Monthly Archives: October 2014

Maui Vacation Inspiration

In a departure from the usual pottery posts, today’s post is about my trip to Maui. I was there all last week, golfing, taking in the sites, eating, staying warm, eating… (no, eating is not listed twice by mistake.)

Well, ok, this is still going to be about pottery. Being away from home and work for several days diverted my attention from the everyday worries and current projects. With no opportunity to make anything ceramic I’ve been looking around and taking note of all the things that I can draw inspiration from. Here are a couple for your viewing pleasure:

Lava Rocks and Tide Pools

What fascinates me about these is that they are almost monochromatic and primarily interesting for the textures of the rock/sea urchin. I could reproduce a similar color palette with a varying intensities of iron oxide (very fitting b/c I bet there’s a good amount of iron oxide in that lava rock), a black underglaze for more intense shading, and a neutral colored glaze. Maybe throw in a little blue for an accent… can’t you see this turning into a lava-inspired soap dish?

Flowers and Leaves

These are a low-hanging fruit, as they say. The number of shapes and colors in nature is vast and there’s no lack of inspiration to be collected. I don’t see myself making fuchsia anything any time soon, but the shapes are definitely very unique and cool. Also,  I like the way the colors of the flowers switch from the outside color of the flower to yellow on the inside (on all the flowers). I will be going back to these pictures next time I make a pot with different colors on the inside vs. the outside. The other leaf/bark pics will be good reference for texture and color designs.


The first 2 days of the trip it was cloudy and gray, but it still managed to be beautiful. It was a very calm, peaceful kind of beauty. I am thinking, “what glazes could I use to re-create this mood?” Perhaps Peacock, Seafoam Green, Holiday green, and black underglaze for contrast. Hopefully moody Maui colors don’t come across as straight-up depressing in Chicago winter.


Scrafitto and Inlays

A couple of people in my studio do beautiful scrafitto pieces and I’m into fine detail anyway. For one of the pieces I’m working on, I thought scrafitto or Mishima inlays would be a good way to go. Another alternative would be finely painted underglaze, but the underglaze looks more water color-y whereas scrafitto and inlay lines have a sharper lines. I think in this case the higher contrast will be more suitable.

I want to make a pot (maybe a mug and maybe not) with this picture:


What I like about the picture is how his face is a little sad and thoughtful. It has several sell-defined lines that will convey his expression without me having to get crazy with shading. I’ve never done scrafitto on pottery and done Mishima once several years ago, I am starting with several tests: black vs. brown and scrafitto vs inlay for the same picture.


From left to right: black underglaze mishima, iron oxide scrafitto, iron oxide mishima

It’s going to be a while before I complete this project, probably, and I would appreciate your ideas and thoughts on which direction I should take.

P.S. tell me what you think of this:

When making special pieces of pottery for people, is it better to…
a) make something that they will use everyday and may break (e.g. coffee mug)
b) something that they might see every day, but not really use (e.g. bowl to hold keys in)

Let me know which you would prefer and why.

Glaze Blacklist & Whitelist

I’ve got quite a stash of glazes now and used most of them on at least a couple of pieces. Several have turned out to be very unstable and I am blacklisting them. Here they are, for public shaming:


  1. Duncan Crackle Celadon. I already publicly shamed it in a previous post, but seriously, this glaze is a mess! Never again. Remember this fisaco? That’s the Crackle Celadon. Photo Aug 30, 2 43 56 PM
  2. Duncan Envision Emerald Green. It’s not as bad as the Celadon, but I won’t be taking my chances with it again. I may mix it into another stable glaze or use it and coat it with clear, but will not order more. Even though the color is beautiful, the bubbles re not worth it. Photo Aug 30, 2 44 24 PM
  3. Duncan Envision Nordic Light White.  This one is tricky because it wasn’t immediately apparent how problematic it was. Now I get pitting very consistently, and even worse, it makes the glazes around it in the kiln pit. Both of these cups had Nordic White inside:Mug #6 Mug #4

Graylist (“meh” describes how I feel about these)

  1. Mirror Blue. this one doesn’t bubble or pit like the offenders above, but it is really runny. I will look for another blue.
    mirror blue and royal purple tester
    In fact, I don’t care for that purple inside the test cup either. I’ll include it in the MEH list, especially because when mixed with white it looks blue.
  2. Orange Slice. Orange slice isn’t a bad glaze, actually I don’t know. I did one test cup and lost all interest, it’s so bland. It’s more of an orange creamsicle than an orange slice. Photo Aug 30, 2 46 08 PM


  1. Duncan Envision Clear. Where the Nordic Light fails, clear delivers. This one turned out great even next to the crazy pitting white. You can really see how nice the surface is on this piece:  Photo Oct 05, 12 33 14 PM Underglaze painted mug
  2. Amaco Seafoam. This color is amazing. It’s a nice calm but moody aquamarine. It has behaved pretty well for me, and it gets a little white-ish sheen where it’s thicker, which I think is beautiful. It holds boundaries well when used for painting. In the candle holder it’s in the center and on the other dish, it’s looks blue when painted over white.   Photo Oct 13, 6 56 59 PM (1) Candle holder
  3. Mayco Burnished steel. I love its subdued sparkle and how it turns into a deep green when overlapping with translucent colors. It’s also very pleasant to the touch.  The right flower pot is Burnished Steel. The right one is Antique Pewter, which is also nice but a lot shinier.Photo Oct 13, 6 55 05 PM Burnished Steel and Blueberry Mug
  4. Mayco Copper Adventurine. For all its instability, I still love it. It makes the nicest accents with blues and greens and when mixed with clear gives a great caramel color. Photo Sep 02, 7 53 28 PM Photo Aug 30, 2 46 55 PM
  5. Duncan Envision Blueberry Spice. Its very delicate purplish color with speckles reminds me or ice cream and tiny quail eggs. Blueberry spice is also fairly stable and plays well with other colors.
    Burnished Steel and Blueberry Mug Cream thing

Mug Study Results

First off, I am very grateful to all who responded to my request for feedback. THANK YOU!

Second, I want to show you how all the mugs turned out.

Your Feedback

Here’s how the mugs stacked up Mug Stats 2

You all liked 1 and 6 the best. Sounds like people enjoy a rim that’s turned outwards regardless of whether the handle is round or square.  I plotted the same data for male vs. female respondents and the pattern was similar, except that the gents didn’t care for mug #2. I wonder if the flourish on the handle is the culprit… Two people mentioned that #7 would be hard to clean. Fair enough, can we call it art?

Pouring, Volume, Handle Comfort

I don’t have a way to measure pour very consistently, but based on a quick “fill it with water, dump the water” test, every mug except #7 did about the same.

For volume, there’s a table:

Cup # #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7
Volume (in cups)  1.25 1.7 1.5 1.5 1.3 1.3 1.6

I suppose we can conclude that a more convex cup will hold more water, but I think the table gives you an idea of how much more.

As far as handle comfort goes, here are my observations:

  • 1 & 2 had the most stable handles. They have enough room for 2-3 fingers in the handle and enough room under the handle for one more finger. The flourish on #2 lets you rest a finger against it without resting it on the hot mug.
  • 3 & 7 had very comfortable handles if you’re hugging the cup with your hand are only thread through 1 finger. Not good for hot liquids, but very cozy for warm ones.
  • 4 was the worst – the handle is so large that my hand felt loose in there.
  • 5 & 6 felt stable and fine. 6 was more stable, but 5’s handle was tall enough that you could hold the cup without touching its side. Both of these on account of being more concave than the others, had thicker walls and would hold heat best.

Pinch Pot Soap Dishes

I mentioned in a previous post how I got into pinch pots. They’re not all done yet, but…

Photo Sep 28, 7 35 55 PM

Results of the first session. The shapes are there, the feet are there on 2/3.

Photo Oct 04, 3 54 10 PM

The third didn’t need feet b/c it’s a leaf!  Leaves have veins! I made the veins from coils and then started carving away with an xacto knife. Took about 3 hours to finish and it was extremely fragile by the time it was all said and done.

This one got hand-carved holes. This one is more sea-creature inspired, hence the star pattern.

This is the one with the spike feet from the first picture. These holes are hand-carved with a thin pin tool. It feels sea-creature inspired with the star pattern.

Photo Oct 06, 5 35 35 PM

The other one with feet. I cut those wholes with hole poker tools, varying 2 different sizes. Looks like moldy cheese.

Heres that cheese one, glazed. Im not going to lie, i LOVE it!

Here’s that cheese one, glazed, and I’m not going to lie, i LOVE it!

And here it is again, in my bathroom, with soap. Seriously, I love how it turned out.

And here it is again, in my bathroom, with soap. Seriously, I love how it turned out!

Re-introducing Myself to Underglaze

As you may recall I tried painting designs with glaze and it didn’t go great. I like to think that I learn form my mistakes, so I adjusted from that experience in the following ways:

Don’t paint intricate designs with glaze. Use underglaze instead.

Here’s the first piece I tried:
Underglaze painted mug Photo Oct 05, 12 33 14 PM
You can see how sharp those lines are. I put clear on top and it came out great. Those lines on the bottom are actually glaze and you can see that they’re a bit blurry.

I painted a few more mugs with underglaze and will post (probably in the ceramics gallery) once they’re glazed. I have to give credit to Megan Brady who created a Zentangle Pinterest board with a ton of designs and explanations for how to draw them. That’s been a  great resource in decorating pottery.

If you must paint with glaze, plan on bleeding and let it work in your favor

I did this tiny bowl, it’s about 2″ across. I layered the colors a little bit, so there isn’t that weird washed out border that I got on the last glaze-painted pot. This picture is magnified and you can see where the green, blue, and light blue blend together. I dig it.
Tiny glaaxy timy plate

Two Part Pitcher

When Mary (the studio owner) saw me working on those 12″ cylinders, she said it’s pointless. She said to try building a pitcher out of 2 sections.

Here’s that step by step:

  1. Throw the lower half of the pot and let it dry to leather hard. I was trying to finish the whole thing in one day, so I had to set this pieces under a fan for a while and use a blow dryer to let the inside set up.  It’s really important that the rim is set. Otherwise when you start attaching the top half it’ll fall in.                                                                                 Photo Sep 28, 2 18 37 PM
  2. Trim the lower half of the pot.
  3. Measure the opening of the lower half of the pot and make a thick ring that would fit on the top of the 1st half (bottom) of the pot.  You need a ring that’s shorter than then length of your fingers so that you have enough room to attach the ring to the bottom part of the pot. These are the first 2 that I made and they were both too tall: Photo Sep 28, 2 18 49 PM
  4. Re-center the lower half of the pot, hold it in place, and attach the ring on top. Centering it is a little tricky.
  5. Attach the ring to the lower part and pull it up into a vase neck sort of shape. Photo Sep 28, 4 06 25 PM
  6. Cut/shape a spout
  7. Add a handle

And you’re done. Here’s what the final product looks like:

Photo Sep 28, 7 33 53 PM

It’s surprisingly light for the height that I was able to get. And that’s considering that I kept the base a little heavier for purposes of balance.

P.S. Now that I’m done writing this up I feel like the pictures could be better. If you want to try this technique, are reading the steps, and your reaction is like, “what are you talking about?!” please let me know and I’ll do another one to get better pictures. Or maybe make it my first video  post.