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.
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.
Artist made cremation urns.
I have been making urns since 2004 and in 2005 it became part of my pottery business. It was tough selling artist made cremation urns back then. I would call up funeral homes for an appointment, and bring them a sample urn and brochure. Door to door saleswoman with brochures in hand! I remember that three fold brochure which I spent a bunch of money on. It was very expensive to hire a photographer, designer and printer. Two years later I no longer liked those urns, and stopped using the brochure. The time had come to focus on the website. Oh how times changed… now if I no longer like something I made, I just take it off the website!
My website, Etsy, and online urn companies are where you can find my urns. People need beauty during the very difficult time of a loved one’s death… this is why I choose to use my talents in this way as an artist. I know that what I do helps. I know this because after 12 years of doing this I have received numerous emails, letters, hugs, and reviews, (see etsy shop here for reviews). All of this feedback keeps me going strong. I know that I am doing the right thing with my talents.
When I was a kid my mother alway quoted a scripture verse from Matthew 5:13… a paraphrase here… “You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, no one lights a lamp to hide it under a basket, it is put out for all the world to see”. Another word kid, she would say… “use your talents for the good of others”! I like to say this to my kids now, but I say it in another way too… “do what you love, then share it”. Or this way… from Picasso… “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
After 12 years of making cremation urns I can honestly say that this is the majority of my yearly income. When I look at this in terms of using my gift, it makes me smile. I know mom’s spirit is smiling too! I also think, well it’s time to even do more. So for 2017 my focus will be on my urn business. I will of course still make functional pottery for the kitchen and home, (useful handmade pottery brings joy to our everyday lives). There will just be more of a focus on urns. In the past I have been afraid to post on social media too much about urns, fear that it would turn people off to my work, and that it is too sad to think about. I’m realizing though that these forms I make are beautiful, and they are needed.
Right now in the studio I am working on some new urn forms, that I will be sharing in the next month or so. The urns that are pictured below are part of my standard ware, (meaning that you can count on these being in stock. I also partner with cremation urn companies who sell these online). These come in four sizes- Individual, (220 cubic inches). Medium, (120 cubic inches). Small, (40 cubic inches). Keepsake, (12 cubic inches). They can be found here on my website.
All of my artist made cremation urns are made with great detail, and many hours are put into each one that I make. The new urns I am making will come in similar sizes, but they will be one of a kind, sold only here on my website.
There are so many ways to photograph pottery. Do you want the work for a catalog, a show, a book, or a gallery. Do you want to sell it online, on your website, on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. What are you trying to convey… is it a feeling, or is it just a no-nonsense, crisp, head-on photo of a pot?
A photo of pottery in this digital age is so important. People are buying pots online as much as they do in person. As potters/photographers we need to give a feel for that pot through one or more photos. As a buyer and potter, I personally want to see at least four photos of a pot. A full-on shot, a close-up, a top view, a bottom view, handle if it has one, the lid inside, if it has one. I also want to be taken into that photo, imagine what it would look like on my kitchen table. I’d like to see myself using the piece.
Here is an excerpt from a recent post I wrote for my Instagram feed about the photo below.
A mugshot for Monday! Photographing work the boring way… I’d much rather see these cups on the table, or in someone’s hand, but alas, a potters work needs to be photographed in this setting sometimes for galleries and shows. I suppose I should think of this type of photograph as “background noise canceling photography”. It is quiet with no distractions, or emotion. This is good thing for the gallery setting, or for a catalog, especially when other potters photos are shown next to it. It’s just not real life though. I like to convey feelings… emotion, color, sunbeams, cloudy days, blur, movement, etc. etc.
What do you think? What’s your favorite way to see pottery in this virtual online world?
Here are some photos of different ways I have photographed the same cups.
To purchase one of these beauties go to my shop page here.
I am happy to announce my annual Holiday Open Studio and Sale this December 9-10-11! The Studio opens Friday the 9th, from 4-8. Then Saturday and Sunday 10-4!
The pottery studio will transform into a beautiful Holiday Shop for these three days. Hot Cider and homemade cookies will be served throughout the weekend. There will be weekend specials, and of course the long seconds table filled with lots of pots. People tend to come early for this part of the sale to find the best seconds and discontinued pottery at great prices. So get here while the getting is good!
Here is the postcard. If you would like to be on my twice a year mailing list for shows, email me at email@example.com with your name and street address. Or if you would like to be on my twice a year email list, send me your email!
Another Quick Pottery video. This little snippet shows how I use a little ice cream cone shaped paper cutout to easily create a spout.
With all of the citrus juicer exploration, (see last post on citrus juicers- form follows function) you had to guess I would make a “Quick Pottery” video on at least one of them! Of course there is so much more to it than what you see here, but this gives you a little idea of what goes into it.
The Citrus Juicer… a little utilitarian object where form follows function.
I had a little citrus juicer contest in my pottery studio… just me, the porcelain, and the ideas in my head generated from a “Pottery for Foodies” workshop I gave this summer at Snow Farm. Students wanted to know if I could teach them how to make a citrus juicer with a spout. I also had customers asking me if I would do a citrus juicer that had a storage container under the juicer part. So began a month long exploration of citrus juicer forms which took place in-between my daily schedule of making and glazing pots.
All citrus juicers take a bit of time to make, including the standard one in my shop. My partner Terri asks me why I make them if they take so much time. My answer is that I love the challenge of making a complex, beautiful form function properly. The issue that I have with the citrus juicer is not the time it takes, but the price I can get for the time it takes. This is one of those pieces that the customer has no clue as to what goes into making it, and why it should be priced even higher than it is.
My biggest take away from this exploration of new citrus juicer forms was about how form truly does follow function. As a functional potter this is of utmost importance to me. I often see “ceramic art” that is beautiful in color, glaze and form, but then I try to use it and it doesn’t work. A teapot that doesn’t pour, a citrus juicer that doesn’t juice, a glaze that isn’t food safe, a mug that tips to the other side because a handle is placed incorrectly… you get the idea. In making four different kinds of citrus juicers I learned a lot about function and the many ways this little utilitarian object can function improperly!
Below are some photos of the first go around of the citrus juicers that I made, and a little explanation of what works, what doesn’t work, and how I would change it.
The first one pictured is my favorite form, it feels most like a “Lucy pot” as my students say. I like the up-lifted body of the bowl. I like the spout, the handle, the juicer part that is carved with swirly grooves rather than straight grooves. The only problem with this is that it does not function well when it pours. The liquid goes over the rim just a tiny bit. It is something that I can easily fix if I just raised the front part of the wall a bit.
The second one is a great storage jar for the liquid. It juices nicely, pours well, the only problem I am having with this is in the firing. Usually lidded pots are left unglazed around the rim and fired with the lid on. With this pot the top and bottom are fired separately because I want the rim glazed so it can stand alone as a piece. Because the lid is fired separately the two pieces are warping differently which is making the fit not so perfect. I like this one a lot, so I will work out the details… maybe make the rim thicker.
The third one is a more traditional ceramic citrus juicer. I am liking the pattern which is made from some stamps that I carved. It is well balanced, pours well, but I would probably raise the front wall near the spout a bit as the liquid comes close to going over the rim. At this point I am not too excited about the form, it’s a little to squat for my taste. If I am going to be making an open-form citrus juicer, I am more partial to the first one pictured.
The fourth one was in response to the complexity of the former three. This hand held citrus juicer is so simple, and a lot easier to make than the others. The only issue I see with this one is that the seeds cannot be separated from the juice. I am loving the way the glaze pools in the deep grooves. I also see this one as a great conversation piece!
I have to honestly say that my standard citrus juicer which I have been making for years still makes the most sense to me. It sits on top of a two cup pyrex measuring cup and when not in use hangs on a hook in the kitchen and becomes functional wall art and a conversation piece.
I make Apple Bakers this time of year, because I think that every apple loving person should have one!
I live in the heart of apple country in western Massachusetts, and have my choices of farms to pick from. Clarkdale Fruit Farm and Apex Orchards are my two favorites. If you are leaf peeping anytime soon these are the two places to go for the beautiful Fall Foliage, and for bags and bags of apples! I will be buying my large bags of seconds next weekend for canning applesauce. We invite friends over to help with the processing and we all come away with plenty for the year to come!
My two favorite apple varieties for baked apples are Cortland, and Mutsu. Baked apples are one of my favorite ways to have a healthy treat, and today is the perfect rainy day to bake some!
This is my description (from my shop page) of why to use an Apple Baker: The Apple Baker is a wonderful way to make a delicious healthy treat. Baked apples are best when cooked in an apple baker because the baking dish has a hollow stem which the apple sits on to keep it in place, and to allow for heat to be distributed to the center of the apple. This is not only a practical way to cook the apple but a delightfully pleasing way to serve the baked apple! The size, 2.5″h x 6.5″w is perfect for one large apple, with ample room for juices from the apple and the filling. The base of the bowl is flat and wide enough so it stays nice and sturdy for your baking rack in the oven. It is also designed with indents on four sides of the rim which make it easier to take out of the oven with pot holders. This goes from the oven, to table, to dishwasher with ease. You can find these on my shop page here.
The bees have been busy making honey, and I have been busy making honey jars, and videos!
Our hive is thriving this summer! I so enjoy just sitting next to the hive watching them buzz in and out. Below is a photo of the bees on a very hot August day. Bees never cease to amaze me. They each have their jobs to do… here they are busy cooling the hive. The job of this group of bees is to fan the hive on hot days. Other bees are out gathering nectar, and some are capping nectar, while the queen has only one job, to lay eggs to keep the colony going strong.
While these bees have been busy making honey I have been busy making honey jars! Somehow the delicious, golden honey, seems to be influencing my pottery. I have found a glaze color that is a perfect match for golden honey. I have a couple of these available on my shop page here.
I have also been having a little fun making another one of my “Quick Pottery” videos! This short video shows a cross section of a honey jar. I find that cutting a piece in half is a good way to show my students where the wall of a pot needs to be thicker or thinner. For this particular one piece lidded jar, it is important to leave a thicker portion of clay where the lid will be cut.
To see more videos on how I make the honey jar on the potters wheel, visit my YouTube channel here.