Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A few things from the kiln

I love the way this little sheep came out. I re fired it, first time the glaze didn't melt quite right, but I love what the fire did to it this time
This is the pot I was holding in the previous post. I'm sure some people would think it's ugly, it's all smoky and craggy, but it might be one of the coolest things I have fired. The glaze is a lichen glaze, but I didn't fire it to the point of melting so it's sort of dry and crusty.

I'm making some wall pieces now with terra sig, I like these
adding doors to the little barns
and I got some really cool crackle with this glaze. The first time I fired it was completely copper, so I put it back in and re fired for this very nice turquoise. Most of the things in these photos were fired three times as least, just call me the re fire queen!
I just looked back over these photos, sorry for the quality, I was shooting outside and it was freezing and I was in a hurry! I really have to get a better set up!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

That's the way I like it

Today, I had one of the best Raku days I have had since I got this kiln. It seems like for weeks I have had so many people around me, don't get me wrong I truly value the friendships I have, but I need my alone time. Today I fired my kiln all alone, didn't try the marathon firing that we were doing during the workshop I had here and I got really nice results. No rushing, no slamming the kiln with sixteen pieces at a time, no rushing to get the glazes on, and it paid off. Quiet, calm, orderly firing, that's the way I like it, plus it's much safer! The pot I am holding is probably my most favorite thing to come out of this kiln. There is nothing outstanding about it, but it has a magnesium glaze that crawled and it got gray and smoky and there are touches of gold on it. The fire did some crazy things to it. Wait till I show you! Of course it might be one of those pots only a mother could love....
For a while, I didn't know Gerry was around shooting these photos, I was just having a great time there with the fire all alone. What a beautiful day it was.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Hi all my friends and readers!! Happy turkey day! Are we all thankful for something? If you read my blog you know that I have tons and tons to be thankful for! What a year it has been.
I was up at 5:30 this morning, shoved a poor dead bird carcass in the oven and now I will sear it's flesh so that I can feed it to 14 hungry people at noon today. Sound yummy? I think the rooster next door is feeling the pain of his mates today, he has been crowing like a mad bird all morning. Here are a couple of barn pics that I snapped yesterday in the worst possible light, but I was really tired and didn't feel like setting up my ridiculous photo thing for the perfect shots. Just take my word for it, they look better in person! For some reason, the camera doesn't want to see these barns the way my eye sees them, they get sort of distorted, so I don't really jump at the chance to photograph them, plus they hardly last long enough to get a shot, I sell them as fast as I can make them. I have two commissions right now that have got to get done SOON! Maybe this afternoon after everyone goes home. Just kidding!
Have a very blessed day with your families today!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Really good firing!

We unloaded the kiln today out in Cedar Grove and I would say about 95% was really sweet!
My barns are all toasty brown and craggy. This is the grogweemee clay from Starworks and I love love love it! I used it for hand building and throwing and I was very happy with it.
my orange shino bowls are white and crazing a bit. Clearly we got zero reduction but the white is really pretty. I have only fired this kiln a couple of times and none of us really know how to get reduction in a wood kiln, helpful input would be great if you have suggestions! I know how to reduce in a gas kiln, but if I fire this kiln again I want more knowledge on wood firing shinos or I'm going to use something that doesn't really require reduction. The yellow salt and temmoku glazes fired beautifully. The kiln is a Ruggles and Rankin design and a really easy kiln to fire, except for the reduction part, we have never got any.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stoking music

It's always nice to fire out at Susan's because Tim comes out and plays for us. In case you can't tell, Susan is playing the spoons.
Does it get any better than this? I just don't think so, I have a good life!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shiny Happy People

If you want to pick THE BEST people to do a wood fire with, these are two that should be on the list! My buddies Susan and Kristen were so great to be with this weekend! We had the very smoothest firing I have ever participated in. Everyone worked so well together, what a team. Marsha and David are missing from this pic, but I'll have more later. The kiln fired evenly and steadily without any stalls like we have had in the past, the weather was glorious, and all of us, although all very different, worked well together and had a lot of laughs all day. We loaded Saturday and started firing Sunday morning around 7am. Finished up last night around 10pm. Good days work!
Susan has a huge sculpture in this firing, lots of bowls, mugs and vases from the rest of us.

and the food.......... I love the people I hang with. They love good food and there is always lots of it. Kristen made a vegetarian chili, that was amazing with guacamole and cheddar cheese, yum! David brought the most unbelievable spring rolls I have ever had. Susan baked pumpkin pies. Marsha and I took the easy way out and stopped off at Weaver St. I brought chocolate croissants for breakfast and Weaver Streets most yummy homemade chipoltle pimento cheese and Marsha got us a chocolate raspberry cake and some snacks for late night munching. Let me tell you, that cake got me through the night!!!! We had lots of tea and fruits and I pretty much ate all day. This was a great team and I am so happy to have had the chance to fire with everyone. Fingers crossed, we unload on Wednesday! More pics later, I gotta get my wrecked house back in order and load my own kiln today. I have to get in three more firings before Dec 1.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's going on?!?!?

I read A LOT of blogs and I have noticed that the Chuck Close inspiration quote is still making the rounds. I went and found the interview and read the whole thing, trying to accept his idea about amateurs and inspiration, blah blah, still don't agree with him. I LOVE inspiration!! Here is a perfect example. I saw this photo in the new Anthropologie catalog and thought it would make a great little clay sculpture. So one day when I had nothing else to do (HA!) I sat and made one. He is below, the lone sheep survivor from the Raku. His legs are screws, thanks to the Colorado blogger for that idea from her kid's classes. So just call me an amatuer, I don't care!
I re fired a bunch of ornaments and bowls yesterday, ornaments made it, bowls not so lucky, the bottoms fell off, just the trimmed foot part, weirdest thing, I have never seen that before.
I don't know what is going on with my firings. The first day of the Raku workshop all went well. Second day the same glazes that melted fine, did not melt as well. The glazes are not melting at all now. Example: my simple tried and true Gerstely Borate/Neph Sy base does not melt on the first fire, but if I re fire it melts. I use this base as a white or I add mason stains for colors and it has never failed me. One of the workshop participants had a bowl explode the first day, so I thought maybe some of the debris was affecting the burners. Yesterday, I took the shelves out, blew out all the debris, blew out the burners, didn't help. My thermocouple also got bent during the workshop and I'm wondering if the temp is not regestering correctly. If the glazes had not melted on the first day of the workshop, I would think that maybe it was the chemicals in the glaze, but now my only conclusion is that maybe the pyrometer is wrong thanks to a bent thermocouple. It's really frustrating to lose so much work, but luckily I was able to salvage a good bit. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Maybe I shouldn't use my kiln for workshops?!
I have a bunch of ornaments now, I have tortured myself making these stars, they really are nice, but so much work and I can't charge $100 for them, now can I!? I did go up on the price since this last firing however, so if you got them at the old price of $15 you got a deal, because they are now $24, still a bargain for all I have gone through to get them to this stage. I would go up to $30 on them, and if I make them next year, they probably will be at that price. Such a pain in the ass! Every year I say I won't make anymore, but they are so pretty for the holidays.
Here was my simpler solution to the stars, although a bunch of them fried in the Raku fire. I sat them on a hard brick to fire, big mistake, they are too thin and the brick was too hot, when they came out they were charded badly. I re fired them though and they came out fine. If there is a hard way to do something you know I'm going to go down that road! I shot this photo in the worst possible morning flat light, they are really much nicer in person and will be a good price for those craft show folks that can't spend a lot, but want a little something to take home. I'll try to shoot some nicer pics of the ornaments when I'm not so bleary. It's been a long week! I'm doing a wood firing with Susan Wells this weekend, so this is the last post until Monday. Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A better day, but busy

This bowl is one of the nicer things I got from the Raku firing, I really like it. I was able to ship about thirty pieces to The Bascom for their Artist's Market so all's well, I guess. I did learn from this, no more little crap. From now on the Raku I do will be select larger pieces. I just don't have the time or the energy to screw with the little stuff anymore. Maybe some beads but that's about it. I also learned I much prefer terra sig work to glazing for wood firings and Raku, I know is seems more tedious, but in a different way, more painterly I suppose. Anyway, I worked late last night to get the shipment out this morning, Fedex package on it's way, so good!
New barns, a couple of them will hang on the wall, I like these, need to make lots more. Big rain yesterday so I couldn't get any slabs rolled and dried enough to work with them, so maybe today.
I started the day early, package shipped out, had Thanksgiving groceries bought before 9am, I'm set to cook for 15 of Gerry's family next week, recycled clay, glazed bowls for the wood firing this weekend, cleaned up the Raku carnage, and went to lunch with Gerry, all before 1pm. Whew!
Now the second part of my day begins, off to throw some bowls!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The very, very, very, very,very bad day

Yesterday was a completely mind numbing day. I had a ton of stuff to Raku fire for holiday shows, I like Raku for the holidays, it's so sparkly and different. I should have sat down on the sofa and read a good book when, first thing, I dropped a sculpture and broke it in half, but no, I went on out to the kiln and fired cycle after cycle, work over fired sitting right beside work that under fired, same glaze same shelf, I dropped pieces and broke them, ears broke off of really cute sheep, dependable glazes fired miserably, I lost about 60% of the work I fired. I did get one really great bowl and a few very nice ornaments, but really, the loss is enough to make you want to give up Raku altogether. I'll post pics when I go back out to clean up. It got dark on me and I left the carnage where it lay. Oh and to top off a really bad day, I got the thin "thank you so much for applying, but....." letter from the Durham Arts Council, fourth year in a row I didn't get the emerging artist grant. I give up on that fucking thing, how many years can I be an emrging artist anyway? I haven't a clue what those people want, something I don't have obviously! So, I'll leave you with my very favorite poem, as I start my day with more reliable terra sig work to do!


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Bascom

Wesley was out of school for Veteran's Day this past Thursday and Friday so we drove up to Highlands to see the American Craft Today show at The Bascom. We had such a great time. the weather was a perfect Indian Summer, we found some incredible restaurants, and visited some fantastic art galleries. Just the thing for a stressed out teenager applying for colleges and getting attacked by a crazy person in Chapel Hill! I could just see the stress melting away from her.
The show at The Bascom was very nice and the craftsmanship of the pieces was just exquisite.
The thing I found interesting about this show was that some of the more well known potter names were not present. I don't know if they didn't apply or if the juror had different criteria for selection, but the artists that were chosen were some that I know but not the ones you see over and over in every magazine and gallery out there. I felt very honored to be one of the artists chosen considering the work that was in this show!
When my work is displayed nicely on pedestals and lit well, it tends to sell better than when it is displayed on a white tablecloth below eye level! haha!! I sold all three pieces and got a nice order for their Christmas Marketplace event. I have got to bust it this week to get enough work finished to send!!! I was told by the retail manager that I need to raise my prices, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think my prices are very fair and I want people to be able to afford the things I make and I want to move them. It's all good to have high prices, but I don't need a bunch of high priced work sitting around and not selling. Pricing is just the hardest part isn't it!

There is another show opening there this weekend of quilts and the display is breath taking. The upper gallery was closed for set up but you could see in the window. If you love quilts you really should see this show.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smoking Pots

I guess firing fifty pots on Saturday just wasn't enough for me so I said" hey you guys want to sawdust fire some things?" We put a few pots in a can and let them smoke while we fired all day. Here is a coil pot that I put in. You might remember the barn below as one that was in the Clay and Blog show. It didn't sell, and it was all white terra sig, so I threw it in to see what smoking my barns would look like. It's kinda nice.

My friends Charlotte and Kristen made these pieces to fire beads and small things. One of these days I need to make a metal form for beads but these work ok. You just have to keep making them because they eventually break from all the thermal shock. These held up really well though.
I'm heading up to Asheville and Highlands tomorrow to deliver pots to Kyle Carpenter from the Clay and Blog show and then going over to the Bascom to see the American Craft Today show.
I also have a new thing I like to make. I sat down and threw some large platters yesterday, fun, fun!! I really like making them, never tried before, but they look pretty good. One will go in a wood firing in a couple of weeks, the rest in Raku. I'll post some pics after I fire them, how interested are you in seeing untrimmed platters on a bat anyway?!
Thanks for al the comments on the past few posts. I have sucked at replies, I zoom through my blog reading list, it just grows and grows, then I read your comments, and then it seems like it's time to go do something for someone. I'll try and get back at it.....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dead Peasants

Isn't this a weird photo? My friend Charlotte spotted it yesterday while we were firing....

Have you heard about Dead Peasant's insurance? Maybe I have been under a rock but this is the first I have heard of it. You can google dead peasants and read lots more if you are curious like I was. Does anyone else think this is fucked up besides me? Our country is not governed by a government elected by "the people". It is governed by Bank of America, Wall Street, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. We need a REVOLUTION!!!!!

"Dead Peasant Insurance is sometimes used as a shorthand reference for life insurance policies that insure a company’s rank-and-file employees and name the company as the beneficiary. This means that the company receives the life insurance benefits when the covered employees die.
'Dead peasants' insurance pays your employer a secret, tax-free windfall when you die. Insurers have sold millions of policies to companies such as Dow Chemical.
Right now, your company could have a life insurance policy on you that you know nothing about. When you die -- perhaps years after you leave your employer -- the tax-free proceeds from this policy wouldnt go to your family. The money would go to the company.

Whats more, the company might use this policy to pay for retirement benefits and other perks not for you or your fellow workers, but for your companys top executives.

Sound outrageous? Such corporate-owned life insurance is also big business:
Companies pay a whopping $8 billion in premiums each year for such coverage, according to the American Council of Life Insurers, a trade group.

The policies make up more than 20% of the all the life insurance sold each year.

Companies expect to reap more than $9 billion in tax breaks from these policies over the next five years. The policies are treated as whole life policies. So, companies can borrow against the policies (though the IRS won't let them write off the interest). And the death benefits are tax-free.
Hundreds of companies -- including Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Winn-Dixie -- have purchased this insurance on more than 6 million rank-and-file workers

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Round Two

This was our last cycle of the day, we got 16 pieces in there, got them into the cans and all were beautiful when we took them out. I have never fired this many in one cycle but it was fun and quite the challenge for three people.
If you want to have a lot of fun, laugh a lot, and eat amazing food, invite these three girls to a Raku firing! Charlotte, on the left was the very first student I had at the Artscenter and we have become great friends, and then I met Amy and Kristen through her. Smart, talented, and crazy fun women! I love you guys!!!!!!!
These two pieces are on their way to becoming lamps.Amy made these and they are really beautiful.

Kristen's vases and the owl ornaments below are Charlotte's

This duck of Charlotte's was crazy, it had an under glaze base then a clear on top and it came out looking like a sawdust firing. I had a sawdust can going so we put it back in there to see what else it might do. I'll know tomorrow.

Charlotte's son made this, he does really fun sculptural work and when I saw it, I knew the Rainbow glaze was perfect for it. I think it turned out really great. Hope he likes it.
I have lots more pictures but this is all I got time for tonight. I'm really tired, I have fired 100 pieces of Raku in two days with six people and worked my ass off! Rewards were great though, everyone had such a good time and I ate really well for two days. I am soooo glad that everyone got good results, I love seeing the excitement that comes with a good Raku day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Round One

I offered a Raku workshop through the Artscenter in Carrboro and today was the firing with the first group. I had enough people sign up that I split the firing into two days. We fired about 50 pieces today, the only casualties were a blown up bowl and one of my greenware sculptures was knocked over and broke. Pretty good for the chaos we had going on.
I got up early, got everything ready and as soon as I was set to go, it started pouring rain. Well, of course it did! So I had to move all the glazing inside and my kitchen was a make shift glaze room.
Best part is that was where all the food was. These workshops come with great food. We had homemade foccacia, unreal! and apple turnovers, pear and almond tart, soup, beautiful salad, wine....... yum!
Lots of hydrogen molecules in the air, made for some spectacular glaze effects. This blue is the same as the copper red in the first photo. FAst pull for the copper, slow pull for the blue, really cool glaze.
Claudia is from Brazil and this was her first Raku. We finally convinced her to trying pulling pieces from the kiln. She did a great job today! I met Maureen through my Raku mentor, Barbara McKenzie and she has moved over from the Claymakers raku firings to do my workshops. We are really happy to have her join the pyromaniacs that take these workshops.
Bridget has been firing with me for a while now and always does some crazy experimental thing, I'm watching her and thinking she is nuts and then these wonderful things come out of the kiln. This glaze is called turtle shell and it really looks like a turtle shell.
and just because firing 50 pieces of Raku with people that have never done it of have only done it a few times wasn't difficult enough, I said "hey, let's do a sawdust firing too" so I babysat a trash can as well as a Raku kiln today. Round two tomorrow......... wine tonight!