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/

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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How to make a new top for a storage ottoman

I have decided that I will sometimes share some non-clay focused blog posts on here.  I have always done lots of crafty/ diy things that are not clay. My parents are both the types to do-it yourself. My mom is an amazing seamstress, quilter, cook and baker. My dad occasionally builds furniture, is a painter and has the most beautiful flower gardens. I grew up in an old house which my parents fixed up/rebuilt/ renovated all by themselves. We had a vegetable garden that took up a large portion of our backyard. And as kids, we were always right in the thick of things on any projects they had going on. In college I double majored in ceramics and metals. In my first metals class my professor asked me if I grew up around tools, building things. She could tell by my interaction with tools that they were familiar and comfortable to me. That observation made me first realize how lucky I was to be brought up with the idea of being able to do something myself. My husband, Ian and I spend our evenings and weekends tackling projects, cooking and gardening. I really want our daughter to be brought up know how things work; how to fix things; how to make things.

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I have realized that I love to plan out projects even more than I like doing them. (I know I am not the only one…)  Designing, problem solving, figuring out materials, buying the supplies… that is the really fun part for me. It’s much different from the way I approach clay. But with both clay and non-clay projects, the final results are really the best part.

Here is a recent project I did:

How to make a new top for a storage ottoman

We bought an inexpensive storage ottoman off of Amazon. It was the right dimensions for where we wanted it to go and the price was right. But as I had worried, the price was too low. It was cheaply made.

The top of this storage ottoman broke the first week we had it.

The top pieces were crappy particle board and 2 of them broke within the first week. But the cost of return shipping made it not worth returning. People were always wanting to sit on it, but I’d have to quickly stop them from sitting on it and falling in.

a piece of plywood was cut to fit the top of the ottoman

Ian (my husband) was doing some building projects anyway, so he cut me a piece of plywood to fit the top of the ottoman. It was just some scrap that we had out in the barn.  I think it’s 3/8″ thick. I like that it wasn’t too thick because I’d be afraid of tiny fingers getting smooshed if it was too heavy. He sanded all of the edges and corners on the board too.

He added on these other supports in part because of how thin the plywood was. But also because it kept the lid from shifting front to back or side to side when sitting on top. You might wonder why the spacing of the slats is odd. This was a case of measure, cut some of the wood, then get distracted for 2 weeks, finish the cutting/gluing/screwing and then realize that you missed one of the cuts and had to undo/cut/redo some stuff. Hence the weird spacing of the wood slats. The slats were also scrap wood that Ian very nicely sanded down.  He used some wood glue on the bottom, and then screw them in from the top. That was there were any rough edges for the kids to get caught on.

The next step is to get some high density foam. I always get mine from Joann Fabrics. It come in a variety of thicknesses (1/2 inch up to 4 inches). And you can get the length cut for you there, but not the width. It’s pricey, but they always have 50% off coupons online, in the newspaper or in the mail. I used 3″ foam for this. And then you’ll need some spray adhesive. Craft stores, art stores or hardware stores all usually carry it. Spray both sides that are going to be stuck together. It’ll be very tacky and when the two sides touch, it’ll bond together quite nicely.

Then you want to cut the foam down to size. I use an electric carving knife.  It cuts through it like butter… You can also use a serrated knife. I actually own an electric carving knife solely for the purpose of cutting foam. I’m surprised by how often I use it- like for projects like this.

Then you’ll want to let the glue dry/set for a while. I flipped it upside down with the wood on top so there was a little weight sitting on top.

Then I wrapped the foam in two layers of batting (also from a sewing shop). And stapled it to the wood with a staple gun. If any of the staples didn’t go in deep enough, I just tapped them all of the way in with a hammer.

And then follow the layer of foam with the cloth. This cool fabric was also found at Joann’s in the “home decor” fabric section. They were having a big sale so it was half price.  The key to making sure the fabric stretched evenly (but not tightly!) is to staple from the middle top to the middle bottom. Then middle side to the other middle side. Then work your way out to the edges.

When you get to the corner, fold them like the corner of a present that you’re wrapping. You can snip out a little extra fabric too so it isn’t too bulky if you need to. And make sure all the staples are in all the way with a hammer.

a new, upholstered top for the storage ottoman

And there you have it. The ottoman has a new life. And I like it *way* more than the original.

Ada likes the birds on the fabric, and the legos inside. She has also discovered how fun it is to climb over the back of the couch and land on top of the bench.  She is quite the climber.

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When I’m not doing projects around the house, I’m working in my studio. With temperatures hovering around 100 for the past week and a half (not the usual weather in Minnesota!), my studio has been a giant damp box. The large serving bowls I threw were able to stay out uncovered for almost a week before I could trim them. Until the humidity level goes down in my studio, I am going back to some smaller pieces! So I threw a bunch of mugs. I’m working on using decals on some of my pieces, so these mugs will be canvases awaiting some imagery.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I’ve been having so much fun being back in the blogging world and loving the conversations that continue after the posts through blog comments and on Facebook.

Tutorial: How to make a square plate on the wheel

Before I delve too deeply into this post, I want to thank everyone for the warm “welcome back” that I received after my last post; comments on the post, comments on Facebook and some really wonderful emails. Thanks for all the warm fuzzies and cheering on! I’m happy to be blogging again!

And now for the fun stuff! How to make a square plate on the wheel. Or at least my version of a squared off plate.

First you have to start by throwing a deep plate/ shallow bowl. I want to have a nice curve to the piece, even after I cut off the sides of the plate. So I have found that making a deep plate or shallow bowl (however you want to look at it)  is the best form to start with. I am working in porcelain and want my end result to be a small plate. Something just right to hold a sandwich. I start off with 3.5 pounds of clay. Because of the way the foot is cut, it’s good to leave a thick bottom to trim. I also really seem to like these to have sort of a chunky feel. When I make them thinner, they just feel like there isn’t enough clay there. But really, that’s up to you.

It is important to make sure that your plate is in just the right stage of leather hard for trimming and altering. If it’s too soft it’ll warp too much from all of the handling. And if it’s too dry, you’ll just struggle and it won’t have that “fresh” look. I like a look where you can tell something was made without too much fuss. Marks that have made with a single bold movement.   It takes good timing, lots of practice (aka mistakes) and self restraint to not overwork something.

I trim a foot that flows easily into the form. Yes, I love my Giffin Grip. And my Bison trimming tool.

Then I flip the plate back over onto a bat. I use a sharp, thin cutting tool to mark my lines. An Xacto is perfect for this, or there is a similar type tool that I think Kemper makes. I enjoy the not perfectly square shape so I just kind of go with it.

I’m sorry that with all of these photos I do not have one of the actual cutting of the pot. It’s too hard to make the cut and take a photo at the same time. I hold the knife at an angle so you can see the thickness of the pot from the top – which is your typical view when eating off of one. And then I cut. I might hold my breath. I’m not sure. But I do know that I don’t stop or hesitate. Just go in and make a bold cut.

And then repeat on all 4 sides. There are times when maybe the line isn’t quite as fluid as I’d like, so I will use a Surform tool (or a Mudtool Shredder) to clean it up, and then smooth it back out again with a soft little red rib. But again, show some restraint here. Or at least I have to do so myself!

Then I flip the newly squared plate upside down onto a piece of foam. This is important. If you don’t put it on something that is cushiony, then you’re either warp it or mark up the corners of the plate. I use high density foam that I get from Joann Fabrics. It’s the same stuff I used on this post: How to make a foam bat. You can use one of those egg crate mattress toppers or whatever else you might have hanging around.

Then I use my Mudtool Mudcutter. This is on my top 5 list for favorite tools. The wire is very thin and tight. I use it for so many things. For me, it’s the only thing that really works for cutting the feet on these pieces. I tape the wire onto the foot ring to mark where I am going to cut. Then I cut down, over and then up again. And it’s just like cutting the sides of the piece. Make bold, confident cuts!

I think it gives the piece some much needed lift. I just love the movement and individuality of each piece. It’s fun to embrace that aspect of the pots.

And there you go … that’s how I make square plates on the wheel. Although technically much of it is done off of the wheel. It’s quite liberating to cut into a piece. I hope you’ll give it a try and put your own spin and unique character.

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And just a little parting story… The other day I set up a plate for Ada with a fruit snack. Cantaloupe, watermelon and bananas arranged on plastic plate. I put it on her little table. She sat down, ready to eat. Then got right up, went into the next room. And then emerged back at her table with a porcelain bowl. She put it down on her table and started transferring her fruit into the porcelain bowl, off of the plastic frog plate and then started eating. This potter mama was quite proud.


Bowl by Brian Boyer.

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Thanks for reading!

the not so long lost blogger

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Nearly two years, to be exact. It’s funny, because even though it’s been that long, I still consider myself a blogger. I finally decided that I should just dive back in and write. I’ll fill in some of the blanks now, but some of them later. If I tried to fit 2 years into a single post, it just wouldn’t happen. Actually, that has been part of the problem. So I will mostly go ahead as though my last post was just a few days ago. Thanks for still being around to read this.

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My time in my studio has been quite regular lately.  I haven’t been the most prolific potter (more on that later). I still feel like I’m finding my way in a new world (porcelain…oxidation…electric kiln…new glazes…). But I am also loving the feeling like everything I do is a choice. There are no default answers. I’m trying to really let myself be in that moment for a while.

Mostly I have been on the wheel, but I have been venturing off a bit lately to do some handbuilding. I’ve been trying to keep the timing of things pretty reasonable, not throwing more than I can trim/handle/decorate in a timely manner. Sometimes the pace of handbuilding fits right into that schedule.

I can’t seem to make too many mugs. I can make mugs for months and still manage to not have any in stock. So I make more…. I am not complaining at all. I absolutely love mugs. Making them and using them.

I seem to be stockpiling bisque right now. When it’s time to glaze, I really take over my whole studio (who doesn’t?). So I decided that for this round I will have enough for 2-3 glaze kilns full of work. I am also working on some decals for some of my pieces. So when the time comes for that, I can focus my energy there.

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I know that one of the reasons why I still feel like a blogger is because of Facebook. I have been keeping up my Emily Murphy Facebook page pretty regularly with updates, photos and sharing things that I think you might find interesting. And it’s been a great way to have a dialog with other potters, bloggers and lovers of clay. I have really appreciated this outlet over the past few years. Facebook has been making changes lately to try to get people with professional pages like this to pay to have our content reach more than a handful of people. I know that I can’t see myself being able to pay for that, so I’m hoping that you’ll try to work around the system a bit. There are a couple of ways that you can make sure that you’re getting updates from pages like mine. One is that when you “like” a page, you have to make sure that it also has the “show in News Feed” setting (see image below)

The other way is to interact with the page. The more you “like” or comment on something, the more likely it is going to show up in your newsfeed. And a bonus is that it makes things more fun for everyone! Part of what prompted me to resume blogging is because this reminded me that blogging is a better way to make sure you’re reaching people who want to be reached. And for having content that is archived and searchable. For me… for now… there isn’t going to be one outlet or the other. I’m going to keep blogging and keep updating things on Facebook. And I hope that you’ll come with!

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And on a personal note…

This is my daughter, Ada. She was born on April 9, 2011 and has been the most amazing distraction from writing, making pots… sleeping.  (although now she is a champion sleeper, hence the time back in the studio and on the computer…)

Is it ok if I add one more?

Me and my girl

 

a successful first bisque

I wrote this post just over a month ago, but for some reason, I never posted it. So here it goes (and there is more to follow).
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I’m declaring my first bisque firing a success.

I have never been so excited to fire a bisque before. But after more than a year of producing nothing but green-ware, it’s a big milestone to fire this bisque.

The process of getting to this point has been long. The house renovations, the studio building, etc… all took a long time. But it was the end part- of getting all the electric service upgraded and everything hooked up and running really seemed to take forever! It really did take a long time, but I do know that my anxiousness about it made it feel like it dragged out even longer.

After many phone calls to the electric company to finish the hook-up of the upgraded service, it took the crew 3 tries to get the work done. First time they got to our house, rang our bell and said “we can’t stay, we have another appointment.” Next day: “We only have one tall ladder and we don’t have it with us today.” Then a few days later, they finally came with all the right equipment.


View from our 2nd floor balcony.

A huge thanks to Paul Randall from The Pottery @ Raccoon Highway.  He did a lot of things to help get me to the point of firing including chiseling a hole through our foundation to install the kiln vent. That was not an easy thing to do! Thank you Paul!

I took my time loading the kiln. For the past 10 years, when firing at Lillstreet, I had to sign up for a time to load the kiln whether it was electric, soda or straight reduction. More often than not, you’d be loading a warm kiln that had just been unloaded by a class or another studio member. And then there was usually a time deadline that the kiln had to be unloaded so the next person renting the kiln could load and start up their firing. So I decided to luxuriously load my kiln. (yes, that’s what I consider a luxury!). So when I knew the first firing was in sight, I started loading her up. I ended up making more pieces to ensure a nicely loaded kiln. I hate wasting space!

After all the electric was done, and the venting was hooked up, I wanted to do a few things to ensure that the ceiling and kiln room didn’t get too hot.

While we were building out the space, we did put up cement board on the walls near the kiln. It is spaced off the wall so there is both a heat resistant barrier, and also the air space helps with insulation. Luckily there are 4 windows in the room, so I wasn’t worried about air intake and exhaust. And of course there is the Envirovent exhaust fan that is installed on my kiln.

Two things that I did need to figure out- A heat deflector and a fan that could keep the air moving in the room.

I knew from previous experience how important a heat deflector above a kiln is. It’s summer, and the room above the kiln room is my sister’s dining room. The floor above is wood (obvious concerns) and I also didn’t want to make their living space too uncomfortable to be in. So I took a piece of thick pink foam insulation, high heat spray adhesive and some wide aluminum foil and attached the foil to one side of the foam (side facing the kiln). The foam and the adhesive were left over from our previous construction and the foil was leftover from Thanksgiving. There are radiator pipes above the kiln (a bonus is that they don’t mind getting hot!). I used the pipes to suspend the foam over the kiln and have a nice air space between the foam/deflector and the ceiling/floor above.

I don’t know if you can tell, but the foam is a full 4′ x 8′ sheet. If you don’t happen to have a piece of pink foam insulation around, you can buy a sheet that has foil on 1 side. But since I already had some, I didn’t want to have to buy a new sheet.

The next thing was air movement. I wanted a really good fan that could keep air constantly flowing over the kiln (by the ceiling). I ended up getting a Vornado fan. I had it next to a similar size/design Honeywell fan and the difference was pretty shocking. The Vornado fan is many many many times stronger than the Honeywell (both were from Target).  So we aimed the fan from across the room, angled up at the ceiling, and towards the windows. Sure enough, at the height of the firing, the air space above the heat deflector was *cool.* It was actually the coolest spot in the room. And I kept checking in the dining room by walking on the floor with my bare feet and I didn’t feel like it was a single degree warmer than anywhere else. Amazing! Of course this is just a bisque. The c.10 firing is next. But I feel like this was a really successful test run. (spoiler alert: I’ve since fired the kiln to c.5 and c.10 and both were successful, and the heat deflector/fan combo worked like a charm.)

This photo is a little funny, but it gives you an idea of the set up. The way the Vornado fans work is that there is a very directed column of air.  So by aiming it up at the ceiling, it gave a constant flow of air over the heat deflector for the whole firing. Super simple and low tech- but it worked.

Next step is mixing up some glazes, finishing building the spray booth and finally firing a glaze firing. Yay!

In non-clay news, I’ve been spending a lot of time gardening. At the beginning of the spring, we didn’t have a single plant growing in the yard, and no grass. It’s so satisfying to have a lush green space now. Last summer we were so deep into the construction, our yard was a total mess- nails, scraps of wood and broken glass was scattered about. We didn’t spend any more time in our yard than it took to walk from the driveway to the house.

I planted a vegetable garden in our front yard. I’ve always wanted to have a veggie garden in the front yard- frees up the back yard for play space and it’s a nice way to get to know the neighbors.  Plus, it’s quite sunny. I started off kind of small this year, but it’s been a great success, so I’m planning on expanding it quite a bit next summer.

My new L&L kiln

Can you tell I’m excited?

After being without a kiln for the last 11 month, I finally got my kiln! It’s an L&L Davinci x3236-D Automatic. I have been asked many times how I chose my kiln. It is a huge decision to make, so I wanted to share my thought process and maybe it’ll help someone out there make their choice a little easier.

First decision: What kiln manufacturer did I want to go with? This was the easiest part of my decision. I’ve long coveted an L&L. They have a number of design features that strike me as both brilliant and completely logical. The big ones are:

  • The element holders are hard brick. Makes sense, right?
  • The electric controls are separate from the kiln. Sensitive computer parts are kept far away from the heat. Again, very logical.

The other thoughts I had about what manufacturers to go with.

  • I have had a lot of experience with Skutt kilns. Lillstreet had a ton of them. The 2nd floor set of kilns didn’t get particularly high usage, but it seems like there was always one down for one reason or another. More often than it seems like they should have. I’m sure there are lots of people who swear by their Skutts, but based on this experience, I didn’t want to go in that direction if I didn’t have to.
  • Any kiln is going to run into a problem at some point. So the question is- how are you going to fix it? If you’re super handy, it might be something that you can tackle yourself. If not, then who? A friend of mine, Donovan Palmquist of Master Kiln Builders is a dealer and repair person for L&L so I knew I had that covered. Plus I was able to order my kiln through him. You can also contact your local ceramics supply place and ask them if they have a repair person for a particular manufacturer. If you don’t have a supplier nearby, ask other potters in your area. Or you can also call a company directly and ask them to give you the name and contact information of a dealer/repair person in your area. Hopefully it’s not something that you’ll need for a while, but it’s good to know ahead of time so when the kiln breaks right before your last firing before a show, you’ll know what you need to do in the midst of your state of panic. Also, L&L has a 3 year warranty.

Second part of the decision: Size and shape.

My long term plan: Sometime next year, I am planning/hoping to build a soda kiln in my back yard. But I want to progress with making work right now, and not just wait until the soda kiln to happen. So I wanted a kiln that I can take up to cone 10. Even after I build the soda kiln, I want to be able to high fire non-soda pieces. A couple of years ago, I started making a lot of c.10 (reduction) dinnerware, or sometimes designed place setting that were a mix of soda and straight reduction (specifically tried to avoid dinner plates in soda). I wanted to build that option into the kiln I got. For the interim, I want to be ready to fire work in friend’s kilns- soda, wood, salt, etc… and not worry about clay bodies, etc… And hopefully there will be some glaze overlap too.

The other part is that I didn’t want to outgrow the kiln in 6 months. I want to make larger work- wide platters and tall bottles. Especially once I have the soda kiln- so I need to be able to bisque larger pieces. At this moment, I plan on having the footprint of the soda kiln be two 14″by 28″ shelves. The interior of my new L&L is 30.5″ square and the height is 36″ which will allow me to make the size pieces that I want to. I ended up getting a larger, more expensive electric kiln than I had originally planned, but it would ultimately be more expensive for me to buy a 2nd kiln in a year or two. So I had to wait a little longer to get the kiln that I knew would fit my needs now, and in the long term.

Shape. The square makes sense to me. Whenever I load octagonal kilns, I often get frustrated. Do I need to say more than that?

Below I’ve included the specs of the kiln (from L&L):

Specifications

  • Internal Size: 30 1/2″ square x 36″ high
  • Number of Sections: Four
  • Brick: 3″ of premium select K23
  • Max Temp: 2350F, 1287C, Cone 10
  • Control Panel Mount: Floor Standing, Plug-in, separate from kiln
  • Control: Handheld DynaTrol with Dynamic Zone Control, 4 preset programs, 6 user defined programs
  • Industrial Thermocouples
  • Hinge: Spring Loaded Counterbalance
  • Stand: Heavy-Duty Welded Angle Iron
  • Power Hook Up: Direct Hook-Up
  • Heavy Duty Elements
  • Three Year Warranty
  • Listed to UL499 Standards

And this is the vent system for the L&L kiln:

VENT-SURE KILN VENT SYSTEM


  • WALL MOUNTED VENT BLOWER

The vent blower motor is mounted on the wall. This keeps the heat of the kiln away from the motor (for long motor life) and keeps the motor vibration away from the kiln (which can cause ware to move, damage to the kiln, and misfiring of cones on a Kiln Sitter).

  • VACUUM IS SAFER THAN PRESSURE

The vent tubing is kept under vacuum instead of pressure (unlike competitive brands). This insures that any leak in the tubing does not blow noxious fumes into your room.

  • EXTERNAL VENTING IS BETTER

External venting is safer and surer than venting to the inside of your kiln room with a filter.

  • LARGE CAPACITY

The blower vents up to 130 CFM (cubic feet per minute). This will handle up to a 20 cubic foot kiln (and usually larger). More than one vent can be attached to a kiln. Only 1.37 amps.

  • SIX FOOT POWER CORD WITH ON/OFF SWITCH

The blower motor features a 6 foot long 120 volt 15 amp power cord. An On/Off switch is located on the cord.

  • ADJUSTABLE VENT CONTROL

A vacuum bypass on the kiln bypass/collection box adjusts the amount of venting from the system. Don’t waste heat and energy by venting more than you need. Adjust vent to kiln size.

  • 15 FEET OF FLEXIBLE ALUMINUM DUCT

15 feet of flexible expandable aluminum 3″ diameter duct is included along with necessary hose clamps. Longer lengths or lengths of 3″ stove pipe can be used as well. Length can be as great as 60 feet horizontal or vertical with up to four 90 degree bends.

So there is still some work to be done. We had our electric service upgraded so it can handle the kiln. Every kiln manufacturer website has these specs listed.

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I have taken a lot of safety precautions since my kiln is in the basement of my home, and I have a couple more that I’m going to add in before I do my initial firing. I know all about being overly cautious of the out-gassing, etc… But if you have any specific safety features that you have taken in your space, I’d love to hear about them. I will do a future post on that part of the kiln installation since I think it deserves it’s own post.

I’m going to spend some serious time reading the manual now. It is a very full 3 ring binder. One caution that’s in the book is not to plug it into an extension cord. That totally cracked me up. Seriously, though, there is a little more electric work that has to be done before I can fire. We just did a major service upgrade to accommodate the power draw of the kiln. Before you actually purchase your kiln, look up the kiln on the manufacturer’s website and look up the electrical specs. Print out the info sheet and have it when you have an electrician come do a bid. And get at least 3 bids. Really.