The Lucy Fagella Pottery Blog is where I share the how the pottery is made. Pottery process is a beautiful thing… watching a pot rise up from a lump of clay at the wheel, or seeing a work table filled with freshly thrown pieces. This blog focuses on process shots, pottery videos, the work table at the end of the day, and some finished work fresh from the kiln.
I am making small porcelain urns this past week… actually I am on a cycle of re-stocking all of my urns. I start by making the smallest keepsake urns, then the small size urns. This will take me a full week to do, between making the urns and the lids, then trimming. The following week I work myself up to the medium size urns which weigh 4.5 lbs, then go to the large urns which weigh 6.5 lbs. When the urns have gone through the whole trimming, drying and firing process they weigh approximately 2-4 lbs.
Here are a few photos of the small urns in process. I have also made a “Quick Pottery” video to demonstrate how I make the lids for the urns off a larger hump of clay.
To see my line of cremation urns for your loved one take a look at my shop page here.
Making a Ceramic Teapot and getting all the parts to work as a whole is not an easy task for a potter.
In my 30 years of teaching I have had a few students who come to their first class and say, “I would like to make a teapot.” I very nicely say, “well, maybe you will get to that after a year or so.” Under my breath I am saying… yeah and I want to go to the tennis court my first time out and play like a professional tennis player. Some people just don’t have a clue as to how difficult pottery is… and the teapot is the pinnacle… the culmination of many years of pottery making.
In my studio, teapots are made about once a year. I begin with making just two teapots, and bring them though to completion so I can gain insights with the finished product. I first make the body of the pot, then spouts and lids… extra spouts and lids, so I can mix and match to see what fits best for the body of the pot. Once the spout is attached, I fit the lid, then make and attach a handle. The teapots dry slowly under plastic wrap for a few days, then air dry for about a week. I fire them in the kiln twice, once to harden the clay, once to to melt the glaze. I have learned over the years not to judge a teapot before it is fired. A teapot changes in the firing… the clay shrinks, and proportions change. I want to make sure the form I have made functions properly, before I go about making a batch of them.
These are the questions I ask myself when the teapot comes out of the kiln…
Can the handle, handle the teapot, another words, does the teapot feel balanced?
Does the water pour out smoothly, or does it sputter, or drip?
Is the level of the spout high enough on the teapot so it doesn’t spill from the spout when it is full?
Does the lid fit properly? Is the lid flange deep enough, so it does not fall out when you tip it?
If the handle is on the top of the teapot, is there enough space to be able to take the lid on and off comfortably, and fill with water?
These are just the practical components of making a functional teapot. What about the aesthetic components. How do I make the teapot parts come together to make a whole unified, well balanced pot? (Which I will talk about in another post.)
Once I have checked off all of the above, I go back to the potters wheel and make a small batch of them with the insights that I have gained from those first two teapots… and the process begins again.
The 13th Annual Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail 2017 is one week away!
To find out all the details, visit our website.
Take a look at this 1 minute video I created to give you a little idea of what you are in store for this year!
Aside from the great pottery you will see and be able to purchase from the 22 potters, there will be demos, food, and raffles… even live music at some studios. You can also drink our new “Pottery Trail Ale” made by Lefty’s Brewery! You can also attend our After Party BBQ at Snow Farm Craft Center and drink Pottery Trail Ale there!
Below is a little sample of what’s new at my studio for the Trail! If you can’t make the Trail this year you can visit my shop page.
Biodegradable Urns are made with paper pulp and recycled clay. The surface of these urns are painted with encaustic wax and pigment.
I am categorizing these urns as biodegradable, because like my 100% biodegradable urns they are not fired in a kiln. The paper and clay part of these urns will break down in water, and in the earth. The encaustic painted surface application of beeswax and damar resin (tree sap) are not totally water soluble, therefore these urns should not be used for burial at sea. My intention for these urns is for natural earth burial, or to keep as a treasured memory for your home.
I have been making biodegradable urns since 2009. I mostly work with patterns and hand painted papers to create quilt like patterns on the surface, see earlier post here. On these latest urns I am using the encaustic painting technique, which is an ancient method of painting with beeswax and earth pigments for color. See history here. I have always been intrigued by this method of painting because of the layers and textures that can be created from the hot wax. It feels so much like working in clay. I am able to manipulate the hot, warm, and cool wax with tools… it is such a sculptural way of painting.
A couple of years back I took a workshop at R&F Paints in Kingston N.Y. I spent a few days there learning the technique of encaustic painting. I brought a few of my tiny biodegradable urns with me hoping I could paint on them once I learned the proper method on wood and paper first. The workshop instructor was happy I brought the urns, and said that people use encaustic on clay tiles, so it would work just fine. As I began to melt the wax on the surface of the clay many ideas came to mind for the endless possibilities! I had so much fun taking a break from pottery for a few days and learning something new. I also learned that just because I am a potter/artist it does not mean I can just pick up a new medium and expect it to be easy. I gained a new respect for encaustic painters in those few days at R&F Paints.
Fast forward two years later. I have finally made time to use what I learned from the workshop. These new urns are the beginning of a new way of working with clay, paper, beeswax, and pigment. I am liking the texture and the earthiness that I am achieving.
The first photo below shows the urn freshly made. It needs to dry completely before I begin the process on applying the hot wax and pigment. The following photos show the finished pieces.
These small urns will hold up to 20 cubic inches, and measure 5″h x 4″w. They can be found on my shop page here.
I choose to make slow made pottery… that is one at a time, by my hands only.
Here is a little video with some Sunday music, (slowed down a bit more than usual, for effect).
This short little video shows me trimming a plate on a foam bat. The plate is pushed into the foam with my fingers. I use a large lid from a jar to evenly distribute the pressure of my fingers, so as not to dent the bottom of the pot. Plates create lots of ribbon like trimmings!
These particular plates that I am trimming are for a custom order of plates and chalices. I will be making ten plates (aka Paten) and ten chalices for a church in Southern California.
To purchase Chalices and Plates visit my shop here.
I am excited to share my first full length Instructional Video on Making Spoons and Scoops! People always ask me how do I make my ceramic spoons, so I thought this would make a great instructional video.
This is a detailed, start to finish pottery lesson on making ceramic spoons and scoops on the potters wheel. In this video I will demonstrate methods of throwing, cutting, altering and joining to create finished spoons and scoops. I will also talk about decorating and firing. Your end product will be useful, functional and decorative spoons and scoops that you will feel confident to sell, or to just give away as gifts. You can watch a promo video, and purchase the full length video at teachable.com.
I have been a potter for over 30 years, and ceramic instructor for nearly 30 years, and have a wealth of knowledge to share with beginner to advanced pottery students. I tend to give a lot of that knowledge away for free on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube… but I want to get into more detail with my videos… little snippets are good, but just not enough for those wanting to really learn more about this difficult craft. Students want more too, and have asked me for longer videos, so I thought why not give it a go!
I love the whole video process, from filming to editing, but have found that it takes a whole lot of time to make even a short video. The editing takes enormous amounts of time… probably 80% longer than the actual filming. It’s another whole job on-top of being a full time potter! Since it takes lots of time to create something of value, these lessons will be sold through teachable.com. When you purchase a video there is no time limit as to how long it is available… it is yours to keep forever through teachable! You don’t have to worry about downloads taking up all the space on your computer, or fussing with dropbox to get access to the video!
There are different names for gaining knowledge online… courses, classes, lessons, lectures, membership sites, and subscription service… (I may be missing a couple). I have chosen to name these videos, ‘Online Pottery Lessons” because it is one lesson at a time.
This first Online Pottery Lesson – “Making Ceramic Spoons on the Potters Wheel” is geared for intermediate to advanced students, but not to worry beginners, more to come in the future for you on basics. I would love it if you contacted me and let me know what you would like to see in a video!
I know that many people want to learn the craft of pottery, but do not have access to pottery classes. This is part of the reason I am creating these videos. Think of these as taking a class with me at my studio! These videos are like a one on one pottery lesson. One of my fondest memories as a teenager was getting ten private pottery lessons from a local potter. It was my high school graduation present from my parents. I learned so much from those one on one lessons! So in memory of first pottery teacher, I thought “Pottery Lessons” would be a fitting name. You can visit my lessons here.
The blue and white faceted, footed urns are out of the kiln! (See earlier post, New Urns for 2017 here.) The blue came out as I had hoped it would… the glaze breaking a crisp white like I had imagined. As a potter you need to have some faith that things are going to work out when you give it over to the kiln firing. There is quite a gap from making the piece to the finished outcome weeks later. Nothing is immediate in pottery. We make our work, then let it dry a couple of weeks before it can go in the kiln for the bisque and glaze firings. Even when we know our glazes well, things can change when put on a new form. It is a happy event when you open up a warm kiln and see a piece just as you hoped it would turn out!
The white faceted, footed urns also came out as I had hoped. I will be adding both of these new urns to my line of cremation urns for 2017. These urns will be available soon on my shop page here.
New biodegradable clay urns are being made in the pottery studio this past month.
I am very excited about this new series of biodegradable clay urns! I only make these urns about once a year, as it requires a good deal of space and time. I use paints, paper, recycled paper pulp and reclaimed porcelain clay. The studio gets taken over by this process!
I began making biodegradable clay urns in 2009, mainly for environmental reasons. I wanted to make something that did not require the use of fossil fuels. Firing kilns takes lots of electricity, or other fossil fuels such as gas, or wood. I do the best I can in the studio to recycle, and re-use clay, water, and packing materials. I purposely fire a to mid range temperature, and do a very low bisque firing to save electricity. The past couple of years the environmentally forward thinking town of Greenfield, MA where I live built a very large solar farm, which we get most of our electricity from… I am very happy about that!
As I experimented over the the years with nature inspired biodegradable urns, I found myself leaning more and more towards color and pattern in these urns. You can see some of the older urns on my old WordPress blog here.
Many of my older biodegradable urns were a nod to quilt making. Before I had children I fell in love with quilt making. Between the kids and working full time as a potter there was no time for sewing. I tried getting back to it as the kids went off to college, but after working a full day making pots, or glazing pots, my fingers were way too tired to hold a needle. So these quilt like urns are my answer for my need to quilt. I find my inspiration mainly in older quilts and Islamic patterns. These can be found on my Pinterest board here.
The new series of quilt inspired urns are different from the older ones. For the first time in the eight years of making biodegradable urns, I am throwing the urns on the potters wheel. I always just assumed you could not throw clay mixed with lots of paper. I was wrong, you can… it’s not easy though!
Here are a few photos of new the series of biodegradable clay and paper urns that I am working on. They are all in process. They look a little grey in color when they are still wet. After they dry completely the porcelain will turn white, at that point I will rub in beeswax to seal the surface, and give it a slight sheen.
I will be putting these up on my urn shop page in the next week or so. I have some a couple of the older ones listed in my shop here.
Shellac resist on pottery…
Using shellac, or wax resist is a wonderful but time intensive way to create a relief pattern. I start this process using a piece of pottery that is fully dry. The first step is to draw a design on the porcelain, (porcelain works best because there is no sand or grog in it). Planning drawings and patterns involves thinking about both the positive and negative space. For this particular piece of pottery shown in the video below, I have created a grid, then an abstract leaf pattern. This pattern is ancient, and can be found everywhere from the tiles of Islam, to early American quilts. The positive and negative space on this grid leaf pattern creates an optical illusion. Some of my favorite images of this come from quilts.
Once I have penciled in the imagery I paint over it with wax resist. The wax will burn out in the kiln firing. Some potters use shellac, but I am not fond of the smell. After the wax or shellac is totally dry, (an hour or so), I begin to sponge off the clay around the imagery. This slowly takes away as much or as little clay that you want. I have to be careful at this point not to go through the clay where it is thin! When I want to get into the tiny detailed spots I use an old dental tool and carve away the wax, then wipe that area with the sponge. After a day or so I can then put it in the kiln for the first firing.
The next step is the glazing and the glaze firing. The photo below shows a few finished urns glazed in a clear glaze, which allows for the pure white porcelain to shine through. You can find these on LuciaUrns.com.
I am working on some new urns for the new year.
These new urns have such detail to them. Lots to think about for me with the different faceted planes and the carved feet. I am quite happy with the result so far. The form itself is not totally new, I have been doing variations of it since I started making cremation urns 12 years ago. What is new are the faceted and carved vertical lines. I have been working out the kinks on these in my spare time for about four months now. I finally have them to the point where I can test the glaze on them. One will be a translucent dark blue that breaks white on the vertical lines. The other will be a semi matte clear. I will find out only after the glaze firing if this form will truly work out the way I imagine.
You can see some similar footed urn forms like these on my website here.
You can also visit my shop here to purchase the current footed urns that I have in stock.