Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Pottery

The steady glow of the computer monitor convinces me that I must go outside soon and get some real sunlight or I might just fade away .....

I've been listing beads over on the NKP BEADS etsy site most of the day. The other half of the day has been organizing the TPSG coming up on the 7th and 8th of November.

By the way .... I was WRONG .... we are actually holding the Silent Auction for a group called Easel which will seek out and give donations to artists who are affected by hurricanes and natural disasters and the like. I'll have to google that group to see what exactly they do. So much I don't know about.

Here is but a small fraction of the bisque ware I meant to have glazed and fired by now. I keep getting sidetracked by other things. I created some more greenware yesterday. I had decided to throw ten tumblers, exactly alike in side and shape. Of course that didn't work out.

Instead of taking control of the clay, I allowed the clay to control me. I ended up with these. I seem to be into feet these days. It makes it easier to glaze and fire, that's for certain. Also, I hate making lids. So I am determined to make lids for any item until I don't hate doing it any longer. I used this same strategy for trimming and making lips thicker and handle-pulling, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I watched a program on PBS last night explaining the history and development of fractals. It fascinated me to the point that I downloaded a free fractal program and started playing around. Wouldn't this look pretty on a round pendant or bead? Something to think about anyway.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thank You Beads

I recently was asked how I decide what to give away as my Thank You gift when someone buys beads. As I began answering I realized that it was kinda complicated. First of all, I consider what has been bought. Is the customer buying big beads? Small beads? Formed beads? Painted beads? If there seems to be a trend, I tend to include a bead or two from that trend.

Sometimes the beads I put in as thank you beads are beads that I have not put in my store, nor will ever put in my store. Why? It is not because they are not good beads, but usually they are beads that do not photograph well. For example, I have some beautiful coral beads, but no matter what lighting I put them in, they come out pinkish. Well they are not pink. And try as I might with the graphic program, I can't make them come out their true color. Therefore, if I have what I call a "Fantasy Bead", I will reserve them for a thank you gift. Many times they are my most beautiful beads... and because they don't photograph well, completely unique!

Don't get me wrong, indeed, there are times that I include beads that are already in my store or fresh out of the kiln that week. But what I never do is put in a bead for a Thank You gift that I am not pleased with. I mean, the point is to have the customer fall MORE in love with my beads, not OUT of love with them.

Years and years and years ago, the first time I ordered beads online I was a bit disappointed. They came in a dirty plastic bag, no invoice, the envelope had been used I don't know how many times -- the thank you gift looked like something small and broken out of a candy machine. The next time I ordered beads (a few years later), it was fantastic. The lady had packaged these beads so that it felt like Christmas morning. I oooh-ed and aaah-ed myself through each goodie layer and I never forgot how great that was to open up and gaze at those beautiful beads.

So I do take time to think about packaging and thank you gifts. I want to wow my customers. I buy soft fleece from the fabric store and pretty ribbon and I always use new plastic bags if the bag is scuffed up from being with the other bags.

How many beads do I give away as Thank You gifts? That depends on the size of the order. I try to be consistent. However, I probably should keep track of exactly what I've given and to whom, but I don't -- at least not yet.

The bottom line is that my customers and I each love beads and so I try to say Thank You the best way I know how -- with a bead!

Texas Clay Festival

This was my first time to this festival and it was SO MUCH FUN! I enjoyed every demo and wished I could have been in three places at once. This is held in Gruene (pronounced 'Green'), Texas every year and there is incredible pottery to buy and incredible demos to watch. There were three tents set up with demos going on in each one at the same time. So difficult to decide which one to see. One can only hope a few of these demos that I didn't get to see ends up on You Tube. Wouldn't that be great?

The man pictured in these three pictures is named Vorakit Chinookoswong (V. Chin for short). His work is stunning. He grew up in Japan (but I believe he was born in Taiwan). Being a potter in Japan is apparently very different than in the United States. There you have to work your way up to the wheel by cleaning and wedging. Even when you get on the wheel, you are limited to a certain grade of clay. And you must repeat the same shape over and over and over and over and only then can you graduate to a different shape. One one hand, I hate that idea. On the other hand, I can see much value of some of that amount of practice. For example, I can see myself being told to do a certain shape over and over, but I would want to choose the kind of clay I throw. It's the American way! lol! It was fascinating to listen to V. Chin as demoed and shared what it was like to be a potter in Japan and what it is like to be a potter in America.

Every year this group of potters holds a silent auction (for scholarships and things) and this year they also decided that some of the money would go to help rebuild V. Chin's studio which was destroyed in Hurricane Ike. After watching him demo, I could see why V. Chin is beloved by so many potters. His enthusiasm and positive outlook is to be much admired. That is why I am thrilled my pottery guild, the Texas Pottery and Sculpture Guild, will also be holding a Silent Auction for V. Chin at the November Christmas show (November 7th & 8th at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

Visit V. Chin's Gallery online today. If you have never seen his pottery, you will fall in love with it. And if you live in the DFW area, please come to the TPSG pottery show and bid on a piece of pottery made by guild members which will help rebuild V. Chin's studio.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pretty Beads

I was playing with my husband's calligraphy pens and these are what I ended up making. I still have to cover them with a clear gloss and fire them again, but I had fun experimenting.

Slab Thrown Mugs

The assigment was to throw slabs and make 6 mugs, exactly alike. This was probably the hardest assignment so far in the class because it is very hard to make anything that is similar (for me anyway!). But here is success!


I was in the mood to glaze the other day, and I think that is part of it -- I MUST be in the mood to glaze or I just draw a big b l a n k. These whistles had also sat neglected in the bisque form on my shelves, but now they are glazed and I am happy with how they turned out.

Here's the bad news. The apple whistle I made fell during the firing and melted with the small teeny vase. They are now one -- forever!

Little Teapots / Spicepots

I made these so long ago. Then they sat on my shelf in the bisque state for months and months until I finally glazed them last week. I used to be so good at doing everything in a timely manner, but sometime in the last year or so not so much.

I just couldn't decide what it was I had wanted to do with these. I remembered it was a simple idea but I was determinded not to glaze until I either remembered or came up with something new. Then, the other day I was poking through my shelves, it was shortly after I knocked the handle off a mug, when I remembered SIMPLE GLAZE AND LEAVE BARE CLAY ON HANDLES AND SPOUNTS AND LIDS. So easy. I can't believe I forgot, but I remembered (as I usually always do eventually) and here they are. I'm pleased with the results.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Experimenting with Shapes

I don't have any photos at the moment, but I have been experimenting with some home-made stamp designs. Lately I've been obsessed with squares, rectangles, circles, ovals, etc ... patterns have always interested me. I have a bunch of stamps ready to go into the kiln for a bisque firing and then I will be able to stamp shapes, teeny tiny shapes, into some of my beads. Come to think of it, I do have the bead which started this particular obsession. Here it is:

I stamped these beads with a square tip of a drill bit set. As I got to looking at it, I started thinking about mandalas and the different geometrical shapes on those and that got me wondering how I can fit such a lovely texture pattern on a bead.

Square Hollow Forms

In open lab I decided to get play with the square hollow extruder die. It took me about 20 minutes to try to figure out how to put it together and then I set about extruding a small amount of clay.

It took me a while to figure out what to make. I should have thought ahead and looked at a book I have on this subject before going to class. However, it was all one of those spur of the moment type of projects so I had to think really hard. I swear my brain HURT from all that thinking -- worse than MATH! Finally I decided to make tea candle houses.

I had a bit of square hollow clay forms leftover so I made this small square/round mug. Let's hope I don't break off the handle.

Big Vat

Here it is. It is finished. Unfortunately there is a teeny tiny horizontal crack near the bottom. It does not go all the way through the piece, but it probably will fully crack either in the bisque fire or the glaze firing. I don't know. Who wants to place a bet? Or should I just break it up into little bitty bits and reclaim the clay? I don't know. I'm open to it all.

Because I'm CLUMSY I have all but gotten a bit detached to most of my pieces, this one included. Or at least I try. I think it cracked because I placed it within about 5 feet of one of the bisque kilns in the classroom. That was stupid. Really dumb. I should have known better. I would never do that in my own studio. Of course, the kiln is in the backyard so it is a mute point. However, in the future I will keep this in mind.

I will make and continue to make careless mistakes until in the very fiber of my being I automatically avoid them. Someday. It's all a learning process, right?

And this morning, for the third time in a row, as I was moving the bisque/greenware around the shelves to figure out what my next kiln load should be, I again knocked a mug and the handle flew off. Again. I'm a bit frustrated with myself. I liked this mug. I liked the last mug. I really liked the mug before that.

This blog is for my successes and my failures and my growth as an potter. Aren't you excited to see that I have room for lots of growth. It is way much nicer to have room to grow than already knowing it all. What would be the fun in that? Discoveries are great and fun and in time I will have more successes than failures and maybe in time I will become less klutzy. Yes?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Today in Ceramics Class ....

As soon as I walked in the door I got this out and added coils to both pots. I can tell by the photo that I pushed both of these a bit too far. They will have to harden and by Monday I will have to paddle them into shape. The 'top' is about ready for a neck. The 'bottom' needs a bottom, then it can be turned over after it is hardened. So I think two more classes, or by this time next week, I should have it built.

We were told to take between 25 and 50 (or more) pounds of clay and compress them into a big block. We were able to mold it anything any shape we wanted (like a fish or a gorilla face, or whatever). I chose to make an lamp or a vase with abstract geometrical designs. When it dries a bit, we will take these and cut them in half and scoop out the excess clay and put it back together again. SO FUN!

This is a technique called Mish-ee-mow-kee. I do not know how it is really spelled and it is the first word that Google was not able to help me figure out. Either that, or I did not hear the correct pronunciation. First a design is carved into the leather-hard clay and a slip is applied. It is allowed to dry and then it is scraped. The colored slip will stay in the crevice. I've done this with beads before but I didn't know it had a name. I'm getting so very smart in ceramics class. lol! (I found this link online and I bet this it) http://www.e-yakimono.net/guide/html/mishima.html

Here is the bowl that came out of the pit fire. If I had burnished it more it would have been more shiny. However, our professor gave us some wax to buff these up a bit. Having never done this before, it sure was fun. I've seen some very exquisite pieces before and I can see how people could get hooked doing this sort of thing.