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Playing In The Mud; Playing In The Sewing Room


Remember the blouse pattern that gave me so many problems mostly because I figured I was too smart for directions? I used it again. I’m still ignoring some of the directions. I think the pattern makes some parts far more difficult and tedious than the parts need to be.

I went through my fabric stash and found this fabric. I have no idea why I bought the fabric and I can’t remember if I bought it or Jim bought it. Once Jim learned he could pick out fabric for his boxers and shirts, he loves buying fabric.

I took a deep breath before I used the fancy thread for fancy stitches on this blouse. Superior Threads had quite a sale a while back and I got the thread for half price. This is good because the thread, 100% silk, is usually $16 a spool. I love this thread. I will need to sell lots of art to support my new silk thread habit.


I’ve been working on teapots. The spout may look goofy, but it’s piddle proof. The spout – which I learned at a seminar given by someone whose name I’ve forgotten – is patterned after the spout on a kerosene can. It’s not good to have kerosene piddling all over the table, so someone designed a piddle proof spout.

I tried a new approach to lids. I cut out a circle the size of the opening and used a golf ball to form an indentation in the top. The advantage is that it’s easy to hook a tea ball on a chain over the edge of the pot and still have the lid on the pot. It’s also easy to hold the lid on while pouring tea that goes only in the mug.


I tried a different approach to this lid. I saw the idea for the lid in a magazine. I cut out a circle, used the golf ball to make an indentation, and then flipped the lid over so it’s bump side up. The pot didn’t look right. After some thought and consideration regarding pitching the pot, I twisted two coils and make a wreath around the top. I like how it looks. Jim made me 1/8″ thickness sticks so I could roll out a thin slab. Finally, a flange that doesn’t make me cringe.

Now, I have to rethink how I’m going to glaze the pot. I was going to use underglazes, pointillist approach, and try to emulate a photo of a hummingbird nest that was on Facebook. I though leaving the finger marks from coil building would help with the nest effect. It probably would, but the twisted coil wreath makes hummingbird nest a bad idea for glazing. I’m now considering using a glaze that will float and flow with the hope that the glaze will highlight the finger marks. I was planning on either leaving the inside unglazed or using only underglazes on the inside. Maybe I’ll do nest pointillist on the inside. A pot suffering from dissociative personality disorder made by an artist who has bipolar disorder. If I try hard, maybe I can come up with a pot that has a half-dozen different DSM-V diagnoses.


Several years ago, I saw the Chihuli exhibit at the Albright-Knox gallery in Buffalo, NY. There was one display of glass bowls that looked as if they were undulating. They gave the impression of some life form under water moving with the current. I decided to try to have the same effect with a pinch pot. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m making interesting pinch pots while I figure it out.


I’ve been making the undulating pinch pot bowls, and I wanted to do something similar with a pinch pot vase. This is a small version and a first attempt. I got the second coil of clay added without a seam that screams added clay. I’m not sure I like the form, though. I’ll have to do a little more playing around before I’m ready to make a life-size vase. It needs to be less top heavy and I have to keep flowers and balance in mind while I’m undulating the pot.  Maybe I’ll like this pot better after it’s glazed.

There are some great artists on the web. Take a look at what Nina Marie has been doing. Click here.

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Another Thing That’s Good About Being A Multi-Media Artist

When I get tired of one art toy, there’s always another art toy with which to play. A few weeks back, I bought a sewing pattern on sale. Time to sew the blouse. I used leftover natural linen/rayon blend and navy linen/rayon blend fabric. I’ve been sewing for more than 50 years so why do I need to look at the directions? Besides, the directions for this blouse were unnecessarily complicated. I could save myself a lot of hand sewing if I used my serger.

I sewed the neckpiece on backwards. I thought I was making a mistake, but kept on going. I used my serger, so ripping out the neckpiece was not easy. I had to cut a new neckpiece and facing. Because I was using leftover fabric, I didn’t have much fabric to spare. I was surprised I had enough bits of navy to make another neckpiece. What did I learn from this? Don’t throw out the fabric until after I complete sewing the garment. I also learned that I like the way linen/rayon fabric drapes.



There are mistakes in the blouse, but it fits well, is comfortable, and I’ll be using this pattern again.

Having had sewing problems, I switched back to clay.

For years, I’ve struggled to make decent lidded pots. I hand build, so the opening on the pot is never perfectly round. Lids only fit one way. It took forever before I could finally insert a proper galley on a lid. I finally gave up and tried a technique I read about somewhere. I rolled a slab, cut out a circle, and put the circle on the top of the pot. Then I rolled a golfball around the center of the circle. This requires gentle rolling. That gave me a depressed lid which fits in any direction. No more struggling to remember how the lid goes on the pot.





I like the texture.

While waiting for the clay circle to set up enough to manipulate, I made a few pinch pots.




I like how the finger prints show up, so  I don’t try to smooth them out. I’m going to have to think about how to glaze these pots so the fingerprints are still visible after glazing.




Although I haven’t decided how I’m going to glaze these, I usually put one glaze on the outside of the pot and two different glazes on the inside. I put the second inside glaze on heavily around the top of the pot with the hope that the second glaze will flow down the inside of the pot. Sometimes, it works.

Want to know what a few other artists are doing? Click here.


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While it was too hot to work outside…

It’s been getting to 100+ for the past week or so. When it’s 80 at 7:00 AM, it’s going to be too hot to work outside. The beauty of being a multi-media artist is that when it’s too hot for clay, it’s air conditioned cool in my sewing room .

I had wanted to make some pillowcases. The original plan was to have a pale green and a medium blue. I used Dharma Trading’s Procion dye Parakeet. If I put the dye bucket in the shade and it’s not too hot out, I get a pale green. If I put the dye bucket in the sun and it’s hot out (it was 104), I get blue. The pillowcases weren’t difficult to make – just time consuming. There are no pattern pieces, so I had to do quite a bit of measuring, ironing in the cutting line, then cutting on the fold. Here are the results.

I tried out some new-to-me threads for the fancy stitching.

It was cloudy this morning, so I could do some experiments with under glazes. I like the idea of pointillism. I did three experiments: starting with a dark color and each following color is progressively lighter; starting with a light color and each following color is progressively darker; coating one of each with water to see if I can have softer dots. This is all greenware, so things will look different after being glaze fired. With the exception of the pinch pot, these pots are all part of my experiment using just one basic shape – slightly larger bottom, indented slightly in the middle, flared at the top.


In each photo, the mug on the right was brushed with water.

I wanted to play with leaf designs so I made some templates. After finding a pencil that would draw on dry clay, I traced the templates and proceeded to turn them into leaves.


I grabbed the wrong brush when I tried to make veins in the leaves. So I made weird, wide lines.


I grabbed the right brush this time. I was playing with coloring the leaves in an unnatural color. Wonder what the world would look like with turquoise and purple leaves. I hope they look less like feathers after they are fired.


I tried for a bit of realism with this one. Maybe I’ll like it better after it’s glaze fired. It’s greenware at the moment.


An experimental pinch pot.

On my last trip to Albuquerque, I stopped at New Mexico Clay and bought some Velvet Underglazes. So far, I like these a whole lot better than the Liquid Under Glaze. The velvets seem to cover better, don’t get streaky, and come in really cool colors – some utterly brilliant.

Posted in Pottery

Preliminary Underglaze Experiment Results

After discovering that the unidentified clay was definitely not cone 6, I decreed that all pieces made of unidentified clay would be deemed low fire. I decided to use the pinch pots as experiments.


I used two different brands of underglaze. There are some pots that appear to have a shiny glaze on them. They do. Those underglazes do turn into a regular glaze when bisque fired.

The other glazes require a coat of clear glaze and then a glaze firing.


I particularly like this pot. The outside has an underglaze that is glossy after  being bisque fired. The inside is one of the Designer Velvet underglazes.


I’m pleased, so far, with the pointillist pots. I’ve got five mugs slowly drying beneath two lays of plastic. When the mugs are dry, I’ll be doing some pointillist experiments. I want to see what happens when I let the colors progress from light to dark or from dark to light. Because these pots will be fired to cone 6 (mid-fire range), some of the underglaze colors will change.


This one almost worked out the way I wanted. I used several layers of assorted blues for the sky and several layers of assorted…. blues? greens? both? for the ground. I think took a very wet brush and painted water over the underglaze. I was hoping for a blend of colors to give the piece depth. I suspect some of the colors will change when I glaze fire this piece.


This pot is going to be a surprise. It will be coated with clear glaze and fired to about cone 05 – low-fire range. The discoloration of the clay comes from that part of the pot being in the flame path. I’m curious about whether the discoloration will disappear or become more prominent when the piece is glaze fired.

I’m having fun working with this particular shape and want to play more with it. The not yet dry mugs are made in this shape.

All of my work is coil built. I do know how to throw, but I don’t enjoy doing it. That’s why I stick with hand built. There’s something zen like and meditative about hand building that doesn’t happen for me when I use a potter’s wheel.

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Making Interesting Mistakes

I thought I was using a mid-fire clay. Turned out I was using a low-fire clay. Why is this important? Because when low-fired clay is fired to a mid-fire temperature, the low-fired clay melts. All over the shelf and on to two really nice pieces. I had soaked dried clay in water to turn it back into useable clay – reclaim. I didn’t realize I was mixing low-fire clay with mid-fire clay.  IMG_1767

These didn’t completely melt – but they will live on in the proposed Crock Garden. It’s like a rock garden, but I’ll be planting plants in failed pots.

Having made several more pieces from that batch of reclaim, I had to be creative.

I couldn’t use the mid-fire glazes on low-fire clay. If a mid-fire glaze is fired to a low-fire temperature, the glaze doesn’t mature. It stays nasty and powdery. Jim dug out the under glazes. Under glazes are colored glazes that go under the final – usually clear – glaze.


I’ve been experimenting by giving one shape many different decorations/glazes/carving. Above is a pointillist sort of sunflowers on a sky background. Alas, I neglected to put the sky in first, so I had to do background around the sunflowers.


Originally, I was going to use the same glazes on this piece as on the piece made from white stoneware. The brown clay would cause the glazes to look a bit different. Because this clay is low-fire and the stoneware is mid-fire, I had to rethink how I wanted this vase to look. So I played with underglazes and brushed water over the top of layered glazes. I’m hoping that will give the underglazes more depth.


This piece is made from mid-fire clay, but I wanted to see what would happen if I layered  a number of different blues and purples.


Usually, underglazes applied to a brown clay are duller after they are fired so I’m curious to see how this will look when it’s finished.


To test out some of the underglazes, I used buttons that will eventually go on a fiber art piece.

All of these pieces are greenware – they haven’t been bisque fired so they are fragile and the colors of the under glazes may change once the pieces are fired. The bisque fire is scheduled for tomorrow. The kiln will be unloaded on Tuesday and there will be photos.