Monday, July 17, 2017


Some lately assembled cairns.  I'm pretty sure it takes me longer to put these together than it does to make the individual parts.  Each one morphs several times before I decide the arrangement is right.
I've been putting aside the various cairn parts for a good while- from birds to wheel thrown rocks, to slab rocks. When a commission only takes up a shelf or so cairn parts are good to make because they dry quickly and evenly. They have been kiln fillers- when I need to rush a firing for a commission and don't want to fire the kiln light.
Occasionally the holes I make in the rocks are too small for the metal rod that runs through the piece so I get to spend some wollering out time with the Dremmel tool. Apparently "wollering" is not a word, according to spell check.  I know what I mean.  Since I am using the same metal tube to make all of the holes I am not sure how this hole size discrepancy occurs.
Above cairn is 18 inches tall.  The one below is 10.5 inches.  I may have talked myself out of making more like the one below (no wood base).  It is very tricky to  get these squared up without the drill press making a nice straight hole through wood for the metal rod that runs through the piece. 
Same cairn above and below.  The color is more accurate in the above photo, but I saw the shadow from the early evening sun and had to capture it.

Cairn with small base is about 9 inches tall and larger base is 10.5 inches.  I have put these two pieces aside for a customer who made a request for a smaller size cairn.

Friday, June 23, 2017

mini churn making

An interesting project has come my way.  I have been working with a local historical group to reproduce small versions of a pottery item.  The original was made by a potter who once worked on the property known as "The Castle" in Marietta, Ohio.

I will more or less quote the information from The Castle Facebook page:  The items I reproduced were butter churns.  One, approximately 11 inches high, is about a half size version of a churn made by Nathaniel Clark at The Castle location in the early 19th century. The original churn was stamped by Clark with his name and the Marietta location. The downsized copy re-creates the shape and incised decorative banding of the original, and is marked on the base as a one-of-a-kind reproduction authorized by The Castle Museum.  This one was available for purchase by raffle at a special garden party fundraiser at The Castle this week.

Then there are the really down-sized versions:  The mini churns which are sold in The Castle's gift shop.  So far, I have completed 56 of these small churns which are only 5&1/2 inches tall- about 5 inches after firing.

The mini butter churns are a very narrow- approximately 2&1/4 inches wide at top and bottom.  For part of the making process I am using the old sponge on a stick method (above) in order to get to where my fingers cannot!

The 11 inch churn surrounded by some of the mini churns.  
It took some experimenting to find the best possible way to reproduce the look of the clay and, since I am using an electric kiln, the lightly salted wood fired surface on the original.

All is not work!  Ivin and I had a nice visit with some friends at the beach last week.

Friday, April 28, 2017

the secret life of potters

This week:
Obsessing over making an oxidation fired plate coordinate with a reduction fired plate.

Obsessing over making mini butter churns fired in oxidation that correctly replicate the 23" tall salt fired original in both proportion and glaze.  I may be explaining this more at a later date.

Major obsessing about getting this mug commission right. 
Size, color...yes, but mostly fear of glaze failure during the last firing for the decals.  Having had a few problems with pinholing in the past, I did a search and found that better kiln ventilation may solve the problem- leaving the lid and portholes open up to 500 degrees F.  That, and spacing the mugs about 2 inches apart in the kiln.  Success! At least this time.  And, hurry up to get some birds and cairn parts in the kiln to be bisque fired along with the decal firing.  Luckily, the sun was out to help the drying along.

15 emails and several picture taking sessions about a possible commission through etsy. It is possible I gave the customer too many choices.  Some of the test tiles involved:

And, these are a few of the closed forms in the glaze firing this week.  Made these just because I wanted to and am trying to learn what I can do glaze-wise with this spotted clay.  Will have these at River City Farmer's Market tomorrow.

Picture taking session is not over until I can focus on the interactions of a wood ash glaze and several other glazes used on this pot.  Yes, this is what we obsess over.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Empty Bowls 2017 and some honey jars

Empty Bowls is coming up soon.  Here's a few of the bowls I will bring to the event, scheduled for
Saturday, April 1 at 11 AM - 1 PM at  
First Presbyterian Church, Marietta, Ohio
501 4th St, Marietta, Ohio

 The above bowls are more of a cup-of-soup size while the handled bowls below are larger and come with cracker plates.

 I had to show a closer look of this glaze combo. This is a Tenmoku Gold with Blue Hare's Fur over it on the inside of bowl.  I don't know if this is going to be a consistent result or if I just got lucky.  First try was with just the tenmoku but I got too much gold, not enough dark contrast.  I re-glazed over the inside with the Blue Hare's Fur and fired again. Click on the pic for a closer view.

 The rims on this set have slightly different designs carved into them.  This is an off white glaze, and difficult to see, but there is a touch of green glaze just on the rims. The spots are from the clay, not the glaze.  I'm on the fence about this clay.  Thinking of seeing if the supplier will mix it 50/50 with a non-spotted clay. It depends what you're going for, I guess.  I would say it's a rustic look.

 The cobalt blue honey jars were made for a customer who requested that color.  At the time I had nothing with this glaze on it to show her. I said she was under no obligation to buy if it's not the color she expected. There is nothing personalized about the jars so I am perfectly fine with that.  I made two because those are two different clays and I wanted to see if the glaze worked better on one or the other.  Looks about the same to me.
A couple of other jars in robin's egg blue are getting decals fired on right now.

I like this glaze and once in a while I'll experiment to see how it behaves with other glazes. Thought I'd try the Blue Hare's fur dipped over top of the test tile.  Shiny brown with blue where it is thickest.  Promising. Not sure what this reddish glaze is really called as you will see if you check for the recipe here . Shiny brown with blue where thickest.  Promising.

Monday, March 6, 2017

keeping your own work, and Miss Billy is on the table

In the midst of a framing/hanging and wall painting project I decided to find a place to hang a couple of my recent clay tiles with found wood pieces. This is something I rarely do.  I may keep a mug or bowl that has a small imperfection but not the best stuff.  A new experience!  It's nice to have something of my own that normally I would automatically price to sell.

I had eight prints that needed framing, some of which have been sitting in a closet for years. Others were framed but needed fresh mats, and there was that one frame I made in 1982 out of stock molding for one of my wood cut prints.  It needed to go. So I ordered the mats, ordered some of the frames and got to it.  Oh, and painted the fireplace wall charcoal gray. It ended up that I hung twenty pieces since I had to shuffle around most of the other artwork.
 The eagle scout badge on the lamp belonged to my dad.  The lamp was used at one time as a coffee grinder by my mother's family.  I find it somewhat humorous that my son now uses one of these for grinding his coffee.  I didn't know they were still being made.

On the left is one of the found wood/clay tile pieces and a print by George Longfellow.  The drawing, with credit given to Grant Wood, was made for the Cincinnati Enquirer to go, I believe, with an article on robotics. You might have to look close to see that the man and woman have robot-like heads. The right picture shows a serigraphy print I made way back when.

 The wonderful print above is by Debbie Dicks.  This picture, unfortunately, does not do it justice.  The photo to the left of it is of Ivin's grandparents, father and uncle on the boat which brought them to America.

Back to work.  I thought that framing/hanging/painting project would take three days but it ended up taking six, of course. 
Notice the chair- it can be adjusted for height, a Christmas present from Ivin.  I was sitting there to wax bisque ware bottoms.  So much more relaxing than standing!
The dark clay-mini butter churn shapes are prototypes for a local historical organization.  

And Miss Billy came to visit, hoping for an open container of water or glaze.  I think she has learned that the pot of iron oxide is not optimal for paw dipping.  I still have to make sure I cover the glazes when she's around.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

the sun makes an appearance

The sun is starting to make it's late afternoon appearance to my work table.  It takes a few months off in the winter.    

 Some greenware honey jars.  Customers awaiting.

An afternoon hike.  I was captivated by trees and sky reflected in a pond.

Monday, January 9, 2017

think of it as an internship

This is going to get wordy, so I'm telling you right now to pass unless you have a curiosity about artist's co-ops.  I am writing in defense of them, sort of.  I say this having recently resigned from one- ha!  But, as I was ending my three and a half year involvement with this particular co-op gallery, I thought about all the good stuff learned from the experience:
  • How to coordinate exhibits:  painting and patching panels, communicating with visiting artists, setting up the show, reception, marketing...
  • Brainstorming ideas for exhibits, classes, community events.
  • Some of what it takes to run a brick and mortar business.
More on the plus side:  You have control over your display- change it out, rearrange, whatever. Also, there is no denying the creativity boost from being part of some of the exhibits and being around other artists.  Then there's a pool of customers- some may be new to you, and it's a shop with regular hours so they know where to find you.  I have to admit, it was a difficult decision to end my time with this gallery.
Why did I leave, then?  Time and money.  Some travelling may be in my future.  Pottery is time-consuming work.  So is working at the co-op.  Being gone is a problem.  And, it wasn't making financial sense. The combined commission fee and rent comprised a yearly average of 40- 43% of what I sold.  I was not selling enough at this location to offset the costs. This is a small community and raising prices is not an option.  As I expect to be compensated for my time and experience, a better use of my time is to participate in shows where fees typically take 10 to 15% of my sales. Also, I've found it impossible to keep up with my Etsy shop, which I hope to have stocked and active again in a few months.

Anyone who has been involved in a an artist's co-op knows there are other factors which make it a difficult balancing act- getting a dozen or more people to agree on one course of action (often, things just did not get decided), and equal division of labor are a couple of famously common difficulties in co-ops. Then there's the age thing.  This didn't seem to bother anyone but me.  As a 58 year old, soon to be 59, I was one of the younger members.  For a variety of reasons I felt the organization needed a more diverse age range. But, with a shop open 6 days/week (closed Mondays) younger artists who are working full time (actual paying) jobs and may have little dependents are scared off by the thought of giving up a couple of weekend days per month to man the gallery.  I don't think they get past that consideration to even contemplate all the other responsibilities.

Remember, I started out talking about the positives. My advise is take a look at your local co-op and see what it has to offer you.  Don't forget, you'll probably have to jury in.  Here's the thing- if you can possibly swing it for a year or two, look at the experience as an educational tool.  The knowledge gained is invaluable.  Think of it as an internship.  You might get paid, too.
 all packed up

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