group photo

I always like to get a photo of a particular body of work before it's split up. This is my newest batch of sea urchins- made from January to March of this year. My favorites are the really spiky ones, but there's another that had most of its spines fall off- I put them on when the piece was too dry, so they fell off willy-nilly during both the prep and first firing, then again during glazing. It's sortof in the middle- I'll put this up on flickr next week and make notes. Some of these are intended to be vases, some salt cellars or votive holders. I hope some of them leave me tomorrow!

new sea urchin crop*

new sea urchin crop
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This is half of the sea urchins I've made since Christmas. I'm firing today for the first time since January- there are maybe a dozen more sea urchins in the very full kiln.

I know I've written about sea urchins before, but they are some of my favorite things to make. I like them best when they're bisqued, bright white, matte, pristine. Their form shines and I don't get distracted by things like shine.

I made two types of urchins, additive urchins, decorated with little dots of slip- I really like the ones that I've left spiky, some are almost too sharp to touch. Those may be my favorites. Then there are the subtractive urchins, the ones that I've carved or pressed designs in. The one in the back right is one of my favorites- I love the smooth, clean surface interrupted by the incised lines.

Some of these are intended to become salt cellars or votive holders- those with the large open mouths. The more closed-in forms are sometimes used as vases, so they must be glazed so they'll be water tight, but I wish that I could leave all of them as is without tampering with their function.

* My favorite picture of sea urchins was taken by my husband. He cropped in a large photo and titled it "sea urchin crop," for what he thought was an obvious reason. I look at the same photo (in the post referenced above) and think of a harvest or large group. My garden thinking prevades all else in my mind.

sea urchins

When I was a little girl, my mother had a sea urchin in her bathroom. It was pink, plugged at the bottom, and filled with potpourri pellets. I loved how it felt when I ran my fingers over its nubby, almost sandpapery surface. I remember sitting on the edge of her tub, examining every detail of that sea urchin, wondering about the creature that it was. Ever since then, I've been attracted to them- I love their roundness, their varied colors, the tactile remnants of their spines. In 2003, I threw my first sea urchin. For a while, I made them almost obsessively, large and small, out of different colored and textured clays, all glazed white. Now they are all made out of a porcelain-like stoneware, still glazed white. Whenever I have a sale, there is usually one shelf with a dozen or so urchins in different sizes and textures.

Over on etsy I have one lonely sea urchin. I meant to post more, but when I dug into my sea urchin box I found that there were only two left. Because of the photo below, taken by dear Gary a year or two ago, I my muddled brain tells me that I still have several dozen sea urchins packed away. There is one in my bedroom, on top of the radiator shelf, holding a wonderful lavender and lemon peel candle made by my friend Elia (on the radiator so that it smells wonderful without having to bother to light and snuff), but the rest that I thought I had went home with customers, including my wonderful boss, at my holiday sale in December.

I usually begin my studio time with warm-up throwing. I wedge a half dozen golf-ball sized balls of clay and throw small pieces, like tiny bowls or bud vases, which are then usually dry enough to trim after I've finished my "big" throwing. It helps me with both my throwing and trimming skills, giving me an opportunity to experiment with fluting, slip trailing, texturing, and faceting. I'm sometimes skittish about experimenting on a bigger pristine piece. These warm-up pieces, once glazed, are stacked in a large basket or filled with flowers on a tray where my customers sift through them, finding their own personal treasures. The price point on these pieces is almost always low, most under $10, making them popular with younger and budget-minded festival shoppers (like me!). It always makes me happy to see a customer walking away with a smile on her face- these warm up pieces often do the trick.

This month my warm-up throwing has been all sea urchins. From golf to softball sized mounds of clay, I've been throwing an entirely new crop of sea urchins. Fluted, lobed, spiney, dotty, incised, impressed, big and petite sea urchins. This morning I trimmed one I'd made yesterday, then threw a few more. The urchins need more drying time and more care than my cache of tiny bowls and bud vases. I hope to have twenty by the end of the month, so you will be seeing urchins from me soon.