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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chip and Dip Disasters and New Mugs!

The tragedy that is chip n dip platters. I've made three in the past couple of weeks, all three have significant defects. One must have dried uneven and by the time it came out of the kiln had a nice crack right in the middle. One had the dip part slide out from the big bowl and crack during the glaze firing. The last was the result of a poor glaze job! BAH!

So I am reattempting on two bowls this week. I really like these things and I want them to work!

So here I have moved the smaller bowl in slightly from the last one. I hope it is not too far in though! Only time will tell. I added some little coil braces underneath to help support it from falling in.
If you look closely theres some writing on my hand reminding me to bring in one of my mugs for my fellow GTAer Logan. Officially sold my second mug! All right!

So anyway, hopefully these coils will help. I did a second platter with the smaller bowl cut right through the middle of the wall of the big bowl with even more coils. Hoping its not too heavy. They are both wrapped up tightly right now to dry very very slowly.

I also threw 14 mugs on Friday and Saturday and those were ready for trimming last night. Never again will I leave that many mugs to add handles to all at once. I despise adding handles with a burning passion. BURNING. I do think I am getting better, they are looking cleaner and smoother but it takes! I did some decorations on a few which was actually really fun. Will probably see more of this!

Like I said in my last post I just like the way it feels! Like there is definitely something there!

I also wanted to make some cereal/coffee sets. Shummy!

Next week I get all my work from the Fat Cat Pottery class! 2 teapots, 6 small/medium vases, and 2 big bowls! It was great to have all the options for glazing. I am feeling antsy to add some new colors at home......!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Big bowls and mini goblets!

I made this big bowl which I knew I might not be able to trim but like I have said before, making big bowls is ohsoexciting! Here it is, leather hard, almost too big to fit on my wheel.

So I propped this puppy up on some clay balls....


Tada! I think those little undulations are from the clay balls but I straightened them out as best as I could, hopefully they won't be too noticeable once glazed and fired.

While in Colorado, I went to a lot of breweries and they all had these fun little beer tasting glasses. I think they would be really fun in clay so I started experimenting with these a little bit. Throwing small things is actually almost harder for me than large. Everything must be precise.

Originally I made two pieces, the bowl, and a pedestal.

Then I trimmed the bowl portion and connected them. But I also threw the foot onto one and I like the way that turned out, and I believe it was easier.

In this picture you can compare the two, I think it will be easier to get a clean form throwing the foot straight from the bottom. I've got about 50 lbs of fresh and ready reclaim clay that will go towards these. Not all 50 lbs though.....that would be about 125 glasses.

Lots of practice still needed but things are getting better. I threw 6 matching mugs in 30 minutes Saturday afternoon. But they still need to be trimmed and handled. Oh handling how I absolutely despise thee. Looking forward to adding some sort of pattern or stamping to them. There is nothing more satisfying than texture in your hand! Except maybe getting a job in Boulder. Which happened! Going to be a great summer!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I spent the last 5 days in Colorado, hence why there are no blog posts and I went almost a week without throwing anything!

Colorado was amazing. Everyone told me I would love it and I didn't doubt them, I just didn't really know how much the mountains would speak to me and whisper sweet nothings into my soul. I know it sounds cheesy, but so does everything great in life anyway. And check out this picture, I know its not just me, the mountains are GLOWING.

Here are my dad and brother. Gosh they are really great people for coming out. And they never once got tired of me saying, "Look at the mountains!" Which I may have said exactly 374 times in 5 days.

And here is a bigger picture of the area...look how high those runs are! It takes a freaking hour to get down! Not really, but it does take a lot longer than it does in North Carolina and I never went on anything other than a Green Run. There is one super chair that actually goes up to about 13,000 feet. That is really really high. Just in case you were wondering....

On the last day, we went to Boulder for my job interview and I discovered that 5 minutes from downtown Boulder lies this gem of a park. It was about 50 degrees and sunny downtown, but up here it was flurrying. Amazing.

So much nature and civilization all mixed together. I don't have any pictures of Denver but it was equally great. Even though I love the mountains and being in the middle of nowhere, I also like being surrounded by people and events. And everyone in Denver seems pretty great.

The decision to move to Colorado is a no-brainer. Some stuff will be stressful; trying to find a job, trying to get my house rented, trying to find new housing, just general moving....but ultimately I will be in a really great place. I imagine this is one of the only points in life where I'm not really tied down by anything. So why not!?

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."-Mark Twain

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MFS Ceramics has arrived!

Whew....this has been a pretty intense spring break. I have a history of intense spring breaks. Its always a balancing act of trying to get work done and also experience life to the absolute fullest extent possible...there is way too much Type A personality running through my veins.

First of all, I have things listed on Etsy! Along with the thousands and thousands of other potters! However, its there and available for the masses! I made my first sale last night. Granted, it was my cousin, but a sale is a sale and there is proof that someone will pay money for things I make! I was also super excited to know that the fees on Etsy are beyond reasonable. They scraped a mere $0.53 off a $15.00 purchase. Paypal gets $0.96 off a $22.00 transaction. Compared to the 15% that Amazon gets, this is pretty dang awesome. Here is the mug I will be figuring out how to package and send to Charleston today.

So that was the exciting part. Now I get to explain how it all came together! First of all, Tuesday night I was sure I somehow destroyed or sabotaged my kiln. A pretty steady stream of smoke was coming out of the top peephole so I shut everything off. Upon further investigation, I assumed it was something evaporating out of the glaze and turned everything back on and kept the firing going. I used Amaco PC Seaweed for the first time and put a pretty heavy coating on the inside of a big bowl and I think that could have done it. Thankfully when I opened the kiln the next morning, everything was fired, and nothing looked like it was having problems. Here is how the seaweed turned out:

There was also a fun undertaking of figuring out how to photograph these puppies. I went and bought a nice backdrop sheet which I think was well worth it. Originally I tried to set this up on a table but there was not enough room so I moved to the floor. Here is the set up (the dog plays a very important role in keeping good energy in the room):

A little fun fact about me is that I used to work in a portrait studio. I now realize why so many professional photographers adamantly detest these things. The one I was at had everything completely set up for me, the camera is even attached to a tripod which does not move. THAT was WAY easier than trying to set this up myself. But this will work for now, I know a few photographers here so if I ever get to the point of needing something higher quality, I know where to go!

Here are the two sets of mugs listed on Etsy.
And then my favorite...Love Bees!!!!
Tomorrow it is off to Colorado to figure out if I am really going to move there. Leave the studio I've set up, the friends I've made, the life I built here. Pretty scary but sometimes you've got to take risks for big payoffs!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate Clay and Big Freaking Bowls

First things first, bisque firing is currently underway. All pieces felt warm and crisp and DRY so I am hoping for no disasters. I did not hear any pops or explosions while I was back there so hopefully smooth sailing. I also realized I need to maybe stop making these big big bowls. My kiln is only so big and in the current load I could only fit 3 bowls and 8 mugs. Here is a shot of the middle shelf....

I then went for an undertaking of throwing 10 uniform mugs. So maybe not the most similar but my speed was faster on this round than the last. I also used a new clay and a new form. The clay is really nice, I don't know if this particular type will always be this hard but it held its shape really easily and I was able to get some nice thin walls. The last round of mugs feel a little heavy so I am taking that into consideration for theses.

Behind the mugs are some smallish medium bowls. Will probably shrink to the perfect size for cereal or oatmeal so I can have some mug/bowl breakfast combos. The idea of having oatmeal and coffee out of matching vessels kind of makes me want to have slumber parties so I can have breakfast with them. I guess I could just invite people over for breakfast but it seems if someone is coming over for breakfast there should be a little more than simply coffee and oatmeal.

In celebration of Spring Break 2K11 I drank a beer and threw big bowls this evening. Like I have said before, this is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I can add in some quality music!

This is the last bowl, probably started with about 5 or 6 lbs of clay. Also, it is reclaim. Reclaim is the "whoopsie" pieces that get soaked in water until they turn to a thick liquid, and then laid out to dry to become hard enough to throw again as clay. The reclaim battle is trying to process reclaim faster than you accumulate. Overall the reclaim is winning the war but I think I won today's battle. I sense a turning of the tides soon...

I really think that just as cameras "add 10 lbs to everyone" cameras take away 10 percent of the size of pieces. I am currently back in that phase of ceramics where I think bigger is better. Maybe not better, but more fun and exciting, YES! Eventually I got this bowl bigger than the splash pan and had to somehow contain my excitement and keep working with it. 

Eventually though, the clay reached its point and collapsed....
 Whomp whomp. Not really sure how I would have gone about trimming it so its probably for the best. It would also take up the entire top shelf in the kiln. Good times though! Can't wait to do it again!

Tomorrow will be a glazing day followed by a firing tomorrow night! Pieces thrown today should be ready to be trimmed by Wednesday or Thursday so I can go to Colorado with no worries! I will be there for 5 days exploring/skiing/job interviewing! Oh Spring Break!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dang life is good!

I have been working on making some nicer bowls. This one is really really light. Certainly under a pound, maybe less. It was thrown with about 3 lbs of clay and then trimmed-alot! I am excited to see how it comes out! There was been significant improvement in my throwing ability over the past few weeks. Today I was able to throw some nice vases at Fat Cat studio, which was great! They are small, but I am getting much better at keeping the piece centered and even and DRY!

A couple days ago I worked on some chip n dip platters also. I wanted to split the smaller bowl in half and have a dip part on each side but the bowl is simply too small. Must throw big bowl bigger or small bowl smaller. I suppose I could also try it on the outside but can you imagine trying to store a piece that is big and bulky and 20 inches across? Especially a piece that might look like a monkey with ears? Not exactly a fireplace mantel piece.

That little bowl was split in half and attached on the inside....probably didn't take a picture because I wasn't satisfied with the craftsmanship. Need to work on figuring out how to make it seamless. Sponge? It sort of worked...

Then I made a piece with the bowl raised up....its going to be a wait and see game if it makes it through bisque and glaze!

...really hoping it does!

Now its off to a night of fun and remembering what its like to be 24 with the entire world in front of me. Its a magical time, hope I can make it last forever!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mugs and Real Camera Pictures!

 I found my camera and the cable to upload pictures so its rock n roll time. The best part is its waterproof so I don't have to worry about taking pictures while my hands are covered in mud! Here is the bowl I tried to photograph last time but it was all blurry and dark so here it is a little lighter. I need to get some sort of set up to photograph pieces. I was thinking about spray painting a big box. How do other people do it? Any suggestions?

On Monday, I attempted to throw 10 matching mugs. I had 10 relatively similar pieces of clay, got 9 forms out of it. One was somehow a lot taller, kind of like that one kid in the class that hits puberty before everyone else. The rounded part is a little different on each but there are a couple pairs in there that sort of match!

 I also learned that trimming is important too in the matching process. First couple pieces were all over the place but I then picked up this magical thing called a ruler and uniformity came out of the woodworks. Or clay, you know, it came from somewhere. I decided to add some more shapes. I feel like the world is a lovely place as of lately and dragonflies and bees remind me of that. Especially bees that are buzzing dangerously close to each other. I have two mugs with "love bees" on them. I like it. Kinda fun!

Still just really trying to figure out what direction I want my work to take. I'd like to do elegance but its tough to make very clean smooth forms. At least for me. Although the bowls I made last Friday look pretty good.  Hopefully it will come with experience! I have class again at Fat Cat Pottery today. Oh how I love my Thursdays because of it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Some Work!

What I like most about other blogs is pictures of work so maybe I should contribute? Is this what other people like too?

Here is a bowl that I almost threw away...multiple times. When I first made it, it was off center, but I kept it anyway. Trimming was thus a nightmare due to its off-centerdness. I kept it anyway though. It sat on a shelf through about 2 or 3 firings and finally I picked it up to try a pattern on it. I like the way it came out! Sorry about the quality. Camera phones are NOT as good as real ones, I don't care what the media says. If I am ever going to sell work online I need to figure out how to photograph it and do it with a camera thats not blurry!

I really really REALLY love chip n dip platters. I think its because I love sharing my work with others and I love socializing. So chip n dip platters make excellent party pieces, thus making excellent pieces for me to make! This is actually a bowl, not sure how I found the angle that makes it look like a flat piece but hey I did! So anyway its a bowl with another smaller bowl inside, cut to fit. I need to work on figuring out how to make it fit super snug and super flush but it works for now. Especially for the first one like this. I then added some lizards from those plaster molds. Those things are awesome. I don't really know what the protocol is on using them; I imagine some people think it is "cheating" and others think it is "utilizing." I like lizards on my pieces though so they will go on!

And then I took another bowl and added some flowers and bees. I like the way this turned out too. It almost reminds me of a cartoon. I liked making these two pieces also because it took quite a bit of time and my dog laid at my feet and my mom and I chitchatted about art and finding your passion in life. Ha! I feel very lucky that my parents think its great that I make ceramics!

Currently about to work on my "other" job. Research! At least until it warms up enough to venture into the garage. One day I will have a work space with heating and AC....and that day will be AWESOME!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Learning Expereince(s)

This is a blog about learning experiences! They all seem to be but the last 3 days in particular have been chock full!....

The glaze turned out okay for the most part. I actually do need a sieve(graduation present hint #1 Mom and Dad-They have a "studio sieve 80 mesh" for $57 on for the Opulence glazes(Learning Experience #1). However, the Amaco Potters Choice glazes are fine but the Blue Rutile needs to be thick(LE #2). It was really nice this go around to have some buckets for glazing. About half of the work turned out nice. I had a very dark blue that looks almost black that I don't think I could drink out of but my friends loved them(LE #3)! Had some people over to cookout, and I got them to take some of the pieces. Enjoy!!!!! Also learned that if you cook in your garagio, it WILL smell like hot dogs the next day(LE #4).

Friday night my mom got into town late so I had some evening time with the wheel. This meant classic pop punk full blast, belgian wheat beer, and throwing some big ass pots. Definitely a fun night. I think I should get another wheel just so I can have someone to do this with. If I am having this much fun by myself, with another person it would probably be magical! I threw this bowl which I am going to say is the best piece I've ever thrown. Used about 5 lbs of clay, wet it was about 13 inches across. Hopefully it doesn't shrink too much!

My awesome dog promptly ran in and tails are very dangerous objects. Do not let dog near wheel when work is on there (LE #5). Somehow only the hairs scraped it and it survived. I remain the luckiest person I know. Next comes trimming. Hopefully I don't mess it up. One day I am hoping to have a Giffin Grip. (cough cough graduation present hint idea #2 Mom and Dad-They are $165 at and then I can start making vases that don't weigh 10 lbs!)

Next up was what I thought was going to be a good bisque firing. As multiple people keep telling me, no piece is ever safe until it is done and on a shelf, and even then, who knows (LE #6). Here is an example of how NOT to pack your kiln. There are 3 10 inch bowls stacked inside each other. The weight and shifting will cause the middle one to break and no, not even the bottom one will survive (LE's #7, 8, & 9). When these three bowls shatter, they will then knock the other pieces that will also break(LE #10 & 11). It will then be a complete pain in the ass to meticulously pick out every last fragment from the heating elements (LE #12). The next blog might very well be about what happens if you miss a piece.
I then figured I would at least have the bottom shelf. Refer to LE #6. The only thing I can figure is that the pieces were not actually dry yet and they actually will explode if still wet (LE #13). I had a bowl and 6 mugs, the bowl and 2 mugs exploded. So a kiln with 6 mugs, 4 bowls, and 2 vases produced 4 mugs. Those mugs are going to be $50 each.

Finally threw out a bunch of pieces. Mom tried to save them, hopefully in the next few months she will realize why those pieces are not worth keeping. SO MUCH MORE LEARNING TO DO.
Now off to get my bike workout in! Happy Sunday!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This should be interesting

The world threw a curveball at me today. And by the world I mean FedEx. I had some bulk dry glaze coming in. The glaze was supposed to come tomorrow but lo and behold it showed up today, AND 6 hours before they normally deliver. What a sweet sweet surprise!

I promptly thanked the driver and raced the packages to my garage and unpacked and then started scratching my head as to how to prepare dry glaze mix. I did this as an undergrad but I had so so many resources, including a specific glaze room with ventilator and endless buckets and counter space. Oh how sweet it was...

Here are the supplies I started with:

Some dry glaze mix, and a few buckets. Thats some wax resit on top. Sha-wing!

So I needed a mixing tool. Sorry Danielle/BestRoomateEver for stealing the whisk. Patience is something I lack and going out and buying one in the heat of the moment of mixing glaze was simply not going to happen. Need glaze mixed. NOW! Hopefully you do not want any scrambled eggs tomorrow. I promise there will be a new whisk by Monday!

Yes, that spoon has a smiley face on it. Thank you Kool-Aid.

So I started with a bucket of water and slowly mixed in the glaze(using the whisk from the kitchen because I can not wait 20 minutes to go buy a new one). Apparently some people will use a hydrometer to measure the density. Here at MFS Ceramics we do not role this way. We also don't use a sieve. If you stick your finger in and it comes out coated without grainy bits on it, the glaze is ready. Well, I actually am going to let it sit 24 hours. And I might let the glazed pieces sit for a few hours before starting the kiln to allow the glaze to dry.


Also going to volunteer at a community center teaching pottery tomorrow. Just helping out, should be fun!

P.S. Also had my class this week at Fat Cat Pottery. What a freaking great group of people! Excellent instruction, excellent people. I tweaked my bowl making today. So so so so many bad habits to break. I ended up throwing a nice shallow bowl that once fired and shrunk and glazed and fired again will probably still be about 12 inches across.

Also have some new ideas for pieces. Ohhh yea. Life. is. good!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A little exhausted....

I undertook a trimming fiesta tonight! I absolutely love trimming but it always takes longer than I think it should. I spent three hours trimming 4 bowls and 6 mugs and then adding handles. Somehow I think that maybe it shouldn't take this long.

Here are the pictures. I apologize about the quality. This is what happens when you use a camera phone in dark conditions.

Here is what I started with. 4 bowls and the start of mugs on top.

I decided to try some carving on the bowls. I like the way the carving turned out. It feels really good too. It takes a while, thus adding to my time, but I think the effect is worth it!

I also tried trimming some big fat feet on a few mugs. Always endless things to try! Still looking for my signature mug shape but maybe one day I will find it. And maybe I will figure out how to make handles without wanting to shoot myself in the head with a nail gun. I have no idea how anyone can trim more than 10 mugs in one day. Apparently the Hughes potter in Pennsylvania will throw like 30 pieces in one day and then trim another 30. This is crazy to me!

Probably going to cool it for a few days on the production. I've got some long bike workouts this week and my mom and brother are coming to town on Friday! I will do a glaze firing while they are here. They don't realize yet how exciting this is but they will! Nothing like opening a fresh batch of glazed pieces!

The art of patience

I am realizing that what will change my pottery is patience. Knowing when not to mess with a piece, when to throw one into the reclaim bucket, and knowing when one needs time. I recently did a set of mugs, well not really a set, just a grouping that I made all at once. The only clay I had left was reclaim that had been drying for a while but still kind of wet. I decided I needed to make handles for the mugs RIGHT NOW and the only way to do it is with the too wet clay. Clearly it sort of worked but not really. The handles can best be described as frumpy. So I am firing them anyway, we'll see what happens when they are glazed....

Another example is throwing in general. Sometimes I throw things and they just get off centered because of an air bubble or too much friction or anything. I need to learn to take it off the wheel and start over with a new piece. What happens is I end up trying to keep it, I then trim it off centered, and by the time it comes out of the glaze firing I am scratching my head and thinking wow why did I ever fire this piece? The answer is a lack of patience. When I sit down to throw a bowl, I want it to be perfect the first time. I am slowly trying to accept there is no one out there that keeps every piece thrown.

It is very humbling to read these great pottery blogs online and see how long people have been throwing. Hopefully it is one of those things that I will get better with over time. My work now is better than a year ago but it still seems so far from sellable. One day....!

I also think I am going to start experimenting with some designs on pieces. I have a few 12" bowls drying on a shelf now and when they are leather hard I think I'll add some design to them. I doodle pretty much straight through my 6 hours of class every week so it must be the same thing with clay. Hopefully pictures will come soon.......

Oh yea, and the drywall project is finally done. Wow, feels great! Hopefully once the house is thrown into the unpredictable world of the MLS it will feel even better!