You can often find me here

You can often find me here

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.

Monday, February 25, 2019

One Thing Leads To Another

I woke up in the middle of the night last Friday/Saturday because I was thinking about lamps.  In particular that I needed to make some.  RIGHT NOW.  I've probably been thinking about lamps off and on for the past 10 months, but for some reason last week, I FINALLY NEEDED TO MAKE LAMPS.

Last weekend was devoted to lamp making.  I've never made lamps before, but I watched Allen make them.

I started with slabs and added some texture before cutting them and fitting the pieces inside the molds.  The textured side of the clay is on what will be the outside of the lamp. I worked to completely seal up the seams on the inside.  

The top and bottom started out as 2 different pieces.

They were scored and slipped and carefully joined. I worked hard to try to conceal the joint where the 2 pieces meet.  The other seams are part of the design and texture, so I left them visible.  

It was about a 3 or 4 day process to go from waking up in the middle of the night with the idea and getting two lamp forms completely put together.  The slow down was the drying time.  It's been raining a lot here recently. When it rains, the clay dries very slowly.

I will try to remember to take some after pictures when they are all finished.  I don't have a good plan for glazing yet.  I think I'm leaning toward blue, but I could be talked out of it if someone has another great idea.  What would you like to see sitting in your living room?  Once they are glazed and fired, I'll get lamp kits and shades.  For now the focus was on getting two forms that more or less match.

I hadn't done any serious hand building in a long time. I generally like working on the potter's wheel a lot more, but this was a lot of fun. The day after I got my lamps put together, I had a request to make a tall vase for flowers.  The requested height is around 12 inches.  To get something that is 12 inches tall finished, it needs to be 13 or 14 inches wet.  That's more than I can get from one ball of clay, so I either need to throw two (or more) pieces and join them or find a form and do some hand building.

First I tried throwing two pieces and joining them.  This is the second effort.  With the first try I learned what not to do. This was actually three pieces.  That is a 12 inch ruler for perspective. 

I also tried a hand built vase.
I wrapped a slab of clay around a large cardboard cylinder we have in the studio, added some texture, and then threw a top for it.  I attached a slab bottom and the top when it dried to leather hard. 
This ended up looking a lot more like an umbrella stand than a vase, but it could work if one had some BIG flowers to display.  The slab that I used to make the cylinder was 12 inches tall, so this one is also a good bit taller than the finished size that I need. Right now it is giant.  I have to keep reminding myself that it will be a good bit smaller when finished. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Treasures of the Earth

Treasures of the Earth is a pottery show and sale at the Cleveland County Arts Council.  It's a cool show.  There's an opening reception (generally the first Thursday in February) and then the show stays up for a month.  If you buy some pottery (this is strongly encouraged by all involved), you can pick it up at the end of the show in March.  (NOTE: Exceptions are made for people from out of town.  If you were to come from Maryland, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, California, West Virginia, or someplace other than right here in the City of Pleasant Living, I am fairly sure that the kind Arts Council folks will let you take your purchase with you.)

Set up and tear down a month a part?  Yes, please!  Pottery shows can be exhausting when the haul in, set up, tear down, and haul out all happen on the same day or even over a couple of days.

Treasures of the Earth 2019 starts next week and I have been working my tail off in the studio since right after Christmas trying to get ready.

This big casserole will be there.

Along with these bowls.

These mugs will be glazed like the casserole and bowls above.  That's the plan at least.  Sometimes plans change, but this is what they look like in my head right now.

I made some tall vases or utensil holders...

...and some taller lidded jars.

I have experimented with some different shapes.  Sort of squarish...

... and sort of ovalish.

I tried some bowls with altered rims.  These will be available at Bowling for Dollars.

See that cake plate? 
(More about the cake in a minute.  For now, focus on the plate.)
This is a hand made pottery cake plate that is the right size to fit in a Rubbermaid or Tupperware cake carrier.  This one is not for sale, but there will be 5 or 6 others that will be making their debut at the opening reception for this show at the Cleveland County Arts Council.

Oh yes.  The cake.
The cake pictured above is a Pecan Praline Buttermilk Pound Cake and it is DELICIOUS if I do say so myself.  I plan to make this cake to share at the opening reception for the show.  Well, a cake like this one.  I already ate that one. 

Opening Reception
Treasures of the Earth Pottery Show and Sale
Thursday, Feb 7, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
Cleveland County Arts Council
111 S Washington St
Shelby, NC 28150

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Let's Get Small!

In my best Steve Martin voice, "Let's get small!"  
Some spoon rests from the last glaze fire.

I knew last Saturday that I probably wouldn't make it back to the studio for a few days.  We were forecast to get somewhere between 4 and 8 inches of snow beginning late Saturday night and all day on Sunday.  In case you don't know, this is a big deal in my part of the world.  We don't usually get significant snowfall and certainly not in December.  

I made some small things that would not require me to do anything else to them before they dried.  
I hope these soap dishes will turn out ok.  Some of them may be too small when they are done to hold a bar of soap, but there's always other uses for little dishes.

I also threw some small vases.  It had been a while since I'd made anything this size.  I had fun playing with shapes.

We ended up with about 4 or 5 inches of the white stuff after all. It was enough snow that I was content to stay home and inside all day on Sunday.  I ventured outside and contemplated driving in to town to check on the studio on Monday (school was closed - woo hoo!)  I got the car stuck on the driveway and changed my mind though.  I managed to get out of the driveway and safely onto the nicely cleared road this morning and everything at the studio was just fine. 

While snowed in, I cooked breakfast and used my bacon cooker.
It works great.  The bacon doesn't sit in the drippings as it cooks and when you are finished, you pour off the grease and put the cooker in the dish washer!

Since it's been a long time (again) since I updated you on what was going on at the studio, so here are some things...

New paint and new sign on the building!  I put the middle picture in there for comparison.
If the weather ever is nice again, I'll get a good shot of the whole new look.

Here are some shots of the most recently finished pieces:
Cake pans.  I still have 2 of these available for sale.

Large leaf platter.  The green glaze did something kind of interesting there on the bottom where it overlapped.  The leaf is more subtle on this one.  I didn't stain it and block it out with wax resist. In person, one can clearly see the leaf through the green glaze.

A not so subtle leaf design in a plate. I love this combination of blue glaze and he red/brown stain on the leaf.

Believe it or not, it is time to start putting 2019 on the bottom of pots.  Everything that I'm making this week won't get glaze fired until the new year!