You can often find me here

You can often find me here

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Two Really Cool Stories

Many of you know that I am willing to take commissions.  I'm happy to make things specifically for someone.  In some ways, it takes some of the pressure off.  I don't have to think about what I'm going to make.  In other ways, a commission can add pressure if I am trying to do something I've not done before or if I am working with an uncomfortably short time line. Sometimes with a commission piece, I know immediately what I need to do and I can jump right on it.  Other times, I have to think on it for a while before I can get my head wrapped around what to do.

There were two commissions this summer of which I am especially proud. These stories are special to me.  I was honored to be asked to assist in a couple of very special occasions by sharing my pottery skills.  (I still don't think that I am especially talented, but I have worked hard over the past 12 years to develop my skills.)

Story #1
Please forgive me a short trip down memory lane.  I have to give you some background so you will understand why this story is special.  Luke Harkey has been the pastor of Shelby Presbyterian Church for 20 years.  The Harkey family arrived in Shelby in 1999 the fall that Luke's daughter Anna was a junior in high school.  Jeff and I taught Anna calculus and US History and she became one of my sister Carol's good friends.  Probably because of that friendship, my mom and Luke's wife Carolyn became friends.  Several years later, Jeff and I joined Shelby Presbyterian.  Luke baptized my nephew Callum. The Harkeys are special to me and my family.

Luke retired today.  He preached his last sermon at our 11 am service and there was a church picnic this afternoon in his honor.  Back in July the committee planning the retirement party asked me if I would make a piece that could be a gift from the church to Luke and Carolyn.  Holy moly!  You want me to do WHAT?  You're sure?  We talked for a few minutes about what they had in mind, and I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  The leaves used in this piece are all from the grounds of the church. 

Story #2
About the same time, a friend at the gym stopped me after class one day and asked if I could help him with a gift for another friend. There was a "significant 0 birthday" approaching and he wanted something really special to give her to commemorate the occasion.  This time, it took a while before I got my head wrapped around what to do.  He wanted a flower pot in a particular color.  We talked several times and in between I let my thoughts sort of roll around in my head.  I finally decided on which clay and glaze to use and how to decorate the piece with each of the special things that were important for the occasion - a rainbow, a name, butterflies.  The whole time I worked on it, I was worried that it would be too much.  I sent pictures of each step in the process and continued to ask questions.  

I was worried.  I had never used under glazes before, but that was the only way that I knew that I could get the bright colors in the rainbow and butterflies.  The finished piece turned out GREAT!  My friend said that it was exactly what he had pictured in his head the whole time.  PHEW!

I'm sharing these stories because they are special to me.  What an honor to be asked to help with gift giving for truly special occasions.  Thank you to the folks at Shelby Presbyterian and to Randy for trusting me with your projects. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sometimes Things Work Out

Here are a few pictures of the last bunch of "stuff" to come out of the kiln.

I made salt and pepper shakers!
Not sure if I got the holes in the top the right size or not, but I'm pleased about how these look.


Bacon cookers.
I would like these to be taller, so I'll work on that for the next ones.

Sometimes things do not work out very well.  One of these lamps warped in the firing.  It is not ok with me, so I've started over on this lamp order.

Drying some bowls after trimming. 

Sometimes you need canisters.

A set of three.

One all by itself.
Maybe it's a cookie jar or a nice place to "hide" the dog biscuits.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Hello Fall

It's still a week before Labor Day, so Fall isn't really here yet.  Today, August 26, is the first day of school for teachers and students in most of North Carolina, so it feels like summer is over to me.  My niece Fiona started kindergarten today and nephew Callum has started his sophomore year of high school.  Both of those things are somewhat hard to believe. Equally hard to believe is the fact that I am not at school today. 

So what's been happening in the pottery studio this summer?

I didn't get in a regular routine of either work in the studio or updating the blog.  I just couldn't make myself commit to regular hours and I couldn't make myself sit down at the computer to write.  Do I think things will improve in either of those areas in the near future?  Nope.  Not really.  I know that I should, but I just don't want to.  

On to the pots.  That's why you are really here, isn't it?  

After taking most of June off, I started back with some smaller things.  A few new egg separators were added to the shelves.

I made some little jars to go with some corks that I've had for a few years.  Those corks were supposed to be snouts for piggy banks, but that didn't work out.  I've been pouting about my snout-less pigs for about 5 or 6 years now and decided it was time to get over it and do something with the corks.

I tried making salt pigs.  If you need something for the counter next to the stove to keep the "pinch of salt" in, let me know.

After working on the small things, I jumped in on a couple of casserole dishes.

It had been a while since I made a covered casserole.  This one came out pretty nice I think.

A customer asked me to make a salt and pepper set.  This is the first attempt before they were fired.  Those are now finished and waiting to be unloaded today.

That same customer asked for a covered butter dish.  I found a YouTube video that included dimensions for the template as well as instruction on what to do.  I think that the bottom of this is too big.  
I made the bottom smaller and got this.  Looking at it now, I wonder if it is not too small on the bottom. Somewhere in between these 2 might be where I am happiest.

These 2 oval casseroles are made out of the dark brown clay that I sometimes use.  Once of them is HUGE and the other is a more reasonable size.  The big one is a lot bigger than I expected it to be, but maybe when it is done firing twice, it will end up being a good size.  Of course, of the two, I like the smaller one best....and then I broke it and had to throw it in the reclaim bucket. I still do dumb stuff sometimes. 

I fired a bisque fire last weekend and then spent all week glazing.  My first "chore" today when I get to the studio will be to unload the glaze fire.  I have a number of commissions in this load that I'm anxious to see.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Change Is Hard

Change, even when it is a change that you have looked forward to and dreamed about for years, is hard. 

I am retiring from teaching.
I said it.

I have felt reluctant to say that before now.  Part of me still believes that I am going to wake up and this will have been a dream.  That I still have 2 more years to teach and try to run the pottery studio at the same time. Two more years to feel this level of exhaustion all the time.  My last class is tomorrow afternoon.  Maybe it is safe to talk about it now?  

Shortly after 1:30 pm on Friday, May 31, 2019, I will no longer be a math teacher.  Actually, I'm not officially retired until July 1, but tomorrow will be my last day with students.  I am excited, but I'm scared too.  I know how to be a math teacher. I'm not sure that I know how to be whatever it is that is next for me.  But it is time to try.  I wonder how long it will take me to adjust how I answer the "What do you do for a living?" question.

Lots of things are going to change in my world.  Some things I know I will miss, and some things I know that I will not miss.  (NO MORE 8 AM CLASSES!!) I think what has me most unsettled right now is that I don't really know...well I just don't know how this non-teaching adult world works.  What will my daily schedule be?  How the heck do I decide what I do on which days if I don't have a class schedule to work around?

I think really that I need to just BE for a while.  I need to take naps because I am tired.  I need to start riding my bike again because I'll have time.  (Someone want to hook me up with an easy group ride?)  I need to work in my yard.  I need to make pottery when I'm energetic and excited about it and not when I'm tired after work but have to get started on these mugs. 

June for me this year will look exactly like June for the past several years.  A week grading AP Calculus exams in Kansas City followed by a week at the NC Outer Banks with my family.  When I get back, it will be almost July.  I'll get back into a routine of what my life looks like then.  

Meanwhile, here are a few things that have happened in the world of pottery since I last posted in March.  Really folks, April and May have been consumed with end of school, end of career stress.  I just couldn't focus on much more.  

At the first Uptown Shelby Art Walk of the year, we had music on our corner.  They were GREAT and we had significantly more traffic through the studio than is normal for an Art Walk.  The next Art Walk is in October.  Fingers crossed that we have a good turn out again.  

This pitcher was started on the Art Walk night.  My friend Claire stopped in with her 6 year old.  Lilly helped me make the mug.  I've promised to glaze it blue for her. This is currently waiting to be unloaded from the bisque fire that I ran earlier this week.  One of my "chores" tonight is to unload that so we can start glazing.  

I tried a few new things.  Here is a hand built bowl that I made for my parents.  There are two and they are choosing the one that they like the best.  I'll have the other one for sale soon.  It will probably go to Buffalo Creek Gallery.  

I participated in Greenbrook Design's first Friday on May 3.  It was a fun Tres de Mayo party.  Jeff and I had a really good time and had a chance to talk to several people that we don't normally see.  One of those people was a high school classmate of mine that I had not seen in more than 30 years.  We were not friends in high school, but I really enjoyed that conversation.  That person died unexpectedly earlier this week.  Friends, we are not promised tomorrow.  Do not put off planning that girls weekend or trip with your husband.  Do it.  Do it now.  

In July, I hope to be able to get back on a more regular pottery making schedule and a more regular blog posting schedule.  Thank you for being patient with me in the interim.    

Friday, March 29, 2019

How Was The Show?

How was your show?  That is kind of a loaded question.  How does one define a good show?  Is it in sales?  Is it in how exhausted you are when you finally get back home?

For the past two years, I have not really known how to respond to that question after the Catawba Valley Pottery Show. It was a good show in that it is generally very well organized and run. Jeff and I enjoy ourselves eating dinner with other potters on Friday night before the Preview Party and visiting with folks who attend.  I sell some pottery that I wouldn't if I didn't participate. 

So what's my deal then?  Why do I not feel like I can say this was a good show for me?  Both years, I've felt like it was an OK show, but not a great one.  The biggest thing is that it is expensive.  The booth fee is high (compared to others that I do), the charge to have electricity is high, and it requires a night in a hotel for us because of the late night Friday coupled with the relatively early start on Saturday morning.  I briefly considered not getting the hotel room this time, but good sense won out. That Friday afternoon post set up nap in the hotel was critical to my health this year.

When I can get the money thing out of my head, I can say that it was a good show.  We had a good time.  We got there early enough on Friday that set up should have been a relaxed, enjoyable thing. We finished setting up early enough to go get a bite to eat, find a Michael's to purchase that extra plate stand that I didn't bring, and we were checked into the hotel early enough for me to get a nap and for Jeff to watch Gardner-Webb scare the snot out of Virginia in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.  I slept pretty well Friday night, so I started Saturday rested.  Things seemed to go smoothly during the day, and we were packed up and driving home by an hour after the end of the show.

Jeff took some pictures...
If you provide them a vase to use, the volunteers will fill it with fresh flowers.  I NEVER have flowers, so this is very nice for me.

Setting up...

I had to wait to put stuff out on the shelves until the convention center people finished dropping the power for my booth.  That should have been done the day before.  I was annoyed.

The right side of the booth.

The back of the booth.

The left side of the booth. 
(I have no idea what happened on the left edge of this picture. Weird.)

Evidence that Jeff was actually there with me.

I also remind myself that somethings you do because they are good exposure. In my mind, this show counts in that category.  So did I have a good show?  Yes.  I think so.  I would still like for my sales to be higher, but considering everything, it was a good show.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It's a Big Week

The Catwaba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival is this weekend! This will be my second year participating in this show, and I am really excited.  I have worked very hard to get ready, so I'm pretty pooped at this point too.  I spent a lot of time over the weekend getting things packed up and ready, so I hope that I can just load up the truck on Thursday night and be ready to roll out early on Friday morning for set up. My hope is to try to rest up during the week as much as I can, so that I am red hot and raring to go for the weekend.   Set up is during the day on Friday and then there's a Preview Party Friday night before the actual festival all day on Saturday.  By the show end at 5 pm on Saturday, I will be exhausted.  Let's hope that I'm exhausted but with significantly fewer pots at that point.

I have been so focused on getting things ready and packed up to go that I haven't been as good about photographing the process as I would have liked, but I do have a few pictures that I can share of some of the new pieces that will be with me in Hickory on Friday and Saturday. 

I have been working with a new clay body and I'm pretty happy with how the first pieces have turned out.  This is a very dark brown clay.  Ryoko Cream glaze shows off the texture. 

I have also used a turquoise glaze on this clay that has turned out really nicely.
I am excited to have this new work to show off at the pottery festival.

Do you remember my lamps from a few weeks ago?  It was so much fun to make them and I'm really happy with how they turned out too. 

Glazed and in the kiln.

First look after firing.
(Aren't those bowls on the left shelf nice?  Credit to Vicki Halloran for those beauties)

Happy so far.

And here is the finished product!

I discovered last year that the lighting inside the Hickory Metro Convention Center is not the best.  I hoped to have a couple of finished lamps to help illuminate my booth.  We shall see how it all looks when I've got it all together.  I will have these two lamps that I plan to put on the low shelves plus a couple of lights that I will mount on the tall shelves.  I hope that will help make things will look nice.

If the lamps look familiar it is because they are very much like the ones that Allen used to make.  I figured that I need to start somewhere, so it made sense to start with what I knew would work.  After this success, I'm excited to make more.  I want to try some different shapes and even some that are wheel thrown instead of hand built.  It would be GREAT if these two would sell quickly. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Throwing an Oval Shaped Casserole

I made these oval casseroles a few weeks ago.  

Since wheel throwing involves making round forms (that is the hope at least), altering the forms to get oval or even square shapes take a few extra steps.  For these, I started with throwing the sides.  I opened the clay all the way to the bat leaving no clay on the bottom.

After allowing each piece to dry to leather hard, I cut it off the bat and squished in the sides to make an oval ring.

Scored and slipped the bottom edge.

 Then stuck it to a slab to make the bottom.

Trimmed off the excess.

(Not shown is all the work to make sure that the joint was really strong between the sides and bottom.  If not joined correctly, cracks can open up. That is never a good thing.)

Added some texture for interest.

Attached handles and done!
As you can see, these two pieces are different from the ones at the top of this post. (Check out the handles)  There are so many different things that can be done with the handles.  I can't decide what I like the best.

I will share pictures of the finished pieces when I've got them.  I am very excited about these and hope they turn out well.