25, 26, 27, 28

Finally, four more pitchers.  I was really pleased with this batch.
25- porcelain, thrown, handbuilt spout, carved.  I really didn't know what to do with this pitcher when it came time to glaze it but wound up choosing the bucket of "mystery glaze".  This is an ever-changing bucket of glaze solids left over from my day's glazing.  I wash my brushes in a bowl of water as I'm working and at the end of the session, there is a half-inch or so of glaze sludge at the bottom of the bowl.  I mix the water and glaze up and pour it into the 2 gallon bucket, let it settle, scoop out some of the clear water (for the next round of glazing), then mix the resulting glaze with my drill attachment and dip vases, pitchers, bowls into the resulting glaze.  This time last year it was a light celadon green, but this year it is a transparent glossy pale blue.  Because I am mostly working with white, clear, and aqua glazes right now they form the base, and odd bits of cobalt wash also wind up in the bucket.  It's one piece of my sustainability practice.  I only wish it were as easy to recycle my clay!

26- also porcelain, thrown, trimmed, and cut away for the spout.  Floral mishma decoration that turned out quite well here but I'm not sure I'll use it again.  I was working with this sketch-like floral design for wedding platters but they don't work as well as I'd like somehow.  Still, this is pretty.

27- front- a shamm, short, squared off stoneware with cascading circles in cobalt mishima.  The spout is handbuilt and added when the body was leather hard.  This is one of my favorite new patterns.

28- rear- stoneware pitcher, thrown in two pieces.  I went back to my love of antique china for this one and added a scalloped border at the top and bottom, painted with cobalt wash.  I used the edge of one of my platter templates to make the scallops and will repeat this for my work for the cookbook I'm working on.

And lastly, I'm just tickled with this cake plate.  The top is a slab of faux bois clay fitted into a flat (like, abnormally flat) glass IKEA plate.  The bottom is a thrown/flared cylinder.  I bisqued the pieces separately and then glaze-glued them together.  I was afraid that the plate would slump over the base and dithered about firing them separately and using epoxy afterward.  In the end, I ran out of space in the little kiln and decided to risk firing them together.  YAY! It worked!

This is our last week of "summer".  School begins next Monday and we have lots to pack in this week.  I'm looking forward to a regular routine and work days again, and being in this space a bit more regularly.

Have a lovely week, friends.

11, 12, 13

it occurred to me that I forgot to share the last batch of pitchers.
eleven- pencil stamped hexagons, stoneware, thrown and altered, glazed in yellow.

my yellow glaze had been behaving very badly and I was afraid to try it, so I thinned it a lot and did a test glaze on a cracked cup the kilnload prior to this one and it surprised me by being just fine.

twelve- thrown cylinder, handbuilt spout and base.  I used newspaper stencils and underglaze here

I really like this technique and how clean and crisp the stencils turned out.  These are the same birds from pitcher five.

13- I am really excited about this piece.  It is heavily influenced by contemporary Japanese surface design and I repeated the idea on some

The cobalt wash was way more than I intended - I wanted this to be as white as the plates, but I'll tinker with it and try again in another pitcher.  You'll see this again, a LOT, but the project that it's intended for is still top-secret.

Pitchers 14 and 15 have just been bisque fired, and 16 is awaiting more work.  It is now week 17 and I'm ready to make it today.  I'm excited to see how these pitchers have progressed and stretching both my potting and surface design skills.

ten and the written word

pitcher ten!  I wanted this pitcher to be simple and somewhat egg-like.  I threw a giant ovoid form (after having spent a lot of time last week making egg vases for spring),  threw a spout to cut down, and pulled a handle.  This pitcher will be glazed just like my speckled egg vases and then I'm calling that particular glaze combination quits.  I love it, but except for egg vases and egg cups, I'm ready to move away from it.  Why?  it is heinously messy and I have to separate these pieces from anything else in the glaze firing because the iron oxide doesn't completely adhere to the glaze and flies around, sticking to anything else close to it (or on the shelf above or below).  I just got a few of these speckled pieces back from a shop that was closing, so I'll list the remaining teacup and saucer sets, pitcher, and platter next week. 

Early this week, after I'd thrown about a dozen mugs, a friend contacted me about a special order for a friend.  She gave me a lengthy quote that inspired her idea and we played around with ideas.  I'd seen an enamelware cup that had a lengthy inscription, showed it to her, and we settled on a similar idea.  As someone who spent her entire academic career buried in words, reading, writing, editing, writing, and reading more, it seems appropriate to me that I find myself enamored with these words on the mug.  I've been working on my handwriting for years, tightening and loosening it up, ever-evolving, copying handwriting I like, exploring calligraphy (and developing my own style of fake calligraphy).  I like that this cup, which I coated with slip made from the iron-rich clay dug from the banks of the Mississippi river some years ago (yes, really, and it is rich and black like the darkest coffee), is tactile as well as visual.  I like that I can feel the rise and fall of my letters, as well as see them.  I'm not sure how much more of this that I'll do, but I sure do like this one cup.

eight, nine

eight is in the rear- I threw a tall cylinder and kept the spout from the previous week's pitcher.  I am particularly proud of the handle.  Very simple, stamped with my kiku mon stamp in cobalt.

nine is in the foreground.  I really like streamlined versions of Georgian, Regency, and Victorian silver hollowware, upon which this pitcher is loosely based.  I redid the handle multiple times.  I threw the body in one piece, waiting for the clay to set up a bit before I brought the neck back in.  The spout is applied- I think that I threw it and cut it down to fit, then trimmed the piece on the wheel.  I think this one will be a solid color, maybe celadon green.

that's all for now!
Have a good weekend


More hope.  to be quite honest, we have been going through a LOT over here.  For the past, oh, four years.  There have been moments of fun and sunshine and peace, but this time's been marked by a lot of loss and uncertainty- more than I'd wish on anyone, much less on my own family.  What I would give for some stability- but that's not my lot in life, apparently.  Faith and hope and love help to balance the chaos, which I am finding myself remarkably equipped to deal with in very small doses (she says sardonically).  Since late October, the normal stresses have grown and I'm less able to put up a happy front, somewhat less hopeful for the future, but clinging to it nonetheless.  Emily Dickinson's poem has become a mantra for me, repeated almost liturgically (and liturgy also helps; I'm a very high-church person- the ritual and familiar words are a balm)

So, back to Emily Dickinson's hope.  I have been talking with a dear friend who feels like she's in a spot much more dire than mine- different pressures, grief, instability.  We share them, but hers are even deeper.  I thought about her when I made this pitcher and inscribed the first stanza of Emily Dickinson's poem across its wide belly.  I think that this will go to her when it's fired- the first to leave me- because she needs it more than I do.

The details- 2 thrown pieces, strap handle.  My regular stoneware.  Assembled once leather-hard and cut down to make the flared lip I love so much.  I actually saved the back half of the top to use for this week's pitcher (which I have yet to make).  I inscribed the first stanza of the poem right where the pieces meet- hope is the thing with feathers that perches/
and around the foot: in the soul & sings the sweetest tune without the words & never stops at all.  There is a feather inside the lip/spout and they're all filled with cobalt inlay.  I think I will make more of these for sale, eventually.  I also made a bowl while I was doing this,  but my memory is fuzzy on how much of the poem I included.

I do hope to make my 8th week pitcher tomorrow, but I'm behind where I want to be and need to get the little kiln loaded and fired with some pieces that are overdue.  There may be a two-pitcher week next week.

Have a good weekend friends.  Thanks for reading.

five of fifty two

This was a very happy kiln opening. 
from the left:
1- underglaze transfer zinnias on stoneware.  I reglazed it, so I did, indeed, work on it in 2013
2- sprig molded fiddle heads on porcelain.
3-vintage hobnail glass inspired stoneware.  I immediately made a second version of this that I'm even happier with.
4- etched and inlay on pale blue underglaze over stoneware.
5- the watercolor style underglazes over stoneware, based on a friend's vintage hand-painted English Ironstone pitcher.  This one is my favorite.


I phoned last week's pitcher in.  I meant for it to be very simple, handle-less, modern.  Yeah. 
I was busy with my teacups this week, getting ready for my sale, and babying my arms. 
So they're not all stellar.  Oh well.  It broke as I was carving the spout down.  I think I may remake this one this week.  Or not.


it seems that this pitcher took twice as long as the rest have, not because of difficulty of design or surface design, but because I hurt my arms and had had several bad working days in a row and then just had difficult motivating myself to sit down and finish it.
The inspiration for this pitcher belongs to my friend Marion.  Marion lives in a wonderful old house filled with antiques.  Her husband is Irish, and many of their dishes are English and Irish.  This milk pitcher is an old hand-painted English one and I was entranced by the birds flying up and down its sides.  I borrowed it in early December, knowing it would inspire something, but not sure what.

I spent a day or two working on the birds- drawing and watercolor and imagining how I'd use them in my work.  I thew a stout cylinder and cut and shaped a slab to attach for a spout.  I've never made a squared spout of this sort before and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  The handle was also cut out of a thick chunk of clay rather than pulling, which is how I generally make my handles.  After I attached the handle and spout, I cut them both down to fit and put the pitcher away for several days.  I used mishima inlay to decorate the pitcher and then used the underglaze watercolors to add some color to the birds, the rim, and the handle.  I also used the watercolors on a piece that had already been bisqued, and I think I prefer painting on bisque more than on greenware, but we'll wait and see how it turns out.

Later this week I plan to bisque and glaze pitchers 2-4.  #5 is still too damp to fire this week, so it will go in February's batch of pitchers. 

Pitcher 4

Last week after I posted about pitcher 3, I was asked to show more process photos, but I'd already put this pitcher together.  Starting next week, there will be more photos of the throwing and assembly process.  I have the inspiration pitcher and some preliminary sketches for next week, as well.

This week's pitcher is my favorite so far.  I'm keeping it.  I love this pale blue gray undgerglaze and the clover motif is one of my favorites to use.  I will probably repeat this, but I'm not sure. 

I started with my Standard 563 stoneware and threw an 8" cylinder that I collared in 4/5 of the way up and flared out at the top.  I cut away the back half of the top to form the spout and added this cut-away portion to lengthen the spout.  After I added the strap handle, I coated it with underglaze and drew into the surface of the pitcher.  After I fire it, I'll add more color and glaze it in a satin clear.  The interior will be glossy white.

One of my favorite parts of this project is incorporating the number into the design of the pitcher.  It's been fun.

This week I have also bisqued my first kiln load of pottery, took a photography class, and continued working on my valentine's cups, which will roll out this week.  I'd planned to glaze today, but it is raining and humid and I always have glaze problems on wet days.  Waiting for a drier moment this weekend to do that.

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

pitcher 3

I know that I'm only 3 pitchers in, but I'm getting more and more excited about this project and stretching my skills this year.  I like to try new things, yes, but I think that my real emphasis in this "stretching" will be refining the skills I already possess and tackling some of the issues that have plagued me for years (ahem, glazing and proper cleanup).

On Sunday I opened up a new issue of a magazine my mom had ordered for me.  I love magazines- the colors, the shapes, the photography, the inspiration.  In an article about spring bulbs, I spotted this hobnail glass vase and grabbed my scissors and sketchbook.    I've always loved hobnail glass (and dotted swiss, for that matter- I was torn between linen and dotted swiss for my wedding dress) and have a very small collection of it.  I've played with this look in the past but haven't done anything with it for several years. 

I knew I'd need to make this pitcher in two pieces- the base and the neck (which was a cylinder with a flared out top) thrown separately and attached.  I was happy with them when I threw them, but knew I wanted the neck to be more narrow.  What I should have done was put the whole thing back on the wheel and collar the neck in more.  I didn't because I was a) impatient and put the handle on and b) I was a little afraid that I'd collapse the pitcher.  When I do this shape again, I will try to collar in the neck to make it more narrow- or I'll throw it more thickly so that I can trim it down.  Not sure which will work best.  Process is a huge component of this project.  Pitcher #4 may crack in firing and not be usable.  Pitcher #20 may cave in on itself when I'm trimming it.   Last night I was talking to a friend who is a baker but used to be a potter.  He said that really I should make a dozen pitchers, keep the one that works, and throw the rest in the reclaim bucket.  That would certainly refine my skills, but it would also eat a large chunk of my time.  There is a happy medium, I think. 

After I attached the two pieces, I cut away the top to form the spout, then took the cut-away bit to make the handle.  I am really really happy with the handle's curve and how it grows out of the top of the back of the pitcher.  Yesterday I rolled up little balls of clay and attached them (score marks and slip) to the pitcher.  Today I'll go back with a sponge and erase their seam so that they're more hobnail like and less polka-dotty.  This pitcher will probably be glazed in gloss white. 

All in all, I'm happy with this pitcher, but I will remake it at some point this year to make the neck more narrow.

Back to stretching skills- earlier this morning (after I slept through my yoga class) I sat down and reordered the glazes and underglazes I'm running out of.  I also added an underglaze watercolor set to my cart.  I am so inspired by friends who watercolor, and particularly by Julie Whitmore's work that I thought I'd try my hand at adding some of this loveliness to some of my pots.  I don't have any definite plans yet, but I'm excited to play with them.

I wonder- what are you doing to refine or stretch your skills and talents? 
Happy weekend friends.

Pitcher 2

I felt much more on the ball this week.  I got right up to the studio, cleared the mess out of it, organized, cleaned, and got back down to work.  Here's this week's pitcher:

On Monday I sketched out my idea.  Tuesday, I threw the body out of some reclaimed porcelain (I wasn't sure if it was stoneware or porcelain until I saw black swirls in the clay and found that the clay in my water bowl settled right to the bottom in a thick layer.  My stoneware tends to stay mucky).  I cut the spout out of a slab and pulled a handle, then left them out where the dried completely up.  It was too wet to work with on Weds, so I left the damp box I keep my pieces in uncovered and came back on Thursday.  Made a new spout and let it sit out to dry, made the handle and covered it up.

Some time in the distant past (2001 maybe?) I made a bisque mold with deep impressions of fiddleheads I gathered from the woods around our house in the country.  There were SO many ferns in those woods.  I rolled out a piece of clay, stuck the fiddleheads in, then let them dry.  Once I fired the clay, it made a nice mold for sprig decorations.  Wedgwood Jasperware is decorated with sprigs taken from similar molds.  I used to use this particular mold a lot, but haven't as much in recent years.  Yesterday, Thursday, I spent most of my studio time molding and applying the fiddleheads.  This morning I attached the handle and cleaned up most of my fingerprints, gouges, and excess clay.  Once the piece is leather hard I'll go over it again with a soft rib and sea sponge. 

I haven't decided how I'll glaze this.  I've used white and green before, and also celadon.  I'm also considering a transparent cobalt blue.  We'll see.

It's funny, but my favorite thing about this piece is the "2" under the handle. 

I also started working on some valentine's related pieces this week.  I'm planning a small home sale Friday, Feb 8, after work.  I'll also have some pieces online.  Those will come out at the end of this month.  I have a lot of work to do to make it happen, but I think it's doable.

Have a great weekend, friends.

pitcher 1

This week was pretty hectic and cold and I did my sales tax for the last quarter of 2012 and some prep for my federal taxes, checked in with some of my stores, and did not get up into the studio.  So the first pitcher of this year is the last pitcher of last year.  That's ok, right?

I worked really hard last year in finding a new clay body after my old favorite began consistently popping off every aqua or turquoise glaze and underglaze I used.  I finally settled on Standard's 536, a white smooth porcelain-like stoneware, and Standard 365, a bright white English Porcelain.  I really like both bodies, but the porcelain is my favorite because of its brightness.  Right now I'm using the stoneware more for throwing, but I would like to transition to using the porcelain exclusively.  That will take time and more skill than I currently have.  It is something to work towards.

This is one of my favorite pitcher shapes because it is modeled after one of my silver hollow-ware pitchers.  I love silver serving pieces and have a small collection of teapots, coffee pots, pitchers, and creamers.  I really love how the pouring lip rises up out of the body of the pitcher, so I learned how to duplicate that in my pottery by rolling a slab, cutting and shaping it, then attaching it to the thrown and trimmed body once they're leather hard.  The handle echoes the lift of the lip.

At some point last year I saw an article on Ceramic Arts Daily about underglaze transfer paper.  I had been playing around with mishima since the spring and wondered if this would be an easier, faster way to make multiples of the same image.  Well, yes and no.  This paper works a lot like carbon paper, but it is stickier.  It has to be applied to a bisqued piece, because any residual dampness in green clay pulls the underglaze layer off more than you might intend.  You're supposed to fire the image to "set" it, but I don't because I like how the clear glaze makes the image flow a bit.  So some of the image is very crisp, some of it is slightly smudgy, and some of it will simply flow down the side of the piece like a chalk drawing in the rain.  That is my favorite part of this process, when the image starts to slide down the side of the piece. 

These flowers are zinnias modeled after drawings of zinnias by Mississippi artist Walter Inglis Anderson, one of my favorite artists.  His work has really influenced me (beyond my zinnia homage) over the years: in subject matter, a very tiny bit in loosening up my drawing, in his keen observation of the natural world around him.  I gave my bridesmaids watercolored copies of his block prints, my son's nursery was inspired by his work, and I've even taken vacations to the city where he lived solely because of the museum there.  The fact that his family's pottery, Shearwater is there, too, didn't hurt.  His personal life was a mess, but oh, his eye.  And the way he drew his zinnias were a revelation to me.

So: Pitcher 1.  Next week I'll have drawings, process photos, and I hope a green (unfired) pitcher 2.
Have a lovely week, everyone.