Friday, January 29, 2016

Kiln Fruit

A quick peek into the kiln, because I just couldn't wait to see!
Remember all those cups I stamped a while back? Well, I spent this past weekend glazing them and was finally able to unload the kiln on Wednesday afternoon!
 I am really pleased with the results, and I think I can honestly say this is the best kiln load, so far!
As you can see, there are some glaze drips to grind down, but not many, and nothing which will ruin the piece!
The only tragedy I had was the larger of the two teapots. I'll have to replace the lid since the original developed a glaze drip on the inside, which created a lip so that the lid couldn't be removed. As Gilda Radner said, "It's always something!"
Keep an eye out for these guys to be in my Etsy store soon!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Roger's Gardens Halloween

 Click here for more pics and a video of this deliciously spooky slice of Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New in the Shop

Coffee and tea implements. You need them. Shop now!

ShellHawk's Creations. You know you want them. ;)

West Coast Haunters Convention

Looks like I'll be at West Coast Haunters Convention in Portland, Oregon, this year!

This makes me inordinately happy. I was lucky enough to attend West Coast Haunters Convention early on, before they snagged the Doubletree Hotel in Portland for the gathering. 

This convention is like old home week for me. I get to meet up with the Davis Graveyard gang along with a number of the who's who of the haunting world, and I love it!
The costume ball is the best I've attended to date, and allows all of us to take a break from the show floor and classes (not to mention the ongoing Nerf Gun war) and socialize with each other.

Of course, I'll be vending while I'm there, so I reckon I ought to start making some Hallowe'en ceramics, eh?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tough Week...

Angus Scrimm. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Lemmy Kilmister.

Phooey. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We Have Always Lived in the Castle...

Somehow, this abandoned priory reminded me of the Shirley Jackson book, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle."

It's a great gothic novel to take into the study on a cold winter's night...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Works, New Toy!

Over the holidays, I was catching up with  my ceramics magazines. (Yes, I read those. Duh!) In Clay Times, there was an article about tools for glaze mixing and application.

If you saw my post regarding the last time I mixed glaze, you'll have seen me covered in glaze splashes.

It's a really sexy look. Honest! *eye roll*

So below on the right, you can see my usual mixing device. On the left is the Jiffy Mixer

In theory, the stainless steel Jiffy Mixer should be able to mix my glazes without splashing all over the place. It should also be able to scrape the dry stuff off the sides of my glaze bucket while moving everything down, up and in from the sides, and not get chunks of plastic bucket in my glaze while mixing. Yes, at $50 it's a bit spendy, but that's what Christmas money is for, right? I'm looking forward to using it this next glazing cycle.

So I've been playing with stamping, like Gary Jackson does, because it looked like fun. And you know what? It is fun!
I threw the above teapot, deliberately leaving the lid a little large to allow for the clay shrinkage. I'm playing around with teapot shapes, too, while I have a little time. I haven't done a lot of teapots, so cutting the spouts to fit still takes me a bit of time. I always throw several spouts for two reasons: 1) if I mess one up, I have others to fall back on. 2) I like to have different - sized and -shaped spouts to see which one looks best on the teapot. I thought that with all the little stamped daisies, a short spout would look cute. What do you think?
I've been on a cup kick, lately. I stamped two of the ones above, and "scribbled" on the other one while my wheel was turning. I've found it makes for a good spot for the glaze to "break," which will give it both visual and tactile interest.
I'm experimenting with yunomi, too. Yunomi are those wonderful handle-less Japanese tea cups you see in all the Japanese restaurants.
The process of fitting the lid involves letting the clay dry slowly and trimming
it a little at a time. I throw it slightly large to allow for shrinkage.
I enjoyed the stamping so much, I decided to throw a couple of teapots and stamp them, too! Then there was the bowl, which seems to have turned out well, too.
After a week or so out in the studio, I decided they were ready to be brought in to dry in front of the fire.
Then I decided to unpack the kiln and dry all the rest of them while I was at it.
 I still have a ways to go before the kiln is full and ready to be fired, but I think this is a nice start!

Friday, January 8, 2016


"Throw the ball. Please, throw the ball! Throwtheballthrowitthrowitthrowit!"
I figure it's been a while since I posted about my dogs, and you were probably losing sleep, wondering what was up with them!

It's been pretty rainy here in Northern California, so the dogs have felt pretty cooped up. Cabin fever was definitely in the offing! On Monday, there was a break in storm fronts, so I took them around the corner to a local neighborhood park, ball launcher in hand.

Those of you who don't own German Shepherds (you poor, poor dears!) may not be aware that the vast majority of them are ball-obsessed. It's what happens when you have dogs with high prey drives, which is what many, though not all, of the Shepherd lines are bred for. It's what makes them great K9s and Military Working Dogs, along with their keen minds and natural sense of protectiveness towards their families.

My Sam and Coda are no exceptions to the ball-obsessed Shepherd stereotype! Sam is always on high alert, and when he takes after the ball, he pins his ears flat to his head and tears after it for all he's worth! Coda is a bit more relaxed about it, but still does a darn good game of fetch.

Although, they do things a bit differently when they're fetching together versus when they're just one on one with me or Mr. ShellHawk. 

As you can see in the below pic, Coda just wants to chase the dog who chases the ball, in order to be a noodge. She's really not all that worried if she gets the ball or not, as long as he doesn't have it. Kind of like that unwritten Dog Law: All balls are my ball, even if I don't want them!
She's a total nag. And even if he gets it, she'll often just take it from him, and he lets her!

Hopefully, the video will play alright, even though it's not the best clip in cinematic history!

They came home happy and tired, just as it started sprinkling again. That evening and all the next day, it was pouring! I'm so glad I got them out of the house!

Sam is four, and will be five in April. Coda is two and almost a half. I can't believe how quickly they've grown and how fast the time has gone!
Five weeks old and adorable!
All grown up. D'aww!
Face-hugger: GSD edition!
I still can't believe she was this small! She's 91 pounds, now, and
bigger than he is!
How could you not love the German Shepherd head tilt?
Dog snuggles are pretty much the best.
Dogs are just the best, aren't they? 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee...

I found this last night and found it worth a few giggles: Jerry Seinfeld and President Obama getting some coffee together.
Click on the pic for the video!

Monday, January 4, 2016

When Your Head is Too Noisy...

What do you do? Seriously. What do you do when your head is full of noise?

I clean.

It's the thing I can control, and the act of cleaning, making order out of chaos, helps to soothe my mind and bring me to the present moment. The act of getting rid of old and useless things is freeing.

After a busy Halloween season, I needed to do some organizing, which I did. But I still didn't have enough space. So I started combing through the stuff that was hanging around, and had been hanging around for a couple of years. Unfinished things. Failed experiments. Things I had meant to get to and hadn't.

I pitched them all. Straight in the trash can. I felt I had learned a bit from them, at least, and now they were just gathering dust and taking up space. Out they went! Make some space for new things, right?
Did it make enough space? Not really. But it did make a bit more. I figured out a temporary fix for the space issue, and that's to throw, trim and start the initial drying process on my wooden shelves, and let them finish drying in the kiln while I throw the next lot. It clears the few shelves I have, anyway, until they get filled and are cleared off into the kiln.
I still have a ways to go, as you can see, but at least it's a start!


This afternoon, I came home from work and got back into the studio right away. This morning, before I left for work, I had thrown the body of a small teapot, and needed to throw the lid and spout before the teapot body shrank too much. I had also made some wine cups, which needed to be trimmed and stamped before they got too dry. Fortunately it's been cold and damp due to some much-needed rainstorms, and my work isn't drying out too fast.

I listen to my iPod on "random" while I'm working, and let me tell you, I have a very eclectic taste in music. I have a little jazz, some bluegrass, punk, electronica, trance, blues, Irish traditional, and on and on. 

While I was stamping a cup this afternoon, this song came on. It's from one of my very favorite movies; The Legend of 1900. (I bought the soundtrack a few months ago because it was so very beautiful.)

The music just transported me, and for a moment, I laid down my tools, closed my eyes, and listened with my entire body. It's a piece which makes the heart soar, filled with hope. When it was done, I played the entire album from start to finish. Twice.

Of course, once I was done in the studio, and had cleaned up and mopped the floor, I went inside, poured a glass of Malbec and stuck the movie in the DVD player.

There are many fantastic scenes in this spectacularly underrated film, from the piano duel to the Magic Waltz scene, but one of my very favorites is between a passenger and 1900.

The passenger happens upon 1900, noodling on the stand-up piano where the third class passengers hang out. He's telling 1900 a bit about his life, and he tells him why he decided to come to America. He describes the first time he sees and hears the ocean...
"And then I see the most beautiful thing in my life: the sea."
And 1900 says, "The sea?"
"I'd never seen it before. It was like lightning hit me. Because I hear -- the voice."
"The voice of the sea?" 
"Yes. The voice of the sea."
"I never heard it."
"The voice of the sea, it is like a shout. A shout big and strong, screaming and screaming. And the thing it was screaming was, 'You -- with shit instead of brains -- life is immense! Can you understand that? Immense!' I never think of it that way. An evolution was in my head. That was how I suddenly decided to change my life. To start fresh. Change life. Start fresh."
And I thought to myself, "What a wonderful thing. A new year, and starting fresh."

You, with shit instead of brains! Life is immense! Go out and live it! ;)

Motawi Beauty

Motawi Tile Works has been around since 1992, and in that time has made some stunning art tiles. Nawal Motawi did what many of us crafters dream of: she started her business in her garage and grew it into a 12,000 square foot facility! (Way to go, Ms. Motawi!)
I find myself going back to her tiles over and over again. I love the lines, the colors, the subjects. So very rich!
I keep imagining them in a bathroom remodel, in my bathroom remodel! 

Get a video tour of the tileworks here.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Day: The Ruminations

New Year's, as you've no doubt noticed by the onslaught of weight-loss commercials and ads for personal fitness centers, is a time of resolutions. While there's something to be said for the shiny, clean slate of a New Year -- and believe me, saying goodbye to an old, hard year is certainly something I've done and will do again -- this year, the ball drop didn't bring the sense of renewal it has in the past.

This year, I've been overtaken by a sort of existential restlessness. My mind won't stay peaceful for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't focus on the book I'm reading for long, because I soon get lost in thought, though my eyes are scanning the pages in front of me. (I often read the same page several times over, just to be sure I didn't read it the first ten times.) Things in my private life have been contributing to this sensation, but I'm not ready to share that now, if ever.

I have something best described as anxiety. I can tell, because of the tightness in my chest. And the fact that both my dogs are clinging to my side and looking at me as if to say, "It's o.k. We got you!"

My head is full of noise. Just when I want to give my best to my art, to give a gift of love from my heart to my customers. *sigh*

The sense of things unfinished, of goals unreached, is strong. Why did I not accomplish some of the simpler resolutions of 2015? Why am I not more poised? More polite, in the true, old-school way of things? Why can I not be dignified? More graceful and less of a klutz? Quieter, not so dang loud all the time?

Why can I not be more like Judi Dench?

What is wrong with me?

I know many of you have felt the same, and feel the same. (Although maybe not the part about Judi Dench...)

There's just so much room for improvement. As a potter, a sculptor, a human being, a spiritual person. Sometimes -- times like now -- the prospect is so daunting. How can I be better? Deal with life more constructively, instead of being reactive in the way I always was?When will I ever be "good enough?" 

Probably never, right? At least in the harsh confines of my own mind, just like you in yours. *sigh*

The thing is, though, when I take a breath, I realize that I have improved over the past year. I know that I'm "in process," that the journey is the goal, as Pema Chodron says. I know that no matter how badly I've screwed something up, I'm not a lost cause.

Because the journey is the goal.


Fortunately, there's retail therapy, paired with Christmas money. It's a nice distraction from the real issues, whatever they may be. (I know I'm not supposed to distract myself from the real issues, but hey, I already said I'm not perfect!)

Pottery and sculpture can be hard on tools. It can also be difficult to determine what tool might be the right one for your particular throwing or sculpting style. Sometimes you need to play around with different shapes and materials to shape your art, just to see what works best for you and your needs. Lucky me, I found Troy Bungart Studios, also known as Burlchaser on Etsy.

Troy is both a potter and a woodworker, which gives him a unique perspective on a potter's needs in the tool department. And can I just tell you, these tools are so very well made?

Each of his tools is a work of art, a privilege to use. Just looking at them inspires me! He utilizes different kinds of wood for each, as you can tell from the picture below.
Some of my Christmas Money Bounty. Pic taken on my wedging table.
 I once bought one of his ribs as a gift for my pottery/sculpture sensei, who, when asked if he had used it yet, said, "It's too beautiful!" and still has it on his desk, to be admired. (I bought him another pair of tools, plus some beeswax and mineral oil to care for them, but don't tell!)
I'm very much looking forward to making some bowls and platters with these new ribs. I'm kicking around how much "regular," functional ware I'm going to make this year, versus how much Hallowe'en stuff I'll need for the shows I want to do. 

So far (knock wood), I haven't had to go in for any surgeries which would keep me out of the studio like they did for the past couple of years, so I think I can at least tentatively make a plan and a schedule. 

If there are any potters reading this blog, I'd be interested in how you go about laying out your schedules for the year! I could use some ideas!
I started playing around with wine cups, again, just to get my hand back into the rhythm of throwing. I've been off my wheel for a bit since I was gone for the holidays, and it helps to have a "warm up" form. I'm also playing with stamping the forms (like Gary Jackson) to add some texture and fun. You can see a couple of them at the back of the above photo. (I thought I had a better shot, but I don't.) I can see why Gary likes his stamps so much; they're really, really fun to work with! I'll post more about that soon.

More adventures, soon! Meanwhile, from me to you, have a happy, healthy, wealthy and prosperous 2016!