. While I worked in the moment to finish my current order I was already fantasizing about all the new projects, new glazes, new products, new orders I will have in the future. Polarizing those thoughts I existed also in the past romanticizing over old drawings, paintings and carved porcelain projects that all felt at the time that they were going somewhere, but which for whatever reason were abandoned. 

In reflection of this nostalgia I began analyzing my older work, and I remembered that I used to be obsessed with lines, particularly thin lines, and now I rarely work with any linear suggestions. In my current work I do think about silhouettes, an outline that I keep in mind as I work, but an actual crisp line, I rarely consider. I am hoping that with the completion of this order I will find myself with extra time to explore some of my old ideas. I am convinced that as my mind finds balance and level ground in flitting between past and future to establish a present, so too can my work. While making plans for the future of my work I found myself looking through some images of my older work. I thought I would share a few such images with you so you can see first some of the old influences I plan to reincorporate back into my work.

Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On the Side

While you all know by now I have been working tirelessly (obsessively) on this large 50 piece vase order. I have also been working on some side projects for fun, and to keep me as sane as possible. And, the sanity is questionable. I have literally been having dreams about these 50 vases, which now have become nightmares. I am pretty sure this is a first time for me. I had a dream the other day that I forgot to plug the peepholes in the kiln and my kiln never got to temperature ruining all my pots.

In my dream the kiln fired all through the night pushing heat out through the peepholes. My basement was incredibly hot and my pots warped from the uneven heat. I was devastated. I woke up with my heart pounding and my mind racing to discover if my memory contained plugged peepholes. Thankfully, everything was just fine. Obviously though I have vases on the brain. I need a break. So rather thank talk any further about these vases, I am taking a break for the night to share some of my latest (non 50 vase) work. Bright colors is what these pieces are all about. It is nearly summer now and I am ready for flowers, sunsets and beachballs. Lots and lots of color!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The First of the Fifty

I unloaded the kiln this morning. Happily I was greeted by 25 shiny chartreuse and cream vases. Exactly as it should have been (well nearly exactly). As any potter knows there is never a complete, 100% guarantee when firing pottery. There are so many variables which can interrupt expectations. Thankfully I have kept pretty decent notes this time around and tested my glazes before actually firing the vases. These precautionary steps have certainly allowed for an increase rate of success. There is however always the risk that something unforeseen will happen. And, I have experienced so many of these little circumstances that in the back of my mind I almost always imagine opening the kiln to find melted puddles of glass, that used to be pots. Yes, this has happened to me. Stressful! But this time I put the vases in expecting almost exactly what I unloaded. Sigh of relief!

After close analysis I found some imperfections with the chartreuse interiors and ended up re-firing many of these vases again today. I have a habit to lean almost completely towards perfection, and admittedly a lot of these vases were probably "good enough," but I never approach my work with that mentality. For me if something is "good enough" that means it can always be better. And today that is precisely what I decided. I added a few extra little dabs of chartreuse the the inside to even out the color. Back in the kiln the vases went. I am now waiting for the kiln to cool, which tries my patience every time! I am hoping to unload an even more pleasing group of vases within the next 24 hours. My fingers will be crossed for the next few days until this order is completely finished! This is all very exciting!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Scale

Check out this great vintage scale I bought this weekend at a yard sale up the street! My digital scale only measures up to 6 pounds, which works perfectly for making small glaze batches but I am now looking to measure large packages before shipping and the smaller scale just won't do. Luckily I stumbled upon this scale this weekend! When not in use this scale is a wonderful addition to my eclectic kitchen!

Just mixed up a fresh batch of chartreuse glaze for my 50 vase order. I'll be firing the kiln throughout the entire week to finish up this order. More pictures coming soon!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Truly Inspired

I recently discovered a fabulous woman. Her name is Diana Strinati Baur. She is a creative and heart driven person. She lives in Italy. She appreciates the natural beauty of the world around her. She is a thinker, a doer, and in my mind most extraordinarily, she is a potter.

She wrote the most inspirational piece of writing about the transformation of creativity. Her words left my eyes wide open, my heart quickened and my face brightly lit by a smile that just wouldn't go away. Days later the smile is still there. I unloaded the kiln this morning and her words came rushing back. I was so inspired by Diana's soft glazes and the beautiful play of colors she created with her stacked pottery. Diana's work:

Inspired I ran to the studio to create a collection of pots all inspired by these incredible pieces. I now have tons and tons of bowls and platters that I will be firing this week and glazing. Below is my first sample. Both glazes used are glazes I have been making for some time, but I never considered combining them in this way! Thank you Diana! You have reawakened my heart for pots!

I decided the best way to capture Diana's vibrant spirit would be, well with Diana's very own words. Accompany the remainder of this post are quotes from her blog: http://www.acertainsimplicity.com/ I am sure you will agree,  no one could say it any better:

"Creativity means transforming.  Not copying.  It’s taking the influences that we stumble upon, internalizing their natural force and presenting our own interpretation."

"Remaining open to creative inspiration means squashing jealousy and feelings of unworthiness. This is probably the biggest gift that creativity gives a person. You quickly realize that if you get jealous of others, you stay put, exactly where you are, and you do not grow or develop as either an artist or as a human being. Jealousy kills the soul. It hurts that place from which all goodness comes. It makes us feel disproportionately small and makes others seem disproportionately big. It’s just wrong. Be open, forget if someone is better or worse than you, because guess what? There will always be someone better, worse, richer, poorer, healthier, sicker. Take what you have and put it to work. Pull from the illuminating energy of other creative souls, and make your own."

"Because you don’t know, you just don’t know, how much the joy what you give today will help the next person in need of a bit of hope."

I hope Diana knows now the extent of the hope she's given me, and I hope that this post will find you all exactly where you are and give you the same generous gift of creative inspiration.

** To learn more about Diana's breathtaking work and amazing life please visit her here: http://www.acertainsimplicity.com/

Thank you for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From the Heart

The past few days have been completely filled with warmth. I continue to be amazed by the wonderful people I have encountered, all from behind my computer screen. Typing can feel so empty and impersonal. I am truly only interacting with my keyboard, click clicking away. Yet, somehow what began as my one sided click-clack-clatter has translated into meaningful dialogues.

I began this blog hoping that one day I would have readers. Curious types just peeking in from time to time. Even at this early stage my expectations have been far surpassed. I have truly connected with others. People kind enough to reply to my posts and send me bits of encouragement, ask questions and share their stories. I write this blog as a record of my life in the studio, attempting to chronicle the ups and downs of an artistic life; but I also write this blog to create a meeting place for like minded people. I can proudly say both of these things are happening here.

I have always been impressed by the uniqueness of the moment. Creating pottery forces me to exist only in the moment. There is something undeniably zen about sitting down at the wheel centering a pile of earth. Controlling with your very fingers the abstract thing which supports our very life. The spinning of the wheel creates a hypnotic effect that forces calm into my life and quiets my mind. This awareness of the moment connects me to a history of similar moments in my own life and the lives of others.

In its very nature pottery is a bridge forming art. Cultures and civilizations long past are analyzed by what has survived them. Simple bowls, chipped cups and earthenware fragments bring together a bigger picture of a people long gone. The history of such cultures are not to be isolated. Pottery is instead a very linear art. As I have had the opportunity to work with several phenomenal artists who have shaped my life, each one of those artists will likewise express a similar sentiment. As artists and artisans we are connected to the richly layered history of our craft. Each vessel I create is intended to capture the beautiful simplicity of its usefulness. Also in my mind  as I create a piece are those people which will touch, carry and use this object for years into the future. I think too of the same methodology which was so similarly applied for millennium.

This week has brought into my life several amazing people. These are people who have reawakened my awareness for my love of my craft. While I knew the love was there I am feeling it more profoundly now than I have in a very long time. I think of these people, the objects they touch, carry, use and create; as well as all the people which will come after them touching, carrying and using their objects. In this moment we are all truly connected-- past, present and future.

In the upcoming days I will be posting pictures of some of the posts I have recently made in response to these incredible people. I am truly touched by all of you and will carry and use your words as encouragement for years to come. Thank you all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Craft Connection

Since as long as I can remember I only wanted to be an artist. Although if I am totally honest I did very briefly toy with the notion of being a Marine Biologist, but that was really only because I was fascintated by dolphins. All the other fishy stuff- fish smells, scales, creepy eyeballs.. that completely did not interest me. So, Marine Biology was out. Art it was.

I went to college and began studying art. I was interested in the Fine Arts specifically. I mention this and intend to delineate herein the difference between the Fine Arts and Crafts, for the sake of making a point which I believe to be largely rooted in an unfounded, though commonly practiced prejudice. A prejudice that the Craft Arts are somehow inferior to the Fine Arts. I will give it that the Craft Arts are different than the Fine Arts, but this difference for me has come to mean a stronger sense of community, ongoing helpful sharing and a deep, fundamental connection between the artists.

My first semester I began taking all the required courses in Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Design and Art History. I was thrilled. I imagined my future, two ways: Painter Extraordinaire- canvas filled studio, galleries fighting to display my work and total creative freedom, all very lucratively supported. Then there was the path of the Museum Director- designer pantsuits, shiny leather briefcase and the resounding sound of clicking high heels in marble corridors I would know how to navigate with my eyes closed.

Then, began my second semester of college. I was forced, yes "forced" to take a Ceramics course. I had taken a ceramics class in High School. I disliked Ceramics. In High School we made a few pinch pots, but spent most of the semester working on a paper mache project! I was not pleased that this silliness would now cost me $300 per credit hour.

Obviously this is the point in the story where the plot immediately changes. I fell in love. The dirty, dusty studio, the sheer joy of messiness took me back to a happiness I had unknowingly lost since childhood. I emerged myself. I spent days (minus sleeping) in the ceramics studio. I had the most incredible Professor on top of it. He challenged the class with the assumption that we would all one day become full-time potters. He didn't care that most of the class took the course because they thought it would be an easy "A." Maybe looking back he did care, and that was why every moment was spent proving to us that this course would not be an easy "A" or easy in anyway whatsoever. That class shaped me. It shaped my future. Changing my life wholly and completely.

Breaking away from the Fine Arts to pursue a future in Crafts raised more than a couple of eyebrows. Many people just didn't understand why I would "throw away" my future in art to make coffee cups. Thankfully, there are people who understand. I have an amazing family who has supported me every step of the way. My friends were known to sneak food out of the dining room to bring me food in the studio when I constantly forgot to eat meals. I have been so lucky to have such a wonderful support group. Now that I am away from home and away from my college friends, I continue to feel supported by friends found in unexpected places- Twitter, Etsy and Facebook.

It feels a little dorky to admit this, but the connection I feel to these people is very real. We may not have face to face interactions, but we share a passion for our craft and connect creatively. One such person is Diana Baur. She creates fabulous pottery, and we instantly connected creatively. Today on her blog she featured my work and more importantly she wrote of the process of creativity and the connection of Inspiration: http://www.acertainsimplicity.com/.  Diana has inspired me these last few days in a huge way. In repsonse to her post I threw 25 pounds of clay, pot after pot after pot. I will be adding more pictures tomorrow and will continue to explore the creative connection that I have found to be unique to the Crafts community. I may not have a fancy office or a paint splattered studio, but I have muddy water and friends. I couldn't be happier or more inspired!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

50 Vases- Ready Set Go!

When I was approached to make 50 vases I was one part thrilled, one part terrified. I have never had much luck working in sets. My lack of fortune in the reproduction aspect could have been enough to stop me. But, I saw this order as a challenge worth taking. I did a tremendous amount of set work in college, so I guess I always knew deep down I could do it. The big problem was I have never really enjoyed working in this repetitive manner. And, I do not like to work joylessly!

My normal routine is to sit at the wheel with a lump of clay and just let the clay go where it wants to. I occasionally decide I will work on a certain type item, be it a vase, or a bowl but that is usually as descriptive as my planning gets. I like to work in a more spontaneous way. I feel that working this way has an organic connection to the material. It just feels right. Guided by spontaneity and my personal design aesthetics I create each piece with care and confidence. Sets have always crippled my confidence. There is just such a tremendous amount of pressure to create the same thing over and over again, especially when that is impossible to do.

Accepting the order has at times caused my confidence to waver. I didn't want to simply make the items, I wanted to enjoy making each piece like I normally do when working on my own projects. Without the pleasure of spontaneity and the normal joy I derive from playing with the plastic qualities of the clay, I will admit that at times this work felt a bit mechanical. About half way through the order I realized I needed desperately to change my perspective. Pressure, monotoany and insecurity needed to be replaced by goals, practice and confidence. I was able to finally find a balance. The repetition became a wonderful learning tool and I learned to embrace to oh so slight differences of each pot instead of obsessing over unattainable perfect.

I can only imagine how many vases I have actually made for this order. I've smashed so many at various drying stages for various reasons. I have the required 50 and 8 extras at the moment, but I would guess I've made close to 200 since beginning this order. If you want to improve a form try making 200 of them. While each vase is a little different, some a teensy bit taller, slimmer, rounder they are all pretty close to the same! I could have made a mold or used a template, but I decided not to do either because I didn't want to lose the individual process of creation. For me this decision allowed for me to work with more enjoyment. I was able to get to know each and every little pot and shape it for its long journey to Paris.

Each vase is different, just as it should be. I am finding confidence in accepting that these differences make these pieces extra special. Instead of looking out a a vast collection of 50 sterile and perfectly machine formed vases I see instead a happy cluster of pots with brilliantly different personalities. For me the beauty in this collection is in the subtle nuances that individuate each piece! While I made 50 vases not one is truly like another! I am not ashamed of this. Instead I see it as a celebration of the handmade process!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Feeling of Change

I get this feeling every so often right before my life changes in a big way. The feeling often begins as a dream, or is at least expressed in a dream when my rapidly over analyzing mind is a bit more at rest. This feeling I get begins very small, like a quiet flickering voice deep inside. As I become more aware of the feeling the voice becomes more impossible to ignore. And to clarify, this is not a literal voice. I am convinced this is not insanity, but rather a deep level of awareness swinging back and forth between levels of consciousness.

This all began about three days ago, and again my awareness was tipped off to the certainty of change by a dream. Heavily laden with symbolism, the actual events in the dream have very little to do with the restless feeling I am now having. The dream could have been about anything really, but the feeling it gave me has grown into a solid tangible thing. I know that change is forming for me. This isn't meant to sound overly ominous or spooky, although I am admittedly a little concerned about the (laugh if you will) future telling abilities of my dreams. Abilities which are made all the more goose-bump inducing by the fact that it is not just me, but my sister, grandmother and great grandmother who have had dreams of deaths before they have come to be and that sort of general "I knew it would be so, because I saw it would be so" quirkiness.

Thankfully this time I see no impending doom in the signs. I do see however change, growth and success. As I was finishing my Final Exams for the semester (being the never-ending student that I am) there was very little I could do to address this newfound awareness. I am not naive enough to think the change will happen for me, handed down silver platter and such. I know that I will need to work hard and create the change, but the potential is there.

Just last night I had planned to join friends for a fun evening, when as I began getting ready I suddenly felt flushed and overwhelmed with a, for lack of a better word "bad" feeling. I tried to get ready still and even got out in the car and begin driving there, but I couldn't. I knew I just needed to go back to the studio. Back home I immediately began working. I made more pots in that first hour than I had all day. And, the great thing was they were more inspired and creative than a lot of the work I've found myself making lately. The timing of this big change couldn't be more perfect.

Deep down I really think that I have been creating this change in my mind for months, I have just been too busy and too tired to do anything else about it. Creativity is a powerful thing! And mine refused to be ignored any longer. Finals done, the hotel vases all made and slowly being fired, I had no real excuses left. A door has been opened and I sense strongly the near gravitational pull it has on my insides. Sometimes dreams are the only real way for me to get through to, well, me!

Off to a busy day in the studio. Thanks for taking the time to read all of that. I know it was a bit long! I wanted to share all of this with you so that you would all be able to fully understand the changes I make in the next few months. Progress in art can be more than obvious improvement. Sometimes progress will show itself in size, form and even color. I anticipate changes in all of these categories, making my work more distinctly my own. Thankfully I could not have chosen a more expressive and responsive medium than clay!

Friday, May 6, 2011

In a Dark Dark Kiln in a Dark Dark Room in a Dark Dark Basement...

I attempted to take these photos as a before and after of the glaze process. My kiln is however in my very creepy, very dark basement so the pictures are quite grainy as a result.  Please excuse the poor quality of the photos if you are able to! The dirt floor, stone walls and exposed pipes of my basement offer no better images. Here goes:
The first photo shows the kiln all loaded up with freshly glazed pots. The glaze is pale, chalky and matte in this photo showing the glaze before the impact of the heat.

The second image shows the same pots after the kiln has been fired to the full maturity of the glaze.

 The final photo shows the same pots unloaded, out of the dark, dank basement where they truly shine!