A new year is here. I am excited to get back in the studio after the busy holiday season of shows and sales.
My winter months at the studio consist of re-stocking my line of urns, and hopefully making some new biodegradable urns. I am also filling orders from the holiday sales.
If you are not familiar with my line of cremation urns here are a couple of my favorites from 2017! The first is a biodegradable urn made of paper/clay/paint. The second photo is a faceted blue keepsake urn. If you would like to see more visit my urn shop page here.
After the urns and holiday orders are finished, I begin to make pots for the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail. The 14th annual Pottery Trail is the weekend of April 28th-29th. The Trail is a self-guided driving tour of clay studios in western Massachusetts. This year there will be 13 guests in addition to the 9 potters that will welcome visitors to their studios. Visit our website here. I am happy to announce that my guest this year is Martha Grover from Bethel, Maine. You can visit her website here.
Aside from making pots I will continue to teach winter and spring classes at my studio. See the class page here.
This new year will bring some new workshops!
A five day workshop this June 11th-15th at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Cape Cod.
And back by popular demand… I will be giving a five day workshop on Pouring Vessels at my studio, the week of August, 20th -24th!!
I am also adding 3 weekend workshops…
- June 2-3, 2018 Wheel Throwing Basics: (Beginners and Intermediate)
- July 28-29, 2018 Wheel Throwing: Making Teapots (Advanced Level)
- October 13-14, 2018 Wheel Throwing: Learning to Make Lids (Intermediate and Advanced)
In 2017 I made my first full length instructional video, “Making Ceramic Spoons on the Potters Wheel”. This instructional video is just like taking a class with me. It is available for unlimited streaming for $29 here.
By the end of 2018 I hope to have a full length instructional video available for streaming called, “Learning to Make Lidded Forms on the Potters Wheel”.
Happy New Year to all!
My 16th annual Open Studio/Holiday Sale is just round the corner!
Here is a little explanation of why this year is going to be different.
Do you ever just feel like you need a change?
I have felt this need for change in my studio work for over a year now. Sometimes we get too comfortable in what we do everyday… I needed to shake things up a little bit and get out of that comfort zone, take a leap, and begin fresh after my studio renovation. (Which you can read about in an earlier post, here).
I have made a big change from porcelain to stoneware for my kitchenware. (My urns will still be made in porcelain). This has opened up a whole new way of glazing for me. I knew if I changed my clay I would have to learn how to use my glazes differently. I am really excited about this change, even though there has been lots of trial and error. I don’t like to say mistakes, because I don’t think there are mistakes when it comes to creativity and invention. I truly feel that it all just makes you better at what you do.
So now the studio is filled with newly made pottery experiments everywhere! It’s a mess quite honestly. I try to do a small kiln firing every weekend and learn from each one. This is all good… I am getting what I need as each firing answers my, “if I did this, what will I get” questions. It’s also good because it creates lots of, “so-called seconds”. Can you see where I am going with this? Seconds are perfect for my Holiday Open Studio and Sale coming up this December 8th, 9th, 10th. I really like to get handmade pottery into everyone’s hands and seconds pricing allows for that.
Mark your calendars!
Here is my postcard for this year… front and back.
I have been making little lidded boxes in the studio lately. I’ve always had this thing for small ceramic work that’s useful. I think it began when I was a kid. My parents really had no taste in home decor… for the most part everything was child proof, indestructible furniture for the living space, and Corelle Ware for the table. The only two interesting items that caught my daily attention were two pieces of handmade pottery… a cream and sugar set. These two pieces were kept on this tiny little wall shelf high up in the living room, away from any damage that any one of us six kids would cause… but I managed to take one or the other off the shelf every now and then, just to sit on the nearby couch and fondle the smooth surface in my hands… and stare at the drippy mottled tan glaze and the toasty orange edges of the stoneware clay. I looked at those pieces in wonder… and at the same time I wondered why we never used them, and why nothing else in the house looked like these beautiful pieces of pottery. I don’t know what happened to that cream and sugar set since my parents died, but what I do know is that the image of them is etched so clearly in my mind.
So here I am now, working in stoneware clay, (after 17 years of working in porcelain). I am looking for those toasty orange edges, and satiny, smooth, mottled glazes from my childhood memory, and hoping to make pottery that just calls to you to be held. I am finding some answers in these little lidded boxes. Something so small, so intimate, yet so useful. They are small enough to be held in one hand, with a simplicity of form that stands strong on its own wherever it sits. There are so many uses for these containers, that I don’t really have a name for them… lidded box, covered container, treasure jar, keepsake box, salt cellar, jewelry box, keepsake urn, whatever jar. I really think it is up to the user to find a name after they have found it’s special use.
Below are a few photos of the of finished containers and of the process, (these containers are made on the potters wheel in one piece, then cut, to form the lid and the body). These will be available on my shop page soon!
So much newness in the pottery studio! This past summer was filled with renovations in the studio!
I must say this old renovated barn that houses my studio has always been a beautiful studio space, but now even more so! My working space takes up two thirds of the studio, and the display area is the remainder.
So the next time you come for a visit, here is what you will see for the new display area. One side is for my functional pottery for the kitchen, and the other side is for my line of cremation urns. If you can’t make it to the studio check on my shop pages here for kitchenware and here for urns.
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.