Category Archives: creative process

Salt – Pepper – Spice Shakers

Now that it’s April, it’s REALLY time for me to get my act together and make some stuff for the art fairs. One of the ideas that Im working on is throwing (clarification for non-potters: making on the wheel, not actually throwing) small salt shakers, decorating them with an organic texture, and glazing them bright colors.

Here’s the first batch:

When I talked to Mary about my idea, she suggested making salt/pepper shakers inspired by animals. Apparently they did well at past fairs and she pushed me to try it. So here’s the first batch of these:

Photo Apr 05, 8 39 02 AM

I like them even better and will make more this week.

Working Out Design Kinks

One of the things I’m working on now is creating a few new designs to sell at craft fairs in the summer. It’s a challenge because craft fair creations need to be relatively simple to make, not too big, and not too expensive. But still fun to make because it’s not like i’m making a living off these things and HAVE TO do them. If you follow my blog, you know that I enjoy making things that are technically challenging and not easy to make.

I figured i could do something with soap dishes and came up with this cut-out design: Photo Mar 08, 5 53 01 PM

I like how it looks even without any color. However, from a functional perspective it’s lacking – the soap drippings would go right on the counter. So I’d have to make a tray for it. But the handles would stick out… No good. Here’s another incarnation: Photo Mar 08, 5 52 34 PM

And a variation on that with coils to create the same pattern instead of it being carved:Photo Mar 08, 5 52 39 PM

This design would be fine for dish sponges, to let them dry. Looks fine, but i’m deeply unexcited by the concept.

I think the next thing to do with this will be to create a tray with handles into which the carved piece will fit. That’ll make the dish functional and easy to clean. Stay tuned…

Tuesday Update

I think this will be the way to do it: thrown walls, slab bottom, and slab top:

Photo Mar 10, 9 17 39 PM

Pebble Vases

A couple of weekends ago I was teaching one of my students to make vases and somehow got into trying to make a vase that is as squatty as possible. It turned out to be surprisingly challenging and all my attempts collapsed in on themselves. The first problem was that by the time I pulled out the bottom as wide as i wanted, there wasn’t enough clay on the top to close up the vase. The second was that the clay on the top gets very thin and soft, so if I could pull it up and in, it would collapse.

At last, with a small piece of clay I was able to pull it off! ….and then left it out overnight and it over-dried to the point where I couldn’t trim it. Doh!

I decided to improvise and use a rasp and sand paper to file down the base. The result was beyond my expectations, in a good way. The whole vase turned out like a smooth river pebble. I made 3 more flat pebble vases of varying sizes, and decorated them by dabbing on underglaze with a sponge and sanding most of it away. I also painted the necks with  the same undergalze.

They’re not fired yet, but here’s what they look like so far:

I’m thinking to glaze them a light gray so that the underglaze color shows through, but I am open to suggestions too, so please let me know what you think I should do.

Watercolor Plates

I got this idea on my flight back from my last business trip as well…  As the plane moved north, the type of clouds changed. They became more wispy. The lighting also changed and lit up the clouds in a lovely way. Here’s the gist…

Cloud and sky colors:

I want to imitate those color transitions on plates. It might look something like this (pardon the terrible image editing):

So far I made 4 plates and will try to re-create the washed out watercolor effect. I think it’ll take a layer of lines in underglaze and then another layer of lines in glaze. If you’ve done this before, please share your experience!

Cloud-Inspired Pots

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am having to travel for work. My first trip was last week, and after being away from he studio for a full 5 days, I was seeing pottery ideas everywhere. Here’s one. On the flight back, there were some cool things going on in the clouds.

Chunky Clouds for Ceramic Pods

The first idea was inspired by these clouds:

They’re so puffy and look like they got slammed together by wind.

Some time ago I found beautiful cup up and re-joined pottery by Jeff Campana and these clouds reminded me of it. I made pots on the wheel, cut them up, and re-connected them. One thing Jeff does beautifully is leave little gaps between the re-connected pot parts that fill in with glaze. I am going to try that too. Mary (she owns/runs my studio) says that our translucent glazes won’t fill the gaps, but it’s worth a shot.

This is the first one pot in this series:

IMG_2240 IMG_2241

One thing I like about this version is that because the cuts are irregular, the lip doesn’t align back up perfectly. The pot looks kind of like a twisty garlic.I made another one and forgot to take a picture.

The day after I did that first pot I got back to the studio and realized that it would be better if the cuts went all the way down to the foot. Unfortunately the first pot was already dry, but the second one was not. I carved slits all the way down to the bottom.

For the 3rd pot, I went all the way, cut it apart, and put it back together:

Here they are all at once:

Photo Jan 11, 7 39 44 PM

Something I noticed after completing all these is that the most taken apart pot – the cup – looks the most intact. The others look less natural. I think that’s due to the sections of the first 2 pots not fitting as well as the sections of the cup…

Which one do you like best and why? Any ideas to take the cloud concept further?

Designs Tests

If you’ve been following my blog, you will have seen that I did a lot of test tiles when I bought all my glazes. In a similar vein, lately I have been doing test pots (see the last post on lanterns) and and test decoration tiles.

There’s number of benefits to doing decoration test tiles:

  • Not ruining otherwise good pots with a design that doesn’t fit
  • Finding out how much effort each design is before putting it on a pot.
  • Having a few designs up your sleeve that you can use once later on.

Since I spend a ton of time in the studio now, I don’t mind “wasting” pieces to test something. Like for my lanterns, I made several that didn’t work and got immediately recycled. However, once I’ve got the pot shape figured out and want to try out a carving or painting, it’s smarter to do decoration samples separate from the pot. If you have pieces of a failed pot that you can use for a carving sample, great, but if you don’t, just roll out a slab and use it instead.

When I was doing those lanterns, and finally got the overall shape down, I was not going to waste it!

Here are the carving ideas that I tried:

Photo Dec 28, 6 40 04 PM

This is the one I ended up using – it’s pretty easy to cut out, goes well with the overall shape, and will let a lot of light out.

Photo Dec 28, 6 40 12 PM

I like this one, but it would let no light through. No good for a lantern, but I will definitely use it for something else later.

Photo Dec 28, 6 40 08 PM

I like this design too, but you can see how badly it crumbled. I think that’s because the cuts are not parallel to each other and cutting one petal put pressure on the connection between others. By comparison, the first design also has very thin connections, but it didn’t crumble at all because all the carved pieces are parallel to each other. .

Now that I am writing this up, I think I should have kept the tests and glazed them for later reference… Maybe next time I’m in the studio…


And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I have been taking yoga classes with the same teacher for about 3 years and decided to make something for him. A lantern, specifically, because he burns candles during class. I went through a couple of iterations to get a pieces that I like (so far). It isn’t fired yet, so we’ll see if more iterations will be needed when it is fired/glazed.

Original idea – wheel thrown, carved

I made a couple of jars, didn’t care for the shape, couldn’t think of anything non-cliche to carve, and moved on.

Iteration #1 – carved and bent

The idea was to throw a cylinder, cut slits in it, and bow it out. I tried it on 3 lanterns of variable pliability. They all collapsed and just look generally crappy. The sections between cuts were too wide and heavy-looking.

IMG_2166[1] IMG_2167[1]

Iteration #2 – cut, re-connected, carved

The key to not having everything crack like crazy was to cut the slits all the way to the top and re-connect the rim. What this allowed me to do, also, is to make a rim that goes outward and I brought it back in by adding a wavy pattern to it. The slits between sections were still too thick, so I carved out some lotus flowers in 3 of 6 sections.
IMG_2192[1] IMG_2190[1]

The piece isn’t even fired yet, so I can’t say for sure if it’s really what I want, but it’s at least a solid Version 1.