Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Daunting Venture

Well, that's it. Summer is officially over for me. I spent my first day back in the classroom and have a bit of summer nostalgia already. I have been teaching high school for over 10 years now and still find it difficult the first day back after the summer. Teaching is exhausting! So, I am a bit worried about how I can still keep up my web presence once I'm back into the routine of a full time job. Blogging, running my Etsy shop, social networking, pottery production, photography, and teaching full time? It seems daunting. I really enjoy teaching and find that it inspires me to create more than anything else. My difficulty is that once I have all of these ideas in my head, I can't find the time to get them out. I am up at 6.30 am and usually don't get home until 6pm. Then I have an hour or two of marking or class preparation, dinner to make, the odd bit of exercise, and hopefully a bit of time in the studio. Did you notice how the studio time was last on the agenda? I am often too physically and mentally burned out to find my way into the studio, though. So how am I to survive my full time job and still have time to create? Good question! I haven't quite figured that one out yet. I just had my one year Etsyversary and hit 500 hearts which is encouraging. My first year on Etsy started out quite slowly while I figured things out. I started listing and promoting more while starting up my blog this summer once I had more time. My photography improved and I found a lot of great forums to help me become part of a creative online community. I really can't see my life without the creative outlet that pottery gives me. So, even though my blog entries may not be quite as frequent, I plan on making studio time a priority. Thank goodness my husband can cook!

Monday, August 27, 2007


I feel that I am quite lucky to live between two fabulous Pottery supply stores. What is even better is that they both deliver straight to my door. I am not quite eager enough to dig and prepare my own clay from the earth at this point in my life, so I love that I can get a variety of quality clay from Pottery Supply House also kown as PSH. At the moment I am using C515X Smooth Cream Stoneware and love the way I can use it for throwing and handbuilding. My favorite Raku comes from PSH also. White Sheba Raku clay has been recommended to me over and over again for very good reason. It is quite groggy yet pliable.

For my glaze supplies I order from Tucker's Pottery Supplies. Their website is very clear and user friendly so I can order a large variety of supplies with no hassle. They always make a personal phone call to confirm my orders and deliver within a day or two. I have also visited the Brick and Mortar store in Richmond Hill, Ontario but it is dangerous when all of the tools and glazes are on shelves right in front of you. On special occasions they have demonstrations from guest potters and of course great sales on tools and equipment. Fabulous!

For all of you in the US, PSH has included a way to convert your price to USD. Just looking through the sites has given me the urge to splurge on some new tools! Take a look and you may find some inspiration in either of these shops!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Inspiration

Today was such a wonderful afternoon. Several friends of mine have been asking to come over to play so I invited them over for a crafternoon. I set up my dining room table with tools and different textures and gave a short demo of how to make a pendant. They just jumped right in and soon they had completed dozens. Not many of my friends have experience with clay, so I loved watching them figure out how to use my tools in original ways. It was inspiring to see someone use what I think of as a carving tool in a completely different way. I have been so inspired that I am heading to my studio for a few hours. If you ever have a creative block, the antidote is to invite your friends for a crafternoon!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Drying Rack

Since I have a home studio, I have had to come up with storage solutions quite different from a larger commercial studio. My issue was shelving and a damp rack/ drying rack. I have some great little windows in my basement studio but that means that wall space is at a premium. I use my studio for so many things that I wanted to keep the layout functional and yet adaptable to many studio tasks. Most of my tables and storage are on lockable wheels so that I can shift them around the studio depending on the job I have to do that day. My best find was my portable drying or damp rack. Most studios have built in shelves or book shelves where you have to wrap everything in plastic. Sometimes I have seen shelves with canvas walls that can be soaked to keep things moist. I needed a fast and easy solution and found it at Canadian Tire! I purchased an indoor greenhouse shelf. It is designed to keep moisture in and has 4 shelves with a zip closure which is perfect for pottery. The shelves are woven wire so my pots dry evenly because air can flow underneath the pot as well. No more S-cracks in the bottom of my bowls. If I want to keep work damp, I mist the plastic walls of the shelf to get the humidity higher in the rack. Another benefit is that because the floor of the rack is not sealed, mold does not grow because there is a little bit of air movement. When it is empty, I also use this shelf to keep bisque ware clean. The plastic cover ensures that no dust settles on the bisque ware so that if I have a few extra pieces that are sitting around for a few weeks, they are fresh and ready to go once my production has caught up to fill the entire kiln. There are a few downfalls though. The design isn't super sturdy so I have to treat it with extra care. The wire shelves are a benefit once I figured out how to use them. As I said it is perfect for drying pots evenly. I just have to be careful not to set soft ware directly on the shelves or the wire leaves indentations. I solved this by adding portable wooden boards to two shelves. Soft pots sit at the back on the wood. Once they have been trimmed they are leatherhard and can sit directly on the wire without affecting anything. Another bonus is the price! Check it out on the Canadian Tire website.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Day Off

Yesterday was my husband's birthday, so we decided to get out of the city for an adventure. We convinced our friend Tim to come with us out to the vineyards in Niagra. This is one of our favorite day trips. St. Catherines and Niagra-on-the-Lake is only about an hour drive so we often take any visitors out there to get a taste of Niagra. We stop at the wineries to taste a few red Merlots and I like the Late Harvest Reislings that taste almost like a dessert wine. Often we chance upon a tour and get to see the vats and barrels down in the cellars. We walked through the rows of vines staring at the enormous amount of grapes hanging just below the stakes holding them up. This year the destination was Carolina Cellers Lobsterfest. Each year this vineyard holds a back yard Lobsterfest and barbque on Nial's birthday. It is absolutely glutenous! We ordered 6 lobsters and a steak with all of the fixings for the three of us and it cost us $70 Canadian in total. They had a cheesy live band playing but the sun was out and within a few minutes we were covered with dripping butter from the lobster and corn on the cob. What better way than to spend a birthday?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tool Talk - Rasp

I have a confession. I am addicted to shopping. You may think that this is one of those stereotypical women things but its worse. I am addicted to shopping at Home Depot. I wander the aisles aimlessly, thinking of how to convert carpenters tools into studio tools. I have no idea what construction people do with dowels, but mine are used to create even slabs of clay. Metal wire turns into hanging systems for my planters. Paint mixers on a drill are the best way to mix large quantities of glaze. I hate to admit what my wire cutters have been up to! My long standing favorite must be the rasp. A rasp was originally designed as a woodworking tool but I buy just the replacement blades for my studio. As a beginner potter, I relied quite heavily on a rasp. It evened out the lopsided mouths of those tiny cylinders we all started with. Once clay is leather hard, a rasp cuts it like cheese. Now I use my rasp more for slab construction. I can create perfect right angles on boxes just with a few gentle drags of the rasp. I have started producing some small sake sets and the rasp helps me trim up the base of the cylinder without having to trim it on the wheel. Because the top of the sake carafe is much more narrow that the base, it is a lot trickier to trim on the wheel. I just wait until it is leather hard and the rasp cleans up the bottom easily with minimum effort and time. The other added benefit of using a rasp is the shredded clay it creates. If you are ever in a hurry for some slip, the gratings from the rasp dry within minutes because they are so thin. Add a little water and you have the perfect consistency for slip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A terrible rotten day

I had a terribly rotten day today. Well, it wasn't life shattering but it was just one of those days when things weren't going my way. I rolled over in bed and hit snooze at 7am to get just five more minutes but the power decided to go out and I woke at 9:30 with a headache from oversleeping. I made a huge list last night and it was waiting for me on the kitchen table. I ran out to get a few errands done and ended up putting a nice scrape in the bumper of our new car. No one was hurt but it was just one of those stupid things that happens in parking lots just to ruin your day. I got home very frustrated, hungry and close to tears. Then I went into my studio.

There is something magical about working with clay. It puts things either out of your mind or into perspective. Potters are lucky people. We are close to the earth and therefore we stay grounded (most of the time...). After about an hour of playing in the mud, my headache was gone and I could see how lucky I was to be blessed with health, a home and happiness. I know it sounds corny but there is nothing better than playing in the mud. By the time my hubby came home from work I was able to joke about my terrible driving with him. I am also lucky that he has a creative soul too, as he just laughed when I told him what happened and how grumpy I had been.

So, its a good thing that I stepped into the studio today. I not only made some beautiful bowls, but put a little scrape into proper perspective. The next time you have a terribly rotten day, I suggest sticking your hands in the mud. It makes everything better!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Thanks Mud Team!

Since I joined the EMT (Etsy Mud Team) I have found an abundance of fabulous potters who love chatting! It takes me a while to get through 40 pages of forum posts when I peek my head up from my studio, but it is well worth it! There are so many knowledgeable artists out there and it is always fun to follow them through their day. I sympathize and relate to the strange looks received upon walking into a drug store with my face unknowingly covered with mud. Even though selling art is a competitive market, these 'mudders' collaborated to open a communal shop and blog. Go EMT! Another bonus of joining the EMT street team is being a part of all of the fabulous mud Treasuries! We even hit the front page of Etsy which resulted in the team selling quite a few items.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Caffeine/Sugar Buzz

I have a secret to share... I am addicted to Ed's Ice cream! Down by the beach I have found an amazing homemade ice cream shop that is addictive. Tonight it was a dish of Tahitian Vanilla Bean with a shot of espresso poured over top. Nothing is better than caffeine and sugar! They even make their own cones in a waffle maker by the door so you can smell them down the street. My absolute favorite is Mint Grapefruit Gelato. It is perfect while I catch some sun on the sand. If you are ever in Toronto down at the beach, check out Ed's on Queen East. If you are adventurous, try the Chocolate Chili Pepper - Wow!! While you're there, say Hi to Ed for me!

Tool Talk - Handles

There has been a lot of talk going on concerning pulling handles and I have to admit that it is my least favorite task in the studio. I haven't pulled a handle in a while so I was avoiding making mugs. But all of the current talk about handles renewed my interest and I actually enjoyed making these. For those of you that are experts, this may be old news, but I know that when I was beginning, I used all of the little tips I could find! So, pulling a handle requires a gentle, patient touch. They say its like milking a cow, but I wouldn't know (even though I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan). I focus on keeping the clay damp and work over a bucket for easy access to water. Then I gently drag my hand with very little pressure, flipping the ball of clay from front to back quite often between pulls to make sure the handle has even thickness and width. I make extra handles because there are always a few that get dented and lose their flow of line. When the handle is longer than necessary, I tip it upside down to set for a while. Take a look at the pic above to see how the handle begins drying in a curve when set this way. Make sure to set them at the edge of a table so the handle can drape loosely without getting distorted.

Once they are set a bit, I cut the top of the handle off of the ball of clay at quite an angle. I attach and then flip the mug upside down so the curve does not get pulled down by gravity. I trim off the end of the handle flat and attach. Then I leave the mug upside down to dry with the handles facing in so they dry a bit slower than the body of the mug. I keep them covered for a day to slow the drying time as well so that the handles do not dry away from the body. It is also a good idea to turn the handles away from the walls of your kiln to avoid shocking them during the firing process.I usually add a little stamp or circle to the bottom of the handle. This not only adds a little design element, but ensures that the handle is stuck on properly. I hope you can find a new little trick in this post because I love buying new ceramic mugs. I have a shelf full of them in my kitchen. Any potters up for a mug swap?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Showcase and a New Banner

I had such a busy day yesterday but I was able to schedule time to walk down to the beach for brunch with my hubby. Well, its not really that difficult because he is freelancing from home this year. It has made this summer so much more enjoyable to have him around, working on his computer right beside mine. How romantic, LOL! Seriously, I have been on the computer a lot more than in my studio lately. Yesterday, I spent half the day in the studio, and the other designing a new banner and photographing pieces to list this week. Whew! I hope to be busy with sales today because I took the plunge and am in the Etsy Showcase today! Check it out and see if you can spot my item among the 35 other Etsy artists!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Change of Pace

My sister in law just bought a new condo (Yay her!) and requested a painting from me. It has been a few months so I thought I would play with a few canvases in between my pottery production. It is nice to change pace once in a while, so as my new work was drying I pulled out my easels and this is what happened. I just listed this in my new Painting shop on Etsy called Lure (my ceramics shop is called Lurearts). It is quite a bit more work to open a second shop but I didn't think that oil paintings belonged beside my ceramics. I'd love a few hearts in my new shop since its so new. It feels so empty compared to my ceramics shop. But don't worry, it will fill up soon!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fresh off the Wheel

I'm taking a little break from trimming so I thought I would post a pic of the new Bud Vases I was talking about earlier. These are fresh off the wheel so I will have to wait a few days while they dry before I can fire them. It has been quite a heat wave this past week so I am quite happy to be in my cool basement studio. Hmmm...I'll be choosing colors for glazes soon. I think these vases will be lovely in white. Maybe I need to get my lab coat out and play with the chemistry to get some new colors.

I feel loved

While I was busy hibernating in my studio, the Etsy group was busy sending me some love! I am at 433 hearts but am aiming for 500 by the end of the month ;)

I have been busy designing some new Pottery Bud Vases. They are a bit tricky to trim so that will be my task for today. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Self Promotion with MOO

They have arrived! My new Pottery Moo Stickers. I was lucky to find a free promo on What a fun way to wrap and post my pottery! This little booklet arrived quickly and is high quality. The color is accurate and the images are clear. It only took me a few minutes to order them with the easy step-by-step purchase forms online. When these are gone I will order new ones with my company logo or my Etsy shop address. What fun!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Tool Talk - Stamps

I decided to start Tool Talk today. This will be a reoccurring topic of discussion where I share interesting tools and techniques. Ceramic artists love to brag about their newest 'found' tool. Finding a new use for some piece of junk in my studio is often the highlight of my day! Sad isn't it...

So my perfect find today came from a box of stuff that I had forgotten about. A friend cleaned out her studio and gave me a box of ceramic glazes that she did not use anymore. So today, I thought I would finally throw away that old cardboard box when I happened to find a tiny fishing lure box.

Now you know that my business is called lurearts (a story for another day) so I can't resist looking inside. And what a find. There were a variety of little antique letter stamps from an old fashioned printing press. It is not a full alphabet but I was able to put together a few short words.

The stamps are the perfect size for my new idea to make fridge magnets! If anyone out there finds a full alphabet of these babies, please let me know! There is something much more lovely about using antique letter stamps than those boring plastic ones that can be made to order.

Check out the fishing lure box too.

I love old design and typefaces. In another life I would have loved to be a designer...