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 new citrus juicers. These are a result of my change from porcelain clay to stoneware clay. If you are a potter you understand the degree of difficulty working in porcelain. It is difficult to make extreme forms in porcelain because they tend to collapse on the potters wheel, or warp in the kiln. It is easier to work in stoneware because of the roughness (grog) in the clay, it just holds up better during the making process. Both are equally as strong and durable as an end product though.
These forms begin as a one piece enclosed form. That means I bring the clay up on the potters wheel and enclose the clay at the top. The first photo shows a two piece citrus juicer. This form is probably the most challenging form I have ever made. This is thrown all in one piece then I cut into it to create the lidded juicer section on top. The second citrus juicer is a double walled container, meaning that the middle hump section is thrown and formed into an enclosed form. The outer section is thrown as a tall bowl with a spout, then at the leather hard stage of the drying process it is cut into and altered to create the low sides. The final citrus juicer is a juicer that I have made for years, the only difference is that I have actually simplified it by not making a wavy split rim.
One of my customers asked me if I juice lots of citrus fruit. Not really I said, mainly just for Margaritas! It’s just that I love the challenge of making difficult forms such as citrus juicers.
You can find these juicers on the shop page of my website.
The price of a handmade mug.
You and a friend walk into a potter’s studio, or a shop that sells handmade goods. You gravitate to the beautifully crafted porcelain mug… it is quiet just like you like your mornings. It’s light green celadon color is deliciously soft looking, and has a translucent quality about it. You pick it up… oh so comfortable. You look at the price, and you put it back down, and say to yourself, I can’t spend $45 on a mug. You look around a little more to be kind, you say thank you to the potter/shop keeper and walk out the door. You walk down the street and say to your friend, lets get something to eat. Your favorite restaurant is busy that night so you wait at the bar and buy two drinks until a table is available. Finally you are seated and hungry by this point so you order a small appetizer, (and so those drinks won’t go to your head). You and your friend chit chat… what a great food this place has… it’s is such a pleasure to come here for our monthly get together. The dinners come… delicious as usual…too full for dessert as usual. You pay the $90 bill without thinking.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
Granted a restaurant has a really high overhead, buying food that can spoil if business is slow, paying all of the staff, paying rent, insurance, upkeep of the building and equipment. The price of a night out is justified.
Now what about that $45 mug? It was the same price as one dinner, one night, one experience. That mug that you walked away from will last for years to come, and will bring many experiences as you sit each morning with your favorite brew. It has the capacity to enhance the quiet comfort of morning, it feels good in your hands, and looks pretty darn nice with your kitchen decor.
So yes the price is justified for a handmade mug, one that is well balanced, comfortable to hold, and fits your taste perfectly. The time and experience it takes to make a well crafted mug takes years, not minutes. If you have ever taken a pottery class you will understand how difficult it is to make a mug, pull a handle and join the two together to make one seamless functional, comfortable mug. The potter also has overhead– clay, glazes, rent, insurance, kilns, wheels, upkeep of the studio… and needs to make a living wage. So much goes into that one little handmade mug.
On April 28th-29th the 14th annual Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail will be taking place at my studio and 8 other pottery studios in western Massachusetts. It’s a driving tour… a way to see our studios, watch how pottery is made, and the perfect time to buy directly from the potter. We are all full time professional potters, meaning we make our living from making beautiful, functional items to enhance others daily lives. If you do come for a visit, think about that dinner vs. a handmade mug. If you can’t make it to the Pottery Trail you can take a look around on my shop page at LucyFagella.com.
You know the Pottery Trail is coming soon when I start making my asparagus trays!
The Pottery Trail is this April 28th and 29th! So mark your calendars, grab a friend or two and plan a trip to the beautiful countryside of western Massachusetts. This pottery tour is a wonderful way to see 9 different pottery studios in our lovely valley along the Connecticut River. Each of the 9 studios will be showing the work of the host potter and a guest potter… 23 potters in all! This is the perfect opportunity to see a wide range of pottery styles and to purchase handmade pottery. It is also a great way to see the studios of professional working potters. Take a look at our website here.
I am so happy to be sharing my studio space with my guest potter Martha Grover this year. Martha lives in Bethel Maine and is well known for her functional pottery throughout the U.S. Her fluid, organic forms are colorful and well thought out, and sometimes very complex, as you can see from the photo below!
As a potter I use quite a bit of electricity to fire my kilns, and that bothers me. I’ve always wished I could fire my kilns from the power of the sun using photovoltaics… but thought it was impossible since a kiln fires for about 15 hours using a great deal of electricity during that time period.
The idea of photovoltaics for the studio (and home) has stuck with me for years. So about 6 years ago we decided to get a site visit from a solar company, and see if there was any hope for a solar array. The site tech told us with the size of our south facing roof we would only be able to get 30% of our electricity from the array. It was discouraging, and felt like it was not worth it.
I continued to believe that there would be no way to lower my carbon footprint as a potter, except for the Biodegradable Urns that I was making from paper and clay. (These urns are the one item I make as a potter that are not fired in a kiln.)
Fast forward a few years later and my eldest son Luke graduates from college with a degree in Building Design and Technology and lands a job with a local solar company, Northeast Solar. He tells me, “Mom things have changed, the technology is better than five years ago, and the incentives for solar are really good right now!” A couple of weeks later he is up on our roof with a hand held device called a Sun Eye measuring the amount of potential solar energy of our house site.
Two months later the south facing roof is filled with solar panels. In that 6 years since the first site visit, technology has changed, and the latest solar panels are capable of producing more electricity per square inch. So as of this past October 2017, I am happy to say that we get nearly 50% of our electricity from solar power here at the home and studio! Yes, I know it’s not 100%, which many years ago I naively thought could happen. If I had the perfect roof and location in the Sunshine State of Florida maybe I could… but here in Massachusetts, on an old New England farm house, 50% is quite helpful!
I’ve been making large and medium size urns this past week. Pictured is a tiny little finished keepsake urn being dwarfed next to the large and medium urns in process.
After making (throwing) the urns and lids at the potters wheel I cover them with light plastic so they dry evenly. The urns and lids go back on the wheel to trim (carve) a foot on the bottom of the urn, and to further give shape to the lid. At this point they are ready to carve each little leaf into the porcelain.
Each urn takes about 40 minutes to carve the leaves… the perfect time to listen to podcasts or to sit outside on a warm sunny porch. (The latter isn’t happening anytime soon.) Over the weekend I carved three urns while watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. A big smile came to my face when I saw the huge moon jar holding the Olympic flame! (I guess you can see where my influences are from for this line of urns that I make). The traditional Korean Moon Jar is from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), it’s typically very large, made from porcelain with a milky white glaze to resemble the moon.
So nice to see pottery being celebrated in the public arena!
Sitting with the sun deliciously at my back all day while throwing large urns, I caught a glimpse of sunlight on my red rubber rib tool.
Sometimes magic happens.
Is it me, or some creative force beyond my realm of comprehension. It’s like the red rib touched the pot like a wand… and poof… the pot became.
These last couple of long days making large urns have left me with tired hands, a content mind, and a sense of accomplishment.
The concentration it takes to create these forms is amazing to me. I go into a zone that feels like I am one with the clay.
Each step is carefully repeated to have the same outcome for each urn, (as it is for all my repeated forms) but these are different, they are nearly 7 lbs of cream cheese like porcelain. So I intently concentrate, remembering the pressure of each push and pull of the clay with my finger tips… from one urn to the next.
The dog barks and the mind wanders for a split second… the fingers slip, the wall of the clay gets too thin. I try to save it to no avail, I think for a moment… I can make it into a different form… it’s not totally lost, but my muscle memory would be. So I crush it, and put it back on the wedging table and grab the next piece of wedged clay, and begin the process of centering again.
I have launched a second website… Lucia Urns!
Since 2005 I have sold urns on a separate page of my lucyfagella.com website, but I felt it was about time to give the urns their own space. Making and selling cremation urns is a least 70% of my pottery business. I wanted to make this website a peaceful place to go when people are grieving the loss of a loved one and making family decisions. I’ve been through the darkness of losing loved ones… any bit of light, hope, beauty and healing words go a long way in that time of darkness.
This website has been a long time in the making. I began working on it last June when I hurt my back. Then the studio renovations began, taking up the whole summer. I hoped to get back to the website in the fall, but making pots for the holiday sales took precedence. In December I went back to it determined to have it finished by the end of January. I am so happy to have it completed!
I have used the Squarespace platform to create this site. They have some great templates to choose from, and lots of instructions via the Squarespace help section through articles and videos. It really is pretty simple… just a whole lot of time!
The one thing I did at the very end of the process was to consult a few hours with a local web guru to make sure all the tech connections were the way they are supposed to be.
Take a look at the site, LuciaUrns.com, let me know what you think.
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!