Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New Vase

I might as well showcase my new vase that I just added to my etsy store this morning. I have a few coffee mugs in this same design, which I also mentioned on my facebook 'fan' page.

If I had more time I would also mention this on my Instagram, but alas, it is about time to head out into the studio and finish working on what I was working with yesterday afternoon.

Originally when I painted on these vines, I used a dark orange glaze for the vines and for the leaves. Over the top of the orange I applied the same 'blue jeans' color of dark blue for interest, a small dot to give 'depth'.

As it turned out, the orange completely burnt out during the firing and in its wake left a light blue mark instead, which is a completely beautiful and surreal effect, yes?  I think so. I'm very happy with how this batch of pottery fired in the kiln.  I have a few more pieces to put in my etsy store and then I'm on to something totally different.

Ironically, I was making this 'style' thinking to myself, EUREKA!  I have found my true artist self but upon reflection and a bit of time I think I have not quite arrived.  There is a lot I love about this particular line of pottery but I know I can push it further and that's what I'll be doing later.

Thanks for stopping by!  ~Natalie

Monday, October 29, 2018

New Mugs!

This morning I decided to take some photos of my newest mugs which came out of the kiln last week. I would have liked to promote and blog about these last week, but it was a busy week and I couldn't get around to it. But today is Monday, the start of a brand new week. 

.... And wouldn't you know it .... I spent 3 hours searching for my battery charger for my camera.  Three Hours!  But I did eventually find it, IN AN OUTLET with the extra battery fully charged. So yay.

I got to task and finally got this mug listed and in my Etsy store.  I think I have 3 or 4 similar shape and colors that I still need to photograph and write listings for. 

Then it is time go head out to the studio to make more fun things!  It is a beautiful time of the year to be in the studio, the leaves are beginning to turn into that lovely shade of Texas brown that is fall here in Fort Worth! 

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Vacation Mode

Hi all ... I put my Etsy shop in vacation mode (once again) as I had Jury Duty this week. The case was canceled and I was dismissed as a jury and I am sorry to say that I am thrilled to not have to fulfill my civic duty. I just took it out of Vacation Mode.  I am open again!

I probably utilize Vacation Mode way too often but with my life in a perpetual 'who knows what is going to happen next' that has been this past year it is a life saver with my stress levels.  I realize that putting my shop on Vacation Mode really dips my views in google and takes quite a while to build up again, but seriously, I just don't care.  People are more important.  And if I can put my shop in Vacation Mode and put my attention where it makes a difference, I'm completely grateful, thankful, and yes, more than relieved.

Yesterday instead of serving in Jury Duty I moved my kiln back into its kiln room.  I had moved it out for the summer months as the kiln room becomes way too hot, even with the windows open and a fan blowing the hot air out. I thought I would gain boo-coos of firings but with all the rain we had going on this summer I only squeezed out a couple.  I probably should have bought a tent to go over it but I had visions of the roof of the tent bursting into flames and the burning bits blowing into the neighbor's yard and since she doesn't water her grass, her yard being set on fire .... should I go on with this scenario? You get the idea.

So now that my kiln is back in its kiln room and it is cool enough this fall to go forward with a firing, what will I be firing?  Well, some memorial bottles for my mother who passed last November.  They will all have her picture and a small genealogy printed on the side.  It's mostly for the grandkids so that they can have a record. We all know how easy it is to lose track of family.  If they want some of her ashes, a bit can go in each bottle and be sealed.  Or they can just take the bottle. Or not. It's completely their choice.

Also going into the kiln are some mugs and bowls (see pic).  Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, September 06, 2018

Gimp Update

I'm pleased to announce that after a couple of days of googling, watching You Tube Videos, and many false starts, I am now able to process multiple pictures with one click in Gimp.  I probably will be able to get more items listed in my store each day because of this leap in intellectual technology.

I had to update my gimp program and download a plugin named "BIMP".  Then I had to figure out how to save and then figure out where to find that saved settings file for the curves function. After that it was a piece of cake.

There does seem to be a bit of pinkish tinge in the photos as far as the background goes, BUT the background is mostly white AND the beads seem true to color, at least on MY monitor and so hopefully it will on your monitor, too.

I suppose I could have made this change quite a few years ago because that BIMP plugin has been available for a number of years. Whoosh .... well, live and learn. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Delicate Scroll Textures and Other Important Photography and Etsy Facts

 A few months back Etsy kindly gave all its artists the ability to post up to 10 photos of our artistic endeavors.

Previously it had been five, which I thought was a bit excessive, but I complied because the All Knowing Algorithm determines whether or not my product shows up in 'search'.

Since then I've been doing my best to get 10 pictures up of new listings.  Going back and adding to hundreds of items already listed will take years of work, and frankly it took a long time just to get the 200 or so listings on Etsy.

What usually happens is that I take 10 or so photos and as I'm processing them (I use Picasa and Gimp) I find one or two that are blurry or where the bead has rolled out of the picture frame.

Basically SOMETHING happens and I end up with 6 or 8 photos, but 10 has been difficult. I mean, when you've spent years doing 5 photos .....

So to photograph one bead, I arrange the photos like this:  TOP and UNDERSIDE (so you can clearly view the holes) and then three views of the side, which if lined up properly shows the entire bead. But 10? 

I have to figure out how to get 5 more unique photos. Etsy suggests, "Hold the item". However, I'm at the age where I have these ugly huge age spots on the back of my hands and my fingers retrain water ....it's not an attractive hand for holding beads and I don't know anyone I can drag over here for hours just to hold my bead(s) in their hands.

Come to think of it my daughter is always coming over ...wait ... no .... not nice to drag her into the studio and use her a prop.

I suppose I could put in the proverbial coin ...or put the bead on pretty paper ... I don't know. I suppose if I thought hard enough about it I could get that bead uniquely photographed 10 times instead of 5.  I am not usually so quick to give up so easily.  I'll give it some more thought. In the meantime, I have the entire photo processing process.

Picture this (ha ha) : I am sitting at my desk with Picasa open and photos imported:  click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close) ...repeat 9 more times.

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close)

click (crop, arrange), click (save) click (export) ....open Gimp, import photos ... click (curves) click (apply so the background isn't so dark) .... click (sharpen, because pictures always need a bit of that) click (save) click (close) 

Then list 4 more items, that's 40 pics to systematically click click click click click .....No ... I won't repeat that 40 more times.  You get the idea ... yes?

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!  Shortly after announcing this new and wonderful policy, designed to get customers more interested in clicking about my Etsy store and staying there longer, looking at my 10 (instead of 5) beautiful photographs, Etsy decided that it was time to raise our rates on each item sold from 3.5% to 5%.

 I suppose they need more server space now that they are having us work twice as hard just to get our items into our store and ONTO their search algorithms.

About this same time, Etsy also decided it sure would be nice if their sellers offered free shipping. In order to facilitate that idea, Etsy decided that if they ALSO charged 5% on all shipping charges that sellers would decide to offer free shipping.

Now ...if I sell one bead for $6 .... it costs me about $3.50 to send it pretty much anywhere in the United States (that includes envelope and shipping materials, like soft fleece to keep the beads from chipping during shipping).  I figured out that Etsy is going to be charging me an additional 20 cents per $6 bead sale (that includes item sold rate as well as the extra 5% they will charge me for having the audacity to actually charge for shipping).  So I should offer free shipping and charge $9.70 for each bead?  What if a customer wants two $6 beads?  Right now that would be (with secondary shipping costs) $15.70 ..but with Etsy's policy which they want me to implement it would be $19.40. 

Don't get me wrong. I love Etsy.  I have tried to put all my beads on my own website (nkpdesigns.com) and sell them all by myself but I am not a marketing queen. I don't do a hard sell or track down interested parties and make sure they have all of my beads that they may ever want. I like making the beads and I actually enjoy photographing them (maybe not 10 times).  It's terrific having a record of most every bead I've ever made available online.  And if it were NOT for Etsy it is a fact I would not have had the success I have had.  So I am doing my very best to comply with the new 10 picture policy as best as I can.  I will do a google search and figure out that batch photo processing thing. I can do that.

As far as the shipping goes ...well, I haven't come to any hard or fast decisions about that. I did raise the secondary shipping cost of a second item from 20 to 30 cents (a 10 cent difference).

 In the meantime, have you been checking out my beautiful Cobalt Blue Delicate Scroll Slightly Nugget Shape Beads with 1 mm stringing holes throughout my entire post.  Aren't they pretty?

 Thanks for stopping by! 

Friday, August 31, 2018

This and That

It's been rough the past year or two. It started with my mother having a severe stroke, then in October of 2017 she finally passed. My father passed this last March of a stroke, also. My mother-in-law passed earlier this month, and while she did not pass away from a stroke she had lots of little ones over the past few years.  So THAT'S why my Etsy store has been opened/closed/opened/closed, etc.

 I inherited my parent's dog, who is 14 years old and probably in better health than I am. I suspect she's immortal in some way because she just keeps going on and on. Which is fine with me. My folks loved her so and this is why I have always called her 'my little sister'. Her name is actually "Aussie" because, well, it's obvious, right?

In the meantime, when I've been able to make time, I've continued puttering around with the pottery and the beads, but definitely I have slowed down on everything though I have tried new things such as pottery yarn bowls. 

I have a few of these in my shop now and because I do knit and crochet, I've been able to test these out extensively before offering them for sale. Most are small, intended for small balls of sports yarn, for knitting socks and such. Socks take so long that it is nice to keep out my yarn and display what I'm doing in such a pretty bowl.

I have been making beads, too. It seems as though I'm always doing something with my fingers and beads are great for those times when I don't feel like doing much but curling up on the couch and binge watching some British Mystery Series, especially during the long hot afternoons when its too hot to go outside or do much of anything.

On those afternoons I do find myself outside, I have one of my dad's cameras that I inherited and I snap photos of birds, squirrels, my hens, and whatever else comes into my backyard.  I took this photo of one of my hens. Her name is Stella.  I intend to paint her or maybe make it into a decal for a coffee mug, or maybe I will eventually do both.

Thanks for stopping by.  I'm hoping to begin blogging regularly again. It's been awhile and if life takes another sudden turn, maybe I won't be blogging regularly. But here's to hope!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Video of Me Creating a Bead - BACKWARDS

Hi everyone .... thought I'd share a video I made of a bead a while back.  I'm still working on the lighting to see if I can figure out how to have everything show up brighter.  In the meantime ...enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bisque firing

Finally got it all loaded. Beads on top, mugs all the way down, first firing. If you scroll down on my Instagram you will see the mugs I've been creating all summer...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Shabby Chic Mug

This mug has been through many many firings since my last post!  The first fire was to bisque fire.  Next I coated with a clear glaze and fired again in my small test kiln. The clear glaze crawled horribly.  I do not have the words for the sad emotions that went through me when I picked this up out of the kiln.  I liked the inside. Just not the outside.

I recoated with clear glaze and fired again a cone hotter.  It helped a teeny bit ... but not much.  I decided it was because the manual fire with the kiln setter didn't provide much of a soak. 

I went ahead and (stupid is as stupid does) glazed the others and fired all of them in my big kiln thinking the soak at the end would help.

Nope. I was left with a batch full of scratchy crawly glazed mugs with underglazes that had considerably faded.

I went to the auto store down the street and bought various grades of sanders: 60 grit, 100 grit, 320 grit, and 500 grit. I got to work, using olive oil as a sanding medium to keep the dust out of the air.

It worked!  I ended up with the neatest strange kind of thick satin glaze on all my mugs.  NOTE TO SELF:  Do not use clear glaze on red stoneware with underglazes.That was a lot of sanding!

Ok.Got it.

At last it was time to attach the iron oxide laser decals.  I choose four of my (current) favorite daisy characters.  I refired and when it emerged from the kiln I decided that the zig-zaggy black lines were too dark and overwhelmed the daisy figures. Luckily, I own a large collection of commercial decals and immediately a certain all-over pattern came to mind that would give the entire mug a shabby chic look.  I attached them over the vertical bars and fired again. Voila! It worked.

Here is the result:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Voice in Art - My Particular Style?

I have been so enthralled with watching Periscopes (if you don't have the app get it) in which potters talk about the behind the scenes ideas in how to develop as an artist.  There have been so many I have watched, but in particular there are two I happened to watch about voice and style.  I was struck by what Lisa LaPella said in one of her scopes. I can't remember exactly what she said but I ran for my neglected sketchbook and I started to make a list of things I love to do when making beads:

1. Bright colors
2. Repeating patterns
3. Drawing flowers to represent people in my life
4. Iron oxide decals
5. Applying and texturing sprigs

My background: I grew up in the southwest and the late 60s and 70s ...love all things mid-century.  Being eclectic, it's been especially hard for my pottery to develop a particular style because I do love so many different ideas/colors/techniques .... later that evening I listened to Jessica Putnam Phillips and her story about how her particular style developed out of her life in the military. Her focus was on the women who serve our country and I was further convinced that whatever I focus on that it must be something that is personally important to me.

 I examined my recent green-ware mugs (red stoneware clay) I've been working on and wondered how I could bring some cohesiveness to my art.  I went through this list and began sketching ....  I wanted to draw lines in a curved downward position to emphasize the drawing as well as emphasize the curvy mug shape ... I wanted to fill some of the same background in other areas with small hand drawn daisies ... bright colors (check), repeating pattern (check) ...applying and texturing sprigs (too late for that at this stage, maybe next time).

Because this mug is a red stoneware, I had to figure out the firings ...all that under-glaze, over-glaze, and decals!  I decided to start out with the under-glazes. How many firings would I have to have?

I finally decided that if I timed it right that I would only have to have three: one for the bisque fire with under-glazes already applied, one for the clear glaze firing, and one final firing for the hand-drawn iron oxide decals.

When I finished with the under-glazes I started laughing because I had been thinking about the repeating patterns in the stripes but it didn't actually dawn on me that it was kind of a 'southwestern-y' type pattern until it was finished.  I had written that down for one of my background influences, but it came out all on its own.

I began sketching again and as I did, I thought of my mother.  She has always been such a strong and bold figure in my life.  I usually draw daisies but she doesn't remind me of a daisy, she's more of a zinnia.

Zinnias have a strong stalk and hefty leaves.  They are showy as all get all (my mother refused to leave the house unless her hair was perfectly coiffed).  I grew in her womb and now that I'm grown, all that she is continually grows out from me.  I mean, who doesn't look in the mirror at some point and see their own mother in the morning or find themselves saying those same phrases they never thought they would say?  "Six of one and a half dozen of the other" and so on and so forth.  It dawned on me that the roots of her 'zinnia' could be anchored on top the 'belly button' potter mark, because her roots are intertwined in every aspect of my life (whether I like it or not).  Note the tension in the mother/daughter relationship.  Last time I was with her, I was helping her eat and she muttered, quite loudly, "Well, isn't this just a fine mother/daughter moment".   My mother's best humor comes out in her sarcasm. I laughed so hard. Then I cried. Then she cried.  When we wiped our tears, I handed her the fork.  "You can just feed yourself then," I said.  She picked up the fork and finished her supper.  It really was a fine mother/daughter moment.  I treasure it.

 I am looking forward to enjoying my morning coffee out of this mug. I plan to make more and I don't know how long I will make them.  Styles grow and 'voice' changes. Is this my 'style'?  Have I found my 'voice'?  I don't know.  But I do know that I am emotionally attached to this work and that doesn't happen often with the pottery -- it does with my beads I create, but not often the pottery and perhaps it is because when I am creating beads I am often thinking about things that are going on in my life and when I have made pottery in the past I have thought, "Is this going to sell or simply take up space on my shelves?"

Maybe developing your own 'voice' starts with asking yourself questions.  Thank you Lisa and Jessica for your thoughtful scopes.  There are others who have scoped on this topic, but these were the two I happened to watch.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Happy New Year!

Ok, so it is May.  Not January.  What does that say about me?  I've been busy in my new studio  It is insulated and has a heating/cooling unit.  There was electric out there and so hubby ran a few outlets for me so I could plug in the wheel or the pugmill as needed. 

It has a 'modern' feel to it. It's not big, only 10 x 12.  I have everything on wheels (except for the wheel) and if I am working on handbuilding, I can move everything over to one side or the other fairly easy.

I put in an air filtering machine that runs 24 hours a day and at the end of each session I put away scraps, clean off the wheel or table, and right before closing the door, I fill up my Scooba's tank with water and set it loose. 

In the morning when I go back out to the studio, the floor is dust free, the air is dust free and I'm ready to go again.

I've always been relatively clean in my home studio because ceramic dust is very dangerous.   I joke that this is my 3rd studio. Studio 1.0 was the corner of my hallway. No kidding.  I had my wheel shoved there and kept my clay and tools underneath.  I would clear off the dining room table to set things and couldn't make much at one time.

Then my son moved away to college and I took over his room (Studio 2.0) and I've been happy there, mostly.  But I got into metal work and soon the space really dwindled.  Between the tools for that and the pottery clay, it was hard to keep certain things dry when other certain things needed to be wet.

Now I actually have two studios. Studio 2.0 is now used exclusively for shipping, storage, photography, and metal work.  All the pottery stuff is in the (as my hubby calls it) "She Shed".

Wanna see the inside?  It's girly... Girly Whirly.  I love avocado/peridot green.  And I adore turquoise blue.  And I couldn't decide.  So I painted each color on opposite walls. I have since moved the pottery wheel around and the arrangement is completely different.  I used a brick red as an accent color.  I will have to find a picture of that later.

So .... about the time we started this project my mother suffered a major stroke.  That's the sad part.  She's never probably going to walk again because she lost use of her right arm and leg. Her speech is spotty. Every so often she can say a few words.   

Here's where I proselytize about stokes. They are 85% preventable.  Take the baby aspirin at night with 8 ounces of water.  This thins the blood so that clots don't form.  Exercise a few times each week at least 20 minutes to get the heart rate up.  And here's the most important thing: STOP SMOKING!

Okay. I'm done.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Glazing Chowder Mugs

I had this fun project of making chowder mugs.  I was going to make 6 mugs about 24 ounces each and these are the photos of that progress.

First I had to figure out about how  big to throw them.  I had a couple of false starts but eventually got close.  I am definitely not a production potter, so these are not exactly exactly the same size, but they are close enough.

After they were thrown, I put them into the kiln for their first firing. Unfortunately one had a small crack around the top of the handle after it was finished, so I had to trash that and do another one.  Another week or so passed and it was fired.

Finally there were six again.  The next step was the glazing.  First I sanded for rough spots, especially around the handle.  If I get it too smooth the glaze runs like crazy so it is a definite balancing act.  Then I rinsed off the mug so that there will be no dust. 

I applied black underglaze ink into the initials of my 'belly button' potter mark and also to the bottom. 

The next step is to wax the bottom of the mug as well as the "belly button'.

I have a small baking pan that I very slowly melt wax over the stove.  I have the exhaust fan going because the fumes from the wax are toxic. 

The worst part about waxing is the ever present peril of dripping wax on the sides.  If that happens (and it does very frequently), I scrape off the wax with a sharp razor and sand the area. If the wax is not completely gone the glaze will not stick to that area.

I don't want the glaze to stick to the bottom of the mug. If there is glaze at the bottom of the mug, the mug will stick to the kiln shelf. The glaze is basically glass on top of the pottery which when it is fully matured, i.e., 'vitrified' also has the same chemical properties as glass.  I like to think of a vitrified piece of pottery as opaque glass. 

Here they are, completely waxed and ready to be dipped into the container of glaze.

I don't have a big enough container to dip the entire mug, so I decided to half dip one side and then half dip the other. 

You may notice that there are more than six mugs. That is because I did a few extra in case something awful happened during firing, that I would have enough for my custom order.

I am using a glaze that I mixed up via the book "Mastering Cone 6 Glazes" ...it is a High Calcium Semi-Matte glaze with the recommended amount of cobalt carbonate in an amount that will not leach into the food.

Poisoning your customers is never a good idea.  ;)

The next morning I placed them all in my digital kiln and set it to fire all day. I use the 5 phase firing ramping schedule found in the back of the book, "Mastering Cone Six Glazes". 

The first time to program a digital kiln is a bit nerve racking, it's true.  However, once the firing schedule is programmed, it stays there under 'user one' and is a piece of cake to refire. 

The kiln fired all day and shut off about 9 pm that night.  The next day about 5 pm I was able to crack the kiln open and about 9 pm that night unloaded it.  I think these turned out nicely. Do you?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Custom Mug

 It's super fun when someone messages and says, "Hey, I want a mug.  I don't care what shape or color. I just want it to hold a certain amount of liquid....but I want it to have surface decoration like you do with your beads."  (not an exact quote of course, but a fair simulation)
 I had my doubts about the design, about the color scheme. I agonized over it more than a few times.

I toyed with the idea of bright red daisies against a yellow background.

I toyed with the idea of a simple clear glaze over the entire mug.

In the end, this is what I decided.
 The surprise inside reminded me of the "Party in a Cup" series I created when first starting making pottery.

I always meant to do more of those ...so it's nice that there is a bit of a party going on in the bottom of this mug.

The bottom developed a teeny surface crack in the bottom during the firing.  It poses no problems.

When I put this in the microwave on high for two minutes, the handle was cool to the touch (score)!


Near the bottom of the belly is my potter mark, my three initials stamped into the clay.

Had a great time with this custom order. I always say, "I don't do custom orders."  But if you want a mug and you trust me with the design and implementation, I'm game if you are.

How much does it hold? It holds 3 cups of liquid comfortably (24 ounces). 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Slip Goo

I had this idea to cover the surface of this very big mug with white porcelain slip ...then I could use underglazes and get all painterly artistic about the decorating aspect of it all.  Yeah, good idea!  Except the slip was quite gooey and the brush wasn't really working.  I did the best I could. I went back and reshaped it a bit. It's drying now.  I'll trim and attach a handle later.

I couldn't help but think this would be a lovely teapot, so that's what I did. I ended up forming it into a teapot.