Category Archives: Emily Murphy

Ravenswood Art Walk – Chicago (Oct. 4 – 5)

The air is a little crisper with a cool edge to the breeze here in Chicago.  Autumn is upon us and that means that it is time for the Ravenswood Art Walk!

The north side art walk takes place this weekend, Oct. 4 -5, 2008 from 11am – 6pm in Chicago. There are over 30 participating venues and over 150 artists.  
The art walk takes place on the Ravenswood Ave. industrial corridor (by the Montrose stop on the Brown line). Lillstreet is part of the walk as well as other ceramic artists. Most of the studios that will have their doors open this weekend aren’t regularly open to the public so you don’t want to miss it! 
My studio will be open this weekend as part of the artwalk, and as I posted yesterday, a show that I am in, Collective Conversations in Clay is also opening up in conjunction with the artwalk.
If you’re around, I hope you’ll stop by!

 

Exhibitions: Collective Conversations in Clay

Collective Conversations in Clay

A collaborative exhibition with: 
I am going to be in a very cool show that opens this week at Lillstreet Gallery in Chicago.  (Please refer to the diagram in the top left corner and follow along.) The show is made up of work from five pairs of artists.  Each ceramic artist made 1 piece(s) from start the finish and another piece(s) halfway.  Then traded the leather hard piece with their partner. The partner decorated, finished and fired the piece(s).  Each pair will display their four pieces. I haven’t seen any of the other pieces yet, so I am really excited to see what everyone did. 

The details:
Lillstreet Gallery
4401 N. Ravenswood
Chicago, IL 60640
Oct. 3 – Nov. 1, 2008
Opening Reception: 
Saturday, October 4, 2008
4pm – 7pm
This show is part of Chicago Artists Month and the Ravenswood Art Walk.
We did a slightly different incarnation of the show last year.  You should definitely check out it out: Being to Being: Collective Conversations in Clay.
I think this is an exercise that every ceramic artist should try.  You learn so much about your own work and your approach to it by seeing your form through someone else’s eyes.  I will be posting pictures of the show soon so you can see the work even if you’re not in Chicago.

Four Years of Pottery Blog!

How it All Began

It’s a bit of an anniversary for me… It’s been 4 years since I first started writing PotteryBlog.com. It all started about 4 and a half years ago at NCECA – Indianapolis. I had attended a number of panel discussions and lectures given by writers, editors and publishers of both books and magazines. I found myself inspired by the words I had heard throughout the week and the conversations had, but I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it. I knew that I wanted to write, but the time lines for traditional media didn’t appeal to me. Magazine articles usually took about a year to be published, and books could be 3-5 years. I wanted to go in the direction of something less formal and with more immediate feedback, for now.

On the trip home from Indianapolis, a conversation started with my friend Brian Boyer (programmer, writer and potter). He really felt that a blog was the direction to go in with my post-conference energy. Ian and I had many conversations at home and he had been urging me to start a blog throughout the previous year. My hesitation was that I didn’t know any other potter that was writing a blog about clay. A huge part of blogging was the connections with other bloggers writing in the same field. Blog writers are great blog readers, and when you begin to link to each other, your audience can grow exponentially. But after the conference, and my conversation with Brian, I realized that it was what I was going to do. And so I went home, registered the domain name: PotteryBlog.com, and soon I began to write. I had no idea where it was going to lead me, but I knew it was were I wanted to be at that moment.

A Slow Start

When I started this blog, I had to do a lot of educating. The question that I got from most of the clay folks that I talked to about my writing endeavors was “What’s a blog.” I guess it’s a question that I still get, but in the beginning it was the question that I got from everyone that I talked to about it. I continued to write for the next 2 years. Not on a super regular basis, but regular enough. A couple of years into it, I had that nagging feeling that maybe no one was reading my blog. A large part of writing a blog is personal, so theoretically, I would continue to write with or without readers. But when you send your words and images out there, you do hope that someone is reading them.

Why do I Blog?

The other top question that I get on a regular basis is: why? Why do I spend my time and energy into writing this blog. Why do I “give away information for free” (their words, not mine)? The answer is pretty simple: information is free. I would love to give away pots, but it’s not the most sustainable business model. Ian (my significant other of 12+ years) is an open source programmer. He’s rubbed off on me over the years. The idea with open source is that the programming code and/or the process of writing it are open for others to see and use and that by making it public, the larger community will benefit from the sharing of information and collaboration. With programming, you can easily do this regardless of geography. With clay, it’s not so obvious on how to do it, but I think blogging is has been a good way to do “open source ceramics”. If I give you a pot, now you have a pot and I don’t have that pot. But if I give you an idea then we both get to keep it.

The open sharing of ideas might be the overarching reason on why I write, but I’ve discovered many more benefits to blogging. I have found that writing has greatly impacted my work. The conversations I have with myself about my own work have grown and evolved, affecting the aesthetic decisions I make daily about my pots. As a visual artist I’m used to falling back on the thought that my work will speak for itself. I hope it does, up to a point, but there is something to be said for backing it up with words. And obviously not everything I write is that profound (like instructions on covering your remote with plastic). But when I have to be more serious and thoughtful about my words, like when writing an artist statement, it comes easier than it ever has before. The habit of writing makes writing easier.

Getting Re-energized

Two years after I began this blog, I once again found myself at NCECA (Louisville) and throughout the week had some amazing conversations with people that “knew me” from my blog. I suddenly realized that my blog posts were not just disappearing out there, but they were being received on the other end by ceramic artists that not only knew what a blog was, but were excited to be reading one that focused on clay! Once I had the knowledge that people were out there across both the US, but also around the world were reading, I was energize and completely dove into the blog.

When I got home I started writing more regularly. I also started to pay attention to the statistics on who was reading my blog. And I set up an email list so readers could automatically get an email with each post. Knowing people were out there on the other end really pushed me.

Some Nice Side Effects

I’ve had a website of my work, in one form or another for the past 9+ years. I used to be conflicted about having pots online. They are 3-dimensional and tactile; things that don’t usually go so well with the internet. I think that a blog helps add other dimensions to the piece. You can show the pieces in progress. Talk about the process of making. Show the pieces in use. Talk about inspirations and frustrations in making. Some of the blanks begin to fill in and the connection between maker, pot and user has grown stronger. Stronger than I ever could have imagined way back when I began my first adventures online.

There have been some great and unexpected side effects of writing my blog. It turns out that it is the best kind of publicity: it’s publicity as a side effect. I get to put my efforts into what I want to do: write, teach, share my work, and connect with others. And it just so happens that it’s publicity. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been asked to be in a number of invitational shows where the curators, jurors and gallery managers have found my work and gotten to know it through this blog.

It’s also allowed me to keep up with regular customers. They can check in and see what I’ve been up to easily. The email list, RSS feed and blog reader instructions have been really important. I wrote a while back about the concept of 1000 True Fans. I’m far from it, but my blog helps me on my path.

The Ceramic Blogging Revolution

Ever since my return from NCECA in Louisville 2 years ago, something really exciting is happening! The number of clay focused blogs has grown exponentially and an incredible international community of clay bloggers has developed. It’s a community that I feel very lucky to be a part of, to have these relationships with my readers and other pottery bloggers. I’m learning a lot, both technically and personally.

What’s Next

I have at least 6 other posts in progress, and another dozen ideas in my head, but if you ever have any suggestions, I’m glad to hear them and respond to them. I find that the more I write, the more I want to write (like this past week).

I will continue to have tutorials, studio updates and show announcements. But I’m also expecting the unexpected, just like when I began. You never know where life (or a blog) is going to take you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please share your thoughts about pottery blogging with me and the other readers in the comments, it’s an important part of the process for me. It would be quite a different experience entirely for me if I wrote without comments. The posts would become static. This post doesn’t end with this sentence, it ends with the last comment at the bottom of this page.

Dinnerware, a platter, wall vases and a whole bunch of cups

As promised, here are some photos of some recent work. I got them out of the kiln right before our July road trip. And had the photographed this week by my photographer, Guy Nicol.

This is some new dinnerware that I’ve been designing:

And this is part of my newest platter series:

I’m really excited for these new wall vases.
These pieces are sort of a hybrid between my oval vases and the wall pieces.
And this is a new surface that you’re going to start seeing on more of my pieces.
I’m really excited for a floral designer to go to town with them! Unfortunately, my favorite designer, Amy Lemaire, has moved away! Amy has done all the arrangements over the past 4 years. You can see some of her past work here

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been in a cup making groove.
I really love the curve & tension in these handles.


You might remember these masked mugs from an earlier post.
The curve of this mug makes me want to fill it with hot cocoa and cup it in my hands on a cold autumn night. That’s not going to happen for a while.
And here are the peace cups that you might remember from a previous post too.
hope. peace. change.

New Website: EmilyMurphy.com

I’ve been a very busy potter lately. Busy on the computer, that is.

I have totally redone my website. It’s still a bit of a work in process, but it’s complete enough that I wanted to share it with all of you. Take a look: emilymurphy.com

I’ve been patiently waiting for someone who owned the domain, emilymurphy.com to let it expire. There was never anything done with it, so I had hope. Finally, it was free for me to buy and I jumped on the chance. I had been wanting to do the site for a while, but I kept putting it off (with excuses like, I should be making pots). But then we had a major server crash and my site was down and not easily retrieved. I had a deadline for a wedding registry that I needed to have online, so I dove in and did it. I guess that’s how you need to do it. Stop thinking that you should do it one day, for months and years on end. Just dive in and begin. (This is something that I often tell myself.)

There is still some content that I’m planning on adding, and I haven’t done all of the SEO yet, but it’ll happen in time. I’m also planning on moving my blog over from Blogger to WordPress sometime soon. It’ll coordinate nicely with my new site too. So much to do… so little time… But for now, I’m pretty happy with it and wanted to share it, albeit a work in progress.

Hot Pots

I fired a kiln full of pots last week in the soda kiln. It was chock full of cups, but that’s the subject of another blog post. It was a pretty fun load. There were a couple of new clay bodies, new glazes and slips. Lots of testing and playing around led to many late late nights at the studio in preparation for this kiln. I ended up with was about a kiln and a half full of work, so there will be another one soon!

The image below is of the wall of the soda kiln. Isn’t it beautiful? The walls are actually glazed. I’ll write more about this soon, but basically the idea is to glaze the walls of the kiln to help protect the bricks from the soda and to pre-season the kiln so less soda can be used from the first firing.
This is what the back of the kiln looked like before the firing:
And this is what it looked like after:
The back third of the kiln is usually has less soda than the front. I load porcelain or white stoneware clay bodies in the back of the kiln that do nice things with less soda to take advantage of this area. If I try to put my soda body in the back of the kiln it will be rough and dry. Not a nice look. I also load the kiln more loosely to encourage the flame to head back there. 

And this is the front of the kiln before:


And this is it after:


The kiln had mixed results for me. The pieces that I’m excited about I am really excited about. The ones that did not turn out so well are disappointments. But that is why I do soda. I’d much rather have the highs be really high and the lows be really low than to fire a kiln and say “oh, that’s just how I thought they’d turn out.” And when you have a kiln that you’re doing lots of experimenting with, those extremes are even more extreme. There will be lots of pictures to come, but I thought I’d give you a peak and some of the cups.

Please excuse my less than excellent pictures. I snapped them quickly in my studio last night as the sun was going down. Snazzy pictures will come in the not too distant future. I want to get better images of the test pieces so you can really see what’s going on.

I love how the pattern accentuates the form on these:

You might remember these masked mugs:

And perhaps you remember these too:
peace – hope – change 

And this is a little preview of some new pieces to come:

(I love this new clay body!)

Road blocks, Mister Rogers and a future guest blogger

On Thursday evening, I got an email from a neighborhood newsletter letting residents know that there was going to be emergency road work being done right outside my studio on Friday and Saturday and the road would be closed… the exact two days of my sale. Luckily, I was able to send out an email giving folks a warning about the big orange signs, let them know about some alternate directions.

The road blocks did not deter anyone. The sale was a huge success and my shelves are now pretty sparse. It’s always great to see my regular customers and old friends. Thanks to everyone who navigated the detours and came out last weekend!

The road blocks were only a little bit of an inconvenience… Nancy and Burt had to deal with a tornado at the Kalamazoo Art Fair! It’s a good reminder why I prefer studio sales over art fairs.

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I was watching Mister Rogers with my nephew, Ayrie, the other day and there was a nice surprise: Eva Kwong was the guest!

 

In case you missed it, check out this blog post from January about another surprise appearance by a potter.

 

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And lastly… here is a picture of Ian…

 

The thing that is interesting about this picture to those of us who know him is that in this photo he has no beard and has short hair! Ian and I are approaching our 13th year together, and this is literally the first time I’ve seen his chin! Ian usually has longish hair and a very full beard. I’m posting this picture for our friends and family across the country that won’t get to see this in person… It’s not going to last long!

Although Ian is a programmer who writes a blog that most of us don’t really understand, he will be taking a turn writing a guest post for this blog sometime over the next week or two. I can’t wait to read it!

Crazy Pottery Sale – this Friday and Saturday!

I’m making space for new work in my studio and having a HUGE sale this Friday and Saturday in my studio. 

The details:
  • Friday, June 6, 4pm – 7pm
  • Saturday, June 7, 10am – 5pm
  • At my studio in Chicago. 4401 N. Ravenswood, Lillstreet Studios, 205 west (follow link for directions and public transportation options)
  • Pieces are marked up to 75% off (starting at $5)
  • Cash, checks, Visa & MasterCard accepted

I’ll be selling sample pots, pieces from the back of the shelves, discontinued forms and more for big discounts. Seriously, this is the first time that I’ve marked work down this much. (There are tons of pieces that will be $5 – $10.) It’s time to the shelves for new work. Help me make room!

* mugs * bowls * plates * vases * soap dispensers * tumblers * bottles * platters * butter dishes * salt & pepper shakers * pitchers * tea bowls *

Have you been wanting to pick up a couple of plates for yourself? Do you have a wedding to go to this summer and need a gift? Have you gotten your dad a Father’s Day present yet? Stop by and take advantage of this big studio sale! I hope to see you this weekend!

Visiting Chicago? Stop by Lillstreet…

I thought I’d tell you a little bit about where I spend my days making pots and teaching classes. My studio is on the north side of the city at Lillstreet Studios. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood sometime and say ‘hello.’ It’s a great place to explore if you’re visiting Chicago. Or if you happen to live in the windy city, take an afternoon excursion to see what’s happening inside the walls of this old factory building.
Click here to get more information on Lillstreet’s location.

Getting there: You can drive (ample parking). You can ride a bike (lots of bike racks). You can take the Brown Line to the Montrose Stop. You can take the Montrose bus to Ravenswood. You can take the Metra to Lawrence. Etc…

There is a lot to see, so I thought I would give you just a brief “virtual tour” to entice you to stop by on your next trip to the windy city.

This is the directory that you’re greeted by when you walk inside the front door:

On the first floor:

One of the wheel classrooms (this one has 18 wheels):

On the second floor:

Outside my studio, 205 west, there are bios of each artist:

On the third floor:

Jewelry and metals:

The building is open for visitors to wander around. Explore the classrooms, visit the studios, shop in the gallery. The studios don’t have regular hours, but if you stop by, there is probably something open! There is no way I could actually show you everything, so you’ll just have to come see for yourself.

Interested in making a day of it? Other things to see and eat within 2 blocks:

And some things that are pretty darn close, but you’d probably want to hop in a car, on a bike, on a train:
Haus
Old Town School of Folk Music

If you’re making a special trip to Lillstreet, send me an email to let me know you’re coming so I can make sure that I’m there to meet you! I live quite close, so if I’m in town, it’s pretty easy for me to meet up with you.

Peace, love and leather hard pots.

One of my favorite moments when I’m making pots is that moment in time when the clay has firmed up enough to handle without distortion. The moment when you can take a trimming tool to the bottom of the pot and you get nice long ribbons of trimmings that don’t gum up your tool.

Normally, the moment in time when the pots are perfect for stamping, carving, slipping and trimming is a moment that I experience in solitude with my pots. But I thought that I would try to share a bit of this moment with you. Below are some images of cups that I made today. They are freshly stamped and awaiting a second trip to the wheel for trimming.

You can see in the image (below) on the left that the soft clay is impressed deep enough that you can see the stamping on the inside of the cup. I hope that you can get a sense of the depth of the stamping from the image on the right from the pictures (click on them to see the image larger). The clay has to be dry enough that the stamp doesn’t stick to the clay, but soft enough to get a deep impression without cracking. More to come on this series in future posts!

 

I know that I am not alone in my love of leather hard clay. I see lots of freshly made pots in the posts of my fellow clay bloggers! I have put together some pictures (and links) from their sites to share with you.
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Eleanor Hendricks of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, shared some great pictures on her blog last week illustrating her love of the process of making. She ended her post with this question:

Does anyone else sometimes treasure the process more than the finished products? 

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Amy Sanders, of Charlotte, North Carolina, shared this image on her blog of her carved plates. What beautiful lines! As usual, with pots, it’s all about the timing!
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I love how these drying beer cups from Euan Craig caught the sunlight in Mashiko, Japan. The perfect moment of leather hard met the perfect moment of sunlight streaming in his studio.
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Cheryl Alena Bartram of Golden, British Columbia, shares this great image of tumblers on her blog. I can imagine the board of cups going on and on and on and on…. I have been known to base the amount of pots that I throw in a sitting based on the length of a board or the size of the table.
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Douglas Fitch makes pots “in middle of nowhere, north of Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom,” far from my studio in Chicago. But when I see these images of the rough leather hard pots I think I can smell the mustiness of the clay… and that’s a great thing.
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I find that there is little more satisfying in a day’s work that a table covered in finished pots.
John Zhender (from my home state of New Hampshire) posted this satisfying image of finished banks and lidded cups on his blog:
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Look at these gorgeous plates that Ron Philbeck made at his studio in Shelby, North Carolina! I think I have to throw some plates tomorrow…
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One of my favorite clay books is A Potter’s Workbook by Clary Illian. The images in the book are almost all photos of leather hard pots. The focus is on the forms without any distraction of decoration or firing technique. If you make functional pots, I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.