Sunday, December 21, 2008

Between a busy selling season and a cruise, I feel I've neglected those of you who read this blog. So, as my holiday gift to you, I'll offer an easy, delicious treat recipe that goes well with gifts of pottery:

Peanut Clusters

1 package white chocolate chips
1 package peanut butter chips
salted peanuts

Melt the two packages of chips in your microwave until softened, occasionally stopping the microwave and opening it to stir them.

Add an amount of salted peanuts to make you happy. I like to make my patties mostly peanuts with just enough of the chip mix to hold it all together. Other people like more chip mix and fewer peanuts. Mix it all together well.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto waxed paper and let harden.

Eat and enjoy!

Happy Holidays all!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today I'm going to feature another ceramic artist. Why? you ask. . . Because I can, also because I understand what's involved in creating works of this quality.

The shop is and the artist is Charan Sachar.

His forms are incredibly sexy. The mug I purchase from him (similar to the one in the photo at left) feels so good in the hand.

In addition to the tactile, he also amazes me with his slip trailing skills. I work with slip and I know how tough it is to get it exactly where you want in the exact thickness you need. He's mastered that perfectly. You can check it out here:

Finally, I adore his use of color. They're evocative of the spices in the Far East: Saffron yellow, cardamom green, chile orange! In fact, I think it was his colors that drew me in, with the shapes and the artistic flair clinching the deal.

When we speak of triple threats, we don't often think of pottery. But I consider Charan a triple threat in this field: form, color, and decoration -- all A+ in my book!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm thinking of departing from Judaica for a bit (after my Hebrew name mugs are done), and making a few finger labyrinths. At the moment, this seems like a fairly straightforward challenge. It will be interesting to see what bumps the task really presents.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Aaargh! The bowl was beautifully shaped and the wheel process went without a hitch. The trimming was done at that perfect point of leather -- when the clay comes off in beautiful ribbons. Then the feet were sooo pretty.

But the glazing!! I couldn't get the outside glaze (Electric Blue) to adhere properly. I knew I was being lazy when I put it on the glaze firing shelf. I should have taken the extra time to clean off the outside and redo it properly. But I hoped against hope that doctoring the dry glaze by rubbing it gently so the crack lines disappeared would work. It didn't.

Moral of the story -- NEVER be lazy with your ceramic pieces.

At least I have a nice bowl for when I eat my popcorn while watching tv...........

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've begun thinking more and more about form and function lately. I've managed to decide exactly why I dislike certain mugs (handles feel yukky in my hand, cup seems unbalanced, colors unpleasing to my eye....). But, try as I might, I can't decide exactly what factors attract me. At least, I can't decide on the common factors that would allow me to create mugs that make others die to touch and, subsequently, own them.

I know my mugs sell because of cutesy gimmicks I've used on them, making them the "perfect" gift for that right/left-handed person, Jewish mother, father, grandparent, etc.

I think an ultimately satisfying goal for me in the new year (which is coming up this week for those of the Jewish persuasion) is to find my form voice in my mugs. I'd like to create mugs that beg to be touched -- mugs that ask you to pour liquid in and savor the time spent at the table or desk sipping that liquid from the perfect vessel.

Keep an eye on my shop to see if I'm able to even begin achieving this!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

'Tis the season -- and I don't mean xmas. Chanukah is fast approaching -- well, December. I've just finished a series of family mugs for Aba (father), Ima (mother), Saba (grandfather), and Savta (grandfather). I'm considering making a few Morah (teacher) mugs to fulfill the need for day school and Hebrew school instructors.

I've also been working on a new handbuilt design for Chanukiyot. One is awaiting the glaze firing. The other, alas, imploded in the bisque fire. I can only surmise it was less dry than I thought when I put it on the shelf.

I'm hoping to have one or two photos of the finished product up soon.

Meanwhile, to those who read this blog (does ANYONE read this blog??):

Shana Tova U'Metuka!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I work in a teaching/working studio, with a combination of students and artists. As a result, I get to see a lot of other people's work on the shelves all over the studio. This made me interested in form and function vs. esthetics.

After checking around, I purchased the book Functional Pottery: Form and Aesthetic in Pots of Purpose by Robin Hopper. I'm only partway through it, but what a great book this is!

Hopper looks at design in several ways: historically, functionally, and how forms evolved organically (cupped hands and leaves as the original drinking and eating surfaces).

At times, while reading this, I almost slap myself on the forehead because the information should be so obvious. For example, vessels that store liquids have narrowed necks to prevent evaporation. Or, the angle of the spout on a teapot needs to be in geometric proportion to the handle and the teapot's center of gravity -- not just something that might be put together artistically.

So far, I've only gotten through the chapters on Form, Proportion, and Relationships. I can't wait to get into the chapters on Mechanics, Analysis, Practice, and Considerations.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I just realized I never posted the outcome of the Pottery Party at my house.

Above all, everyone, both artists and attendees had fun. The setup wasn't as grueling as an outdoors craft show. All we needed to set up were a few extra tables and some tablecloths. There were five of us displaying and each artist got their own table. There was an additional table available for seconds. No fees were charged (except for purchases made using a credit card), so each artist earned 100% of their sales prices.

Food was great: I made bagna cauda (look it up, it's delicious) served with fresh veggies and bread. Other potluck foods included artichoke dip, a bean/corn/salsa dip, peanut butter patties, cream cheese with candied jalapenos, and lots of wine, beer, iced tea, and coffee. HINT: If you plan to do this, the coffee and the tea seemed to be "must haves".

Overall, we did quite well. Everyone sold at least two items, with some people selling up to 5 pieces in the 11-4 time period.

Happily, it was successful enough that one of the artists is having a Pottery Party at her house in August. Seems like this might become a regular event.

And me? I sold 3 items outright and picked up two commissions. Not a bad day, considering it also brought some people I haven't seen in quite a while, including a good friend from Houston.

The only big question is how to expand attendance by prospective buyers. I didn't invite my neighbors. In retrospect, perhaps I should have. If we continue to have these events on a regular basis, I'm sure we'll figure it out.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

On Throwing Eight Pounds of Clay

I received a commission for a kitchen utensil holder. When I asked the buyer for the size, she specified 8 inches in diameter by 8 inches tall. That's a HUGE piece -- but I figured I could just throw it in a few minutes and gave her a quote that, in retrospect, was way too low for what I was about to face.

At the studio I cut 8 lbs. off my clay and decided to wedge it on the wheel by coning up and down, rather than accidentally wedging air into it on the table.

Let the fun begin!

I started by trying to cone the lump up and down. It coned up and down, but wouldn't quite center. Da**! I probably trapped air under the clay cuz I forgot to dome it a bit before slapping it down on the wheel. UGH!

Cut the clay off the wheel, dome the bottom and slap it back down. But, by now, the whole thing was out of round again. Begin coning again. Nice! I almost had it and decided to give it a pull from the back, since my body was getting a bit tired and that would use different muscles. Big mistake!

I moved both my hands to the back of the clay and began pulling toward me. Nice -- the clay is doing just what I want. So, I began to move my hands up a bit.

Now, let me paint a picture here. Remember, when centering, our wheel is usually going at a pretty fair clip. Centrifugal force -- can work for us, or against us. In this case, it wasn't on my side. In one single move upward I pull the bat off the wheel head as the centrifugal force sends it like an 8 pound frisbee right into my midsection. I torque backwards, a reflex trying to protect my delicate innards from the wild beast of earth. But there's no avoiding destiny.

I moved to handbuilding for the rest of the day.

The piece came out quite nicely, built around a Danish cookie tin covered with yesterday's newspaper. I textured it and it sits in the drying cabinet, while I nurse my sore arms and midsection.

As for my ego -- I will now present myself as a potter who throws "quality smaller pieces". I won't stop making larger pieces -- I'll just save them for my handbuilding skills.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not having done overly well in craft market situations, I decided to host a Pottery Party at my house. To make it more interesting, I've invited whom I consider to be the better working potters at my studio. Since each one has his or her own specialty, there should be a good variety from my attendees to choose from: Judaica, crosses, large bowls, glaze masters, etc.

I asked everyone to invite as many people as they could and to bring a vegetarian hors d'oeuvres to pass. I'll be providing wine and beer. The owner of our studio will be here handling the money end allowing us to accept credit cards in addition to cash and checks.

If nothing else, it will allow all of us to publicize our particular styles, the availability of the studio for classes, and my personal etsy shop (I'm the only artist in the studio with an etsy shop -- don't know why!).

Meanwhile, I've received quite a few commissions, keeping me busy in the studio. Now I don't tell people I'm going to the studio. I actually use the phrase "going to work" on those days the studio's hours and mine coincide.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Empty Bowls in San Antonio is today. Here in San Antonio it is sponsored by the local Potter's Guild, held at the Southwest School of Art and Craft, and benefits SAMM Ministries -- a program to help the homeless get back on their feet.

The website describes it thus:
For $15 guests may select a bowl crafted by one of our local artisans along with a serving of soup and bread donated by local restaurants and caterers. However, I find it to be so much more.

I love getting there early and seeing thousands of bowls made by potters of every level, including children. I love selecting mine by moving my hands around them and picking them up. I love seeing the silent auction items, envying the artists who can make such wonderful pieces. I also love the soup, though I'm allergic to celery, so have a he** of a time finding one I can eat (though there's usually at least one).

All in all, it's a very sensual event, using virtually all my senses. Who gets something so wonderful for a mere $15? (And 100% of them money taken in goes to the charity.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It seems that salt cellars are a good seller -- at least the ones I've listed lately. I've been throwing them as closed forms and then opening them in different ways, testing out different effects.

The ones to the left and right were closed off, trimmed inward around the perimeter and NOT cut off the wheel. Then, when they were leather, I cut at the bottom of the trimmed portion. Following that, I trimmed around the inside of the lower portion so the top trimmed part would fit inside. This technique creates a very tight fit which is good for a salt cellar, keeping the moisture and other "crap" out of the container.

A second method I used was to create the same closed form (center image). Instead of trimming in and cutting, I waited until the form was leather hard and then just used a sharp tool to create a downward beveled cut, creating a notch to "keep things in place", as it were, rather than just allowing the top to sort of fit when it was placed down.

I think I prefer the first method, though the second method could have its place if that cut and notch were incorporated into the design.

I'm sure I'll be making more salt cellars at the studio. In fact, I have one sitting on my stove counter and I use it constantly!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Been a while since the Austin craft fair, but still worth a brief report.

Crowdwise, it was a bust. There wasn't enough traffic to generate sales. As a result, I only sold $22 worth of merchandise that day.

However, it was certainly a worthwhile experience in thinking through the "how" in the process. Happily, the owner of the studio in which I work lent me most of the equipment for the sale: tables, canopy, folding chairs, bungees, clips, etc. I added the tablecloths, cubes for display levels, colored napkins, and, of course, the ceramics. But I had no weights to anchor the canopy, and it was a briskly breezy day. So, Avi and I placed our chairs on either side and bungeed ourselves to the support poles. Ingenuity saved the day.

I met another ceramic artist from Austin who is also an etsy seller: Tina Lewis (

Would I do it again? Probably not on my own. But I'm looking forward to showing at the King William Fair here in San Antonio at the tail end of Fiesta. I'm also going to host a Pottery Party at my house in mid-June. So, we'll see what happens. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I've been thinking quite a bit about form lately. As a result, I've been throwing mugs with different shapes and sizes, both the see how they function AND to see how they sell. My latest collection is a group of very wide cappuccino/latte mugs, after having read about and watched videos of "latte art". You can see examples of it here:

I also threw and handbuilt a "Revisited" Seder Plate made of small, deep cups rather than a plate with shallow bowls. Certainly an interesting form, and interesting to make -- thinking of the actual ergonomics of it and the technique of getting it all together.

Next step? A craft fair in Austin to see how all this experimentation works commercially!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I've decided the Neti Pots were a failed experiment. They came out nicely enough. But as I read more, such as the fact that they need to hold 8 ounces (as an optimal size, but huge in ceramics standards) I decided they just weren't for me.

Yesterday I threw several small bread bakers, figuring they would be a nice, relaxing break. They were! So they currently sit on the bisque firing shelf.

Of course, what I'm going to do with the four Neti Pots coming out of the bisque firing............. Dolly teapots anyone?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I guess neti pots are the newest (well, not quite THAT new) and hottest thing right now. I started to make them a couple of days before everyone on etsy began talking about them.

It's been an interesting process. I've pretty much got the shape down and the size in leatherware seems about right, though who knows after shrinkage? However, the spouts have got me a bit stymied. They need to be small enough to stick in one's nostril, necessitating a very small hole. The angle on the spout is also a bit odd, which made me try several ways of attaching them to the body.

I'm optimistic about a few of the ones I've made. I just have to figure out how the glazing is going to work and hope that none of the holes get clogged with glaze.

I'm sure I'll get it down, eventually. But, by then, everyone else might be making them as well. Will try to post photos of any success stories with the pots.