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.

My pottery frog plate.

October 8, 2011

As many of you know, I do a lot (A LOT in capitals) of volunteer work for Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Seven years ago, we decided to do an annual fish fry as a way to fundraise for the issues surrounding the Shenandoah River. Four years ago now, we have been asking local artists to participate in this event by decorating an object that we then auction to raise funds for that purpose. Initially we were going around to local businesses to find items to auction and that idea became stale very quickly. I had the idea to obtain large fiberglass sculptural fish to have local artists decorate and when I began the research I soon realized that it was a huge expense just to purchase the fiberglass pieces. Horse Mania in Lexington, KY supports much of the arts with the proceeds from this kind of event. They are actually repeating the event again in 2011 from 2000.  So why not scale the idea back and find something less expensive. That first year we did terra cotta planters, with a River Visions in Terra Cotta theme and they were wonderful. The idea took off and we had artists wanting to know how they could participate. The next year we did floorcloths. And last year we did wooden cottage benches.  The items have been so successful that I overheard some grumbling from some of the attendees that the items were selling beyond their means. And really, each year it seems the prices have risen to certainly more than I would pay for some of the items. And while we don’t seem to raise the kind of funds that the LexArts folks do we still need to make the items reasonable for our local demographic.

The idea to offer a silent auction item was put into play and I came across a site for a gallery in Oregon that was doing a benefit for CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) and asking potters to submit a plate to be auctioned online. The submissions for the gallery in Oregon were wonderful and I contacted the Mary Lou Zeek, the gallery owner and found out the details and decided to give it a try to offer a less expensive item at this year’s fish fry. The minimum bid will be $25. Hopefully the prices won’t rise too high and folks will see that we are making an effort to make items available to everyone. Even those of us that the recession has hit.

My plate has frogs that are coming out of the pond of fish. The frogs have expressive faces and the fish in the center is a slip trailed image of a fish. Not necessarily a Shenandoah Fish. Water lilly  leaves form a circle around the outside edge and they are glazed in a celedon with a slip detail of the leaf showing through.

As this year’s  fish fry gets closer, there will be other potters submitting works and the collection of plates will come into view. We weren’t able to get 100 plates or potters on board but the dozen that we have will hopefully give us a starting point to getting a new item of our fundraiser off the ground.

Tickets will be going on sale soon and the event is October the 8th this year. Mark your calendars and plan to attend. The larger item that other artists are decorating this year are Adirondack chairs with a river theme. Those should be lots of fun to see too. I didn’t do one of the large items this year with my fall being full of family events but I can’t wait to see what the other artists come up with as their vision appears on the chairs.

The Frog Plate…