Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snow is Cold, Rain is Wet...

... Chill my soul right to the marrow....

What better for a cold, wintry day than a pot of your famous chili or heartwarming stew! Serve it in style in this beautiful lidded casserole dish that holds 7 cups (about 56 ounces).

The casserole is about 6 1/2 inches tall to the top of the knob. It is 3 1/2 inches deep and almost 9 inches in diameter.

[Please note that handmade stoneware pieces such as this one should be placed in a COLD oven, not a preheated one.]

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Salt Pigs Anyone?

A salt pig is a closed ceramic pot with a large mouth to hold salt on the counter top, making it easy for the cook to measure salt for the dish being cooked or simply stick in her hand and take out a pinch

Why pig? In Scotland and Northern England the word "pig" refers to a pot, jar or other earthenware vessel. Hence, also "piggy bank."
Do you use a salt pig in your kitchen? Would you consider using one?

I've been making salt pigs for a while now and have two different designs. So, I'm wondering what you think about them. Which of the two designs do you think is best?


Monday, October 22, 2012

Best New Studio Tool


As I've mentioned before, my studio is very small. I recently got something that has really simplified my life even though, at first, I thought it would just add to the clutter. Here's the story:

Mom, who's turning 86 on Friday, has a habit of giving us things she no longer has any need for every time we visit. A few weeks ago, she gave me a cart she used for her oil painting. She has given up oil painting in favor of knitting Afghans for her great-grandchildren and making hook-latch rugs. 

It's a great cart!

I thought this cart was just going to be a nuisance in the studio. Instead, it has become my current favorite! I've put all my tools in it, which freed up a lot of counter space around my wheel (always a good thing!). 

The cart is small (16" by 25"), has 3 shelves, and is on casters. When I need a tool I can easily reach for the cart and roll it towards me no matter what I'm doing or where I am in the studio.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Inspiration Bowl

Lee Rexrode bowl
I picked up the 500 Bowls book for some inspiration the other day. I guess I hadn't noticed, or didn't remember, that the introduction was written by John Britt. He notes that while the bowl is one of the most basic forms, it is "simultaneously mysterious and transparent." 

In his seminal book Functional Pottery, Robin Hopper notes that the form of the bowl is an extension of the natural cupped hand. In "civilized society" we distance ourselves from our food and eating vessels by using utensils such as forks and spoons. But holding a clay bowl in the hands and eating directly from it makes a meal a more satisfying experience. It is then that, as John says, we can be surprised by "the magical interior hidden inside a calm exterior, or vice versa."
Jane Cullum bowl

Here are some of the bowls I have at home that have become my favorites. The first one is by Lee Rexrode. When I first got it I barely used it because it was "so beautiful" I was afraid something might happen to it. But now it's in constant use. I love the way it opens up and how the glaze leads me back down. And most of all, I love the tactile feel of the lumps of feldspar in the clay body.

The second bowl is by my friend and mentor, Jane Cullum. I love the way the color changes in this bowl and, most of all, how a small pull and the simple addition of little bits of clay on the side changed it's shape.
John Britt tea bowl

The third is a John Britt tea bowl. I love the movement of the lip and the amazing glaze. It really turns my morning tea into a wonderful awakening of the senses.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I'm baaaack!

What a busy Summer! I never found the time or the inspiration to blog, but I did get quite a bit accomplished. 

This Summer's derecho storm caused the loss of a few trees behind my studio which means that now there is a lot more sun in that area of the backyard. So I decided to do some landscaping back there. Of course, a have the proverbial "brown thumb" and there's only so much sun and mosquitoes I can take. That means that I'm doing it little by little. But I'm happy with the progress so far.

The first effort was to do the sides of the studio and create a sort of Zen installation with logs from the felled cedar tree and stones and pebbles that I dug up while planting, including some pumice rocks brought from Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano. The second effort was to start to lay down some gravel for a path and work on the area next to the neighbor's fence. I planted 5 azaleas there and, sadly, they're looking pretty bad. I can't decide whether to return them or give them some more time to adapt (although one looks totally dead). I also transplanted some day lilies (that originally came from my husband's grandmother's house), so I'm hoping that next Spring I'll have a lot of new growth.

At the end of the path I put some more of the cedar logs, which makes an unexpectedly comfortable place to sit quietly and enjoy the new space. Now I need to tackle the area behind the studio.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I've been thinking about the issue of "copycats" for a while because it is one that every so often comes up in the ceramics and pottery threads. Some people copyright their designs and then send out cease and desist letters. In addition to copyright notices, others include statements in the descriptions of their items that are similar to the "don't be fooled by imitators" messages we often see in ads. My own feeling is that it's hard to come up with anything new in a medium as old as pottery. So you stuck a carved frog on the side of your bowl. How many pieces of pre-Columbian pottery could we find with carved frogs on them? Lots and lots!

I am pretty happy with the carved designs on my yarn bowls and berry bowls. I haven't seen any quite like mine, but I have started to see more carvings on the sides of yarn bowls lately. Mine evolved from my round carved night lights, which evolved from the tall carved luminaries, which had their genesis in a pottery class taught by my friend and mentor, Jane Cullum, at Manassas Clay. Was it my idea to protect? I don't really think so. For one thing, it seems obvious that the holes in a berry bowl don't necessarily have to be round, right?

One of the things I love most about working in this medium is that potters tend to be so generous with their knowledge. If you ask a potter how they got that pretty green glaze, s(he) is not only likely to give you the recipe, but also tell what firing schedule works best and whether you should apply a thin or a thick coat! At any moment there are all kinds of potters giving workshops, in person or on line. These workshops are not vague lectures but detailed how-to classes complete with secrets of the trade.

And, why is that? I think we grow as we share our knowledge. I also think that imitation is a way of learning and that the person learning to make my item will evolve and infuse it with their own personality and experiences. Also, my work is not static, it will continue to change becoming something new as well. And that is the challenge, to continue to grow. I have found that my reaction to "copycats" is most negative the more "stuck" I am.

I was finally inspired to put these thoughts down because of a recent article by Jenny Hoople in Handmadeology, titled Don't Be Afraid of Copycats.  Jenny concludes that  "1) No two true artists will produce exactly the same work. 2) You’re always coming up with new designs and ideas...and 3) The more you give, the more you get!" And she's absolutely right!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wasting Time on Facebook

The other day someone posted on Facebook something to the effect that they would be able to get more accomplished if they could just manage to stay off the computer for 90 consecutive minutes. "Oh yeah," I thought, "that's so true!" But the fact is that every so often you can find real gems out there and that's what happened to me today. I was just going to check Facebook quickly and I ended up watching to a 35 minute lecture on creativity by John Cleese. I posted the link on my Glynt Pottery page but when I just went to copy the link to post it here there's a message that says that the video "John Cleese - A Lecture on Creativity" was deleted at 7:04:41 Tue Apr 10, 2012. That's a shame because it was quite interesting and funny to boot! So, I'll try to post here what I remember of it.

John Cleese points out that creative people have the ability to play and engage in less purposeful actions. Creativity does not arise when working under pressure. Cleese says that for creativity to flow, five things are needed: 1. Space; 2. Time; 3. Time; 4. Confidence; and 5. Humor.

Numbers 1 and 2 refer to creating set boundaries of space and time that become an undisturbed, secluded oasis to engage in creative endeavors. The space can be, of course, your studio, and you should set a specific period of time during which you will be in your "oasis." Number 3, time again, is not a typo. It refers to how to use the oasis (say, 3 hours of undisturbed time in the studio) that has been created. Once you are in your oasis, it becomes easy to start doing trivial things rather than deep creative work. Thus, it's important to sit with it and not go for the first thing that comes to mind. Number 4 is confidence. "Fear of making mistakes stops creativity." So, it's important to experiment and be playful, knowing that whatever the outcome, it's okay... nothing is wrong. And finally, Cleese says that humor is essential to spontaneity and playfulness. Laughter leads to relaxation, which leads to humor, which results in creativity.

Another important point made in the lecture refers to the importance of having other people to play with. We should not become isolated in our creative efforts, but rather have a group of kindred souls to bounce ideas off. However, these must be people who are positive and do not make you feel defensive.

I don't think that any of these ideas are especially novel, but there's something to hearing them expressed in a humorous, coherent and accessible way that serves as a reminder to go to the studio, sit at the wheel, and play!

So, this is what I played with today: taking the berry bowls up a notch into large fruit bowls. And I also made a couple mugs with lids and tea infusers.

April 11:

There's a new link for the video. It's on YouTube now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VShmtsLhkQg&feature=share . I hope they don't take this one down. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Check out Sewtype on Etsy!

It all started when I got a new phone last September and needed a case for it. Of course, the first thing I did was search on Etsy and I ended up at Christine Russell's shop, Sewtype. I got the perfect phone case in a fabric I picked out. It has a long strap and a small pocket just the right size for a credit card, driver's license and a couple of dollars. Now, when I pick up the grandkids after school I don't need to carry my bag, all I need is the small case strapped over my shoulder!

I was so pleased with the phone case that I decided I needed a quilted bag in the same fabric. But I wanted it to have pockets all around the inside. "No problem!" said Christine. She quickly understood what I was looking for and just as quickly I had my custom order bag in my hands. Now I am perfectly organized and no longer lose my keys, pens, glasses in the bottom of my bag. The final item I got, also in the same fabric, was a card case for my business cards.

Christine has been sewing since she was 4-years old, learning from her mother to make doll clothes. For most of her life, she made her own clothes as well as wedding dresses for 3 nieces. She started her business when her husband suffered a stroke and she needed to stay close to home to help him. Sewing and typing were her best skills but she didn't need any more clothes for herself, and typing jobs didn’t provide the calming diversion she was looking for. So Christine started experimenting with quilted bags and then moved on to diaper bags when a niece had a baby. This was followed by baby blankets. And the rest is history: Sewtype on Etsy was born!

Please visit her wonderful shop, and tell her Grace sent you!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Showing Up

 I've been in a bit of slump so far this year and gotten a very slow start. Steven Pressfield notes that "The more you love your art/ calling/ enterprise, the more important its accomplishment to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it." Maybe that's what's going on ... or maybe I just need to take a break for a while. But I feel thoroughly uninspired. I know that what I need to do is show up to work every day, even if only for a couple of hours. I need to keep doing my clay work every day.

So this is what I did this weekend: yarn bowls with matching mugs. I made a couple of them last year and although they did not sell together, I think that it's a good idea so I'm going to make more of them and start marketing them better.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Starting 2012... a little late

I am so late in wishing everyone a wonderful new year! But here it is anyway: Happy New Year! I seem to be finally recuperating from a nasty bug that caught me in early December and has kept me quite lackluster.

It's January 27th and I'm doing the first glaze firing of the year in my newly reconditioned 15-year old Skutt manual kiln. The Kiln Doctor (aka Mike Swauger) came by last week and changed the elements, rewired the dials, fixed the kiln sitter and cemented a crack on the lid. Now I'm all systems go for the next 100 firings or so.

And today was a perfectly wonderful day! The weather was Spring-like in Northern Virginia and I was able to glaze with the studio door open. But what made this day fantastic was the arrival of a very mysterious package by Royal Mail all the way from Wales. Here's what was in it:

A sweet little Phil Rogers jug with a wonderful note from Phil who had heard that I had lost the large pitcher of his that I bought circa 1994 in this Summer's earthquake (see my earlier post). So he sent me this beautiful jar as a small replacement.

I am over the moon! Not only because I once again own an intact Phil Rogers piece, but also because Phil's gesture confirms my view that potters are the most generous people around.

The new pot has taken a place of honor on the dining room hutch.