I gawked and gawker over this workbench at Home Depot for over 4 months. I just couldn't bring myself to purchase it because I already had a table. In January, I finally purchased it! The entire table is more solid and sturdy than the former table, and much easier to clean. And, this one has 2 drawers to store pens, pencils, scissors and special brushes.. And best of all, the height is adjustable - I can raise it if I need to stand while, for example, using the rolling pin and creating flatware, or lower it when I sit down to add handles, for instances, to mugs.
Back in early December, I purchased a few new shelving units to have additional storage around my wheel as I work. The left side has cubbies for things like throwing pats, plaster blocks for clay drying, sponges and hand towels. And the right side has a unit with 5 drawers so I can store tools, utensils, textured mats and all my cookie cutters and letters.
I always had a pretty good shelving system, but felt I needed more shelves! After I painted the walls, the shelves were cleaned really good and put back up in smarter places and longer ones were added. The bottom shelves now store newspapers, all of my linen mats and plastic work boards. The top stores extra bowls for glazing, foam mats and wooden molds for creating flatware. On the opposite side, longer shelves now display my books and underglazes.
Photographing my work is important and getting consistent angles, views, and lighting is always the goal. I've always photographed my pottery outside on a cloudy day on my back patio steps under our awning. It's the perfect set up because there really isn't any set up! But sometimes shooting photos in winter gets pretty cold. This fall, I attempted building a put-up/tear-down photo studio on my glazing table - but I'm not sure it's working that great. Here is a picture before I attached my cell phone to the tripod. I recently purchased two inexpensive stand lights with different filters and I'm still practicing. For now, I think shooting outside gives the best results. I will keep practicing, though.
I am conjuring up some pretty nifty things in the studio these days and I am excited to share a few of them with you today. Sometimes when I take extended breaks from creating, it is very hard to get back into the groove. But, when I am in the groove it is hard to stop! I get so many great ideas for new creations that I can't get stuff made fast enough!
These unique jars combine a few different processes. You are seeing "round 3" of their mostly flushed-out design. They are wheel-thrown into a completely closed shape, but hallow inside. I poke one tiny hole in the side so air can escape as it is left to dry and stiffen up a bit. Later, I carve out an irregular scalloped line all the way through the clay and around the piece to make a top and bottom.
The top which is now the lid has received colored slip dollops that are like polka-dots and the bottom is glazed with my bubble method. Then they are bisque fired. Then, they will receive clear glaze and glaze-fired. After that, the knob and the feet will be painted with gold luster. Then back into the kiln for a few hours to adhere the gold to the glaze.
So many steps!
I am toying with what to call them, but I think "Petal Jar" is the winner as I feel this name yields itself an invitation for other matching items.
Creating and firing pottery does not come without its headaches! This weekend was supposed to be a successful bisque and glaze fire but when I was ready to turn the kiln on, it shorted and flickered and the breaker blew. Upon trying to turn it on a few more times and then conducting a test fire, I likely killed the coils. Coils should be replaced about every three years and is always a stressful activity. And since I am more of a hobby potter I don’t fire the kiln as often as most more full time potters - so the coils should have lasted much longer and likely burnt out from this mysterious electrical shortage.
I promised myself that the next time I needed to replace the coils, I would just buy a new kiln. I’m ready. I have owned 3 used kilns and feel like I am at that point in my pottery life that it is time. Sooo, I am currently shopping for a new kiln and trying to get over the sticker shock of these things being so darn expensive...
Update - a few days later! My new kiln is on order and will likely be here by November! In the meantime, new coils are being installed in my current kiln so that I can continue to bisque and fire. If I did not have this great guy to help me, I would likely have to hire this part out. I’ve replaced the coils before, a nerve racking stressful chore at that, but I could not do any of the wiring.
Working on another batch of mugs this week. Attaching handles and Wisconsin shapes to some pretty great pieces. I am hoping to do my first ever shop-restock when the mugs are all completed.
Today is a glaze day! And a small batch of Wisconsin Mugs are getting ready for drippy amounts of luscious, creamy glaze. I have goals for refining my glazing process and am trying very hard to follow them. Glazing a large amount of biqueware can be very intimidating.
If I have a plan and glaze in groups, the process becomes much more enjoyable. So many choices of glaze possibilites are laid out before me when I stare at 144 sample tiles. That's too many choices! My goal is to narrow down the options and have a few really great combinations that I stick to. Each tile gets a star if it's winner and I make notes in my books, too.
Because I like to make lists:
1. Unload the bisque kiln
2. Rinse all pots and scrub bottoms
3. Let air dry for several hours
4. Wax all bottoms
5. Let air dry
6. Group pieces according to glaze application
7. Glaze insides, let dry
8. Glaze outsides, let dry
9. Take notes as I go for each grouping
10. Test specific gravity as I go and record
11. Let all glazes dry in front of fan
12. Clean up bottoms and rub out nicks
13. Load kiln for a glaze fire
14. Take more notes
This weekend was literally a new era for me and my pottery business. It was the first art fair I've participated in since having a year and a half off over the pandemic. I am laser focused setting up a booth - packing, unpacking, ironing linens, assembling shelves, and lastly the fun part - getting out all my pottery and displaying and arranging it. I love to meet all my fans and get to know them, but it is also a nice time sit with my work and pause a moment. How am I doing? Does this mug shape work with this bowl shape? Do my items look like they belong together? Are my prices fair? I ask questions and write notes down and get ready for all the things I will do the same or do differently. I make lists of items I am out of. And I try to talk to other artists and learn from them.
Discover secrets and insight into the pottery process in this blog brought to you by potter Amy Hafemann of Saukville, Wisconsin.