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!

Pretty coffee stains

Take a look at these cool pieces by Bethan Laura Wood that evolve with use.

coffee-stain-1acoffee-stain-1b

coffee-stain-2acoffee-stain-2b
About these pieces:

Stain is a set of a teacups designed to improve through use. This project examines the assumption that use is damaging to a product (For example, scratches on an iPod).

The interior surface of the cup is treated so as to stain more in predetermined places. The more the cups are used, the more the pattern is revealed. Over time they will build up an individual pattern dependent on the users personal way of drinking tea.

I have a soft spot for coffee stained mugs.  I don’t have any cups that have stains as fancy as these, but my favorite pieces definitely are marked from years of use.

People tend to have very strong opinions on the interior glazing of mugs. I have customers who come in wanting dark glazed interiors so there is no chance of staining. And others who want a light interior so they can see how steeped their tea is.  I make some of each depending on the design of the piece. My personal preference is a lighter glaze so I can see how much milk I’ve added to my morning coffee.  What’s your?

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!

How to make a USB powered pottery wheel

I just came across this little instructional video for a making a USB powered mini pottery wheel out of an old hard disk drive:

Of course this is not something that you could really go into production with, but it is pretty amusing. Maybe I can talk Ian into trying out this little hack sometime.  It probably wouldn’t be a great idea to have clay so close to a computer. Perhaps a USB extension cord would be an important part of this project.

If anyone out there tries this out, please let me know… and send pictures!

A semi-complete tour of pottery blogs, part 6

This post is a version of my new blogroll which can be found on one of the top tabs on the new site. It was way too big to list in the side bar of the site so I gave it it’s own page.  After a lot of work (and a little  lot of help), I was able to create thumbnail snapshots of the blogs to break up the very long list and add a little visual interest.  The blogroll that is on the top tab is connected to my blog reader, so it updates whenever I add or subtract a blog automatically.

In addition to writing this pottery blog, I also am an avid reader of clay focused blogs written by other ceramic artists. There are more than 100 blogs on my blogroll that I read daily through a blog reader. (I really do read all of these blogs listed!) It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you’re caught up, it’s so nice to start your day catching up with potters from around the world.

At the bottom of this list you’ll find directions for connecting this list to your blog reader so you can read them regularly too.  Because this list could be endless without some restrictions, I do have some perimeters  for the blogs here- they need to be mostly about clay, have original content and are updated semi-regularly. This is not a complete list (I did title this as semi-complete). I “discover” new blogs every week and wonder how I possibly could have missed them before. Let me know if I’m missing anything!

 

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 (above), 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.

And if you’re overwhelmed by the number of posts that appear in your blog reader, you can always “mark all as read” and start reading from that point forward.

Enjoy!

tweet tweet! potteryblog is now on Twitter

I signed up for Twitter this week.  If you Twitter, you can find me at potteryblog.

If you don’t Twitter and you’re not really sure what it is, I’ll let my friend Julie explain it:

Twitter is a microblogging platform. Small blogs. Really small. Basically, you have 140 characters to answer the Twitter question “What are you doing?” If you are a Facebook user, it is somewhat similar in format to the status update that you give on your page. If you are a blogger, it is similar to your blog but only SUPER short. You can share photos, links, information, and updates.

With Twitter though, you can also converse. You can reply to people’s postings, repost (called a retweet or RT) a post that you find interesting, and send direct messages to people. You can ask questions, start threads, and have discussions. Twitter does not need to be a static update list. It can be a dynamic conversation.

potteryblog-twitter

My plan for Twitter is to use it for short updates about the glamorous day to day life of a potter. What I’m making in the studio, business stuff, blogging and website updates, etc… You’ll be able to find these little updates in column on the right side of this blog.  I wish I was better at actually writing full posts about what I’m up to each day, but I just haven’t been able to pull it off.   I’ll just leave that to Ron!

Pottery Blog is now on WordPress!

I’ve been talking about doing this for months… I’ve finally made the switch.  On Christmas morning Ian surprised me with the fantastic gift of moving the content and comments of my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  It was the beginning of a huge project that I’ve been working on steadily ever since.  Adding content, tweaking the template, plug-ins and reorganizing tags and categories.

If you’re reading this post on a blog reader or through an email, I encourage you to take a minute to visit the PotteryBlog.com directly.  And if you’re on the actual website, take a look around at the new digs.

pottery-blog-emily-murphy

I’ve been working on lots of features that will be both visually interesting as well as make the site easier than ever to use. Some of the things I’ve done will be obvious, like the extensive categorization of the archives. Others will not be quite so obvious, like when you post a link from Pottery Blog on Facebook, the post will be excerpted and you’ll be able to choose the accompanying thumbnail image.

I will be doing a series of posts that will highlight some  of the new features over the coming week.  And there are still some major changes/ additions coming too!

Thanks Ian! I definitely couldn’t have done this without you!

One Day Sale! 20% off Everything!

Last minute holiday shopping? Have you been thinking about getting a new mug for yourself? Do you need another serving bowl for Christmas dinner? Your procrastination has paid off.

I’m having a 1 day sale this Saturday, December 20 from 10am – 6pm in my studio in Chicago.  20% off everything (and that even includes the pieces that are already marked down).  There are even new pieces that I will be putting out on Saturday.

I think you’ll find a little something for everyone. There are mugs, tumblers, bowls in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Necklaces, soap dispensers and honey pots fill the shelves. I even have these great new spoon/ teabag holders that are the perfect stocking stuffer for that tea lover in your life. You can’t put off your holiday shopping much longer!

I’m working on a whole slew of new necklaces that I’m really excited about.  I might have to pick out a couple to keep for myself :)

The details:

Saturday, December 20, 2008
10am – 6pm
Studio 205 West
4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL
1 day only
20% off everything, including pieces that have already been marked down!
There is plenty of street parking which is not an easy thing on Chicago’s snow covered streets.  You can also find your way there with many public transportation options- like taking the Brown Line to the Montrose stop.
There are tons of other studios to shop in, as well as the gallery at Lillstreet.  And Montrose has a bunch of little shops and restaurants.  My favorite little gift shop, Hazel, is just down the street. You can make a day of it and get all your last minute shopping done by shopping local!

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!