Busy Bee

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Cat’s Cradle, “Busy, busy, busy!”  The phrase Busy, busy, busy is what a Bokononist whispers whenever he thinks about how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

As I sit and write the heat of the day dwindles, songbirds sing, black flies are buzzing and biting, geese overhead are honking and the tulips in my garden are in full bloom.

Life really is unpredictable, to say the least.  Work in the pottery is busy, but slow.

There are so many facets to my life.  I’m trying to live as healthy of a life as one can and for me that includes exercising every day, eating home cooked meals that are well-thought out and planned, singing in the local choir (because I hate Sudoku and this is a way for me to give my brain and my vocal cords a workout) and keeping things ticking in the pottery and in my home.

Spring cleaning?  Ha ha!!  Gardening?  Yes!  I love my flowers as you may recall from a previous blog, and this year as my way of greening the earth a little bit more I’m planting a veggie garden.  I would like easier access to organic vegetables and this is one way to get it. I just hope I don’t have to battle the wildlife for my lettuce, chard, beans and tomatoes!

Projects in the pottery are coming along, but not exactly the full tilt boogie that I’d hoped for.  Things happen, ya know?  Like today I ran out of homemade granola, so after making room on the kitchen counter for the mixing and baking of the granola by doing a huge load of dishes, the granola ingredients were weighed, measured, mixed and then into the oven it went.  During the baking I took care of some business email.

After the granola came out of the oven I braved the outdoors, now thick with black flies out here in the country, and went for a run.  Upon returning I had a quick shower and bite to eat and headed to town for my annual dental check up and cleaning then back home to hopefully get in an hour in the pottery, but I opted to write this blog instead because I knew that if I started in on the clay work that it wouldn’t get finished before I had to head out to town again for choir practice.

Sigh!  So now it’s time to go.  I have choir practice tomorrow too and our spring concert is on Thursday night.  Somewhere in the ongoing buzz of life I will get those saucers trimmed and that handle put on the jug and the dinner and luncheon plates made.

In the meantime I’m inviting you all to visit my brand new online boutique!  That’s what we’ve been working on since February.  Let me know what you think of it.

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Brand New Year

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the first blog of 2012, a year of new opportunities and fresh ideas.

I had some special orders come to me in late November and early December so I was working quite a lot as the holidays approached.  It was so humid that my drying time was extended by 2 weeks, so about 4 weeks in total.  I like to dry things slowly to avoid cracking handles and such and I do so under several layers of thin plastic – the kind that comes from the dry cleaners.  At one point I thought I would have to force dry the pots in the kiln.  With this extended drying period I started to worry about my customers getting their pieces in time for Dec. 25, but that wasn’t an issue for anyone.  I felt very lucky.

At first it was as naked as a new born baby…

Katheryne's jar, and several mugs - bisque fired and sanded. K asked for a jar of a specific size so I sent her this photo with the ruler next to her piece to show the size.

Katheryne asked for a fat jar with a wide opening and she asked for it to be decorated with my wax resist spiral design.  After painting the wax design on it and glazing it, this is how it came out of the firing.

Still warm from the kiln, Katheryne's jar.

Another view. More Spirals!

She liked her jar very much.  Fran really appreciated that I could also deliver her little creamer to match the sugar bowl and teapot she’d purchased from me for her son, then she asked about a certain colour of glaze that might match her decor.  We had a lovely visit. I dropped by Oksana’s office afterwards and she was very pleased to get her tea mugs in time for Ukrainian Christmas.  It was a happy delivery day!  I took care of some business too.  I bought a brand new dust mask – a very important piece of equipment.

A few leaf plates that didn’t  make it into the summer and fall firings came out of the last firing.  I still have to fire a few more small square platters with handles and feet in the same leafy style.  I’m hoping they will be done by the beginning of March.  I’ve started a new cycle of work that began yesterday with the making some more textured mugs and smaller textured drinking vessels.  I’d taken some photos of the mug making process a while back but I’ll save that for another blog.

Square Leaf Plate

I can only make these plates in the summer months.  I use leaves from trees and bushes native to this area, press them into the clay, then place the clay slab into a mold.  When the clay is soft leather hard, I bevel the edges and then apply a foot ring or 4 feet and sometimes handles.  The piece is then bisque fired and glazed.  Once the glaze is dried, the surface of the glazed plate is wiped back to show the textures of the leaves.

Square Leaf Plate featuring Grasses

These Leaf Plates are food safe and can be used for food service or if one prefers, as a centerpiece for a small table or on a mantle or bookshelf on a plate holder.  They are about 8″ or 9″ square…ish.

I’d made and sold several round ones and this one made it into the last firing.

Round Leaf Plate featuring Wild Raspberry Leaf. Approx. 9 inches.

Round Leaf Plate - close up

In case you’re wondering, this is what the glaze on the underside looks like.

Copper green glaze, the hand built foot ring and my maker's mark.

I have a lot of flat things to make and fire in the near future and to compensate I must make tall things so I have a nice balanced load to fire in the kiln.  I’m running low on teapots and mugs and I’ve been asked to make large jars so must get to that too.

It takes pieces of all shapes and sizes to get a nice balanced kiln load of fired ware.  I regularly make small stuff to fit in those tiny spaces.  I’ve blogged about these tiny cups I’ve called Squishys.  Squishys are great for port, scotch and other whiskey, liqueurs or even wine if you desire a small amount.

Small drinking vessels that have been squished by my hand to fit comfortably in your hand.


Another view

Thanks for dropping by to see what I’ve been doing in the studio.  Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

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St. Brigid School Christmas Gift Sale

A couple of days ago the kiln was full of Yule decorations and terracotta wine cups (some carved and some painted with stripes of bright majolica glazes) and were cooling. What pretties are in there?? We’ll see later on in this blog.

My gallery in Mayo is opened on weekends, but on Saturday, December 3rd, you’ll find me at St. Brigid School Christmas Gift Fair at 200 Springfield Rd in Rockcliffe (Ottawa).

Come for a visit!

Yule/Christmas tree decorations – the first round.

"Raspberry Crystal" 7 pointed star. White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystals fired to cone 06.

"Spot On" 7 pointed star. White earthenware with layered glazes fire to cone 06.

Yule tree decoration. Terracotta (red) clay with white slip decoration for coloured balls. Multiple glazes. Fired to cone 06.

5 pointed small star in "purple haze." White earthenware. Fired to cone 06

7 pointed star "Blue Fire." White earthenware with layered glazes and vintage (yes, leftover from the 70's!) bursting crystal glaze in the centre.

Terracotta "Gingerbread" men with white slip for realistic looking icing. Each one has a name. This is "Georges."

I also have crescent moons, terracotta teddy bears (high on the “cute” scale), hearts, stars and bells.

Here are some photos of what came out of the kiln recently.

"Tangerine Christmas." White earthenware with layered glazes and a vintage 70's bursting crystal glaze centre.

"Little Green Planet." White earthenware with layered glazes. Bursting crystal glaze centre. (Hey some glaze co.'s are making them again!)

Dove with a message carved in. White earthenware. Fired to cone 06.

I have doves with messages of hope, faith, love, peace, espoir, paix et amour.

Some of these 7 pointed stars are super glossy and hard to photograph.  I got this one while it was laying down, completely unaware of my camera lens fixed on it.

7 pointed star "Blue Lime Burst." White earthenware with layered glazes and vintage bursting crystal glaze centre.

"Memories of Jellied Salad, Christmas 1968" White earthenware with layered glazes and vintage bursting crystal glaze centre.

Doves and 7 pointed star, "Star Brite." White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystal glaze centre.

These carved terracotta wine cups are unglazed (except for the rim) for a reason. The earthenware cups absorb acid from wine allowing a rich full flavour to emerge.

Wine cups. Carved terracotta clay with glazed rim. Fired to cone 06.

There is so much more to show you!  You’ll have to come and see for yourself on Saturday at St. Brigid, 200 Springfield, Ottawa.  10 am- 2pm.  Thanks for your support!

Posted in fun stuff, my work | 9 Comments

The Next Day

Thursday, November 3rd

I slept in until 7:30 a.m., but can I really call it “sleeping in” when I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. the night before?  I let the cat out. Hunting is best at first light.

I ate breakfast in front of the computer as usual and checked my website for things that needed updating.  My Annual Fall Sale is slated for Nov. 5 & 6.  I feel exhausted. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer in my pj’s and now it is nearly 11 a.m.

Okay, I’ve changed into my work clothes and loaded the dishwasher and checked the small kiln full of freshly fired bisque ware. Still too hot to open.  I look around my studio and decide in what order I will complete today’s tasks.

11:30 – Review website updates with webmaster.

11:40 – In the studio.  I need to paint wax resist designs on bisque ware…first I need guidelines. This is what I call “Daisyware.”

Marking the pot for wax resist design.

Then I coat my paintbrush with soap to protect the bristles against the gooey liquid wax, which then washes out nicely with hot water and more soap when I’m done applying wax.

"Madge! I'm soaking in dish washing liquid!?"

I dip my paintbrush in the mint green liquid wax…

Jar of wax.

And then most times I follow the guidelines.  😉

Painted with liquid wax so the pot doesn't soak up the glaze. The result is a toasty orange flower against a background of electric blue, the most popular glaze for my Daisyware, featured right at the top of this page!

Wax takes a good two hours to dry.  You don’t want to dunk a wet waxed pot into a bucket of glaze because the wax could contaminate the glaze and then be doing some weird things to future pots.

It’s 12:17.  I’m really hungry!  I check Little Blue.  600 degrees F.  Still too hot to open. I’ve completed painting on all the wax designs so I’m going to stop for lunch. Mmmm…egg, toast, freggies.

1:00 p.m.  I begin the next task.  Glazing.  I’d glazed some stoneware pots the night before and need to finish that.  Long ago I learned to label my glazed pots so I know what colours I’ve used.  Two reasons:  1.) Glazed pots can often look similar in colour to each other; for example, the white glaze and the blue glaze are very hard to tell apart from each other when dried on the pots.  If I start a job the night before and don’t label it how can I be sure if I’ve glazed it blue, white, iron red or iron yellow?  They all look too similar to tell for sure. 2.) I need to know the colour so I know where to load it in the kiln for best results. Some glazes fire better in cool spots and some fire better in hot spots.  When you are working a long glaze day you can get pretty tired and goofy by the end of it and that is when you are loading the kiln.  You need to know what you are loading and where you’re going to load it.

The work I did the night before.

Ready for glazing.

By 4:00 p.m. I have glazed 52 Christmas decorations, 25 bowls of varied size, 1 vase, 10 vessels for drinking, 4 plates, 1 creamer and sugar bowl set, and 3 microwave lids.  I have other glazed pieces on the shelving from a previous glaze day.  Several of these pieces have more than one glaze that has been applied and of course some have wax resist designs on them.

Glazed pottery almost ready to load into the kiln. I will have to clean the foot rings first.

4:15 – I’m done for the day.  I have choir practise tonight at 7:00 p.m. so I must get cleaned up and make dinner.  It’s too bad I couldn’t get the pots cleaned and loaded into the kiln tonight.

5:00 – Doh! Moment. Wait a minute!  I have to get the kiln going tonight!  If I don’t I won’t be able to unload the pots in time for the opening of my sale!
Plan B because Plan A never works anyway.
Go to choir because we always learn new songs and I don’t want to fall behind.  Leave at the break at 8:30.  Come home and clean the pots, load the kiln and start candling* (*warming the kiln to 200 degrees F and holding it there for about 2 – 4 hours to completely dry the glaze on the pots).

9:10 – home from choir.  Break was scheduled a little later than usual and then there’s the drive home – about 20- 25 minutes.  It was a productive practise.  I’m happy I went.  It crossed my mind to cancel altogether, but I felt the need to get out of the house.

9:30 – I’m in my work clothes.  My partner and the cat have been greeted, kissed and petted.  I have a bucket of hot water and I’m ready to clean foot rings.


So, the wax resists MOST of the glaze. Just a quick and wipe with a damp sponge and...

Voila! All that is left is dried blue/green wax that burns off in the kiln. If you don't clean the glaze off the bottom the piece will fuse to the kiln shelf when fired. No, that doesn't sound good does it? It's not.

Ever wonder how a kiln is loaded?  Well, first of all it’s just one big open space and you build as you go, starting at the bottom with a shelf of glazed ware.  In this photo, there is already some pots loaded into the kiln because I was tired and forgot to take a picture before loading.

Like a shadow or haze, the marks on the shelves are from previously fired pots.

I place stilts of my desired height on the shelves, 3 on each side…

Almost at the top. From L to R, "The Nicole" mugs, wee Xmas decoration, cafe au lait bowl, microwave lid.

Yeah…microwave lids!  We used to use those plastic domes that cost about $1, then one day scientists discovered that plastic + microwaves seemed to = EYOO, so I thought to myself, why not make a lid outta clay?  I’ve been using mine successfully in my microwave for over two years and have just started making them to sell.

Vase, creamer and sugar bowl, spoon rest and a small and large microwave lid.

It’s 11:55 p.m. and I’m done loading the kiln.  It’s candling now and I’m going to check it for moisture in an hour.

Friday, Nov. 4
1:00 a.m. – It’s very wet in the kiln.  I use a mirror to test for moisture and it was a very steamy little mirror.  I’m going to bed and will have to set my alarm so I can get up and check it again.

3:30 a.m. – My alarm just went off.  The glazed ware has dried.  I shut the lid of the kiln and start firing.  Thank goodness this kiln is computer controlled and I can go back to bed for a few more hours.

Posted in my work | 2 Comments

A Day in the Studio During a Busy Week

Have you ever wondered what a typical day for a potter is like?  No day is ever “typical” for me, rather each day is unique, but just to give you an idea I tracked two days of my activity.

Day 1
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 – 6:30 a.m.
Alarm goes off.  I immediately contemplate the value of 30 additional minutes of sleep.  It’s very dark outside.  I lay quietly for a few minutes and then get up at 6:40.  I get dressed in several layers of clothing. The house is cold and my studio will be cold too.

The cat is on my office chair.  She’s awake too.  I guess she stayed in because it was too cold for her for an overnighter outside.  I fill the kettle with water and put it on to boil. The running water makes me wish I had gone to the bathroom before filling the kettle. While I’m in the bathroom/laundry room I start a load of wash.

I get my homemade granola and vitamins from the pantry and yogurt from the fridge.  I make lemon tea.  I go over and pet the cat and turn on my computer.  It’s now 7:00 a.m. and the cat wants out.  I go turn the heat on in the studio.

I slowly eat breakfast while doing my morning computer ritual.  I don’t have a lot of time today for computer stuff and we all know how we can get sucked right into it.  After almost an hour of Facebook, Spark (health, weight loss website) and email, it’s 7:50 a.m. and my partner (who is on vacation this week) gets up and greets me with his usual sleepy kiss on his way to the bathroom.

The amount of email I have today overwhelms me.  I remember that email isn’t important but my work is, so I go fold clothes left in the dryer from yesterday.  I tell myself I’m not procrastinating, but that it is a task that has to be done regardless of what else is going on, because doing laundry is one of my jobs.  I volunteered for it.  I really did.

8:10 a.m. – back at the computer.  I’m looking at the weather forecast and deciding when I will go for a walk.  Later when it’s warmer outside – a predicted high of 13 degrees Celsius on Nov. 2.  Pretty nice!

8:15 a.m. – the  cat wants in.  She eats 2nd breakfast.  I pick her up and we cuddle for a long time (in cat time).  She’s 10 years old now.  I chat with JF who now has coffee and is also at his computer doing his morning ritual.

8:30 a.m. – I wander into the kitchen.  I’m restless and know I need to work.  I prepare for work by washing last night’s pots and pans.  The kitchen sink and counter need to be clean and cleared off.

8:45 a.m. – I head into the studio with an arm load of freshly washed pots from the day before.  They were all drying on the kitchen table.  I survey what needs to be done.  I look at the work I have produced from mid-September until now and wonder why I feel like a slacker.  There are a lot of pots!  I recall a conversation between me and JF about how my job is really a job for 5 people – a pot-maker, a labourer, an accountant, a marketer and a shop keeper.  Because I am self-employed, I get to decide what I do every day and often times I am literally working all day long on one thing or another related to my art work but it’s not always about making pots.  Sometimes it’s writing email to customers or advertising a sale or making my shop look pretty or cleaning up a big mess in the studio.  And none of it really “feels” like work…well, except for cleaning the studio.

I have clay work in every stage imaginable – wet work that is drying, dry work ready for bisque firing, bisqueware that has been sanded and washed and now ready for waxing, bisqueware that is waxed and ready for glazing, glazed low fire work ready for firing and bisqued low fire work in the process of being glazed.

I go back into the house and collect more dried pots from the kitchen table and deliver them to the pottery.  I count my steps.  60 steps round trip.  Depending on what I’m doing in the pottery I can make 30 trips a day including going into the house for meals, snacks, pee breaks, tea breaks, water for me, buckets of water to throw pots, buckets of water to clean stuff and the general need for a sink with running water when I rinse dust off of freshly sanded pots.  No, there is no water supply in my studio.  There is an upside.  Firstly my studio can be entered through the main house.  It is not a detached building, it’s a converted attached garage.  Secondly, there was a huge savings and a lot of work avoided with the decision to refrain from getting water and a sink in the studio.

8:59 a.m. – one more load of pots to deliver.  Put wet clothes in the dryer first.
9:00 a.m. – the waxing of foot rings begins.
10:08 a.m. – I want chai tea with vanilla soy milk, so I go make tea.
10:10 a.m. – waiting for the water to boil, I fold the 2nd load of laundry and put it away.
10:20 a.m. – I’m aware that I have to go get groceries this week, probably Friday.  I start a grocery list and decide to make applesauce with the 4 lonely looking apples on the kitchen table.  Not now.  Later.  I make a note to collect all the trash cans from around the house and empty them into the kitchen trash bin.  It stinks but the bag is only half full.  I contemplate the benefits of having a smaller garbage can.
10:30 a.m. – back in the studio waxing foot rings.
10:50 a.m. – waxing is done for now.  I start back at the glazing of Yule decorations I started yesterday.  One more coat of blue.
11:00 a.m. – 11:28 a.m. – Got the idea to write this blog.  It is written in longhand on paper.
11:30 a.m. – I’m hungry.  I declare lunch time.  I root in the fridge for something to eat while simultaneously taking stock of what’s in there already and what I can do with it.  The last of the homemade squash, apple and pear soup goes into a bowl and into the microwave to warm.  I pull out an almost meatless roasted chicken and get the last of the white meat off the carcass for a half sandwich.  I fill a pot with water and put the bones on to simmer for chicken stock.

When I’m in the kitchen I seem to be able to work all four limbs with the precision of a professional jazz drummer, opening and closing cupboard doors, turning on the tap, the stove, toasting bread and stirring soup.  I am woman.  Watch me multi-task.

11:45 a.m. – in front of the computer with lunch to answer email, check my Etsy page, refresh the shameless self-promotion of my annual fall sale on Facebook and I’ll admit to several rounds of Scrabble too.  I think I have about 10 games going on.  I’m currently addicted to two things:  Scrabble and the TV series “Mad Men.”

1:00 p.m. – I come out of my computer induced hypnosis and quickly load the dishes into the dishwasher.  It’s full.  Soap, rinse agent.  Smart wash.  Turn off heat.  (Do not use heat to dry your pottery in your dishwasher.)
1:10 p.m. – on the front deck in the sunshine, writing.
1:20 p.m. – back in the studio.  I’ve got to load the low fire glazed stuff into Little Blue. Yes, I think I can begin.

Close up shot of some of the 7 pointed stars

7 pointed stars, glazed but not fired

Inside there are small 5 pointed stars, large 7 pointed stars and Xmas trees.

Little Blue is the name of this old kiln.  She was given to my by the Sunahara Family – my brother-in-law’s family – because it was no longer needed.  It was Grace Sunahara’s kiln and she passed away a while back so I inherited her kiln, her wheel, tools and a lot of raw materials for making glazes.  Little Blue was born in 1952.  This is how she looks from the outside with the lid opened.

Obviously this kiln is a work horse.  She works wonderfully well and has never failed me.  I have to fix her lid which is falling apart, as you can see, and she’s pretty rusty, so I need a bit of patch work done too.  There never seems to be enough time or a convenient time to do repairs.  Sometimes it takes a crisis for it to happen.  The lid falls in and you’ve GOT to fix it.

1:40 p.m. – I need to glaze more stuff so I can fill the kiln.
Finishing a terracotta wine jug.

Holding the jug sideways with my hand inside, I paint the glaze on thickly while turning the piece.

The jug is not yet dry enough to load into the kiln, so I started painting Xmas trees.
2:05 p.m. – thinking of taking a walk/run @ 2:30.

Glazing terracotta Xmas trees.

These trees are very popular.  They are fairly labour intensive.  First I roll out a large slab of clay with my HUGE rolling pin.  I don’t have the money or room for a slab roller in my studio and besides that I like to impress people with the size of my rolling pin.  Then I use a paper pattern that I drew and cut out of an old file folder.  This tree is reminiscent of the felt trees that my Grandmother Mary sewed onto our Christmas stockings that she made for each of us three kids.  She was very handy with a needle and thread, a sewing machine, a crochet hook, glue, sequins and glitter.  I inherited that same gene from her.

I have three paper trees and I lay them on the clay and I used to trace a line around them, then cut them.  This year I omitted the tracing step and went straight to the cutting stage by cutting around the patterns and it seemed to work fine and saved me some time.  After the trees “set up a bit” (my term for me walking away from them and letting them dry in the open air for awhile).  When I can do so without distorting the shape, I move them onto a board to dry up some more.  This time they are covered for slower drying.  I get them out of the way and do something else in the meantime.  After they have dried to leather hard I bevel the edges of each piece, sign them and then get my squeeze bottle of white slip (liquid clay) and dot each tree with “balls.”  After the trees are bone dry they are bisque fired and then glazed.  I chose terracotta for the tree part because I like the way the holly green glaze looks on that clay – deep and dark.  I chose to use white slip balls because the Christmas balls needed to have a true red, blue and yellow and the only way to get that is on white clay.  So first I paint around all those balls with holly green glaze.  I have to paint on 3 coats for good coverage.  That means this year I will have painted around 270 balls. That’s a lot of balls.  After the green glaze is dry I put a dot of yellow, red or blue glaze on each ball and then it gets fired once again.

<will insert pic later when the kiln is cool enough to unload>

2:32 p.m. – exercise break.  Clean paint brushes, put lids on glaze pots, get changed from work duds to workout duds, have a few sips of chocolate soy milk, strap on my HRM and get going.
3:00 p.m. – head out for my walk/run.
3:40 p.m. – 4K in 40 mins.  Mostly walking.  The running wasn’t in me today for long.
3:45 p.m. – changed out of sweaty workout clothes, cooling down and eating an apple while writing.  Cardio is done, but today is strength training day too.  Later.
3:52 p.m. – plan the rest of the day and supper.
4:00 p.m. – finish loading Little Blue and turn her on low.
5:00 p.m. – start glazing the stoneware pots.
6:00 p.m. – Quitting time and firing time.  I need to fire Little Blue so I can no longer work in the studio.  The fumes are nasty so, I open the window, put all lids back on the glaze buckets and I vacate the studio shutting the door firmly behind me, go wash my hands and change into workout clothes again.
6:30 p.m. – The 30 Day Shred with Jillian.
7:00 p.m. – go turn up the kiln.  Start dinner.  Broiled white fish, steamed broccoli and potatoes.  Top fish with pesto.  Yum!
7:30 p.m. – settle down to dinner and several episodes of Mad Men Season 3, back to back. 8:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
9:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
10:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
11:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
11:30 p.m. – go to bed

…to be continued


Posted in my work | 4 Comments

Your Very Own Squishy

Last week I decided to make some squishy cups.  I call them squishy cups because just after I make them I SQUISH them…but not too hard!

First just let me tell you how difficult it is to take pictures while I’m working.  Taking photos with one hand is definitely challenging.  Keeping the camera clean from wet clay is even more challenging!

A series of pictures showing you how it’s done:
First I centre a big lump of clay so I can throw off the hump (mound) because squishy cups are small and I don’t want to wedge dozens of very small pieces of clay – one for each cup.

centering the mound of clay

Then I bring up a small piece – just enough for one cup and my thumb finds the centre so I can open the clay.

finding centre

Then I make the opening.

opening the clay

All of this is done with two hands on the clay at all times…except when I’m trying to take a picture to illustrate how it works.  I like this particular vantage point because you are seeing it as if YOU were at the wheel!

Why two hands?  Two hands on the clay gives you more stability.  I usually use one hand as if my fingers were a tool and the other hand to guide or give pressure to the “tool” hand to move the clay.

opened and ready for shaping

It doesn’t look like much now, but three pulls later…


…and it’s done…except for one important detail. The Squish!

"Batman" angle shot on the drying stage

First you have to dry it just a bit.  Then you have to grasp the pot.


And very carefully, but with authority, SQUISH it!

I'm squishing it!

The lovely thing about these squishy cups is that they fit really nicely into your hand, as you can imagine.

cutting the cup from the mound

After drying the cup a bit more with the heat gun, I make a guide mark near the bottom of the cup and cut it away from the mound of clay, then make another squishy cup.

Six squishies

They all have slightly different shapes so you have to touch them, hold them, feel them… (Oooooh!) just to know which one is “right” for you.

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How Time Flies

September has flown by at the speed of sound.  I hardly believe it’s nearly the middle of October.  Thanksgiving has just passed and we enjoyed it with family, plenty of squash and a lot of sunshine.

I’ve been quite busy all summer beginning with my Annual Summer Sale around St. Jean Baptiste Day near the end of June each year.  After that we entertained quite a few summer guests during July, and in August I had minor surgery and was recovering for 4 weeks after that.

I thought that keeping a regular blog about my pottery work would be easy.  Well, it’s not difficult to find things to write about, but what is hard is finding the time to do it in between all life has to offer as well as what we are obliged to do, like eat, sleep, cook, wash ourselves and our clothes…you know, human stuff.

Another difficulty is to find balance between creating my work and marketing my work.  I guess I’m marketing my work by blogging about the process, but it feels a lot more personal than that.

My question to myself is often, “How much time on the computer can I spend before I start to feel the urge to be in the studio because I’m writing about it?”  It’s like when you see a person yawn, you yawn too…or when you read the word yawn, it actually makes you yawn.  In the same way we are affected by seeing someone yawn, I am moved to go play with clay as I write about it.

I’m also very aware of the passing days and the craft show at the end of the month followed by my own open house the weekend after.  If I’m writing about making pots it means I am certainly not actually making any pots.  And I can guarantee you that if I’m writing, I am multi-tasking.  For example I’m eating lunch and typing between bites.

As I was saying, there is a craft sale coming up at the end of October, on Saturday, October 29, 2011, to be exact and it will be held at the Buckingham Elementary School at 615 George St. in Buckingham (Gatineau), QC.

This is my first experience with this craft sale and I chose it because it is local and the money being raised by the organizers is going into the school library fund.  I think it’s really important for children to have access to a great school library, so I’ll be there with a sampling of my pottery for every day living and lots of tree decorations for the upcoming holiday season.

For each sale I try to create something new.  Right now I am knee deep in Yuletide decorations and I have created some new ones (doves and paisley peacocks) that I’m very excited to debut this year! It’s kind of odd making stars and gingerbread men decorations when the leaves are turning red and yellow, yet my work cycles are long therefore a lot of thinking ahead is required.

Terracotta "gingerbread" men.

For my Annual Fall Sale I have been really getting into making café au lait bowls which happen to be the perfect size for all sorts of things besides café au lait.  They make the perfect cereal bowl that can be cradled in your hand while you are wrapped up in Grandma’s quilt watching cartoons on frosty Saturday mornings.

Picture yourself with a bowl of steaming hot "anything" in this lovely bowl.

Well, lunch is over and I have bowls to trim, so I must get to that, but do come by sometime soon and check out the gallery and studio in person.  The perfect day just might be on a weekend coming soon.  Our Annual Fall Sale is on Saturday, November 5 and Sunday November 6 from 10:00 a.m. until 6 p.m.

P.S.  So, did you yawn when you read the word?


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Another Love of Mine – My Garden

It starts each year with the blossoming of a few snowdrops and some lovely crocuses.  I planted crocuses the first year I came to Québec from my home province of Manitoba.

I love flowers and since 2004 have been working on my border garden, expanding it, adding plants that were given to me or plants that I purchased and even some wildflowers were seeded here that I suppose flew in from the woods on the wind…like these woodland flowers.

This is a picture of the top of the garden from last year.

The next flowers to come up after the crocuses and daffodils are tulips.  I’ve had a great bunch of colourful tulips come up two springs now.  I’ve heard that tulips are finicky and will eventually stop blooming.  I hope these lovely flowers come up for a few more years at least!

I guess you could say I’m an experimental gardener because I will try pretty much any plant and if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.  This garden is in partial shade, so it can be difficult to find things that truly flourish.  Bleeding hearts seem to do exceptionally well. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them this year.

Here is a closer look at the lovely purple tulips that are the amongst the first to show buds.

These fragrant orange tulips are not far behind in blooming.  The gardenia daffodils have a really lovely scent as well.

Gardenia daffodils and Orange "Ballerina" tulips that smell like roses.

Here are the orange tulips again from a different view.  The grape hyacinth came up nicely this year and the white flower that grows beside the grapes I do not know.  I know I bought it and planted it and then moved it into a sunnier spot for it’s blooming time, but really don’t recall the name of it.

Peony tulips and mini daffodils

I wanted peonies and accidentally bought these peony tulips.  Ha ha!  They are a brilliant red and flop over because their heads are heavy.  They sort of remind me of poppies.

I’m waiting for lilies and bee balm to bloom now.  The oregano is thriving and I have a nice patch of chives.

A wounded butterfly took refuge in my flower box full of pansies and violas.  Sadly, later on I discovered it had died.

I think this is called a Swallowtail butterfly. Look, it's wings are fuzzy on the inside, close to the body.

The underside. What gorgeous markings and subtle colours.

As a potter I realize that I just can’t keep my hands out of the mud!  Thanks for walking through my garden with me.

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Another Side of Running a Pottery

The past month has been hectic.  I was getting ready for a big sale at the end of April which turned out to be not so big.  🙁

Crowded or not I paid my fee to be there so that involves showing up, but before I can show up there is a week of getting ready for the sale that involves many steps.

Of course I need salable pottery.  I’ve been working a lot in the studio since January so I had a lot of things to sell.  I must decide what to take.

I try to take some of this and some of that, but keep it grouped together by colour and/or style.

Spring sale 2010

Unfortunately I didn’t have very good lighting for my display.  The top shelf could have been lit if I’d made a well-thought out lighting plan.  Also I’d learned that I needed lighting just 2 weeks before the sale.  However, better 2 weeks than not learning at all.  Getting ALL the info well before any sale is crucial.  If I’d had a plan for great lighting maybe it would have drawn in more sales!

I love making the textured mugs featured here.  I made a couple just for me and JF and I loved them so much I decided to make them for everyone!  My friend Vera came by and treated herself to one.

Serving bowls and terracotta "no rot" garlic jars

These garlic jars are made from Terracotta clay.  Terracotta is porous clay and because these jars are not glazed, they remain porous, which means your garlic stays dry and won’t rot inside the jar.

Serving dishes

All set up and ready for action!

Getting ready for that action is a lengthy affair.  First I must dismantle my home gallery because my display boxes featured here are also my display boxes in my home gallery as well as the boxes in which I transport my pottery.

Everything that I’m not taking gets heaped onto the fixed shelves I have on the walls in my gallery and it all looks frightfully dreadful for about two weeks – a week before the sale and a week after.

The most difficult part is choosing pieces to take.  After I choose I have to cut price tags, write a code and stock number on each tag, tag the pots, complete my inventory and then I pack the pottery.  On Wednesday night I load the truck and on Thursday morning I head out to the sale for set up.

On Sunday at 5pm any unsold pots are removed from the display boxes, the boxes are unstacked and are ready to get packed with pottery again.  I wrap each piece and pack them away carefully for the drive home and then the boxes get unloaded back into my home gallery.

The next day I clean the entire shop while everything is still packed (and for those shelves that have heaped pottery well, I work around that) and then inventory starts.  I must unpack and unwrap each piece one at a time so I can check it off the inventory list. Afterwards I am able to get a rough estimate of what I made at the sale.

Then comes the setting up of the display boxes again and re-styling my shop.  I like to change it up and move things around about 4 – 6 times each year.

Next on my agenda:  My 5th Annual Summer Sale from June 24-26, 2011.

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Snapshots of My Gallery

Aah, it’s spring in Canada!  How can you tell?  The crocuses are up and then it snows.  And rains.  Then the sun comes out and then it hails and rains some more.  Ha ha!

I was cleaning the shop a couple of weeks ago and took some snapshots with my ‘lil camera and wanted to show off some of artwork to you.

Speckled stoneware goblets and bowls glazed with "Cain Yellow." In the background a very large pitcher glazed in "Autumn Tomatoes."

Pots in the sunshiny window.

Moving around the shop, my camera lands on some miniatures…

Small vases for small flowers, mini creamers, sake bottle and cups

Mini creamers are great for small flowers as well as individual servings of milk or cream.

Speckled clay works with "Shiney White" glaze and "Blue Jeans" dinner plates

I adore this speckled clay and love, love, love white glaze especially in the spring.  Just the thing to make your kitchen fresh!

Speckled stoneware jar in my favorite glaze combo - Tomato with splashes of Shiney White

I love making jars and having them in the kitchen.  They’re so useful.

And the same glaze combo again only on buff stoneware (which makes the Tomato glaze come out a little brighter), a wee cup for espresso.

A perfect wee cup with a perfect wee drip.

Tiny tribal mask

Those are just a few of my favorite things.

I’m going to start listing some more pieces on Etsy soon.  Please visit my Etsy shop at:

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