Friday, August 13, 2010

Notes from the Market

At the Market
At the Market - Gotta love the view!

Our booth and the view from our booth

Last night was our second to last Hot Summers Night Market - that went by quick! Next week we have company in town so we will take them to the market and go as browsers for a change. We will finish out the summer market season on Aug 26th just before the Powell River Studio Tour.

Last night was a so-so night for sales but a very good night for conversations .....

..... I'd like to give a shout-out to a new potter friend, Cathy, from Brandon, Manitoba. Thanks for dropping by Cathy - I was blown away to hear you follow this blog! Can't wait 'til you move to town. Cathy and her hubby Paul are doing what we did and many others are doing these days. They have bought a house in our beautiful little seaside town of Powell River and are working on it over time with the plan of settling here long term. I think it's pretty exciting to see Powell River morph from the mill town I once knew, to a town where folks are finding a renewed, relaxed lifestyle and starting new careers or retiring from old. 

..... One of my potter friends, Jill McPhail, had her booth set up next to mine. Jill heads up the pottery group at our local Fine Arts Club and is a great hand-builder with both clay clay and polymer clay. You can check out her work at her Facebook webpage - Funktifyd Creations.

..... I also had one of the Sunshine Music Festival organizers drop by. She asked if I had considered having a booth at the festival. I told her yes - if I can get enough pots made before then. Booth fees include tickets to the event so if we go, we can sell pots AND enjoy a weekend of music.

I am trimming and finishing this week (I am one of those potters who actually LIKE trimming)  - butter bells, salt pigs, batter bowls, Cos'n Laura's bowl (speaking of Cos'n Laura - she made me a potters apron this week - awesome! - pics to follow soon), platters and of course, mugs. Rick made me a great little jig yesterday to help with the altering of my salt pigs. I was reluctant to stop work to pack up for the market so am eager to get back to the studio today. It's been one of those sleepless nights - I could have been down there at 4 AM but that would be pushing it so I am doing this instead. OK, time for a coffee .....

Friday, August 6, 2010

and panic sets in .......

..... Yikes! It's Aug 6 already ..... I have 2 or 3 Hot Summer Night Markets to go to in August plus there are only 3 weeks left before the Powell River Studio Tour weekend and I am running out of pots! I am going to have to work my butt off to get another kiln load or two through in that time. Interspersed in that 3 weeks will be summer company - hey! extra bodies - maybe I can put them to work to earn their keep :>) I was also considering putting in an application for a booth at the Sunshine Music Festival on Labour Day weekend. That would be a blast but I don't think I can do it all.

I have a few rescues and re-do's to do as well - Cos'n Laura's bowl, a replacement for the mini pie plate didn't quite make the trip home with it's new owner, and a replacement mug to save a fella who is in the doghouse, because he broke the one they just bought. Oh and did I mention - I had 2 large leaf plates waiting for the next bisque, only to be wiped out by a disaster of the feline kind. The cats (3 of them) love the studio. Cali (short for California - yes, there is a story there), especially likes to tromp through the shelves as it's a way for her to avoid Tisha, the dog. She must have stepped on the plate edge as I found the first one with a chunk broken off. You think I'd have figured it out after that one bit the dust but no, I didn't move the other one. Then I heard the clunk as it broke yesterday!

As always, I'm excited to be back in the throwing groove! I'm just as excited to be out of glazing mode. When it comes to glazing, I wish I could do a Dorothy - click the heels of my pointy red shoes and be done with it! Don't get me wrong. I love all that goes into finding, making and testing glazes and glaze combinations and I am as excited as kid at Christmas when it comes to opening the kiln. However, it seems the application part always turns out to be a cumbersome, messy chore. I keep telling myself it will get better as I get better but that hasn't happened so far. The last go round, after watching Conner Burns spray at MISSA, I bought another HVLP gun (I wrecked the last one by not cleaning it properly) and gave it another go with some of the larger pieces. Results wise it went OK but I couldn't get the damn compressor pressure down to where I wanted it and then - OF COURSE - I dropped the gun fully loaded with the lid half off the cup - and ya know the rest! .... glaze all over me, and all over the cement patio (now stained with red iron oxide patterned by the sole of my work boots) - the patio was the only place that had any shade that day. On a positive note, I am becoming more familiar with the glazes I use so I am getting many more happy results - and less pots destined for the Ugly Pot Pile. Also, my last test results produced a wonderful black semi-matte plus a nice complimentary soft pastel blue and/or cream glaze to go with the new black and the Aspen Blue as shown on the teabowls here. ...... hmmmm - that wasn't me was it, talking a few posts back about having a new mantra re limiting the number of glazes I use ..... I tell ya, it's my downfall  - or maybe not :>) - it's just way too much fun and there are so many to choose from!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Pots

Harley Bowl :>)
I finally got my July glaze fire on this past week. It was a good load with some nice pots (see new Gallery gadget for best pics). Included were a  new berry bowl design (single serving) and pie plates for the upcoming summer fruit season. Of course as always, there was a lemon. Some months back, my cousin Laura asked me to make a large black bowl with red accents for her to give as a gift. This was round two for said bowl. The first time I had bloating and not enough accent colour (what's bloating?, you ask ..... ugly bumpy bubbles in the clay - only visible AFTER firing). This time I had tooo much accent colour on the bowl (looks like it belongs on the side of a Harley motorcycle!) and AGAIN bloating. What's the deal with that! I used the same clay (B-Mix Cone 5) as always plus I had other bowls on the same kiln shelf that didn't not suffer the same fate. I will be investigating bloating causes this week. So re Laura's bowl - round three, here we come - this is the named mug saga all over again. Oh well, Rick has another garden ornament.

On Thurs evening, we were back at the Hot Summer Night Market. Things were slow at the start but picked up towards the end of the evening. Sales went well - almost out of teabag rests again!

I haven't taken pics of the results of the tiles fired in the gas kiln at the Fine Arts Club last week. The results were OK - 3 tiles turned out the way I wanted them to and 3 didn't but I will be able to work with them. I will take and post pics once they are mounted.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Home to Reality

I'm baaack .... I arrived home late Monday afternoon after spending 6 days at MISSA and the weekend at my friend Sue's place in Vancouver. Again MISSA didn't disappoint. Highlights were .......
- 5 days of focused workshop time with Conner Burns. Not only is he a great teacher, his work is inspiring and I can't wait to get back in the studio!
- 6 days to connect with other artists and old friends from MISSA's past
- 3 evenings of MISSA instructor/artist presentations including Lana Wilson, who is a hoot! - best LW line? Lana was talking about her transition from gas firing to electric firing. Opening her arms wide she said she soon realized a gas kiln says 'come with me and we will make great pots together' and then crossing her arms and frowning and speaking in a prissy voice she says an electric kiln says - 'YOU do all the work. I just provide the heat!' ...... tooo funny! (and so true!).
Lowlight of the trip - deja vu of MISSA 2008 - my car decided to get ill just as I approached campus. One BCAA tow and 4 days at Canadian Tire garage later, I paid a $1400 bill to repair the cooling system!!!

So now I am home, back to reality and itching to get to making pots. Also, I didn't get a glaze fire on before heading to MISSA so my shelves are beginning to look bare .... BUT first, book-keeping and volunteer duties take precedent - (admin =  arghhh!) ...... HST (harmonized sales tax) came into effect on July 1st. Good for me as now I can totally opt out of the tax collection business but first I have to update my accounting software and file my final tax report. Add to that, the Powell River Studio Tour is only a month away so my publicity coordinator duties now kick in.

I did sneak off yesterday to the Fine Arts Club to help finish loading the gas kiln and get it set up for a firing today. My sandwave tiles (modified, smaller version of the attached pic) made it in as did 6 teabowls. I won't be there for the firing today but will head back in on Sat to help unload - CAN'T WAIT! Will post pics and results next week.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Did someone say 'Hot' Summer Night Market?

I was hoping we'd left the chilly weather behind with the month of June but brrrrr! ..... it was darn COLD Thursday night (July 1st - Canada Day) at the opening of our annual Hot Summer Night Market. Given it was now July, I just couldn't bring myself to wear long-johns but man, I sure should have - even my poor little pots were cold!

The market runs every Thurs from now until end of August and I will be trying to make it to as many nights as I can. We got a fair bit of traffic given the Canada Day crowd at the park but sales were slow. I've learned over the past year, that the small stuff sells at these events - my textured, multi-colour glaze teabag rests were a hit as they have been at previous markets and fairs - 4 of them will be heading to France - way cool!! Another visitor to town fell in love with one of my teapots (see the pic in May's post). He came back a couple of times and left with it in hand by the end of the night. Love it when my pots go to someone who is buying from the heart :>)

Countdown is 7 days until I head off to 'summer camp' on July 11th. Nahhhh, I'm not really going to summer camp but I will be heading off to MISSA (Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts)  for a 5 day workshop with Conner Burns. MISSA is an absolutely awesome experience and when I'm there, I do feel like a kid at summer camp. I have been workshop starved over the past 2 years since we moved to Powell River and I am so looking forward to learning and hanging out with other artisans.

We've got a busy week ahead of us .... I am expecting an increase in tourist traffic as it is start of summer vacation plus Powell River's Kathaumixw, our bi-annual international choral festival gets underway on Tuesday - grocery store parking lot was FULL yesterday so you know people have started to arrive. Add to that, our typical summer company season starts as well. We have 16 members of our family arriving on Thurs to spend a couple of days .... woohoo! - big family party this weekend!

Friday's bisque fire is ready to unload today so I am going to TRY to get a glaze fire on before I head off to MISSA ..... enough yakking, gotta get to work!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Mugs Have Been Delivered!

Got a call from my Mom. She hand delivered a mug order to Vancouver Island for me on Monday - yes that mug order! I had an order in December for nine mugs with names for a group of office staff. If you've read earlier posts from this year, you will know that it only took me THREE tries to get them right! Here's the final result .....

Subsequent email from customer - everyone is HAPPY!

OMG! - It's June already!

Time seems to just slip through my fingers .... summer is on the horizon and with it comes tourists (aka customers - yeah!), Hot Summer Night Market (we get to take the pots to town), Blackberry Festival, Arts in the Park and the Powell River Studio Tour. Add a few visits from out of town rellies & friends and I just know, before I blink, it will be September!

June also is garden time. Rick retrieved a broken bowl from the ugly pot pile and found it a new home ......

I began a new production cycle last week - always my favourite time - love getting back to my wheel! As usual, I started with my warm up - I throw off the hump - bowls, cups, whatever suits the mood. This time I did handle-less mugs and tea bowls. After I get my throwing chops back, it's time to move onto the 'planned' pots.  This time around, with fruit and berry season just around the corner, berry bowls and pie plates were on the agenda. All in all it was a pretty good week - only one pot hit the recycle bucket. You know I might actually be getting the hang of this!

As is my nature (I call it my 'butterfly syndrome' - you know, flitting here and there - others might call it 'lack of focus'), mid week, I veered off into making a couple of plaster molds. I have a piece of large beach bark I use to make baguette trays. The inside of the bark has awesome teredo worm tunnels all through it. I lay a slab into the bark and then after it sets up a bit, I flip the slab (texture side down) over a newspaper covered 3 or 4 inch PVC pipe. The worm tunnels give me a nice raised texture on the inside of the tray. I had been mulling over ways to simplify the process and decided a plaster mold would do the trick  (and since plaster mixing is a chore, I decided to make a couple of leaf and berry sprigs at the same time - see  what I mean, this is how my brain works!) To do the bark mold, I applied a couple coats of mold soap (50% Murphy's Oil Soap / 50% water) on the inside of the bark, built up the outside edges of the bark with extruded clay and poured in the plaster. Mission accomplished, right? WRONG! - As I was cleaning the new mold I realized - arghhhh! - smack hand on head! (I always get this male/female mold making backwards) yes, I have a nice permanent mold that I can lay my slab over but now the resulting texture will be an 'inny' texture, not an 'outy' texture! NOT what I wanted. NOW, I realize I need to cast the formed slab not the original bark form. Oh well, from our mistakes, comes ........ new and exciting pots ....

Monday, May 10, 2010

May's Pots

It was a good Mother's Day - celebrated with warm wishes from my kids, dinner with family and my first kiln opening since Feb this year. Wow! - I can't believe it's been that long.

Highlights of Sunday's pots - a jinxed mug order from late last year, that took 3 attempts to get right, is finally done ..... YEAH! .... and Teapots - it's been a long time since I did teapots and they turned out not too bad. As always, though, there is room for improvement. I will give them another go with my next throwing round.

A successful firing, for me, is all about glazing. And glazing is my nemesis so when I watched Cathi Jefferson's video last week on Ceramic Arts Daily, something she said caught my attention. She talked about an article she read years ago that suggested you should limit the number of glaze colours you use, get to know those colours well and understand what you can do with them. I think I will make that my new glazing mantra ...... now the challenge will be to pick the ones I want to stick with :>) ..... to view the video see Ceramic Arts Daily - Cathi's Video

I am hoping to get one more fire on before leaving on vacation but we will see. There is a group of potters coming over from the island this week to meet up with the Fine Arts Club Potters for a potluck and a tour of local studios, including mine, so getting ready for that will be a priority.

Next week we will be off to to meet up with the grandkids for a Disney vacation so no potting again until end of May.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Happy to be back in the studio (well almost back) after taking a multi-week winter hiatus!

I eased my way back to work with a day at the 2010 Clay Symposium ( at the Shadbolt in Burnaby mid March. Talk about inspiration in spades - especially Jack Troy - what an eloquent, captivating ceramicist! See . It was also a blast to see and visit with many of my Fraser Valley Potters Guild friends. Some of my new Powell River potter friends also attended for the first time. They were amazed by the variety of pots displayed in the Ceramic Roadshow.

When I got back home I helped out with a gas firing at our local Fine Arts Club - I need/want to get more experience firing with a brick gas kiln. I was hoping to get six of my Sand Wave relief tiles into the firing but unfortunately that didn't happen as I needed to have them fired all together at the same time. We decided I'd wait 'til next time. In between taking my turns to check the kiln, I spent the day throwing high fire clay pots so I could have something else to put into the next firing.

Speaking of the Fine Arts Club, they've asked me to teach again. Depending on numbers we might be able to get a class underway next week. Last year's students are turning out some great pots so I am looking forward to a new group of beginners. 

Last week I was back in my own studio for the first time since mid February but have had to take time away again this week - taxman is waiting and book-keeping, correspondence etc has also piled up and couldn't wait any longer. I will be back at 'er tomorrow. Stay tuned for new pots, new tiles and new glazes!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

:>((( - Big Sad Face :>(((

Now Thurs morning ..... I opened the kiln around 7 AM to allow for the rest of the cooling. The one tray on the top shelf is not looking too bad. Maybe things will be ok.

It's now Thurs 10:30 AM ..... It's a sad day. Not such good results further down in the kiln. Witness cones showed things badly overfired to cone 7. And worst of all - on the bottom shelf - 9 mugs for a customer order due Friday. On most of the mugs, the glaze has run onto the kiln shelf and there are bumps and pits all over the pots. See my unhappy face :>((

The test tiles show some interesting results but since I don't plan on repeating this mistake, will not be something I will get in a normal fire. However, if I look on the bright side (there's got to be a bright side), they will be good to have for reference for those times when I am looking for special effects.

It will be nose to wheelhead this afternoon. There are a lot of pots to make before I head east mid February. 

Happy Mistake ???

Twas Tues evening and the glazing was all done, including the 32 glaze test tiles (16 glazes x 2 types of clay). On went the fire (I use an electric kiln and fire to cone 6 which is around 1223 degrees C for those who want to know). All was progressing well later in the evening. At 7 AM Weds morning, I toddled down to the studio to shut off the vent fan and was surprised to find the kiln still running! My normal fire including the cool down segment of the program takes roughly 12 hours. Not only was it still running, it was still up around cone 6! Arghhhhh! - in checking further, I realized that when I set the 'Hold Time' (time needed at top temp to soak the glaze) to 20 minutes, I had accidentally keyed in 20 HOURS!!!! I quickly stop the kiln, reprogram the ramp down schedule, cross my fingers and hope for, as per my daughter's description, a happy mistake!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Glaze Test Math

Glaze testing ..... love it, hate it. Need to get a glaze fire on in order to finish a mug order by Friday BUT didn't want to miss an opportunity to include colour tests of my latest fave glaze (the semi matte in my last post) in the firing. Always a bad judge of time (hubby will attest to that), I figured I'd take the morning yesterday to get the samples made - NOT! I was at it almost the entire day.....16x200g tests=6 hrs ....... hmmmm, gotta be something wrong with that math.

So that means, I will work today, supposedly my 'day off', to glaze the rest of the pots and hopefully have the fire on by 6 PM tonight. Stay tuned for the results ...... now that's the part I LOVE!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year, New Pots!

Holidays are over .... time to get back into the studio! There were lotsa creative thoughts rambling through this old brain throughout our one month Christmas break that now need to be put into play - trying out terra sigillata finishes, playing with a glaze technique called cuerda seca plus plans for new tile projects. 

In the run up to the Christmas season, I had a customer ask I could make a couple of breakfast place settings (bowl, side plate and mug). She wanted to give them to her parents in Germany as a Christmas gift and since they live onboard a boat, she had a blue coloured nautical theme in mind. She saw some unfinished altered bowls I had on the studio shelf that she really liked and asked if I could make mugs in the same style. I agreed to give it a try .... both her and I were pretty impressed with the outcome (kinda cool to think I have now have pots residing in Germany!). The glaze is my new semi matte glaze in a 'blue jean' colour. I expect to be using more of this glaze this year and will be testing different colours in the next kiln load.