Friday, October 8, 2021

For the Birthday Girl

Over the summer, a friend approached me with a commission. He wanted a cookie jar for his wife's birthday.

This was before The Chrome Behemoth, a.k.a. my new kiln, arrived, so I let him know that I was at the mercy of the ceramics center as to the completion date. I had a goal to fill up one of the kilns there (and I did!) because you really shouldn't run a kiln with only one or two items in it, and I knew the center wouldn't run a half-empty firing.

He said it was fine, and gave me a date he'd like to get it by, but if I didn't get it finished by them, no worries. He's one of those people who just gets it, and he knew she'd be happy with whenever it came. (God, I love low-maintenance people!)

There's a reason I'm cautious about doing commissions. First, quite honestly, people are a pain about it. They keep changing their minds on a whim, like you didn't just spend hours thinking about and drawing out their design before you make the thing. They don't recognize the words, "change order." They think you're a machine. Second, they ignore everything you told them about the project going in and just randomly decide they're experts on ceramics. Kind of like how folks who spend an hour on YouTube are suddenly epidemiologists. 

So, yeah. I'm not usually eager for commissions, but I'll make exceptions for low-maintenance people.

We came to an agreement on cost and all (I ended up knocking down the price because getting the finished product took longer than I had anticipated), and I started working on a cookie jar.

And then I thought, they're Hallowe'en fanatics. I wonder if they like Nightmare Before Christmas? So I texted the guy and asked what he would thing about making it a Frog's Breath jar. He got really excited and gave me the go-ahead.

So I threw and trimmed the body of the cookie jar and did the same with the lid. I had thrown the lid with a regular, knob-type handle, but then I thought, how about the frog's head? Wouldn't that be more fun? Add a little whimsy? So, yeah, I did! I started sculpting the frog from screenshots of the movie and then started the process of underglazing him to have a similar color scheme. And then, of course, I thought about the label and started hunting around for the right font, which lead me to some perfect examples of Sally's labels for her spell jars, and I got that resized and laid out to underglaze, too.

I thought the combination of the two turned out really well, but as you know if you've been reading this blog, having it look pretty before it's been bisqued and then glaze-fired are completely different things!

But the bisque went well!

Now for the glaze!

It should have been fairly simple. I picked a celadon, wanting a sort of rustic green, which is what happens when you use celadon glazes on stoneware clay instead of porcelain. What I didn't realize is that it would only turn out that way if it was put in a reduction firing, meaning that it goes in a gas kiln and the O2 is reduced in the firing chamber to create a chemical reaction which turns the glaze green.

And no, it doesn't look green when it goes on! Crazy, huh?

But when you put that sucker in an oxidation firing, meaning there's always O2 in the firing chamber, it just turns this sort of honey color, which I'm not particularly a fan of.

Even so, in this case, it turned out well!

So last week, I got it packed up and shipped to Folsom, only a month-and-a-half late. (Insert eye-roll here.) But remember how I mentioned the client is low maintenance?

Yeah, she was pretty happy with her cookie jar! And I got to learn some more about cone 10 glazes!

And really, that last picture is why I keep making ceramics. People get happy when they buy my stuff! The functional ceramics are incorporated into their daily routines. They get touched and used and thought about every day.

No, I'll probably never be rich from this (at least financially), but after everything I've been through in the last decade, being satisfied with my life is far more valuable to me. Making art and functional things beautiful has made my life so much richer than I could have imagined when I first started taking ceramics classes back in Folsom!


  1. Wow - I love that! I can see why she is super happy with it. Folsom - I have been through there. Is that where the prison Johnny Cash sings about is located?

    1. Yes, it is! I lived about five minutes away from it.
      And honestly? The prison, itself, is on a gorgeous piece of land next to Folsom Lake and Folsom Dam. Rolling hills and oak trees. I'm sure the inside isn't pretty, but the outside sure is!


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