Tuesday, December 23, 2014

...and a Blackbir-rdd in a Pine Tree.

Actually, five of them, although I believe I was promised 12 of them, but in the wacky world of Christmas Carols, who's counting?

Wacky is right. Exactly what are turtledoves? Do we have these in the Frozen North? Turtles I get, and doves. But turtledoves? Things that fly, but re-e-a-l-l-y slowly??

French Hens, no problem. We're bilingual here, so maybe the hens are too. I'm good with that.

But calling birds? Don't they all call? I guess these days they all twitter; nobody phones anymore.

And what will I do with all these birds? I have enough trouble with fur from my cat and dog, don't want feathers as well. They'll all have to stay outside, so I hope they're tough. It's freezing rain tonight.

Never mind, let's open the rest of these parcels. Ah, a whole mess of people in strange costumes. Let's see, some drummers, some pipers, some lords, some ladies and some maids. Those lords will come in handy, assuming I can get them to stop that silly leaping. There's a whole pile of partial bags of clay under the table they can soak and wedge and then maybe I'll finally get around to throwing some planters with it. In fact, if they have any natural talent, maybe they can even do the throwing.

The pipers could be useful, too.

If they are anything like a certain Pied one, maybe they can pipe the squirrels, chipmunks and beavers into the next township. Or farther. I wouldn't want them to stop too soon as then the rodenticals might just turn right around and come back. And of course the pipers will have to either stay away or keep marching, because if they come back here, so will the chewy ones. Good, because I'm getting concerned about how I'm to feed and house all these people. Hopefully some of the ladies are good cooks, and some of the maids can earn their keep by dusting and the like. Plenty of dust around here.

Don't know where the swans are going to swim, unless the beavers do come back and keep the dam in good repair and the pond filled. The geese can join them. Maybe they can indulge in some of that True Love and we can have swan/geese hybrid chicks, egg-layers with elegeance. I'll need a lot of eggs to feed all those lords.

And five gold rings! What the heck do I do with five gold rings? Do I wear one per finger? Then there aren't enough of them, True Love. I have 10 fingers. Or do I wear them all on one hand? Now if one were a diamond, one a ruby, one a sapphire and so on, it could look pretty good, but all the same??? Maybe I can run them down the local pawnery and use the proceeds for more glaze ingredients.

Ah well. True Love never did run smooth.....
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More About Christmas At Pine Ridge

My other two guests at my Christmas At Pine Ridge sale are Martha Fraser and Renee McMeeken.

Martha will be bringing some of her paintings and a selection of her special hand made soaps. I'll let her tell you about her soaps:
 "I began making soap because my own skin needed special attention. I researched the subject of soap making, and became very interested in the properties and benefits of the
different vegetable oils and plant-derived essential oils and how they act in the soap making process. This led me 
to many years of experimenting with various oil combinations.
Currently I use pure essential oils for their subtle natural scent and their healthy benefits to the skin. Some of my soaps also include aloe vera distillate, making them even more soothing to your skin. All my soaps give a soft creamy lather and are gentle on your skin."
But the soap making is only one of Martha's talents! She will also be showing some of her paintings. I love her paintings, full of grace and mystery..... if only I had more wall space.....

Renee McMeeken will add a little bling to our Christmas sale! She makes amazing jewelry out of beads and other goodies. Here's a necklace, very striking in its simple colours:
Wouldn't that be the perfect finishing touch to that perfect Christmas outfit? 

And pottery? Well, there will be some..... ok, there will be lots! All of it at 50% off, and some as seconds at $1 each. There is quite a lot of my Red Fox design still available, which looks like this:
 We all hope you come to our sale! Bring a friend or two.... your favourite Mom..... your dog.... no, leave the dog at home.  But do come!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting Ready for My Christmas At Pine Ridge Sale

The Carp Farmers' Market Christmas Market was awesome! What a crowd! And lots of them liked pottery, so I came home very happy. Tired, but happy!

Now I'm getting my house and studio ready for my Christmas at Pine Ridge sale this weekend. Four friends, I am delighted to say, will be joining me with their work. They will be set up in the house, so I am busy getting it shipshape (always a challenge in my life) and doing a bit of Christmas decorating. This morning, to my surprise, I actually Found A Sock. Usually socks just go missing.... I'm convinced there is an alternate universe somewhere where socks appear instead of disappear. Dryers, I believe, are the connecting mechanism. We grumble because we do a laundry and come up one sock short, there they grumble because they do a laundry and find extra socks. It's the only thing that makes sense. Anyway, this sock was stuck under one of the slipcovers which I took off to wash, and, will wonders never cease, I actually had kept its mate. So I feel like I have a new pair of socks to wear!

But I wanted to tell you about my guests at the Sale this weekend.

Janice Johnston is a painter. She lives in Fitzroy Harbour (very local) and does a lot of mixed media work. Here is one of her recent paintings. If you think the tomatoes look like you could pick them up off the painting, you are somewhat right! They are three-dimensional. But they are attached.

This painting of Janice's reflects her love of good food and her background in food and nutritional sciences. She has done others with titles like "It was a good apple"; "Pear-shaped"; and  "What shall I do with all these tomatoes?". This year it spilled over with preparation of preserves: dill pickles made with McGregor's cucumbers from the Carp Market, green tomato relish made with plum tomatoes from her own garden, traditional orange marmalade and salted lemons too. 

She's planning to bring some of her preserves to the sale as well as her paintings. I can't wait to find out about salted lemons!

Brenda Beattie is also a painter, and she also lives nearby. She lives in Constance Bay. Here is what she says about some of the work she will be displaying:
  "I have enjoyed doing little paintings of birds  this year. I can do them when I have a small window of time, can draw them at one time and paint them later. I  was able to find some small frames for these little paintings. Some of them are 3" x 4" and others are a little bigger, up to 5" x 7". These are watercolors but I also have some small acrylic on canvas paintings that come with easels. Some of these are of ice huts and scenes on the Ottawa River. "

Very affordable and great for small gifts!

Tomorrow I'll tell you about my other two guests! 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

And Santas!

It wouldn't be Christmas at Pine Ridge without me making a quantity of little pottery Santas or Santa-like creatures. This year I've done some of these:

I had a few last year, and people liked them so I quickly ran out. Made lots this year! They are pretty small, but you can hang them on your tree or put them on a shelf which needs a little extra Christmas cheer.

They'll be on my table at the HOMEmade For The Holidays sale in Carleton Place next Saturday. November 29, from 10 to 3pm, Carleton Place Arena. No idea where that is.... in Carleton Place somewhere. I expect I'll find it!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Autumn Leaves

One of the things I've been busy with in the Studio has been pottery decorated with autumn leaves. Every fall I get an attack of leaves - they are so gorgeous outside that I have to go in and paint them on pots.  I use a stencil for the outlines of some of the leaves, but all the small details and the other smaller leaves are done freehand with a brush. Here are some serving platters, arranged (not intentionally) to look a bit like an old-fashioned hopscotch game:

"Autumn Leaves' platters

The hardest thing is to arrange the leaves randomly. I want a 'fallen on the ground' sort of look, but it is fatally easy to start to arrange the design elements logically. I have to watch myself!

These platters vary in size from about 8" to about 15". You could use them for any number of things: bread, cake, cookies.... fresh veggies.... a roast surrounded by potatoes and carrots.... a broiled salmon.... oooh, getting hungry.

Speaking of which, I made a couple of large plates with small bowls for veggies and dips. I left the bowl loose, which I think is more flexible and makes it easier to store and to wash the platter, but a nickel says customers will ask for plates with the bowl attached. I'll make a few like that next week, and we'll see which ones sell first.

"Autumn Leaves" Vegetables and Dip platter

Christmas Stars

I also had some fun painting some stars. They make a nifty garland or tree decoration, or just look fun lying on a table between the food dishes.

My first plan had been to give them touches of gold, but I like the white better.

Rustic, that's what they are. Rustic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hard At Work

Yes, really. I haven't been posting..... because I've been busy working! Never enough time in the days, or energy in the potter!

One of the things I've been working on, in between other things, is some new bonsai pots. I've just learned that, traditionally, evergreen tree bonsais are planted in unglazed pots. Unfortunately, I don't have to many clays available in my firing range (cone 6, oxidation) that are really attractive without glaze. These are OK:

Next week I'm going to get a couple of boxes of black clay and see how that goes. One thing I love about making pots - always something new to try. Well, most days I love it. Other days, I wish I could just do the things I know how to do.....

Over the next few days, I'll post some pictures of the other things I've been working on.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Knitting Bowls

Speaking of knitting, which we weren't, I've made some yarn bowls. Tomorrow is Alpaca Day at the Carp Farmers' Market and I thought some yarn bowls would be appropriate. Since I can't draw an alpaca to save my life, I finished them in plain colours although I did do a few with my cartoon sheep design.

This one is a left-handed yarn bowl, for the left-handed knitter. (All the rest are right-handers.) If the bowl is sitting on the floor beside the knitter, the yarn is pulled upwards and to the side, so the slot or loop has to be on the correct side. Other than that, I wasn't too sure of the size, so I made some Pair-of-Socks size, some in Hat-and-scarf size and some in Cozy-Sweater size.

Since I'm currently knitting myself a narrow scarf, I think I'll just go and test one of them!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of Honey Pots and Bees

I have just finished painting 283 bees.

No, I didn't catch 283 fuzzy buzzy things and daub them with CIL Interior Latex in Lagoon Blue. Although the bumbles might look nice with a little touch of blue on their tummies....

It's Honey Day at the Carp Farmers' Market this Saturday and I got a little carried away making things decorated with bees to jazz up my booth. I made a few honey pots (not many, I didn't have much time), but then I went on and made some hangtags:

 And some bookmarks:

Here are a few of the honey pots, before they got dipped in clear glaze. I have them in the kiln right now, hopefully to be ready in time for Saturday. There are also some square coasters and some round trivets. I throw my trivets, by the way. When I tried to make them from slabs they kept coming out slightly oval, due to the clay being stretched by the slab rolling, so now I just throw them. Easiest thing there is to throw!

And then I went on to paint a bear sitting watching a bee.... then strolling over to see the source of the bees.... then leaping off the page with a swarm of angry buzzers after him. But you'll either have to imagine that, or come to the Market on Saturday!

Meanwhile, hum along with me: 'Oh, the honey bees are buzzing....'

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's the Berries, Dahling....

Berry bowls, that is. I'm kind of late this year, but I will have berry bowls for my booth at the Carp Market this weekend.

Always hard to know what size to make them. This is true of a lot of pottery items - which is why I joke that I make things in two sizes, too big and too small. Mugs, for example. No matter what size they are, someone will come by, pick up a mug, heft it to check the size, and ask me if I don't make one a little bit bigger.... or a little bit smaller. Sometimes I think it is just a variation on the old 'I am not buying this but it is your fault' game, but usually I remember that every person is different, every cook serves food for a different family and variety is the spice of life, yada yada.

Berries bowls, however, are kind of tricky. I know, myself, I like a larger bowl for serving strawberries than for serving blueberries. Mind you, the last time I served raspberries they came in one of those small paper fiber boxes, and I just handed my husband the box. He didn't comment, just ate the raspberries. Good husband.

The bowls I've been making take 2 lbs of clay (900 grams if you're metric) for the top and 1.25 lbs (600 grams) for the base. I trim the bases of the bowls flat, then attach a thin coil and throw the foot. The tricky bit is making sure the bowls are soft enough to trim, but stiff enough to allow me to centre the coil on to it. Then I let them stiffen upside down for a bit before turning them right side up and cutting the holes.

In case you're wondering, it's a real peeve-off to find you've cut the holes off-centre. I know this for a fact.

Here is a shot of one of the bowls with a jug left over from last year:

Berry bowls are great gifts: they don't have to match the kitchen! And nobody already has one!

Hmmmm, think I'll have strawberries for breakfast...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Raven, the Trouble Maker

 I see I haven't posted for a while.... well, blame Raven.

I started doing some designs with a large black Raven on them a couple of years ago. It was Hallowe'en that led to that, really. My booth at the Market was looking pretty skinny (it was the last week of the season) and I wanted something black and white so I painted some large bowls with Ravens on them. I liked them, and painting free-hand was fun. Painting large black thugs was therapeutic!

What I hadn't expected was that people would like them.

So I did some more, and then some more and then some mugs and one thing led to another until this spring I foolishly applied to be included in my local Arts Society's group show at the Foyer Gallery. This was totally uncharacteristic for me. I dislike competitions and know I never do good work when I am under pressure, so why I did this I don't know. Probably I didn't expect to get in so it didn't matter.

But I did. So I figured, well, OK, lots of time, I don't need these pieces until July 14th. Then I found out the theme for the show was to be 'Summertime and the Living is Easy', which didn't exactly help. I couldn't really paint Ravens hoisting cans of beer or b-b-q-ing or sitting by the pool, so what was I going to do?  I had the awful thought that I'd have to make Raven look happy. A happy Raven would definitely not be up to anything good.

So then I was told to submit pictures of the finished work by June 25th. Right in the middle of a Serious Project (Serious Projects are the kind that make money) and during the busiest time in the garden and while various Home Systems were falling apart, I had to stop and work on Raven instead. This is another way Raven causes trouble.

Making the pieces was no big deal. I decided to make some shallow bowls like before, some small plates and some mugs. I only needed 4 pieces for the Gallery so I figured the rest would be for sale. Then I started to paint..... and Raven just did not co-operate. Some looked like kind cheerful souls, quite the wrong 'look'. Others were limp.... or plain boring.... Raven causing trouble again.

Of course I ran out of black and my favourite large brush disintegrated and I couldn't figure out how to show mist in the distance. Just more Raven trouble.

But I got them done, and photographed. Here is one of the designs, which I'm calling Woods Edge Summer.

Whew, met the deadline, now I can relax.

Until Raven's next trick.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Birds That Sing In the Spring, Tra La....

Actually, do Blackbirds sing? The ones I think of as blackbirds are really Red-winged Blackbirds, and they sound more like rusty hinges than Pavarotti. Probably there are other kinds called Blackbirds, and maybe some of them have sweet songs.

The ones on my pots don't really sing so much as they chirp and cheep and act cheeky.

Here's a picture of some in progress. I've been asked a few times how I make them, and you can see, it is quite simple. Just make a shape, mug or bowl or some such, then cut out a Blackbird from a flat slab of clay, and stick it on. Done. Well, except for then painting the bird..... adding the details.... firing the piece.... dipping it in clear glaze and firing again. Any potter reading this will agree, easy!

Painting the birds and their details
It's fun putting the birds on! And then when I come to painting the details, I just let my imagination go and things happen.

The black line which meanders around representing the birds' paths as they hop around can go anywhere, and the little colour motifs which represent the things they find as they go can be anything - leaves, sprouts, pebbles, clouds.... anything.

Here are some finished bowls:

With luck, there should be a whole load of them ready for the Market on Saturday!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thinking Asparagus, Sort Of

Will somebody please restrain me? Every time I sit down at the wheel to throw some sauce jugs (for the Hollandaise to go with the fresh asparagus available now) I find myself making another Fairy House base. Arrrggghhhh. I have enough Fairy Houses!

Now I need small jugs in cute shapes to go with the asparagus dishes I'll have at the Carp Farmers' Market opening on May 10th. Here are a few:

See the little jug? Perfect for Hollandaise sauce, right? Just in case you don't have one, here is my quick and easy (and foolproof) recipe for that:

Combine in your blender: 4 egg yolks, 2 tbsp. lemon juice and a pinch each of salt, cayenne and white pepper. In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup of butter until it almost bubbles. Now, with your blender running at a low speed, very slowly pour the butter into the mixture. It will emulsify almost immediately, so be ready to turn the blender off quick. Pour into a nice Pine Ridge Studio jug, and serve hot.

Easy, right? And delicious! Great on eggs, over asparagus, even on toast....

Another great thing to do with asparagus is to roast it. Really. Just break off the ends, wash, etc. Lay the spears in a single layer in a glass or pottery dish, sprinkle with butter, parmesan cheese, and Panko crumbs. Roast in a medium to hot oven for about 15-20 minutes. You may need to watch the time as thick asparagus spears take longer, and you may want to turn them over half-way through. Whatever you do, have that sauce ready!

Now I'd better get back to the wheel and throw some more Fairy Houses.... no, I mean, sauce jugs.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Clay + Felt

Doesn't that sound intriguing? I was certainly intrigued when I heard that Catherine Gutsche, a local artist, who was coming to my Clay Day, was going to make something combining clay and felt. I just couldn't see how the two could come together! (Except as a muddy mess..... but I was sure that wasn't what she had in mind!)

I'll let Catherine tell about it in her own words:

"Why do children get all the Play Dates? It's just not fair. That is the reason artists make a point to invite other artists to their studios for Play Dates. It's our version of the coffee klatch in the cubicle world. We like our worlds but occasionally we too need the company of other like minded folk.

It was for this reason that artist/potter Lis Allison extended her Pottery Play Date invitation to the artists in the West Carleton Arts Society group. When I got her email I was so excited. I’ve had this crazy idea cooking in my head with no way to execute it until then.

Over two weekends Lis hosted a small group of artists in her rural pottery studio. She quickly gave us a basic intro to pottery and then let us free in her workspace. She guided us individually and expertly answered questions that flew at her from left and right. We each embarked on our individual projects with coffee and conversation flowing.

I described my project to Lis and we both agreed that I wasn’t really 100% sure how I was going to execute the final product. But that’s often how I work, I have a picture in my head and a pretty fuzzy plan that often takes a few twists and turns until I settle on my final outcome. Being a mixed media artist, my plan was to join pottery and felt into one piece. How they were to join was a developing theory. And here is the resulting fusion of pottery and felt:

I call this one 'Purple Jester', and there's a possibility that you may see it at the West Carleton Arts Society Expressions of Art  fall show and sale."

 Wow! I'm totally impressed! What Catherine did was, she made a small bowl with a row of holes around the top edge. Then she felted the 'hat' and added the beads and wire and sewed the felted bit to the pottery bit. Voila, a nifty little object to make you smile every time you see it. Can't you just imagine one on your desk or on top of your computer or on the shelf near your art supplies? 

I hope she makes lots more! And thank you for telling us about it, Catherine. By the way, I have lots more clay.....

Friday, April 25, 2014

It Must Be Spring

Must be. I'm making Fairy Houses again!

They are rather fun, but you have to be wiley to make them. The first time, I attached the roofs to the houses and then when I came to glaze them, had to brush the glazes on because dipping, waxing, bisque firing to get the wax off, re-waxing, more dipping.... too boring.

The next time, I left the roofs loose so I could dip them in one colour, dip the house in something else, and hope they stuck together in the kiln. Worked, except that occasionally one would go a tad wonky.

This one isn't too bad but others weren't funny!

So this time I've left the roofs loose, AND made pointed tops like bottle necks on the bases to hold the roofs in place. Like I said, wiley!

The reason I'm making them is that I've signed on to put together a bit of a Fairy Village at High Lonesome next weekend, May 3rd and 4th. It's a Creativity Blitz! No idea what that is, but is sounded like fun so I volunteered. I was afraid I'd end up on parking lot duty, but to my relief, I get to make my Village. 

(High Lonesome is a Nature Reserve, in the Pakenham Hills, and the Blitz invites everyone to "join with others and connect with Nature and explore your creative side". All the information, including directions can be found on the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy website.)

Of course, I won't be using styrofoam and spray paint like in this picture! I'm hoping to find a stump or a rock wall or small spooky woods to make the Village in.
Will Fairies come? Check back in a week or so to find out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Horizons

Maybe it's the weather.... or the fact that I still have piles of crusty snow under the trees while all the blogs I follow are chortling about their spring flowers.... or the fact that my kiln once again stalled at 1763F.... or something, but it is time to branch out a bit. Believe it or not, I am bored. Pottery is hard, the rewards are few, my shoulder is giving me problems and it's been 25 years, folks. So I'm not, not by any means, backing off from the pottery, but I will give myself permission to do a few other things as well.

 This too is part of living the life of a potter.

Here's a picture of the painting I did of Aquilegia on paper.

Much easier than on glaze! Maybe I'll use it to print some notecards. Or gift tags, which I somehow attach to the Wildflower design mugs and such. Could be fun!

Another new horizon I'm going to explore is innovative ways to combine pottery with other craft/art forms. For a starter, our next post will be by a friend who has worked out a nifty way to combine pottery with felt... tune in next week for her post on the subject.

I feel more interested already!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Red Stains

On the whole, the red and bright orange stains we have available to us these days are a real boon. For those of us who like to paint flowers on our pots, they are especially useful as many flowers have small red areas..... and then of course there are the completely red flowers. Columbine, or Aquilegia canadensis, is one of them. When I was asked to make some mugs decorated with a Columbine design I figured one of the new reds would be perfect. These stains, which are called 'micro-encapsulated' and use selenium and cadmium compounds, are supposed to be food-safe 'when fired correctly' but since I don't really know how I can be sure of that, I'll restrict them to the outsides of things for now. Still, people often ask for red designs on the outsides of bowls and mugs and I thought I'd accept the challenge.

A few tests on tiles looked pretty good.

But my first set of mugs were rather washed out. I didn't have the red stain on thickly enough. I found when I was painting the flowers (and I paint on top of the raw glaze because my glaze is opaque white) that it was hard to brush on a second coat as this made the first coat curl up and peel off. I fixed that set of mugs by over-painting them with china paints, which, by the way, can save your life in situations like this.

The second set of mugs, I thought I'd try painting them, then re-bisque-ing, then adding another coat of red, before glaze firing to Cone 6. Here's what happened:

  I guess the glaze coat, fired only to Cone 06, cracked and it became obvious in the later firing. Luckily, I also had another test in the same glaze load, where I brushed on a double coat of red without letting it dry in between. That is, I brushed on one coat and then immediately a second coat. Seemed to work, at least the stain didn't curl up and fall off but I needed to see the finished piece to be sure it would work.

It did!

A big relief, and now when someone asks me for red, I don't have to roll my eyes (mentally, of course, not physically) and make apologies. Now, how to explain that they can only have the red on the outsides of things....

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There are Flaws, and then there are Flaws....

And if you are a production potter, you will have flaws.

No, I don't mean in your personality. There may be a flaw or two there as well, nobody is perfect, but I mean in your work.

What got me started musing about flaws was some pieces that came out of the kiln last week that I really debated over. A mug had a glaze skip at the top of the handle. The white glaze I use so much has a tendency to crawl if it is on too thick, or if the glaze coat is damaged before the piece is fired. In this case, because I dip the rim of the mug, then dip the outside of the mug, creating a bit of overlap near the rim, I think it was a bit too thick and probably the glaze coat cracked before the mug went in the kiln.

The skip was almost round, and about 1/4 inch across. It was clearly visible but would not effect how the mug performed. I reluctantly decided it was a second, but I must admit, I was tempted. I've seen worse glaze skips both on other potters' work and on so-called 'fine china' for sale at high prices in upscale stores. I don't think that is right, but on the other hand, if the skip is clearly visible and you buy the piece anyway, you have only yourself to blame so maybe it is alright.

Another flaw that I struggle with is pinholes. In fact, if I ever get dragged, whimpering pitifully, to a small white room all to myself some day, it will be because of pinholes. One dog-gone little pinny and a nice piece is ruined....  so is it OK to put it out for sale? Maybe, maybe not. In a decorative item such as a mounted tile or a vase, maybe. On the outside of a serving piece, maybe. But inside a bowl or other thing meant to be used for food, no.

Specks are almost as bad as pinholes. I use a lot of cobalt for blue decoration, and somehow tiny bits of it get where I don't want them. A nice plate can be totally spoiled by a blue dot or two in what is supposed to be a white background. For the life of me I don't know how to prevent them and sometimes I just decide to live with them. But this past week I had a butter dish that has a veritable splash of blue dots just under the handle; how the heck did that happen?

Then there are the not-flaws that look like flaws. I get very cranky if my dipping tongs leave a scratch of metal on the surface of a piece. It doesn't look like anything at the time, but will fire up a dark line, and you'd be surprised how many people ask me if it is a crack. So if I see such a line in time, I make sure to sand it off. But.... sometimes I don't catch them. Similar to the marks left by tongs are the lines you sometimes get where a glaze thickness changes. If you hesitate while moving a piece through the glaze batch, you may get a line which is visible when you hold the piece under the light just right. I usually consider that to be OK, but I've had customers firmly reject those pieces. And of course, if they find anything they think wrong, they probably won't buy at all and will tell all their friends and.....

And how about a rough spot on an edge? Often these are an excess of stain and can be sanded off, but they are so easy to miss. Then a customer runs their finger over the rim and ouch.... and 'ouch' for you, too. Or a rough spot on a foot ring that you didn't sand well enough. I once lost a large order because the customer's husband found a small rough area on one footring on one plate. Now I am obsessive about feeling footrings very carefully. Hard on the hand, if you actually find a burr, but much easier on the temper!

Luckily, lots of things from the kiln last week were without flaw. My batter bowls looked pretty good:

And I had matching maple syrup jugs and pancake warmers, so I was all set for the Maple Run Studio Tour which was this past weekend. Sales weren't great, but it was because of the rotten weather (snow and rain and ice and mud, yes, we had them all) not because of flaws in my pottery.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Well, duh....

Actually, 'well, duh....' twice. Twice in one week!

The first one relates to my efforts to take better photos of my pots. I wanted those wonderful shaded backgrounds, evenly lit pots, no glare spots.... surely not too much to ask? I see images like that all over the place so obviously other people know how to do it. I read books, studied the lighting diagrams, even purchased a so-called Light Tent.

Was I able to get good shots of my pots?


Finally I made a rough frame out of 1 x 2 lumber, hung 2 photoflood lights with reflectors from the ceiling, hung a sheet of black background paper from the back of the gizmo and did my best. Not awful, but not the smooth background I wanted. Tried it with white background paper..... now I didn't get the dark space I wanted. Grrrrr. After a whole afternoon's work I was ready to snarl and give up.

Woke up in the morning thinking,'what if I use grey background paper?'. So I tried that and it worked! Just look:

Grey background paper!

Well, duh.

The second 'well, duh....' was even dumber. My kiln failed, big 'ER - 1' error code. Yikes. Panic. Of course, I had mugs to fire which the customer needs next week, plus all the pieces from last weekend's workshop waiting. So I let it cool, unloaded it and inspected the kiln's innards. The error code was described in the manual as meaning that the temperature wasn't climbing. The elements didn't look too bad - loops starting to fall down a bit, but nothing severe. I had already decided to replace them, just hadn't quite got around to ordering the new ones yet. So I phoned my supplier, she most helpfully got a set sent up for me and called me when they arrived. I rushed into town and got them, and got some new thermocouples at the same time. Figured new elements should have new thermocouples to give them the best chance to work properly.

Then I spent a nasty afternoon removing the old elements and installing the new ones. The way the inside of this kiln is designed, old elements simply do not come out without damaging the brick. I did my best, sometimes almost removing the old elements loop by loop, but I still crunched a lot of brick edges. After a while I got smarter and used a craft knife to shave a wee tiny bit off the edge of the upper bricks and that helped a lot.

Then I turned it on and tried it. Seemed to work. Got nearly to cone 01 and shut it off because I wanted to go to bed. In the morning I loaded the kiln with shelves and large witness cones on each shelf and programmed a cone 6 firing.

ER - 1.

After I got through wanting to have a temper tantrum, I sheepishly called my supplier to ask about relays. Happily, she had some. I got them, put them in (easy), re-started the kiln. Success!

The reason I got the error ER - 1 but no elements were broken was simple - it was a relay problem.

Well, duh.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whew, I'm back....

Yes, jury duty all done.

I'm glad I did it, I hope I never have to do it again. Long story short, we have a pretty fine system of justice. Things are taken very seriously, and every effort is made to make sure decisions are right and fair. Not bribes, not who-you-know, not intimidation.... but 12 people doing their utmost to get it right. Believe it. And believe in it. And be thankful.

Back at the ranch, I'd like to tell you about my local arts society's spring conference. Titled 'Spring Into Art', it is of interest to all artists in the Ottawa area. Paula Murray, from Chelsea near Ottawa, will be one of our speakers. For those who don't know of her, she is an artist working in porcelain and exploring unusual techniques to express her ideas. She has been featured in many publications, Ceramics Monthly among them. For more information about the conference, click here. Other speakers will address how to use social media to advertise your business and give a demonstration of some new art materials. It's also a very enjoyable day, relaxed, great lunch (included), lots of artists to meet, and a chance to hand out biz cards.

Now, back to work!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Radio Silence

Which is what you'll get to enjoy on this blog for the next two weeks or so....

I did indeed get picked to be on a jury. Juror #3, that's me! We've been told to expect to be in court for somewhere between 7 and 10 days. Of course it could change at any time, but that's their best guess.

So I'm concentrating hard on seeing this as an interesting new experience.

Pottery will have to be done evenings and weekends. A lot of you won't have any sympathy, I know!

At least February will go by fast!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January, Yeeth....

Alright, let it be known, I am now a month behind.

The two orders I postponed till 'after Christmas' are not done. Not even started. The 10-cup teapot somebody wants for his mother in spite of the fact that it will be pretty heavy for her to lift is not done. Not even started. The glaze tests to see if I can find out what is causing those darn dots are not done. You guessed it, not even started.

What happened? Well, January happened. It was cold, it was snowy. I was tired. A powerful urge to make soups and stews made itself felt, the sweater I started months ago needed finishing, and I really did have a mountain of paperwork to do. Then, to top it all off, just when I was getting ready to buckle down and get some real work done, I got notified that I have to report for what is called a 'jury panel'. I have to go, wait around to see if my number comes up in the lottery, and then see what sort of jury duty I might be assigned to.

This has me quite worried, actually. If I have to do days and days of it, how will I manage everything else? We self-employed people simply cannot take weeks or months off. Arrrrggghhh.....

I drove down to the Courthouse today to make sure I knew the route and to see about parking. Pretty sad when you go downtown so seldom the streets have all changed from the last time you were there! And I hadn't thought about Winterlude. Being a warmish day, there were masses of people trying to find parking so they could go to the canal and skate. I never did get down Elgin Street because it was blocked solid with cars disgorging crowds of children with skates. Oddly enough, all the outdoor parking lots were closed, with chains and barricades up. I saw one parking garage, but it was expensive and the skaters didn't seem to favour it.

Tuesday is the day. I have to be there by 9 am and the letter warns me to be prepared to wait all day. I'm thinking knitting, a book, a Sudoku or three, and better bring a drink or two and a cookie. Sandwich? Maybe.

This too, is the life of a potter.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year Planning

A whole new year ahead! Isn't that a wonderful feeling?

2013 was possibly not my best year ever..... I tried to change to a clay that would be better for teapots and casseroles, then ran into a baffling problem with white dots in my decorations, then had to go back to my old clay.... in other words, didn't solve the problem. Then later in the season I suddenly realized I had taken on too many orders and had to work like heck to get as many as possible done before Christmas. I'm really not sure how it happened, except that a few of the orders sounded small but turned out to be large. Things like the customer who said she needed a few more plates and I said 'sure, let me know', and when she did, it turned out she needed a full set for 8, including cereal bowls and mugs. I actually had to call a couple of people and ask them if I could do their pots after Christmas. Luckily they all said 'yes' and I was able to send the last Christmas order home with a happy customer on December 23rd.


This is not going to happen again! I'm going to try hard to stay focused this year.  No more thinking I have plenty of time, so I might as well go ahead and try this little idea..... or make just a couple of those..... or maybe whip up a really nice peach colour that will only take three days of mixing tests..... those tangents are lots of fun, but no more! 'Real' work first, then fun!


Tomorrow is January 6. I'm shopping for clay and throwing mugs.... there, see, not behind a bit.