Olla Pots…

IMG_0840A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a ton of clay. Literally, a ton of clay. We know that because as Herb was unloading it out of the truck, he was doing a calculation in his head and it was more than we should’ve carried in our little truck. The repair bill later was proof of that. But the clay is piled up under a tarp in the back of our lot and I need to start working through the pile and using this clay.

Last year, I went through the clay and made an inventory of what was there and now, looking at the list, there is a low fire terra cotta. It fires to cone 2, which is low for what I normally work in. So, I was looking at a video this morning from a homesteading family. The Dervaes Family in California who are harvesting 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre of land. It is pretty amazing what they have done. So, it occurred to me that I could make some irrigation pots like these from that terra cotta clay. They are called Olla pots and they are a way to conserve water, which I am all about.

Olla pots have been in use for many centuries and are buried in the garden. The idea is that the terra cotta clay weeps the water into the ground and allows the plants to take in the water that they need, at the roots, where they need it the most. According to Wikipedia, it is a very efficient method because very little water is lost to evaporation because the water is stored underground. You can also see how to make your own Olla pots here at this awesome site Global Buckets whose goal is about growing food in 5 gallon buckets. Another good site that shows how they are used is Walden Labs. And here is a great illustration of how the pot works in the ground at this Permaculture link.Old-Pot-Technology.slideshow

This will be a way to use up the clay and give me a new item to make and to help with the Community garden

This is what an Olla Pot looks like...

This is what an Olla Pot looks like…

or my own garden with water usage during times of drought.

Now to find the clay in the pile of clay and get some water added to it so that I can start the process of making a batch of these pots.

Cupcake Royale…

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My son Thomas and his wife live in Seattle and there is a cupcake shop there called Cupcake Royale. They LOVE cupcakes and even bought me a shirt from the shop for my birthday one year.  Recently, they were home for a quick visit and we met them at the Woodstock Cafe for lunch before they flew home. Herb’s birthday had been the week before and since we can no longer celebrate birthdays together, I thought it would be a fun treat for all of us to have personalized cupcake pots with chocolate cupcakes in them at the Cafe for dessert.

Thomas is following in his dad’s curmudgeon footsteps, apparently, and is known at his workplace as the Grumpy Cat and even uses an illustration of the Grumpy Cat as his Google profile image, so it was only fitting to make his cup with the Grumpy Cat on it. Each pot was different and were super simple to make. I went to Smitten Kitchen’s site and found a recipe called the “I want Chocolate Cake” Cake recipe and it is great because it only makes enough for an 8 X 8 pan of cake, which filled 6 cupcake pots.

The remainder of the cups are listed on my Etsy site and I have 8 more in the kiln that are to be glazed. The idea is to make a special cupcake for that co-worker or birthday someone and they receive their cupcake in the pottery cup and everyone else gets the cupcake in the paper liner. It provides a simple and inexpensive gift and takes cupcakes to a new level.

We didn’t even light our candles at the Cafe…. I did mention the curmudgeon thing, didn’t I? But, the cupcakes were a hit and hopefully they are now being used in Seattle for ice cream or to hold M&Ms or something as a reminder of our short time together. It is always good to see them both.

The Firefly Legend and the Thistle Flower…

There is a family in my area that grew up having to take the thistles out of the farmland so that the other crops could grow. The family members talk of this as a childhood memory that they hated having to do. Now, however, they are older with children of their own and have fonder memories for those times and have embraced the thistle as a type of family crest. At Christmas this past year, I made several items with a thistle design on them just for these family members to reinforce and share that bond. While I was working on a batch of thistle mugs for one of the family members to give as gifts to her many siblings, she wrote me an email which I would like to share part of here….

“I smile in so many ways over these mugs:

knowing the joy you gain through the creation of your hands and the understanding of using the gift God has given to glorify.

I think about what my dad and grandfather must be thinking when they see us reminisce over a flower (weed) we spent days eradicating from the soil.

In anticipation of my mother and siblings when they join in with delight.

and last, I anticipate the envy of the younger generation when they witness how the Thistle has bonded us together, knowing they will want this same bond (but also knowing they would revolt as much as we did when told they have to spend the digging hours to really appreciate the beauty of the Thistle).”

So, I have embraced the Thistle flower and now also embrace their bond of family and memories that it brings but also because I think it is a really cool flower. And I recently made a large pasta size bowl that I wanted to do an unusual decoration on and kept coming back to the thistles. The botanicals that I choose are usually my favorite flowers or veggies but I also went looking for some designs to compliment the thistle when I opened one of my quilt books and found a new story to go with my thistle flower.

Kumiko Sudo does wonderful origami quilts and quilt books. Lots of flowers and textural appliqué patterns. I immediately looked for the thistle, which she did have and found that she had written a legend about the firefly, in reference to the thistle flower. I don’t know if this is a story that she made up or if it is one of Japanese tradition (after a quick google search, there appears to be all kinds of different firefly legends) but I thought it would be fun to share it with you and then show you a quick video of how I used the legend on the bowl that is now in my kiln, firing and will get posted in it’s final form in a day or two.

A Long time ago, a fly thought he would take a nap on a  thistle flower. He loved the softness and the beautiful purple color of the flower. But as he was landing on the flower, the fly accidentally struck his bottom on some of the plant’s sharp needles. Hurt and upset, he waited for the wound to heal. To his great surprise and delight, he discovered that his bottom now glowed in the dark. In gratitude to the thistle for this special gift, he decided to become a night guide for all small creatures. To this day, we can see his descendants, which we now call fireflies, working hard throughout the night.

Kumiko Sudo

And after I got her legend drawn onto my bowl, I added fireflies and thistles and you can watch the bowl spin on my banding wheel. So, stay tuned and after it comes out of the bisque firing tomorrow, it will get a clear glaze and a soft green rim to compliment the legend and the beautiful purple flowers of the thistle. Enjoy!

rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…

I have a couple of Facebook friends who post the phrase “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of every month. According to wikipedia, this phrase should be the first words out of your mouth on the first day of the month for 31 days of good luck. I know it is just a silly superstition but I think it is fun, given that I have been doing a lot of rabbit themed work. And of course, back in the fall, I got a pet rabbit to have in the studio to keep me company and bring me smiles. I named her Tang, like the space drink because it is an orange theme name to go along with my Laughing Orange Studio theme. Tang looking at rabbitLast summer I started trying to throw much larger pieces and ended up with some rather large plate/bowl forms. I decided to decorate them with my rabbit theme and add variations of gardens, trees, and flowers. So, I thought I would share some of these pasta bowls here. The first of the month is in a few days so be sure and rise out of bed and let your first words be, “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”.

Tree and Rabbit1 Thistle rabbit dish farm rabbit Anjelka Tray Crimson Rabbit

New Kiln Equals Business Growth

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programmable L&L kiln

During the holiday season last year, I felt that I couldn’t get all the work fired that I needed to fire. I think part of that is knowing how and when the clay is ready to process and not to push it too fast. But, I also didn’t feel that I had the kiln space to push the work through. So, I have ordered a new kiln from The Kiln Doctor and hopefully, in 2-4 weeks, I will be up and running and working harder to fill it up.

The kiln that I currently have is over 35 years old. It has, and continues to serve me well but I feel that I need to upgrade to a programmable kiln and to give myself a bigger goal to work toward. The old kiln will still be used for smaller firings or to do the bisque work. It will continue to be in the basement. I inherited this kiln from my mother-in-law, many years ago, after she tried her hand at ceramics as a hobby.

Originally, the plan was to add a small building to the upper side of my studio to house the kilns. Due to money constraints, I am needing to add the kiln before I add the building. When we renovated the studio, we had the electrician run the wiring for the future kiln and those wires are available on the upper side of the studio, in the wall. Hopefully, he can extract those wires from the building and extend them out to the building that we call the “garage”. The garage has a concrete floor and a good size space to accommodate the larger kiln and then the next upgrade can be a new building so that I am not having to carry work between buildings for the different phases of the process. I can also put the glaze compressor in the garage and get it out of the garden pump room where it currently is. For now, the kayaks and the mower will have to find a new home until we can afford a kiln room addition onto the studio.

The new kiln is now going to be three times the kiln that I currently have and so I hope that, with my skills improving, and my desire to make larger items, that I won’t have any trouble filling this larger space. Growth is good and this is part of the process of growing the business.

My Apprentice, Kara Bowman

 

Kara

Kara, working on her dad’s Father’s Day gift.

 

For the past several months, I have had a wonderful helper to help with all my fairy garden items. Kara Bowman is 14 and will be a freshman at Strasburg High School this fall. Kara loves history and is an avid Disney fan. She also is a crafter of wonderful duct tape items, wallets, flower pens and tri-fold wallets. She lives with her family in Maurertown, VA and lives on the Shenandoah River. Kara LOVES everything JMU (James Madison University) and hopes to attend school there in 2019 studying as a  physician’s assistant. She just finished a medical camp at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital learning CPR, dissecting a human eyeball, and touring the operating room. You can read more about this camp here. Kara loves getting paid with Dairy Queen blizzards but has been a real asset to helping my fairy garden inventory grow.

In the photo above, Kara is decorating a bowl that we made for her dad for Father’s Day. He is a big Baltimore Orioles fan.


 

I put the above text in my newsletter about Kara but, I want to add a full posting about her in my blog. Kara is a very kind and caring individual and during the past 6 months that I have been dealing with the grief of my son John’s death, she has been a wonderful companion to have and to sit with me in the studio. Kara’s mom, Cathy knew that this would be good for me, and also for Kara, to work with me, as an assistant, of sorts.

Kara is good about doing what I ask of her and is a quick learner and has a good eye for detail. She has really enjoyed doing the butterfly chairs and has looked up wonderful butterflies on her phone to replicate the colors and really enjoyed doing birdbaths. This was her first assignment and was very attentive to the different birds that she could add to the birdbaths. After the birdbaths were done, you could definitely pick out the orioles from the cardinals because she wanted them to look like the real birds.

I have introduced Kara to some new forms of music and movies and she has introduced me to everything Disney…. sometimes a bit too much Disney… but we try to share and enjoy each others tastes.

I would like to personally thank Kara, for being independent enough to be trusted and to know that it is okay to ask for something to eat or drink. I am not sure that she will come away from this experience wanting to pursue a career in ceramics but I hope this has added some depth to her education and the understanding of crafting as a business.

Kara has agreed to help me out with the Empty Bowls this year. I plan on teaching her how to make the frogs so that we can pledge a larger amount of bowls this year. The Alliance for Shelter in Shenandoah County lost a vital piece of their real estate to fire earlier in the Spring and hopefully our bowls that we contribute will help the homeless to have better shelter in the future. Kara has a caring heart and that is an organization that she holds dear so together we will do our part to help others.