Christmas Frog Bowls

I am just sharing some of the frog bowls that I have been working on for the holiday season. I am not putting them up on Etsy for sale just yet because I need to have them available to my local customers for my Open House the first of December.


Oh, and I have a teapot in the works… check out the photo of it. It is still in clay form but will be getting fired soon and glazed. I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Vintage Woodstock Festival




Just a quick post this morning to let everyone know that I am doing an event this Friday night in Woodstock, VA called Vintage Woodstock. I have never been to this event, but it is local, and I am trying to be as local with my new work as possible. If you are looking for something to do this Friday evening, head to Woodstock, and stop in and see my new fairy garden items and new mug designs.

I’d love to see you there!




Fundraisers and donations…

Being asked to donate bowls for a local soup bowl dinner was the motivation I had to try my hand at becoming a potter full time. That challenge tested my skills to see if I would be able to mass produce an item with consistency and to meet a deadline. It was fun. I donated 25 bowls. Each one decorated similarly with frogs and a colorant swirl to give the illusion of water. I understand they were a hit and were some of the first bowls to go.

Now, with the economy still having effects on all of us, the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter is having an additional fundraiser to try and help local folks make ends meet. I was again asked to donate an item. This item could be a single item and would be used in a Bingo style fundraiser. I have wanted to do some frog vases so this was the opportunity to do several and let them have first pick at the lot and  the rest could travel to Blandy Farm with me on Mother’s Day.

Here are the four vases that I made for the shelter… they chose the one with the froggies holding hands and I have to say, I think it will be a popular item but more importantly, I hope they are able to raise funds to help folks that are trying to make ends meet.

Building a mug….

A lot goes into making a mug. You might think that the mug you just bought at Walmart or Target for five bucks is just a cheap vessel for your morning coffee or tea but a handmade mug has a lot of steps to get you to that morning drink.

Herb has been practicing his lighting and recently decided to photograph some of the steps of my recent mugs. Below is the gallery of those photos.

A mug starts out as a simple cylinder thrown on the wheel with these steps adding to that process:

  • the foot of the cylinder is trimmed to finish the bottom of the mug. I have been adding an additional step to that process and carving a “petal” shape into the foot ring.  I divide the ring into six equal sections and carve a “V” into those divisions. The I smooth the petals to form a nice sculptural foot on the cylinder.
  • Next a handle is made for the cylinder. This is a process called “pulling a handle” where a lump of clay is stretched with water to create a smooth slender handle shape. These are left to dry out some so that they can be attached to the cylinder in a nice curve adding to the curve of the side of the cylinder that has been trimmed.
  • Decoration is then added to the sides of the mug. I am doing this batch with a white slip over the brown clay body but at this point you can carve the cylinder, add an underglaze painted on the side or leave it plain and plan to add a pretty glaze after the mug is bisque fired
  • And of course, these mugs are getting a frog attachment. You’ll just have to wait and see the final product but Herb has done an awesome job of capturing the trimming and carving process.

The Mysterious Black Clay

Laguna Clay company makes a black clay, WC-391 to be specific,  that I have been playing with for several months now and have been having some issues with. Not wanting to give up on it I thought I would do a post about it in hopes that if any other potters, who are also using this clay, read this post, they might offer some ideas.

My creative thought process was that if I could put the colorful water treatment of the frog bowls on the interior of the black body, sealing it in with a clear glaze and leaving the exterior of the bowl the raw black matte clay body that it would be a really dramatic look. So that is what I set out to achieve. I bought the clay, threw 6 large bowls with it and decorated them with white slip on the interior of the bowl along with the colorants that I have been using. Adding my signature frog sculpture to the rim in all his personality, I loaded the first batch into the kiln and fired it just like I have been doing with the brown and the white stonewares that I am using. Allowing the kiln to cool for at least 12-16 hours, I opened the kiln to find wonderful bowls that were warm to the touch but at all hot. I set the bowl out on the shelf to continue unloading and within minutes the bowl that I had just unloaded makes a loud bang noise and upon when I go to the shelf the bowl has broken in such a way that it has experienced thermal shock. The interior of the bowl looks like it has been twisted and separates. The bowl continues to make noise for several hours following, telling me that as it continues to cool it is really going through some additional changes. If this were the brown or the white stoneware that I use this wouldn’t happen.

Frog Bowl

Frog Bowl, Black clay

The first time it happened, I thought it was a throwing technique problem, that I wasn’t compressing the clay enough to compress the molecules within the body on the wheel. So I tried again. Going back to the basics of throwing and following my hands through the process making sure I compress the clay with a rib before lifting the walls of the bowl. Fired the bowls, same problem. This makes me realize that the kiln needs to cool longer. So I let the next kiln set for an additional day before lifting the lid. This seems to work.

Frog on Black Clay mug

However, an additional problem that the clay has that I don’t know that I can fix without just lots of testing, is the lack of ability for the clay to adhere to itself when I score and slip of two pieces. Spending plenty of time on the construction to make sure that the seams are sealed properly and securely doesn’t seem to help this problem either. After I had spent several days on a sculptural rectangular vase vessel, making sure that seams were sealed and smooth, the bisque fire opened up the seams leaving large gaps in the joints. I had noticed this also on the small fairy garden furniture that I had been making when I would make a butterfly bench and attach the legs to it they didn’t want to hold at the joint.

I have been known to push the limits on projects and materials and I believe that I was pushing the limits of this clay body as well. Laguna lists the shrink rate of this #391clay at 10% with a 2+% tolerance. The white body that I use, #609, on the interior of the black clay has a shrink rate of 13%, I’m sure, is putting stress on the interior of the black clay.

Without doing a lot more testing, I am afraid to sell the items that worked. I don’t know if the item will break after a person puts the mug into a microwave or puts the bowl into an oven to warm or cook food in it and I don’t want to put someone at risk. I have the adorable mugs with the frog on the exterior that I am afraid will pop off due to the two clay bodies not getting along enough to hold each other’s joint.

When I went to the Kiln Doctor on Saturday to buy more clay of all the colors that I use, I did buy more of the black clay and spoke with Mike, the owner, about the problems that I had been having. It just so happened that he was going to Seattle to a conference and Laguna Clay would be there. He took the information from me and planned to talk to them about it and find out if the chemistry of the clay is the problem and if they knew of anyone else that is having similar issues.

Black Bunny Mug

In the meantime, I will hold onto the items that I’ve made so far and not sell them and only make small fairy garden items out of the black clay for now. Hopefully, Mike will bring some answers back from the Pacific Northwest this week and I will keep testing the wares before I let them out of my studio. Just to be safe!