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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and street address. Or if you would like to be on my twice a year email list, send me your email!