2015 Holiday Open Studio Tour

Mountain Courier Ad 2015R6_

2015 Holiday Open Studio Tour will have 5 Locations

We are so excited this year to have added two potters to our Holiday Open Studio Tour for a total of 5 different locations where you can shop and visit with the artists. Barbarah Robertson and Chickadee’s Artist Gallery and Pottery Shop have agreed to be a part of this annual event and are helping to round out a county wide tour.

bea20ee7f37bc764fccaf24ea114cf56At the northern end of Shenandoah County, Liz Ashe-Hollingsworth with be showing and selling her lovely Earth Spirit Masks. “Magical one of a kind clay sculptures depicting nature spirits, faeries and animals enhanced with found natural objects.” You truly have to see these items in person to see just how awesome they are and the work that goes into these to make them so wonderful and magical.

Then in Strasburg, Barbarah Robertson, a juried artisan with the Artisan Center of Virginia, will be set up in Pot Town OrgaBeeMug1abnics, an O Shenandoah Artisan Trail Site. Barbarah will be showing and selling her functional kitchen and tableware meant for day to day use, as well as a line of whimsical garden & gift items. You can also get a look at the new shop Pot Town Organics, an organic nursery and gar
dening store.  Selling organic gardening supplies, lights, hydropoics, tools and more!  A fun place to visit if you enjoy gardening and food preparation. What a great combo to find handmade and organic items.

rabbit with Thistle-1Laughing Orange Studio is in the middle of the county, in Tom’s Brook where I have a few new items and the usual rabbit items and fairy garden items. I have been working on some cupcake cups, some cookie jars and the trays and mugs that I usually have on hand. A new outhouse design for the fairy garden or a wheel barrow or even a fairy ring might be just the thing for the fairy gardener in your life or on your list.
Then, as you travel south to Woodstock, you can stop in at Kary Haun Studio where Kary will have her gorgeous porcelain work. Kary’s specialty items are ceramic drip coffee pots, drip tea mugs,
wine cups and more. Her glazes and nature inspired designs add to the elegance of the porcelain and it makes having a cup of coffee or a snack an experience rather than an everyday occurrence. 

11403211_969582256426829_1482607633049800930_nOur southern most site will be the new pottery in New Market called Chickadee’s Artist Gallery and Pottery Shop. Chris and George Jetter are the owners of this lovely Local Artist Gallery and Pottery Shop. The shop offers a wide variety of locally crafted items such as Pottery, Quilts, Blown Glass, Glass beads, Soy Candles, Digital and Film Photography, and much more! All pottery sold from Chickadees is created on site! You can even get a behind the scenes look at the craft of pottery by attending a live demonstration from George himself!

Postcards are going in the mail this week but be sure and mark your calendar if you are only on this newsletter list so that you come to this special event and take home some items for the holiday season to use during your own celebrations or to shop for that special person that is so hard to buy for.

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Be sure to follow the Holiday Open Studio Tour on Facebook because each of the five artists will be posting the progress of the work that we are preparing for this event and you will enjoy watching from there.




Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter’s Empty Bowl Supper

Frog Posterlow res

This annual event will be held on Friday November 20th from 5:30-7:30 at the Central High School Cafeteria, in Woodstock, VA. This will be the fourth year that I have donated bowls. I love doing this because I know that it is for a great cause. Food is something that many of us take for granted and I know that there are plenty of folks out there that aren’t getting enough to eat. The Alliance for Shelter helps many of those who are in need in many ways.




For the first time this year, you can purchase your tickets on-line by visiting their website at www.allianceforshelter.org and clicking on Empty Bowl Soup Supper.
Tickets can also be purchased at Woodstock Cafe in Woodstock, Sager Real Estate in Strasburg, Edinburg Mill in Edinburg, and Community Store in Basye, or reserve your tickets by calling Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter at 540-459-3212 or 540-459-8395. Tickets are limited to 300, so reserve your tickets early.
Tickets went on sale October 1, 2015.

I have pledged 30 bowls this year. Each bowl will have my signature frogs on them full of their personality, and a little of mine, hopefully!IMG_20151016_153625458

Also this year, I have had help with making my bowls and I would like to give a shout out to Kara Bowman and Ali Carithers and Patricia Wolfe for their help with adding glazes to the bowls, trying their hands at making a few of the frogs and to learning how much goes into making the bowls for the dinner. I love making these and these ladies all understand the importance of doing something for the community. I’d like to thank them for their help and also for the fun we shared doing the bowls.


Tang, the Laughing Orange Studio mascot…


Tang continues to make me smile as I work in my studio daily. She can be grumpy somedays, curious most days and sleepy when she gets warm. When you come to the studio to see me or my work, stop in and see how soft she is and how much fun it is to have a rabbit as a pet and inspiration.

LOS at Va Clay FestivalThank you to all that have helped in my
new endeavors, the last 20 or so months of grief and have given encouragement to me, I have a wonderful set of friends and followers and I am grateful to you all,


ACV Juried Member logo

Don’t Forget to follow Laughing Orange on Facebook
and the Holiday Studio Tour  to see the fun as it is being created.


Spring Newsletter 2013





O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail

“Hand-made treasures, locally grown goodness and breath-taking beauty around every bend”

ACVcirclelogo106x106It is official! Shenandoah County named the trail and the press release came out in February. It seems the entire county is now gearing up to launch the trail and show off our artists and agri-artisans within our county.  In April, Shenandoah County tourism folks are planning a local event and are featuring many of the people who have signed up for the trail. Their partnership with the Artisan Center of Virginia is what has made the trail happen They have named the event “Gardens, Galleries, and Grapes” and it is set for Sunday, April 21, 2012.  It will be from 12-5 p.m. I am going to be set up for this at Natural Art Garden Center here in Tom’s Brook. The County Chamber has a lovely window display in their window in Woodstock, VA and have some of my work displayed to promote this Spring event.

If you are planning a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, you may use Virginia.org to look up all the artisans and plan a trip to the area for a tour of your choosing. It is easy to do!

  • Simply register with Virginia.org
  • Click on the Trip Planner at the top of the page
  • Then Start a New Trip
  • You can search for Laughing Orange Studio and add that to your trip along with other really cool sites in my area.
  • After you have added some neat things to see in your trip planner, you can assemble an itinerary and print it out with maps and addresses.
  • Then just jump in your car and come and see me!



old building

Laughing Orange is moving out of the basement!

This winter, I have been working on getting a building on my property transformed into a new workspace to house the studio. My basement has been where I have been working and if you have ever been to my house, you know that the basement has a low ceiling. It does have a cement floor, which is nice, because I can spray out the dust, but I have support poles in my way and have really cramped quarters.

I have a building on my property that we have used for storage for years. It is basically a story and a half and the square footage is not much more than my basement, if even bigger, but I will have one continuous room and can set things up in a more efficient way. AND it has normal ceilings which will make it feel bigger… for a while.

My permits are applied for, my contractor is ready to get to work, I am just waiting for a meeting of the town planning committee to meet so they can give me the final go ahead. At that point the building is getting a new look with metal siding, new windows and doors and a new floor. Budget constraints kept me from getting everything that I wanted but as the business grows, so can my upgrades to my space.

If you use Facebook, “like” Laughing Orange Studio and see the progress as it happens there.

Or stay tuned on this blog for updates as well…


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Work in Progress

Laughing Orange was featured in a local tabloid called the Mountain Courier. Rich Follett, a regular writer for them, wrote the story for his regular feature called Work in Progress. I’ve included the text here since the paper is not an online publication:

Work in Progress

Laughing Orange Studio

by Rich Follett

In a pre-interview email, I asked Susie Morgan Wilburn for the address of her home studio. The reply came back promptly, with a bit of additional information: “You can see it from space!” Right from the start, I was aware that this would be no ordinary visit. As it turns out, Laughing Orange STudio is indeed a literal rather than a figurative moniker: the house is bright orange, whimsy fills every corner, and I am reasonably certain that, if afforded access to orbit, one cound indeed see it from space. Susie’s pottery offers a festival of imaginative and playful forms, underpinned with an essential functionality that seems, somehow, like a bonus.

Wilburn had been a ceramics apprentice for two years at Berea College in Kentucky and had been hand building pottery in her home since 1992, firing her pieces in a kiln passed down from a family member. Then, for Christmas 2010, her husband gifted her with a second hand potter’s wheel. She took to the wheel immediately, finding that her remembered skills came back quickly and easily. The Universe provided a final nudge in 2011 when Wilburn was laid off from the job she had held for more than 20 years with a printing firm. Faced with an uncertain future and limited job prospects, Wilburn began to question whether her pottery skills might not only support themselves but also help to support her family. In the fall of 2011, Wilburn was asked to make 25 bowls for the area’s annual Empty Bowl soup supper. With her characteristic whimsical flair, she crafted a small ceramic frog into each of her pieces, to be gradually revealed as the contents were eaten. Her fog bowls were a resounding success; the supply was exhausted very early in the evening and patrons were clamoring for more.

Based on the success of the frog bowls, Wilburn accepted an invitation from the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, (an organization for which she continues to serve as a volunteer) to sell her pottery at a holiday open house. In three hours’ time, Wilburn sold $1,700 worth of her art. The community had given Wilburn her answer and there was no looking back. Laughing Orange Studio was born in 2012, its name taken from the particular color of Sherwin Williams paint that makes the home studio stand out in the Wilburn’s otherwise sedate neighborhood. The inspiration for the cheerful color scheme was taken from a patch of daylilies that bloom in the Wilburn backyard each summer.

From the basement of their gaily painted Toms Brook home, Wilburn spins her potter’s wheel to create playful pottery pieces designed to enchant and to be used daily. Frogs, fish, fossils, fairies, rabbits and botanical design punctuate an endless array of mugs, butter bells, bowls, vases, and other practical household items made wondrous by Wilburn’s deft, clever hands. Wilburn’s vision is in her hands; she does not see pottery pieces in her mind’s eye prior to throwing them, choosing instead to go into “the zone” and giving her hands free rein to shape each pot directly from her subconscious. With every turn of the wheel, Wilburn endeavors to create artful objects that will be used rather than merely displayed–her chorus of ceramic frogs is joyfully chiming “pick me up and use me!”

Another successful facet of Laughing Orange Studio is the “Fairy Garden” line of art pottery designed for indoor or outdoor use. Fairy houses, fairy furniture, fairy garden ornaments, all are lovingly sculpted and hand painted (no two are alike) by Wilburn to be sold locally and shipped around the world. Lately, she has bee challenged to keep up with a rapidly growing fairy garden clientele in Australia, many of whom are placing custom orders–they can dream it, Wilburn will create it. Laughing Orange Studio has quickly outgrown Wilburn’s basement; in the spring of 2013, she is breaking ground on a project to convert an existing Victorian outbuilding into a backyard studio with increased firing capacity, a separate shipping area and space for demonstrations.

Wilburn credits her success to having ahd a strong community identity and presence prior to launching Laughing Orange Studio. She endeavors to tell stories with her pottery and to have her pottery become part of the stories that those who buy and use her pieces will tell in their own lives. It is a gift that will enrich the community—and the Valley—for generations to come.

Susie Morgan Wilburn is a juried member of the Shenandoah Valley Artisan Trail. Her pottery is available at Natural Art Garden Center in Toms Brook, Shenandoah Valley Artworks in Strasburg, Laughing Orange Studio (3397 Hillcrest Drive, Toms Brook) and online through Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop.laughingorangestudio.com


1st Annual Holiday Open House was Wonderful!

I want to thank everyone that came to the Holiday Open House. I know this is late but, I really do appreciate everyone coming and sharing my new adventure, having some snacks and getting some Christmas gifts. The weather was beautiful and the weekend was super busy but really lots of fun. THANK YOU ALL!!! I’m looking forward to doing it again next year and showing off my new space.


Connect with Laughing Orange

Etsy logo

My Etsy shop, Laughing Orange Studio,
is connected to my blog.

Laughing Orange Studio has a business Facebook presence.
pinterestPinterest, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a great way to bookmark items onto the web for reference or sharing.

googleGoogle + is awesome for the main reason that I can see friends and relatives that are far away. It has a wonderful hangout option that many people can have a conversation all at once.


Subscribe to this Newsletter! I am trying to get a newsletter out quarterly just to give an update on new products and my event schedules.





Currently I’m working on:

  • making, making, making lots of new items for the April 21st Spring “Gardens, Galleries and Grapes Event” at Natural Art Garden Center here in Toms Brook and the Blandy Farm Mother’s Day Event in Boyce, VA
  • updating my databases and contact information. If you know of someone that you think would enjoy knowing about me or my work, please share this newsletter and the above sites to find me. Thanks in advance for helping get the word out.
  • Fairy Garden Items are still all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started, there are new items for those on Etsy and Lynne Phillips, at  Natural Art Garden Center, is planning some fall workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here...or contact Lynne at 540-436-3130

Please remember Laughing Orange if you need a wedding or special birthday gift. I love doing special orders and handmade items are always more special than something that has been mass produced.

Happy Spring!



ACV JURIED artisan LOGOwith orange

finding my voice, literally…

On Monday of this week, I attended and participated in my first gallery show since college. The show is part of a process that I am going through in order to be juried into the Artisan Center of Virginia. As a way to bring the jurors to the show and allow them the freedom to view the work on their own schedule, the ACV put the show together. The artists in the show consist of those artists that are already considered a “professional artisan” with the ACV and a few of us who are trying to become “professional artisan”.

I arrived a bit late to the reception and the room was full of students of Mary Baldwin College, the school that is hosting the show. The show is called Artisans & Agroecology:The Cultural Connection Between Craft and Rural Life and is in the Hunt Gallery. I wasn’t expecting the room to be full and just expected to mingle around with the artists and whoever might be stopping by. In the back of the room, I hear the ACV director, Sherri Smith talking, explaining to the students how they are important to the ACV as the next generation of artists and craftsmen. Part of the discussion at the conference back in August was how to get the younger generation involved and this was the perfect audience for her to address with this plea.

When Sherri finished and had had all the participating artists to raise their hands so the students could recognize us, a woman asked if the artists would each come forward and tell a little about our work. It was at this moment that I realized I wasn’t sure what I would/should say.

As we worked our way to the front of the room, I had lots of things going through my mind but wanted to be brief. I am very self conscious about my North Carolina accent and that always is in the back of my mind but now I was going to have to say something about why I was there and what I do. Luckily, I didn’t have to go first so I was able to get an idea of how to do this by listening to a couple of artists that went before me.

So, basically, I said, “I am Susie Wilburn and I live in Toms Brook, just north of here. I am not considered a “professional artisan” yet but hopefully after this show that I will be. I have been in the printing industry for the past 26 years and after losing my job, just over a year ago, I have reverted back to my college love and trying to reinvent myself as a potter. I am experimenting with different clays and glazes and forms and am still trying to find my voice”. I didn’t discuss the fossils, frogs, how I come up with my ideas, a philosophy of why I do the images or my processes. I could have discussed the work in more detail but I am see myself as a newbie and don’t really see myself as having much to share. I think I need to rethink that.

I felt that I did okay, but the more I think about it, I am probably going to have to work on this some. I had one of the students approach me, not because of my work, but because she is originally from Strasburg so she want to just bond with someone from home. In talking to her, I realized the impact that I probably could’ve had on the students with my words. She was taking a ceramics class and they had just done pinch pots so I was able to talk craft with her some. For the most part though, I think that the students were there as a requirement and really not interested in me or my work. I didn’t see that many students really approach the artists to pick their brains for inspiration.

I have to also put a plug in here for the school that I went to 30+ years ago. In talking to the student, I was asking her about the art program at Mary Baldwin. When she told me about her ceramics class, I asked if they had a pottery and were they teaching the students how to throw a pot. Basically, it sounded like a very simple class and they didn’t have the extensive program that I came from. In explaining Berea College to this student and listening to my words, I realized just how lucky that I was to have had the experience to have a college that not only provided such diversity but to require that the students work and how inexpensive my four years actually was. I explained Berea’s goal to help the poor students of the Appalachian region attain a college education and that they didn’t charge tuition but only charged for room and board. She then volunteered that Mary Baldwin College costs $34,000 per year. However, the ranking page with US News lists the college tuition costs at $28K. Room and Board is an additional $8K. WHOA! I know that at current rates that Berea is only about $980 tuition per year and the room and board about $6K putting the yearly costs at about $7K.  What is this student really getting for that $34K? Have her parents taken on that debt or is she? If she is going to major in art, how is she going to pay that amount of money back and what kind of program does Mary Baldwin offer to help those students become employed after college to help relieve that debt? This would be a totally new post that involves lots of questions, not answers, I’m afraid.

So, as I go forward and see myself in more situations where I will be asked about my work and my processes, I need to work on this. Many times, I feel like I just do what I do and don’t really think about explaining it to someone else. I need to start thinking about breaking down the process better, thinking more about explaining where my ideas come from, why I use the images that I use and share more about why I love my new life as an artist. Hopefully, a “professional artisan” soon.


Freshly Squeezed, from Laughing Orange Studio

This is a newsletter that I sent to a group of my friends…. If you would like to receive an email newsletter, subscribe to this blog and you will definitely be included with the next mailing… I’d love to include you in the fun!

March 2012

…news from

Laughing Orange Studio

Starting a new business means taking advantage of all the ways possible to reach buyers for my product. There are a million ways to do that these days and while not everyone uses social media, it seems, that almost daily there are new methods of social media introduced, making it almost impossible for me to even get a product made for having to try and keep up with all the computer interaction that I need to communicate with my customers. You almost need a full time person just to update all the places that need updating to get this information out there.

With this first newsletter, Freshly Squeezed, I’d like to get information to YOU so that you can keep up with what I am working on or where I may be exhibiting my work. I may show you a new product line, a technique I’m using, a new blog post, or a new design that I am trying to get out and show you a sneak peak. That said, if you would like to get an occasional email newsletter, subscribe to my blog now!

I’ve  listed the main media that I am using consistently these days below along with links for them.  All of them are ways to connect with me and find my work. Check them out if you aren’t using them already.

Please, share this email with all your friends that you think would enjoy seeing what I am doing!

Laughing Orange on Etsy

My Etsy shop, Laughing Orange Studio, is connected to my blog. If you see the product page in the blog and see something that you would love to purchase, YAY!, the links there will take you to the shop on Etsy. For now. I would love to eventually move some items to the blog’s shop but, I need you for this, I need people to know that it is there first. For now though, the link at the left will take you to the shop and allow you to see some of the products that I have for sale right now and are available for you to purchase.

LOS on Facebook

Laughing Orange Studio has a business Facebook presence and I generally use this page as a way to blast out items that have just been uploaded to my shop on Etsy. If you are a Facebook user, you can like the Studio there and get new product updates as they are available to the public.


Pinterest link

Pinterest, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a great way to bookmark items onto the web for reference or sharing. I LOVE this new site and have to really limit myself or I really wouldn’t get anything done all day. The rule is: either when the tea is empty or I reach the bottom of the page, I need to get out of the chair and start my day. The bad part is that when you reach the bottom of the page, Pinterest loads more pins….. so I have to use the empty teacup rule.

There are a ton of uses that I have discovered for this site… inspiration for my work, my garden, a good laugh and sharing or storing information in a visual way. Visual is the key here, because I am a visual person, this site is great for me.  You can follow or see my boards by clicking on the icon at the left. Watch out though, you may get sucked in and have trouble getting anything else done.

Google + link

Google + is awesome for the main reason that I can see friends and relatives that are far away. It has a wonderful hangout option that many people can have a conversation all at once. Better than Skype for this reason, originally I think this was to be Google’s version of Facebook but if you want to see me work, I am trying to find way’s to maybe do workshops or “how to crafting ” with this wonderful new site. Webcam is necessary and a DSL connection. I’ve added the link to my page by clicking on the icon on the left if you would like to be in one of my circles.

Thanks for all your support in my new adventure and I hope that you will contact me in the future if you need a gift or an item for yourself.

Currently I’m working on:

  • I have Easter mugs getting ready to be fired and put on the Etsy site in the next week
  • We have put a calendar of events on the blog so that you can see events that I am going to try and participate in this year
  • Fairy Garden Items are all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started before Spring, there are new items for those on Etsy and I am making the miniature items for Natural Art Garden Center, who are doing workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here…

Happy Spring,

Susie Wilburn


No longer hobbies…

So, I lost the job in July of 2011 and am less than a year out of work. I got my severance and some unemployment and have now made the decision to make a go of trying to be an artist full time. And when I say full time, it is literally full time. Some days it is really overwhelming to think about all that I need to do. In this post I thought I would share some of the issues that I have been thinking about and dealing with in order to make my little business a success.

New Work Attire

I first went to Lord Fairfax Community College to see the guys there at the Small Business Development Center. They were really helpful in answering a lot of my questions, like “do I need a lawyer, accountant, insurance?” and those kinds of things. They even gave me referrals which I accepted and came home and made appointments with. They took plenty of time with me, making sure that I was comfortable with the answers before I left. They listened to my ideas and gave me some new ones. We talked about shows that I could do and some marketing ideas that they felt would help me in retail. It is a wonderful service that is free and I highly recommend it to anyone that is starting out. They are available as a resource now that I will happily call and get their input on future decisions.

Next, on the advice of LFCCBDC, I made an appointment with an accountant. This is the part that made me really anxious because I was an art major and not a math major. The main reason for getting an accountant though was that they know the laws better than we do and would be able to give us tax advice that we aren’t necessarily privy to otherwise. I was incredibly impressed with the woman that I was assigned by the firm and she is super positive and energized and it made me feel that we could do this and be okay. There were some surprises though, like the fact that we couldn’t claim my work space because the washer and dryer are in that space. Apparently, it has to be enclosed and used only for your business so the washer and dryer are invading that territory and took away that deduction. She did, however, say that if we could find proof of purchases for older items of equipment and such that she could go back at least five years and we could claim some of those items, so I have been doing some research on that front. We will report back to her in a couple of months and see how we are doing and she will keep us on track and in order. It will be fine.

Insurance was another matter and yet our homeowner company pointed me to a company that deals with home based retail businesses and the guy was really helpful and is putting together a package for me that will include the show that I am hoping to do in May at Blandy Farm, just outside of Winchester.

Then, there is the issue of marketing. I have this blog, which I am in the process of converting to a full fledged website, with Herb and Thomas’ help and expertise. I had to get a new host for the site. Thomas pointed me to Media Temple and I signed up with because they work with WordPress. If things look somewhat different, this is the reason. Many hours seem to get gobbled up by trying to redesign a header image, figuring out shopping carts, postage charts and plugins.

Now you see where I am overwhelmed? I am now trying to think about how is the best way to approach all of this together in terms of where to market and how.

  • The Laughing Orange Business Facebook page gets updated when I post an item to Etsy automatically.
  • There is also a “pinit” button on Etsy that I can now press to send the same item to Pinterest with a price banner on it and a link
  • I need to get an email newsletter going and start sending it out on a regular basis…. which means gathering a list of people to send it to. I’ve been gathering the email addresses but need to get the email blasts figured out.
  • The photos of the items need to be taken just after they come out of the kiln and get them listed. Should there be a catalog of items on Etsy alone or an additional catalog on my own site?
  • Google ad sense is an option but I don’t know if I am ready for ads and if my site is full of enough information to warrant ads, however you get paid for every click when someone clicks on those ads so why wouldn’t I put them on there for that reason.
  • Without Goggle Ad Sense, how do you get all the visitors to come to your blog without annoying the crap out of people with constant updates.
  • Open House in the Spring, should I do one and will I have the inventory to sell. If so, I need to get it into a format that I can distribute the information so customers know it is going on.
  • Twitter, Digg, Etsy Lush, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Google +  which to use and how much and why

Then there is the getting ready for a fair or show in the Spring. I need to build some display cubes to put items on to lift them and make them interesting to customers that visit the booth. I’ve done this sort of thing before so that part isn’t a big deal to me but now I am wanting to design and build boxes to use as lifts that also will help me to transport my wares so that I avoid breakage but also don’t have boxes that are too big to carry when they are full of wares.

Inventory is something that is always on my mind and I have so many ideas floating around to make that there aren’t enough hours in the day. I am trying to take my time and not rush through the making process because that is where and when you lose items and eat into the profits of the materials.

SO, now that I have finally added a new post and it is a long list of things that I am dealing with, I really should get some work done….. Oh, this is work too, right?