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/

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.

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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.

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 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.

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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!

yummy bowls

Now that I am working during my daughter’s nap-time and after she goes to bed at night – I find that I don’t have nearly as much time for cooking as I’d like (need, actually). So I have been in search of some recipes that we can eat for a few meals in a row without getting sick of it. Something that can be heavily prepped the night before (when Ian, my husband is around to help cook). And perhaps unusual for many, we have friends and/or family joining us for dinner on most nights. There are a bunch of different dietary considerations (vegetarian, lactose intolerant, etc…) that I need to be able to deal all of those with in one meal. So that means a meal with options that each person can customize to their dinner to suit their needs.

For some new ideas to throw into our regular meal rotation, I asked my friends on Facebook for ideas. My friend Rachel, who lives in Portland, Oregon shared an idea for something called a yummy bowl inspired by an Oregon restaurant called Café Yumm! It was just what I had been looking for! We’ve been making and devouring yummy bowls regularly for months now.

There is a special sauce that can be made up ahead of time and stored in the fridge for weeks. The base of each dish is usually brown rice. Then each person’s bowl of rice can be topped with veggies, protein and whatever else would be good in the mix. You could do a southwest theme, an Japanese theme… but so far we tend to go with the “whatever is in the fridge” as a theme.

We (me and Ian) will chop veggies the night before. Usually while watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report. We have these great glass storage containers (Glasslock) with lids that snap on super tight. These things are the key to the veggies staying fresh forever. Seriously, I can keep chopped up cucumbers in these for almost 2 weeks. And if I put chopped onions in them, they will not stink up the fridge!


Here is the recipe for the yummy sauce:

Yummy Sauce Recipe
(via Your Home Based Mom inspired by a recipe from Food.com and additional notes and tweaks by me.)

1/2   C   canola oil
1/2   C   almond flour/ ground almonds

  • Can be found in most grocery stores in the baking aisle.

1/3   C   nutritional yeast

  • can be found at: Whole Foods – bulk and in cans, Amazon, any co-op, etc…

1/2   C   canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed
1/4   C   canned white soybeans – drained and rinsed

  • These are hard to find. My co-op does not have them. 1 nearby Whole Foods had them, another did not. I have heard people substituting silken tofu for them or additional garbanzo beans when they couldn’t find them. Amazon sells a case of them.

1/2   C   water
1/2   C   lemon juice
1/2 tsp   salt
1 1/2 tsp   curry powder
1 tsp.   dried organo
1 tsp   dried cilantro

*some other versions of this recipe add 1-2 cloves of garlic. It’s good with or without it!

Directions:

Combine almond meal, beans & oil in blender or food processor and blend together. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until creamy smooth. Cover and let refrigerate for one hour. Keep refrigerated between uses.

** I triple this recipe every time I make it. It just barely fits in my blender, but it works! Would fit easily in a larger food processor. Tripling the recipe means that you use almost the entire can of garbanzo beans and entire can of soy beans. I’m not sure what else I would do with the extra canned white soy beans. The sauce lasts for quite a while in the fridge. I just put the extra yummy sauce in a couple of mason jars for future lunches and dinners.

*** I have heard this is a great sauce for topping a veggie burger too. I haven’t tried it that way yet, but I will soon!

bowl by Michael Kline

When everything is chopped, diced, grated or blended,  we set out all the options for everyone to make up their own meals.

To make your yummy bowl, you should start off with a nice handmade bowl. It’ll make it taste even better. Our assorted collection of “bowl-plates” are by Bob Briscoe and Jo Severson. Then start building:

base layer:  brown rice (our favorite!),  white rice, jasmine or basmati rice, sauteed rice noodles (a new addition brought by friends)
next layer: yummy sauce
next layer: shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is my favorite!)
next layer: veggies! shredded carrots, shredded purple cabbage, diced bell peppers, slices of avocado, diced cucumbers, green onions, broccoli slaw, chopped tomatoes, peas, lightly steamed broccoli or sauteed greens. Whatever you have around.
next layer: – protein: we usually use chopped up rotisserie chicken and/ or sauteed tofu. black beans would be delicious… tempeh would be great… there are so many options!
top layer:  ground peanuts (our favorite), sliced almonds… wasabi peas? something with crunch is a nice addition.
top top layer: salsa, teriyaki sauce. My sister just used the Spicy Peanut Vinegarette from Trader Joe’s on a yummy bowl and loved it. But we usually don’t add anything else. The yummy sauce is great by itself.

Ada and her cousin Shiya love love love this meal!

After everyone served up their bowls, I passed the camera around to capture what everyone dished up! I am getting hungry just looking at these photos… luckily I have 2 more jars of yum sauce in the fridge!

Enjoy!

inspired!

One of the best things about living in Minneapolis is the incredible clay community here. It’s not a coincidence that we ended up living here! Every September the Northern Clay Center puts on the American Pottery Festival. It’s a weekend full of pottery: an amazing exhibition (featuring over 1200 pots by 23 ceramic artists!), demonstrations, slide lectures, panel discussions and lots of fun talking shop with all the potters there!

One of the highlights for me was (finally!) meeting Michael Kline in person. We’ve been communicating through our blogs, email, Facebook, and even a phone call from back in 2006 (yes- both our blogs go back that far and then some!). So it really was about time to connect in person.

I had intended to photograph much more of the show than I did, but I was too caught up the the moment didn’t end up taking very many photos. There is really nothing like seeing pots in person! Here is one that I did take of Michael Hunt and Naomi Dalglish of Bandana Pottery‘s work. They weren’t up for the festival this weekend, but they were in town in May for the Upper Saint Croix River Valley Studio Tour.

I wish I had taken some photos of Birdie Boone‘s work or Kip O’Krongley or Sunshine Cobb to name a few. You should check out their pots!

The Northern Clay Center did a great job at getting the demos from the weekend online quickly. This video of Michael Kline and Steven Colby demonstrating their surface decoration techniques was up by the time I got home! It’s great to see Michael do his brushwork. And I have never seen anyone approach glazing the way that Steven does!

Another APF artist that demonstrated was Chandra DeBuse. I wasn’t familiar with her work before- but now I’m a huge fan! If you watch this video of her showing her handbuilding techniques- I guarantee that you’ll learn something new!

I don’t think there is a video of Kathy King- but if you ever have a chance to see her, go! She showed a variety printmaking and image transfer techniques. I have so many things that I need to try now.

A bonus to the clay filled weekend was a visit to my home and studio on Monday by Michael. It was fun totally geeking out – talking about blogging, pots, family and trying to balance all of them. We traded pots too. The chunky dish on the right is now lives in Minneapolis and the mug on the left is headed back to North Carolina with Michael.

I’m now overflowing with inspiration now. I have so many things that I want to work on right now.  I’m back into the studio and I’ve started filling all the horizontal surfaces up with pots again!

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I just had to share this photo that I took photo of my *fabulous* daughter this morning. She’s quite a character and definitely an inspiration!


What is Pinterest?

On Facebook the other day, a friend posted “Okay, I’m just going to admit it. I have *no idea* what Pinterest is.”  I’m sure she isn’t the only one. So I thought I’d share my experience with Pinterest.

I think this sums it up best:

Ok, it’s really more than that. But it definitely helps fulfill my desire (need?) to hoard things. But the reason why I really love it is because it allows me to organize things that I find online. If you saw my recent post about my studio, you’ll understand my love of organizing. The way Pinterest works and the way my brain works definitely seem to go together. I have always had a problem with having a few dozen tabs open in my browser. Lots of cool photos, projects and articles that I wanted to do *something* with, but didn’t know what quite yet. When I finally started using Pinterest, it was a bit of an aha moment- this is what I had been waiting for!

But this still doesn’t tell you what Pinterest is. Pinterest is a visual pinboard. It’s a way to visually organize photos, links, articles, tutorials, etc… You make up your own categories and when you come across something online that you want to save for future reference, you can “pin” it to one of your boards. Or you can look thought Pinterest’s website (or app) to discover things that other people have been pinning.

So here is a photo of what my “boards” look like (just a few of them, really). If you click on any of these screen shots, it’ll take you to the page that you see. I have lots of pots pinned, as well as recipes, organizing tips and projects to do with kids.

One of the fun things that I’ve enjoyed is categorizing different types of pots that I’m interested in at the moment. It’s a little like putting together your own “500 mugs” book. And besides forms, decoration, etc…, I’m also thinking about the way pieces are photographed- what was it about it that grabbed me?

I also use it as a way to organize my thoughts for a project. I’ve been wanting to get some images on clay so I started collecting some different links to tutorials. I am such a visual person- this is the ideal way for me to save links.

I have also discovered through the Google Analytics of my website that about a third of the traffic to my blog actually come to my site from Pinterest! Whoa! I didn’t even realize that was happening. But since I write a lot of tutorials, it makes sense that a lot of my posts are pin-worthy. The one that you see pinned repeatedly below is from a blog post from 2007- How to: make a texture roller for clay. You can see why people are pinning things and from this pin I’ve noticed that in addition to clay folks liking the tutorial, also cake decorators using fondant, teachers using playdough, etc… are pinning it and sharing it on their blogs. It’s fun to be able to connect with people in other fields.

People also pin lots of photos of my pots from my website- but it just reminds me that I need to update my website in a big way and get my new work up there!

If you want to see if photos from your site have been pinned, copy and paste this into your browser and fill in your website here (no www or http): http://pinterest.com/source/yourwebsite.com/ . You might be surprised what pops up!

I do not have ads on my website so increased traffic does not equal anything directly financial. But I really like connecting with other makers out there. I know that people have found me via Pinterest and followed me to my Facebook page or my blog. And various websites have added links to my site and posts and that is really helpful for page rank on Google. Many people pin their own Etsy listings. I know that Pinterest used to frown upon that- but when I was looking through their Pin Etiquette, I couldn’t find mention of that anymore. My Etsy shop does not currently have any listings, so it hasn’t really been anything that I’ve have to think about one way or the other.

A couple of thoughts to make your photos/ pages more pinnable: name your photos well. It’s hard to do this retroactively, but you could start doing it from now on. A lot of times people will not edit the text that automatically pops up when they pin a photo. So think about what you want listed under a pin and make it descriptive. Use your name and/or website, and a description of what the photograph or the post/page is actually about. It’s a good idea in general because it’ll help people find you via Google.

The other thing that I have started to do recently because of Pinterest is write some text on the photo:

That way when someone pins a photo- my blog is given credit easily and when someone is looking back at their pins and trying to remember why they saved something, it is clear.

If you’re ready to get started, this page has some helpful info for you. I’d suggest you to install a “pin it” button on your bookmark bar. And if you have a blog or website, you can follow the previous link and get the details on how to add a Pin button to your site. When you do start pinning, make sure that you give credit to the original source. If you’re pinning a specific blog post, don’t just pin the entire website. Or a Google image search or a Tumblr blog. If might take an extra minute to track down the original source, but I think it makes the entire user experience better. I try to check out the original sources when I repin something.

Pinterest also has a social aspect to it. You can ‘follow’ friends and see what they are pinning. Or if you like a board that you stumble across, you might want to follow them to see future interesting pins that they come across. Everyone seems to use Pinterest a little bit differently. I love the way that my sister, Nora uses it to explore color or the imagery that my dad, Jim is drawn to.

So that is Pinterest summed up for you. Be warned – it can be a big time sink! But I think it’s a pretty fun and useful one. Enjoy!

a pottery studio tour: my sunny basement studio

My studio is really clean at the moment. So before I started making a mess again with throwing, trimming and glaze mixing, I thought I would snap some photos and share with you. I absolutely love looking at other potter’s work spaces, and I know I am not the only one! I’ve been sharing some studio photos here and there on Facebook, but I realized it would be nice to have them all together.

And so our tour begins…

My studio is in our basement. But it really doesn’t feel like it, it has lots of light and plenty of space. We bought our house 3 and a half years ago. It was a condemned duplex that was a foreclosure that had been empty for years – but the reason why we fell in love with it was the space… and also that it is a brick house. How could I resist a house made of clay. Even though we saw the house in the middle of a bitter Minnesota winter without any heat or lights, we somehow we saw the potential in it. And long story (very) short: we renovated the whole house and built my dream studio. Every pipe is new and 51 of the 54 windows (yes, you read that right!) were replaced. There was no surface untouched. The studio was the last space that was built out. And I’m still making changes here and there. After renting studio space for so many years, I had been planning my dream space in my head. And it is such a joy to be able to work in this space that is actually mine.

That was a slight side-track. Back to the tour. You have to walk past the laundry room and our pantry and then you’ll find my studio door. Right inside of it is a wide hallway that I turned into a display area. As you might have seen in a recent post, my display just got a make-over. I still have some more to do on it, but you can get the idea. This hallway leads into what I call my “clean room.”


The clean room has my display, my kiln, my desk, my photography set-up and packing/ shipping area as well as a sink.


The kiln (an L&L which you can read more about here) came with 1 more ring on it, but when I was pregnant I couldn’t load it so I took off a ring to make it a little shorter. It’s still quite large. And now that I am working fewer hours than before (life with a 1 year old!), the slightly smaller kiln is great.


This weekend my husband helped me put up some new shelves in a couple of places in my studio, including above my desk. It’s awesome to have this additional space. I recently got a laser printer to start printing some decals that will go on my pots (more on that in a future post!) and I finally got it out of the box this weekend so I can start printing!


I usually refer to these shelves as “mug shelves.” My glaze test tiles/ samples are on the top shelves. The rest are filled up with pots fresh out of this weekend’s kiln!

And this area is my photography area, packing and shipping area and, of course, the sink. The photography set-up folds flat against the wall and then opens up when I use it. The next photo shows it opened up. I’ll write a more detailed post on the set-up soon. It’s pretty great being able take photos so easily. When I was building the space the 2 things that I knew were easy to overlook or cut for lack of space was photography and packing and shipping. I tried really hard to incorporate good set-ups for this. I wish I had even more space for boxes and packing materials- but there were limits. I’m still trying to figure out ways to stash extra bags of peanuts and bubble wrap.


This is the photo set-up opened up. There are lots of adjustments that can be made depending on what’s being photographed.

The next room (just past my desk) is the glaze room. It’s where I store dry materials, mixed glazes and my homemade spray booth.

The countertop is nice and easy to clean when I make a mess when glazing or mixing up glazes. It was just stock countertop from Home Depot. I got it during a 20% off sale. All the shelves were built to fit my buckets. The buckets on the right usually are under the counter, but I’m in the middle of replenishing my glaze inventory after the last 2 firings.

This is my homemade spray booth. There is usually a filter over that opening, but I threw out the last one that was clogged up with glaze. I’m hoping that I can remember the details of things like the exhaust fan enough to share with you a bit of a tutorial on a DIY spray booth – it’s been 2 years since it was built! It’s not fancy – but I like it so much better than the commercial booth that I used to use (which had such a weak exhaust fan). And it was way cheaper to build than to buy!



There used to be a wall that split this space into two separate rooms, but it’s so much better opened up. Lots of light and great cross-ventilation. The other room is where I make pots. Throw, trim, decorate, hand-build…


If you look up on the left, that’s the top ring for my kiln! It has a nice place to, literally, hang out until I decide that I want to go back to the bigger kiln. Below it is a ware cart. The canvas covered countertop is 14 feet long, if I remember correctly.


And this last space also got some sweet new shelves this weekend! On the left is my throwing wheel and on the right is my trimming wheel. It’s great having separate spaces so I don’t have to clean up when switching back and forth between throwing and trimming. I ended up being offered to buy a used Brent C from another potter for next to nothing. At the time I didn’t even have space to use it, but I knew it was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. So I bought it and stored it until I had space to have 2 wheels.

You can see the bat storage under the wedging table- I love how organized and accessible they are. And I just put up some hooks on the wall to store my foam trimming bats.
If you want to see how to make a foam bat, I have a tutorial on how-to make a foam bat here. And here I wrote about making the splash pan for my trimming wheel.

And that’s my studio. Thanks for joining me on the tour! I feel so lucky to have this space. It’s really a joy to work in. Having a studio at home has made it possible for me to work while I have a little one at home.

rejuvenated

I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a few weeks now. We were on vacation visiting lots of family out east (photo at the bottom of this post).  Even though I haven’t been blogging, I have a long list of posts in my head waiting to come out: review of  the RZ respirator mask; my homemade spray booth; my photography set-up; follow-up on my sink trap, using Pinterest, venturing into decals… just to name a few.

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My mind feels a bit scattered with all the different things I’ve been working on- but in a good way ;).   I’m almost done with the revamping of my studio display. My shelves have been refinished to better go with my new body of work. Originally I had stained the Ikea Ivar shelves a warm reddish-brown. It was a nice and warm stain that went with my soda-fired stoneware.  It just didn’t really work with the porcelain. I wanted to really make the work pop. Plus, it had been 10 years since I had originally stained them so it was time for a change. And I love how they turned out!

I don’t have a ton of space for “permanent” display, but I’ve taken advantage of an extra wide hall leading into my studio. I still have some more work do do to finish it up and add some more display space, but I’m off to a good start. I  am hoping to have people stop by to shop and visit more often than I have previously in this space. At my studio in Chicago at Lillstreet, there was a constant stream of people so it’s a been an adjustment to having a home studio! I’m glad that I stopped neglecting my studio display. It makes me extra happy when I go down to my studio now.

 

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I finally started glazing  yesterday. I’d let the bisque build up for a while. Now my studio is transitioned into glazing mode. I’m already giddy to see the results. It’s been so long since I have fired a glaze kiln- I’m really excited to have some fresh work! I have a couple of shows coming up, as well as some orders. And I am starting to work with some decals (more on that in a future post!). I was reminded yesterday how much I love my homemade spray booth – and I realized that I haven’t actually shared it on my blog yet. Again, that’ll be another post. (I told you I was scattered… didn’t I?)

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This next part will *also* eventually be its own post. But I just wanted to mention another project that I am working on. I am hoping to start a parent group/ play group for moms and dads who are potters (or other makers) and have young kids. It’ll be in the Minneapolis area, of course. I’m lucky enough to live in a clay/pottery/ceramics rich area that we can form a group like this!  I’ll get more into it later and share the MeetUp group when I actually create it. But I just wanted to start putting out the word and see if anyone else is interested. I have a couple of moms who have expressed interest with kids ranging from 3 months – 4 years old.  I’d love to have some dads join in too.  I’m envisioning meeting up during the day and doing the usual playgroup stuff like meeting up at a park. But I hope that the group with grow and evolve.  Also- I need a name for the group! Pots and tots? Wheels and squeals? Other ideas? It needs to be descriptive and catchy since it’ll be listed with all of the other “mom group” type listings on meet-up. And if you have any other thoughts, ideas or experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!

(Note: my daughter Ada is not a pottery prodigy…. yet. Just playing around on the wheel with a piece I threw for her amusement.) 

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I will end this post with this family photo taken earlier this month in the Shawangunk Mountains in New York. We had a great time visiting both sides of our family. Spent time at the ocean, hiking in the mountains, going to a island wedding in Maine and lots of time relaxing, reading and exploring. It definitely left me feeling rejuvenated and excited to jump back in!

I hope you got some time out of the studio, office or house this summer too! Now it’s back to the studio for me!

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