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 ;)
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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!
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…)
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):
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
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.
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.
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.
This post is a very personal one. It’s one that I’ve been wanting to write for more than two years but it’s been too hard, and although I’ve attempted, I’ve never gotten through it before. This is not about clay, but it helps to explain why I sometimes disappear from writing for periods of time. It can feel disingenuous for me to write here without acknowledging this part of my life. It’s something that takes up a big part of my mental space, and is hard to casually reference. But today is a good day. Today I can write the words that I’ve tried to write before. The tears are still there. But hope pops up and helps push them away so I can continue to write.
It’s not the kind of good day that you expect to be excited about, but it’s a day that we’ve resisted getting our hopes up for. Today marks 9 weeks since my four year old nephew, Ayrie, last had surgery. This is the longest that he’s gone without surgery in more than 2 years. He’s had 19 surgeries in 2 years. Today can be celebrated because of my sister, Nora, fights tirelessly for her son, and thanks to Ayrie’s amazing surgeon, Dr. Hartnick at Mass Ear and Eye (MEEI) in Boston. And it’s thanks to all the friends, family and supporters who have helped emotionally, physically and financially to help Ayrie get the treatment he needs.
Just over two years ago, we received news that totally changed our lives. My nephew, Ayrie, just before his 2nd birthday, was diagnosed with RRP: Recurrent Respiratory Papilomatosis. It’s a rare disease that is caused by the HPV virus. It causes tumors/growths on the vocal cords, which if gone untreated can block the airway and cause suffocation. It is something that is often misdiagnosed as croup, asthma or pneumonia. In fact, 2 months before he got this diagnosis, he was diagnosed with Croup, and it didn’t respond to treatment. We can’t know if he had Croup or not, but we suspect that he didn’t. The diagnosis of RRP was stunning to us, but we’re lucky that he was properly diagnosed when it was. He was diagnosed after he and my sister had moved to Chicago to be near me and my husband Ian. If they had lived in a different place, it is possible that the physicians wouldn’t have known what RRP was. We had never heard of this and most of what we learned about RRP in the beginning wasn’t very accurate. When something is so rare, there are lots of individual cases, stories, treatments, but that doesn’t add up to the whole story. We’ve been blindly swimming through the world for the last 2 years. Our lives over taken by this disease. Struggling to get through each day, fighting for health insurance, fighting for Ayrie’s health.
Ayrie has had surgery every 4 to 6 weeks since his diagnosis, and occasionally more frequently. Surgery is the treatment for RRP. Mostly, it’s “on-going maintenance,” removing the growths to clear his airway, but the growths return until his body figures out how to fight the virus on its own. There are different kinds of lasers that can be used, some surgeons use a mechanical device. There are a few kind of drugs that can be used during surgery but they almost all have major drawbacks (an understatement), such as being toxic or carcinogenic. After maintaining his condition over a year and a half, without it getting any better, my sister reached out to a surgeon in Boston. Dr. Hartnick is the top physician treating Juvenile RRP. When he first saw Ayrie, he told us it was one of the most severe cases that he had seen. That is a heavy statement. He skillfully removed a huge amount of growths, and used a new experimental drug in conjunction with the surgery. Interestingly, it was the same drug that Ian’s grandmother has injected into her eyes to fight Macular Degeneration with success, which is also experimental. The standard use is to fight Colon Cancer.
The first surgery with Dr. Hartnick happened just a week after we moved to Minneapolis last July. Nora and Ayrie flew to Boston while his little brother Shiya stayed home with me and Ian. My mom met them at the hospital in Boston which is 2 hours from my hometown in New Hampshire.
A few weeks after that surgery, Ian and I were away at a family reunion in the mountains of upstate New York with most of Ian’s family. We had moved to Minneapolis, where Ian’s family is, in large part to expand our support network. But it was the one time of the year that almost everyone that we knew in our new city was away at the same time, leaving Nora home in a new place without her support net. While we were gone Ayrie was having severe breathing problems and Nora had to take him to the emergency room. She didn’t want to “bother” us while we were on vacation, so we didn’t find out that there were any problems until Ayrie had already been admitted. It broke my heart that we weren’t there. Actually, that doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt. I was crushed. I couldn’t breathe. The image of Nora in the emergency room, completely freaked out with a 3 year old with severe breathing problems and his 1 year old brother (being a typical one year old), was an image that I couldn’t shake. If I was feeling this way, half way across the country, I was afraid to even imagine what was happening in the emergency room. No one was there with her. The first thing I did was make some phone calls while driving down winding country roads. Some amazing friends (that I knew, but barely knew Nora at that time), picked up Ayrie’s brother Shiya so Nora could focus on Ayrie’s care.
What happened over the next days was the hardest week of our lives.
The surgeon here in Minneapolis that specializes in RRP told Nora that he believed that Ayrie’s air passage was severely narrowed by scar tissue from all of his surgeries. To correct this he would have to undergo a surgery to open his air passage up. The tissue would have to be held apart while it healed, using an intubation tube. This would meant that he would be put into a drug induced coma for at least a week. When he was brought out of it he would be addicted to opiates and would need to be weaned off of them with Methadone. All this to a 3 year old. After that he would be “out of it” for several months. He would also permanently lose his voice. And the surgeons thought there would be a 50% chance that he would need a tracheotomy. For someone with RRP a tracheotomy means cutting through healthy tissue and giving the virus a path to spread, possibly moving down his into his lungs, which would ultimately be fatal.
At the time that Nora was getting this information Ian and I were heading to the airport to catch the first flight back to Minneapolis. 24 hours had passed since we had first gotten the news, it was the fastest that we get a flight. While we were at the airport, we heard more of the story of what was going on. My sister and mom tried to not tell us the extent of the bad news until we were back in Minneapolis, but I knew that the news was bad, and they finally told us what was going on while we were on a layover in Chicago. On the plane, Ian and I were doing everything we could to keep from sobbing. An incredible flight attendant sat down on the edge of the 3rd seat in our row, greeting people, and making sure that we had the row to ourselves. It made me realize the impact that such a simple, unspoken gesture could have on someone. The rest of Ian’s family followed the next day, knowing that they couldn’t be on vacation while this was going on.
When Ian and I got back to Minneapolis and rushed to the hospital it was an odd experience. At first we came in to the hospital room, Ayrie looked zoned out lying on the bed with his gown on and with a variety of tubes and monitors attached to him. He gave us a big smile, and with all these accouterments and with all our fears having built up on our way home it seemed terribly sad. But then five minutes later he was playing on the floor with us and everything seemed like it always was, except we’re dragging around an awkward IV drip. These stories, what we heard from the surgeons and what we saw in person, just didn’t add up. It was impossible to imagine him laying in a hospital room for weeks on a ventilator. And it was too painful to imagine him not being able to speak. Not even in a whisper, ever again. And we couldn’t bring ourselves to even imagine the worst.
When you get a prognosis and treatment plan like that, there is no question than to get a 2nd opinion, right? But the only pediatric ENT’s (Ear Nose and Throat surgeons) in the area who treat RRP are part of the same surgical team who devised the drastic treatment plan. When Nora spoke to the other members of the team they just agreed with the head of the practice. Not really a 2nd opinion. There is a surgeon at the Mayo clinic that Nora wanted to consult but she was away on vacation for 2 weeks and unreachable. Dr. Hartnick was also on vacation for 2 weeks, but we were able to get touch with him and he agreed to speak with the surgeon in Minneapolis. But the Minneapolis surgeon had no interest in talking or discussing the options. He actually refused to consult with Dr. Hartnick on Ayrie’s case. It was clear that his ego was getting in the way. We had to take the scans of Ayrie’s throat, bring them home, scan them and send them to his office in Boston. And relay the information ourselves, knowing the what possible consequences of a misstatement could be.
Dr. Hartnick, while on an out of state family vacation, wanted to hear about what was happening with Ayrie. His office forwarded the scan of Ayrie’s throat to his cell phone. He diplomatically said that he couldn’t tell much, but he didn’t think it looked like scar tissue. On top of that, he said that he couldn’t remember the last time he had to do a tracheotomy on an RRP patient and he offered to leave his family vacation for a day to perform Ayrie’s surgery. That was more than enough hope to go on. That was actually more than we’d even consider hoping for at the time. The hard part now was at the hospital in Minneapolis. They didn’t even want to let Ayrie travel 5 blocks home, much less fly all the way to Boston. And the surgeon told us that if Nora took Ayrie out of the hospital against his recommendation she would have to do it AMA (against medical advice) and that he would not ever see Ayrie again. Even if they came to the ER (which really is only 5 blocks from our house) and he was on duty. Is that legal? It’s definitely not ethical. What do you do in that situation? Everything in your gut, your heart, and your brain is telling you that the best thing to do for this child is to bring him to Boston. But we’re in the hospital in Minneapolis and the surgeons there are telling us that they can either be Ayrie’s primary physicians or they won’t see him at all. My sister made one of the hardest and most brave decisions that she could have. What’s the point of having the ability to come back and see these doctors when they don’t allow you to get a second opinion, even with the severity of what they wanted to do? Over the past year, we have renovated our entire home, top to bottom, inside to out. And for each thing that we needed to do whether it was work on the plumbing, having the yard graded or having flooring installed, we got a minimum of 3 bids. It wasn’t just about the price, it was about getting 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions on what the diagnosis of the problem was, the scope of the work and the suggested fix. Why are we intimidated to get 2nd opinions when it comes to our health? So much more is at stake.
With the decision made, we quickly packed up everything in the room and headed home. Three plane tickets were bought for a flight that was leaving in just hours. Ian went with Nora and Ayrie as support for them. Ian described the arrival in Boston as surreal, a late flight arriving to a mostly empty airport, the tension he and Nora were feeling about what they’d learn tomorrow… but a big airport with no one around is too irresistible and Ayrie just ran back and forth, giddy after being stuck in a hospital room for a week, and even though the two of them felt like they shouldn’t let him get out of breath, it seemed too wrong to stop a kid from being a kid.
Ayrie was admitted to the ER and brought up the the adult floor in the hospital because the pediatric floor was closed. A pediatric nurse was called in just to be with Ayrie that night and was both a nurse and a comfort to Nora, Ayrie and Ian. My mom met them at the hospital first thing in the morning. Dr. Hartnick left his family vacation and his fellow assembled a top notch surgical team on a Sunday (a non-surgery day at their hospital). After 5 minutes in the OR with Ayrie he called Nora on the phone in the waiting room to let her know that everything looked fine. That there definitely was not any extensive scarring and that nothing drastic had to be done. This still amazes me that he did that. He knew what we had been through over the past week and didn’t want to prolong the agony any more. Instead of waiting for the surgery to be over, he took the time to reassure the mom that everything was okay.
Dr. Hartnick also suggested a new treatment that had never been used on an RRP patient before. Because RRP is such a rare disease, experimental is our only hope that things will improve, as opposed to just maintain. He had read an article about young babies on a blood pressure medicine due to heart problems. Coicidentally some of the babies also had tumors from a different cause. The blood pressure medicine miraculously shrunk the tumors in these babies as an unexpected side effect. The drug is Propranonal. It’s been around for a long time, and it has few side effects. Dr. Hartnick made the connection between these other tumors and RRP and started Ayrie on the medication. Ayrie takes it twice a day by mouth. This is the first time a non-surgical treatment has been used for RRP: there have been other drugs used, but they are always injected at the site of surgery. No one knew if this was something that was going to work, but it was definitely worth a try. There was nothing to lose.
Thanks to this new drug, which Ayrie calls his”magic medicine,” and his surgeon, the time has stretched out times between his surgeries over the past 9 months. Theoretically (and hopefully), this could continue to happen. We’re now at 9 weeks since the last surgery. A marking point that we were not sure we’d ever see. We’re now hoping for at least another 3 week to make it to 12 weeks until the next surgery. We have hope because over the past couple of weeks Ayrie has begun to speak slightly above a whisper for the first time in 9 months. He is over the top excited about this, and we well up with happy tears when we hear him projecting his quiet voice. This development is something that gives us the ability to hope for 12 weeks. The longer he can go between surgeries, the longer his voice can rest and have some recovery. He will never have a ‘normal’ voice, but the fewer surgeries he has, the less damage will be done and the more strength his voice will have.
Last year, when we decided to move to Minneapolis from Chicago, a big part of the decision was to be able to have a home that we all could live in. Both Ayrie, Nora and Shiya need a huge amount of support. So Ian and I bought a duplex and made it into a space where we all could live. We live within 2 miles of Ian’s mom, dad, sister, and her spouse who are a constant presence in his life. We didn’t really know at that time we moved what the next step for Ayrie’s treatment would be. The care Ayrie received in Chicago was competent, but despite that, his health seemed to be getting worse, not better. We didn’t know what the next step was: Boston, Denver, Seattle, Mayo? We were lucky that Nora was able to find a great doctor and hospital in Boston; it would have been serendipitous had it been near Minneapolis, but it wasn’t, and we always knew we’d send Ayrie wherever we had to to get the treatment he needs. But it means a lot of traveling for Ayrie and Nora.
Weirdly Ayrie doesn’t mind the surgeries. He actually gets excited about going to Boston for a surgery. He goes to new places and he gets his mom’s and grammy’s undivided attention, and though he’s uncomfortable immediately after surgery it doesn’t seem to last much beyond that. He was starting to develop strong fears about anesthesia — a fear of masks and of the sound of gas, apparently common things for children to fixate on. He was having panic attacks when the defrost was on in the car because of the noise, or if he saw steam, it would trigger the fear. But since he’s been going to Boston even that has gone away (the anesthesiologists at MEEI are also some of the best). The thing that affects him most is that he can’t speak above a whisper. We haven’t given up hope on that improving, and he’s learning ways to cope, and his language skills haven’t suffered at all. All of the people close to Ayrie are especially tuned into his whisper. But it is a hardship at school, in large groups, out in public. Ayrie deals with this remarkably well, but it’s something that we all have to work on. Nora is in constant dialog with Ayrie’s preschool teachers about how to handle this in school. We are constantly trying to figure out ways to help him communicate. He’s worn a whistle so he can get attention if he’s in trouble, he knows quite a bit of baby sign language, but it only helps if someone else knows it too. One on one play dates are important for him to develop relationships with classmates so they will more easily be able to tune into his quiet voice. He’s learning exercises to help the strength of his voice. There is a Pediatric Voice Specialist in Boston that he’s begun to see. Part of the exercises include playing the kazoo.
This disease has changed all our lives. I’m not sure that Ayrie remembers life before he was diagnosed. The rest of us do, but we have also settled into a new sense of normal. We cheer when we can hear Ayrie call loudly up the back stairs “C’mon Emmy, c’mon Ian, me, mommy and Shiya are going outside. Wanna come play?” We cheer up when we go nine weeks without surgery. We sleep more easily at night after Dr. Hartnick tells us that Ayrie will, indeed, regain volume in his voice. Not full strength, but much better than it’s been. Better than we had dared hope for. We are grateful that this is our new sense of normal. That the battles have lead to successes. We know we are lucky.
For Nora, everything has changed. Like many parents of kids with a chronic disease, she is not able to have a regular 9-5 job. It wasn’t long after Ayrie’s diagnosis that she had to leave her job in Chicago having exhausted her vacation days, and knowing that she would have to take off work at any time for the next surgery. Having to travel for surgeries every month or so and the constant and endless phone battles with the insurance company make standard work schedules impossible. She’s now in a PhD program at the university of Minnesota, studying the effect of rare diseases on families and how support networks can help. She has been writing a blog, Rare Disease Support. She constantly trying to figure out ways to turn this difficult situation into something that can help someone else.
I am lucky that, as a potter, I do something that is completely flexible. I can jump in to help wherever I’m needed, and take care of Shiya when his mom’s away. And I’m so grateful that our nephews live just a flight of stairs away from us so we can be there to help provide stability in such uncertain times. This has definitely helped me put things in perspective. It has also made me think that you never know what is going on in someone’s life, what they might be struggling with.
As I write this, I have to wipe away tears. It’s exhausting to always have to fight these battles, but the stakes are too high not to. We’re lucky that we have some hope. It’s not anybody’s fault that Ayrie has this disease. I don’t even blame the surgeons in Minneapolis for proposing a bad treatment, no one has found the “right” treatment yet, and I’m sure they were proposing what they thought was best. I am not, however, so forgiving about the lack of openness and thoughtfulness I saw from them after the treatment was proposed. The lack of ability to consider that a second opinion would be worth 5 minutes of time on the phone. A few weeks after we left the hospital in Minneapolis, Nora received a certified letter from the surgical practice notifying her that they would not see Ayrie, even if he came into the ER. They followed through in their threat. This still baffles me.
I often think back to the prognosis that we received last September and what would have happened if we didn’t have anywhere else to turn. And if we didn’t find the courage to stand up and seek the treatment that was best for Ayrie. It’s beyond difficult to have every authority figure telling you one thing, and to believe that it is not the truth and to actually walk away from the situation. When you’re in the hospital, with a young child with all sorts of wires and tubes coming out of him, you’re in an incredibly vulnerable state. Every morning and every evening, when Ayrie takes his “magic medicine” and each week that passes without surgery, we thank Dr. Hartnick for what he has given us. Hope, life, and the sweet voice of a sweet little boy. We need to do whatever we can do to keep Ayrie in his care.
The health care system at times helps, and at times makes it very difficult. MEEI personnel have been very helpful, and they’ve been providing quality, consistent care even as insurance jerks us (and them) around. There was a state health insurance program in Illinois, and one here in Minnesota, that provide Ayrie with the coverage he needs. But the administrators of these programs (particularly in Hennepin County) are terrible: disinterested, lacking in compassion, and simply incompetent. But despite those problems there are always good people who really want to help, and though the system has been challenging to say the least, it has not failed us yet. And we are extraordinarily grateful for the changes that happened this week in healthcare. Ayrie will never be turned down for insurance, he will never be dropped because of his condition (although it can still happen due to bureaucracy), and his rates will not go up because of it. This will be a positive effect for the rest of his life. He is currently on state health care that covers the ‘uninsurable’ — to think, that classification will simply disappear! That’s worth celebrating. Under the current regime the insurance company has limited the number of surgeries that he can have. Of course if he doesn’t have them when he needs them he will not be able to breathe, but that doesn’t seem to concern them. One of the reasons that we’re so happy that the length of time between surgeries is getting longer is because it means there is a chance we can fit into their parameters and maybe have one less battle to fight. I just try to imagine what it could be like if we could focus all the energy that is spent fighting the insurance company and focus it on Ayrie’s well being. Every hospital visit is followed by a flood of letters rejecting this and rejecting that. Always vague, always requiring lengthy follow up with the bureaucracy of the insurance. Despite all of this I’m feeling hopeful we’ll get there. Closer to a point where we can put more energy into fighting for Ayrie, and less of it fighting against the system.
Please keep Ayrie in your thoughts. He’s an an incredible kid with a spunky sense of humor and a deep well of curiosity. He’s a typical four year old, who has gone through so much in his life that he has a wisdom beyond his years. People often remark that he has an “old soul.” If you’re interested in supporting his on going treatment, we have a travel fund to help him get to his surgeon in Boston. Because we never know when he’s going to need surgery next, we usually have to buy the plane tickets with short notice, which means high prices. There is no discount from the major airlines. And although we’ve tried to take advantage of different medical travel programs, they usually require 2 months notice, something that we cannot do. So we rely on private donations to Ayrie’s Medical Fund**. Five and ten dollar donations can add up quickly to a plane ticket to Boston. Thank you for taking the time to read this deeply personal story. It’s the story of a shared experience of all the people who love Ayrie. I’m glad to be able to share it with you on a good day. A day to celebrate. It’s an important part of who I am, as a sister, aunt and artist and I appreciate the opportunity to share this part of my life with you.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that write this update. Ayrie passed away on September 29, 2010 from complications to RRP. We are heartbroken but uplifted by the love and support of family, friends and strangers.
This is just a little peak at what I’ve been working on. I am making a bunch of tea bowls that will be given as gifts/favors at our wedding celebration this summer. It’s fun to think about these pieces going out to our families and friends all toasting out of these cups, then bringing them home as reminders of the celebration. Ian’s been having fun decorating some of the cups too. If I could just give away all the pieces that I make, I would be a very happy potter! But it’s not such a great business model… But I’m so happy to have the excuse to give a slew of pots away this summer!
Here are some more updates, and things that I’ve been thinking about lately…
I was lucky enough to be invited to join in on the first firing of Donovan Palmquist and Colleen Riley’s new wood kiln this weekend. Below are some of the pots that I had in the firing. I’ll share with you the finished pieces when they’re out of the kiln! It’s really amazing to be in Minnesota. There are so many amazing potters here- and I’m having so much fun meeting new clay folks every week!
There’s a new blogger around. Actually, there are quite a few! But I wanted to share with you Marcia Tani Paul’s new blog, Ceramic Arts: Clay, Food and More… Marcia is one of the many Minnesota potters that I’ve been lucky to meet. Take a look, and be prepared to be hungry!
Congratulations to Michael Kline and his 1000th post on his blog, Sawdust and Dirt! Talk about prolific! Michael’s been such a great contributor to the clay blogging community- I’m looking forward to the next 1000 posts!
I’ve been making a ton of cups in my studio over the past couple of months. You might have seen some of them in my last blog post. In the middle of cup making expedition, this Sequoia Miller wrote this great blog post about cups. It was a very timely read. This sweet jar of Sequoia’s is a cousin to one of his jars that I’m lucky to have in my collection.
Since I’m talking about blogs…
As you know, I have a big list of clay blogs that I subscribe to and enjoy reading while eating my steel cut oats every morning. I want to ask for a bit of help from you guys out there. Let me know if there are any blogs missing, and also if there are any that are defunct on my list. It’s time for an update! Just leave a comment below, or a note on my Facebook Fan Page, or send me an email. If you’re interested in setting up a blog reader with clay blogs to read over your morning coffee, I have directions on how to do it on my blogroll.
A couple of reminder notes about my list. I have to keep the list limited in some way- so I only include clay blogs, and mostly pottery blogs at that. And I try to limit them to ones that have mostly clay content. And it needs to have original content- not only Etsy listings or sale updates.
If you want a really complete list of blogs, check out the really complete list over at Slipcast, The Ceramics Blog. It’s impressive!
I have some more things I’ve been wanted to share with all of you, but I think I’ll call it tonight and write another post tomorrow. Until then…
The last table for my studio was finished this week. It can be wheeled back and forth between the glaze room and the throwing room depending on what I’m working on. I designed it with a fairly large overhang so it’s comfortable to work at. I hate sitting at studio tables when you can’t really sit at it with your legs under the table. Storage is good, but not at the expense of a comfortable working space.
The top of the table is covered in canvas. If you’ve never stretched canvas before, here’s a little tutorial on how to do it. It’s something that I learned how to do from my dad, who is a painter. It’s basically the same process of stretching a canvas for painting, but on a solid surface, like plywood. If it’s not stretched right, it will be really annoying to work on. One thing that I do that’s a little different from the paint canvas technique is I wet the canvas down with a sponge. It makes it a little easier to stretch and you’ll end up with a tighter fit. I usually buy my canvas at an art supply store, but during one of the discussions on Facebook, someone suggested getting a canvas drop cloth from the painting department at Home Depot. It has a coarser texture, but a good price if the size works for you. It’s an interesting idea.
When I was shopping around for really good locking casters for the table, Kristin Kieffer suggested that I get casters from Caster City. So I ordered up 4 for the table and they’re great! When you’re shopping around for casters for a table like this, make sure you get dual locking casters. It’s really solid enough that you can wedge on it.
You might have seen my post last week about my built in trimming splash pan. I asked for photos or links to other DIY splash pans and Ben Stark shared a post with me that he had written a while back. So here’s another splash pan idea, courtesy of Ben Stark Pottery:
Make sure you look at the original post. The way he designed it to be removable and slide on and off the wheel is pretty genius! If you have any projects that you’ve done at your studio, send me photos or links! I love this stuff! Just send an email to: emily (at) emilymurphy.com or post a comment on any blog post and I’ll see it. Thanks for sharing Ben!
The next project that I’m working on (and will be blogging about shortly) is a new photo taking set-up. I’m really excited about it- and excited to share it. In the age of digital cameras and Etsy, it’s something that we all want to have. I’ve been designing my set up for years, but never had a good place to actually build it. When I took an informal poll f potters about what they wished they had in their studio that they didn’t have, a photo taking set-up was top on the list. Part of the light diffuser that I built is made out of PVC. Last week Miri, over at Nick and Miri’s PR Prattle had some fun ideas about PVC including this get dolly for kiln shelves (photo below). The Rincon Facebook Fan Page had some more ideas too. I love the description of PVC being tinker toys for adults. ha!
A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up with some shows on Tivo, and something caught my eye. It looked like the character, Angela, on the show Bones, was wearing one of my pendants. I have no idea if it really is, but when I look at it, my reaction is: Hey! That’s one of mine! It’s a simple design that is not unusual, but the coloration and the knotting of it makes me feel like there is no question. If it is, it’s one of the larger sizes, stoneware with tile 6 slip, a very light spray of a copper glaze around the center. Anyway, it’s fun to think that one of my pieces ended up on a show that I love. A few years back I had some large bottles and platters in the show “Dream Home” on HGTV. A producer borrowed some pieces for the season finale. I wish I had some screen shots from that show!
After I finish my photo set-up, I’ll have some more pendants up on Etsy in the next couple of weeks. My shop’s been empty for a long time. Time to dust it off!
Thanks for the warm ‘welcome back’ and all the congratulations and well wishes! All the comments and messages make me feel like I’m at a reunion of good friends that I haven’t seen for a while! I’m full of warm fuzzies.
As promised, this post is all about my studio build out. A few months ago we finished the walls, ceilings, lighting and flooring in my studio, but more recently, we’ve been building out the space: customizing tables, shelves and storage to suit my needs. The project is still a work in progress, but you’ll get a sense of the space from the tour below. Enjoy!
The tour starts off in the hallway that leads into my studio. The studio consists of 3 rooms: the first one is a “clean studio,” the next is the glazing/ chemical room and the last one is throwing and decorating room. The studio will be closed off by a pocket door (which is in process of being installed). The left side of the hall is a display area/ storage for finished pots. I have some fun ideas for display that I’d like to do at some point, but it’s lowest on my list of priorities. For now, I’m using Ikea shelves from my show display. Straight ahead is where my electric kiln will go.
My “clean studio” is home my studio office. I’ll be using it mainly for doing photos and updating etsy, etc… Right ahead is my electric kiln area (around where the tool bucket is now). The walls have cement board on them (with an air space behind them) and the ceiling has 5/8th inch drywall. The shelves you see to the right will be for work waiting to be fired, kiln shelves and furnitures, etc… This room used to be a kitchen, and the tile floor are left over from it’s previous incarnation.
Another view of my desk. I’m trying to set up an area that is well set up for photographing pots, listing them online and packing for shipping. I’ve never had a good space to do this before, so it always made it much more of a chore than it needed to be. Across the room is a table for photographing work, as well as packing up boxes. I had conversations with a ton of potters as I was designing my space and I asked “what is the one thing that you wish you had in your studio” and everyone’s answer was to have a better space for photographing and packing up pots.
This next photo will get more of an explanation in a future post. This is the start of my photography set-up, but since it’s not done yet, I’m not going to explain the contraption just yet! The table is on casters has space under it for box storage. There is also a leaf that opens up to make the table larger, but stays out of my way when I’m not using it. This table will be for both photographing work, and also for packing up work.
This next area is just to the right of the photo table, and directly behind my desk. The utility sink is getting a trap installed under it (another post coming up about that). Suspended from the ceiling is a big roll of packing foam (which I forgot neaten up before the photo, oops!). The counter will be more area for staging work for photos and wrapping/shipping. Below the counter is space for both boxes and wrapping paper. There is also a spigot below the counter, where I can fill up bigger buckets without having to lift them in and out of the sink.
The next room: this is my glazing area, as well as clay storage. The shelf building is still in progress, but I’m pretty excited about this space. The counter top in here (and by the utility sink) is just “in stock” laminate counter top from Home Depot, which were also 20% off when I bought them which made them a great deal. For the floor in the glazing room and the throwing room, I did an epoxy coating over the cement floors. I’m really impressed with their durability. To the right of this will be where I eventually hope to have a spray booth just past the window. The clay storage is a pull out dolly so I don’t have to awkwardly reach to get clay out and put clay away. The wheelie things the 5 gallon glaze buckets are on are actually plant holders from Ikea. Much cheaper than ones from hardware stores, and definitely durable enough. I’ve been using them for years.
The next set of shelves are across from the glazing area. These shelves will be for dry material storage, and the bottom part can be more clay storage (also pulls out). The glazing room & throwing room are separated from the clean room by a door to help keep the dust from migrating too much.
Our tour continues into the next room, which is where I’ll do my throwing, trimming, altering and decorating. The 2 rooms used to have a wall dividing them, but I opened them up to get more light, cross ventilation, and generally more space. There will be another table built that will roll between glazing and throwing rooms whenever I need more horizontal surface, but that won’t happen for another week or so. These shelves will hold greenware and work in progress. The shelves on the right is a full cart that I inherited from a previous studio that I altered to fit my needs. There is another rolling dolly for more heavy duty storage at the bottom of the shelves to the left.
This next part is my favorite part of my studio! It’s a canvas covered counter that is 14 feet long and 2 and a half feet deep. There is a space for me to sit at right in front of the window. All the tools and slips are right at my reach. I can’t wait to spend hours sitting here, decorating pots! The throwing area is to the right of this photo, directly across from the shelves/cart.
There is still some building to do in this next area, but you can get the basic idea of the space. I use one wheel for throwing (on left) and one for trimming (on right). The wedging table has some pretty slick bat storage built in. I’m going to build a big catch-all splash pan for the trimming wheel and room storage above each wheel.
So that completes the tour of my studio, so far. I’ll be revisiting some of these spaces on my blog as I finish them and start to use them. I’ve been having fun building out the space that is customized for my needs. I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, so I can really settle in. I’ve had 4 studios over the past 10 years so I’ve always been hesitant to build too much that was not movable and was too customized. But now that I’m more or less permanently settled, I can customize away! It’s taking a little longer to get set up, but it’s definitely worth it. With that said, I’m so glad that the end is in sight!
When I finished writing this post, I was talking to Ian and telling him how I had just written an overly detailed (and very long) post about my studio build out, but I knew if I didn’t write all the details, I’d get a lot of questions about the parts I skipped over, so I just went for it. I know how much people love details about studio design! I soak up every blog post, book chapter and magazine article that is about setting studio set up- no matter the size or location. Ian pointed out that it was like HGTV for potters. I think he put it perfectly!
Well… after a loooong hiatus from both blogging and making pots, I’m back. I never intended to take such a long break, but the rest of my life kind of took over. Thanks to all of you who inquired about my whereabouts! I kept meaning to write a little update, but it’s been a whirlwind of time the past six months. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been up to in this post.
As many of you know, I recently moved to Minneapolis after 10 years in Chicago. The move was crazy, but the real crazy part was that we bought a duplex last winter that was condemned, and we brought it up to code through months and months and months of intense renovations. The house had a total of 4 units (2 original, 2 illegal units)- which included 4 kitchens and 4 bathrooms and not a single part of any of them was salvageable. The house has 54 windows, and only 4 of them were worth keeping. The house had been empty for 2 years when we bought it. I’m sure much of the deterioration happened during that time. Minnesota winters are rough! But we saw past all that and we fell in love with the house. It’s brick, after all! And the raw space and layout were perfect for us. So we dove in head first and have learned a lot along the way.
Ian and I live on the 2nd floor, and my sister Nora, and her two little boys, Ayrie and Shiya live on the 1st floor. The attic is Ian’s office, and guest space. The basement is my studio and a shared family room. Lucky for me the basement has tall ceilings and full sized windows. It’s the perfect space for me.
For the construction, we tried to hire people that were friends, family, friends of family and friends whenever possible. Most people commuted to work on bikes, so this is what our yard looked like on a busy day:
This picture will just give you a little idea of what the house looked like when we bought it. Our Realtor thought that we were crazy, but now thinks we were brilliant :)
This is what our kitchen looks like now. It’s a pretty dramatic before and after!
We designed these shelves to hold our pots for every day use. As they were being built, everyone kept saying: what are you doing? These are super engineered to be incredibly sturdy. There are no worries about overloading them! I’ll do a blog post at some point in the future so you can see the interior structure of the shelves.
We live right in the middle of the city- but we have a barn in our back yard! It needed quite a bit of work, being over a century old, but we’re glad we did it. There is a great loft space that I hope to turn into a showroom someday.
Of course I have tons more pictures of our renovations, but I just picked out a handful to give you a sense of what I’ve been up to. If anyone wants to see more photos, I could post a slideshow of the rest of the house. My next post will be of my studio progress so far, so there will be some more house photos to come.
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Then, just as we were nearing the end of our renovations, Ian and I decided, after 13 years together, to make it ‘legal’, and we got married! We had a tiny ceremony, in our living room. It was perfect. We’re planning a larger celebration in the spring in our back yard after the snow thaws but before I begin construction on my soda kiln and kiln building.
So that basically sums up where I’ve been. It’s been a great year with a lot of exciting changes. I’m anxious to be back to blogging, and back to the world of clay! I have a ton a blog posts lined up in my head, and even more ideas for pots! Thanks for checking back in with me.