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.
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!
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.