Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Something that makes sense will be written soon, but now is the time for gingerbread and wrapping packages, hot chocolate and stories by the fire. It is warm and lovely in my house by the tree, and smells of cookies, and songs are sung about the snow we almost never see here. I still can't remember the words after the five gold rings. But the air is crackling with excitement.

Friday, November 13, 2009

new things all around me

This has been a busy busy busy couple of months. Full of great changes and adjustments. We're just rolling with it. For the most part. Sometimes, I try to stop rolling with it and then it rolls me over and I flop and flail around for a bit until I can get back with it and start rolling again. Does that make any sense?

Anywhoo. We'll start with Ian's new job. Ian had been with Pier 1 forever. Or, at least for 13 years. So, when the opportunity arose, he finally felt it was time to move on. He started with GE in the middle of September, which involved a lot of out of town training for about 6 weeks. Needless to say, I didn't have a lot of time to get pottery done. I was mostly trying to keep Wren as happy as she could be, considering she thought he had left us. I had shows right in the middle of this period as well, so I was killing myself trying to get things made in time while Wren was sleeping. Well, we all know how those turned out. Ahem. So I had enough made to let me relax for awhile. Be burnt out for a bit. Knit things in my spare time. But, I'm back to it now. Really! I've got something quite exciting in the works, which will be unveiled soon. It involves a new shape. hee hee!

Ian decided to sheet rock my studio this week, which was super exciting. I'll have walls! I'll have a ceiling!!! I'll be able to heat the place effectively! He went and got all of the supplies on Sunday, so Wren and I made sure we had a place to put the sheet rock. I helped unload all thirty sheets of it from the truck and realized I might not be the greatest of helpers. I'm a trooper at working, but if someone's going to drop a corner of the stuff on their hand or get injured, I'm the one. Poor Ian.

We had to move things around quite a bit so that he could get to the walls as well. Wren ordered me to make a horse as we were moving and cleaning. A horse? I'm no handbuilder or sculptor, but I managed to work one out. She gave him many wild rides on the banding wheel until he took one to many spills and his head fell off. Poor horse.

She did make herself useful with the shop vac, though. Well, she did make herself loud with the shop vac, at least. Poor Wren.

Finally, I managed to get my new website up and running. I thought that it was a thing of beauty. As long as you pull it up in internet explorer. Otherwise, it's a messy mess. Or so I've heard. Actually, my friend Pam was kind enough to catalogue and e-mail me examples of the messy mess. Ouch. Oh well, check it out:!

Monday, September 28, 2009

show is me.

Well, this was my first big show back, at the Matthews Art Fest, and I hope that it was just a cursed show and the economy isn't as crap as we all fear. Do not get me wrong, this is usually a great show to do. But all possible elements got together and conspired to make it absolutely ridiculously bad in many ways. Let' s get the bad out so we can get to the good.

First of all, the weather was unbelievably silly on Saturday. It's been 80 degrees most of the time lately, but Saturday we were suddenly transported to some harsher, colder, and wetter climate. It never got above 65 and kept a steady mist or drizzle going much of the day. Everything was damp, business cards curling inward, price stickers freeing themselves from earthly bonds, and sudden rivulets cascading down back and cleavage from the tops of the tents. We shivered in the dreary moistness and had fantasies of soup. Lucky me, there was a Thai place right where we were, so I got a steaming fiery plate of tofu, veggies, and cashew nuts courtesy of my loving husband. Sharon got the same thing upon seeing mine, minus the fiery. Then we almost came to impolite conversation when we started discussing the herb that was in our food. It was thai basil, Sharon, really it was. We actually had some customers, which made it hopeful. My display looked good, despite the craziness I went through to get it that way. Thursday was ridiculously busy, with running to pick up pots from Lark and Key, then going to lunch with Wren, then going to pick up printing supplies to do cards and bios, then going home and painting display boxes in the kitchen as she slept, then getting a card from my neighbor at 6:30 that she had lost my tablecloth for my third table, then running to the fabric store and trying to find a perfect match, then getting home and realizing that the white material was much too white, then tea staining the white material, then staying up until 1:00 am sewing another damnable tablecloth. [pant pant pant] I need to go back further, don't I? To the part about Ian being out of town all week and me having to pull all of my wax and glaze supplies into the house and setting up an impromptu glaze room in the kitchen to avoid getting killed in my studio at working night by myself since I had to get two firings done in one week. [pant pant pant] Ummm... and I'm done. Yes, the setup looked good. So good, in fact, that it won an award for best booth display! Yes, there was a lovely purple ribbon and a nice cushy check that went along with that honor! Yay for efforts getting rewarded!

Sunday was absolutely beautiful, sunny and warm with a lovely breeze. Though, not too much breeze that I feared the plates would come down. But where were the customers? [insert sound of crickets here] Not in my booth. Not in anyone else's, either. No, they were at the two other festivals that were occurring at the same blooming time. Matthews Art Fest, I love you so. Can you please switch to a different weekend? This one has gotten so full. I had two sales all day. Ouch. I did make three really great trades, though. One was a meditating lady for a fantastic om necklace. The other was a vase for a mug from Valerie Hawkins, who was taking lessons from the studio when I was apprenticing. Her things have grown into something gorgeous. Way to use a leaf impression, Valerie! At the end of the day, she traded me again, two cups for two cups, so I could give something to my best friend, sitting beside me coveting my mug all day. Hey, I am a unrepentant trader, not a ruthless one. My spoils:

And finally, I managed to finish this huge beastie before the show. It only took about three weeks to do. It is heavy as all get out, when compared to the rest of my stuff. But, I love it. And have put a swooningly high price tag on it. Because I can. And will probably not make another like it any time soon. I think...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Of apple pie and new things...

I, for some reason, have suddenly jumped into a few shows coming up in the next month. Which gives me very little time to get ready. Good thing I was already making things for Christmas, because I'm now deep in a festival of painting. Lots of painting. Tiny painting. Hee hee! So, whoever lives nearby or will be in NC can check me out at the Matthews Art Fest on the 26th and 27th of this month. I will be right beside the gazebo alongside my very dearest friend, photographer extraordinaire Sharon Augustyniak.

All these preparations and custom orders have put me on a fast schedule of firing, the latest of which finished last night. I put myself to the test of getting the latest mud team challenge entry finished and barely made it. I was taking pictures at eleven thirty last night and sweating bullets trying to think of something clever to say about a sake set. Clever doesn't come easily at certain times of day. Clever was woefully absent last night. I really liked how the set came out, though!

I had a few other things come out that were new and turned out well. I had done a treasury for etsy awhile back that featured yunomis, little drinking cups, and got inspired. Also, I have been doing large wide bowls with elaborately tall and sweeping bases. Put the two together, and this is what you get:

I also did a tiny tea set, inspired by Wren always wanting "Wren-sized things". She gets so excited about finding things that fit her perfectly, so I think she'll be getting a tea set this Christmas. Of course, I asked her which pattern she liked best, and she chose the night garden. Figures!

Speaking of the night garden, I managed to finish a ridiculously time consuming plate in that pattern to put in this firing and was so proud when I opened the kiln and saw how it came out.

Until I looked at it from the side and saw the warping. Oops.

Oh well. And finally, this week I made my first apple pie. You may be looking at me askance and thinking, why did it take you thirty-four years to bake an apple pie, but I do not come from an apple pie family. I came from a pecan pie family. Or strawberry in the summer. Wren and I went apple picking at a local farm and had a lot of questionable apples. Questionable because she picked all of them in about five minutes with me running after her with a camera. It was a photographable moment, but we didn't get the nicest apples. And, ever since we had a peach tree in our yard that I decided to sample from, I have a fear of nature in my fruit. Never again will I bite directly into a piece of fruit not from the grocery store. Ugh. Cutting first, please. Which led me to the idea of a pie. However, another reason I have never made an apple pie is, I don't really like them. Well, I do now. I did the whole thing, from the crust to the apples and it was delicious. In case you are mentally accusing me of type-A-ism, I was going to use a store bought crust, but they are full of lard and that freaks me out. And, I found, pie crusts are no harder to make than biscuits are and so much more delicious than the things from the frozen depths of the store. Behold the beautiful results. Yum!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Huffing and puffing and stretching...

I came to realization not long ago that I actually have shows coming up. And Christmas. And custom orders that I must get done. After the initial hyperventilating, I got to it. I started off trying to get a few more mugs churned out and actually tried throwing without my trusty ruler. I'm trying to get away from my production roots just a bit and decided that one way to do that is to just throw. Oh, now, you know that my anal retentive little soul wouldn't let me just rip off a chunk of clay and start going. No, no, no I still weighed the pieces and wedged them up before I started. Of course, they came out pretty much the same shape and size within a half inch. Hey, I tried.

I did get inspired through a video another potter shared on the etsy mud team forum, though, to actually use the tools I have. Here's the video of fellow potter Cory Lum throwing a gigantuan bowl: . I have to have everything just right, clay wise, to throw a giant bowl or things get ripply and ridgey and collapsy. I started a relatively sizable bowl today of about 6 pounds and had my doubts on it's success due to a softer reclaimed clay. Yep, the ridging and rippling and collapsing started trying to happen until I used the force and called upon the power of Cory Lum. And picked up a metal flexible potter's rib. And used it. It worked! Nice even curved sides! No collapsing! No ridginess! For those of you who have actually seen me work, you know I keep three things on my table: sponge, pointy stick, and needle tool. I actually use the sponge and the pointy stick. Sometimes a wooden rib comes in for the big 'uns. Adding a new tool to my repertoire is a big girl step for me. Hooray hooray hooray!

Did I say reclaimed clay? Yes, I did. Because I've been working through my bags of recycling slowly but surely. I'm so proud of myself. Especially since all of the spiders have fled to that area and like to poke their heads out menacingly when I come too close. I have a particularly heavy bat that I keep near to throw just in case one of them decides they can take me. Does this go against everything I believe? Hmm... some of those boogers can jump.

And, finally, I got the surprise of my week by winning the latest mud team challenge, which was a bottle challenge. I painted it with the completely ridiculously time consuming new pattern I invented for my big pots, which is a chrysanthemum swirl star pattern with a black background. Here it is hanging out with a fellow pot:

The other entries were so fantastic, I did not think I had a chance of winning, so the whole thing was flooring. Next challenge is a sake set, but I don't know how to top that last pattern! Hmm...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

bigger and bigger and bigger and pop!

Well, it's been fun and excitement all around lately. I had my first real custom orders on etsy this past week, including the most awesome description ever. This woman included a full page thesis of the bowls she wanted, complete with links to examples, measurements, and a scale drawing of a side and aerial view of the bowl using a photo from my shop. Awesome. So much easier to make something when you have plans like that. She had a great idea for noodle bowls, too. They may become a staple of what I make. The other will be my first international order, also really exciting!

I finished my largest piece to date today, which is standing at about 30". It's neck got a little lean-y, but otherwise it's pretty cool. If I say so myself. The coil and throw thing is definitely getting easier, it just takes really precise timing. And lots of patience. And luck. And the planets aligning and a big one legged hoodoo dance while burning sage.

I will not include a picture of me with the pot. Why, you ask? Is it because you are so shiny and unwell looking, Amy? I will tell you. Yes, I am. Because it's as hot as hell in a microwave with 5000% humidity. Remember all of that whinging about the cold studio? Well, same song, different lyrics. Here's what the kiln that I was loading today told me about the indoor temperature situation:

I'm thinking about trading my throwing chair for a block of ice!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The things that go bump.. rustle... growl...

I am not afraid of spiders. I'm not. I used to be, but got over it. The studio where I apprenticed was an old building, and in the spring all of the little baby spiders would start hatching and spinning down out of the rafters. Well, I was doing production work and making 100 bowls a day, so there was no time to jump up and run around like a loon every time a few of them would ramble down your head, shoulders, or nose. Yes, I would have to stop if a sizable one plopped into my work, but other than that, just a lot of puffing at them to try to make the tickling stop. This studio is another story. We rousted the place last week in anticipation of new students, cleaning and reorganizing from top to bottom. Even got the bathtub out of there (hooray!). I never dreamed of the beasts that lurked. Forget my love of all living things, Ian, spray the heck out of that room!!! And I say this, not because of the wolf spider we uncovered that had a body as large as my thumb. The frigging thing growled at me, I could have sworn. It said, "go away!" We threw it outside, where you could hear it rustling as it ran through the tall grass of the field next door. The field, as Wren told me yesterday, which is full of snakes and poop. !?!?!? No, no, that son of aragog did not warrant a full room spraying. It was this beauty and his many kin that got the sprayer out:

just about life size

Yup. The place was and is a black widow haven. One look at the wiki page on the southern black widow and I was done. Neurotoxins and toddlers don't mix. I now have a fear of putting my hand under my chair and finding one of these attached to my finger. Shudder. I used to be afraid of the brown recluse, simply because I have no idea what they really look like. But, no, these things just look like they are going to take you down. And they can. Sprayer, don't fail me now.

my beautifully cleaned up studio

On a positive note, I am loading up the first finished painted giant pot and am working on the second as fast as I can. I'll give you a hint on the second, because it's a marvel. Reverse vine pattern. And I said it couldn't be done. Let me tell you, it won't be done on anything smaller than this, because it's a mental boggler. It has to be done almost entirely freehand, unlike most of my black background pots which I draw out the entire pattern before I start. I am so excited.

the first of the giant pots to be painted

I have reached a point in my big pot voyage where I can throw taller than I can fire, my kiln only being 26.5 inches deep. In desperation, I decided today to apply to the Arts and Science Council for a new kiln grant. I'll be working on this until the deadline, trying to make my case. I really do want to make huge, elaborately painted pots and have a big exhibition. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can make this happen. Otherwise, you're going to see me riding down the road with a three foot tall pot on my lap, praying that I don't chip it before I can get somewhere that can accommodate it. Urgh.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spider Holocaust and Other Tales of Glazing Woe

Have I mentioned before that I loathe the glaze? Do not enjoy it. It is, undeniably, the part of my creation process that will mess a pot up faster than you can say, "WHY?!?!?" So, it makes me a bit nervous. And cranky. And anal retentive.

So, today, I had to glaze, seeing as how Pam is driving all the way over here to pick up a gargantuan flower pot. It would be nice if there was one finished, I thought. This involved mixing up more glaze, though. I had a big 50 lb bag of dry glaze that just needed water and a good sieving, so I set to it. Snapped on the respirator, got the buckets ready, and commenced dumping a pile of it into bucket one. Through the dust cloud, I poured an amount of water into the bucket and started mixing. As the dust settled, I had a what the hell moment. I thought that my giant whisk had gotten grass stuck in it or something, but more and more of it started floating up to the top. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was spiders. All sizes. Lots of them, and by lots I mean dozens. I guess I hadn't sealed up the bag tight enough and they had colonized the area. I felt horrible, being a true trap and release person at heart, but there was nothing to do about it. They were gone. Good thing I was wearing gloves, because the sieving process left a significant pile of spider parts that I hadn't scooped out. No picture here, I really didn't want to share. You're welcome.

I will share a picture of my latest proud creation, the mystical pizza stone. Some bugs to work out on this one before I sell them, but it turned out gorgeous. Story behind this one: Ian and I got a pizza stone for him with our wedding gift cards that he loved using. I didn't use it much because it was always getting pepperoni grease in it which made my vegetarian stomach turn. Not that it would have hurt anything, just kind of freaked me out. So, in Ian's mind, I hated the pizza stone. Fast forward to when we were selling our last house. I had to keep the house in showing order at all times because we were constantly getting people coming in and out. It was right after Christmas and I had made my usual batch of cookies, which were stored in a giant tupperware box on the counter. Someone called first thing in the morning for a showing and I started scurrying about trying to tidy up. I was trying to make sure nothing superfluous was on the counter, so I threw the cookie box in the oven. Weeeelllll, later that day Ian fired that thing up to pizza temperature without peeking in and we started to get fumed out. Yep, that box had melted, making a plastic-y oven rack/pizza stone/cookie sculpture you wouldn't believe. Of course, I had sabotaged the pizza stone on purpose. To make it up to him, this anniversary I tried throwing a pizza stone. Had a great time painting it with a man in the moon pattern and fired two of them (just in case). Good thing, too, because the one that I gave to him did this upon first baking. Nothing like picking shards out of dinner.

The second has held up through numerous pizza bakings, so I think it was just a fluke. Actually, I think I did something a little stupid in the firing and stressed it out unduly. I am not telling what. That's between me and the kiln. Anywhoo, here's the finished result. The jury's out on whether there will be another made to sell...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

go big

I have been fascinated with people who could throw big ever since I tried my first pot. I especially marvelled at women who could throw big, and have held my mom-in-law's good friend Gen Groesbeck as a paragon of throw-ability. She can throw HUGE amounts at one time, then coils and throws until I could hide in the damn thing standing up. And they are thin. See, I've always focused on thin walls and as close to perfect form as I can get. Big never happened. Until now.

My dear friend Pam commissioned me to make a gargantuan flower pot for her orange tree, so I set to it, sitting at my wheel with my little 7 pounds of clay, thinking that I was going to work it out. Well, it worked me out. And it never got even close to being gargantuan, no matter how thin I pulled it. Boy, did I have some fantabulous blow-outs! Until I decided to try the whole coil and throw method. Behold the result:

There's nothing like this method for giving you the feeling of riding a bike successfully for the first time. That whole, "I'm up! I'm up! Oh crap, I'm going to lose it! No, no, I'm good! I'm going to make it! There it goes, crap crap crap, no no I"M OKAY!" My first two pieces were riddled with air bubbles, often threatened to wobble, and sometimes did for a bit. They are nowhere near perfect, but boy, were they satisfying.

Until the vase ate my head.

No, just kidding. That would be my husband's sense of humor and mighty photography skills. Remember while looking at these pictures that I am not a small woman, just in case you think they look perhaps not as gargantuan as I let on. I used to be almost a six footer, before child birth took it's toll (yes, it made me shrink a whole inch!). Anywhoo, finished my last mizuko, and am feeling much better about life in general now that we've all had a turn in the hospital. Yes, the plague of bad luck got Ian as well, but he is feeling much more human now. That should be my motto for now: Feeling Much More Human Lately. Well, now I'm just looking forward to making the perfect gargantuan super sensational rock star vase soon. Yep, just as soon as my local clay supplier gets it together and gets more clay in [ahem]. So... tired... of... recycling.

Monday, March 16, 2009

mizuko and miscellany

I was about to just write a post that said meh! I don't have time for this. And it would be true. But... I'm sticking with it. Not even going to try to catch up, but I will say that Christmas was great. We sported watery sniffling noses, but had good spirits and great times. Etsy worked well for me until the shipping cut off date, when all the sales mysteriously dwindled to a thumping screeching halt. Insert sound of wind and scuttling tumbleweeds here.

I had a fantastic success with my first Etsy Mud Team challenge by winning the valentine's vase challenge. I was relatively kerflummoxed by it, but really really pleased. It was based on a papercut valentine I did for Ian years ago, when I had a job with a LOT of down time. This year, I made him the only existing super large valentine's mug, with some hot chocolate to go inside.

The rest of 2009 has been, um, how shall I put this? Oh yeah, crap. Going into the personal here, which I normally try not to do, but has to do with pottery so I'm going forward. We found out that we were expecting a new little one in January, much to our excitement. Then, much to our distress, we lost the little one at 6 weeks. We had lost a baby before Wren at 6 weeks as well, so it wasn't out of our realm of experience, but still very hard. I tried to find something to help me wrap my head around the whole thing and ended up finding something online about mizuko, which are little statues that parents in Japan place at shrines to memorialize unborn children. Now, I don't subscribe to the rest of this thinking, and actually find buddhist thought that these children have to do penance in the underworld for the pain that they have caused their parents very disturbing. However, I liked the idea of a little memorial and set to making two of my own, a kind of healing process in it's own right. I took great care with the throwing and painting, and would have felt a great relief when I unloaded them from their final firing had I not had another great kick in the pants from mother nature. Actually, on the day I unloaded them.

I had just finished a class with Michaela and wanted to finish throwing a set of plates for us to use. Yes, I have never made myself dishes because anything I take enough time to handpaint, I need to sell. But I finally found a glaze and clay body combination that rocked me, so I set to it. To those who do not know me well, I am not a mad glaze chemist. Hate trying new colors. Hate mixing them up and hoping they turn out right. Hate the whole guessing game. This is a huge step for me. Anywhoo... I digress. As I was throwing, I started to feel strange. My back hurt, and it felt like the pain was going straight through to the front. I just felt really off, so I threw eight as fast as I could and went inside. Well, things went downhill from there, with the pain getting worse. I called my doctor who thought it was a kidney stone and told me to take some painkillers and see him on Monday morning. I had a really rough night, with the pain not letting up and even going into my chest, then awoke to another positive pregnancy test. I called my girl doctor, really freaking out and she told me that the pain was probably unrelated and to see her on Monday morning. Hmm... I sense a theme. I digested that for about and hour, then took myself to an urgent care, where the doctor told me to come back on Monday morning. Just kidding. He wouldn't touch me. He sent me directly to the hospital. So, I got my mom to come up to take care of Wren and drove to the hospital. After a bunch of tests, they found that I was bleeding internally and rushed me to surgery. I had an ectopic pregnancy which had ruptured and pretty much shredded my left fallopian tube. This week has been healing and trying to get a grip on everything that happened. I feel much better, even went out and loaded the kiln and threw today. Which made me wonder if something about throwing, the way I was using my muscles and such, contributed to the rupture. Well, I suppose it doesn't matter. Right now, I'm off to make another mizuko.