Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Slowly coasting along...

When the holiday rush was over I found two coasters that were forgotten. They were wrapped in plastic and still leather hard. I had been trying to talk myself into braving the cold studio and getting some work done. Opportunity was calling my name! I got out there, applied some slip and once they were dry enough, carved a design. I was so proud of myself for finally getting something done. Jeff laughed because there were only two, and I wimped out with a simple design. Cut me some slack... it was really cold in the studio!

After the bisque firing I applied liquid wax to the rims and then filled in the carving with Amaco's Jet Black Velvet Underglaze.

Once the underglaze was dry, I wiped over it with a damp sponge. I am not too fussy with the clean up. Most won't show through the glaze. When it does, I don't mind the "blurry" look.

I poured the glaze on to the coasters, quickly pouring off the excess. If any spots get on the rim I just wipe it up with a damp sponge.

They came out of the kiln on Monday, so now I have a complete set of........TWO.

With our new heater in the studio we should be able to be more productive on a regular basis this month. Coasters are on my "to make" list.

PS... Thought you might like to see how we treat the backs of our coasters. Cork buttons with adhesive backing. They come in a large roll and are relatively inexpensive. I believe they came from Widgetco.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Organizational Skills

I have organizational skills, I just don't always use them! It's something that I am working on. Some time ago I was in IKEA and fell in love with a Raskog cart. It came in my favorite color, the price was right (about $27) and it came home with me. My first inclination was to use it in the studio for tools. After putting it together and letting it live in the house for a few weeks, I decided I wanted it for storing art supplies. It has worked out great. I can roll it to where I need it or I can hide it away in my office. It also makes a great stand to hold the pyrometer when we are firing the gas kiln!
It doesn't look very organized right now. I guess I need to get my organizer, organized.

We recently ordered new IKEA shelving for our gallery. They were offering free shipping so I ordered another cart with the sole purpose of studio use. The color offerings were fewer and I settled on burnt orange.

Before the cart, I had all my tools in containers and crocks on my worktable, making the table very cluttered for rolling out slabs and doing any hand building. The cart gives me flexibility to roll it near my wheel or next to the worktable. I have also been able to roll it out of the way when we are having a group in the studio for lessons.
After re-organizing my "art cart", I should tackle some closets...

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fire Away...

Jeff worked into the evening, loading the kiln and bricking the door, while I cooked dinner in the warm kitchen. Hmmm... I wonder who got the better end of that deal?! He lit one burner and "candled" the kiln for a couple of hours, turning the gas off just before we went to bed. Early this morning he turned one burner back on. We always fire slowly, and this time probably a little more slowly. Jeff has a vessel sink in there that is being re-fired, hence the extra caution. I am sure the firing will go late into the night.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

First Firing 2018

We have been glazing pots for our first glaze firing of the new year. The weather has put us behind this month. We should have fired this kiln a week ago. With the extreme cold and the recent snow, it just didn't get done on time. The majority of this kiln load is orders. So far everyone has been understanding about the delay. 
When the temperature is barely above freezing during the day, and dips into the 20's at night, we have to be sure that our kiln is loaded, door bricked, and ready to fire in one day. Pots can't sit in the kiln overnight when it's that cold. After we load today and brick up the door, we will look at the weather forecast and decide whether to fire all night or start in the morning. If it's not too cold we can turn a burner on low for a few hours tonight to keep some heat in there until morning.

I always start glazing sponge holders first. I think of it as a warm up exercise. It helps me get into the groove of doing my least favorite job.

There are about thirty piggy banks and salt pigs in this firing. I hope I got all the names with the right color combinations! I will have a few extras to put in the Etsy shop. It's always good to have a few that are ready to ship. Ideally I would like to have at least a dozen on hand. That is my goal for the next month.

On the home front, I actually took out the down comforter for the bed. I have rarely used it since moving to North Carolina. I am not sure who is enjoying it more, us or Sophie cat!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Vessel Sink

I love this vessel sink! So much that I would love to keep it. Unfortunately it doesn't fit in with our 1960's brick ranch style house. Jeff threw the bowl on the wheel using stoneware clay. The cobalt brushwork was applied when the clay was leather hard. He fired the vessel sink in the salt chamber of STARworks wood kiln. The end result it reminiscent of the pottery Jeff made while working production in New Hampshire for both Salmon Falls Pottery and Northwood Pottery.

 If you click on the photo, it will take you to Jeff's Etsy shop.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happiness is...

A warm studio!

Jeff installed a gas line and this new heater, in the studio this week. The propane company delivered the the tank and did a pressure test yesterday. We were so afraid that the snow storm would delay our delivery date and we're very thankful that they arrived on time. Of course the temps for the next few days will be  50-60 degrees! Winter is far from over and we are now ready for the next cold spell.

It seemed like a treat to work in a warm studio. It was 69 degrees in no time at all!

These are some lunch size plates that I have been working on. They are modeled after Jeff's coaster design. I will glaze them the same way. Ash glaze sprayed in the center, un-glazed rims. This is STARworks East Fork clay. The rims will be a warm toasty color.

I almost put handles on them, but at the last minute decided against it. Maybe the next round will get handled.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Snow Daze

We woke up to this on Wednesday morning...

By early evening, our patio looked like this...
No one who lived close enough, wanted to join me out there for a glass of wine!

Prior to the storm, our friend Laurie stopped by with a jigsaw puzzle. It was a relaxing way to pass the time on a snowy evening.

Thursday morning brought sunshine and a slow warm up. The snow shouldn't stick around too long.

Jeff and I each spent some time outside clearing our small parking area and long driveway. This morning I put the flags out. Not sure we will see any customers, but we are open for business!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Piggy Production

These big guys cracked me up yesterday when I walked into the studio! I just had to snap a photo. The big piggy banks seem to be growing in popularity. Due to the weight of the their large bodies, I have to attach the legs and sit them on their butts for awhile to allow those legs to stiffen. You can see that the third piggy is "Roman". I have had a quite a variety of names to stamp on piggy banks for this go around. Along with Roman, there is Olive, Viggo, Vincent, Ambrose, and Hubertus!

It's been nice to start the year with lots of piggy bank and salt pig orders, but I have to admit that I miss having a little down time to read a few books or work on other projects. But the bills keep coming no matter what time of the year and with the extreme cold here in the south, I am sure my electric bill will be a whopper!
Income is a very good thing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The "Bully Bank"

I spent the eight weeks leading up to Christmas assembling piggy banks and making sure that I stamped names correctly, and then glazed them in the right combinations. Every so often I take on a challenge from a customer and do something new. This year the request was for a personalized "Bull" piggy bank. The buyer had a few requirements, but pretty much left the rest up to me.

I had a lot of fun making this one.

I was so happy with the results that I am going to add it to my repertoire.

The buyer was really happy with him as well. 

When I created him, I didn't know that there was a new movie coming out based on the children's classic book "The Story of Ferdinand", which I loved as a child. Maybe the "bull" piggy bank will be the best seller this year.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Looking back on 2017

I won't mince words.
The 2016 Presidential election wore me out. The results definitely had an affect on how often I had the energy, or inspiration, to write a blog post. After the inauguration in January, 2017, I took some time to sort things out and then got back to work. In between the ginkgo leaves and piggy banks, I worked on this...

The "Radical Moose - Lamb"

Inspired by Melissa McCarthy's first SNL skit of a Sean Spicer press conference.

Since I have created many sheep sculptures, I knew right away that I had to make a "radical moose lamb".
It took me a long time to complete and even longer to get it fired. So long that it may have lost it's relevance to a larger audience. Nevertheless, I am happy with the piece.
If you missed the sketch, or need a refresher to understand the "moose lamb", you can watch it here:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

New gadgets...are they a "need" or a "want"?

January 6th and I am just getting around to my first post for 2018. I think I have expended most of my energy trying to keep warm. Jeff and I have taken this slow time of year to finish the drywall in the studio and get it painted. I will leave that story for it's own post later in the month. Today I am going to talk about kitchen gadgets, not pottery. Although there will be a photo of one of my favorite bowls at the end.
Everyone on Facebook has been talking about the Instant Pot (IP). Even the NY Times food writer Melissa Clark wrote about it. In case you have somehow missed it, it's an electronic pressure cooker that can also be used as a slow cooker. There is a saute feature that allows you to saute your veggies or brown meats before using the pressure cooker or slow cooker functions.

Last fall I REALLY wanted one.
When Amazon had a one day special on them, I ALMOST bought one.

Jeff and I always discuss purchases, especially if they are close to or over, $100. He asked me if I "needed it" or just "wanted it." He mentioned that I already own a stove top pressure cooker and a slow cooker. It was definitely a "want." I really didn't want to find a place to store it either. Instead I decided that I should try to utilize my stove top cooker more often. For the past 30 years I have really only used it for veggies. Mostly green beans, winter squash, rutabaga & carrots.

Last night I decided to try an IP recipe for a creamy wild rice chicken soup, that was shared on Facebook, in my stove top pressure cooker.

I used the same cooking time and pressure reducing method that the recipe stated and the only thing I would change next time, is to cut my carrots bigger, because we like them a little firmer.

Once the vegetables, rice, chicken and chicken stock, have been cooked under pressure, the pot goes back on the stove and the milk/cream is added.

Served with a crusty bread on very cold night, it was a delicious and quick meal! I am now going to search for other recipes to try. I know that some people are afraid of pressure cookers, but they are have a relief valve now, eliminating the potential for it to blow up like your grandmother's pressure cooker. I have had this one for more than 20 years, and have occasionally replaced the seals and more recently the "rocker" valve on the top. Parts are available online and are relatively inexpensive.

I welcome comments from anyone with an IP or an old style pressure cooker. I would love to hear about your experiences or favorite recipes.