Monthly Archives: August 2014

Orchid Pots

I have a few orchids around the house that, I’m ashamed to admit, live in deplorable conditions – tiny pots. The thing that’s unique about orchids is that they need a lot of air circulation (or so I hear) and can be planted in pots with holes. Generally I pot everything in un-glazed terracotta because it does allow water to evaporate quickly, but orchids are so delicate that they need prettier pots.

The shape/size of the pots was pretty easy because I knew what I wanted to make and the size of my plants, but the design was more challenging. The shape is basically cylinders of varying widths/heights. I obviously should have taken a picture for this post.

I wanted them white with pops of color, not rustic, and definitely avoid tacky. I looked around on google image search and pinterest, but didn’t find any pots that I wanted to replicate. However, I did have a couple of mugs pinned that could work as inspiration. The mugs are decorated with a few thin lines/squares and have a modern sleek feel to them:


Here are some of the designs I came up with. If it didn’t look promising, I stopped at one color, but if it did, I tried blue and yellow.

Photo Aug 27, 8 02 16 AM

The first few were based entirely on the mugs, but had a high risk of looking like R2-D2. I Pinterested a lot more and explored a few other ideas:

Photo Aug 27, 8 02 16 AM

The result of all this is that I now have 2 designs that I think are viable and worth trying. I’ll probably go with one for all of my pots and the other for my mom’s pots. Wait and see!

Do you have a better idea? Let me know in the comments; you may reach me before I get to class and do my R2-d2 design. 😉

Little Victories

I already wrote about taking on the foot-tall cylinder challenge. That was when I first started on it. Since then I spent hours trying to pull up that foot-tall cylinder. I’ve made countless mistakes and re-wedged my clay quite a few times.

Failure after failure. The first the cylinders would have really uneven tops and I trimmed off a lot of clay to just keep them even, so they never had a chance. I was using a sponge to help me apply even pressure on the walls, but instead it was tearing through them because I didn’t have a good sense of how much pressure I was applying. It took many tries to re-learn to make long pulls with just my fingers, to remember to put water on my arm that goes inside the cylinder (otherwise the clay sticks at the top). You get the gist of it, right?

Photo Aug 19, 7 46 35 PM

My cylinders aren’t a full foot yet, and my brother requested a tall, large vase! And it had to be done in a month – made, fired, glaze, the whole deal.

Given the trouble I was having with simple cylinders, the idea of making a large vase was unnerving, to say the least. The very next day I had to get to the studio to get cracking.To my surprise, pulling up and shaping the vase was a piece of cake. The walls came out nice and even, no waste. Shaping was easy. The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes.

I couldn’t believe my luck and boy was I glad I’d been practicing those cylinders! The cylinder challenge is still not over, but being able to make a 10.5″ vase on first try sure felt good!

Glaze Gallery

When shopping for glazes, I’ve found pictures of the glaze samples in online stores to be really disappointing. You get a teeny-tiny sample image of a 1″sq tile. Not a clue what kind of clay they used or what the lighting is like. Half the time the colors don’t look the same when you use them. I can complain about it all day. That’s neither here, nor there, though.

And with that I’m launching a Pinterest board of glazes. I’ll be posting all the pieces and test cups with complete glaze names, mixes, or layered combinations I used and re-pinning other people’s glaze samples.

pinterest glaze board

I’ve been thinking for a while about the best way to create a searchable glaze database and I think Pinterest is my best option at this point.  Do you have a better idea for how to create a useful glaze gallery? Would you like to contribute to the board? Please let me know in the comments!

Trimming Vases & Pitchers

Abby asked me last week how to trim a little pitcher and I promised to blog about it last week, but then of course my car broke down, so I didn’t get to the studio to take pictures of how I do it until today.

Better late than never, tough, so here we go! (I hope it’s not too late, Abby.)

The most normal way to trim vases and pitchers is with a chuck. All the ones I’ve ever seen are rough and scratch up the pottery and I’ve never figured out how to use them properly anyway. Here’s my method for trimming vases and pitchers. I trimmed a relatively large pitcher and all the wedding vases this way and overall I like it.

  1. Make sure the rim of the vase is compressed and even. If the rim wasn’t even when it was thrown, it’s going to be difficult to make the pot even when it’s upside down.
  2. If you are trimming a pitcher, you can pad the bottom of the spout with clay to keep the pot from swaying when you trim it.

    Photo Aug 17, 12 50 54 PM

    This is more relevant to larger pitchers. The small cream pitchers that I am making in this post have a nearly flat spout and it’s not an issue.

  3. Pre-shape clay holders before sticking the vase on the bat. Make sure the clay is wet enough to be a little tacky. Otherwise your vase/pitcher will not rotate with the wheel and you can’t trim a pot that’s not rotating.

    Photo Aug 17, 12 42 20 PM

    First I make cone-shaped pieces and flatten them on the bottom and on one side.

    Photo Aug 17, 12 43 07 PM

    For vases its really helpful to make the flat vertical surface a little rounded.

  4. Align the pot to lines on the wheel so that it’s close to centered and carefully stick on the clay from step 2 around it, making sure that the pot is nice and snug in there.

    Photo Aug 17, 1 05 57 PM

    One side done

    2 sides done

    Two sides done

    Three sides done. All snug n happy in there!

    Three sides done. All snug n happy in there!

  5. Now center the whole thing! Figure out where the pot’s off to the side using a pin tool and move the pot with all the surrounding clay over. Just make sure that the pot is still vertical after you move it.
  6. Then trim to your heart’s content. Photo Aug 17, 1 24 23 PM
  7. When you’re done, carefully peal of the clay that held the post in place.
  8. The last bit of advice is to be very careful how much pressure you apply for small pots or very tall thin pots because they get thrown off-center very easily.

Words of caution: sometimes if the clay you use to hold the pot is too dry, it doesn’t work too well. Or if it’s too soft or there isn’t enough of it, the pot will move around.

If you have a better way to trim small skinny pots and pitchers, let me know in the comments!

Giving Them Away

The first couple of pieces that I made for people are going home today!

Pottery out the door

Pottery out the door! I did a terrible job wrapping the large box. Will do better next time.


Sob Story & Quotes

Part 1 – Sob Story

I was planning to write a nice new post about how to trim vases and pitchers. And then my car broke down, so I didn’t make it to the studio. There will be no post about my clever way to trim vases this week! 😦

However, that’s no reason not to post at all!

Part 2 – Quotes

A few months ago my brother introduced me to Chase Jarvis Live and the show has been a great source of inspiration. After my cylinder phase passes, it’d be cool to make a series of mugs with CJ Live quotes.  Here’s my quote collection so far. If any of you are CJ Live fans too, post your favorite quote in the comments. And, in fact, post a favorite quote even if it’s not a CJ Live one! Or correct me if I wrote down one of these incorrectly (before it’s written in stone. ha-ha).

“Nobody high-fives you on the way to the bank.” & “I want my pride to be that I work harder than anybody else” – Brandon Stanton
I loved Brandon’s interview because he seems like an incredibly genuine kind person. He was so honest that he had to fight the publishers to go with his book and how much persistence and hard work it took to get his success! I find his words so inspirational because they just represent the kind of person he is. (Which reminds me, I should buy the book, put my money where my mouth is, eh?)

“Unused creativity is dangerous.” – Brenee Brown
Hearing this helped me understand why I missed pottery so much and why it was so important to get back into it.

“What I do is enough. I will give myself permission to inhale and exhale.” – Brenee Brown
I think of this quote every time that I feel like it’d be good work a couple of hours late and forego yoga/a run/a walk.

“Between 7PM and 2AM you can do a lot of damage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
When I fret that I am not making enough pottery progress b/c I have a full-time job, I remind myself that I can do a lot of damage in the evenings and weekends. It helps me focus my energy in evenings/weekends as well, like, “This is my damage time.”

“Believing in yourself is not a tactic.” – Oren Klaff
Kinda obvious, right?

“Something that doesn’t deserve to be done at all doesn’t get better if you do it well.” – I don’t know who said this! Maybe Tim Ferris? Oren Klaff? 
This is just a good one to stay honest about things that are and aren’t important.

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” – Chuck Close (quoted by one of the guests)
When things don’t go smoothly, this is a good thing to remind myself of. Like, when you’re supposed to post a bog about trimming vases and your damn car breaks down.

The Foot Challenge

As I mentioned before, I learned a ton from doing a series of vases because I had to repeat the process over and over. It’s a good way to get good – pick a shape/size and practice. Over and over again.

For my next challenge I will make 1 foot tall cylinders from 4 lbs of clay. According to my teacher, this is a cylinder standard. I tried it twice last Thursday and a few more times on Sunday. It did not go so great (see below; what a mess!!).

You might be clever, I was when I first heard of this, and say, “You can just make it really thin and it’s no challenge at all.” No you can’t! Because unless you have 12″ fingers, you can’t reach to the bottom of it to do the pulls. What that means is that the narrowest you can make it is the width of your hand. Based on my experience so far, with normal sized hands the only way to get to the 12″ is by wasting no clay and making the walls thin and uniform. Challenge accepted!

Once I actually get the hang of making simple cylinders, and I will get the hang of it, what should I make? Vases? Pitchers? What kind of foot-tall pot would you like to have? Let me know in the comments!

First attempt at a foot-tall cylinder.

First attempt at a foot-tall cylinder. Only 10″ and it’s all over the place already.

Photo Aug 10, 3 21 46 PM

The walls are pretty even and thin on this one, but I trimmed off some clay and the remainder wasn’t enough for 12″