Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special QR Code for Blog Followers...

Once you get this... share it in the comments!

Use coupon code BLOG15 for a 15% discount in my Etsy shop this weekend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Show Time!!!

This year I'm only doing two shows: 

* November 19 & 20, 2011 ~~ City of Fairfax Holiday Show at Fairfax High School in Fairfax, VA. Booth #199 in the Gym.

* December 4 & 5, 2011 ~~ City of Falls Church 2011 Holiday Craft Show at the Falls Church Community Center, Falls Church, Virginia. Booth #50 upstairs.

Guess how many large trees are in the box.
Right now, I'm getting ready for the City of Fairfax show. I've got 2 bins packed and, to take a break, I decided to start putting ribbons on the tree ornaments. Here are all the ornaments I have to work through... and just to have some fun... I'll send one of these ornaments to the first 3 persons who come closest to guessing how many large trees are in the box.

See comment for answer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Losing Katie

October 25, 2011
October 7, 2011
Well, the studio is done. Chris scraped the old, peeling paint, cleaned off the dirt and gave it two coats of paint. Everything is ready now: the wind chimes and birdhouses have been rehung and the studio looks wonderful. But... can you see who's missing?

Katie is gone... My faithful companion passed away of heart failure due to old age in the morning of Sunday, October 23. She was 14 1/2 years old.

I used to be afraid of dogs as a child. Katie changed all that with her "surprisingly human" eyes that understood everything. She was a superb soccer dog, dribbling the ball between her front paws and heading it with her snout. She kept the backyard free of squirrels and raccoons. And she stood guard. She "guarded" me when I was in the studio, no matter the time of day or the weather... she was at her post. She kept Chris safe from the critters of the night when he went out to the hot tub. She sat by us in the kitchen, in the den, in the bedroom... no matter where we were she was right there next to us. During the past year, the stairs became a real challenge for her, but she still managed them in order to be in the same room with us.

She was doing her border collie job... we were her sheep and she was our faithful shepherd.

Katie spent Saturday lying on the living room rug. Somehow (we haven't figured out how), a bird flew into the house, flapped about the living room, and flew out when the door to the backyard was opened. After she died on Sunday, Chris noticed that one of the large azaleas in the backyard, the ones that bloom in the spring, had one huge flower on it.

Thank you Katie... you will always be in my heart.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Time to Paint

I had the studio built in 1997 and it has needed a new coat of paint for a while. So... my husband started getting it ready by scraping off the peeling paint... but that's as far as he got and the rains started again (will they every stop?). This is what we've got so far... They promised some sun for tomorrow so maybe we can pick up the project again then. In the meantime, this is what it looks like.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Etsy Front Page!

My yellow citrus juicer made it to the front page of Etsy! Very exciting!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Earthquake Aftermath

Phil Rogers pitcher
As everyone already knows, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia on August 23rd, 2011. My husband and I were at the kitchen table at the time... we stared at each other for a moment, as the rumble got louder, I yelled "earthquake" and ran outside with Chris following right behind. Oddly, our old dog, Katie, didn't bat an eye and I had to jump over her to get out of the kitchen.

We didn't have a lot of damage. Of the three shelves of pottery inventory only 3 things broke and, as I always say, "I can make another one!"

Not so with the pottery displayed in the dining room... these were pieces I've bought over the years that, to me, are irreplaceable: a Phil Rogers pitcher, a sculptural vessel made by Annette Hansen, and a bottle made by Fran Newquist.

We collected as many shards as we could and they have sat on the dining room table all this time... Chris got me several different types of glue/epoxy/cement to try to mend the pieces but I haven't been able to bring myself to do anything about them. Finally, Chris started to glue the Phil Rogers pot... It was not easy and the joins seems very "iffy."  I would just like to be able to put the pieces back together in order to keep them... I just can't bring myself to throw them away!

Sadly, I can't find any photos where these pieces are visible intact... Here they are...

Annette Hansen Sculptural Vessel
Fran Newquist bottle

Monday, September 12, 2011

Embracing the Opportunity

Last time I posted I was wondering what to do about all the orders for yarn bowls. I have since decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and accept, with gratitude, the opportunities that this presents for me.

So, I am thrilled to announce that my yarn bowls are now carried by The Red Thread in Warrenton, Virginia, and by The Memory Tree Yarn Shop in Monongohela, Pennsylvania. I am particularly grateful to Terry and all the work she has done on my behalf to get my bowls into The Memory Tree, and to Wendy for steering Karen and Barbara (from The Red Thread) my way.

As I started making more yarn bowls and communicating more often with knitters, I have come to better understand their needs and improve on my design.

I have also realized that the pieces I make that include some sort of carved design are a very big hit. It had already happened with the lamps and now the yarn bowls. It gave me idea to use the same type of carving for my berry bowls and they've also become a hit.

Yesterday I received I precious  "appreciation" photo from a customer who bought one of the Starry Nights Lamps for her newborn's nursery. This photo really touched me. It makes me very happy, and at the same time, humble to be a part of people's lives in this way.

So I'll keep carving lamps, yarn bowls, and berry bowls!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing...

I enjoy making yarn bowls, especially the carving. But I've had to work hard to come up with a design for the open part of the bowls (the section that is carved through the rim) so that it is wide enough for the yarn, but not too fragile so that it will break or collapse during the various steps necessary to making them. My first design was okay, but I decided it needed to be wider. Then I tried to make a large spiral, but there were way too many casualties! Then I tried several variations of a spiral that is, essentially, the number 6 and finally settled on one that seems to work well, both technically and aesthetically.

So, what is my problem now? The problem is that I've become too successful! I am now the queen of the yarn bowls... Of the last 24 items I've sold in my Etsy store, 14 were yarn bowls. With a few exceptions, they sell within a few days of listing, and I am having a very hard time keeping them in stock, particularly the green ones. I am now down to 4 unloved bowls (all blue, who would have thought?).

I like making them... they are selling well... so???  The thing is that all I make are yarn bowls! They now take all my studio time and I miss making other things. Most importantly, I miss my creative time in the studio.

I am at a loss about what to do... I thought that I would just ride the wave and that soon enough everyone would have a yarn bowl and things would quiet down. But that hasn't happened and it doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon. A very savvy potter friend suggested that what I need to do is raise my prices. I suppose that another alternative would be to simply tell all the people who write asking for "this same bowl in green (or blue, or yellow)" that I am no longer taking special orders and that the only bowls available are the ones in the store. What would you do?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Glaze Conundrum 2011

This year has been a tough one for me and my glazes... I don't know what is going on, but several of my trusty, dependable glazes have decided they will no longer cooperate. Take a look:

1. Pharsalia Green then...
Here's my Pharsalia Green glaze. I've had this glaze for over 12 years (15?) and I've always loved it. It's from Richard Zakin's Electric Kiln Ceramics (1994 edition, page  124). This is what it used to look like (photo 1)... Nice, right? This is what it looks like now (photo 2).

Something in one of the ingredients, you say? I checked... I made a new batch just in case I had made a mistake... nothing... I can't get back to my old Pharsalia Green no matter what I try!

2. Pharsalia Green now...
Maybe it's the firing, you say? Maybe... but I'm not doing anything different AND the "sister" glaze: Pharsalia Blue is doing just fine, thank you!

Another glaze that's breaking my heart is the old Randy's Red. I got that recipe so long ago that I can't even remember when or from whom. But it was a beautiful, reddish brown glaze that broke to blacks and golds. Now it's just a mucky old brown with nothing happening, no breaking, no gorgeous color, nothing... Here is Randy's Red before (photo 3) and after (photo 4).

Both of these glazes have Gerstley Borate in the recipe. The Pharsalia glaze has 10% and Randy's has 31%... They also both use soda feldspar... 30% for the green glaze and  20% for Randy's Red.

3.Randy's Red then...
And I've got a couple other "old" glazes that are also failing.

The one thing the failing glazes have in common is that the raw glaze on a pot feels dry, rough, thin rather than powdery and smooth.

A sad state of affairs...

 Fortunately, in the meantime I have been experimenting with glazes from the Mastering Cone 6 Glazes book and have got great results with slate blue, oatmeal, and spearmint... and now with the new Selsor yellow.... I think I'll just forget about the old glazes.

4. Randy's Red now..
Any thoughts on my conundrum will be appreciated it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kiln Opening!

I had a nice firing of a brand new (to me!) glaze yesterday. It's the luscious yellow that you see in the pictures. I am so happy with it! I got the recipe from John Britt during a glaze workshop he did for The Clay Connection (in Alexandria, Virginia) last October. During the workshop, we tested the recipe in oxidation as well as reduction firings to Cone 6, and it looks equally wonderful in both.

Selsor Base

Gerstley Borate            12.5%
Whitting                       10.4%
Nepheline Syenite        56.3%
Silica                            20.8% 

Bentonite                         2%

For the yellow, add 5% rutile. We also tested a green version of the glaze during the workshop, which was with 3.5% copper carb.

And, as you can see from the picture... once again, I dropped a kiln post and broke a rally nice yarn bowl... Oh well!

Oh! And about the baby birds:
My intention was to follow the baby birds as they grew an left the nest, but I missed about a week when my grandson had to have his appendix out. By the time I got back to the studio, the baby birds were long gone (the fledge in 14 days!). I was so disappointed!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yarn Bowls and Baby Birds

This is the one and only yarn bowl that I have left in my Etsy shop.

I have about 20 bone-dry yarn bowls in the studio waiting to be finished, but it's going to be a while before I can fire the kiln.

The reason? The baby birds, of course!

Even with the doors open the studio gets very hot when I fire (plus the fumes!).

Fortunately, Google tells me that by the time they're 10 days old baby wrens are ready to fly. Here's the latest photo of the brood taken yesterday.

I'm thinking that I should have the yarn bowls, bisqued, glazed, fired, photographed, and listed by mid-June at the latest.

So, please stand by for yarn bowls and fledgelings...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharing Studio Space: We've Got Babies!

Here are the baby wrens! It's not the best photo, but it's the best I could do with the parents fussing outside.

For the past couple of days, one of the parents has been in the nest constantly. Every so often I would hear some peeps and then everything would go quiet again. I think that might have been when the babies were coming out of their eggs.

When I went into the studio today, one of the parents was coming in with a bug in its beak and once it saw me got very upset and started doing the *alert* chirping. Then, the other parent, which was in the nest, came out and both of them were outside the studio just carrying on, very upset, for a while. I decided to go about my business but without making any sudden moves. Eventually, they got used to my being there and started to come in: one or the other parent would fly in about every 5 to 7 minutes with a tasty morsel in its beak! There was still quite a bit of chirping and carrying on by the parent that was outside, but they did get used to me.

The babies' chirping is *almost* outside of my hearing range. It is a very high pitch and I can barely hear it... it sounds like it's coming from very far away. I'm sure that will change as they get bigger.

I hope that we can manage to live together for the next few weeks! My studio is very small and when I'm at my wedging table, my head is only a couple of feet away from the nest. A big-headed monster that close to home can surely make any parent nervous!

I realized today that I am not going to be able to fire the kiln until the babies are fledged... Fortunately, I don't have any shows coming up right now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sharing Studio Space (cont.)...

I was throwing the coasters for berry bowls today when the brooding wren decided it needed to get out of the house for a while. She left and fussed and fussed at me when she got well outside the studio. I had come armed with my camera so I was able to get a picture of the inside of the nest. It is cup-shaped with a little "roof" or overhang. The eggs are a cream color with reddish brown spots. I count four eggs now but I think there's another one in the back (I had originally counted five eggs).

I have a glaze that reminds of the way the eggs are colored. It's the oatmeal glaze from the Mastering Cone 6 Glazes book. Here it is:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sharing Studio Space...

A couple of weeks ago I left my studio door open overnight. When I went back, a Carolina wren had started building a nest inside. I've learned that Carolina wrens, which mate for life, are notorious for building nests in unusual places. This bird built his nest in a bag of doilies (I use them to texture clay) that was hanging on the door. The female approved of the location and has been sitting on five eggs for a week now. I've kept the door propped open and try to make no sudden movements when I'm around the nest area. I've spooked the brooding bird twice already and it has fussed at me a few times, but so far we're getting along. I expect that there'll be babies next week... I hope they don't evict me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cleaning the Studio : The end and the beginning

There's a rhythm to the work of pottery that, for me, culminates with cleaning the studio. It's always an exciting time because it speaks of a new throwing cycle just around the corner.

The first part of the cycle is coming up with new ideas and watching them become reality (or not!) at the wheel. But making a form is not all there is to it. Forms need to be refined during trimming, and many items require additional alterations such as attaching feet or handles or carving designs. This is what I love most about pottery: feeling the wet mud between my hands turn the shapes in my head into real pots.

I need to make enough pots during this part of the cycle to fill up my kiln. Once I have enough pots and they are bone dry, I go over each one and lightly sand all the burs out before loading them into the kiln.

Loading the kiln is also one of my favorite tasks. I like to stand surrounded by pots of different sizes and shapes and try to fit them into the kiln in the most efficient way. At the stage of the first (bisque) firing this just means trying to get all the pots into the kiln. But when the second (glaze) firing comes around it becomes a more exacting dance. I know going in that I won't be able to fit all the pots because glazed pots cannot touch each other or any surface (if they do they will become fused!). In addition, I have to bear in mind where each glaze has the best results since the kiln does not have an even temperature all the way through. So some glazes do better in the hotter parts of the kiln, while others prefer the cooler parts. Finally, I also have to keep in mind that I want the hot air to be able to flow around the pots. So, filling the kiln (particularly the glaze kiln) is like doing a giant three-dimensional puzzle.

But I got ahead of myself! After the first firing I check every pot for small burs and crumbs that need to be evened out using a small sanding stone to do the job. Next, I dip each pot in a bucket of water to wash off all the clay dust. Once all the pots have thus been cleaned and washed, I wax the feet and bottoms of each one. I do this to make sure that no glaze will come in contact with the kiln shelves during firing. If this happens the pot will get stuck to the shelf.

And once all the pots have been cleaned, washed, and waxed, it's time to glaze. I have several buckets of glaze that have to be moved out from their storage space to the middle of the studio where I can stir them or sieve them again if needed. I glaze by dipping the pots into the buckets. Once all the glaze has been absorbed into the pots, I wipe any excess that may remain on the bottom of the pot and start to fill up the kiln.

I clean the studio while the glaze load is firing. By this point I have made quite a mess and I've got everything out of place (which is a huge issue in a small studio!). So I start by moving the glaze buckets back to their spaces, putting other things where they belong and wiping down all the surfaces as I go.

Here are some pictures of the results of the current firing cycle. I'm ready to start again!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Becoming Environmentally Friendly

To reduce our energy use, our family decided to take advantage of our electric utility's renewable energy program. We pay a little bit extra every month, but all our energy comes from renewable (solar and wind) sources. This makes me feel a lot better about running the kiln to over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit or running it overnight when I need to candle load of bisque! Check with your electric utility to see if they have a similar program.

Another way of saving energy is to drive a hybrid vehicle. I have 2005 Prius that gives me an average of about 50 miles to the gallon and I usually only need to fill the tank twice a month. Although the car might look small, it is actually very roomy. I have no trouble packing it with all my tables and boxes when I go to shows.

This year I invested in a pug mill to make it easier to reclaim and reuse all the clay from trimming pots and from the slop bucket. There is no wasted clay going into the landfill!

When it comes to paperwork, I use 100% recycled paper from my office supply store. And for shipping my pots, I get bubble wrap and peanuts from our local organic market, helping them recycle it and keeping it from the landfills.

At home, we also compost and have changed all the light bulbs to more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. We have also invested in a hybrid water heater, which uses significantly less energy.

I'm sure that I'll continue to find more ways to be more environmentally friendly both at home and in the studio. I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing to run an environmentally friendly studio.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Helping the Potters of Mashiko

Destroyed Hamada Platter
Destroyed Kiln in Mashiko

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan had a devastating effect on the potters of Japan. Information from Mashiko is that nearly all of the Nobori kilns have been destroyed. Damage to the Hamada Reference Museum has been very severe with priceless national treasures lost.

Donated Sushi Set
The Etsy Mud Team are working together to raise money to aid the potters of Mashiko. Members will donate 100% of the proceeds from sales of specific items to the relief fund set up by the internationally known Leach Pottery which has a long history with the village of Mashiko. (For more information: http://www.leachpottery.com/What-s-On/News-Feed.aspx). You can view and purchase the donated pieces here: http://www.etsy.com/people/theEtsyMudTeam/favorites?ref=pr_faveitems_more 
Donated bottle

Below are additional links for anyone interested in donating directly to  help rebuild the potteries.

Now is as good a time as ever to become acquainted with the work of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (http://craftemergency.org/) and think about your own emergency preparedness. The website has important information for artists, including the Studio Protector, a tool that provides information for preparing for and recovering from emergencies, including fires.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another Spring... Finally!

Redbellied woodpecker on the branch on the left.
As far as I'm concerned, winter was too dark, too cold, and too long! I thought I was handling it okay, but then I realized that I have been completely absent from my blog for two months.  I was busy enough since I had some special requests to fulfill: I made lots of Advent wreaths and yarn bowls in January and olive dishes in February and March. But now that the days are longer and the birds are starting to sing again, I feel like the winter fog is beginning to lift.

The old weeping cherry tree has flowered once again, but the effort seems to have taken its toll. It's a very old tree and despite our efforts, it's dying. I read somewhere that weeping cherries live 30 years and this was a mature tree when we moved into this house 22 years ago... yet it continues to flower. The redbellied woodpecker is back! It was very upset yesterday when it saw what the squirrels did to the two nest cavities it built in the cherry tree last year. But he's pecking away once again and calling loudly. Time to build another nest!

Katie is still here. My faithful Border Collie turned 14 this winter. She's having a lot of trouble with her hind legs: going up and down the stairs is an ordeal, but she still does it in order to be where we are. She's quite deaf now so we have taught each other sign language. One advantage of her deafness is the fact that she can't hear when I turn on the camera and I can now get pictures of her (she has always been camera shy). She's also taken to random fits of barking that the vet says is the doggie equivalent of senile dementia. I don't know about that... sometimes I get the feeling that she's trying to tell me something important.

 So, we are all still here: the cherry tree, Katie, and me. I think it's time to get the old creative juices going and do some "barking, pecking, and flowering" myself!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fitting Everything into a Small Studio

My studio is definitely a one-person space. It is a 10ftx12ft structure where I do everything, from wedging to trimming and from glazing to firing. When I bought the pugmill recently, I was worried about where I was going to put it. I am very happy to report that I rearranged a few things and managed to find a place for my new pugmill while, in the process, ending up with a better throwing set-up than the one I had! 

So, this is how things work in my tiny studio. Every available wall surface has shelves to hold everything, from pieces in various stages of drying or waiting to be glazed, to towels, to underglazes and molds. The kiln sits at the back of the studio with clearance from the walls as required, but I did put a metal shelf behind to hold kiln furniture. A space heater sits behind the kiln, keeping the studio nice and warm and I have a second back-up heater for very cold days (like recently!).

Also at the back of the studio but on the left side, are the glaze buckets and a table that holds the pugmill. The pugmill sits against the back wall and under a shelf when not in use. When I'm going to use it, I move it so it sits diagonally across the table (see photo from posting on Jan 8). 

On the left wall by the front and under the window, I have a 6 ft carpenter's table. I have a mini slab roller on the table with a sturdy piece of wood on top to serve as additional table space when the slab roller is not in use. Behind the slab roller is a belt grinder that only comes out when needed. I love my window because it lets in so much sunlight! It's also where the air conditioner window unit goes in the summer!

On the right side of the space I have the wheel and 2 tables sitting in front of the kiln. Originally I had the wheel and a low shelf next to it for my throwing tools. Now I also have the wedging table to the right of the wheel and another table to the left. Instead of a stool, I use a folding step ladder with a cushion, which can be folded up and moved out of the way.

Slab roller
I have a deck in front of the studio so that, on nice days I can throw open the doors and increase the size of my work space. Picnic tables on the deck allow me to set work down to dry and do my glazing there. We've run a hose from the house around the back of the building and connected it to an old sink by the side of the studio so I don't have to go into the house when I need water (except in winter when I do get warm water from the house).
Love my window!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's time to clear out the shelves!

Set of 6 dessert plates
I toyed with the idea of taking a hammer to some of those pieces that have been sitting on the shelf for too long. But many pieces are lingering through no fault of their own; they just need to find the right home. So I'm holding a Winter Clearance Sale in my shop right now! Everything's 25% off with the use of a coupon code at check out.

Just for my blog followers: Use coupon code BLOG30 for a 30% discount! Invite your friends to follow my blog and get a 30% discount on Glynt Pottery during the Winter Clearance Sale.

You can now purchase a gift certificate for Glynt Pottery! 
The link on the right will allow you to purchase a gift certificate of any denomination through your PayPal account (if you don't have one, simple steps are provided for you to sign up).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Year: Back at Work!

After the long hiatus of the holiday shows and get-togethers, I am finally back in the studio getting my hands dirty! I ended the year with many customers placing special orders so I'm busy making more Advent wreaths, Starry Nights lamps, French butter crocks, mugs and much more.

Lamps, wreaths, and bowls in various stages of drying
Last year was so good for me that I was able to buy a new piece of equipment for the studio. I got a second-hand Bluebird 440 pugmill to help reclaim clay and save my wrists from so much wedging. I am so happy with my new toy! Here it is:

Having so much fun with my new pugmill!

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is back to doing what they love!