Shipping Materials…


I have been a full time potter now for about 3 years and while I have had some friends donate shipping materials to me, I have found that I have not had to purchase these materials. First, I can’t imagine doing that because I just don’t have the funds for it and second, there are items in all of our houses that will cushion fragile items without spending pennies on that kind of thing. I thought it would be helpful to other potters to showcase the way that I ship an item, or more to the point, what I use to ship an item.

  1. If your house is like mine, there is lots of junk mail that gets delivered to your house every day. What do you do with it? Do you recycle it? Do you just pitch it and it ends up in the landfill, ultimately causing your county taxes to rise? Do you compost it? My solution to packing material is to shred the junk mail and store it for packing. I bought a small shredder at Target for about $40 and each day, or when the pile gets too large, I shred it and store it as packing materials. If you don’t have a need to ship something to use it in this way, you could also compost it. Many printers now use a soy based ink that would be fine in the compost pile and it can line planter boxes to use as a mulch. You could cover it with a wood mulch so that it doesn’t blow away but, I have used it as a weed barrier in my cold frames.
  2. Plastic bags are something that I have eliminated from my local grocery store but that doesn’t mean that other food substances don’t make it into my house in some kind of plastic bag. Think apples, potatoes, onion, oranges, granola, coffee, the list can go on and on. So, I reuse those bags and stuff the shredded paper into those and they work just like those air filled bubble pillows that sometimes come in a package. My paper stuffed bags may be a bit heavier than the air filled pillows when I have to figure the cost of the package but that cost is offset with not having to purchase a shipping product.
  3. And wrapping paper. I have a great source for my wrapping paper. My old employer just so happens to toss a wonderful brown and white paper and I occasionally can connect with them and pick up a large batch of this to have a substance to wrap a package with.
  4. My clay boxes are great to ship in so those get used a lot to send out wares. There always seems to be boxes here as well so I have not reached a point in three years that there has not been a box somewhere in my house that I can ship an item, both large and small. There might come a time that I might consider purchasing some nice gift boxes but so far there has not been a need for that either. Make do with what you have is always been my motto, as many of you know.
  5. Clay comes in a really heavy plastic bag and if you go through a lot of clay, as I do, you have lots of those bags lying around the studio. I will take those bags and run them through the washing machine. As the washer is filling up, I catch some of the water in each bag so that they get good and wet and then I hang them up to dry and they make awesome packing material or transporting wares inside the shredded paper.

I will admit that the only item that I have purchased for my wares has been “orange bags”. I found an online source to purchase a net bag that looks like an orange bag as a branding tool given that my company name is Laughing Orange. I promote the bags at shows by hanging them from my tent and give each customer my speech about the importance of recycling, explaining the shredded paper in the bag and ask them to use the bag at the market for their produce and to reuse the bag. Because the bags are red, they draw customers in and they are curious about what their purpose is.

Tape is the only material that I am having to purchase at this time and I wish I could find an alternative to that but I don’t see that happening for a while.

So, if you are a fellow potter and are curious about how you can use what you have to pack your wares or are just looking for ways to avoid having excess junk mail in your house, I hope you find these tips helpful when you are packing or shipping a box of something to someone else.

Jumping through hoops…








When I started the renovation of my building for the new studio, I thought it would just be a simple process of gathering ideas, talking to the contractor and getting to work. Not really so.

When the housing boom came through our county in 2005, our town didn’t have some of the precautions in place to keep some properties from being razed and developed. And not really in ways that they were in favor of. One old house was taken down, which could’ve been renovated to be replaced by townhouses. So the town couldn’t stop it because they didn’t have regulations in place. They quickly got to work and did just that, getting the county involved and forming a committee of their own that made it harder for that kind of change to happen again. This was a good thing. The house that is directly behind our property was scheduled to be next and they have prevented the same from happening there. Although, now, the developer that owns the property has abandoned it and it is now gradually falling further into decline. It is a beautiful old Victorian house that would take lots of money to fix up but would be doable. I’m grateful that the town saved it and they have told me that they have plans to get the developer to make some moves on the property.

SO, now I am close to starting work on the building. Given the committee has to be involved, it has been a bit more complicated than it would’ve been a few years ago. My initial plan was to add an addition to my building to house the kiln (s). I prepared drawings and took this to the town to show them what I was doing. You see, the building sits exactly on the property line and that is a big no no. You have to put a building, a new building, at least 15 feet away from a property line. So my addition had to be okay’d by the committee. Given that I was renovating the old building, it can be grandfathered into the regulations and is automatically okay to do the work to, but the addition had to have permission and a waiver to proceed.

Then my contractor gave me his first quote…. OUCH! The kiln room had to go, as did my concrete floor. In order to bring the project into my budget, I had to shave things off the project. AND, even though I was no longer doing the addition, I still had to get permission from the town to proceed. In the meantime, my contractor is running out of work before the meeting of the committee. He wants to get to work and they want me to hold on a few more days to give it a go ahead. They needed revised drawings of the project and 7 copies of the drawing and a check for $25. The meeting is March the 7th and I should be able to have permits in hand by the 8th since I also started the process of obtaining the permits with the county. This will get my contractor working early in March rather than have to wait until April.

Code for the county is also something that I have had to follow for safety reasons. The inspectors came out and looked at the property and gave me more insight as to what I can and can’t do. A local business sells used and odd sized windows which I had found some really cool triangular windows for the eaves but they are too big and aren’t a tempered glass, so those had to come out of the project. Also, windows have to be at least 18″ up from the floor and the triangles are just too big. They would’ve been really cool though, giving my moved stairs the much needed light.

Enter, Craig’s List. I spent a day working to find some windows that would suit me to add the whimsy to the building and give me plenty of light but also save me some money on new windows at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I found some half rounds, quarter rounds and an arch window up in Maryland that I am planning on going to purchase tomorrow. They are a major brand of window, but at a fraction of the cost that I would have to pay if I had to buy them from a retailer. I just have to drive a bit to get them.

So I spent yesterday working on revised drawings and using the dimensions that are on the Craig’s List listing, figuring out where I can place the windows to give me the light that I want inside the new space. And making sure that I have the proper distance from the floor to the window to meet the codes. By placing the half rounds in the eaves, I get a window that looks a bit like an orange slice or a smile, which I will be doing a lot of, come March, when I can see the changes start to take place.

Garden Bottle Stakes

Last weekend I went to meet John’s fiance’, Erin’s parents in Mt. Airy, NC. Yes, that is the town that makes it’s claim to Mayberry and Andy Griffith. In fact, when you go into the town proper the theme music to the show can be heard as you walk the streets. It is really a fun place to visit. But my visit was focused on meeting the family, which I absolutely loved, and talk about where to put things at the wedding.

Erin has always wanted to get married in her parents yard and, after the visit, I certainly see why. The landscaping and the yard and setting will be perfect for a small wedding and a fun party afterwards. There won’t be much need to do a lot of decorating because the yard is just so pretty but, there is a simple path that Erin will walk with her dad to get to the front yard. Alison, Erin’s mom, showed me a photo of an idea that she had seen in a catalog that she thought would dress up the path and add some color to the backdrop of greenery. So this post is to show you what I have come up with and to show you how that you can make your own wine bottle flower vases for a party or just to add some interest to a part of your yard that you want to add some color.

at west end bottle vase @ $40 each, YIKES

The photo here shows the vases from the catalog that Alison showed me. And at $40 a piece for 6 of these it would be really silly to spend that much money on such a simple idea. By the time you add shipping and tax to this you are looking at about $300. YIKES! I just can’t imagine spending this for these.

Last year we had some really strong winds and when that happens there is usually trees and branches that get broken or dislodged from the area. Our neighbors below us had a crepe myrtle bush that was almost destroyed and the branches from that enormous bush have been in the alley way between the houses since then. I simply put some of those branches to use. This project cost a total of $12.75 and will make use of old bottles and will keep some brush out of the landfill. Every little bit helps, right?

What you will need...










For this project you will need:

  • old branches or twigs, you could use bamboo, I suppose if you have access to some of that. I used old crepe myrtle branches that were fairly dried out and brittle but were of good size and were strong.
  • a saw for cutting your branches to length
  • some stainless steel rods. I bought 6- 36″ rods and cut them in half to 18″ with a hack saw for 12 finished pieces. ( I only made 8 though)
  • some twine or sisal
  • some cable ties
  • a utility knife to cut the twine
  • and some old bottles, I used beer, root beer and wine

stack of branches


The first thing I did was to go through the stack of brush and discard the really badly crooked ones and look for straight ones or ones with character. Then I cut them to about a 4 foot length. They are all a bit different but that adds to the overall look.

Then I cut the bottom of the branches so that they were flat to the ground. I cut the rods in half and took the cable ties and attached the rod to the bottom of the branch leaving about 9 inches below the bottom of the branch and attaching about 9 inches to the bottom of the branch. The cable tie will help to stabilize the bottom so that you can tie the upper part of the rod with the twine. You will have a cable tie at the bottom of the branch, but it will be in the grass and closer to the top of the rod you will have the twine. The branch can slide up and down on the rod but you want it to be fairly tight.

To attach the bottle. I used two pieces of twine that were about 36″ in length and wrapped one around the bottom perimeter of the bottle and one around the top perimeter of the bottle. Tying the twine as tight as you possibly can the bottle will be sturdy against the branch.

bottom with rod attached

Stand your bottle stake upright and take it out into the yard and, with a hammer, tap the rod into the ground. Make sure that everything is upright and sturdy, fill your bottle with water and add the flowers of your choice. I used the flowers that were blooming in my yard.

I think these will work nicely against the shrubbery at Alison’s house and will add some color to the path as folks take their seats and give some floral decoration to the walkway that Erin and her dad walk in on.

Another option would be to paint the branches white… I might end up doing that, but for now I think the natural look works well, given the setting.

root beer bottle with flowers



three bottles with flowers


group of bottle stakes

I cut some flowers from the yard, the ones that are still alive anyway, and put a rooting cylinder in the center of the bookvase, filled it with water and did a quick arrangement so you can see it with flowers in it. I think it is lovely, don’t you? The draping flowers are a green emerald amaranth with some ferns and zinnias. Very simple, yet elegant.

A photo of the book vase…