Big changes ahead for me and my pottery art

Big changes ahead for me and my pottery art

There comes a time in our lives when we start thinking about what our future holds and where we need to be. For me that has always been about every five years!

I guess I just need to shake things up a bit, every now and then.

In 2015 I bought the building where I currently have my studio with lots of plans for it. I wanted to hold Painting Parties, I needed a space to offer Reiki and Reiki Classes. I needed a small storefront to hold and sell my finished pottery and of course, I needed to make and fire my pottery.

The building was perfect for all of that. Its an artists dream studio space.

I held Painting Parties, I gave Reiki classes and sessions, I sold pottery from my little storefront and I made Lots and Lots of Pottery!

But as time rolled on and I grew a bit older, I started to release a lot of these things until all I used the studio for was…..to make pottery.

Meanwhile, my hubs and I found a pretty messed up lot on a sweet little lake in Arkansas. It was always on my bucket list to live on a lake. We cleared and cleaned the land and built a tiny one bedroom, one bath “cabin” with a big picture window that looks out over the lake.


We so fell in love with this lake home that we found it harder and harder to go “home” (a mere 20 drive from my studio!)

After thinking about it for over a year! We have decided to make the lake home our permanent home.

But what about the studio?

I know for many of you being 20 minutes from work is nothing. A drop in the time bucket. However for me, I felt so inspired and creative at the lake that I found it harder and harder to make that drive.

Good thing Emily and Max needed my love and attention!
So two weeks ago I woke up one morning and said “time to sell the studio and build a small shop at the lake when I can work and play, garden and bake bread, read a book or work on my website, with my hubs, my dogs and of course, Max and Emily, by my side.”

I called a Realtor and listed the studio not expecting a quick sale but I was wrong and within 3 days I had an offer…not just one but two!

I didn’t expect it, but since the studio sold right away I had to get my butt in gear to get the new studio up and running! I quickly ordered a 12 x24 Portable Building to be my new studio. It should show up any day now and we will begin to make it into a perfect little studio where I can work to my little hearts content.

For the next few months I will be concentrating on making this move. I have to fit 1600 sq ft of stuff into a really small space! But I am so excited for this next phase of my life. I have a feeling I will be able to really concentrate more on my art!

I will keep you posted on how its going. My next big show is at the end of July so I will be back at it soon!

10 pottery tips for the beginner potter.

10 pottery tips for the beginner potter.

​You make throwing on the potter’s wheel look so Easy!

That is usually the first words out of the mouths of students who come into my studio to try their hands on the potter’s wheel.

Making everyday, functional objects from a hunk of mud has been around for 1000’s of years. The earliest ceramic objects have been dated as far back as 29,000 BC. Those old potters did not have all the wonderful conveniences that we modern-day potters have, like electric wheels, commercially prepared clay, and electric kilns but we still have and use two things they used…. our hands.

Please note this post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase.  This is, of course, at no cost to you, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

Pinterest - Beginner Potter

It’s not that I really try to make throwing of the potter’s wheel look easy its just that I have had over 12 years of practice.

When I started my pottery journey I did not have access to a pottery class. It had been years since I tried it (back in community college some 40 years ago) but I never forgot how much fun it was.

I had an old kiln, found a used potter’s wheel, and bought 1 box of clay. My teacher was Simon Leach on YouTube.  YouTube had not yet grown into what it is today so I was very lucky to have Simon as a virtual Teacher. He is still one of my favorites.

Even after so many years honing my wheel skills, not everything I throw on the potter’s wheel turns out nice. I have a big old bucket that I throw my failed attempts into which will get reprocessed and reworked into something much nicer (hopefully).

After working with many people who just want to try their hands on working on the potter’s wheel and coming to one of my “Try it” classes, I have come up with a few tips for the new wheel throwing potter.

First Bowl

One of my first bowls I was satisfied enough to photograph

I was hoping that I could find one of my first pieces to show you but apparently I did not have the courage to photograph them!

In my Google Photo account, this is the very first bowl I felt comfortable photographing. But I assure you it was not the first bowl I ever made.

Ten Tips for the new Potter

Tip #1 – Your body and your hands are your biggest and most important tools. Posture is everything! When working on the wheel your elbows should be tucked into your legs or waist. This helps with stabilizing the hands. If your elbows are out and flaying around you will not be able to control the clay.

Tip #2 – Keep your fingernails short. Pottery on the wheel is all about “feel”. Long nails make it difficult for your fingertips to feel the clay.  They also have been known to cut and gouge the clay. I keep my nails very short.

 

Tip#3 – Always wedge your clay.  This helps soften up the clay, it gets the air bubbles out and it begins the spiraling of the clay.

 

Tip #4 – Make sure your clay is correctly centered on the wheel.  This takes some practice but it is essential to throwing. The clay should not be wobbly looking when the wheel is moving. Locking your body is very important in this step. Check out this great video by Jon the Potter where he shows you how to center a ball of clay. Notice how his arms are stabilized and he is hovering over the clay.

 

Tip#5 – As a beginner, you need to learn and practice throwing cylinders. I know it is not very exciting but just about everything starts as a cylinder of sorts.. mugs, vases, pitchers, some bowls.

 

Tip #6 – When pulling up the wall of your cylinder your two hands should be touching each other. They form a one-piece tool. Your inside and outside fingers are a gauge of the thickness of the clay.

 

Pulling up a wall

Tip #7 – Wheel Speed.  When centering, your wheel should be going very fast. Slow it down when you begin pulling the wall up. Be sure that your hands come up the wall in time with the speed of the wheel. This takes some getting used to.

 

Tip #8 – When starting a pull, always start with your fingers touching the bat (or wheel head if you are not using a bat). Create a small indentation at the base of the clay. It is this clay we will be “pulling up”.

 

Tip #9 – When pulling up the walls, cone it in often and keep it in a Volcano shape. Keep the rim thick and compress it often. This keeps your piece stable while you are pulling it up. Get your height first and then worry about and refine your shape and rim later.

 

Tip #10 – Learn to “feel” the clay and adjust your fingers and your hands to make the clay do what you want it to do. Try closing your eyes when centering and even throwing so that your eyes are not getting in the way.

 

Pottery is a wonderful artform. It can be meditative, creative, fun, and functional . Enjoy the process. Learn from your mistakes and remember that clay can always be recycled and used again until its fired!! 

And In the words of Simon Leach…Practice, Practice, practice.

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Social Media and the Artist.

Social Media and the Artist.

Social Media and the artist…. Do you love it or hate it?

Social Media is the perfect opportunity for artists to  get their work seen by a large audience.  It’s free and easily accessible. Its full of photos that are wonderful to look at and we get to see into the lives of our artist peers. But the real value is that we have the opportunity to get in front of our ideal customer so that they can see what we make and hopefully be inspired to purchase from us.

But Social Media isn’t always about selling our artwork. Its more about selling ourselves, and gaining new friends.

Social Media and the Artist

Many artists steer clear of social media. We don’t like to “sell” and we tend to be pretty self-conscience about talking about ourselves and our art.

For many, posting constantly on Social Media is an unwelcome burden. It really shouldn’t be viewed as a chore but as another creative outlet that lets you talk about your art and share all that you are passionate about. It’s more about connecting with other like-minded creatives and building trust with your ideal customer.

It’s about marketing yourself which allows you to build the trust you need to sell what you make. It’s building the support of peers, collectors, friends, and someday customers.

Years ago, in another life, my hubby and I made our living selling automotive tools through an e-commerce platform. This was years before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. It was a gravy train for many years.

Eventually, competition started showing up and things changed. Of course, we panicked a bit. These folks were taking business away. But my motto at the time was “Anyone can sell Automotive tools, we sell customer service and support”

The same is true for today’s artists. In today’s world, customers service seems to be an afterthought for so many businesses. It makes us uncomfortable and sometimes even angry when we experience bad customer service. If we have a choice we change providers. If we don’t have a choice we suck it up but are not happy about it.

There are many potters and many artists. The customer has a choice. By getting to know you, your work, your process, and your values they begin to trust you. Give them great customer service and they will purchase from you and recommend you.

Sell Yourself First

Personally, I have found Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to be the best platforms for my work. They are graphical which allows me to share photos of not only my finished product but shots of other studio happenings, process videos, cat play, happy accidents and other fun things. I do my best to share “me”, as an artist, a person, a cat lover, in hopes that by getting to know me, my followers will desire to own one of my pieces.

Recently I have been reading (and being inspired by) a book called “This Business of Art: How to Become a Professional Artist” by Hannah Blackmore. Her thoughts on marketing on Social Media are spot on to how I believe.  “Creating art is so much more than just making a product and selling it. We put ourselves into it and part of our soul.”

Sharing ourselves on Social Media allows others a chance to peer into our soul. It allows us to share our passion without being salesy!  It opens us, and our art, to the ENTIRE WORLD. Think about that a bit.  AND IT’S ALL FREE!! 

Share your thoughts on Social Media. Do you use it? What Platforms do you like the best? Has it helped you grow as an artist?

 

New Year, New Kiln Elements and Thermocouples

New Year, New Kiln Elements and Thermocouples

After 4 years and 125 firings, it was time to start thinking about replacing the Kiln elements and thermocouples in my L&L Easy-Fire Kiln. I have model e23S-3 with a Bartlett Controller but It looks like replacing these items is pretty much the same on all the Easy-Fire Kilns.

Please note this post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase.  This is, of course, at no cost to you, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

​I hadn’t really thought about replacing my kiln elements until I called L&L back in September to ask a few questions. The tech asked how many firings I had on the elements, which was 95 at the time. He mentioned that I should start considering replacing the elements and thermocouples, which, he said, should be replaced at the same time.

With him having said that, and the ramped-up production I was about to go into to prepare for the holidays, I felt kind of spooked.  Like Murphy’s Law would kick in and the kiln would fault out, right in the middle of making stuff.

It took me a few weeks before I called L&L back and placed the order. Yes, I ordered directly from L&L because I had no clue what I needed.

The FedEx box from them showed up a few weeks later. My kiln was still working fine so I set it aside until a more appropriate time. The last thing I needed was something to go wrong right before all the holiday shows.

So with the start of the new year and with no pressing pottery deadlines, I felt now was the time to consider replacing my kiln elements and thermocouples

My husband is super handy so I enlisted him to help (actually do it all). L&L sent great instructions with the new elements and thermocouples plus they have a great video on replacing kiln elements, so we knew what we were getting into. It didn’t look that difficult.

And it wasn’t. In fact, it was quite easy.

Replacing Kiln Elements

Ben opening up the Bartlett Controller

After unplugging the Kiln, open up the controller

The first thing we did, after unplugging the kiln and opening up the controller, was photograph the electrical connections before we disconnected them.

Electrical Connections for the Kiln

It’s always wise to photograph the connections before you take them apart.

Once we got the electrical connections off and the twisted element wire loose we were able to gently remove the elements from the channels.

Removing the Kiln Elements

Remove the brittle Kiln elements carefully and slowly.

The old elements were flat and very brittle. They broke easily but they were pretty simple to remove from the channels. We used Needle nose pliers to help us.  What we loved was that were no pins to remove as our old kiln had. Already we were delighted!

New Thermocouplers and Elements

Brand new Elements and Thermocouples. It is recommended that they all get replaced at the same time

The new elements are very pliable. They need to be slightly stretched out before they will fit properly in the kiln channels. We put the elements in and then stretched a bit until they seated themselves nicely. On the third set I stretched them out PERFECTLY before even putting them in but alas, I lost that talent by the 4th set!! But all 4 elements were now in the kiln and looking good!!  Max was the final inspector!

Max_Inside_Kiln

Final inspection before test firing. All looks well

The thermocouples were equally as easy to replace!

One thing you need is a good pair of wire cutters. We had standard wire cutters and it took some doing to cut the wires before reattaching them at the controller but it can be done. That’s some hard wire!!

Max and Ben are working on the kiln

Max and Ben are congratulating themselves on a job well done!

Of course, the final job was to run a test firing. I ran a Fast Glaze Cone 5 firing. That baby glowed.

If we can do it, you can do it too.

2021 …..and thats a wrap

2021 …..and thats a wrap

It seems that the older you get, the faster the year goes by. I am writing this from my son’s house in Utah where Ben and I have come to celebrate Christmas.

They have two young ones, but the young ones aren’t so young anymore. One is 10 years old and the other is soon to be a teenager.

Where has the time gone. It seems it was just yesterday they were small, cuddly, giggly. Now they are bigger, prefer to sit by themselves but still giggly! We have to enjoy the giggles while we can.

And in case you are wondering about Max and Emily, i have them covered. There are three huge bowls of food out, water all over the studio for them to drink from and an extra Litter box. Plus I keep a camera on their food so if it gets low I can call in the troops.

There is plenty to eat while I am away

The end of the year has always been my time to look back and reflect on my life and where the year took me. 2021 was a good year. Ben and i spent loads of time at the Lake Cabin. We finished the interior, rebuilt the lake dock and added a huge front porch. We spent just about every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there. And if we could find any old excuse to stay longer we did. Fortunately my studio is just a 20 minute drive away so I had the best of both worlds.

2021 was a happy year

For my studio experience, a peek through my Google Photo account (where I keep all my photos) showed me that I made a lot pf artful pottery in 2021. Especially Sgraffito.

I can see my growth as a sgraffito artist and its these pieces that make my heart flutter when they come out of the kiln. I do believe my focus for 2022 will continue to be Sgraffito.

2021 at a glance

But I am also trying really hard to understand the chemistry behind glazes so that I can have a bigger palette to chose from. Glaze is very chemistry intensive and chemistry was never my strong point but I am determined to learn it.

I am excited to begin another year of creating. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

 

It’s Show Time!

It’s Show Time!

In just a few more hours I will be heading to my last show of the year.

I am not a big fan of doing shows because they are so much work. I am pretty much on my own since hubby is not a fan of helping me. This year, however, I really have looked forward to them.

Please note this post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase.  This is, of course, at no cost to you, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

Seeing all the people, hearing Christmas Music, smelling Cinnamon and clove, green and red color everywhere and a slight nip in the air really helps put me into the Holiday Spirit.

For this show, I was given an 8 ft table which really helps during setup.

I don’t mind lugging in all my pottery. I pack it into wooden crates that I use for my displays. But the folding 5 ft tables I have are not all that easy for a 5’3” person to transport. I either need to be 5” taller or my arms need to be 5” shorter but now I have to bend my arm just enough to not drag the tables and they are heavy. I sure do get a workout.

For my display, I really love these wooden crates. Not only do they give height to my table and make it more interesting but they are perfect for transporting my pieces to the show. They have cutout handles for easy carrying, they stack nicely on top of each other, I can’t overload them so they aren’t that heavy and they are protective of my pieces.

I always use Risers to raise my tables up to a more comfortable level. You can get bed leg risers. The risers I use are similar to these.

It’s not just a mug but a handheld piece of art

I think I need to make that my new motto!

One thing that I did at my last show that worked well was to play a video of me working on one of my Sgrafitto pieces.

I found that this really helped people understand the work involved in my artful pieces and that “it’s not just a mug but a handheld piece of art”.  That their mug or bowl was unique and special.

Once people could actually see the techniques and skills involved in the making of my artful pieces they more fully understood why I charge more for them. And that made them appreciate them more and want one.

 So here’s to everyone’s successful shows. If you have any questions about shows please drop a comment! I will be glad to help

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