No style yet, just fun…

with black dots

It is like Christmas to open a kiln. The excitement, the anticipation, the disappointments. Some of what is inside can be a disappointment and some can really make you smile. This bowl is just that, something to make me smile. Do you think I like orange?

Since Christmas, I have probably had three glaze firings and I am still trying to learn my glazes and how to apply them properly. You can have a really nice pot and glaze it and it become either an ugly pot or a “so-so” pot. This batch, I seem to be getting the hang of things. I seem to have more that are keepers than crushers. I was reading this article by the current head of the ceramics program at Berea College, Tina Gebhart about her work and making pots in general and I have a few hours more to put in before I reach her idea of good work.

For learning-focused making, we have to go through a few tons of pots (a likely equivalent to the 10,000 practice hours of a skilled activity which are necessary to be a virtuoso) to get to the good ones, so accept making lots of bad pots. Every tenth one may be somewhat good, or even every fifth one. Eventually, nearly every pot coming out of our hands may be at least good, even great, or maybe even quite excellent. Don’t loose sight of this, ever, or you may never get there. You can read the entire article here.

So check out the pots below and feel free to critique them. I have already done it many times in my mind. More decoration here, less glaze there. Heavier application next time, don’t even use that glaze again… You get the idea.

I’m thinking that a driveway pottery sale may be in order in the summer. Not sure I should sign up for any real shows anytime soon.

Revealing the “bird”…

Every year, Herb has fun by pretending to have gotten me something really crazy for Christmas and telling me not to look or go into the garage. This year, for a while it was a bird that he had to go out and feed. Then he finally told me he had gotten me a potter’s wheel. A new ploy to throw me off by really telling the truth, but because that has been the previous years’ story, I didn’t believe him.

For 30 years, I have wanted a potter’s wheel and this year for Christmas, Herb was able to find a used one on Craig’s List to get me for Christmas. The photos here were taken in the pottery studio at Berea College in, probably 1978, where I was in the apprenticeship program for a couple of years. Ironically, I decided that I didn’t like doing production and became a TA for the remaining two years. I now do work that requires major productions of  printed items.

So I have had visions of pottery pieces dancing in my head for several days now. I was actually able to throw a pot on Christmas day and out of 5 balls of clay I kneaded up, only one didn’t make it off the wheel. It got two soft and wobbly and collapsed. Another made it off the wheel but was dislodged as I was trimming the bottom, so I now have some practicing to do. Looking to the web for inspiration, I first went to my college pal, Steven Sommerville’s site because he has such awesome work. And then I went to WordPress to try to find some blogs of potters that I could use as inspiration. I went to Etsy but I am not really impressed with the quality of the pots that I found there. Nothing I really want to try to emulate for now.

I want to develop my own style and I am not sure where that will take me yet. I think first I will just throw some shapes and see how it evolves. Vases, salt cellars, functional, non-functional, mugs, bowls, plates, planters.  There are just too many ideas out there. It felt good to get my hands back in the mud though. Herb said he remembers me with muddy handprints on the butt of my jeans and generally looking like a walking mudpie. I never seemed to wear an apron and my clothes were the place to wipe my dirty hands. You could tell by walking around on campus who worked in the pottery because we all had dirty clothes on. I think we were known as mud dobbers.

I’ll keep you posted but I’m definitely not taking any orders yet. And, I am trying to stay a little cleaner these days.

Remember to “Be Thankful”

As I look at the design blogs that inspire me, I have been noticing some simple natural Fall decorations. So I am making a “Be Thankful” garland to hang in the dining room as a reminder to all of us as we gather with family to pause to think of how lucky we are to have the things that we have. These days, it seems that it is hard to find enough to be thankful for with the economy as it is, but I think our focus should be on our relationships with our family, if we are healthy, and the peace that comes from sharing a delicious meal together and enjoy each other’s company, if only for a few hours. And not so much on things but good food and good company. (Well, and maybe a small fire in the new stove in the living room and an old dog to keep you company too.)

So, I have created the garland with some simple items and my printer. I printed out the letters that will form the words, “be Thankful” and put them into circles that I am going to cut out and string together to create the garland. To add interest, my letters are all in different fonts but all about the same size to fit within the circles. I also chose a fall color of brown and a beige. I know that I have yarn or a string to thread them on and will probably have to drill holes in the wood pieces and the acorns.

When Herb and I went for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, I gathered some acorns and sticks and brought those home. And at my workplace there are sweet gum trees that litter our parking lot with these natural spiney balls that will work great to string together with the acorns and I will gather some of the colorful leaves that are still available from the yard and string all this together to form my garland to hang on the rafter above the bar in the kitchen.

Things you will need if you want to make one:

  • A drill to put the holes in the acorns, acorn tops, pieces of wood and sweet gum balls.
  • some glue for the letters
  • string
  • a vice or vice grips to hold the acorns, etc while you drill them
  • some floral wire
  • a nail to push the string through

I had made two copies of my letters so that my garland can read from either side. I cut out all the letters and laid them out so that I had the letters in the correct order The “L” was on the back of the “B” etc. and cut the string to length and found the center of it. Then I used a glue stick to put the letters on the string. I glued the top and bottom , leaving the middle of the letter glue free so that it would slide on the string. That way I could position it if I needed to later.

Use the drill to drill the holes in your items.  I put a piece of wood under the nuts so that I didn’t make a hole in my table. Then you just string them onto the string and hang it from nails on the wall or in my case from the rafter between the kitchen and dining area of my house. I also went out and got some fall leaves that still had some color in them and put those on either end of my garland to hide the nails and to add some color. Then I strung the natural items on either end making it balanced with knots to spread out the items.

After all the items were strung, I then hung it up leaves that I wired with floral wire to cover the nails on the rafter and to add some color to the ends. ( sorry this one is out of focus some.)

And from the back of the garland on the kitchen side.

So, if you have time to take a walk this afternoon, pick up some “treasures” and turn them into a natural decoration for your house tomorrow before the rain comes and use it as a gentle reminder of the simple things that make us thankful to be here.