Category Archives: Updates

My boxes and bubble wrap are being held hostage!

For the past 2 weeks, our basement stairs have been encased in super thick ice. There are some bad gutters on the back of our building that have created some enormous icicles and a crazy mess of ice on our back stairs and walkway. We’re basically unable to get down to our basement (you can see why from the photo of the basement stairs below).

icy-stairs

Yesterday was our warmest day in 2 weeks (we hit a balmy 39°) so I went out back to check out the ice to see if it was melting and I totally wiped out. On my way to the basement steps, I fell down our porch stairs (which were the ones that weren’t supposed to be slippery). Ouch!  Luckily I ended up without anything broken or sprained. Just bruised and sore. Ian managed to get down the basement steps to clear up the drain to hopefully keep the icy from getting much worse (and snap this picture) .

There are 2 problems with this situation.

1: We can’t get to the washer & dryer
2: I can’t get to my newly stocked stash of boxes and bubble wrap.

In anticipation of needing to ship a huge dinnerware set to California (and an upcoming move), I placed an order for a slew of boxes, bubble wrap and foam a couple of weeks ago. As usual, I stored it all in our basement (before the ice appeared). I usually try to use recycled packaging, but I did so much shipping over the holiday season, I had completely depleted my supplies. Now the ice is holding all of my shipping supplies hostage!  The fall down the steps that weren’t very icy has scared me off from trying to rescue my boxes and bubble wrap until there’s some major melting. Please send your warm thoughts to Chicago!

From my last soda firing

I put this most together last week but didn’t manage to post it before heading north for the weekend.

As I mentioned in my last post, I fired my first soda kiln of 2009 last Sunday.  I unloaded it on Wednesday between classes and managed to snap a couple of quick pictures in the process.  We’ve been having some crazy weather here in Chicago that has kept me from going back to my studio to spend some time with these pieces and to take more pictures. We’ve had back to back to back snow storms and it got cold enough for the thermometer to hit -15°F. That meant that I didn’t get back to the studio to take some decent pictures before heading out for a road trip, but I thought I’d share a quick sneak peak from the unloading.

I’m hoping that I can figure out a way to capture the surface of this piece.  It is full of little sparkly crystals. I’ve never had crystals develop over such a large area in this kiln before. Of course you can’t see them in this picture, but you can see the kiln wash splattered floor in the background!

platter

This is one of the espresso cups and saucers that I mentioned before.  This sweet little cup is maybe just under 3″ tall.  While I was unloading, I discovered that one of these saucers mysteriously made it into the kiln without any wadding… oops!

espresso-cup-saucer

I’m regretting that I didn’t take a pictures that had any sense of scale.  This teacup is much larger than the espresso cup above.

teacup-saucerThis firing was all part of a large dinnerware set from a wedding registry that I have been working on for my friends Beth and Lars.  Hopefully I’ll get some better photos of the set to share here soon.

Blog odds and ends

Perhaps a little more than usual, this week has been a bit of a balancing act between working in my studio and working on this blog.  I’ve been on a roll getting the new site for my blog up to where I want it to be (obsessed, some might say). But I’ve also been building up for a soda firing all week.  Surprisingly, I think I’ve actually been making good progress in both sides of my clay world.  I’m spending my Sunday firing the my first soda kiln of 2009.  There are some espresso cups and saucers that are at about 2200° I’m dying to see in a couple of days!

Today’s post is a bunch of odds and ends about blogging that I’ve been meaning to write about. Nothing big enough for it’s own post, so I threw them all together.

Exploring pottery blog(s):

  • pottery-blog-archivesTake a look at the visual archives (also located in the top tab labeled “Archives”).  When I was digging through the old posts and tagging and categorizing everything, I came across a lot of information that is pretty timeless.  I wanted to make these older posts really accessible to dig through and came up with this page.
  • Also take a look over at the sidebar categories  (located in the right hand column. I can’t give you a direct link, you’ll just have to look to the right side of any page). As I mentioned above, I spent a lot of time re-categorizing and  retagging all old posts so they’d be extra easy to search through and I created a parent/sub category system that I think should be pretty easy to dig through to find what you may (or may not be) looking for. This took a shocking amount of work, but now that the archives are done, I can move forward and just keep things properly categorized as I go so there won’t be such a big chunk of work moving forward.
  • Another new feature that can be found on the right sidebar is some shared posts from other bloggers from my Google Reader.  I have been in the habit (not always very consistently) of “starring” posts (a GR thing) that I want to look back at, share a link or maybe comment on.  I turned this into a list of posts that you can read on it’s very own page and even subscribe to.  Now that I have created this way to share, I’m planning on being a bit more consistent with marking posts that I want to share. If you want to share items from your blog reader to your friends and readers, this will help you get started on your own share page.
  • Even if you spent some time checking out my pottery blogroll last week, you should take a minute and check back.  Several new blogs have been added.  And if you’re interested in using Google Reader but feel like you need a little more help, you might find this interesting.

Commenting:

One of my goals (or resolutions if you prefer) with this blog and other clay blogs I read is to do more commenting and replying to comments.  It takes some time and energy, but it is a big part of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy.  I like the commenting/ reply system on WordPress better than Blogger and I think it’ll be easier for everyone (including myself) to continue the conversation on beyond the actual blog post. And I’ve been adding in a couple of features that improves upon the commenting system just a little bit more.

  • If you’ve been doing any commenting on my blog over the last week, you might have noticed the little pictures (gravatars) that are showing up by some of the comments:

gravatars

A gravatar is a globally recognized avatar. You can create your own little image and connect it with you email address(es) and it’ll automatically show up with your comment on this blog and on many others.  I really like the extra personal touch.  It becomes a little more like a conversation than just commenting.  It’s easy to make your own gravatar and it only takes a couple of minutes.

  • To help continue the post-post conversation: Each time you comment, you’ll see a little box that you’ll need to check so you can get an email when there are more comments and responses to the post that you just commented on.

Some things for bloggers and potential future bloggers:

  • Make your own little favicon for your site with this site and this plugin.  If you’re on my site, you’ll see a little tiny mug by the url. This little detail makes me very happy.
  • This plugin for WordPress will make a nice little excerpt and choice of thumbnails when you post your blog to Facebook, etc…  I’ve been really happy with this feature. My old blog would just have the URL, no image and no text which made it not very interesting to post something. Simple and spiffy.

And on a totally unrelated topic: You might remember an earlier post about Bison Trimming Tools.  I just got a tip from Jeanette Zeis that Bison Tools are now being sold through Etsy!bison-trimming-tools

It’s time for me to head back to the kiln and put the second round of soda in.  I’m enjoying the warmth from the kiln on a very chilly (and snowy) Chicago night.  Pictures of the new pots will come soon!

Finally! My Etsy shop has pieces in it!

I’ve had an Etsy shop for more than a year, but it’s been an empty store. No more. I’m starting to stock it with pendants, mugs and soap dispensers. New additions will be up daily over the next week.

I’d been putting this off for a long time. I kept waiting to have the perfect photo set up and a little more time. Then I realized that I should just jump in. Those things can come later. I’ll be posting new pieces in the coming days. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Shopping!

A tour of my studio and new work for the holidays

The opening reception for my holiday sale (and throughout Lillstreet & Lillstreet Studios) is tonight, Dec. 5, from 6pm – 9pm. But if you miss the opening, you can stop by throughout the month of December. Or if you’re not in Chicago, you can take a tour here. As promised, here are some pictures of my studio and new work for my holiday show:

This is what you’ll see when you walk into my studio.

And this is me enjoying my sparkling clean studio. I’ll be back to the wheel on Monday, so the clean shelves and floors won’t last too long. Well, I’ll still be enjoying my studio, just not the cleanliness of it!

I have been making tons of soap/ lotion dispensers this season. I resisted making them for a long long time because I didn’t want to use plastic pumps. I finally found beautiful brushed stainless steel and brushed copper pumps and I’ve gone a little crazy with them!

This is a new wall display that I’ve set up outside my studio door. The shelves are bamboo shadow boxes and they’re quite fun to arrange little groupings in.

I have spent the last year making mugs. I LOVE designing and making them and the demand for them has been higher than ever. Mugs are so personal. Everyone’s idea of the *perfect* mug is different- so I make a wide variety of shapes and sizes. People are also quite opinionated about the interior glaze color. Some want something light so they can see how steeped their tea is. Others want something dark that will hide the coffee stains. There is a mug for everyone :)

I have been making more ceramic pendants. I’m more excited than ever about this newest series of necklaces. They are made out of a variety of clays, with different slips, glazes and textures that are enhanced by the soda firing process. They’re finished off with hand dyed silk that is knotted onto the pendants.

This is one of the serving bowls that you’ll see in my studio. Each side is totally different from the others. I feel like I should have put up a series of images to capture all the details.

You might remember this series of tea bowls that I have been making this year.
peace. hope. change.

These shallow bowl-plates are part of a dinnerware set that I’ve been working on. I love using this shape of plate at home for most meals. Some might call it a pasta bowl but at the Murphy-Bicking household we call them bowl-plates. They’re perfect for salads, stir fry or a good mid-western casserole.

In addition to finding my work on the 2nd floor of Lillstreet Studios, you can also find it at Lillstreet Gallery on the 1st floor as part of the Dinnerware Show. The show is beautiful. I’m happy to be sharing the table with Kristin Pavelka.

Happy Holidays!

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!)