Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Semi-Complete Tour of Ceramics Blogs (part 4)

When I started out on the venture of writing this blog almost 4 years ago, I could only really find a half dozen or fewer ceramic bloggers out there writing. Things have really exploded and there are new blogs popping up every week now (as well as some casualties). I thought I'd share with you links to the blogs that I read. (UPDATED)

You'll notice that my blogroll is long. 63 blogs to be exact. There is no way that I could remember to check in with these blogs on my own, so I use the blog reader, Google Reader, to subscribe to these blogs. Instead of visiting all the sites, the newest posts are compiled into the reader automatically and keeps track of the unread ones, etc... It's very easy to set up (really...it is!).
If you're interested in subscribing to my list (below), and you're using Google Reader, just follow these simple steps.
  1. Login to Google Reader
  2. Click on this link and "save file": http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user/15666827403315601321/label/public
  3. Figure out where the downloaded file is located. (for PC users) Right click on the download and click on "open folder containing." That will tell you where the downloaded file is located
  4. Click on "Manage Subscriptions"
  5. Click on "Import/Export"
  6. Click on"Browse" and locate the downloaded file.
  7. Click Upload and then start reading! You'll be overwhelmed with posts to read at first, but once you get caught up, it's quite manageable :)

    You can always use this as a starting point and add and subtract subscriptions from this list to suit your interests.

I do plan on continuing sharing my "tour of ceramics blogs" with little write ups and images, but there has been such an explosion to pottery bloggers that I thought I should take a moment to catch you up with what's happening in the world of ceramics bloggers.

I know there are more blogs out there, but it's not always easy to find them! When looking for blogs to subscribe to, I look for the following criteria (it's not an exact science):
  • regularly updated... or interesting enough that it's worth the wait!
  • the content of the blog is multi-dimensional. (it's not just a blog that is just showing what's new in the writer's online shop)
  • The focus of the majority of the blog posts are about clay. (pottery, tiles, sculpture, etc...)
The way that I have found out about most of these blogs is to follow the links from the blogs I read, and wander off from one blog into another. The linking and referencing between blogs has created a sort of community the exists between bloggers and readers from around the world, but within one's own computer.

If you write or read a blog that you think I'd be interested in, please let me know! I am always excited to find a new one. If I have overlooked your blog, it's not intentional, please send me a link.

And just one other thing that you might be able to help me with. I don't know the names of all the bloggers who write these blogs. It often just doesn't exist anywhere on the blog. I am sure this is sometimes intentional, but I think it's sometimes just an over site. If there are any gaps that you can help me with, please pass on the info to me. I really like knowing the names of the person writing, it allows you to make a personal connection to the person writing. A big part of why someone buys a handmade pot is because of the connection to the maker. I sort of feel like it's the same thing with reading a blog. I want to know about the maker/writer. At least their name and where they're from.

Enjoy the trip you're about to take wandering off into the land of ceramics blog. I'm sure you'll be inspired, like I am every day.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Salt/ Soda Discussion Group

At NCECA I attended a discussion group that has carried on past Pittsburgh and is leading to some interesting post-conference disussions. At this year's conference, the discussion group, Salt Firing Verses Soda Firing was led by Joyce Centofanti. One of the other attendees, David Hayashida, came up with the great idea creating an email list so we could continue our discussion and share recipes and techniques after we returned home. David put the list together and there was instantly a lot of information being passed around. Another participant, Pamela Theis, decided to take it one step further and create an Ning group (an social network site) that will allow us to continue to connect with each other, but to invite others out there who weren't a part of the original group to add to the discussion.
So, if you're interested in salt firing or soda firing, or even a hybrid, join the group and join in the conversation! It just began a couple of days ago, so we're really just getting started.

Join the group Salt/Soda Firing

I've been playing around on the site and found that you can upload photos and create this little slide show creator that you see below:

Find more photos like this on Salt/Soda Firing

This is my page on the Salt/Soda Firing site, if you're interested in seeing what you can do. I'm excited about the possibilities with this group. Soda firing is still relatively new so I think that a group like this that will allow us to share, trouble shoot and brainstorm can have a big impact. I hope you join us!

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 28, 2008

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!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pottery and knick-knacks?

In the taxi on the way to the Pittsburgh airport on Saturday morning our driver asked if we were in town with all the ceramics people. We said yes and he asked "what do you make: pottery or knick-knacks?" Isn't that a great question?

I made a promise to myself many years ago that I would make a commitment to continually further my ceramic education. This is done in a couple of ways: attending workshops, reading all clay focused books, magazine (& blogs!) I can get my hands on, and go to NCECA every year. I do pretty well with this commitment and have managed to get to all but one conference in recent memory.

NCECA is usually held in a smaller city: Pittsburgh, Louisville, Portland, Baltimore, Indianapolis, etc... I often wonder what the host cities think about "us." I don't know how many people attended this year, but I know that in the past attendance has hit about 6000. In the immediate area of the conference it can feel like every square foot of space is filled with potters and sculptors (and knick-knack makers!). I wanted to share a couple more images from my trip (again, this is just a tiny snippet of the week!).


This is the exhibition hall where vendors, schools, publishers, etc... have booths set up. It felt a little smaller this year than in the past (the whole conference felt that way). But that in no way means that there wasn't enough to see, hear & buy! I got some fun new tools that I'll share with you in the near future.

Most of the images that I am sharing with you were from the La Mesa tableware show from Santa Fe Clay. It's always one of my favorite shows, and one that I usually go to see 3 or 4 times. There were 150 place settings from different ceramic artists this year. Amazing!
This group of images is more black and white (the last NCECA post was more colorful). It was a different day and I was drawn to different pieces.

Julie Johnson. The gestures of the lines are irresistible.

Molly Hatch I've been eying Molly's work for a while. I love how she outline the shapes with a sketchy line.


Michael Kline I'm a big fan: I eat my steel cut oats out of one of Michael's bowls every morning and I'm a faithful reader of his blog. I love this (new?) work with the white slip and wax resist lines.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Live! From NCECA 2008 - Pittsburgh

Greetings from Pittsburgh! It's been quite a week. I've met a lot of great people, put faces to names that I've come to know through this blog, caught up with old friends, bought pots, bought tools, heard great speakers, participated in lively discussions, and looked at and picked up what must be hundreds of pots and the conference is only half over!

I wanted to share a handful of images of pieces that I've seen at shows this week. This is just a little itty bitty taste of what I've seen. Enjoy! (click on the images to see a bigger image.)

Beth Lo. I find this piece incredibly endearing.

Justin Rothshank. This has a dinosaur on it! Fossil fuel... get it?

Naomi Cleary. I just love how the drawings are on the inside of this cup.


Diana Fayt. I love Diana's work and this is the first time I have gotten to see her work in person. It's even more impressive in person.

Ursula Hargens. Her works makes me crave spring even more than I already am!

Simon Levin. I am such a fan of Simon's work. I don't know anyone else that gets surfaces like his out of a wood kiln (or any other kiln for that matter!).

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

1000 True Fans

Thanks to BoingBoing, I found interesting article that seems applicable to ceramic artists.Kevin Kelly's thesis is that one approach to make an good, steady living is to build up a base of 1000 "True Fans."
from Kevin Kelly's article:
  • A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
Each of these True Fans will spend, on average, $100 per year on your work. You end up with $100,000 gross annual income. After all the expenses (taxes, insurance, materials, show fees, etc...), you end up with a solid living.

1000 fans probably seems like an overwhelming number. But if you look at as 1 person per day for 3 years, that's a little easier. Or maybe you have 500 True Fans that spend $200 per year. And it's possible that you aren't selling directly to that group. You can have super loyal fans that are buying your work through galleries and shops.

So how do you do it? I think the best possible way is to make direct connections with the buyer. It makes a lot of sense for potters. You're making work that is meant to connect the maker with the buyer. Your artist statement, wording on your website, the writing on your Etsy shop can have a more personable tone to help establish that connection. The time that you spend meeting with customers at your studio, art fairs, gallery openings, workshops, classes, wholesale and retail shows are invaluable. And of course, a blog is a great way to connect with people :)
After you connect with people that really love your work, you'll have to figure out ways to maintain and build up those relationships. Special sales and discounts. Early alerts to sales, personal emails, etc...

As a full time potter in the year 2008, I definitely get the questions (often from other artists): how do you do it? how do you make a living as a potter? This is an interesting way to look at it, and is an interesting approach to your business if you're looking to build it up or try to
make it more stable.

I hope you take some time to read the article. Kelly goes into quite some depth and looks at different scenarios and ways to gain True Fans. What are your thoughts?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

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

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Useful web tools for the potter

There are some great web tools out there for ceramic artists that are simple, straightforward and easy to use; not unlike a good pot. You probably aren't surprised that I spend a lot of time both in my studio and online. When a question or problem arises in my studio, I head to Google.

I have put together a collection of these (free!) tools that I use to make fast work of some of the less fun parts of clay- like glaze chemistry and shipping.

Get ready to do some bookmarking!

calculations for the ceramic artist:
Celsius to Fahrenheit calculator and vice versa
weight conversions (grams to pounds, etc...)
basic glaze calculatorMetric/Imperial Converter
metric/ imperial converter from Clayzee
volume calculator - how much does that pitcher hold?

shipping:
compare carriers on iShip. Figure out the best deal on shipping your pots.
USPS postage calculator
UPS time and cost calculator

firing information:
Orton Cone Chart - pdf download
firing temperature color chart - pdf download
firing chart - what happens to clay

other helpful things:
this to that - tips of what sort of glue you should use (surprisingly useful)
picassa - a FREE photo organization program that makes it easy to edit, print & upload images. A program that I can't imagine owning a digital camera without.
doodle - create a poll and figure out the best time for a meeting. I have used this a lot when organizing meeting times for an organization (like a guild or co-op).


If you have any web tools that you like to use, send me the link!

Labels: ,

Friday, October 19, 2007

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 stool from Creative Industries. 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.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

A path to being a greener potter.

Blog Action Day is a day where blogger from all over the world write about one specific issue: the environment. I am excited to have an extra push to write this post that I have been wanting to write a post for months on what someone can do to be a "greener" ceramic artist. I was inspired by Laura Zindel's post on one black bird; Mary Anne Davis's post on being Carbon Neutral and her list on her work's environmental impact; and on Soderstrom Pottery Blog. They have started a great discussion that I would like to help continue with within the ceramics community.

I think my aversion to actually writing this post that has been in my head is the same thing that stops many of us from creating greener lives. I wanted this post to be epic, to have all of the answers. It was going to be very complete and very satisfying. But that is truly an impossible task. When I think about all of the environmental changes that I want to make at home or at my studio, the ultimate goal is overwhelming and paralyzing. The only way to get past the paralysis is to stop for a moment, and break it down into steps. The steps will get you closer to your end goal, but they are much easier to conquer than taking a gigantic leap.

Here are some steps that I have taken on my path to being a greener potter...

  • I use almost all recycled materials for both shipping and retail customers. I actively collect bags, boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap from friends, family, students and customers.

  • I recycle my clay scraps and try to aggressively edit unfired work. I don't want to turn greenware that is reclaimable into something that is not if I am not truly satisfied with the piece at that stage.

  • I try to make my test pieces as functional pieces (like small cups) that might go on to live a life beyond just testing a slip or glaze.

  • I live close to my studio so I can either walk or drive a very short distance. I teach in the same building that I have my studio so I don't have to commute to class too.

  • I work in a co-operative type studio that conserves resources in many ways. One specific way is by ordering clay and materials together so there is only 1 delivery truck instead of 20.

  • My studio space is small and efficient. Each space has multiple uses. One table can transform from a wedging table to a decorating table to a glaze table to a display table. Much of the furniture in my studio is on wheels so it can be more easily converted.
  • My studio display lights are on a timer. My studio is often open to the public even when I am not there, and the timer stops the lights from being on all the time. (Does anyone know of nice track lighting fixtures that are energy efficient?)
  • I set up a "free-cycle" area in a common area (hallway) at my studio where the studio artists can pass on unneeded things to the next person.

  • I sell my seconds as "flawed yet functional." They are still totally usable, but I can't send them off to a gallery. Customers get to go on a treasure hunt, and give life to a piece that might otherwise be doomed as landfill. In response to the "flawed yet functional" sign in my studio, I once had a customer get teary eyed and tell me that that was exactly how they felt... flawed yet functional.
I know there are people reading this that are working under very different conditions from 60 different countries. Some are students working at a high school, university or art center. There are country potters with lots of land, and urban potters, like me, that are working in a smaller studio. The problems and solutions that you face are going to be very different if you're a tile maker, production potter or a sculptor. I hope that you'll share the steps you take in your clay world to being a little bit greener with the rest of us.

update- 10/15/07 - another clay blogger, Anne Webb, wrote a Blog Action Day post

update - 10/29/07 - Pam McFayden wrote a great post over at lureart ceramics about studio recycling.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Why Soda Glaze? - by Maryke Henderson

Although there is more all the time, overall there is still very little written about soda (soda firing, soda glazing, vapor glazing, etc...). When I come across something that's written specifically about soda, I get really excited and I want to share my find with all of you.


I recently came across this great article on the Australian ceramics website Avicam: Why Soda Glaze? It's a lengthy excerpt from Maryke Henderson's Bachelor of Arts research report from Australian National University School of Art in 2005. It covers everything from "What is soda?" and the historical background of soda to technical information on soda introduction and it's corrosive effects on kilns. There are profiles of contemporary soda artists as well as a statement about Maryke's own work.
The photos that I have included of Maryke Henderson's work are from Avicam. They are elegant pieces that both intrigue me and make me very nervous. Enjoy the article and the beautiful images. When you're done reading Maryke's article, spend some time wandering around Avicam. It's filled with interesting things to read and some really great pots to look at.




Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ceramic pinhole cameras

Ceramic artist Steve Irvine has done something that many artists struggle with (including myself): bringing together two different passions. He has brought together clay and photography with his fantastic ceramic pinhole cameras...
Here is one of his vessels that actually captures an image:
And this is an image from the above camera:He has more ceramic pinhole cameras on his website.

He also makes great pots (that don't double as a camera).

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clay Backdrop for Jewelry

The Sundance catalog/ website has used clay as a backdrop for their artisan made jewelry. Wet slabs, a dirty wooden rib, a kiln post are the displays for their most recent catalog.

"There is something about the hands of an artist. The painter's fingers almost permanently stained with pigment, the nimble hands of the weaver in constant motion, the poetic rhythms of the potter." - Robert Redford


Labels: ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

8 Random Things

I was tagged with 8 random things by Pam McFadyen from Lurearts Ceramics.

The rules:

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.


Here I go with 8 random things about myself (in absolutely no particular order)...


1. I have an painted art car. The inside is decked out with fringe and all. A couple of years ago Ian and I decided to paint our car to cover up some chipping paint. The result has been lots of smiles and random conversations with strangers- something that should happen more often! The interior fringe was hunted down during a trip to Mexico. I like having a little something special inside the car- besides making me smile, it also reminds me that the outside is painted, and that's why people are looking at the car.

2. Chicago has been my home for the last 8+ years. We've lived in roughly the same area (northside- Lincoln Square/ Uptown/ Ravenswood/ Andersonville) the whole time we've been in Chicago. I run into people I know all the time when I'm out and about. It feels like a small town. You can walk just about anywhere you need to go. The same clerks work at the neighborhood grocery store since we've lived here. I go to the little neighborhood farmer's market every week. Two sites/ blogs I like about Chicago are: The Chicagoist and Gaper's Block.

3. I went to Earlham College where I majored in Art with a double focus in ceramics and metals (class of '99). It's where I met Ian and learned to make pots.

4. I am the hopelessly devoted aunt to 3 (soon to be 4) amazing nephews. Orion, Ayrie and Jonah. I am known to them as Emmy. The photo was taken by Ian last Christmas. They were inside the house and Ian was outside. We have decided that if they ever start a band together, that this will be their first album cover and they will be called the Formidable Murphy Boys.

















5. I'm a customer service pro. Friends and family use me to help them work out tough customer service problems. I don't actually enjoy the process of being on hold, but I feel extremely satisfied when I can solve a problem. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this particular talent of mine. I've been enjoying the blog: The Consumerist lately.

6. I LOVE my label maker. Actually, I have 2 of them. One for my studio, one for home. You can see a small glimpse of what our office at home looks like from the picture. The label maker is actually sitting on the shelf in front of the books. It actually has it's own labeled bin, but it was out since I had just used it.
I could go on about my love of the label maker, but I think I'll just stop there.



7. I grew up in Keene, NH. I have family in the area, still. I get to visit several times a year. My dad, Jim Murphy, is a painter who is inspired by the beautiful landscape.

















8. I love jewelry. Handmade beautifully designed jewelry. My favorite jeweler also happens to be a good friend: Sarah Chapman. I love her designs- they are completely original. Her craftsmanship is impeccable. And the pieces have this great ability to go from fitting perfectly with jeans and a t-shirt in the studio to dress up for a night on the town.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ceramics Classes

Soda firing classes with Emily Murphy
at Lillstreet Art Center, Chicago, IL
fall classes begin the week of September 10, 2007
_________________________________________
Soda Firing Fundamentals
This class is for the advanced student of ceramics who is interested in exploring a varied and unpredictable surface for their work. Soda firing is an atmospheric firing that produces flashes of color, a textured orange peel surface, and reacts in a variety of ways with different slips, glazes and clay bodies. We'll delve into forms that work well to accentuate the soda process, play with surface decoration with particular focus on slips and textures, and experiment with glazing for the soda process (including the use of the spray booth). Kiln loading will be taught and all students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class.
Tuesdays, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Starts Sept. 11, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________________________

Advanced Topics in Soda Firing: Surface Decoration

This class is for advanced students with previous experience in soda and atmospheric firing, who are looking to investigate the process more deeply. This class is going to focus on surface decoration in the soda kiln. We’ll explore texture from stamping to carving and how to enhance the surface in soda. We’ll delve into slips from flashing to porcelain with a variety of application techniques. The ultimate goal is to enhance your forms with surface decoration in the soda atmosphere. Open to students who make both functional and sculptural work. All students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
Wednesdays 12-3pm
Wednesdays 7-10pm
Starts Sept. 12, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________
I thought I'd share a sampling of work from some of my student's (past and present) that have come through the soda firing program at Lillstreet over the past couple of years.
You'll see many have their own websites, or albums with more images. Just click on a linked name to see more!



Greg Schultz

Beth Burkhart

Nancy Pirri


Fred Follansbee

Robert Milanowski

Lalitha Bardalaye

Labels: , , , , , ,

A tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 3)

Here is the next installment of my tour of clay blogs. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to see the community of blogging ceramic artists expanding. There are bloggers from all over the world, at different stages of the profession. They're making high-fire and low-fire pottery and sculpture in every type of firing process imaginable. A little something for everyone. I just did a quick count of the total number of clay blogs that I have visited collectively on the 3 tours- and it's 44!
Enjoy!


Ceramic Focus: Ceramic Arts and technique blog
This is a site to get lost in and end up following link after link and ending up in an exciting place. Lots of images (and links) of work that is on exhibition around the world





Webb Pottery:
Art and Pottery Blog and Studio Journal
You have to check out Anne's clay mixer! Beautiful work and a thoroughly interesting blog.






Ambrosia Porcelain
"We believe in creating beautiful, functional objects that bring happiness to your daily life."
What perfectly named work. These pieces make me happy.




Sandwich Mountain: The Adventures of the Little People
More work that makes me really happy. This blog by Mel Robson and Kenji Uranishi is fantastic. They each have their own personal blogs with really interesting work (click on their names to get to them). There are some exciting things happening with clay in Australia!







Smokieclennell
: Tony Clennell
A brand new blog, but already with regular postings. I'm looking forward to reading more!




The Pondering Potter: Renee Margocee
"exploring the life of a clay artisan in the 21st century"
This is another fairly new blog, but I anxiously await Renee's honest and thoughtful posts. I first came upon her as a guest blogger on One Black Bird and I'm happy to see that there is more where that came from!






Strange Fragments: Shannon Garson
Another Australian potter! I'm still digging through the archives finding one great post after another. Right now the line that's hanging in my head is: "Make your work for yourself."
We all need to be reminded of this! (read that post!)




musing about mud:
Carole Epp
Anyone who is making work out of clay needs to read this blog! Carole is keeping us all informed about what's going on in the ceramics world from calls for entries to spot lighting new and exciting work from different artists. And her pots are gorgeous too!





Little Flower Designs
:Linda Johnson
Linda calls this her "inspiration blog" and I love that idea. It's a great way to share that part of the process.




Peppa Studio: Where Beautiful Things are Made by Hand
More happy porcelain pots! There are some stories of the challenges of working in a community studio. I think there are a lot of people that can relate. I can't wait to see more of the little plump blackbirds.







Colorado Art Studio
: Cynthia
Cynthia is a super blogger. She has everything here from studio updates, to tutorials, to suggestions of books to read and music to listen to. Thanks Cynthia!





I love the photos of inspiration and the pieces they inspired. (Like this.) The imagery is stunning throughout this blog. And I'm intrigued by the little snippets of life, like the shot of the Boggle board.




I think this blog wins an award for the best name of a clay blog. Another blog with stunning imagery! It's no wonder that Josie is making the pots that she is making when I see the environment she lives in. I've mentioned this before, but I'm endlessly fascinated by how our surroundings effect our work. I think people are effected by it in different ways, but in general potters (and 3-D makers) are more effected then others. Perhaps because we're thinking not just about the forms - but how they function and interact with the user and live in their new environment.


Christa Assad
A fairly new blog by Christa, currently documenting her latest adventures: starting a new job, moving to a new city, and setting up a new studio. I'm looking forward to what's coming up next.




Clean Mud: Jeffrey Guin
Most potters have at least a touch of pyromaniac in them, and I think that Jeffery has a little more than most! He's self described as "unfocused," but for readers it just means that there's a little bit for everyone. If you wanted to learn about raku, this is the blog to read! He also has an offer to trade a pot for $20 that's go towards food in the local food pantry. Take a look and maybe take him up on it.




Anne Murray:
"Currently studying design and ceramics at Glasgow School of Art"
Another new blog with an interesting and different perspective - that of a design and ceramics student. Anne is already posting regularly and I hope it continues.





Firing Log: Ancient Kiln / 21st Century Logbook
Yet another great ceramics blog that I cannot believe that I didn't know about! I'm diving into the archives and loving it. The title of the blog is fantastic, and I can't wait to listen to the podcasts. Again, something that I can't believe I didn't know about. I spend much of my day in the studio listening to podcast after podcast - but they aren't usually clay-centric because there aren't too many of them out there.



That's enough for today!
I hope you enjoyed this tour, and don't forget to check out the previous tours:
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 1)
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 2)
And as always, let me know what else is out there if I've missed something.

If you're new to reading blogs, or if your regular sites to visit have expanded out of control, I suggest some sort of reader like Google Reader, which is what I use.


Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 2)

This is an update (a long overdue update) to a previous post about clay blogs. When I first wrote about blogs that focused on ceramics, there weren't too many out there. I am so happy to find this time around that there are a lot more now! I didn't include ones that I listed before. And these are in no particular order. Enjoy- and please let me know if there are more out there for the next time around!

one black bird by Diana Fayt
A wonderful blog that I just discovered. (I don't know how I've missed it all this time!) Great posts by Diana and guest bloggers. It's been a lot of fun reading through the archives.




A Potter's Journal by Ron Philbeck.
Great photos of Ron's work in progress. I love the how-to posts as well as the studio updates.



The Pottery Blog by Jennifer Mecca
Jennifer writes about her day to day life in her studio, balancing her family life with her clay life. This is why blogs are great- you can share your personal experience in a way that you can't through a book or a more formal publication.






Davistudio: Modern Table Art by Mary Anne Davis
"Seeking to stretch ideas about peace, art, design, function, value, culture and making." And lots of happy pots!





Lurearts Ceramics
by Pam McFadyen
A fairly new blog- but I think there will be some interesting things on the horizon, like her new Tool Talk series. Keep 'em coming!



This Week @ St. Earth
A weekly update for what's going on at St. Earth Pottery in Fillmore, IN. I love reading about other potter's work cycles. And I think one of my favorite parts is listing the music and podcasts of the week.




Douglas Fitch Blog
Maker of "country pots." When you see the beautiful photographs on his Douglas' blog, you can see how the landscape effects his pots. Something that I think about a lot as an urban potter.




Bluegill Pottery by Vicki Liles Gill
A nice (and fairly new) blog that has a lot about the business side of pots, and some how-to's and other studio updates.






Sister Creek Pottery by Gay Judson
"The occasional musings of an overly-enthusiastic-senior potter who recently found her way to the potters wheel."
One thing that I really like this blog is
that Gay writes abouts the ups and the downs of making pots!


Design Realized by Julie Rozman
A new blog by a Lillstreeter (def: someone who works at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago) which documents her thought process and her new ventures into selling her work. Keep it up Julie!





Jeanette Harris: A Clay Engineer's Blog
Jeanette's blog is hilarious! In addition to the humor she has some great info including documentation on her glaze testing, and reviews of books and videos.






Wirerabbit Pots by Taylor H
Taylor has great tutorials - directions on how to make things like plaster bats and terra sigillata. Great information illustrated with helpful photos.



Soderstrom Pottery Blog
"A Minnesota potter, trained in Japan"
Check out his wind powered kiln :)






this artist's life - day to day in the clay studio
by Whitney Smith
Most recent posts have been about Whitney's residency in Japan. An unusual perspective and thoughtful posts.





Karin's Style Blog - Looking at the world with a designer's eye
I love this blog! Karin's work is beautiful and she has endless links to other makers and designers from around the world.







Whip-up: handcraft in a hectic world
This is a group submission site that is about all things handmade. A must visit often site!
See this page to learn more.







Tara Robertson Pottery
A great photo tutorial on pit firing. I'm also enjoying reading about Tara's venture into Etsy.






Well, I think that's enough for now... I hope you have enjoyed this tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching this. I have discovered some really exciting new blogs to subscribe to!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Show your love of clay to the world

Cafe Press has some interesting products for people who want to proclaim their love of clay to everyone around. The first time that Cafe Press got my attention was when John Norris put up a "soda fired" mug.
Below are some designs that you can get as t-shirts, hoodies, aprons, magnets, bumper stickers, hats, mouse pad, boxers, tank top, coasters and even a throw pillow. I prefer the more subtle ones that only another potter would understand. Something where we can identify ourselves to one another out in the world.

Labels:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Study of Continental Clay Bodies

I have recently done a little study of the high fire clay bodies from Continental Clay in Minneapolis. I made teabowls out of each of the clay bodies, and fired one in c. 10 reduction and one in soda (also c. 10 reduction). They are both glazed in a luster shino glaze which shows off the differences in the clay bodies beautifully. The c. 10 pots are glazed both inside and out with the shino glaze (left). The soda pots are glazed on the inside, and on the rim (right). There are 9 clays that I tested in total- so keep scrolling down... Enjoy!
**be sure to click on the images to see a much larger image and really see the details.**

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, January 16, 2006

What is soda firing?

This post is part of a handout that I give to my soda firing students at Lillstreet Art Center. It is an attempt to explain a little bit about the history of soda firing, and tries to help answer the question, "what is soda firing?". It is not the full story, but I hope that you find it helpful.

Soda firing is an atmospheric firing technique where “soda” is introduced into the kiln near top temperature (2350°, ∆10). The soda that we use is: sodium bi-carbonate, also know as baking soda (the Arm and Hammer™ kind), and sodium carbonate, which is also known as soda ash.

“Soda ash is the trade name for sodium carbonate, a chemical refined from the mineral trona or sodium-carbonate-bearing brines (both referred to as "natural soda ash") or manufactured from one of several chemical processes (referred to as "synthetic soda ash"). It is an essential raw material in glass, chemicals, detergents, and other important industrial products.”
USGS

The soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln. The soda vapors create a glaze when it lands on a piece (or a kiln post, or the wall of the kiln). Wherever the flame travels- so does the soda. When placing the pieces in the kiln during loading, you have to think carefully about when and where you want a piece to get lots of soda, or when and where you want a piece to be more protected. The kiln must be evenly loaded because the flame will travel on the path of least resistance (and therefore the soda will also be traveling on the path of least resistance). You also have to think about whether or not the piece is glazed. The soda is basically a glaze, and when two glazes mix, they can react chemically with one another and run down the side of the piece. It’s beautiful when you can control the run- but can be disastrous when it gets away from you!

What is the history of soda? Where did it come from?

The predecessor of the modern day soda firing, is salt firing. It is believed that salt firing began in Germany in the 13th century. As many things go, it was most likely come upon by accident. Perhaps some salt soaked wood (from pickling barrels?) was tossed into the kiln for the wood fuel. The salt vaporized and glazed the pieces inside the kiln. It was a great time saving measure. No need to glaze the pieces before they went into the kiln. Old German jugs were salt glazed, along with tankards and sewer pipes. The pieces that we think of as early American traditional ceramics from the southwest corner of the US were also salt glazed. Can you picture a big whiskey jug with cobalt blue decoration on it? Those were salt fired. The process that I’m talking about is wood firing with salt thrown in. The salt easily glosses up a piece and helps the wood ash flux out. Salt vaporizes at a fairly low temperature and can work its way into all sorts of nooks and crannies. In a salt firing, the salt vaporizes and the sodium chloride splits into sodium and chlorine gas. When the chlorine is exposed to moisture, it forms hydrochloric acid. The acid goes into the kiln atmosphere and is released from the chimney. The remaining sodium combines with alumina and silica in the clay to forming a glaze on the surface of the piece.

Although the previous paragraph doesn’t help sort out what soda firing is, it does give some important background information. Salt firing continued to be a technique used by potters up through the 1970’s (and is still is used as a firing method today). In the 70’s as people became more aware of the environment, they realized that the black smoke and hydrochloric acid wasn’t such a great idea. A couple of graduate students from Alfred University, NY studied sodium alternatives to salt firings, hoping to find something that was more environmentally friendly, and maybe even something that could happen in an urban environment.

The results were soda ash and baking soda. They produce carbon dioxide instead of hydrochloric acid. The soda doesn’t get into all the nooks and crannies like the salt does, but it does produce brighter and more vivid colors. Pots are usually glazed with an interior or “liner glaze” because the soda vapors won’t work their way into those hard to reach places. You can achieve a rich glossy surface that is heavy with soda, or a pebbled surface that is also referred to as an “orange peel” texture. This is often juxtaposed with a “drier” area of the clay that wasn’t hit directly with the soda. It’s all of these varied surfaces together that make up the rich look and feel of a soda fired pot. 30 years ago, when soda firing first began, most ceramicists were just trying to mimic the effects of salt firing. In the last 5 years that has changed. The true characteristics of soda firing are unique and are something to explore and achieve.

The soda vapors aren’t actually colored, but they are reacting with the alumina, silica and iron in the clay (and slips) to create the various colors of flashing, and associated textures. The resulting colors can be a range of oranges with yellow and red tones, to rich browns, golds and tans. If there is some copper in the kiln, there can be pink blushing. Or a cobalt glaze on a piece can cause a blue twinge to the soda. Sometimes the carbon from the firing can add a gray hue that can look like shark skin on porcelain.


So perhaps now you know a little bit more about soda firing.


I've included the recipe that I use for my soda firings below.

My soda recipe: (a variation on Gail Nichol's process)
2 lbs. soda ash
3.5 lbs. sodium bi-carb
5.5 lbs. whiting (calcium carbonate)
Mixed with ½ of a 5 gal. bucket of wood chips, and water

*mix the dry stuff with the wood chips, and then add COLD water. Just enough so it sticks together. It should have a consistancy similar to oatmeal cookie dough or tunafish salad.

-Add soda into kiln when ∆9 is soft. Add 1 ½ angle irons full of soda mixture through each port. Wait 15 minutes between additions. Usually takes 3 turns to add in all of the soda.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lillstreet Studios website

It's finally done (almost). The website that I have been making for the group of artists where I have my studio in Chicago: Lillstreet Studios. If you're not familiar with it, Lillstreet Art Center is a big art center that houses ceramics classrooms, metalsmithing studios, a glass bead making studio and more. Mostthe art center is on the first floor of the building. The 2nd and 3rd floors are what make up Lillstreet Studios. We have over 40 independant artists working. Most are potters, but we also have jewelers, photographer, painters, etc...
We've been putting a lot of energy into working together as a group like doing this website and hosting a montly open house called 2nd Saturdays. (Just what it sounds like- a monthly open house on the 2nd Saturday of each and every month!)
It's great to be a part of a community. There are always people around to brainstorm on business decisions like pricing, or just to have an informal critique about a form. There is a lot of solitary time being a potter (and even more doing all this computer work), but being in this kind of studio helps to balance that out.
Here are a couple of images of some of the studio artists working in their own spaces:

Amy Lemaire, Sarah Busen, Dana Major Kanovitz and Cathi Bouzide are pictured above.

I hope you enjoy wandering through this site.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Tour of Blogs about Pottery & Ceramics

One reason why people blog is to participate in their community. For me, it's a way to have a conversation about clay and related topics with a larger clay community. In the more technical world (programmers, etc.. ) bloggers read, link and comment to one another- creating a larger dialog. In the ceramics world, there is less blogging going on. Most potters that I talk to about my blog respond "what's a blog?". Today's post is answering that question, in part, by showing potteryblog.com readers what else is going on out there in the clay blogging world. I think it's just beginning- hopefully I will be able to update this list in the future with many more clay weblogs.

Here is an overview of some clay related blogs- in no particular order. I left out some blogs that haven't been updated in a while, or didn't have much content about pottery. Otherwise, this is a pretty good sampling of what's out there. Please let me know if I'm missing something or if something new comes along. Enjoy the tour!


John Norris: Containers of information: Art, Ceramics, Information, and You.
John has an extensive website that covers lots of topics including clay and conceptual art. He has t-shirts that he has designed for sale...handouts for teaching purposes, and perhaps most exciting: he has a pottery podcast called: Cone 11 Forced Air (a podcast is a regularly produced MP3 in a radio format). Take a listen and enjoy. I'm looking forward to more!


Nathan Pearlman: Political Mammal
Nathan's blog is not actually a blog that is specifically about pottery, but includes a couple of nice articles directly related to clay- the one that is linked above, and a previous one that I linked to in the Soda Fired Mug post.


Mashiko Potter: Things Related to Making Functional Pottery
Beautiful photos of Lee's work- finished and in progress, in Mashiko, Tochigi, Japan.


kasumipottery.com weblog: An authorized weblog of Kasumi Pottery Studio by Rolando
This is an interesting site. It's not written and maintained by the artist, but is about the artist. A different format- kept up to date well.


Paper Clay
This is a blog about paper clay (to state the obvious). Not what I'm really interested in at this moment, but the direction of this blog is interesting- a focus on a very specific subject matter.


PBA Pottery Blog - Muddlings
A nice name, and the accompanying site is nice too, but this blog doesn't have too much content related to clay & pottery- despite the name. I'm hoping that there is more to come- check back for more.
___________________________________________________


As I am writing this, I'm listening to NPR. A story on Warren Mackenzie just came on during All Things Considered. You can read the text and view the photos on the linked site, but you should also click on the "listen" button and listen to him in his own words.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Potter's Mark: Signing Pots

I just got a new stamp with my signature to sign the bottoms of my pots with. I ordered the stamp at NCECA, and it arrived in the mail last week. Todd Scholtz, owner of claystamps.com was set up at the Brackers Good Earth Clay, Inc booth.

He had me sign a piece of paper to get the right signature. I think that I wrote it about 40 times to get the feel and look that is most consistent with how I usually sign my work. The 10th signature ended up being the one that I used.

He then scanned the chosen signature into a computer and resized to my specifications. He then engraved the stamp and added a nice wooden handle. I am really happy with the results. It stamps beautifully- wet, leather hard, and even a little past leather hard all come out clearly and easily. If I want another stamp- smaller or larger, I can have the same signature, just resized. If you have some other sort of mark, it would work as well- whether you have it as a digital image already, or you have Todd scan it in for you.

I've tried to figure out a good signature stamp for years. I don't like the chunkiness of a clay stamp for my signature, and the fragility always worried me. Rubber stamps are easy to have made, but they aren't deep enough or firm enough for stamping the bottom of a trimmed, leather hard piece. This stamp seems to be a good alternative.
Take a look at the results:

The flashing from the soda kiln on the bottom of this plate could not have been any more picture perfect!

I have always felt that it is important for me to sign my work. Here are some thoughts on signing or not signing pots...
  • It is an historical record of the maker. There are lots of books about the marks on old pots. I'm not saying that my mark is going to end up in a book, but the idea of being able to figure out who made a pot, a print or a painting is still interesting to me. Having a clear and identifiable signature would make that much easier.
  • I own several pots by different potters that aren't signed (or it's hard to make out). When I bought them, I remembered clearly who made them, but as time has passed, some of those names have left me. If I wanted more work by the same artist, I'd sort of have to wait to come upon it again at a gallery.
  • Ceramics Monthly has started including the stamp or mark of each of the ceramic artists that are featured in their magazine. This seems to be some sort of recognition of the importance of the stamp even in contemporary ceramics (as opposed to the historical documentation that I talked about above).
  • The Potter's Council is asking for potter's to send in their marks to create an archive of stamps and signatures. They can be sent to: Jennifer Poellet, 735 Ceramic Place, Suite 100, Westerville, OH, 43081.
  • Over time my signature or stamp have changed and evolved. All clearly are by the same maker, but it is a way that I can sort of "date" my pieces, without actually recording a date on them.
  • I come from a family of artists, and the bold signature of MURPHY is something of a common occurrence on our work. Here is my dad's signature (Jim Murphy) from one of his paintings:


I think that this blog entry will be the first of many about signing work. There is much more to talk about. I'd love to hear your ideas about signing or not signing pottery, or what your method is.

If you'd like to sign up for the Pottery Blog mailing list, go here. You'll get automatic emails when I write and post a new entry. As always, it is a private mailing list- no information will ever be shared!

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sodafired.com Update

As you probably know, I have these two websites- the one that you're reading, potteryblog.com, and my main one for my ceramic pots, sodafired.com. My hope is that visitors of both go back and forth between the two without necessarily realizing that they have technically gone to a different site. They each serve their own purpose, but those purposes overlap one another.

I just started a sort of "mini-blog" on sodafired.com. I will use it as a way to share studio announcements and that sort of information. It's little news box on the front page of my site.

Tonight the first entry is posted. Just go *here* to read it. I will update it several times a month- or as often as necessary. In the almost 6 years that I have maintained a website of my pottery, I have tried to figure out a good way to fulfill these objectives:
1. Notify people of sales, shows and new work.
2. Make it obvious that the website is really up-to-date and, in general, make it obvious that the site is paid attention to.
3. Showcase some of my new pieces without having some really obnoxious flashing "NEW" sign.
4. Give people a reason to come back to visit the site, and hopefully to come visit me in my studio.
5. And very important: something that is easy for me to update. If it's not, then it won't be very up-to-date! Lots of good intentions, but not enough time.

I think that this format fulfill the above objectives. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for reading.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Soda Fired" Mug

This is the sort of mug that I think of when I think about what a soda fired mug is. Warm, rich coloration from the flashing. Orange peel texture built up on the high points.



This is also a soda fired mug:

John Norris has come up with this hilarious idea. It's a standard, industrial produced mug with the IMAGE of soda firing wrapped around it. It's the "perfect" soda mug.

I enjoy the cleverness of this, but it also helps remind me what I'm doing making handmade pots in a world of industrial pots. Making something that is beautiful in surface and form; designing a form that is not only visually pleasing, but ergonomic. And perhaps most importantly, making a human connection between the maker and the user.

I came upon this essay, "Potters, the Values of Craftsman, and Living True to Self" by Nathaniel Pearlman on his blog: Political Mammal, and I encourage you to read it. It puts into words another reason why potters make.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 28, 2005

Workshop with Jordan Taylor


My good friend and fellow Earlham alum Jordan Taylor, is going to be coming to Lillstreet Art Center this April to do a 2 day workshop.

Jordan and I worked side by side on our senior projects at Earlham, making pots, loading and firing kilns. After we graduated, Jordan and I have both gone on to make pots full time- but we have arrived there by very different paths. Jordan went the route of many the clay graduate of EC, and did a long apprenticeship. He worked with Mark Skudlarek in Cambridge, Wisconsin for 3 1/2 years. After his apprenticeship was completed, he moved to north eastern Pennsylvania to set up his shop. He wrote an article for Ceramics Monthly about his journey of making pots.


In Union Dale, Pennsylvania Jordan built his wood kiln...


where he fires his pots...


If you are interested in registering for this workshop, it's on April 16th and 17th -- contact Lillstreet Gallery for more information (773.769.4226).

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 26, 2005

500 Cups, Lark Books


500 Cups, cover, Lark Books

This February, Lark Books has released it's newest book is the "500" series. I am lucky enough to have two images in it.

page 110


page 351

My Lillstreet soda firing partner in crime, Gary Jackson,
also has an image in the book.

page 265

This series of books from Lark is beautifully done.
Inspirational for the potter and visually gratifying for the collector.
I also enjoy (and own) other book's from this series:


If you'd like to purchase the book
directly through Amazon...

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Correct or intended usage.

A couple of years ago I was at the Cambridge Pottery Festival in Cambridge, Wisconsin (outside of Madison) visiting my potter friend, Jordan Taylor, who was, at the time, apprenticing with Mark Skudlarek. The festival is an all clay art fair as well as the Pottery Olympics. I was in a bit of heaven for the weekend. I bought a couple of pots from different potters selling their wares. One of the pieces was a simple little temoku bowl with a triangulated rim and rutile brushstrokes on the interior. When I brought it up to the checkout area of the booth, the wife of the maker was tending the sales. Even though I had already decided on my purchase, she began to inform me of the bowl's many uses. "It's perfect for ice cream...just the right size for a snack of yogurt...measure out and set aside ingredients while cooking..." I didn't really say anything at the time - like "I think I can figure it out," but the whole idea of being told what a bowl was for seemed a little ridiculous. It's a moment that often comes back to me. I have probably used it for all it's suggested uses - but I could have figured them out all on my own. I don't blame her for offering up the list of suggestions, I often get the question "what's this for" when I sell my pots at a fair or out of my studio. To me, as a potter, it always seems obvious to me. When I think it maybe not as obvious, I try to use a prop of some sort. Probably the most common pot that has it's function questioned are my wall vases.

I try to display at least one of them with dried flowers in them, but I guess some people just have a hard time imagining it. Sometimes they want more of an answer of dried or fresh flowers, so I go into stories of people using them to hold real live plants, toothbrushes, or kitchen utensils (depending on the size) or how they're great for your deck (Chicagoans treasure their decks). But as a rule I don't offer up this information unless it's asked. I do understand that the more unusual objects might be a little bit hard to figure out - like the wall vases, oil lamps, butter dishes - but I often get asked the "what's it for" question for the most mundane pots like little sauce bowls, an oversized mug, or even a teapot. I happily answer the customer's questions, but I just wonder where people's imagination and logic have gone. I might think about a really specific use when I'm making things - like a shallow bowl-plate that is just perfect for a fresh salad - but I don't want to corner my pots into one specific use. I want people to take them home and discover new functions and incorporate them even further into their lives. It wouldn't have really occured to me to put kitchen utensils in a wall vase, but why not? I think it's a great idea.

We live in a cluttered world of things that all have a single purpose (and usually aren't that nice to look at). Think about all the small kitchen appliances that clutter our countertops: rice cookers, bread makers, vegetable steamers, waffle irons, pitzzelle makers. People seem to want to be told what to do. Along with the above mentioned appliances, hair dryers and other electric items all come with very important instruction manuals that tell us things like: "do not operate while in the bathtub or while asleep." I suppose it's a combination of our litigious society and, again, the lack of imagination and logic. I came upon this legal notice for the usage of mugs. I think it's pretty hillarious, but I hope that it never actually comes to this.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 26, 2004

Stacks of obsolete slides.

I have a love for functional objects...you might even say a soft spot. That's why I make pots. Pots are interactive pieces of art. Then you can get even extra "wow" out of a piece if it functions well on top of being aesthetically pleasing. A teapot that pours without dripping, or a mug that becomes one with the hand of the user, gives me deep satisfaction.

I like to see the potential function in all objects - even after they have ceased their original function. The other day I was walking down an alley (here in Chicago). I found this huge 5 foot octagonal window leaning against a dumpster. It was really lovely and was in perfect condition.

I stared at it for a while. "What could I use this for?" "How could I get this home in my hatchback?" "Where could I store it until I can use it?" "Is there someone I know that would just have to have it?" The answers to these questions were not very positive. So I made a little deal with myself and left it up to fate. I went into a store (for about 20min.), and decided that if it was there when I came back, then I would figure out a way to take it. But if it was gone... then perhaps it was just not meant to be. It was gone.

This brings me to my stacks of obsolete slides. I think every working artist must have one. A potter's stack might be a bit bigger since we probably make more pots than a painter makes paintings. (Not that I actually document all my pieces.)

Anyway.. my stacks consist of: compositions that didn't work out; extra brackets; old dupes that will never be sent into any sort of show; incorrect exposures; the accidental roll of outdoor film that was used instead of the indoor film; first and very poor attempts to take my own slides on wrinkled sheets; booth shots from an old set-up. All images that have no more use. But the time, effort and money that went into all these makes it impossible for me to ever dispose of them. It's nice that they're small because I can store them guilt-free. But now I don't think that I need to store them anymore. There is a perfect use for them thanks to one of my favorite magazines, Ready Made.


I think this lamp idea is great. Can you imagine how nicely the thick plastic mounts will hang?

So for now, I will hang on to my stack of obsolete slides. Someday I will get around to this project and give my slides a chance at a second function.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 19, 2004

Useful coffee stains

These clever cups have foot rings in different shapes (thinking outside of the circle), so when you accidentally leave your dirty cup on the nice white linen, you're just making it more beautiful.
Stamp Cups
As someone who is trying to make it in the world as a potter, I try to make nice pots and be confident that that will sell them. Sometimes I try to figure out some sort of clever quirk that might push someone over the edge to actually buy a piece- a nice detail that shows that I paid attention - something to show that it was handmade. This stamp cup idea is definitely not an innovation that I have thought about before, and I don't actually think that I would make something with this idea.... but at least I can appreciate the cleverness.

Labels: , , ,