September 2014 Newsletter

After returning from a relaxing two weeks on Oneida Lake and my 50th (!) high school reunion last month, it was time to load the kiln and fire.  I discovered that piggy banks don’t load well, having broken off legs, a tail and one ear, a terrible record for an animal lover.  Apparently, my definition of gentle and theirs differs somewhat.  I’m going to try to add the legs and tail and re-fire.  I think I have a solution to avoid so much carnage with the next batch.  Since it’s the first time I made them, it’s all a learning experience.  Lots of trial and error. Three of the eight made it out of the glaze firing.  One had glaze problems and another needs a cork smaller than the ones I have on hand but this little piggy is all set to go.  I’ve already made more for the next firing – and will be making them each month to both fill the requests I’ve had and be able to have them for the sales going into the holiday season.  This item gives an example of why some potters, when asked how long it took to make a piece, often reply, “Twenty-five years.”  Each new concept involves some trial and error before you truly make it your own.


In addition to the piggy banks I have some new pieces, olive boats, leaves and baguette dishes.  When a friend saw the latter she said they’d make great individual corn on the cob holders so I’ll make some for that as well.  As I was working with them I thought shorter sizes could be used for other purposes besides holding a long loaf of bread.  They could be a spoon rest, key, change or jewelry holder on a dresser– and most likely other uses I haven’t thought of yet.  I’ve made them from about 4” to 14”, although my glaze experiment on the 4” resulted in that one being tossed in the garbage.  I made a multi-colored one just to see how that would work out.  I’m not satisfied with it but will try that again, maybe with fewer color blocks.  It’s too busy for my taste.  The leaf could be used for a brick of cheese or purely decorative.






My favorite piece of the firing was a square plate.  Since I had it on the top shelf in the kiln and it was the first thing I saw when I opened it. It was a good first peek!  I wanted to make it two colors and spray a third along the border where the two colors met.  Overall, I liked the results.  I’ll definitely try it again with other glaze combinations.  I also experimented with one of the middle sized baguette holders by dipping one color and spraying another.  I liked the effect of using turquoise with black sprayed on.  That sold in Oneida so I’ll make another soon.







Also in this firing were some of my more popular items:


Soup and cracker bowls



Wine bottle holders







Double utensil holders









I have a new piece of equipment, a pug mill.  This allows me to more easily recycle and mix my clay and gives me the freedom to experiment more than I have in the past.  Before, I had to drive the clay to another studio to be pugged and that, though very much appreciated, was a pain.  I can now easily try larger pieces because if the piece collapses, I can just save it in a bag to run through the pug mill.  I have been thinking of trying a tall set of lamps one of these days.   I’ve made a few small lamps in the past.  Another thing I’m going to try, with the guidance of my neighbor or brother, is to build a shorter table for the pugger.  I’ve not learned much about carpentry work through the years so this should be an interesting project during the winter.

Potters, no matter how long they’ve been at it, usually wait with anticipation for their kilns to cool so they can see how the firing went, often wondering if the Kiln Gods were good to us.  We say that opening the kiln is like Christmas morning – filled with anticipation and sometimes a little dread.  This firing was a bit of both for me because of making new pieces, especially the banks, and trying new glazing techniques.  Overall, the Kiln Gods were smiling.  That being said, I lost mine.  (Yes, many have one they sit on the kiln while it’s firing, some quite elaborate.)  Mine was made by a potter who was an assistant at Roberson’s Clayworks.  It resembles a cartoon animal’s head.  I went to my shelf one time and there it was, along with my fired pieces.  Sadly, Charlie died way before his time.  He could make anything.  I’ve had that little trinket for years and couldn’t imagine where it went.  I’m pleased to say that I looked on the floor behind some shelves and found my little guy.  One eye was missing so I made another and he’ll go in the kiln, instead of sitting nearby, next firing.



I’d like to end by welcoming all the new followers that I met at the Craft Fair in Oneida last weekend.  Though setup was in high heat and humidity on Friday, the weekend gave way to more pleasant weather, even with Saturday’s drizzle.  It was a great event and fun to chat with people who stopped by.  I’d like to return but may be getting a new knee in the spring so I can’t say for sure that I’ll be able to be there next fall.

Enjoy the rest of September and, with luck, I’ll be in touch by the end of October.  Have a great fall!