Tag Archives: NCECA

Spring Sale! And some news…

I’m having a little impromptu sale this week in my Etsy shop until Monday! Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 10.48.11 AM

Just head over to my Etsy shop, and when you are checking out, use coupon code SPRING2014 to get 20% off your order, plus $5 flat shipping.  Sale ends next Monday, April 14th, so don’t wait!

The reason why my shop will be closed again after the sale is because I’m expecting another daughter in just 2 weeks!

This was me in Milwaukee for NCECA a few weeks ago:
Emily Murphy
Ada
 is super excited to be a big sister!

Big sister
I have been working like crazy to get a bunch of work done before I get lost in the world of a newborn.  Right now everything is just greenware or bisque.  So when I do get back into the studio, eventually, I’ll be glazing up a storm! 

I’ve been working on a squared dinnerware set.  These are the mugs part of the series:
squared mugs Emily Murphy Pottery

Ada has been hanging out with me in my studio, getting her hands a little  dirty… and tiring herself out!
kids and clay

I’ve been having a great time throwing… wishing that there were either a few more hours in the day, or I had a little more energy at the end of my pregnancy :)diner mugs

I did somehow manage to have enough energy to get to NCECA in Milwaukee last month.  It was so fun to see so many friends and meet some folks that I have only know through this blog or my Facebook page. Not to mention some great talks, demos and exhibitions!  And I picked up a few new tools, like these MKM rollers:
MKM pottery tools
So now you can see why I haven’t been posting on here much lately. But I do post regularly on Facebook, Twitter and starting to post a little more regularly on Instagram too.

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.

Tool Review: Bison Trimming Tools

You might have gathered from previous posts that I like tools. For years I limited myself to a the basics. Just a handful of adequate tools that did their job, but they weren’t anything special. I wanted to be able to make pots no matter where I was and no matter what tools were available. After I felt like I was I had pretty much achieved that point, I started collecting tools. I have a thing for well designed tools. A tool that doesn’t wear out in less than a year. One that is so comfortable to hold that it’s basically an extension your hand. One that does something that no other tool can do quite as well. I still only really use a handful of tools on a weekly basis- but instead of being just adequate, they are a pleasure to use.

Bison trimming tools fit my definition of a really great tool. At first, I was quite apprehensive. They are definitely on the expensive side. ($58 for the one below.) But I had been feeling frustrated my trimming tool situation and decided that I would try to solve my dilemma problem several years back during NCECA in the exhibition hall. I had been using Dolan tools for a couple of years. They were quite nice, (the nicest trimming tool that I had ever used up to that point) but I was wearing through them on a regular basis. My main clay body is pretty gritty which was causing a lot of wear. I stopped by the Dolan booth to ask their advice. They said if I was actually wearing through them, there wasn’t much to do. So I headed over to the Bison booth where they had a wheel set up with leather hard pots to trim. I sat down at the wheel, picked up a trimming tool and starting trimming off ribbons of clay. It definitely wasn’t like any other trimming tool that I had ever used. It sliced into the piece with almost no effort. After less than I minute I was hooked. I knew that I could never go back to using any other trimming tool. This sounds dramatic, but I’m serious! This is the tool I ended up bringing home with me from the conference:
I’ve had the large loop tool for about 4 and a half years and have never regretted shelling out the big bucks. It’s sharp, comfortable and the loop is the perfect shape for me. I just love how the sharp edge cuts into the leather hard clay. Eventually, I decided that I needed to add a second tool, a small loop tool for smaller pots and detail work. I ended up picking up a small loop tool at NCECA 2 years later. Again, I fell in love with my new Bison tool. I now have two trimming tools that cover most my trimming needs.
Bison trimming tools are quite different than other trimming tools. They are made of tungsten carbide and are quite brittle but will later forever if cared for properly. Here’s some info about the material they are made from from the Bison website:

All tools are made having tungsten carbide cutters. Tungsten carbide is not related to steel in any way. Nor is it ‘springy’ or bendable in the fingers. Do not twist the end to see how strong it is.

All tools are entirely non-ferrous, and there should be no contamination of porcelain from any oxidation from the tool.

Tungsten carbide is a very hard, dense material. As a consequence, it is somewhat brittle in applications where these unsupported slender sections are extending out from the end of a little stem. One must take care to keep them from spills, falls, or being jumbled in a tool box when traveling. Keep them safe.

One should not tap the tool against things to dislodge a gob of clay, nor should one allow others to do so. Just as with our pots… do not drop them.

 
 

I have actually dropped my large loop tool once onto my concrete floor. My heart stopped for a second, but somehow it didn’t break. I am very careful with these tools, making sure they always has a safe resting place when I put them down.

 

I think that I will need to get my large loop sharpened sometime this year. You can send your tools to Philip Poburka, the maker of these fine tools to get them sharpened. It’s $10.00 for medium or large tools, or $7.00 for smaller and miniature tools plus return shipping. I will plan it so the repair will coincide with a vacation. I don’t want to be without them!

The Bison tools and the Mudcutter are definitely three of the most expensive hand tools that I own. Part of the reason why I wanted to review them was to share my experiences with you to help you judge if it’s worth the money for you. Most of my tastes in tools aren’t so expensive. At some point soon I will be writing a review of a tool that I absolutely can’t live without… and it only costs $1.85 (usually marked down to $1 at NCECA).

Tool Review: Bevel-o-Matic

I picked up some new tools at NCECA last month. One of the tools that I bought from Bracker’s is the Bevel-o-Matic from Todd Sholtz of Claystamps.com. I had wanted to talk with Todd about his new tool, but I kept missing him. So I brought it home from Pittsburgh and started using it… without any directions. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use it, and I instantly loved it. After I got home that night, I checked in online to see what sort of info was up about this new tool. That’s where I discovered that I was using it incorrectly. Oops! But I liked how it worked and I’ll have to play around with it some more to see if I want to change my ways.

The Bevel-o-Matic is a simple tool for beveling the edge of a leather hard slab with a razor sharp cutter at a 45 degree angle so you can create a clean, sharp mitered joint. I’ve used several other bevelers that are designed with an angled wire to cut the edge but I didn’t love them. For the way that I use a beveling tool, I prefer the Claystamp.com beveler’s sharp razor edge better than the wire ones.

Here are some images of the Bevel-o-Matic in use:

Above you can see how I used the tool. (correct/suggested usage is the last photo). I hooked the metal Bevel-o-Matic over the edge of the table and pushed the leather hard slab over the tool. The clay is easily cut away leaving a very clean beveled edge. Caution: By using it this way, you do have the possibility of cutting yourself. I did like how hooking the bevel tool over the edge of the table allowed me to have lots of resistance and made it easy to cut a slab that was pretty firm. 

I have all the parts for my box waiting to be joined with the nicely beveled edges:

The parts went together perfectly thanks to good measuring and nicely beveled edges.
***
Here is the proper way to use the Bevel-o-Matic. You’re supposed to drag it across the top of the clay instead of hooking it onto the table and running the clay over it.

Thanks to Bracker’s for this photo. 

 

Of course there are other options for beveling, and you don’t need a special tool…but I appreciate a tool that makes a job a little easier. If you’re a big hand builder, and you’ve been using this tool regularly, I’d love to hear from you.

 


Another note on Claystamps.com… I wrote about this company 3 years ago on this blog after I got a signature stamp made: A Potter’s Mark: Signing Pots.

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 these pieces with the white slip and wax resist lines.