All posts by Emily Murphy

About Emily Murphy

I make functional, porcelain pottery and write a blog about my adventures in clay: http://potteryblog.com/

New! foam soap dispensers

I have been working on a new item this fall… foam soap dispensers. I’ve been using (plastic… eek!) foam soap dispensers for a while at home.  Guiltily, I admit. They sit next to my regular handmade pumps. I have been looking for the foam pumps for a while so I can make my own and just recycle the plastic pumps!  Finally I found them!  Foam soap dispensers are so great for kids.  It’s super easy for little ones to get the soap all over when hand washing with foam.  That’s why I started using them at home. But I love them for myself too!

Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser-001

You can purchase foam soap refills in many stores and online.  And you can also make your own! Here is a list of places to purchase foam soap refills:

  • Method foam soap refills form Target (in stores) and Amazon
  • Dial foam soap on Amazon
  • Kiss my Face foaming soap on Amazon
  • Vermont Organics Unscented foaming soap on Amazon also available in a gallon refill here.

A Google search will help you find many more options.  Below the next image are some links to recipes to make your own foaming soap.

Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser-002

Here’s a link to make your own foaming soap by watering down regular liquid soap. And here is one to make your own by using castille soap like Dr. Bronner’s.  You can find tons of variations on these recipes through a Google search.

Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser-0021 

This one is using one of my new glazes:

Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser-0011Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser2

Here is the pump in action!  A special thanks to my favorite hand model :)

Emily Murphy Pottery Handmade Porcelain Foam Soap Dispenser

A quick reminder that Saturday, November 30 starts Etsy Holiday Sale.  20% off your whole purchase (except custom orders), plus $5 shipping in the US.  Enter coupon code: JINGLE at checkout to get the discount. honey pots, travel mugs and soap dispensers1If you’re in Minneapolis/ St. Paul, I’ll be having a Holiday Studio Sale next week, December 5, 7-8, 2013. More to come on that!

It’s holiday sale time! 20% off on Etsy starting Nov 30… and studio sale the following week!

It’s that time of the year again! Starting this Saturday, November 30th, using coupon code, JINGLE, you can get 20% off your whole purchase in my Etsy shop.  Plus, $5 shipping per address.  If you want it shipped to multiple recipients, it’ll be $5/ per shipment.honey pots, travel mugs and soap dispensers1Much of the work is posted up in my Etsy shop already, so you can “pre-shop” and pick out your favorite pieces so you’re ready to snag a great deal when the sale goes live!

Here are some pieces that are listed (or soon to be!).  A new design of honey pots! Comes with a 6″ honey dipper.  You could substitute a spoon for the dipper and use it as a chutney jar.
Blue glazed porcelain honey pot with slip trailed dots by Emily Murphy Pottery

Blue glazed porcelain honey pot

And here are some new pieces.  Travel mugs with silicone lids.  The great thing about the design of these mugs is that they are great to drink from with or without the lid!
Creamy yellow glazed porcelain travel mug with circle pattern and silicone lid

Creamy yellow glazed porcelain travel mug with circle pattern and brown silicone lid
Aquamarine glazed porcelain travel mug with branch pattern
Aquamarine glazed porcelain travel mug with flowering branch pattern

And here is another new item… a foam soap dispenser! I love using foam soap, and it took me a long time to find pumps that I could use with my pieces.  The foam is so great to use with kids because they can coat their hands easily when washing by themselves.

Tomato red foam soap dispenser with butterflies and brushed nickel pump
Tomato red foam soap dispenser with butterflies and brushed nickel pump

And these honey pots have been flying off the virtual shelves. Luck for you, I made lots of them for the holiday season!Celadon glazed porcelain honey pot with bees buzzing and honey comb

Celadon glazed porcelain honey pot with bees buzzing and honey comb

And here are couple of my favorite mugs! Aquamarine glazed porcelain mugs with floral pattern

Pair of aquamarine glazed porcelain mugs with floral pattern

I love the brushed copper soap pumps! Amber glazed porcelain soap dispenser with leaves falling and brushed copper pump

Amber glazed porcelain soap dispenser with leaves falling and brushed copper pump.

So there is a little sneak peak of my Etsy sale! Saturday is Small Business Saturday.  I hope you’ll swing by between November 30th – December 18th and do some shopping!

If you’re local to the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area, you can shop via Etsy and use coupon code: LOCAL PICKUP to make arrangements with me to pick up your items from my studio!

Also, I’ll be having a Studio Sale next week for anyone who is local.

If you’re in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area, I hope you’ll stop by my studio sale! 20% off of everything in my studio, including my seconds and samples that are already marked down!
Emily Murphy Pottery Studio Sale

Thursday :: December 5 :: 5pm – 7pm
Saturday :: December 7 :: 10am – 5pm
Sunday :: December 8 :: 12 noon – 4pm

3015 10th Avenue South. Follow the “Pottery” signs to the back of the house to my basement studio. More information to come!

In the studio and out of the studio.

I know it has been a while (too long…) since I’ve posted here. I have been busily working away in my studio and spending time with my family. Life has been good. But something had to give, and it was the blog this time. I’ve been overwhelmed with blog updates that are only in my head, and way overdue updates to my website. So I’ve just been hiding from it all. That’s the best way to deal with things, right?

Anyway…back to the pots for a moment! Here is a favorite pair of mugs from an earlier firing.

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery_mugs_yellow_circles
Creamy yellow mugs with interwoven circles by Emily Murphy pottery. Glaze fired to cone 10, decal firing.

Since I’m gearing up for a busy holiday season, I just finished several back to back glaze firings and decal firings.  I’ve been photographing, sanding, measuring and packing up pots and sending them out to various corners of the country. It’s definitely the busiest time of the year for me, and most potters!

And for a non-studio update… This fall I got myself a new sewing machine and decided I should break it in by making some super fun Halloween costumes for my daughter, Ada and nephew, Shiya. I tried to have this post up the day before Halloween, but ended up having to do a big blog overhaul to fix a bunch of things that was causing problems.  Luckily it is almost all fixed and working again!

Both Ada and Shiya picked out the themes of their costumes. I present to you: Ada Rainbow (as she called herself!) and Shiya the Most Awesome Viking Warrior ever (also his self appointed name). I love how Ada was mimicking Shiya’s fierce look.  Does that make her a fierce rainbow?

Fierce Rainbow and Viking Pottery Blog

The rainbow is all felt. It’s a mirror front to back.  We found oodles of images online and I made up my own pattern to fit Ada. It’s basically an a-line dress with straps.  And I found a long sleeved red shirt at the 2nd hand store.  The awesome rainbow hat was one that we already had from Zulily.

The cutest rainbow costume ever Emily Murphy Pottery Blog

Shiya’s viking costume was super fun and came together really easily.  We live near the Midtown Global Market where there is a little Swedish/ Scandinavian shop that always has viking helmets! I got a nice neutral shirt and sweater from a 2nd hand shop.  He already had a pair of brown pants.  The rest are layers of fur, felt and leather.  I found some really cool bronze buttons to attach his fur cape together. My favorite part is the fur wrapped boots.  I just wrapped the fake fur around his boots and wrapped some leather cording to secure it on.  Such an awesome look… I might need to steal it for my own boots! Same thing was done around his arms.  Anyway, it was the perfect Minnesota Halloween costume.  Nice and warm!  
Homemade Viking Costume

And while we’re on the topic of handmade costumes… Last year Ian and I made the kids’ costumes together.  They were both owls.  Really adorable owls.

owl costumes at the petting zoo

Ada the owl… She’s grown so much this past year! And yes, those are owl sneakers on her feet! 
homemade owl costume Emily Murphy Pottery Blog

We made our own owl faces  with felt onto fleece hats.  And used lots of different patterned fabrics to make up all of the feathers… so many feathers! 
DIY Owl costume Emily Murphy Pottery Blog
When I was a kid, we always made our Halloween costumes (except for 2nd grade when I really really wanted a store bought Strawberry Shortcake). I think it instills a love and excitement for handmade things at an early age. 

Ok, back to the pots….Here are some photos from my earlier firings.  I realized that I never posted these! Some of these will soon be up in my Etsy shop or  are already on their way to a gallery near you!

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery_oval_vases

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery_squared_platter_with_circles

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery_honey_pot_bees 

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery_square_platter_with_dandelion

So that should catch you up just a little bit as to where I’ve been during my absence from this blog! And even though I haven’t been blogging, I do keep my Emily Murphy Pottery Facebook page pretty up to date! It’s a little easier to post a photo as I’m working. I’ll be posting more soon now that my technical difficulties are mostly resolved.  Hope all has been well in your corner of the world.

how-to: make your own colorful t-shirt with freezer paper stencils

I’ve been busy in the studio this week. Packing up and shipping pots from my Etsy Shop (still having my $5 shipping sale!). Throwing mugs to replenish my very depleted mug inventory. Having some really interesting conversations on my Facebook page (like this one about flocculating glazes). And rescuing my mailing list from my old computer that hadn’t been on for several years and transferring it to MailChimp.  It sounds productive when I write it all out- but day to day, I have been feeling very unproductive. Ada has not been the best napper this week which has majorly cut into my studio time. But it’s ok. I’ve met my biggest deadlines for the season, so I’m not stressing too much my less than productive work time at the moment.

__________________________________

I wanted to share a project I did with my nephew, Shiya, for his 5th birthday last month. I found a tutorial via Pinterest for making an “All by Myself Tee” from the blog i am momma hear me ROAR. Shiya is *really* into colorful clothes right now. And when I say he’s into color, I mean serious, head to toe, saturated color. He prefers to wear all one color – which means his socks, underwear, shirt and pants are all the same color. He takes his personal style very seriously. When I found this tutorial, I thought it would be a really fun way of celebrating his birthday and adding some more vivid color to his wardrobe.

Materials:

  • t-shirt(s). I wanted long sleeve because it’s winter here in Minnesota! I got these from Amazon.
  • freezer paper. I used these printable sheets. You could probably get them in a craft/sewing store. You can also just use a roll of freezer paper. I have heard that Walmart carries it but Target does not.
  • fabric paint. I used these paints. But you could use pretty much any fabric paint- but I would not use puffy paint.
  • X-Acto knife. Just a standard craft knife. Make sure you have a new/ sharp blade!
  • cutting mat. I’m sure you could make due with a kitchen cutting board or a piece of cardboard. But if you’re doing a more intricate design, a cutting mat would make the process go much more smoothly.
  • an iron. This is for heat setting the fabric paint and for getting the freezer paper to adhere to the fabric.
  • brushes. Anything will do – foam ones are nice. I have these brushes and the different shapes are nice for making patterns. But you could also make your own by cutting standard foam brushes. The brushes, like most of the supplies on this list can be used over and over again for other projects.
  • cardboard. This is to put inside the shirt so the paint doesn’t bleed through to the back of the shirt.
I printed out my images onto the freezer sheets. For the number 5 shirt, I used Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) and picked a font and sized it up to fit the page/shirt. I had the images for the other shirts. But if you’re in need of an image- just look up something like “stencil” on Google Images and you’ll find things like this image of a bicycle that you could print out. Or you could hand draw something- or trace an image. If you want to make a stencil from a photograph, you can do a Google search for tutorials for making stencils with or without Photoshop. The image part is wide open!

Once you have your image on the freezer paper, you can start cutting! I tried using my X-Acto with whatever blade was in it and it did not work very well. I put in a new blade in and it was much easier.

After the stencils were all cut, I used an iron to adhere the freezer paper to the shirts. Make sure there is no water in the iron. And take your time to make sure all the small parts and edges are well stuck. If it isn’t, the paint will bleed under the stencil.

Then I got some cardboard from the recycling bin and put some cardboard inside the shirt so the paint doesn’t bleed from the front to the back.

And then it’s time for the fun part! Shiya dove in and started painting.  Every picture I took during this step of the project, Shiya had a look of intense concentration.

Once the paint was dry (which was pretty quick)- I peeled off the freezer paper stencil. Shiya was really really anxious to see the results!
Here’s the frog:

And the rocket ship:

And the really fun hedgehog:

And the very special #5 shirt! Shiya was very proud!

I let the fabric paint completely dry, then I used an iron to set the paint. I put a piece of cloth between the iron and the paint. You can also iron on the reverse side of the paint. I didn’t have any paint come off on the fabric, but it still seems like a good idea. Follow the directions that came with your paint for heat setting. It seems like a pretty common process to have the iron (without water) set to medium, and then iron for a while (longer than if you were just getting the wrinkles out). After that it was safe to put through the wash.

These shirts have been getting lots of wear since we made them last month! And he gets asked about them whenever he wears them- and he proudly says that he painted them!

Sending pots out into the world!

I love making pots. I make them so they will be used. I don’t want them to sit on a shelf- whether it’s in my studio, a shop or gallery. I want them to find homes. I hope to have one of my mugs be your favorite.  The one that you have to wash even though every other mug in the cupboard is clean because that’s the one you have to have your coffee from. To have one of my bowls be your morning oatmeal bowl. I would be honored if you had a slice of birthday cake off of one of my plates. Or if you washed your hands daily with soap from one of my soap dispensers.

Here are a few places that you can find my pots!

My brother, Jeff, and his wife, Eliza own an awesome coffee shop/ cafe on Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire (our hometown), Brewbakers. They roast their own coffee, have amazing soups, sandwiches and baked goods. They have live music, art exhibits and a great vibe. And now they have mugs for sale that I made! One side has the Brewbakers logo, and the other side has a word such as: percolate, energize, caffeine… No two are the same!

For the next month, my father, Jim Murphy, and I will be featured artists at Vermont Artisan Designs on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont. It’s a really wonderful gallery that I have frequented over the years and I am so happy to be part of. Tonight, Friday, Dec 7th, is their gallery walk.

I am really excited to be part of Lillstreet Art Center’s holiday show, Let There be Light, once again this year! Lillstreet was where my studio and where I taught for 10 years. I always feel like I’m sending my pots home when I ship them to Lillstreet. It’s always a wonderful place to shop during the holidays- in the artists’ studios on the 2nd and 3rd floors and in the gallery!

Last weekend’s studio sale was a great success! I really do love opening up my studio and spending the weekend seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I even got to meet quite a few folks who read my blog- but I hadn’t met before. That was such a treat! I will definitely be having a spring studio sale!

If you’re not in one of the places I listed above, you can get some great pots! Below are just a few of the pots that you’ll find in my Etsy shop! I’m having a $5 shipping sale right now! I’m stocked up with boxes and bubble wrap and ready to ship!


In between shipping pots this weekend and playing in the snow that is forecasted… I’m hoping to get my hands back in wet clay! Enjoy your weekend too!

gratitudes

Even though I am perhaps a week later for this… I just felt the need to express how thankful I am feeling. For so many things… I really want to thank you for the outpouring of support that I felt after my last post about my nephew Ayrie. It can be so hard to put yourself out there so fully. But it was so wonderful to be received with warm, open arms by so many people. I am now getting several emails a day with folks sharing their stories of their journeys through their grief. So thank you. It’s so wonderful to be able to connect with folks all around the globe.

________________________________

This weekend (Nov 30 & Dec 1) will be the first time that I have opened up the door of my Minneapolis studio for a sale. You can get more info on my holiday sale  here and you can view the Facebook event here. It has really been fun and energizing to share the images of my new work, and setting up my studio (like this photo I posted of my wrapping/packing station that I posted on my FB business page – something that maybe only other potters would be excited about!). Before moving to Minneapolis, I had a studio at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago where I had a whole community of potters and other artists right in the same building. It is so different having a studio at home. But having such a great community online through this blog and Facebook makes me feel like I’m still in a big building full of artists!  So in honor of your support and encouragement, I’m sharing this coupon for 20% off all full priced items this Friday and Saturday *in* studio only.  Just mention it when you’re checking out (no need to print it out).

If you’re trying to figure out how to balance holiday shopping with the kids this weekend… We have a play room in our basement next to my studio. We’ll have holiday movies on and lots of toys to play with where they can hang out. And kid-friendly snacks and drinks (as well as grown-up drinks and snacks too!). And there is a good chance that Shiya and/or Ada will be there hoping to play with some friends!

Here are some little dishes that I made just for this sale. (And had so much fun making!)  They are small (4.5″ – 5+” in diameter). Perfect for a small snack, a spoon rest, a place to put your tea bag or ball. Just the right size (and sturdy weight) for a kid. Or maybe you could toss the change in your pocket or your jewelry at the end of the day. An infinite number of uses…

And below is what the bottom looks like. I cut them off with a stretched out spring when I took them off the wheel. A nice, simple surprise on the bottom of the pots. By the way… I am dabbling in Instagram as you can see. Here’s my page– a mix of pottery and family.

One more note about the sale… My sister, Nora, is organizing a great project this holiday season – Gift Bags for Homeless Youth. We’re going to put together (at least!) 30 gift bags that we’ll give to the organization Face2Face to distribute to local homeless youth. I will have a box at the sale to collect items for donations- toiletries, gifts cards, etc… If you have anything you would like to donate, we’d love to have you be a part of this! More information can be found at the event page on FB.

______________________________

 I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Hopefully you can make it to a pottery sale or art fair this weekend no matter where you are. Or if you’re having one, best of luck! I think I am missing about a dozen here in the twin cities since I’ll be busy with mine! ‘Tis the season!

ayrie

This is a post I have literally written a half dozen times over the past two years.  It’s never seems to be good enough. I can never seem to fully express what I am feeling. I have finally realized that I just have to let that go…

Two years ago on September 29, 2010, my nephew, Ayrie, pass away unexpectedly at the age of four and a half. You might have read the post I wrote in March 2010, A New Sense of Normal where I shared his story. I cannot even begin to tell you how terrible that day was. And there were so many days, weeks and months that followed it that hurt even more than I ever thought was possible.

I have tried so many times over the past 2 years to write this post. There is something about putting your thoughts into writing that makes it real in a totally different way.  When I’ve tried to write this before I’ve always been stuck on describing the days before, of, and after Ayrie’s death – those are important days, important to me, but I don’t know how to talk about them yet.  They are too important to start with.  But I do want to talk about the years since.

You may or may not know me. This might be the first time that you’re reading my blog. I usually keep things pottery focused, but are things in my personal life that are too intertwined to separate out – they are too much a part of me and a part of my work. I needed to write this for me. I needed to put this into words for Ayrie. No matter how hard or how imperfect it would be. This experience is part of who I am and shapes every aspect of my life. My journey over the past two years has been long and will continue on for the rest of my life. I have never experienced grief like this before. A loss like this is not something that you get over. I don’t want to get over it. That would feel like forgetting. But I have tried to figure out how to get up each day and try to live them in a way that honors the spirit of Ayrie. I thought I would share some of what I have learned through my grieving process.

You will never regret the time that you spend with the people you love. During the darkest moments after Ayrie’s passing, I was able to hold onto the knowledge that I had made Ayrie a priority in my life. I spent so much time with him. Sharing a bowl of cereal in the morning, going out to eat at the “meatball store” (aka Ikea) or sitting together in my studio each of us with our own piece of clay. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just time together. I wish with all of my heart that we had more time together. But I am so grateful that I had as much time with him as I did. And I try to continue to live my life in this manner. Being with the ones that I love.

Grief and joy can coexist. This was a hard one for me. But I knew that it was something that I had to come to terms with quickly. I had to be present and in the moment for my nephew Shiya, Ayrie’s little brother. He needed to both learn how to cope with this loss of his brother – his idol – and also have a childhood that was as carefree and happy as it possibly could be. And I also knew that I was going be having a baby in 6 months – something that is a joyous, emotional rollercoaster anyway, and I had to figure out how to be happy and also be ok with being sad. I found that once I really embraced that grief and joy could coexist, I would find myself sharing a story, in tears… and then end up, by the end, laughing and remembering something silly that Ayrie had done. I had to really give myself permission to let these two seemingly opposite emotions coexist.

Every person grieves in a different way. No one way is better or worse than another. It’s just different and personal. If you don’t embrace this, it can push you apart from the people that you need most. My husband, Ian, and I have a duplex. We live on the upper floor and my sister and her boys lived on the 1st floor. (My sister has since bought the house next door to us.) Ayrie would refer to all of us as his “whole house family.” We all have grieved in our own way. And I think we have all done a really good job at honoring one another’s process of grieving. I have learned through grief counseling (which I’ll talk more about later) that often the conflict that arises within families about their differing ways of dealing with a loss can be what really pushes people apart. But we have consciously tried to respect each other’s journey. My sister has written a lot. She says that it really has flowed out of her, sometimes she just starts to write and release… rarely going back over what she has written because she is writing what she feels compelled to write. I found it harder than ever to write. But she found it easier than ever. I encourage you to read through her posts on her family blog.

You will discover a community of people to support you. But you have to be open to accepting it. This was an unexpected, wonderful thing. In the days after Ayrie passed, moms from Ayrie’s school show up to clean our house and comfort us. For many months, we had meals and groceries provided to us by friends and family. It was hard to function at any level, so it was truly wonderful to have such nourishment show up at our door. Flowers left at on the front steps. And so many cards, notes, texts and phone calls from friends, family and acquaintances and total strangers. I never thought that I would actually make friends during such a hard time.

It’s ok to ask for help. There is a point after a loss where the daily activities have to return to some sort of normal. Bills have to be paid, groceries have to be bought. Work needs to resume. But it was hard to do this. Ian and I started going to grief counseling at the Center for Grief, Loss and Transition. It became really important for me to have a time set aside to focus on Ayrie each week, no matter what. There was a moment where I just felt like I didn’t know what to do. I needed help. For me, it helped to go to counseling, but for others it could be something completely different. It took me quite awhile after I told myself that I needed help to say it out loud and ask for help when I felt like I just didn’t know what to do anymore. We have also gone to a couple of events at the Center. One was about dealing with loss during the holidays. We did a really wonderful activity that we have since shared with family and friends. We decoupaged tissue paper and rice papers onto glass candle holders, vases and votives. Of course I like something that involves making… it’s a really wonderful project because almost anyone can do it regardless of age or artistic ability. During the process of making, memories are shared while a new one is being created. And then at the end, candles can be lit while stories are shared. And then there you have a beautiful candle holder to bring home that will remind you of your loved one.

Reclaim the day for celebration and reflection. For two years now, on the anniversary of Ayrie’s passing, we have traveled to somewhere beautiful and far from home. Last year we traveled to Gold Hill, high up in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. This year we went to Tucson, Arizona. We all knew that we wanted to be away from home. Away from the distractions, somewhere beautiful where we could give ourselves space to reflect and honor Ayrie. It’s become a really wonderful tradition. We found ourselves actually looking forward to the anniversary of his passing instead of dreading it. There was a point in time, not very long ago, that this was inconceivable. I know that Ayrie would love that we are having adventures and time together as an extended family. This is a tradition that we plan on doing every year.

_____________________________

Ayrie was my buddy in my studio. He spent more time with me in my studio than anyone else.  It was really hard to go back in there and work after he died. It was so empty. So lonely. I would go down there and just cry.  Ian started going down there and sit with me to help me ease back in. It really helped. When I was finally ready to get my hands in clay again, I decided that I wanted to work on a project  with Ayrie. He had just finished up a book of dinosaur drawings with his class and was really into drawing Ankylosaurus.  His teachers gave us the book they made. I decided that I wanted to put his drawing on a series of cups. The cups were the first things I threw. But when it came to getting the images on the pots, I didn’t know how to actually do that. Well, I knew of the possible ways to do image transfer, but I didn’t technically know how to do them. So I set out on a mission to figure out the best way to do what I wanted to do, and learn that technique. That is how I started working with laser printed decals. 2 years after I first threw these cups inscribed on the bottom “for Ayrie with love,” I finally finished them. I loved working with his drawings. It felt like we got to spend a little more time together.

I wanted to share with you the artist statement that I wrote about this new body of work I have been making.

 

Emily Murphy
September  2012

Over the past three years, my life has turned upside down. I moved from Chicago, my home for 10 years to Minneapolis. Bought a condemned, abandoned duplex and completely renovated it, inside and out. Married my partner, Ian, after 14 years together. Built a studio in our new home. Switched from soda fired stoneware to cone 10 oxidized porcelain. Then two years ago this month my deepest fear happened. We lost our nephew, Ayrie, at the age of four and a half. A loss that has left me forever heartbroken. At the time I was 3 months pregnant. I had to learn how to navigate through my grief and my joy.  In April of 2011, we welcomed our daughter Ada into our world.

For the 10 years before moving to Minneapolis, I honed my skills and aesthetic in soda firing, developing a strong body of work. I felt very comfortable making the pots I was making, yet still felt like I was always pushing myself to the next level. Then suddenly, everything was different. I was faced with pristine studio, a pallet of porcelain and a shiny new kiln. And I didn’t know where to start. So I went back to the beginning. First thing that I did was remove any deadline for my work. I temporarily withdrew from galleries; turned down any orders and turned inward. For many reasons, I cut myself off from the outside world and I started throwing. Strong, simple forms that will stand on their own, no matter what the surface treatment, glaze or firing is. It’s important to me to be true to the material. My soda work was all about the clay, form and firing working together. Doing high fire porcelain I want to be as true to the material as possible. I didn’t want to try to mimic soda firing in an electric kiln. I wanted to take advantage of everything that porcelain has to offer. I started by making a couple hundred tea bowls. I kept away from the influence of “the market” by giving them all away.  Slowly, as I’ve gotten to an exciting and comfortable place with my new body of work, I’m creeping back into the world of clay outside of my studio.

The changes in my life have spanned the range from the best things that have happened to me, to the unimaginable. It would have been easy to fall back into the routine of pots that I had been making over the previous decade. It would have been comfortable and comforting. But I’m not the same person that I was three years ago. And if I am being true to myself with my work, the pots can’t be the same. This new body of work reflects where I am in my life now. And it will continue to evolve and change as I do.

Thank you so much for reading. It means a lot to me.

how-to: make your own set-up for photographing pottery

There are so many parts to being a potter besides throwing pots. Photographing pots is one of the big ones. Since we’re in such an online world right now, it is more important than ever to have good photos taken of your work than ever before. Whether it’s for documenting, sharing on blogs/facebook/website, selling directly, promotional materials or applying to shows. And if those photos aren’t great- it can really reflect poorly on your work. It makes it hard to really *see* the work.

One of the things I really wanted to prioritize when I started building my studio was that I needed a place that was easy to take photos. So I set about designing a photo booth that could be mounted to the wall and be opened up easily when it was time to take photos.

I keep tweaking the set-up, but here is where it is at right now:

Here is what the framework looks like:

A couple of things to note:

  • There is a power strip mounted on the side for easy plugging in of lights- and the ability to turn them all on and off in one place.
  • The “walls” that fold out have plexi-glass on them. This helps give the frame structure without cross braces. I added a frosted coating to the plexi. It isn’t enough of a diffuser. I went to a photographing pottery workshop and it was suggested to use a shower curtain liner- the fabric ones that are 100% polyester. Different fabrics can cast a yellow or bluish tone when light shines through it. Using this type of fabric means the light will be white. I bought mine at Target. It seems to do the trick quite well.
  • The swing arm lamps are from Ikea. You can clamp them onto a table or screw the bracket onto the wall. I love having the lights on swing arms. It means I can move them around quickly and easily to adjust to the pot I am photographing at the time.
  • The slats on the back are not actually against the wall. There is a space behind them. They are there so I can clip a backdrop with binder clips are different heights.
  • I always take my photos at night. I have 3 windows in my studio and I don’t have blackout shades on them so in order to control the lighting on the pots- I have all the lights off except for the photo booth lights and only photograph at night.

The diffuser for the  top lights is built out of pvc. And then nylon string is used as a pulley system. In the below photo it shows a frosted plastic- but I am not using that anymore. I am actually using the nylon shower curtain liner instead. But this photo makes it easier to see how the diffuser is designed so I used it instead of a newer photo of the set-up.

When I need prop up a plate, platter, etc…, I find something that is pretty heavy around and then use a piece of clay where the prop comes into contact with the piece for a little extra friction. The backdrop is very easily scratched and marked so it is important to put something protective down under it. Like this piece of clean packing foam.  A hard brick works well, but I didn’t have one handy. During this photo shoot I used a new can of stain.  I momentarily put down the brand new, perfectly clean can without the foam at first and it left a ring. I didn’t even notice until later. Arg.  I posted this on Facebook and it was funny to hear what other people used to prop up when photographing pots!

Here is an example:

 

These are the bulbs that I use. I think I got them after doing a photography workshop- but I can’t actually remember. Either way, they do the job. They seem to have a nice white color to them.

I use a graduated background to photograph my pots on. It’s really a way to get the look of using a grey backdrop with the lighting set-up in a particular way but in kind of a short-cut way. (see the link to Michael Coffee’s set-up below for the real deal.) The material of the background is vinyl and there is a seamless non-glare coating sprayed onto it. It is very easily scratched and marked up. No matter how careful you are. They aren’t cheap and need to be replaced occasionally. But I think it is worth it, still. This is what I am using: Veritone graduated background – O9: white to black size: 42″ x 62″ . You can get away with the smaller size if you are just photographing small pieces (like mugs). But if you want to photograph something larger like a platter, or a row of mugs, it is just too small. There is another brand, Adorama, that you can get through Amazon. It looks the same as the Veritone, but I have not tried it yet. I also take some photos using either white poster board or illustration board and some reclaimed wood. I really love the way it turns out.

To actually do the photographing, I use a tripod. And I really love my camera,a Canon s95. It’s a sophisticated point and shoot camera. It has a large image stabilizer like a dslr camera. There is a newer version of this camera, the Canon s100, Canon s110. But the version that I have seems to have the highest ratings, by far.

One little gaget that I have that I suggest for anyone with a digital camera and a wi-fi connection: the Eye-Fi memory card. It’s a memory card (comes in a variety of formats and sizes to fit most cameras) that will send your images wirelessly to anywhere that you have set up: your computer, an online backup, etc… Mine is set-up to go to Picasa Web Albums for an online backup and also to my laptop. And then I get an email and text whenever photos have been uploaded. When I first started using it, it was like “finally! my photos are liberated from my camera!” Between the Eye-fi card and the camera on my phone, it has really made it super easy to give regular updates to my Emily Murphy Pottery Facebook Page.  (note: some of the newer digital cameras actually come with wi-fi now like the s100/s110, so this isn’t needed.)

When it comes to doing simple photo editing, I use Picasa.  It is super simple to use. It is free. A couple of my favorite features from Picasa are:

  • If you have a slightly crooked photo, you can correct it with the straighten tool.
  • the “I’m feeling lucky” button does a great job of correcting the contrast and color. I use this with most photos.
  • The crop feature allows you to set the ratio of your crop so you can do things like make an Etsy banner.
  • You can create collages simply on it.
  • You can add text to an image. Collage plus text = an easy flier for a sale!
I don’t stress out too much over every little detail of a photo. I am naturally inclined to obsess over that sort of thing. And if I gave into that inclination, I would never get anything else done. So I usually do some simple cropping and contrast correction and leave it at that. And Picasa is perfect for that.
So there is the info my photo set-up. It’s just one of an infinite number of ways you could set one up. I love my set-up. It makes it easy to take photos and then basically takes up no storage space when it is not in use.  It suits me, my work and my space well.

I did some searching and asking around and came up with a list of other blog posts and articles about photographing your pottery that you might find helpful:

If there is a link that you think I should add, or anything else that would be helpful/ clarifying, just let me know!

 

 

Holiday Studio Sale! November 30 and December 1

Are you in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area? If you are, I hope you can stop by for my Holiday Studio Sale! Or maybe you have friends or family in the Twin Cities… just forward them this post with some hints about wanting some handmade pottery for a gift ;)

When::

Friday, November 30 ::: 4pm – 7pm
Saturday, December 1 ::: 10am – 5pm

*For more information, updates and reminders- you can rsvp on Facebook. There is a chance I will extend the hours- and this is where I will update it!

Why::

Stop by my pottery studio for some (discounted!) handmade holiday shopping! I have lots of new work to share. A few of my favorite soda fired pieces are available too.

Don’t miss out on a studio sale exclusive: Seconds Sale! I’ve been doing a ton of experimenting this year – which means lots of ‘flawed yet functional’ work marked down 50% (or more!).

Porcelain mugs, platters, bowls, plates, platters, serving dishes, soap dispensers and more! Just about everything will be on sale! Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted.

Where::

My pottery studio: 3015 10th Ave South, Minneapolis, MN – please enter through the orange back door and head to the basement where my studio is. Follow “Pottery” signs (like you see in the first picture). We’re located basically a half  block away from the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street.

Parking::

  • There is street parking on 10th Ave if you enter from 31st street.
  • Or there is a parking lot in the alley directly across from our driveway that you can park in! You can enter the alley from 31st St between 10th and 11th or from 11th Ave between Lake St. and 31st St. (our alley makes a right angle)

*If you cannot make it at these times, let me know and we can try to figure out another time that would work for both of us!*

And here is just a little sneak peek at some of the pots that I will have for sale:

I am planning on having some work for sale online in early December and will be sharing that info on my Facebook Pottery Page. I’m trying hard to make sure I don’t take on too much at once this holiday season. I’m not able to do as much as I once could with a one and a half year old at home!