Sunday, December 19, 2010

$4.95 Etsy Shipping Sale

We still don't have our new modem, so I'm typing at light speed since my connection could drop at any moment. UPS hasn't been able to deliver because of "Emergency Conditions" which I think means the trucks couldn't get around at the beginning of the week, so they are so overloaded and behind schedule that they can't get to us residential customers.

Due to those same weather conditions, which by the way have not been all that bad, local sales have been dreadfully slow. So, I'm having a shipping sale until Tuesday December 21st. It's a win-win-win. I sell some pottery, you save on shipping, and my local Postmaster gets more business which he desperately wants!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All Systems Down

Ugh...last week we started noticing a lot of static on our phone line. Jay diagnosed the trouble back to our modem. We're still waiting for the new one to arrive.

In the meantime, Jay thought it would be an ideal time to clean up our computer. The speed has been ever-so-slowly decreasing over the past few months. After attempting to reboot upon finding two viruses and various other computer meanies, the old girl refused to boot up.

Jay was able to find another operating system, and so I have temporary and fleeting internet access until the weekend, when we'll have time to recover all of our necessary files and wipe the hard drive. What a pain in the ass.

On the positive side, I received my Generosity Chain box from Tracey (thanks Tracey! I'll thank you properly with photos next week!), and at last night's Clay Club meeting, I got a Michael Kline mug in the holiday swap.

Hopefully, I'll be back online next week. So until then, I'm really not ignoring you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Latest Cone 6 Firing and TRAC Studio Tour

Occasionally I can find myself feeling a bit smug when my carefully laid plans fall into place. I scheduled a cone 6 firing the week of Thanksgiving so that if anything went wrong (or I had too much work), I would have time to refire before the TRAC Studio Tour.

The kiln was packed tight and towards the end of the firing I found cone 7 flat on the bottom, but 6 barely budging on top. I was playing around with the damper when I noticed that my right burner was OUT! I couldn't get the pilot to stay lit, and after realizing that the remaining burner couldn't do the job, I just shut the whole thing down, grateful that I had left myself enough time to refire.

To my delight and surprise, when I opened the kiln the next day (and remember with cone 6 you can open sooner), the pots which I had feared underfired looked quite nice. In fact, my yellow glaze looked marvelous. I believe the kiln gods were sending me a message: you're overfiring!

Jump to this week, home from our annual Thanksgiving trek to the Outer Banks, and it was time to spruce up the gallery for the Studio Tour. I had all these new pots to visit with, shelves to move and, ahem, a bit more glaze clean up to do. Two sick children wiped my smug grin off of my face in a hurry, one kid at the start of the week, the other coming down with the same bug yesterday. Then my phone line is full of static and the internet keeps going out. I had several phone conversations yesterday outside at the phone box. Fortunately, the dryer vent empties right there and kept my feet warm.

All's well that ends well though. I managed most of my "to do" list. I had the good sense to recognize my own limitations though, put away the butter and flour, and called Jay to buy cookies on his way home. They're pretty tasty, too. I did make some Amber Ale Cheese spread.

If you find yourself in the WNC mountains this weekend, plan on visiting with some of the world-class artists who live and work up here. Or come to the artist reception Friday night 5-8 at the Spruce Pine TRAC Gallery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What the Heck Are These For?

A couple of days ago, I decided I needed to revisit an idea from a customer which required some slab work. I could have used the slab roller, but I need the slabs large and round, so I just used the giant rolling pin. I'm not sure why I was surprised to wake up with a sore shoulder. I've had tendonitis in both of my shoulders at various times in the past. Just another dumbass move.

I know it doesn't look like much yet.

So while I nurse my shoulder for another day, I'm mixing some test glazes. Before I can do that, I have to organize and label the test tiles from last fall so as not to retest something. I would have labelled them sooner, but I've been engrossed in a book about procrastination. If anyone has any cone 6 reduction recipes, please share. I'm also going to try Val Cushing's method of converting a cone 10 glaze to cone 6. Has anyone had any luck with this?

As you know, my studio came equipped with lots of extras, including glaze ingredients. I have Ilmenite, Granular Rutile and Iron Chromate. Does anyone have a recipe that uses any of these? Would you just sprinkle the granular rutile on the shoulder of a pot?

I also have a small blue trash can with little baggies of a white material. I know what you're thinking. I suppose the studio would be a grand hiding place, but who would leave something so valuable behind? Anyway, John Britt did a cone 10 melt test for me, but couldn't determine what it was. It looked like it melted, but then balled back up into little bits. I'm going to do a cone 6 melt test.
Meanwhile, the bisque is firing, and I'm set to load a cone 6 load Sunday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Probably Not the Brightest Thing I've Done

Deadlines suck! Just when you think you've got it all under control, you remember the piece someone wanted you to try making, or a cat jumps on a bowl and forces you to alter it, or you find yourself reaching for just one more ball of clay. The result is a fair amount of work that is not bone dry yet. Why can't I exercise the necessary self-control to keep to my schedule?

The TRAC Studio Tour is in two weeks. I actually have plenty of time to fire everything. However, we are going to the Outer Banks for Thanksgiving, so I'm going to lose some precious work days. And besides, I wanted to take some of the work from this yet-to-happen firing with me. You know the drill: work backwards from a reasonable unloading date and you have your last bisque date. In my case, unload Tuesday means last bisque Saturday.
But impatient me can't wait. There is so much work to glaze that I'll be dead on my feet if I wait until Sunday. So, I had to make the choice to fire 2 half-full loads, or one full. And although I am a half-full type of gal, I decided to load it all, turn on the lowest element and hopefully the wetter work will dry out. I'm usually very conservative about drying times, but the wet work isn't cut or altered, so I'm hoping I'll be okay.
I pretty proud of how full the kiln is, considering I still don't have shelves that really fit. In fact, the top two half-shelves are both broken. They come in handy in a pinch though.

Now I just have to decide when to actually start firing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Collection of Small Miseries

Several weeks ago musing about mud blogger Carole Epp posted about how she was self-publishing a book of her figurines to accompany an exhibit of the same work. She wanted blog readers to comment with their favorites, and from those comments she would choose two readers to receive a free copy of the book.
Jim Gottuso and I were chosen, and I just received my copy of the book today. The book is gorgeous and the work is exquisite and haunting. My favorite is "She wanted to see no more evil".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Local Politics

I do my best and worst thinking while I'm wedging clay. I had loads to wedge and weigh today, and I was nearly in a state of despair when "Chalkhills and Children" by XTC came on the iPod and saved me.

I voted yesterday because I always vote. After the fucked-up stolen election of 2000, I came to realize that one person can make a difference. Our country and perhaps our world would be a vastly different and arguably better place had President Gore been in office when the 9/11 attacks happened. I'll agree with many of you who have had it with attack ads, phone calls, and the sheer stupidity of our government. I still feel it's my right and duty to vote, so I do it.

We've lived up here in this mountain community for 2 1/2 years now. I've met plenty of locals and lots of folks who have relocated here. It's a gorgeous and inspiring place to live and work. That said, the local politics are strange indeed. Although I REALLY want to, I won't name names, but I've just got to share some stories from this year's election season.

As part of the debate team, my daughter had the priviledge of assiting a candidates' forum a few weeks ago. Some of her observations include:

One candidate who played solitaire on her phone during the forum.

One candidate who quoted the Bible.

One candidate who said he wanted to bring real jobs to our county, not pottery making or beading.

One candidate who refused to follow the forum rules with regards to how much time he could talk.

In addition, Monday night I met a woman who had not voted ever since she had been offered money by a candidate at the polls 40 years ago. For real. In fact, this seems to be a time-honored tradition up here. The alleged perpetrator handed out $20 bills "for your time, not for your vote" and won re-election yesterday.

Where is an election official when you need one?

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Ideas in the Studio

I'm sure you've been missing me and wondering how my PTO gig went and when I would be making more pottery, to which I answer: just fine and finally this week.

I stopped at the Burnsville TRAC gift shop this week to see if I needed to restock any work, and one of the shopkeepers asked me if I had anything specifically holiday related. I don't so I thought I'd go home and try to come up with something. I played around with some ornament ideas.
And then had the idea to stack some of these shapes to make some sort of a Christmas Tree.
Not really doing much for me.

They were much more fun to play around with this way.
So I attached slab bottoms to a couple, and I think I've got a new form to work with.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I am definitely suffering from studio withdrawal. I have been unable to carve out any studio time for the last two weeks. Only one more week of preparations for the PTO Fall Festival, and I'm headed down to finish up some work in progress and clean up the mess I left.

I'm in the middle of a batch of smaller baskets.

I have a ware board of them tightly covered waiting for handles.

The reclaim that I spread onto plaster is cracked and getting bone-dry around the edges.

And even wth so many boxes of Ellen Buff, I really wanted to work with a white body again for a bit. That box of Buncombe White isn't going to carry itself downstairs.

Ooh! You can see a glimpse of my new-to-me Subaru Outback in the background. I have my own car for the first time in nearly 10 months. I can't promise not to bitch about the Ford anymore (that's way too much fun), but not today.

In fact today is a celebration! My "baby" turns 10 today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Tupperware Party of an Art & Craft Show

Back when Allison was a baby, and I had to take out an ad in the local newpaper to find a playgroup, one of the Moms who answered the ad sold Tupperware. She convinced me to host a Tupperware Party. Considering I met her through a classified ad, I objected that I really didn't know anyone to invite. This was back in the days when I didn't know how to say "no", so the party proceeded despite my protestation. No one came. Not a single solitary person.

I've just got to say this, and I really don't care who I piss off. The Art & Craft Show at the Old English Inn this weekend was the most colossal waste of my time since that Tupperware Party. I had gone to this show for the past two years as a spectator, and it looked like a good show with nice pottery, jewelry and fiber arts. When the show organizer who also owns the building called me two weeks before the show and asked if I could do the show for no booth fee, only 15% of sales, I agreed.

The Old English Inn is really an interesting building. It's the oldest, largest log structure in the South, was part of the Underground Railroad and is rumored to be haunted. However, no matter how interesting the building is nor how talented the artists are, the public won't come to a show that is not advertised.

There were two other functions in Spruce Pine this weekend: the Heritage Festival and the Spruce Pine Potters Market. What traffic we did have was obviously piggy-backed from those events. Folks certainly couldn't have found their way to us by following the directional signs that looked like a third grader printed them on poster board.

I've never had a sale go so badly. I had 4 sales, and the check I wrote for my 15% was less than $10. On the positive side, the weather was divine, so I sat on the front porch with some of my fellow artists, and we solved world hunger.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Clay & Blogs and Other Happenings

I'm not sure having a car with a built-in GPS is a good thing. I picked the kids up early from school Friday, loaded them in the car and set off for what I thought would be a 4 hour car ride to the Moore County Arts Council. I must have picked the wrong route because the trip took 5 hours. I didn't arrive in time for the group picture, because I was busy talking to a nice Police Officer in Candor. No ticket, just a warning.

The kids were great. Allison took loads of photos which I don't have the time to go through until later and ate all the sandwiches that Ben tried and didn't like. I did manage to convince them that it was inappropriate to climb the lovely live oak outside. Attending this reception with me was their penance since the rest of the weekend was party-time for them. Otherwise, I'll bet they would have opted to stay home.

The reception was great. I wish I lived closer and could spend more time with all of the great work. I am humbled and honored to be included with such a diverse and talented group of potters. I met Superwoman Meredith, Mark, Linda, Tracey, Hollis, Samantha among others whose names escape me, but I will remember when I go through Allison's pictures and catch up on everyone's blogs.

We left Southern Pines and drove to our old stomping grounds outside of Charlotte to visit old friends. The rest of the weekend is a blur, but unfortunately, Saturday was too busy for me to get to the Atherton Mill to see the Carolina's Got Art! Exhibition. I pinky-promised to come back soon to see my friends so maybe I'll squeeze in a trip before the exhibit comes down.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Am I Really Cut Out For This?

I am the new PTO Chairperson for Ben's school. He's in 5th grade, so this is the last year I'll be able to volunteer in this capacity. I really don't mind volunteering at school. At our charter school in Monroe, I was the Library Volunteer Coordinator as well as Book Fair Chair. I have volunteered for the past two years shelving books for our part-time librarian. What can I say? I love books.

So back to this PTO gig. As happy as I am to be involved, I really hope that I am able to take it as seriously as I should. But, how did I get here? I mean, this is the same person who threw a Tupperware Party that no one came to. And when Allison was a baby, I resorted to taking out an ad in the local paper to find a playgroup. And the only Mom who answered the ad turned out to be a bit high strung. Jay thought she was psychotic. We moved.

I have come to the realization that there isn't much "O"rganization in the PTO. "O" stands for "Oh my goodness" the room just emptied when I asked for some help. "Oh, you schools are looking for another handout from local businesses". "Oh crap, where did I put that memo?"

A few individuals do most of the work. I am in charge of pulling off the year's big fundraiser in a few weeks, and I'm feeling a little pressure here. I already have prehypertension, and I'm not sure this is good for my health.

You may have noticed that I have a hard enough time organizing and motivating myself, much less trying to rally a parent base that may or may not have the time nor the inclination to get involved. It's a shame because I just heard some study that shows that a child's success in school has a direct correlation to the parents' involvement.

So my plan is to enlist a parent in each grade to put together a parent/grandparent contact list for a directory (if the Principal approves) and have said parent contact other parents and assign tasks. We have only one class per grade so this is not a lot of parents, so not a lot of phone calls.

I always tell my kids that many hands make light work. Do you think the parents will swallow that line? My kids don't.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Really Am a Glass-Half-Full Type of Gal

I'm not sure what the glass is half full of though. Perhaps it should be half full of prune juice to get things going around here. Or wine, but half a glass of wine is not nearly enough to excuse my lack of time-management skills. Any pictures accompanying this post should be of boxes: you know, the boxes that should have been shipped before now. Instead, here are the larger vases.

I had planned on hand-delivering my basket for the Carolina's Got Art! exhibit, but misread the delivery instructions until Saturday morning: no one available to accept work on Sunday. At least I didn't make the long drive to Charlotte to find this out. However, this did result in a quite expensive packing and shipping charge, and the box still didn't arrive on time.

Then, Michael Kline was going to deliver our pots for the Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story exhibit while he was in Seagrove this past weekend. Only he found himself in the middle of a firing cycle and cancelled the trip. No problem. I hadn't decided on which pieces to send. I still would have had to box everything up, and I don't have enough boxes or packing materials around the house.

So tomorrow, I head to the Post Office to procure some packing materials, no doubt paying a premium price for my failure to properly plan. Unless there is a shipping store around here. After needing $30 worth of packing peanuts and an $11 outer box (I had the inner box already), perhaps it's worth paying someone to do the whole thing. I don't ship often, and packing up those baskets makes me pretty nervous.
My poor planning was evident in the studio today as well. Not only had I run out of suitably soft clay, I drank a cup of caffeinated coffee which rendered me unable to throw anyway. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Carolina's Got Art!

I was notified this week that my blue basket was selected to be in the Carolina's Got Art! Exhibition sponsored by the Elder Gallery in Charlotte, NC. The show opens October 1, 2010 and will run through October 30, 2010. After that it will be travelling throughout North and South Carolina for the next year. Those locations have not yet been announced.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to make the opening reception on October 1 due to another engagement, notably the opening of Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story at the Moore County Arts Council. I'll be able to stop by and see the exhibit Saturday. Never has my social calendar been so full!
In other news, I invested in new signs for the studio. The old signs were fashioned using wood panels that I found lying around and the largest stencils that I could find. After nearly 2 years, it was time for an upgrade.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Going Under the Knife

When I decided to make some more functional work last week, I zeroed in on bowls and bottles. The bowls have proven a bit problematic. I've lost 4 to cracking so far, even though the dehumidifier is off and I've kept them covered.

The bottles are small, but a decent start. I like making little wine carafes. I tried cutting the tops of some at an angle and quickly decided that I hated them.

Rather than try to salvage them, I decided to just experiment, using some texture and paddling some, and yes, a little cutting. Most of my attempts fall short of anything worthwhile, however, some of the more daring cuts resulted in something exciting. So I threw another set of bottles/cylinders, this time with no bottom. I'm really digging some of these.

Then yesterday, I threw these 3-5 lb cylinders, which is a lot of clay for me. I'll see if I can pull the same idea off a little larger in scale.
You'll have to excuse my awkward segue here to another almost related topic. I ran across an old article entitled "Is Glaze Dead?", and although I haven't had time to reread it, just the title has me rethinking my surfaces. I've said it before. I LOVE glaze. And certain glazes really love my baskets, but will these new vases be engaging enough with glaze alone? How else can I treat the surfaces? Some of them have an interesting enough shape that almost begs for some sort of deliberate decoration, but I've never decorated my pots before.

I guess some trial and error experimenting is in order.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back in the Studio this Week

After a week or two of monkeying around with photos and trying to enter shows, this week I cried "Uncle!" and descended the stairs to the studio. Two bags of Henry Pope's brick hard Ellen Buff had been soaking for several weeks (or perhaps months) and were more than ready to be wedged, weighed and thrown.

In case you don't know the story, sometime last year Henry posted on the Clay Club blog that he had 800 lbs of cone 4-6 Ellen Buff to give away. This was shortly after I decided to start firing some cone 6 reduction, so I called and made arrangements to pick the clay up. As it turned out, he had nearly 1400 lbs, and all of it was solid as a rock. Blissfully ignorant that the Ford is a half-ton truck, I loaded all the clay and made my way up the mountain.

I prefer not to have to soak clay to a slurry only to have to dry it out on plaster bats, so I just slake the clay down by pouring a cup of water into the bag, resealing and kicking it over every few days until all the water is absorbed. It works pretty well, resulting in clay soft enough to slice and mix with fresh reclaim.

Anyway, I have grown a little weary of trying to explain what function my baskets serve. Currently they enrich my life with their beauty, and while you certainly could, I wouldn't fill them with salad. So I have decided to make some work that is undeniably functional: bowls and sake sets. Don't worry your pretty little heads, I will indeed be cutting them, at least a little bit.

The photos I've been working on are twofold. I am taking some classes through Appalachian Women Entrepreneurs about Etsy and increasing my online presence. One suggestion was to take Etsy photos with props. I tried, but to me they feel contrived, and I really prefer the more formal photos. Then I tried to set up an online portfolio on Call For Entry and found that I am unable to size my photos the way they require. I tried the two photo software programs I own plus Picnik. CaFE wants photos 1920 x 1920, which means they can have the balck bars top and bottom if your image is not that high. I can't seem to get those black bars on, so I have no portfolio there. I think I'm going to have to buy Photoshop Elements or something similar unless any of my faithful readers knows how to do this for free.
So I am closing with a coffee mug that my beloved Nana gave me from which I drank some caffeinated coffee today. I love this mug. For the 1986-1987 school year, it sat in my rented locker at Radford University, alongside my immersion heater and my box of Cream of Chicken Cup O' Soup.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Try As I Might

A few weeks ago I had a visit from a very nice couple who had picked up a couple of my donated bowls at an Empty Bowls event last fall. They loved the bowls so much that they asked me to make a few more. I explained that I would try, but throwing identical items was not my strong suit.
I made a dozen bowls and picked 6 that, at the very least, seemed related to the ones I had made last year. After pulling them out of the kiln this week, I was not particularly astonished to find that they were not that similar after all. They didn't get as much reduction, so the glaze is a little off, and most of them are too small.

I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cone 10 Before and After

The firing went well. I had a few pieces to refire that turned out great. I think I've got handle issues with this last batch of baskets. I had a fair amount of slumping. You can really see it in the one on the left. The handles must have been too thin, as well as being longer that I've tried in the past. The top of my cabinets is getting crowded with rejects.
I think I've broken my camera too. Mine looks like a 35mm SLR and the hood piece around the lens came off. I'll have to take a look at it this weekend.

I think Nelle's apple is glazed with a RedArt shino. Hope she's happy with it. It was kind of cool to fire someone else's work--glaze testing without doing any of the measuring and mixing.