Monday, November 17, 2014

First Date

I've decided trying a new clay with significant property differences must be a bit like dating (it's a guess as I have little or no expertise in dating as I met my hubby at age 16, was married to him by 19 and 40+ years later, am still married to him ;)). 

Why do we potters do it?! .... that is, decide to change what's worked for us for so long .... ie. clay, glazes, approach to work? I've been asking myself that a lot this past few weeks ... especially when I discarded 50% of the pots I threw the first couple of days I was back in the studio, using my new Frost/B-Mix combo. Yikes! I felt like a beginner ... talk about sticky clay and slumpy pots. However, as the discarded clay set back up on the drying bat to a state a fair bit drier than I usually throw with, I had an uh-huh moment .... smack my head! remember!? .... porcelain does not like a lot of water. I was finally able to get my groove back with the stiffer clay. Once I moved onto trimming the pots I realized that this clay also dries faster, be it innate properties or the fact I started with drier clay. Yikes again! .... a trimming frenzy ensued! I did love it's response to texture stamps and carving. The one porcelain gotcha I've seen repeated in my research is joining parts so I am relieved to see so far the handles are staying on the on mugs and the goblet cups haven't fallen off their stems. Today I finished up with the last of the greenware and I'm kinda liking the new beau ;). I can't wait til I get to firing and glazing. I am sure there will be a whole other set of issues to deal with. 

On a whole other topic ... (arachnaphobes stop here) ... we live in a wonderful naturally diverse rural area ... plenty of wildlife and nature just outside the door. In the fall and winter spiders join me in the basement studio. I quite like them as they take care of the ugly bugs that also like to encroach on my territory. I saw an entomologist on the tube a few weeks back who said spiders go indoors looking for love. Well, my spiders have found love again. As often happens this time of year, as I sit at the wheel, I get little tiny visitors rappelling down from the ceiling to check out what I am doing. I feel sad for them when they accidentally ditch into the clay water or mistakenly try to climb the still wet pots.

I most likely won't get to another post for a bit so want to give a Happy Thanksgiving shout out to all my US potter blogger and reader friends. Our Thanksgiving celebration (in Canada it's in October) took place the day after my Dad's funeral. For us this year, it truly was a special Family time. Hope your day is as blessed!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sad Endings, Fresh Beginnings

My Dad passed away the beginning of Oct. The past few months have been somewhat surreal ... life is so complicated at times. 

I am slowly working my way back to the studio. As usual, my procrastination gene has me going back in fits and spurts. But on the positive side, given I have missed all my Fall deadlines for Craft Fairs, Christmas and such, I am taking advantage of the more leisurely approach to my return to do a bit of exploration. I've had 3 boxes of Laguna Frost in my clay cupboard for while now. My research tells me it can be finicky to work with and since translucency is not my aim but whiteness is, I've decided to try a Frost/B-Mix combo (25% B-Mix) to see if that is a viable option. I am envisioning shining jewelled transparent interiors with soft semi matte black exteriors. 

The clay is wedged and waiting .... 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bye for now

With a great deal of sadness, I find myself at a stage in life where elder care has become a reality. My father and his partner, who have been increasingly showing signs of dementia over the past many months, both ended up in hospital in July. For the past several weeks, we have traversed the many paths of the medical, financial and legal systems, that one must travel when someone you love ends up with this horrid disease,

I write this to let you know I am here, still loving the little bit of studio time I get in once in a while, but unfortunately blogging, both reading and writing, is barely on my radar. 

Take care, my friends. It's been great hanging out with you all this past year or so. Hope to talk to you all again someday .... Brenda

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My new Clay Trap

Just putting the finishing touches on my new outdoor clay trap.

It's a biggie! 

It's a design based on the Pottery Making Illustrated magazine article - How to Build a Better Home Made Sink for Your Pottery Studio. I had this type of sink and trap in my old studio in the city which was connected to city sewer. Hubby balked at installing a similar setup when we built the new studio six years ago. Here we are on a septic system and also because the basement (where the studio is) is below grade, we have a sump pump that pushes waste up to the septic system. Both the sump and the septic tank are points where escaping and settling clay sediment could cause us grief. As a result a I end up with a collection of smelly muck buckets here, there, and everywhere in the studio - mostly because I am terribly lazy about hoisting them and taking them out to the back forty to dump.

Gardener hubby has several rain barrels hanging about his veggie garden. I was on the back deck having an afternoon beverage a few weeks back when I locked in on one of the rain barrels, went 'hmmmm' and a clay trap plan was hatched ..... why not put a 5 gal bucket, with holes drilled near the top, inside a rain barrel. I ran it by hubby, and in his wonderful way, he made it happen. The hardest part was getting him to give up the rain barrel ;)

Now I can step out the door, dump my clay water into the barrel (using my handy dandy milk jug funnel) and be done with it. As the water filters off the pail and into the barrel, we will use the barrel tap to water the deck plants ... brilliant!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do you want fries with that?

Good Morning! ... I've been hanging about the studio water cooler, coffee in hand, with my fellow potter bloggers, as I do most mornings. It's so good to have you all out there. I sure appreciate the company!

I haven't posted in ages ... mostly because this blog is intended to be a potters blog, not a Mom blog, a Gramma blog, or an old lady blog ;) and in spite of my best efforts to be in the studio as much as possible, life does get in the way ... and thank goodness for that!

This week I am continuing to work on 'orders' .... or as I tell my customers - "I don't do 'orders' but I do take 'requests'" - maybe 'cause the name change takes the pressure off when I don't deliver as I should ;). Me and Ms Request have a love/hate relationship. I love it when my customers like my pots so much they ask for more. I'm not so fond of the trying to replicate either something I've made before or something new as seen thru someone else's eyes. And of course, Mr Murphy (and his Law) hangs out with Ms Request and together they are a pain in the ass! Here's the havoc they've wreaked in the last couple of months (with my help of course ;)):

.... why do I always run out of a glaze just as a customer asks me can you make a few more of X. Inevitably, the new batch of glaze does not match the colour of the old .... ingredients differ slightly depending on supplier and/or age, and old buckets of glaze diminish in quantity and quality of ingredients over time. I now have plates that do not match bowls. I guess I am making new bowls to match the plates.

.... Ms R & Mr D hanging with the kiln god(s) .... I put three perfectly good garden lanterns in a bisque fire and only one lived to tell the tale

.... in a post many moons ago I moaned about a request for named mugs that I ended up doing 3 times before I got it right. Yeah, well, the customer has come back asking for 4 more - go figure, she's a patient lady. I was being very careful with every step. When it came time to put the handles on, I checked a previous pic (below) to see what side the name went on. Yup, it goes there ... . I was cleaning the handle joins the next day and realized ... you idiot! ... NOT there! (as in opposite the 'name tag') I am not going to do these again. I, (and hopefully, the customer), will consider these four to be the ambidextrous version!
First order (3rd Attempt)
.... time .... the bane of my existence. I always figure I have way more of it than I actually have or I way underestimate how long it will take to do something and as a result never deliver on time (and I also drive my very time conscious hubby, nuts!). But, apparently there's a name for that .... Last week, Lori Watts, from Fine Mess Pottery, posted a reference to Hofstadters Law. Whew! .... good to know ... not that it fixes my problem but now, at least, I have something to blame ;))

This is the last week of throwing my most pressing orders ... er .. requests. I am leaning towards making this a short run, firing and glazing them all right away, so I can deliver and then get back to the fun of making whatever the heck I want!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Redheads are Back!

Wow! ... it's taken a lot longer than I thought it would to get to my second production cycle of 2014. The attempt at getting back at it couple of weeks ago with mini bowls didn't get too far as the tax man and my accountant had other plans. I am soooo happy to have taxes out of the way! I ask myself every year ... does it really have to be this complicated?!

Today was a lazy day .... the intention to hit the studio was there but the redheads are back! which brought out the camera and that was it - I was distracted (and I am so good at doing distracted :>))

Rufous Hummingbird (Male)
 Everyone .... dogs, cats, birds, flowers and potter were reveling in the afternoon sun. I caught some of 'us' in the act ....

The Dynamic Duo ...
Lily & Dash
Northern Flicker (Female)
Northern Flicker (Male)
I noticed we had a pair of woodpeckers (a check online shows they are Northern Flickers), in the old maple out front .... hard to see them in the pics as they blend in but I also noticed the old starling nest at the top has been enlarged. Hmmmm.... maybe we have a new family moving into the neighbourhood.
Enlarged old Starling nest
Kali was trying to look very casual sitting on the railing 15 ft in the air

but I suspect her real purpose was stalking the hummers

Otis, the ol' fart, is just happy to be outside after a long winter indoors ....

.... the 'fleurs' are bloomin' away

Tomorrow I WILL be back to work!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Junior Potters

Eldest grandson Ethan and I had a fun afternoon in the studio on Sunday. I trimmed the mini bowls and he pressed some tiles for me.

He has been 'working' in the studio since he was a little gaffer. Here he is at two, hanging out in my little potting corner of the garage at our old house in the big city ... (check out the old red kick wheel ;))

 Here's another pic at three ... very serious stuff, this pottery making.

At 8 he's joined by li'l bro, Noah, junior potter #2, who was 4 at the time.

With Ethan's first go at using the wheel, he made a cup and saucer. Second go was a matching mini teapot and an 'altered' sugar bowl. He did the throwing of the teapot body and spout and hand built the lid and handle. Gram helps with the trimming.

Both the boys are very creative (and I expect baby brother, Hayden, will follow suit). In addition to clay and polymer clay creations (and of course, Lego), they love to craft things using recyclables. We call the resulting art, Artbazooka, a 'boy' tweak on the name of their favourite children's CBC program, Artzooka, where the host Jeremy, demonstrates how to create all kinds of things using household items and recyclables. 

They are fun kids to hang out with and Gramma hopes her love of clay will rub off on them all and her junior potters will be the senior potters of the future :>)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mini Mode

Today was mini day. I start every production cycle by throwing mini bowls of various shapes and sizes off the hump. It's my way of getting back into the throwing groove.

Customers love these little bowls and I love the stories about what they get used for. Most of this batch are destined for Costa del Sol. It's owned by Sarah and Michael, an enthusiastic young couple who came into my showroom a couple of years ago, brimming with excitement as they had just got the go ahead on opening their own Latin cuisine restaurant. Having both worked in restaurants for many years, they were realizing a long time dream. 


They came in looking for rustic serving dishes. As a result, I made them a series of trio servers for posole and mini plates and bowls for serving spices and salsa. Every once in a while they need bowl replenishments and I am happy to oblige. The restaurant has gone on to be a local favourite .... so happy for them!

I said in an earlier post I was happy to be done with red clay but it's Costa del Sol so I will grin and bear it. Está todo bien!

More Spring ...

Our cousin in Parry Sound, Ontario, has had enough. She's decided to plant her own Spring!

Yes! ..... Spring!

Whew! Spring arrived right on time this morning, just before 10 AM .... with Sunshine in hand. The temp isn't what it should be this time of year on the beautiful southern, west coast of BC, Canada but we'll take it! Up front, I will say I'm truly sorry to all who still feel like they are in the middle of winter. It's been a long haul I'm sure but I hope my sharing of some pics from today, the official 1st day of Spring, will help to put you in a Spring mood ......
Prims and Pansies are planted (and initially covered to fend off our downpour and hail earlier this week)
Dash & Lily are happy to have their favourite deck sunshine spot open for business!
Our senior citizen kitty, Otis (now 16 or 17 years old), who isn't allowed outside in the winter, was happy to have a stroll on the deck
The dogs and I just got back from a beach walk. We have ocean on one side ....
... and the estuary on the other side. The tides are shifting to lows in the daytime hours, unveiling Lang Creek which is flowing fast with recent rains.
Lily is as usual, diving in after her aqua kong .....
.... And Dash's favourite past time is running the beach
The heron is fishing
And the mallards are basking in the sun
It won't be long now before we're all complaining it's too hot!;)) 

Saturday, March 15, 2014


How did I go from the winter doldrums, working heads down in the studio, to having a laundry list of to-do's that will take 'til Fall to complete. Must be, that in spite of the weather (very soggy this weekend), Spring has arrived.

First up is to finish cleaning the studio .... my wonderful workspace, the envy of every potter who goes thru it (and then it's usually clean ;)), can be not so wonderful at times. Since it also happens to be the thoroughfare to the back yard, the traffic consists of two big dogs, Chicken Farmer and Gardener Hubby, 4 cats, who also love their sleeping boxes high on the shelves and of course me, the potter. The studio bathroom doubles as the chicken supplies and egg processing room and any minute now, the seed starting room will emerge. Indoor gardening supplier Son, set Dad up with lights which were installed under my long bank of ware shelves. Gardener Hubby was off to the nurseries yesterday, finalizing his seed stash and picking up starter soil.  Happy to share my space but sheesh! it's a freakin' disaster at times ... I'm one of those maniacs who is quite messy on average but has to frantically clean the house before I go away because I hate coming home to a mess. Cleaning was the one to-do that got dumped before I left for the city last week so grumpy me was cleaning yesterday and I will be back at it today.

I am also awaiting the return of my laptop so I can get going on taxes. Such a chore altho' it should a bit simpler this year because I had an 8 month hiatus from the studio last year. Still it's a painful process.

The yard also awaits my often limited engagement ... I am a gardener in my head but unfortunately, not my heart. I like the idea of a lovely yard and garden but it's a chore for me to get going. We have just over an acre but 1/2 of that is treed, thank goodness! Still, it's a lot of work for Hubby to handle on his own so I gotta do my part. Deck planters are awaiting the prims and pansies I picked up in the city. Our many native ferns in the front yard need to be cut back and I need to finish the hosta bed I started last year. I also have to figure out how we're going to do the landscaping by the chicken pen ... we're putting in a sorrel bed so the passersby have something to pick to feed the chickens ;) This was a suggestion from my Mom, a Master Gardener, who went to a presentation by Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping. I have the book but have yet to put it in action .... yup, one day ;)

Also on the list .... get back to exercise and diet .... groan! I long for the days when I could put anything and everything food in my mouth and not gain an ounce. Now I'm a seafood person ... as in 'See Food, Gain'.

Soooo .... enough talking about it all in the universe of blogging ... time to just move it, move it, move it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Tues 11 AM after breakfast with our son and his partner, I'm on my way ..... I've had my city fix and after 5 days of travel, visiting with family and friends, navigating busy streets and stores, I'm happily heading home ....

.... first ferry ... Leaving Horseshoe Bay @ 1:20 PM

.... followed by a 84 kilometre run across the Sechelt Peninsula, listening to the Good Lovelies.

.... second ferry leaves from Earls Cove ....sheesh! ..... a schedule change .... if I had dawdled any longer, I'd have had to swim home ;)

and finally I arrive home at 5:30 PM .... my heart feels warm and fuzzy the moment I disembark that last ferry .... I love coming home! It's also good to know I've been missed by hubby, kids, grandkids and dorgs.
In my absence, hubby has installed our 'new' old fashion clothes dryer. And I was happy to find wooden clothes pegs in town this morning .... wasn't sure they still made them!

Tomorrow it's back to work ... Yeah!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pampering the Pooches with Pottery

No more playing nose ringette with our metal dog bowls as they slide all over the kitchen floor .... Gram & Gramps teamed up to make us dorgie feeding stations. We like em!

For Dash ....


For Lily .....


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pre trip frenzy

Why is it, when I decide to head off on a trip, my to-do list quadruples in size! Arghhh! There is a reason I am a homebody .... come to think of it, there are several reasons but this is a big one. On Thursday I'm off to visit a BFF in the big city .... a trip planned a couple of months ago.  Hubby would love to go with me 'cause I am pretty sure he's gotta a bad case of cabin fever and winter doldrums but finding a sitter for 2 dogs, 4 cats and 11 chickens, ain't easy. To top it off, son-in-law is off to a conference for a couple of the days I'm gone therefore daughter is juggling care of a 9 yr old, a 5 yr old and a 5 month old baby plus 2 vizslas (aka very energetic dogs!). Gramps has volunteered to be on deck should disaster prevail. He can add this to his list of stellar attributes ....  builder, painter (tradesman), gardener, chicken farmer, dog walker, Grampa and hubby extraordinaire!

I am mixing business with pleasure, dropping off pots to another friend and customer plus visiting my potter supply store. Our son also lives in the city and it's his birthday on Weds. He was my 25th birthday present (wink, wink ;)) so a little celebratory dinner date is in order. I can't believe my youngest is turning 34! .... yeahhh ... do the math. I also can't believe this is the last year I will be 50 something the heck did I get so old!

And let the frenzy begin .....

Work to do list:

Call Greenbarn Potters Supply re elements (Sat AM)

Ship customer order to US

Unload kiln

Run a Full Power Test

Inventory and price pots

Do inventory worksheet for Artique

Organize pots for window display 

Wrap and take pots to Artique (Monday noon)

Checklist of student tools required for Spring throwing class

Clean studio

Home to do list:

Month end bills and book-keeping (taxes will have to wait .... heck, there's lotsa time til deadline!)

Cleanup and defrag computer, backup, box and ship to Dell for servicing (fingers crossed)

Clean car (can you say Dog Hair!)


Thursday AM go to #1 Grandson's speech arts performance 

Thursday PM .... catch 2:40 PM ferry .... Roooad Trip!

Friday, February 28, 2014

More Kiln Stuff and Tiles

Glazing and firing is progressing with some good and some not so good results so far - some of the iffy results are due to firing and some due to glaze choices. Hmmmm, will I ever get this right?! I think that's why I say my favourite part of the work cycle is when my pots are leatherhard.

My Coneart kiln has a 3 zone controller with 3 thermocouplers. For yesterday's firing, I put witness cones in all 3 sections and as I suspected, I have uneven firing - slightly off up top, bang on in the middle and more than slightly off in the bottom. I am guessing it might also account for my controller error that keeps cropping up when I use my cool down cycle. I can program offsets for each of the thermocouplers to compensate for the unevenness but I think I am going to run a Power Test tomorrow to check out how my elements are doing. I am heading off to the big city next week with a planned stop at my Potters Supply outlet so if new elements are in order, now is a good time to get them. Yikes! .... element change out time .... a new experience to be had!

Tile Installation at Kwantlen University Library
Tile works contributed by various artists
On the good news front, I had some good glaze results with tiles.  I made relief tile molds as part of a final term project at university. Some of the molds were used to make tiles for this fantastic two storey installation at the Kwantlen University College library. The project was a thank-you to the college for it's many years of supporting the Fraser Valley Potters Guild (started by Kwantlen ceramic program alumini many years ago) by providing meeting space in the ceramics facility. Third and fourth term ceramic students teamed with FV Guild members to make tiles and molds. Since I belonged to both groups, I had double the fun! Unfortunately I had moved before the big installation took place but I sure was impressed when I finally got to see the finished result!

I'd had some bisqued relief tiles hanging around the studio for ages waiting for glaze. These tiles were made with 3 of the molds from my final school project, which I titled the Sandwave Series. Since I had some small glaze loads this week, I decided to tackle the tiles and get them in one of this week's firings. Now, compositionally the three shown here don't quite work together, but from a 'what if' glaze perspective, I was quite happy. Yeahhh! Now that I have some glaze possibilities to work with, I will have to put more tiles from this series on my in the future to-do list.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday morning electric kiln conundrum

Yeah, I know many of the fuelled kiln afficianados think us electric kiln firers have it easy ... just push a button and wait for the same ol' results. Well, in my experience, limited as it is, I find I am constantly having to monitor and tweak my firings (and btw, I love, love, love my Cone-art kiln and it's Bartlett controller, which allow me the flexibility to make those tweaks). Thank goodness, for this round of glazing, I had the common sense to say "hmm, haven't glaze fired red clay for awhile, maybe I should run some tests first" (see .... old dogs can learn from their past mistakes;)). Last night, after unloading a small load of pots done with no fuss glazes, plus tests for the glazes for the remainder of the pots, I found my normally satin semi mattes were a tad on the glossy side. And one of them, for which I had to make a new batch this go round, isn't even in the same ballpark as far as colour goes. Cones are over as should be. Program ran as usual, minus the now frequent cool down hiccup, for which I have a programmed work around (note to self ... gotta talk to the Bartlett guys). So this morning is going to be spent scratching my head ... was it the load size?, the red clay?, was it the texture accents I added?, should I try an older version of my cool down ramp? .... finally, does it really matter? .. can I work with these results? (there isn't really anything wrong with them, it's just they didn't produce the expected results). The good news ... testing for texture accents were bang on! as were some of the tests for new glazes, an older glaze using an alternative firing schedule, and a new clay trial with all of the above. All yielded some possibilities for the future. I pinch myself sometimes, that I can go to work every day and have this much fun!
... PS ... I'll update this post with pics when I'm done pondering ;)
... PPS .... see Glaze Pics post below ....

Glaze Pics

So here's what I've been up to in the world of glaze testing this past week or so .....

Some background ... I make all my own glazes, save one commercial glaze (Spectrum's Textured Autumn), which I use because I love the way it breaks over texture on my white clay. When I set up my studio in 2008 and had to figure out what glazes I wanted to use, I turned to the book, Mastering Cone 6 Glazes. Given that my goal was to make functional pots to be used in the home, this seemed like a good starting point as I needed to be sure I was using safe glazes. As I've moved forward in my studio practice, I've continued to use the base recipes from this book for many of my current glazes and in new tests. The captions in the pics labelled HCSM and GB are references to the High Calcium Semi Mattes and Glossy Bases in the book. In addition, I use some older well known glazes such as Opal, Barry White, Nutmeg and Cream Rust. I also have buckets of Randy's Red and my 'effin' nemesis, Freakin' Floating Blue, with which I have had not much success with but continue (for reasons unknown to me, other than I am stubborn), to revisit periodically, like again this past week. And just to add another element of complication to my usual practice of doing a round of glaze tests each production cycle, I am on the hunt for a rustic looking clay. Meet Laguna's Speckled Buff (WC403).

Round one of tests .... going old school and eliminating the programmed cool down cycle in hopes of getting some remembered results from some old glaze recipes ... Barry White over Randy's Red, Opal and Floating Blue (not shown as it was a no show AGAIN!).

Ahhh, there is some red in Randy (a controlled cooling makes it muddy brown) .... not too bad. Even better on the new clay

Might be a keeper ... I like it better than it's brother shown on the bowl below

I have customers who love the light version of Opal obtained by using my cool down cycle

Me ... I prefer the darker blue

Nutmeg and Cream Rust. Not bad on the trial clay

Round Two of tests ... back to the regular practice of using a programmed cool down cycle ...

These are 3 of the semi mattes (HCSM I base) I use on a regular basis. The purpose of the tests was to try Mason Stain 6600, Tenmoku Brown (GB2 base) and Licorice Black (GB2 base) as accents on the texture.

Not a great pic nor a great outcome ... tile on the left is a variegated grey semi matte I call Aspen. The new batch of same glaze on the left turned out much darker and glossier. The Mason Stain on the accent was ok but not great

A good result with the Tenmoku Brown accent under the semi matte glaze. I think it's the accent that has upped the glossy quotient on the left

A good result with the Licorice Black accent under the semi matte glaze but it too is glossier than usual

Years ago I bought my first kiln from a elderly woman who was retiring from pottery. She threw in everything, including the kitchen sink, and all her glaze materials. I still have much of the older stuff I got from her including gems such as Albany Slip. I've been doing some research and here are some results .....

I also added some new glazes to the testing cycle. Most of the results were disappointing (I will try them again when I fire with my white clay). This Oilspot was the best of the bunch ....

Not the best pic and it doesn't accent texture as much as I'd like but it turned out to be a nice variegated blue/green

Finally .... just so you know I actually do make some pots .... here's a couple of mugs from the few pots I fired with the test tiles ....