Thursday, December 19, 2013

Doesn't everyone need a flying pig bowl?

I had a commission to create a flying pig yarn bowl a few weeks back.  It tickled my fancy and the resulting yarn bowl is pretty stinkin' cute.  And I managed to get him done in time for Christmas.  Whew.

Although he's intended as a yarn bowl, he's so adorable that even if you don't knit, you might desperately want him!  And why not?  He could definitely  hold more than yarn.  Or just sit there, and be awesome.

I'll definitely be making more of these.  At least one for myself!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cool Hanging Lanterns and the Feast of Lanterns

Last month I finally made it to the wonderful Feast of Lanterns in Indianapolis.  Better yet, I got to spend the entire day there with 3 wonderful potters in the Beech Grove Clay Works booth.  We had an amazing double booth under the big trees next to Brookside Creek in Spades Park.

John Todd, Mike DiNapoli, Greg Osburn and I filled our pottery stall to bursting with lovely pottered things. And to my great delight, they hefted and schlepped all of my stuff for me, since I was still in my post-ankle surgery cast.

Then we spent a delightful day visiting, relaxing in lawn chairs and selling our wares to delightful festival goers until very late that night.  And we got to see all of the lanterns get lit as darkness fell.

In the weeks before the Feast, I decided to try out some new techniques, creating hanging luminaries.  I created a few different kinds.  For both kinds, they' are closed forms.  Thrown on the wheel, I raise a cylinder, narrowing the top of the form until it closes.  After it dries to leather hard, I create the cutouts for the light to seep through.  And I discovered the joy of using a power drill to create the round cutouts.  Yay!

Last year, Josh from BGCW showed me how to create double walled forms on the wheel.  Instead of having the candle sit at the bottom of the form as in the ones shown above, there is actually a candle holder that floats in the middle of the form.  However, this requires a staging as I throw this form on the wheel. After I center the clay, I split the clay into two sections.  I leave a bigger donut of clay low, and on the outside edge of the wheel, without going all the way down to the wheel head between the 2 sections of clay.  I compress the floor between the 2 sections of clay.  Them I raise a smaller cylinder in the center (about the middle third of the clay).  I close the smaller middle form, then cover the outer donut of clay with a damp towel.  If I were patient, I would just let the center part of the form air dry until hard enough to carve, but I'm, rarely that patient.  I use a heat gun to dry it, then trim out the holes.  Then I uncover the outer donut of clay and (try to) create a bigger closed form over the one I just carved out.

The first photo below shows my first attempt at this new form.  I didn't quite split the clay equally enough and didn't have enough clay to close the outside form all the way.  Either way, I let the whole thing dry, and carve the holes on the outside of the form.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"We all go through this."

Last night as I was working open studio at the BGCW studio, I was internally grumbling that the piece I was working on was not working out as I wanted.  Another studio member walked by and commented on how great my pieces were turning out that night.  Mike and I also spent quite awhile talking with one of the fairly new members about how much work it takes to really improve when you start pottering.  

And I was reminded, yet again, of what Ira Glass had to say about being creative.

I find it so easy to give this advice and remind the new folks about this process, but often forget about it as I continue to work through that "gap" myself.  That I have to struggle through the disconnect between what I'm actually making and what I want to create.  And that it takes a lot of work to get even close to the perfect form that you can see in your head.

The last time I ran across this bit of text by Ira--and of course, "I heard it on NPR"--it really had a huge effect on me and my pottery practice.  It spurred to to make a conscious decision to put a lot my effort into my pottery, creating my little garage studio, and started this silly blog. And as I look back at the posts from last fall, I see that I was SO excited to bring home four mugs after a session at the studio.  I'm still frustrated when I flop something, but it's hard to get really worked up when I can see that I've filled all my bats with new pots at the end of a studio session.  And that I'm producing so much more and better work, with much less cursing and effort. And mostly, I'm pretty happy with what I create, despite the fact that I'm still reaching for more than what I can do now. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What the heck is a yarn bowl, anyway?

So, some people show off pictures of their kids, but lately I have been showing off pictures of my pottery. While I was proudly cooing with some dance friends over of photos of my shiny beer steins, one of them asked if I made yarn bowls that could be sold at the yarn store where she works.  At the time, I didn't, but yarn bowls were on my list of new projects to try.  And with the added impetus of a new place to sell them, I got to work.

I fell down the rabbit hole of pinterest for a while, doing some research on yarn bowls.  You see, I've knitted for a long time, but I've never used a yarn bowl.  Luckily for me, the interwebs has every possible and fun kind of yarn bowl to use as a study guide. Yarn bowls are a way to keep a ball of yarn from rolling away from you as you knit, to keep them off the floor, and to keep kitties from losing their minds and making a knotted mess of your yarn.  There are different styles of yarn bowls, but ideally they have a some sort of guide for the yarn to pull out of the bowl while the ball rolls around inside. I threw several test bowls and they mostly worked.  Some a little too small, but still functional.

The next batch included an awesome sheep yarn bowl! When I was up to a half dozen decent examples, I schlepped them down to the Starstruck Cat Studio to see if my friend Heather would like them at the shop. And woohoo! Some of them sold that weekend. Yay!

Then the clay gods were angry with me for a while. To my despair, I had a run of flopped bowls, bowls that cracked during trimming (invariably with the very last bit of carving), breaking them as I brought them to be fired, cracks during the bisque, legs popping off sheep bowls, and bad glaze incidents. It was demoralizing. Sigh.

But, the clay gods have finally smiled down on me again and I can show off some new beauties!

Friday, June 14, 2013

What? I'm a Hoosier Woman???

After more than 10 years trying to avoid the Hoosier label, I was forced to accept it when my cute little birdies made it into the Hoosier Women in Art Exhibition. My first showing in an exhibition, YAY!

If you happen to be around Indy before the end of June, you should stop by the Garfield Park Art Center and check out all the wonderful works of art by women who live in Indiana.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Potterizing at the Market!

Last year, I felt brave enough to try out the Beech Grove Claywork Studio stall at the Greenwood Farmer's Market. Mike DiNapoli, who owns Beech Grove Clay Works, shared the stall with me that day and showed me how it was all done.  This first market (for me) was during the middle of last summer's drought--hot, but still fun--and I sold a few pieces and felt pretty good about the fact that anyone would actually buy some of my stuff.

After a pretty productive fall and winter in the studio, I was confident enough to sign up for a the stall once a month for this year's market season.  And it has been fantabulously successful!  John Todd, yet another great BGCW studio member, and I shared the stall for the first market of the year on the last Saturday of April.  My dear sister Siobhan was in town visiting for the weekend, so we met John at the market and set up.  Since it was the first market of the season, as well as being a bit dismal and chilly, we didn't expect too many customers or sales.  But we were wrong.  It was great! I also discovered that folks were willing to buy some of my old, clunky, imperfect -but-loved pieces (priced to sell) as well as my more recent, lighter, slightly-more-perfect pots.  Yay.

Last Saturday, my awesomest friend in the world, Valerie was visiting the same weekend I was staffing the booth for the second time, and she brought some of her pottery down to fill out the rest of the booth.  This was her first time selling her pottery, and she did wonderfully well too!  It was a lovely late spring morning at the market, and many people stopped by and went home with some beautiful mugs, bowls, and birdies.

If you haven't been down to the Greenwood Farmer's Market, just south of Indianapolis, you should come visit some Saturday morning this season!  For our contradancing friends, Ardath also has a booth here, selling her gorgeous cut flower arrangements.  I'll be in the BGCW Pottery booth next on July 20th and August 31st.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Big Bowl Week!

Several months into my wheel throwing practice, I was frustrated by the lopsided-ness of pieces. I was aware that my initial centering of the clay wasn't perfect, which became really obvious, especially once I started throwing bigger pieces.  I scoured the internet looking for tips and suggestions on how to improve centering skills, and came across one video in particular that changed the way I centered my clay on the wheel. Tim See did a series of nice videos on wheel throwing basics.  Help! I can't center is the one that I found extremely useful.  It addressed several issues I was having as I centered my clay and helped me figure out how to change the position of my hands and how I was stabilizing my arms to actually center correctly.  Magical!

Fast forward another six months into my practice and I finally could successfully center and throw larger pieces that were no longer lopsided!  Woohoo!  This coincided very well with some big bowl demonstrations by Josh during class.  I started with a few 4-pound balls of clay and threw several nice big bowls.  Getting braver, I tried 5 lbs, then 6.  Success!  Between the Monday class and open studio on Wednesday, I managed to use up an old bag of  clay and completely use up a new 25 lb block of clay in 10 bowls.  And most of those bowls were BIG!  It was awesome.

And since I mentioned using videos to improve my throwing skills, here's my pottery playlist on YouTube.  A handy way to remember new techniques or ideas for new pieces.