Category Archives: Emily Murphy

Updates and shout-outs!

I had a bunch of things piling up that I have been wanting to share with you, so I decided to compile everything into one big shout-out blog post. Enjoy!

Some (blog) updates from me:

  • I have been tweaking my blog template and have made some small but good changes. I updated my ceramic blog links. It’s now connected to my blog reader so it will be automatically synced and up to date from now on. Just head on over to the right side of the blog to check out all the great links. 
  • I have changed and added the categories on the side of the blog too. This way you check out all the How-to’s & Tutorials in one place or all the posts about Soda Firing in one place too. Hopefully this will make it easier for folks to search the archives (they’re pretty big!).

Some shout-outs:

  • The Salt/Soda Firing discussion group/ social network is really taking off. If you’re interested in salt and soda, I highly suggest that you join this group! There are some great potters that have joined (including my friend Gary Jackson who finally has images of his work up online). I’m excited about the sharing that happening (slip and glaze recipes for soda!!) and for it to continue to evolve and grow. 
  • My friend, Jayson Lawfer, has left Chicago for Italy and has started a new company: The Nevica Project. It’s focus is bringing collectors together with art. The focus of the art, at this point, is on ceramics. From Jayson:

    “Creation is the first step. Though it is no doubt one of the most important steps, it is also the connection between artists, patrons and dealers that make the art environment a complete circle.” 

  • My friend Machiko Munakata is an amazing ceramic sculptor who has taken her talents into a new direction. She’s making these amazing felt foods, like this yummy plate of yakisoba to the left. You can find all of her creations on her Etsy site. The plate that her creations are displayed on is from Kristin Pavelka. Machiko has been my biggest cheerleader for me to join Etsy. I’ve taken one step closer and set up my page. There’s nothing for sale yet, but that’s to come next week (after taxes!). Update: Machiko’s work was featured on Boing Boing today.
  • Lindsey Holmes, a potteryblog.com fan, told me about what looks like a great show. Lindsey works for Hedge Gallery in San Fransisco. The gallery has an exhibition of Welsh potter, Paul Philp’s work that will be on display through mid-May. Thanks for the tip! 

  • Cattle Barn Clay Co. is a new clay company that was started by fellow Earlham grads Billy Cooper and Li Hunt-Cooper. It’s located in Royal Center, IN (sort of between Indianapolis and Chicago). They specialize in raw materials and new and used refractories. And their prices are really great. Kiln shelves that are up to 50% off retail prices. Check it out!

Akar Yunomi Invitational 2008

What is a yunomi you ask? Yunomi is an informal Japanese teabowl that is taller than wide, with a trimmed foot.

Akar’s site was overwhelmed this morning, but the bottleneck seems to have opened up. I am having a lot fun meandering around the exhibition. Just click here (or on the screenshot above) if you want to see my tea bowls. Enjoy the show!

Yunomis and Postcards

A few updates:    

In a few hours (March 28, 2008. 10am ct) the Yunomi Invitational 2008 exhibition at Akar is opening online. You’ll find several of my tea bowls in their online exhibition(!). My artist statement & resume are up on Akar’s site now. I can’t wait to see the show tomorrow. My tea bowls are in very good company! More to come on the show…

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My friend, Gary Jackson, put together this wonderful super sized postcard for me to take to NCECA last week. If you’ve come upon my blog via this postcard, welcome! If you’d like to sign up for the potteryblog.com mailing list, just go here. If you sign up, you’ll automatically get an email whenever there is a new post. Or of course you can always sign up for the RSS or Atom feeds. I’m looking forward to hearing from the new readers out there. I’ve got a lot of interesting things in the works, many of which are responses to suggestions from potteryblog.com readers. Thanks for all of the emails and comments!

A Holiday Tour of Lillstreet Studios

I thought I’d give a little tour of what some of the studios are offering this holiday season at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago. It’s truly a unique shopping experience to be able to shop directly from the artists in their studios. I’m including photos of just a sampling of the studios. There are over 50 artists under one roof – and that’s not including Lillstreet’s Gallery!

ceramics by Emily Murphy

 

 

ceramics by Lisa Harris

pottery by Karen Avery

pottery by Gary Jackson

porcelain by Joanna Kramer

porcelain by Karen Patinkin

ceramic and glass beads by Amy Lemaire

 

porcelain by Deborah Schneider

agricultural art by Cathi Bouzide

Photography by Guy Nicol

pottery by Mike Szostak

jewelry by 2nd floor metals artists

Many of the studios are open daily…
check in with individual artists for their hours 
Monday – Friday 12noon – 6pm
Saturdays 10am – 6pm
Sundays 12noon – 5pm

Studio Holiday Sale

Tonight’s the night! It’s the opening night for the holiday show at my studio at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago.

If you’re in the area, I hope you can stop by tonight, or any time over the next 3 weeks. Details and some pictures to tempt are below.

Opening Night Reception
Friday, November 30, 2007 – 6pm – 9pm
Lillstreet Studios
205 west
4401 N. Ravenswood
Chicago, IL 60640  

 

I have a studio full of new work including the ceramic pendants that you see above that hang on a cord of hand dyed silk. You’ll also see the familiar faces of mugs, serving bowls, honey pots and more.


 

  

Studio hours for the holidays:

weekdays: 12 noon – 6pm
Saturdays: 10am – 6pm
Sundays: 12 noon – 5pm

There are over 40 artists at Lillstreet Studios making functional pottery, tiles, sculpture, jewelry, photography, handmade beads and more. If I’m not at my studio, one of my studio mates can help you out. If you want to be sure to meet up with me, just send me an email (emily@sodafired.com).

You can probably find something for everyone on your list at Lillstreet Studios. I have some ridiculously functional things that everyone can use. Why shouldn’t your soap dispenser be as beautiful and functional as your favorite mug?

Directions to my studio.
I accept cash, checks, Visa and Mastercard.
It’s easy to get to with lots of parking for cars and bikes.
There is a ton of public transportation to help you get there. And the exciting news is that the Montrose Stop on the Brown line is open after a year of renovations! 
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And on a much more personal note…
I haven’t been writing to my blog much lately because I’ve had a very happy distraction. My sister, Nora, had a little baby boy, Shiya, on November 18, 2007 at 4:12pm. Congratulations!
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my sister, baby Shiya and big brother Ayrie. (The happy new family is in the picture to your left!)

 

Happy Holidays!

Simple Tweaks to a Better Wheel Set-up

I have seen too many potter friends suffer with back problems over the years. It’s made me be very conscious about the health of my back and my efforts to stop any problems before they begin. Every potter who throws at a wheel has a different set-up. Although mine is based on a pretty traditional set-up, I have tweaked it enough to be both a more efficient work space and back friendly.
You might notice that there is a 2nd wheel in the background. I have a throwing wheel and a trimming wheel. I love being able to move back and forth between the two wheel and not have to clean up and change the set up. I keep either my Giffin Grip or my foam bat on my trimming wheel. I have it set up in the corner of my studio so I do not track any clay trimmings around my studio.

I know many potters who throw standing up to alleviate any potential back problems. For me this just creates another problem from being on your feet all the time. I think the most important thing I can do is to constantly change my tasks (throwing, trimming, wedging, decorating, glazing, paperwork, cleaning, etc…) and my sitting and standing positions throughout the day. Sometimes I will even give up efficiency for this.

Another thing that I did to help keep my back happy is to get a new throwing stool. After a ridiculous amount of research, I found this great potter’s stool: Artisan S-2 Stool that I bought from Clay King. It’s totally adjustable- both the height and the tilt. It tilts your hips into your work so your back can stay nice and straight. This has made a HUGE difference for me. I also put my non-pedal foot on a brick to keep me balanced and symmetrical.

You might have also noticed from the picture the mirror in front of my wheel. I started doing this a couple of years ago and it has also made my throwing life much happier. It took me about 2 days to get used to it (I had to remember to look up!). It stops me from constantly cranking my head over to the side to see what my piece looks like. It also makes a huge difference in the forms that I thrown. I can see exactly what is happening by looking straight ahead. You can make sure that each piece you throw actually has the shape that you think it does. The result is that both me and my pots have better posture. My back and neck are straighter and my pots end up having more lift.

I feel like I’ve lost a lot of time over the years looking tools on the other side of my splash pan. To stop this problem from continuing, I built this little shelf on the right side of my wheel. All the tools I use regularly are kept right there- nice and easy for me to find. (The mini-Altoids tin is perfect for a pair of bat bins). The tools in the picture are on the list of “clay tools that I cannot live without.” (I’ll talk about that in another post.) This little shelf mean less bending forward trying to search for the clay covered rib that has slipped under the splash pan…. My throwing bucket sits right in front of the shelf also for easy access (I’m right handed).

I realize how much I miss my tweaked space when I am teaching and do not have this set up.
A couple of (cheap!) things that you can do, even if it’s in a shared space, like a classroom:

  • Tilt a standard throwing stool by sticking a 2 x 4 under the back 2 legs. You can even drill into the wood about 1/4 – 1/2 an inch so the stool won’t accidentally slip off the wood.
  • Get a mirror. A hardware store, thrift store or Ikea are all great places to find a mirror. The just lean it up against whatever is in front of the wheel- shelves, a table, a wall. You’ll really see a difference in your throwing, and your back might be a bit less achy.
  • Keep your tools and water bucket on a stool next to your wheel. You can keep the stool clean by putting a bat on top of the stool, and tools and bucket on top of that.

update (10/29/07)- a post from John Zentner about his standing wheel set-up on his blog pots and other things.

update (10/30/07)- another great post from Anne Webb at Webb Pottery about her favorite tools and her wheel set-up.

update (10/30/07)- an article from the archives of Studio Potter magazine on back problems and potters.

update (10/31/07)- a post from Jeanette Harris about tools that she can’t do without.

Empty Bowls – Chicago Style

This December, Lillstreet Art Center is hosting their 2nd annual Empty Bowls event. Last year we had a great turnout, but the plan is to really scale it up this year. Tons of bowls, a big community of people and soup galore will all come together to raise money and awareness to help fight hunger.

The request that I’m sending out is for potters, glass blowers, wood turners, and metal smiths of all levels to make a bowl (or 2 or 20) and donate it to Chicago’s Empty Bowls event at Lillstreet Art Center. We’d also like for you to come a share a meal, if you’re in the area on December 7, 2007 from 6pm – 9pm. For $20, guests are invited to choose a bowl and are served a generous serving of soup and bread made by First Slice Café. Guests keep the bowl as a reminder that there are always “empty bowls” in the world.


Lillstreet has a very unique restaurant in it’s building (sharing space with the gallery), the First Slice Café. Proceeds from the cafe go to feed Chicago’s hungry. They help fight hunger in a very direct way: the food they make for various organizations is the same amazing food that is served in their café. In addition to First Slice making the food for the event, they will also be the recipient of the event’s proceeds so they can continue to create healthy meals for these local organizations: Heartland Alliance, The Night Ministry, American Indian Center Youth Program, and Howard Area Alternative High School. 

If you would like to participate in this event by donating a bowl, please deliver or mail your bowl(s) by November 18, 2007 to:

 

Lillstreet Art Center

4401 North Ravenswood
Chicago, IL 60640
Attn: Empty Bowls

If you’d like to join us for a bowl of soup, come to Lillstreet on December 7, 2007 from 6pm – 9pm

If you have any questions about this event, you can contact the event organizer, Joanna Kramer.
Please help us spread the word by forwarding this to a friend. Thanks!

The bowls that are in the photo above are by Gary Jackson, Fire When Ready Pottery.

Unconventional Vases

I have been making these oval vases for a while in all different shapes and sizes. The idea for these pieces emerged out of a desire to make a vase that can sit in the middle of a table with flowers in it, yet it’s short enough to see your sweetie sitting across the table. Vases are a form that I’ve battled with. I have high standards for my pieces (vases and others). They must be able to stand on their own, without fulfilling their given purpose. And when they are doing their duty, like holding flowers, it must function flawlessly. My battle with the classic vase form is that I am not interested in it as a stand alone form. I know it’s a broad generalization, but it’s something that I tackle over and over again, and the form just isn’t “strong” enough for my taste. When I push and pull the classic vase form into something that I really like, it is more like a bottle and can’t hold more than 1 flower… So I seem to end up venturing into vase forms that are unconventional.

And since I like things that are unconventional, I am doing a show this much that is just that…unconventional. Haus (a wonderful ceramics gallery in Chicago) has coordinated this show for Chicago Artist’s Month (which is October). The tables at Anteprima, a fantastic Italian restaurant in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood have been filled with my oval vases. The vases have been filled by Sunburst Flowers, another Andersonville neighborhood business. I love all the collaboration!

The above image is of one of the beautiful arrangements for the show. The below image is of some of my platters at the restaurant. When Anteprima was opening, I was commissioned to make these platters.

Burning Man : Astor Playa

 

Ian and I just got back from Burning Man. We went with a group of his co-workers from the Open Planning Project. It was an intense, surreal experience that I am going to try to share in a blog post – not an easy task. This is going to be kinda long, and there will be lots of links and pictures. Our camera succumbed to the dust – so we didn’t get to take as many pictures as we would like, but there are tons of images online that can help to illustrate this story. I linked the borrowed photos to the Flickr albums that I found the pictures in. Thanks to all of the great photographers who put up their pictures with Creative Commons. Follow the links and take a look at their other photos.


What’s Burning Man?
Burning Man is a huge radical arts festival in the desert in Nevada (in the middle of nowhere). This year there were 48,000 people who came together to build a temporary city for a week. It’s also the largest “leave no trace” event in the world. Every person who comes is responsible for bringing in all of their food, water & supplies, and are also responsible for taking it out with them, including any used water, trash, food scraps, etc… Port-a-potties are provided. The only commerce is ice (sales go towards local schools) and coffee (sold at cost). There is a lot of “gifting” – whether it’s a gift of a handmade piece or jewelry, or a drink or something to eat. But there is no bartering or sales beyond ice or coffee.

The art is big and small — huge, beautiful installations in the desert, many of them with fire or illuminated at night. Many are interactive. There’s also many art cars and art bikes.

For more info (better info) on what Burning Man is, go here and here. Also, a documentary that we watched on the behind the scenes prep was: Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock City. I really appreciated knowing the year round effort that goes into the event when I was there.

The photo below is an aerial photo of Burning Man, 2007:

The group that we went were were New Yorkers, so our theme camp had a NYC theme to it: Astor Place Imagined.

Astor Place is a block in New York that has the potential to be a great pedestrian space, but besides the insane traffic it also has 3 Starbucks, a Kmart, and other chain stores and restaurants – all of which keep it from living up to its potential. It’s anchored by a rotating cube sculpture that has been a meeting place for people since it was built, and is easily recognized by all New Yorkers. It’s also home to a beautiful subway station. Our theme camp built replicas of these icons, and included other things that make for an ideal urban block- no cars, lots of bikes and pedestrians; park benching; greenery (Ian and I made the flowers); brownstones with comfortable stoops; a tea house (I made the pots for this); street lamps; a cinema; a lounge and more. All of these parts that were built were shipped out to Nevada and assembled in the desert to create this urban oasis that any and all could interact with or just hang out.

 

For the whole story on our camp, please go here.

Some great pictures of our actual set up is here. (make sure you go to that link!)

We’ve also been pooling our pictures on Flickr, and people have been putting up links to other photos.

Some blog reactions to Astor Place Imagined:


Now that you have some sort of image of what Burning Man and Astor Place Imagined is all about, I’ll get a little bit more personal about the experience that Ian and I had.

Above is our group shot taken by Erick Leskinen.

We have spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing for the event- you have to be prepared for the following conditions: extreme heat (110 degrees); cool nights (down to 30 degrees); crazy dust storms (goggles, dust masks, etc…); camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, headlamps, CamelBaks, etc…); bikes & bike repair stuff (we rented space on a truck and shipped them out with someone else who was going from Chicago); snacks (salt!), first aid, tons of sunscreen, good shoes, etc… We also made sculptural plants to decorate the brownstones and stoops with (see them here). There was a tea stand that a couple other people were working on, and I made pots for them (see here). That was all shipped out on the Chicago truck, too.

And to participate in the experience of gifting, we made tons of ceramic pendant necklaces that had some of the Playa soil rolled into the clay (“the Playa” is the name they use for the desert where the event is every year). My friend Gina had gone to Burning Man two years ago and brought back some of the dusty Playa and shared her stash with me. The Playa soil is a huge part of the experience. It’s a dry lake bed that is extremely alkaline. It’s completely lifeless. If you let your feet be exposed, they will burn and crack. And if you have a small cut, it has a hard time healing. The necklaces were a little piece of the Burning Man experience that people could take away with them.

Since I make my living selling pots, it was an very different experience to give away my work over the course of the week instead of selling it. I wish I could do it all of the time, but it’s not the most practical business model. After spending the last 11 years of my life with Ian, an open source programmer, and spending the week at Burning Man with other open source folks and living in a temporary gift economy, I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring those ideas together with my life as a potter. I realize is that I can do that through this blog. I might not be able to give away pots all of the time, but I can share information.

The thing about gifting that really struck me (as a giver and receiver) was giving with no expectation for reciprocation. No expectations, just a warm fuzzy feeling from a kind gesture. It makes it easier as a giver too – you don’t have to try to figure out who someone is before you give, you don’t have to decide if the exchange or interaction will be worth it, because you know it won’t be worth anything really, you don’t have to figure the person out because it doesn’t really matter. As a receiver, if someone shared their bottle of sunscreen with you, you didn’t have to think “should I give them some money for that.” It’s subtle, but the lack of tension around reciprocation was freeing – a letting go of the question of economics, of valuation, the skepticism you have to constantly maintain in a consumer-oriented environment. The freedom I felt is how I feel about writing this blog. I’m happy to link away and share with you things that I think are fabulous, and if someone decides to link back then that’s great, but it should always to up to the individual. I always get a funny feeling when someone emails me asking for reciprocal links – I’m happy to link to neat things, but exchanging links makes it feel disingenuous.

Back to the dust. There are the dust storms, big and small. High winds (65mph), white-out conditions, blowing debris. You have to be careful- take shelter and make sure that your camps are well secured. But they are also really fun. There is something about an intense, slightly scary situation that brings people together. During the first storm we found ourselves taking shelter in another camp that we happen to be next to when the storm hit. They were nice, but their structure seemed a little precarious, and we move slowly back to our camp where everyone was hanging out snacking and drinking under one of the shade structures waiting it out. We were having such a great time that we didn’t even notice that the storm had ended!The second storm we were out on the open Playa and one of the big crazy double decker art-party buses pulled up and via loudspeaker told everyone around that a big storm was about to hit. We jumped on, and within 2 minutes, there was a total white-out. We stayed on the bus with other dust storm refugees until the storm quieted down and we had enough visibility to walk back to camp. At the end of the storm, there was a hug double rainbow. Beautiful! We were left with a 1/2 ” of dust coating everything in our tent. The tent was made to shelter from rain, but not from dust storms!


Then there are art cars and installation pieces- big and small. And constant pulsating techno music. I wish we’d heard other kinds, but there wasn’t much. Everyone has bikes, and at night everyone lights themselves up with glowing electroluminescent wire and LEDs. Not many white lights, but lots of glowing colors. At night, when it’s cooler, everything come alive and everything’s glowing. The art looks totally different at night, and much of it has a fire aspect to it ( burning man). All very surreal.
Perhaps the best part of the experience was spending an intense week with with Ian’s co-workers and extended crew and getting to know them. It’s an amazing group of people, and since most of them are in New York and we’re in Chicago I hadn’t really gotten to know them yet. I am glad to know them now.

The group worked like crazy for months and months before Burning Man planning and building our camp. And they pulled it off better than I ever could have imagined! People keep asking me if I’ll go again. My immediate answer is YES! But then my next thought is that I can’t imagine going with another group.
Once of the many surprises of our camp was the absolutely amazing food that was prepared for us by chef Lacey. I NEVER imagined that we’d be eating better in the desert then the rest of the year. You can get her cookbook here on Amazon.

The week concluded (and started) with the burning of the man. It was spectacular.


The transition into the default world has been surprisingly difficult, but in a really good way. My dreams have been full of Burning Man thoughts for the last 3 weeks trying to process the experience. Getting some of the thoughts down on paper has helped too. Thanks for letting me share.

What I’ve been up to

I’ve been busily working away in my studio lately – and I thought I’d share a little. Below are some small teapots that I just fired last week. I usually make larger teapots, but the one-person teapot has won my heart over!When I’m not making pots, I’ve been working on my blog. In addition to writing posts this week, I’ve discovered Google Analytics and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

A little sampling of the information that I’ve gotten from it this week

Visitors of Pottery Blog are from:
US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, France, India, Romania, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa, Taiwan, Germany, Denmark, Philippines, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Norway, Poland, New Zealand, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Singapore, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Finland, Indonesia, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal

A sampling of search phrases:
In addition to the basic phrases and keywords (soda firing, Emily Murphy, pottery blog, ceramics blog) there are some other more in depth searches like:

  • using shino in soda firing
  • ceramic kiln timings
  • ceramic wedging boards from plaster
  • site:potteryblog.com pottery blog tour part 2
  • can i have a signature stamp made of my signature?
  • how to throw a pottery mug
  • eat his heart out with a spoon (!)

And some things that I think my blog was probably not helpful with:

  • how to pronounce “pottery” in korean
  • emily murphy “neuroscience”

I have also been spending time reading other people’s blogs. You can see my list of links on the right side of the page (just scroll down a little). Between reading all of these great blogs from around the world, and then seeing where my site visitors are coming from, the world is feeling very small.

I’m off now to have a completely different art experience. Ian and I are heading out to Burning Man in Nevada for the next week with a gang of folks from The Opening Planning Project and friends. Most of this will not be clay related, but some is. There is going to be a tea stand/ house at our theme camp that I made teapots and tea bowls for.
Burning Man is known for an event with virtually no commerce, and lots of “gifting.” The gifts that we’re bringing are necklaces (pendants) that are made out of both porcelain and stoneware, and have some of the soil (playa) from the host land rolled into the clay, and then soda fired. The soil fluxes to a temoku like glaze. Photos to come!