Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something Other Than Pottery....

I have been occupied with a couple things besides pottery the last few weeks. Above is a picture of me with my newest grand-son, Micah Kade Canfield. He was born Dec. 13.

While our daughter and son-in-law were busy bringing him into the world, we kept an eye on his big brother for a few days, Jaedon Asher Canfield who was 19 months old Dec. 5. We had so much fun and I feel so blessed that our schedules allowed us to be able to spend so much time with him!

His mom was hoping to have a home birth with Micah but she had a few complications. Nothing too serious, bu
t she had to go to the hospital. She did manage to have him naturally.....60 hours after her water broke!! She's a trooper!!

They're all home now getting no sleep, I'm sure!! Seems like only yesterday we were bringing our DAUGHTER home from the hospital!! The last 25 years sure flew by!!

Our son came up for Christmas and we got to spend Sunday with both our kids, grand-kids, and all of Steve's family! It was a great day!

Can't wait to get Jaedon started playing in the mud with Nee-na!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Staying focused

Small, lidded canister w/Gold Ash Glaze

Small, lidded canister with green ash glaze

Well, the big "holiday rush" is over (and wasn't much of a rush at all!!) Instead of having a "Winter Open Studio" I decided to have the studio open the week before Christmas.....Mon - Thurs. 11-7.

Our daughter's second child was due Dec. 4 and we were on "stand-by" to baby-sit the older son in case she had to go to the hospital (she was attempting a home birth.) She did end up in the hospital, so we
got to stay with Jaedon for a few days! It was great fun and put a little monkey wrench in my firing schedule, but didn't really cause any problems in the long run.

'Cause I didn't have much business!!!

It does seem like though, that every time I start to feel really discouraged, something happens to bolster my spirits (and get my hopes up again.) I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Sometimes, you should just let a whupped horse die (is that the proper terminology?)

I've talked it over with Steve and we think I can keep plugging away at this for another year and see if I can drum up a little more business.

I haven't fired the soda kiln since early summer. I still have tons of salt and soda pots that haven't sold. I finally put them on "Super Clearance." $5/apiece no matter what the size or original price. Some of 'em were probably only worth that from the start.

Figuring out a price point has been extremely difficult. The prices I charge for work at Bear's Mill have always felt too high to me. Of course I am paying a consignment fee and have to figure that into it and I don't want to under price 'cos it offends the other potters and cheapens their work. By the same token I don't feel like I'm at the same level as some of the other potters so I feel like my prices are set at more than the work is wor

Then, pricing things here in New Castle has been even harder. I've had the prices too high (comparing them to what they sell for at Bear's Mill.) There are only a few other potters in the area and their skill levels run the gamut. The one thing they all have in common is dirt cheap prices. It amazes me that really ta
lented potters have their work priced so low, but I guess they can crank them out. I understand why some of the less experienced potters charge the prices they do. But most of them aren't doing it full-time as a business, so they don't really care if they make money at it.

Bread Baker

So that means I need to get efficient enough that I can crank out enough pots to make it worth my while. Like I keep saying, I'm just lucky that I have no education or job skills that would pay much more than
min. wage 'cos that's about what I think I'm going to make in this business!! Actually, even that goal might be unattainable!!!

The general public probably can't even tell the difference between the work of the various potters. They just look for cheap prices and "purty" colors!!

Of course I'm not referring to ALL the local pottery collectors. I have managed to attract a few regular buyers and they're wonderful people who are willing to spend their hard-earned money buying my pottery. Most of them have become friends and I truly appreciate their support!

Salad Bowl

I'm just trying to come up with a line of work that appeals to a wider variety of local shoppers. Since it seemed like the salt and soda work wasn't really selling, I decided to focus on firing in the electric kiln for awhile. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was working with some potter friends at Bear's Mill on developing a line of functional, reproducible bake ware to sell. In addition, we needed to come up with a new, glossy green/blue liner glaze to complement the green ash glaze that Julie and Rita developed.

I thought when I decided to focus on the electric kiln that it would be smooth sailing. HAH!!! IT has definitely presented its own challenges and frustrations! I've experienced over-firing, bloated clay, pinholes, glaze dri
pping on my kiln shelves, glazes applied too thickly, too thin of glaze applications, cracked bottoms, etc. etc. etc.

And yet, I'm lovin' it!!! I know I sound like I'm bitching, but I'm really not. Well, not about the process, which can be fairly labor intensive. No, that I love!! I just wish I could figure out a wa
y to sell enough to justify it as my "career." At least I can continue to blame the economy thanks to all the shenanigans the current administration is pulling. Even with the latest election, I don't see things changing much the next few years. But that's a WHOLE 'nother blog post!!!

Anyways, I feel like my forms are becoming more consistent and I've even managed to develop a new glaze that I'm going to use as a liner. Pulling that test piece out of the kiln was a very exciting and rewarding moment!!! Julie had suggested I try adding the same colorants to our glossy, clear base liner that we're using in the ash glaze for the outside of pieces. She said it seemed to need an opacifier and suggested I try z
ircopax. I did a little reading up in one of my firing books and it was suggested that rutile was a good opacifier and actually made glazes more stable than zircopax. Decided to try it and was quite pleased with the results!! This is the liner glaze with rutile on the salad bowl........
Salad Bowl with Rutile Blue/Green Glaze

So, now I think I've done quite enough blogging for one sitting so I will close this session and try to improve my blogging frequency. Not that it really matters to anyone, but it does seem to help me stay focused.

Prep Bowls or Ramekins

Monday, August 30, 2010

**I was checking to see when was the last time I had done any, it's been awhile. I found a draft I was working on over the summer. Decided to post it now just for kicks and giggles and will start working on an update.**

I did a dumb thing last week. I decided to organize my "business file" and that led me to add up my pottery sales so far for this year. I was a bit heartened by the total.......UNTIL........I decided to tally up my expenses for the same time period.

As of last week, it seems I have barely broken even! That was a bit of a blow!

I had just participated in a local event the night before, a "Wine and Art Gala" sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. I had produced some "wine related" pottery for this event which I fired in my electric kiln.

I know that some of my potter friends will feel that I "sold my soul" by firing my little electric kiln rather than loading up my soda kiln, but I need to start producing some work that I can turn over quickly and sell at a reasonable price. The electric kiln seems to offer this opportunity.

I ended up selling less than a hundred dollars worth of work, Ok, more like 75 bucks worth! That in itself was rather disappointing, so when I tallied up my expenses vs. income the following day, it was a sort of "icing on the cake" moment (with the cake tasting like liver, and the icing tasting like brussel sprouts!! In other words, YUKKY!)

Of course I participated in a bit of rationalization at this point, telling myself, it is only August (well almost September) and sales should increase dramatically in the next few months as the holidays approach and my expenses should have leveled out for the year now. So I told myself (as I've done before) that I just need to try to hang in here until after Christmas, and then decide if I should continue to pursue pottery as a business, or go back to my pottery being a hobby and find a part-time job to produce some actual "income."

Then Friday evening, I was informed that 2 of my higher priced pieces on display at Bear's Mill (in Ohio) had sold.

On Saturday I sold another wine chiller while unpacking the leftover from the Wine Gala to display at the local artist co-op. While I was there I met a woman who home schools and is interested in enrolling her child in a pottery class. I told her I had tried to teach a class earlier at the local Art Center, but had been unsuccessful in generating enough interest and she told me that she thought she might be able to find enough students for a class by talking to some of her fellow home-schooling parents!

Oh, and I almost forgot, at the Wine event, I met a man from Richmond, IN (about 20 min. from us) who owns a winery there. He said they're going to have an art event later in September and told me that I could sell my work and not have to pay any consignment or booth fee! We decided to check the place out Sat. evening with some friends, and it looks like it could be a nice venue to sell some pieces! I think I'm going to try.

I also am going to begin working on producing some pottery for Bear's Mill. The other 2 potters and I have decided to come up with a line of "Bear's Mill Pottery" that will always be available and will consist of classic, functional pieces that customers always seem to be looking for. Things like mugs and bakers and pitchers, etc. We're going to make them with the same clay and glazes and come up with some sort of "Bear's Mill" stamp that we can put on each piece to tie them all together.

So I guess I'm not giving up yet.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Unloaded the kiln today

I unloaded the kiln today. I was fairly pleased with the results. None of my worries panned out!! Shwew! Of course not all the glazes behaved as I envisioned, but nothing too hateful. I think some of the pots have so much speckling it's almost pretentious. Need to adjust placement in the kiln.

I added some blue pours to some of my wall pockets. I was afraid that a whole kiln full of brown, speckled pots would just be too much brown speckled pots. And even though I'm not a big fan of "blue" it seems like customers find it attractive. And if I don't start selling some of these things soon, I'm going to have to figure out where to store them all (and get a paying job!!)

So, I'm telling myself that "blues" can complement "earthy".....sorta like the sky and the ocean complements the trees and earth. for me!

My friend, Scott, stopped by. (the designer and foreman of my kiln build.) He said some nice things and gave me some good advice. It's so nice to have a knowledgeable potter around who's willing to share his wisdom and experience (are you reading this, Scott??!!) Seriously, I think it would be hard to stay inspired with no other potters around.

And I love my kiln. It fired so nice for me. I had a few panicky moments during the firing. I wish I understood the process more. I don't have a lot of technical training since I only took a few classes at a community college. And I've gone to a few workshops. John Britt's workshop was great, but way over my head!!
I'm sorta like a cook who can follow recipes but doesn't do much tweaking and definitely doesn't start from scratch!!
Thank goodness for neighborly potters and those online who so willingly share their experiences and processes!

So, I will shut-up now and attach a few photos of the pots. Haven't gotten
the photo cube out yet, just took these under the shop lights. Oh, the first one is unloading the kiln. Yes, I got a little carried away with draw rings!!

I apologize for the layout. I haven't been able to figure out how to control where the pictures end up!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Annual Summer Pottery Open House

The kiln is loaded and I'm planning to heat it up tonight for a couple hours, let it soak all night, then fire it off tomorrow!

I haven't been feeling stressed out until this week. It seems like so much of the preparation is going to have to wait until a few days before the event!! I can't prepare the food too far in advance (and I'm not sure how much, or even WHAT I'm going to serve!!!)

No reason to clean the house yet, it'll just get filthy again. The studio's not ready, Steve's still working on my exhibit. Most of the work I already have made is priced. I'll need to have some cash on hand for change.....well, hopefully I'll need change. I'm wondering if I should have made arrangements to accept credit card payments. From what I've read about fees, it may not be worth it at this point.

I have sent out an event invitation via facebook and am considering using Constant Contact. It's an email marketing tool that we used when I worked at Bear's Mill.

Here's the part that's probably got me stressed most. I ordered post cards from an online service called "Overnight Prints." (Again, a business I dealt with when working at Bear's Mill.) I ordered the cards by a date that I thought would give me enough time to distribute them. I ordered them May 26 and they estimated my delivery date to be June 4. That should've given me 2 weeks to hand-out and mail the postcards. I don't recall that we ever had a delivery problem with this company when I worked at Bear's Mill. Unfortunately, my order didn't get "processed" in a timely manner.

Even thought I kept checking my online status, I wasn't too concerned until last Friday when I realized that the cards should've arrived in that day's mail. Of course I didn't realize this until after business hours. Which means that my problem wasn't addressed until Monday. I was loading the kiln that day and didn't check my email until after hours again.

They had responded to my inquiry, apologized for the delay, refunded my shipping cost and assured me that they were "working around the clock to get us back on schedule." Unfortunately, no mention was made of when that might be!! So I sent another email thanking them for their response and asking if it might be possible to get an estimate of when my postcards might be arriving.

I received an email yesterday stating that my order had "gone into production." OK, that still doesn't tell me when it's shipping, or how. Suddenly I'm getting panicky (note to self..........panic sooner next time!!)

Here's what I've learned from my experience:
  • Place printing orders early enough to allow for mistakes and delays
  • Check order status online and by phone if necessary.
  • If the estimated delivery date and the order status don't seem to correspond - CALL!!
  • If they haven't sent me tracking information a few days before my estimated delivery date - CALL!!
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease - CALL!!
Yesterday I started debating whether or not I should change my Open House Date to the following week-end and put computer labels on the postcards with the new date. I decided not to do that. Hopefully it wasn't a mistake.

I'm glad to have had this happen for my Summer Open House. I will utilize what I've learned and apply it to my Christmas Open House which I'm hoping will attract more customers. I'm sure I'm going to learn a heckuva lot MORE once I've actually had my Open House!!!!

I need to make a trip to Bear's Mill to pick up a few more pots to beef up my inventory. And, for some DUMB-@$$ reason, I agreed to start teaching a pottery class at the local Art Center. It starts next Tuesday (IF anyone signs up for it) and I'll be teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays for 4 weeks. So I need to pick up clay for the students before the first class. I think in my mind I was envisioning being able to tell students and parents about my upcoming Open House. Now I'm thinking it was not a smooth move.

OK, DEEEEEEEEEEEEEP breath. maybe another deeeeeeeeeep breath. Burst into tears. Cry on husband's shoulder. All better now.

I will end with a quote that helps me keep things in perspective:
"Do what you love, love what you do, leave the world a better place and don't pick your nose."
- Jeff Mallet, Frazz, 08-03-04

(I would add, " public.")

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hootchie Mama!!

The title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with the contents. I just couldn't think of a catchy title and I'm watching Seinfeld re-runs. Maybe I should've called it Serenity Now........

Since my last post, I've fired my kiln twice and have garnered many, much informative information, yes I have.

As I mentioned before, I was hoping to find a firing method that would produce rich surfaces, with flashing and texture. I have 2 other potter friends who are interested in learning more about soda firing and were willing to help. (Julie and Rita.) That's us, pictured above, basking in the glow of my venturi burners. I'm holding a small, cardboard figure named "Flat Stanley" that arrived in the mail the da
y we fired. He was a kindergarten project for a friend's grand-daughter and was supposed to spend the day with me, so he "helped us" fire the kiln!

I'm going to share as much detail from our experience here as I can, because I was so thankful for the information we were able to gather on the internet and utilize in our firing! Even though experience is the best teacher, I hope this can at least give interested, inexperienced potters like myself a starting point. I had never ever fired a gas kiln before last fall!! So take my findings for what they're worth! (Liability disclaimer.)

We used a couple of books, Soda, Clay and Fire, by Gail Nichols and Soda Glazing by RuthAnne Tudball. We found our most helpful information on Emily Murphy's pottery blog. (Luckily we also love her work and the dynamite results she gets on her pottery!!) This particular page of her blog was chock full of information!

The first firing we mixed up a batch of Emily's soda mixture recipe and decided to introduce the whole batch. We weren't absolutely sure what size of a kiln this amount was intended for, probably larger than mine, but we thought it may also have been intended for a seasoned kiln. We decided to start with this amount and if the draw rings made it seem as if we didn't need to use it all, we could always stop. On the other hand, if it didn't seem like we were getting enough coverage we did have some extra dry ingredients mixed together, all we would need to do is add water.

For reference, my kiln is a sprung arch down draft with a hard-brick interior coated with ITC, soft brick exterior with ceramic fiber insulation on the roof. The interior dimensions are approx. a 36 inch cube, with a little extra at top for the arch. That's about 27 cubic feet of firing area. The st
acking space is about 14 cubic feet. I have 2 burner ports in the back, one on each side, and a soda/salt port above each burner. I have 2 spies on each side near the top for cone viewing and draw rings, and a spy in the bottom front door. Before our first soda firing, I had done 2 salt firings in this kiln.

The soda mixture consisted of:
  • 1.75 lbs. of soda ash
  • 2.25 lbs. of soda bicarb (arm & hammer baking soda)
  • 4 lbs. of whiting
Mixed together with 1/4 of a 5 gallon bucket of wood chips. (I bought a huge bag of pine horse bedding from our local Tractor Supply store.) Mix together well, then add enough water (while mixing) to the consistency of oatmeal cookie dough. We formed it into "turd-like" logs and layered it in a bucket with newspaper. It hardened up quickly, and we crumbled the pieces and placed them on a piece of angle iron. We would introduce it through the back ports of the kiln when c. 9 was soft. We would fill the angle iron as full as we could and add the mixture to each side and wait approx 10 min. before repeating the process.

I didn't do a body reduction, I think the atmosphere of the kiln was pretty neutral until we added the soda. We did some things in the first firing that we decided were incorrect, so we didn't do them in the 2nd firing.

One of those things was placing small bowls of salt throughout the kiln. I had talked to a couple of potters who do this. One of them salt fires and the other soda fires. I gather that their reasoning is that there will be less chance of dry spots on pots if there some salt in there to provide additional "fumigating." (?) I made a huge mistake in doing this by putting the salt in raw clay. I'm sure that any experienced potter would know better than to do this. (as I know now!) I remember thinking in the back of my mind, "maybe we should use wadding." That would've been a good idea. I did dip the bottoms in kiln wash (as I do my cone packs) so they wouldn't stick to the shelves. Unfortunately, they reacted with the salt by melting into lava-like lumps that dripped through shelves onto various pots and had to be chiseled off my shelves after the firing!! Luckily, I only lost one piece due to my stupidity!!

We decided that besides causing a huge mess for us to clean u
p, introducing this extra salt was not giving us a true presentation of the soda vs.salt firing so we didn't do it in the second firing.

The results from our first firing were acceptable, but not what we had envisioned (even though we told ourselves we were trying not to have preconceived expectations......(yeah, right!) When we unloaded we tried to make note of how the flashing that did occur traveled, but we felt like the results were affected by the salt pots, so we weren't absolutely sure what to think! We got some flashing and orange peel, but not as much as we expected and somewhat localized to certain parts of the kiln.

We introduced the soda similarly to the way I had introduced salt in my other firings. I would turn the burners down or completely off, close the damper, add the salt and leave the burners on low and the damper closed for about 5 minutes while the salt fumes wafted throughout the kiln. Then we would open the damper and turn the burners up and fire in oxidation for about 10 minutes to clear the atmosphere. We would repeat the process about every 15 min. until the the draw rings showed significant coverage. Then we heated the kiln up til cone 10 was bending in the coolest area.

We read some interesting information in Gail Nichol's book about doing an hour or so worth of heat work after the last introduction of soda to enhance the results. She mentioned achieving different results depending on the kind of atmosphere the kiln was in during this time (oxidation vs. reduction) but we didn't quite understand her descriptions of exactly what kind of results each environment would produce. We decided to keep our first firing in a fairly oxidized state as a starting point.
We were pleased with the results on the phoenix clay body and we liked the 50/50 slip (half epk/half ball clay) the best. The Helmar slip was pretty orange, as was Bauer. Also, we had some cone 10 B-mix in there, that came out mostly grayish white without much flashing except where it had been slipped.

As far as glazes, we used some celadon liners developed by June Perry She recommended various colorants to try. They were very consistent, and we especially liked one that had cobalt as a colorant. It was a deep, rich blue that complimented the dark brown of the phoenix quite well.

I had a turquoise oribe recipe I got out of John Britt's book. I had used it in my salt firings and wasn't pleased with the results, but thought my application might have been too thin. Tried it again, with a thicker application - - YUCK!! and DOUBLE YUCK!!! It came out a bright, gawdy, terrifying blue!! I am chucking that glaze and trying to find a new one. I want one with some iron and matte areas, that can blush red.

My Malcom's Shino worked well on cups and bowls, but on highly altered pieces that didn't have an exterior glaze, it seems to cause the pots to crack.

I had also mixed up a batch of Yellow Salt. I got the re
cipe when I was at the Odyssey Center in NC. It can come out nice when it gets hot enough, but it can also look dead. It's a yellow matte glaze that will get some speckling.

We also had a crackle shino, but it didn't seem to be thick enough. I also told Julie I thought she should apply it over a flashing slip to make it crackle more randomly.

After a couple of days spent cleaning shelves and chipping and grinding off the melted salt pots, we were ready to fire our second load. We mixed a few additional liner glazes. I had a recipe for The Glaze from Scott Shafer, and Julie found a
n Ash Celadon recipe in an article in Ceramics Monthly that was written by Tony Clennell.

We decided that we hadn't introduced enough soda in our first firing. We just didn't feel we were getting the juicy results we longed for and came to the conclusion that if a little is good, more must be better!!! We decided to introduce 1.5 times the amount we had used the first time. We also decided that we would put the kiln into a bit of reduction when we did the last hour of heat work.

Things were going relatively smoothly and we had added about 2 rounds of the soda mixture when Julie had a major epiphany. She asked me why we were turning the burners down and closing the damper when adding the mixture. I didn't have a good answer for that one. I thought that I had read it somewhere or heard a potter saying that was how they did it, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like that method was better suited for a salt-firing atmosphere. Since the soda mixture was heavier, and tended to drop down into the firebox, Julie's idea about keeping the burners on full blast and the damper opened seemed like it might give us better results. We searched both books and even got online to try to find specific information on this, but couldn't find anything! So, we decided to give it a try with the remainder of our soda introduction.

I think it made a huge and wonderful difference!! We achieved the results we were looking for! We got some beautiful directional flashing, and some dark, pebbly orange peel surfaces. The ash celadon glaze seems to have some promise as a liner also.

Tomorrow we're going to try to take some really nice photographs of the best pieces! I think Julie and Rita were pleased with the results. I know I was, I just need to make some bigger, more substantial pieces now, with shapes that will be enhanced by the soda. I'm looking forward to getting back in the studio!! I'm beginning to feel like I've figured out some things about my kiln and this method of firing and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to repeat some of the successes we had (and avoid repeating some of the mistakes we made!!)

That's what it's all about, right?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Firing Today

Spring has sprung on the Indiana tundra!! Up at 4:30 this morning to fire the kiln. We loaded it yesterday and pre-heated it last night. It's cooking along right now. I tell myself I can go back to bed once I get the burners started up again, but I never do. It's peaceful this early, especially on a Sunday. Heard a few coyotes yipping in the distance.

Julie is firing with me this time and has some pots in the kiln. We are going to attempt a soda firing, instead of salt this time. While I'm pleased with the results from salt-firing, it's not quite exactly what I'm craving. It's sorta like when you want an Esther Price dark chocolate, bourbon cherry,
but you're eating a hershey bar with almonds. It's good, but you know you can do better.

I want a surface with more flashing and variation. Something that doesn't require so much decoration and brushwork. I am enjoying the brushwork, but I think I'm doing too much of it and it's detracting from the beauty of the clay itself. I suppose it's a common problem to be worked through. I'm hoping to apply more subtle brushwork and get more surface variation from the soda. I think I want something in between Emily Murphy and Linda McFarling. (To anyone reading this who is not a "pot-aholic" I will try to find photos of the work
to which I refer!

Emily Murphy:

Linda McFarling:

So, we shall see if we can figure out the nuances of the soda vs. the salt. I won't go into the boring details, we'll just wait and see what the work comes out like.

In other news, I attended a workshop a couple of weeks ago in Louisville that was about art as a business. They talked about formulating a business plan, and a lot about marketing, especially online. One of the speakers claimed that in this day and age, the need for a business to have a website could be likened to the need for a telephone twenty years ago! Probably true.

They provided many online resources with templates for business plans. So I made an attempt to at least begin formulating a plan of action. It was actually helpful because it felt like it gave me some focus and direction. I also built myself a website. The cost of having one really isn't that expensive from a marketing standpoint. The hardest part was trying to decide which host to use. There are a TON of them out there and I'm not sure I picked the best, but when you're talking under $10/month, it feels like you can't complain much.

One thing that was brought up at the workshop is that a lot of artists don't figure the time they spend marketing into the prices they charge for their work. That's probably very true. I don't know if anyone could afford my work if I started figuring all that into it!!! It amazes me how much time it takes to set up a website or design a brochure. Something I think should take an hour or 2 ends up taking 6-8 hours!!

Of course it doesn't matter what you charge, if you're work's not selling you're not even breaking even, let alone making a profit. I don't have a lot of work out there right now, just some pieces at Bear's Mill. But they're definitely not selling so I guess I need to figure out why.

Well, it's almost 8:00 and this chick is ready for a nap!! Not used to getting up this early, may have to brew a second pot of coffee. And need to go check the kiln again.

Hopefully some pictures of juicey pots will be posted in a couple of days!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow Queen

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Was it Mark Twain who said that? Oh wait, I can do a google search and find out the truth!!

**************************************be right back**************************************

And I'm back!!! Apparently it should be attributed to Charles Dudley Warner, a writer who collaborated with Twain on The Gilded Age. Well, I learn something every day!! Som
e of it's even true!!

But, back to my musings. I just wanted to say that I'm a leeeetle bit tired of hearing complaints about the snow. THIS IS FEBRUARY. WE LIVE IN THE MID-WEST. It's supposed to be cold and snowy. (Regardless of what the climate change fear mongers would have us believe. But that's a different rant!)

I actually have enjoyed all the snow we've gotten this year. I think it's beautiful, and if the weather's going to be cold, I'd just as soon have snow around. I don't really mind shoveling it, or driving in it, or walking thr
ough it. And now that it's the middle of February, I'm pretty sure it won't be with us too much longer. And it really hasn't been with us that long. I might be more tired of it if it had been around since last Nov. or Dec. But it's only been a few weeks. I haven't had time to get tired of it yet.

I've had
a few interesting bird experiences. I've been trying to keep the bird feeder full for the local birds. The other day, during the most recent snow fall, I was out taking some pictures and as I walked up the deck steps, I scared the birds away from the feeder. Except for one little junco. I decided to walk out and get a closer look. He didn't move at all. When we lived in Ohio, I had a similar experience with a mourning dove. It turned out the bird must've just died peacefully sitting in the snow. I decided to take some pictures of the junco since I could get so close to it.

After snapping a few, I noticed that it looked like it was breathing. Then it opened its eyes! I was discussing with Steve whether or not we should try to bring it in and warm it up...when I got up from my photo shoot position, it flew off! I'm hoping it was was just resting a little and got its second wind!

A few days later, I was unloading my groceries on a sunny, but cold day. I left the hatch back on the car up while I brought some of the groceries in and spent a few minutes in the house before going out to get the rest of the groceries. When I walked up to the car, I noticed about a dozen birds flew out from underneath the car. Apparently they were cozying up to the warmth of the engine. As I shut the hatch, I thought to myself, surely no birds would have flown into the car because of the warmth of the sun shining in the windows. Right as that thought crossed my mind I noticed 2 or 3 sparrows flittering around the front seat area. I opened the driver side door and they flew out. So far I haven't found any "presents" from them in my car!!

One thing I'm not looking forward to is when all this snow starts to melt! I do hate the thaw!! All that mud and muck. Yuck!! It was my least favorite time of year when we lived on the farm in W. Milton, and had horses, goats, etc. Too much mess!

The other thing I don't like is that I can't fire the salt kiln in this weather. But it's given me opportunity to get some things done around the house.

I am beginning to think about the garden. I saw s
eed packets on display at one of the local stores. I need to figure out a way to build a cold frame, so I can start some seeds. That would make it seem like spring's on the way. Altho, like I said, I'm not in that big of a hurry to let go of winter. February is a short month anyways. I have no idea why winter's not bothering me much this year, but I guess I'll just enjoy it!!

Here are a couple of pictures from when I was a kid. We'd go to my cousin's house and her dad loved to tie a sled (or several) behind his VW Beetle and tow us around behind it in the snow!! They also had an awesome sledding hill (as long as you were careful not to land in the creek at the bottom of it!!) Fun winter memories!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

as the wheel turns.......

Finally got back in the studio!! Our household projects aren't done, but they weren't getting done with me not going out to the studio, so I figure at least this way I'm being somewhat productive and can use it as an excuse as to why the household projects aren't getting done. (Does that make sense?)

I noticed that on the first day back, when I came in the house I felt soooooo relaxed!! I don't understand why it seems like after a firing, it's hard to get out there and start producing again. It doesn't make any sense because once I do get out there, it's such a release! I'm sure there's some deep explanation. Or maybe it's just that I'm not sure what to start out with and need to take some time to develop the direction I want to go in my mind.

So, what direction am I going in? Not completely sure, but I'm pretty s
ure that I'm going to try to make my next firing soda instead of salt. After seeing the results Scott was getting out of the little soda box kiln he built, I decided I want to see what my kiln will do. I've done a little reading about using soda instead of salt in the same kiln and I don't think it will be a problem. The kiln we fired at the Odyssey Center was utilized for both types of firings. The only problem I could foresee is that I don't have a lot of spraying ports. Only the 2 salt ports in the back. But my kiln's fairly small, so I don't think that will be an issue. I suppose I could spray into some of the spy holes, but I don't think I'll want to spray directly onto my witness cones. So, probably won't be doing that. I guess we'll see how the first firing comes out. I think Julie's going to put some of her work in to. It will be nice to fire with someone else so we can bounce ideas off of each other.

I need to come up with some more glazes too. And I should probably use some flashing slips. I'm not sure bare phoenix will be very interesting. I'm not going to do a lot of brushwork on these pots. I am trying to have some textures that I'm hoping will catch some flames and get some juiciness.

I've made a lot of cups and mugs and some wavy plates. Julie wants to have an exhibit at Bear's Mill that focuses on table wear this summer. So I've been trying to think along those lines. I made the plates so that the rim is actually a hand-hold on one side. Then I thought they could be used almost as a tray. You can put a cup or mug on one side and toast or a sandwich or some salad on the other side. I might call them "Soup and Sandwich" or "Tea and Toast." I think that nowadays people eat so many meals in the living room in front of the TV (I know that we usually do) and these are designed with that in mind.

The biggest problem will be figuring out the most efficient way to fire the plates. I was thinking of wadding a cup on each one, so it would be an obvious set, 'cos the wadding marks would match. But then I thought that people might like to mix and match them ('cos people LOVE to do that) and also, if I don't glaze
the plate surface, it's really not going to be food-friendly. BUT if I DO glaze them, then I'm going to have to fire them all spread out on low shelves which hogs a lot of kiln space. We shall see.

I really need to find some good glaze recipes for soda firing AND find out what the specific gravity of the glaze needs to be so I don't bet some retina-burning bright blue (like I've been getting!)

The other thing that's been keeping me busy is exercising! (Wow, I had a heckuva time spelling that!) I have been feeling so out of shape and unhealthy! I kept looking for aerobics classes that were nearby and told Steve we needed to get the stationary bike from the kids' house. But I knew I wouldn't use it. So, finally we just joined the Y and we've been going 3 times a week for almost a month! And last week, we worked out 5 days! And I've been eating healthier and feeling so much better!

The really amazing part is that Steve is taking the Step Aerobics class with me!!! I would've never believed that if you told me it would happen!! I chided him into trying it with me a couple weeks ago but I thought he'd last about 10 minutes and then go work out in the weight room. But he actually is enjoying it and has gone every time!

I kept putting off joining the Y because it's on the other side of New Castle and I thought it would eat into my studio time. Well, it's really only about a 10 minute drive and even though it takes up most of
the's not like I was getting my lard butt out there first thing in the morning anyways. And now when I do go out, I have more energy and stamina and am pretty productive. So I think it's going to pay off in lots of ways!!

So, here are some pictures of what I've been working on.......


Feet trimmed.....

Wavy plates.....

Tea and Toast....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Makin' some modifications

I still haven't gotten back in the studio. I am starting to think about pots and potting, but there are still a few projects I'd like to get done before I turn my attention to clay again. The weather will be too cold to fire the salt kiln for a few more months, and when I do get myself back in the studio, I want to be able to focus on it.

Anyways, it's not like the stuff I have made has been flying off the shelves and I need to replace anything!

I have gotten back into a hobby I haven't done for years and years......pain
ting! When I was in high school, I thought THAT was going to be the direction my art passion took me. I even went to commercial art school for a month. But it turned out that it wasn't for me. Still, I've always wanted to do some painting again. So, the other day, I decided to try and paint a picture of Jaedon, my grandson. I had started it a few months ago one day when I went over to Megan's and she and a couple friends decided to have an "art day" and we all sat outside and painted. I wasn't happy with the results to I put my attempt away and hadn't thought about it anymore 'til a few weeks ago when I started getting the urge to be creative. So I pulled it out and bought some new paint, and gave it another go. It came out fairly decent. I used acrylic paints because I'm more familiar with them than oils. Here's the finished product.......

.....of course, I had the perfect subject matter!!!

Then Steve and I took a painting class in Hagerstown. We ate there for my birthday a couple Sundays ago and were walking around some of the shops. We got to talking to a gentleman in the local art gallery and he told us he was teaching a painting workshop and they provided all the materials and best of's free!!

So, last Saturday we went in and did a little painting. He had us pick a subject out of a magazine. I'm doing a landscape and Steve's doing a lighthouse scene. It was fun to get back into in, and fun to do it with Steve. And he did pretty good for his first time ever painting!!

As a matter of fact, he's been surprising me trying some other new things too!! I have been feeling like I need to get myself into shape. I've been trying to walk, but the weather's been so crappy and kept talking about getting my stationary bike which is at the kids' house. But I kept thinking about how much I used to enjoy doing aerobics aI nd I felt like it would be a form of exercise I'd be more likely to stick with since I'd always enjoyed it before. So I kept checking around to see what was offered in the area. Not much.

I don't know why I kept avoiding the "Y," I guess 'cos it's on the other side of town and I was hoping to find something closer. But it's not like we have a terribly tight schedule!! I finally told Steve what I'd been thinking so we checked it out and decided to join. So I'm going to do the step aerobics class which is 3 days a week. Steve walked on the track the first day I did the class. The second time we went in I told him that there was an old guy taking the step class and maybe he should give it a try. I really didn't think he would, but he DID!! And he actually did pretty well! I should've remembered he has a good sense of rhythm from our old rollerskating days!!

But having never, ever taken an aerobics class, I thought he might be intimidated by not knowing the moves and I thought he'd get worn out too quickly. But he stuck with it and even seemed to enjoy it.

We both were so sore yesterday though, we could barely move!!

And now I feel like I'm coming down with a cold!! I hope not, 'cos I don't want to miss tomorrow's class. I just got started!! And I've been trying to eat healthier too. I already have less heartburn at night. Trying to cut down on my beer consumption too. I really do enjoy having a couple with dinner, but I'm pretty sure I was starting to develop a beer gut! Even drinking Sam Adams Light. So I'm going to try to limit by beer drinkin' to a couple nights a week!

I hate to think of any of this stuff as New Year's Resolutions, but I guess the beginning of the year is a good time to "turn over a new leaf." The hardest part is sticking to it all!! I'm hoping that since Steve is doing it to, we'll keep each other "on task." We are pretty competitive!! Normally that causes problems between us, but there are times when we can take advantage of that trait!!

We shall see what transpires!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First blog posting for 2010!

The second firing of the salt kiln happened on Dec. 05. It went pretty similarly to the first firing. We had trouble getting the back to stay even with the front, only it was the opposite side we had trouble with for the first firing. I moved the targe bricks back, but noticed during unloading that I had moved one side back a little further than the other. We also think I may have gradually stacked the shelved closer together as we went up. It was only a cone or so behind, nothing major. I thought I had gotten a lot more reduction (hence darker colors) in my attempts to even out the heat. I moved the damper in and tried to hold the front of the kiln at temp, hoping the back would catch up. While the results were a bit darker, I think most of the dark pieces were actually the result of using a different (darker) clay body.

It will be fun to fire it again and see what happens, altho, after seeing the results Scott has been getting out of the little soda box kiln he cobbled together, I'm thinking about
trying a soda firing next time! Julie's interested in trying that with me, it's always more fun to experiment when you have a comrade!!

Here are a few pics of my results......

...donning my newly purchased Wall insulated overalls - thumbs up!!!

Christmas sales at Bear's Mill were quite unimpressive. I'm not sure if people weren't liking my pots in particular, or not liking the "salt-fired" finish, or if pottery sales in general were down. They were quite brisk a couple years ago but I haven't had much inventory there for the holidays the last 2 years.

The standard 152 Clay came out a little darker than I like. The 182 was a nice color, but the throwing consistency was too "buttery" (like porcelain!)

Here's a small display of my work that I put in the studio. I did manage to sell about $300 worth to some local friends who stopped out before Christmas!! Still need to get the oribe to a thicker consistency!

I'm taking a bit of a hiatus from potting right now (as many potters do) because for one thing, the weather in easter Indiana is not extremely conducive for firing in a kiln located outside. It was in the 20s with a brisk breeze during my last firing and thankfully my "carharts' kept me warm enough. But right now the outside temp is 6 degress (F) and I can't really imagining firing that kiln right now!!!

Anyways, we decided to start a couple home remodeling projects that we've (I've) been thinking about trying to get done before one (or both) of us has to get a "real" job!! It always seems like when you have time for these projects you don't have the money and when you have the money, you don't have the time!!! I finally convinced Steve we should take advantage of having the time (and enough money to tackle a re-do on the laundry room.)

They say it has to get worse before it gets definitely got worse!! WHAT A MESS!!!!
It has proven to be only mildly stressful. The worse part was when, after we were about half-way done with demolition of the plaster and lathe, Steve happened to mention the possibility of asbestos in the plaster. YIKES!! I hadn't even considered that! I assumed that since the house was built pre-1900, asbestos wasn't even in exitance, was it?? I checked online that night and found an article from a man who was tearing into a home built in the 30s or 40s that he claimed tested positive for asbestos in the drywalll. Now I felt like I was going to be ill!! I couldn't figure out why Steve wouldn't have said something BEFORE we tore into it. He claims he figured I would just accuse him of trying ot get out of the question.....SO????? You'd rather jeopardize our health and well-being???

It made for a tense work day on the second day of renovation. I did some more online research and couldn't find anything on the EPA's website section on asbestos that mentioned plaster and lathe as a possible contaminated area. Also, I read some old home discussions about horse hair plaster. We did notice what looked to me like horse hairs in the plaster. Steve thought it might be some kind of "fiber." I think, again, the house is too old for it to be anything but horse hair. And the articles I read mentioned the fact that that the old plaster and lathe was extremely durable and even somewhat fireproof. (And I had bee extremely worried when I started a burnpile with the lathe and a couple pieces of plaster ended up in the burn pile but didn't seem to actually be doing much burning. I can't even begin ot explain the sick feeling I had about all this.

But it seemed like it was too late to do anything about it at this point. I do know that before we tear into any more plaster in this house, I will make sure we have it tested. I feel rather confident that it won't test positive for asbestos, but I would rather know before placing myself in a roomful of questionable
dust particles!!

But now the messiest part is behind us, we just need to get the debris taken to the dump. Today's attempt fell short, apparently they took an extra day off for the New Year's holiday.

At lunch time we had volunteered to help residents at one of the local retirement centers with their lunch trays. Apparently they run short of help on week-ends. It was enjoyable talking to some of the residents there. Some of them really seem to enjoy life!! The only bad part was that it brought back some unpleasant memories from my days of waiting table at Perkins and Bob Evans (and I didn't even get any tip$!!!)

So that pretty much sums up life since my last blog post.