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Getting Ready For Art on the Patio Sale

My summer studio looks remarkably like my back patio and I want to try having an open studio sale. So, Art on the Patio. Now that I’ve said it out loud, I have to do it. I’m having the usual pre-show angst. Do I have enough pieces made? What if I sell out in the first hour? What if no one shows up? What if I don’t sell anything? I’ll be fine once I get to the last weekend this month – which is when the sale is.

Just to add to the fall fun, Jim and I have matching hernias. Mine is lower right abdomen, his is upper left. Neither of us should be living kiln shelves. Jim gets his hernia fixed in early December. I get to see the specialist to find out about my hernia later this month. Once we start getting fixed, there will be no shelf lifting or kiln loading for at least three months. I’m not just in pre-show production mode, I’m in pre-enforced no clay mode.

I’ve got a number of pieces in varying stages of ready to be bisque fired. I’ve made some Christmas ornaments. I’ve got cowboy boots and chilis made, and I wanted something a bit different.


The koi and the ginkgo are commercial stamps. The leaves and stylized trees are my hand-made stamps.

I’ve been playing with ideas for boxes. The white clay piece has impressions from my leaf stamps. The brown clay piece has an impression from a doily I crocheted. I am not thrilled with the doily so I am now using it with clay.

Someone, and I don’t remember who, suggested I would be able to see the cones better if I painted a brick or post with red iron oxide and put that behind my cones. I don’t have a brick or post to paint, so I rolled out a slab, used the same doily I don’t like, plopped the slab over a mold and got a little wall for behind the cones. I’ll coat it with red iron oxide and bisque it standing behind the cones.

I’m still working on a non-piddling teapot. When I tested the teapots I bisque fired a few days ago, one pot wouldn’t pour right. I knew I had made a better pot than that. Then I discovered that a wasp had built a nest in the spout. It’s tough to destroy a wasp’s nest after it has been bisque fired. The pot poured significantly better after I managed to dig out the nest. img_3289img_3288

I’m still working on learning the Canon. These are today’s backyard photos.

I played with the telephoto lens the other night as I took sunset photos. img_3203img_3204img_3230img_3254

I learned that with the telephoto lens, I’m better off it I use manual focus. I also learned that the lens shortens the foreground. In some of the shots I took, it looks as if I lived in the middle of a city. When I checked, some of the houses were at least a half mile away and  many were a mile or more away.

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Latest Experiments

A friend and I were talking about pearl cotton, and my brain started creating. Pearl cotton is fairly thick. Yes, you can quilt with it, but it takes determination to pull the needle and pearl cotton through the quilt sandwich. What about couching? I’ve got a special sewing machine foot that has a groove in the bottom. It’s used for couching cords, thread, yarn, whatever. The drawback is that I can only use a zigzag stitch with that foot and I wanted something more subtle. Or… maybe if I used a blind hem stitch with the couching foot???? I’ll have to play around with the foot.


I made a thumbnail quilt. A scrap of fabric, a scrap of batting, some pearl cotton and started playing. I used the close up setting on the Canon for these shots. Notice how well that bit of thread I didn’t see shows up.


For the top four branches, I used crochet cotton for the couching. The lower left branch has double thickness green holographic thread. The right lower branch has double thickness copper holographic thread. The stem has a strand of green and a strand of copper holographic threads. I have magpie tendencies and like the copper holographic thread the best. Somewhere in the sewing room I’ve got some pale gray pearl cotton. I think pale gray would be better for showing off the fancy threads used for the couching.

I like the couching, but I don’t think this is the best design for that technique. I think trapunto would work better. On my next thumbnail quilt, I’ll pay with trapunto.


For this bit, I used a variegated green, polyester thread, single thickness. I think this is a better design for couching, but I’m not happy with the ends of the pearl cotton. I think if I do this again, I’ll grit my teeth, thread a needle, and pull the pearl cotton through the quilt sandwich. A knot on the back of a quilt is less distracting than a fraying end on the front. Unless I exploit the fraying and deliberately leave frayed fringe.

This morning, I had better luck with sunrise shots. I wanted to take photos of the western sky because the sky in the west had all the lovely rose colors. Although these shots look like they were taken at different times, they weren’t. They were taken one right after another.

I’ve been playing with the close up setting on the Canon. I may be able to avoid having to buy a macro lens.

Some of the shots, which aren’t posted here, would have been far better had I used a tripod. Next time.


I finally got the kiln to fire evenly. From the bottom, bottom shelf, next to bottom shelf, cones I looked at, top shelf. I’m used to seeing all the cones on the top shelf flat and the cones on the bottom shelf standing upright. This was a bisque firing, and I used ^06, ^04, and ^03. Only ^06 went down although I was sure I couldn’t see any cones through the peep hole.

A friend on the Claybuddies page (Facebook), suggested putting a post or soft brick that had been painted with red iron oxide behind the cones so I’d get better contrast and be able to see the cones. I’ll be making a standing slab to coat with RIO later today.

I wanted to be able to remember where I had the damper and lever that controls the gas when the kiln was firing evenly. I usually sketch, but this time, I took a photo. It’s an Olympic round gas kiln fired with propane. We don’t have a gas line out where I live. I printed out the photos and put them in my kiln log.

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Dawn, October 5, 2016

I started firing the kiln today at 6:00 AM. Being outside and it was dark, I decided to take sunrise photos. In the desert, sunrise is either spectacular or bland. This morning was bland.


6:05 AM. Kiln s lit and warming up.


6:06 AM. Sun lighting the eastern sky.


6:07 AM.


6:15 AM


6:20 AM


6:16 AM facing west.

I’m still working on composition of my shots, where I put the focal point, and where I aim the camera for a light sensor reading. Another 2000 or so shots, and I’ll start to get good at this.

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Crochet & Photography

I found a pattern for a crocheted runner for a small table. Thinking it would be a pretty tablecloth, I made row after row after row of pineapples. Then I crocheted the rows together. I forgot when I started this and have no idea how long it took me to make.

Yes, I should have blocked it before putting it on the table that Jim made. I just didn’t feel like it. I’m considering making a crocheted bedspread, but I’m going to hold off until I come to my senses.

It’s too cold today to work outside with clay, so I’m inside, writing and sometimes outside and taking photographs. I get an e-mail each week from Digital Photography School Click Here and I’ve been playing around with shadows, back lighting, and learning more about what the Canon Rebel T3i will do. It does a whole lot – and I’m still learning.


Looking east. With all the rain we’ve had, the trees are full of leaves and grass is growing. Fuzzy back lit.


It rained this morning which left clouds on the mountains and opportunities to take back lit photos. Looking north at the Dona Ana Mountains.


While I was taking photos, the sky began to clear. Looking West at the Robledo Mountains.


Still looking north, but after the sky cleared. We’ve had some rain the last couple weeks, and the desert is green. Normally, that view is brown with a few green dots here and there. It’s not often that the mountains are green.


Looking northwest at the very green desert.


One of the huge agaves we have in the back year. The bottoms of the leaves are smooth and the patterns are an illusion. img_2993

This is a cholla (choy-ah) in our backyard. Those light green things are where the flowers were.

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Up, Down, and Sideways

I’ve been playing with my art toys – sketchbook, camera, mud. Art keeps me sane and closer to center. Art is the only time I’m not wondering if my reactions/feelings/expressions are “normal” or the result of bipolar disorder. When I play with my art toys, I’m at my most calm and most centered.

The last glaze firing, I couldn’t see the cones and didn’t know that they had fallen. For those who don’t play in the mud, cones are akin to the thing stuck into the turkey. When the thing pops up, the turkey is done. When the cones fall down, the pots are done. That left me having to refire the entire load. This time, the cones went down as planned. I decided to try an experiment. I’ve tried doing a hold for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and 40 minutes after the cones go down. My version of a hold is to lower the gas and allow the kiln to slowly cool. A 20-minute hold doesn’t give me the colors I want. A 40-minute hold gives me dull colors. A 30-minute hold gives me colors that are alive.

On Saturday, I decided to try an experiment – 30 minute hold followed by lowering the gas a second time and holding for 10 minutes. I should have skipped the second hold. I had crystal formation in some of the glazes – but that wasn’t the effect I wanted. Because I had rushed the bisque firing, a number of my pieces cracked. I used them for test tiles to see how combinations of glaze would come out.


I used too much glaze on the leaves, and I didn’t get the nice color run I was expecting. Instead, I got crystals and pin holing. I don’t know if I want to retire this piece with the hope that the pinholes will disappear or if I want to just leave it as it is.


This piece cracked badly. I have been playing around with lids, and came up with this for a lid variation. I like the color combination so I’ll have to make another pot like this.

The pot on the left is how this one is supposed to look. The lid fired properly last time and I forgot that it was on the shelf rather than in the kiln. I put a lid that was in the kiln on this pot, and got the pot on the right. I like the color combination on the right better than the one on the left, but the lid on the left fits better than the lid on the right. I haven’t decided which lid I’m going to use.


The lid was made for this badly designed teapot. Yes, water will pour out of it, but the pot piddles badly.

A second pot like the one above.


Both pots together so you can see the size differences. I played with underglazes and pointillist technique. Then I carved stylized pine trees into the pots. Forest for the Trees. I was hoping the trees would stand out more, but maybe it’s better that you have to look for them to see them.


I was playing around making coasters in 4″ square and 5″ square sizes. The designs are decent, but the execution of the coasters is bad. I put feet on them, but it was really hot, the coasters got too dry, the feet didn’t adhere well…. and the bottoms are ugly.

My summer studio is on the back patio and my pots are exposed to the elements and the birds. A bird left a deposit on this tile and I didn’t want to reglaze it so I didn’t scrape off the deposit. Just in case you want to know what bird poop looks like when it gets fired. It doesn’t melt or burn off.


Another cracked pot that I sued as a test tile. I kind of like the glaze on this. I expected more flow and got unexpected crystals.


I might be about done playing with underglazes, pointillism, and pinch pots. Still, I kind of like the one on the left.


The last batch of soap dishes. I’ll have to see how well they sell before I make any more.

I’ve been playing with designs for temporary tattoos. I found a company in Tucson that makes custom temporary tattoos. The design on the left is a longitudinal section of plant reproductive parts. Sexy without fear of censorship. The design on the right is from my tree series pots and the design i the middle is me playing around with a leaf.

It’s cloudy today and it’s supposed to rain of and on. As long as I had the camera out, I decided to play with scenery. I took a number of photos with the camera aimed at sky for 2/3; the camera  aimed at ground for 2/3 and one with 1/3 for the sky. I’m having fun seeing what I get and am grateful that I have a digital camera. I would have gone through 11 rolls of film this morning if I were using my original Canon 35mm slr.


This was sunset last night.

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Experiments or Sometimes Clay Doesn’t Translate

Recently, I read an article about tile found at an archeological dig in Israel. Assorted tiles, dating from the Second Temple period, were found. When the tiles were fitted together, seven different patterns were made. Each looked like a quilt block. I decided to take the one that was easiest to make a pattern for and do a test quilt tile. I think the title given to this quilt block is Square in a Square. Draw a square, put a square on point inside of that, put another square inside of that, put another square on point inside of that. How hard could this be?

Harder than I though.

First, I drew out how the block would look.


Squares are easy. The hypotenuse isn’t. Not a problem, I’ll just measure each side of the right triangle.

That worked, but I hand to add 1/4″ all around for a seam allowance. So, I used my quilter’s ruler to mark a 1/4″ seam.


More measuring, and I was ready to cut out squares and triangles. I started with the innermost square and added the triangles to form a larger square. Everything fit. I added the next triangles to make the next larger square. Everything fit. I added the final triangles and swore a lot. Nothing fit. I remeasured. I recut. Nothing fit. I pressed. Nothing fit.


I did not make any more quilt blocks. But…. I’m rolling around ideas in my head for making this into what it originally was – a square tile. I’ll play around with ideas for texture and then figure out which glaze goes where. A ceramic tile should be easier than a fabric tile. At least clay doesn’t need seam allowances.

Not having success with the quilt block, I worked on the experimental quilt. If I were making a sculpture, this would be a maquette. If I were going to do a painting, this would be a study. I’ve no idea what an experimental quilt is called. Probably an experimental quilt.


Here’s where I started yesterday. You can’t see in this photo, but I did a stem stitch all around the tree. I used some silk thread I have. Good thing I got the thread on sale for half price. It’s normally $16 a spool. Sure is nice thread, though. I did the stem stitch because I don’t trust Wonder Under to hold the tree for long and I didn’t want to do a blanket stitch.

The leaves on top were done with Inktense water color pencils. The leaves on the tree  and underground were done with Sennelier artist oil sticks. I had to wait a few days before setting the paint with a hot iron. Some of the oil in the oil stick bled out. I’m not sure how I feel about that. The water color pencils bled a whole lot and I’m  not sure how I feel about that, either.


I used some Razzle Dazzle to outline the tree. I used embroidery floss to outline the leaves on the tree and to form the stems.


I used a silver metallic thread to outline the leaves above the tree and used a holographic thread to make the veins in the leaves.


I originally planned on purple Razzle Dazzle for the veins in the leaves on the trees, but I’m now thinking another holographic thread would work better.

Eventually, I’ll get to the leaves under the trees. I won’t use holographic thread on those leaves because I want the  dead leaves to look dead.

I’ve been thinking about how to quilt the background, but I’m not coming up with anything spectacular.

When I get done with this one, I hope to have all the flaws corrected. I’m considering making the final quilt the same size as this, but I now have different ideas for the leaves.

One quilt at a time.

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Hurricane In The Desert

A hurricane is headed for Mexico and expected to travel up the Baja peninsula. For some reason, a hurricane west of here causes rain here. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation; I’m just not motivated to find the explanation.

I’ve been reading articles on the Digital Photography School site which is here. Lots of good articles. I’ve been taking what I learn on the site and playing around with the camera, a Canon Rebel.

When it rains, the desert comes alive, and it comes alive quickly.


My suddenly green back yard leading up to the Dona Ana Mountains.


Assorted cactus and I don’t know what any of them are called.



Because these only bloom in the rain and the rain isn’t that frequent, when it does rain it blooms with a profusion of flowers.


Only the very middle are buds about to open. The rest are spent flowers from past years.


This one has flowers just starting to open.


These are chocolate plants. No, you can’t eat them. They are named for the incredible chocolate smell they produce. The plants flower in the morning and the flowers are dead by late afternoon. You cannot kill this plant and it spreads everywhere.


I’ve no idea what this is, but it’s blooming.


I tried airbrushing the hose out, but that wasn’t successful. This is a Mexican Bird of Paradise. The most common one has yellow flowers and grows everywhere – especially where you don’t want it to grow. This is the less common red one. It’s fussier about growing and blowing.



This is an anomaly. It’s a pink yucca and it’s supposed to bloom only in the spring. Those odd pods are actually seed pods from the spring blooming. Because it’s been so wet lately, we get a second bloom.


The flower is pretty, but don’t get too close. The spines have a barb on them and they need little encouragement to leave the cactus and lodge in your leg.



I should have moved the hose. This is one of the cactus with barbed spines surrounded by a chocolate plant.



Me playing with the camera. I think maybe there’s a quilt in there somewhere.

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From the 8/28/16 Glaze Firing

I did a glaze firing on Sunday and we unloaded the kiln today. The good news is, I got even heat in the middle and the top. Things on the bottom shelf will have to be fired again because the glaze didn’t melt. I have an Olympic Torchbearer gas kiln, and it’s notorious for firing unevenly. I will figure this kiln out. No inanimate object is going to get the best of me. So there!

I was playing with pointillist type poking using underglazes. I like some of the results. The Velvet Underglazes turn darker when they are fired to ^6 and I’m not used to having to think in colors that are radically different from what’s in the jar.


I didn’t cover the white clay completely with pokes, and I think the mugs came out nicer because of that.


The vase in the middle was an attempt to fix a problem. It’s only been about 35 years or so since I painted. I painted the sunflowers then realized I should have painted the background first. I managed to get the background in around the flowers.

The vase on the right came out much darker than I had thought.


I need to figure out a way to blend the colors more on the insides of these pots.


These were supposed to look as if the insides were under water. I’ll have to keep working on that.


I don’t remember what I was trying to accomplish with the center pot.


The good news: I like how the teapots came out. The bad news: these pots are nonfunctional. I made an error with the design of the spout. This particular spout doesn’t piddle. I know that because I have another pot I made several years back that doesn’t piddle. But… the problem is that if I tip the pot enough for the water to come out the spout, then the lid falls off and water comes out the top of the pot. I did a little rearranging with the spout on a pot that hasn’t been bisque fired yet.



When I made this pot, I hated the lid. It was ugly beyond belief. I decided to try one thing before I trashed the pot. I twisted two coils together and put them around the lid. Now, I’ve got a pot I like.


I did not build this pot well and there are a couple major cracks in the side. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pot I could sell, but I decided it would be worthwhile to use the pot for a glaze experiment. I put PC Art Deco Green in the fern leaves. Then I covered the green (and the rest of the pot) with Hibiscus shino. I love the shade of green that I got. I have some platters with the fern motif and they haven’t been bisque fired yet. That gets done this weekend. I’m looking forward to using this glaze combination on them.


The pot in the middle, with the green lines, is actually a blooming yucca. You can’t see the flowers because the underglaze I sued wasn’t heavy enough. The pot on the right was a forest through the trees experiment. I like the concept, but I have to work on execution more.

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The Blouse From Hell and Other Sewing Events

I had some fabric that Jim had bought and I wasn’t sure what to make with it. I also had a Vogue pattern I hadn’t used before. It’s a good that I know how to sew because the directions given in the pattern are… awful. If there’s a hard way to do something, that’s the construction technique given in the instructions. Button placement, as directed by the pattern, aren’t the best idea. Then there’s supposed to be a snap holding up one side of the blouse. After more than 50 years of sewing, I still haven’t found a snap that will hold that well.

I made up my own directions for construction techniques that I thought made more sense and I put the buttons where they made sense to me. Rather than a snap, I added another button.

Finding buttons was challenging. There are way too many colors in this fabric and way too few buttons at JoAnn’s. Some floral buttons would have worked, but there weren’t enough buttons. I  thought about dragonfly buttons, but I’m glad now that I rejected that idea. The blue in the dragonfly was off just enough to look not right when near the blue on the fabric.

I settled on buttons that look like iridescent shell but are probably plastic. They are cutout in a pattern that has an Asian feel.


In with all the white in the background, this is a busy pattern. Both front pieces are identical why is why there’s such a large overlap in the front. The pattern called for an incredibly long tail in the back and a slightly less long tail in the front. I thought that would be a tad much, so I made the hem even and the blouse a good 11″ shorter than the pattern.


The button. That’s some of my silk thread for the fancy stitching and the buttonholes.


If you look carefully, there’s a button on the left. That’s where the snap was supposed to be.

It’s a comfortable blouse and I like that the buttons are subtle. This fabric has enough WOW in it without WOW buttons.

I’m working on a maquette of the quilt I want to make. I’m playing with assorted techniques and I want to work all the bugs out on a smaller quilt before I make the real thing.


This was the second drawing and you can see there were revisions.

I made a pattern of the tree and tested out how it would look on the background fabric.


You can see the drawing peeking through the fabric.


I made a pattern of the tree, flipped the pattern over, and traced around it on Wonder Under.


Originally, I was going to use the fabric in this photo for the tree. I liked how it popped on the background fabric. Then I realized it would be too busy considering all the leaves I’m putting on this quilt.


The final choice for the tree.

At the moment, I’ve fused the tree to the yellow fabric and I’m sewing down the edges with silk thread. I don’t trust Wonder Under to keep sticking the tree to the background.

Once I get the tree sewn down, I’ll start working with watercolor pencils and paint sticks.

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How Green Is My Desert

It has been rainy heavily the last few days and it doesn’t take long for the desert to become green. On Sunday night, it rained hard enough to wash sand and dirt across the road.

I think this might be desert sage. Words hide in my brain and I don’t know where they hide. It’s a side effect of psych meds. The last set of meds caused words to hide on the right side of my brain. I’d have to move the word to the left side of my brain so I could see and say the word. These meds, which work far better than any other meds I’ve been on, hide words and I can’t find them.


Looking at my back door. IMG_2314IMG_2316IMG_2310IMG_2296

The view from my chair on the Summer Studio.

Whatever these bushes are, they only bloom when it’s humid. Humid being a relative word when it comes to deserts. At the moment, the humidity is 30%. Decidedly moist for these parts.


Two of the barrel cactus in the back yard.

The peppers and tomatoes look better than they have in weeks.


The Dona Ana Mountains, as seen from my back patio, are now green. This will only last a few days unless it rains again.

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Glaze Experimenting

A friend e-mailed photos of some glaze experiments he did. After putting on the base glaze, he used a sponge to apply the second glaze. He got some great results.

Being inspired, I decided to give this idea a try. I’m not wild about applying glaze with a sponge, so I stuck to a paintbrush and doing the pointillist thing.


I started with a green celadon base. Then I poked the pot with a paintbrush using all the shades of green glaze I have. Some of the spots are applied thicker than others. I’m wondering if all the spots will run, if only some of the spots run, or if none of the spots run.

This piece was supposed to be a functional tea pot. It’s a bad design. I used a similar spout on another teapot years ago and discovered, as I had been told about this type of spout, that the pot did not piddle. This spout is too high on the pot if I’m going to use this style of pot. When I tried pouring water from the pot, water came out both the spout and the top of the pot. I like the shape of the pot and I want to keep experimenting to get a functional teapot. I’m also not sure I like that kind of a lid for a teapot. The next pot will have the spout lower and I may use a lid that is the reverse of this lid.

This is the only piece in this set of experiments made with a white ^6 stoneware.



I started with a blue shino and poked the pot with every shade of blue glaze I have. This pot and the one below were made from New Mexico Clay’s Anasasi ^6 clay.


I can’t remember what the base glaze is and I’m not in the mood to go out to the Summer Studio and look in my glaze notebook. The pot has assorted shades of red and pink including a pink/red shino. I used a pink shino on the top 1/3 of the vase. That particular glaze runs like Jesse Owens. I’m curious to see if those spots will run or just alter the base glaze a bit.

The next glaze firing is tentatively scheduled for August 28. If I like the way these pots turn out, the next experiments will feature pots with lots of spots from two different colors, pots with thick spots, pots with thin spots. I’m still working with the same basic shape for the pots and experimenting with the glazes.

Want to see what Nina Marie is up to this week? Click here.

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Rain In The Desert, Mud, & Thumbnail Quilt

It’s raining and the desert has a sharp, green glow. I bought filters for the Canon DSLR and put the UV filter on the lens. All of these were taken from my back patio.


This is one of my favorite female sculptures. I was using a ^6 fiber clay which made making her arms and clothes easier. The pockets are three dimensional and I can stick a finger or two in each pocket. Unfortunately, the piece cracked in the glaze firing.


I did a bit of experimenting once I had the photos on the laptop. I’m using iPhotos mostly because I don’t know how to use anything else. The image below is enhanced.


Below is what the camera saw.


Looking down the hill with the Robledo Mountains in the background. I used the telephoto for this shot – those houses are not at all close to my house.


The image on the left was enhanced, the image on the right is what the camera saw.


I played a bit with the telephoto to see what difference the illusion of moving the background closer to me would make.

Version 2

In Western New York, fall has a yellow light. This photo has a fall feel, but it was taken this morning. Fall in New Mexico is green. When I tried to make a quilt using fall colors, I realized I was using a lot of green. My quilt was reflecting what I was seeing here rather than what I remembered from New York.


Version 2

Looking north towards the Dona Ana Mountains.

Version 2

I’ve decided I really like this filter – at least for shooting in the rain. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the filter effects shots taken in bright sun.

I did a combination bisque and glaze firing this past weekend. The Mystery Clay is, I guess, ^04. I glazed the bisque-fired Mystery Clay pieces and bisque fired the ^6 greenware.


I didn’t realize how dark the underglazes would be when used on a dark brown clay. Still, I think this vase would look nice with some bright flowers in it.


I had sunflowers in mind when I made this vase – it’s one of my larger pieces.


A plate I made using Mystery Clay and ^6 white. I used a plate I had gotten second hand for the hump mold.


A coiled bowl that almost ended up swirled. If I’m going to do swirled clay again, I’ll use hump molds rather than try to coil build.


Little bitty pinch bowls that I used to experiment with underglazes.

Just for fun, some shots of my studio. The platter on the banding wheel is a glaze experiment. I’m hoping the lighter colored glaze will run down the sides of the platter and make an interesting mix. The weird pot to the upper left of the platter is a mistake that may turn out really right. I thought I had bisque fired the pot, but I was wrong. I didn’t realize this until after I the piece half glazed. Then a chunk broke off. The nice part about swirly pots is that if a part breaks, it can be incorporated into the design. Translation: I didn’t want to stuff it in reclaim so I decided the break is a design element.


I’m still playing with thumbnail quilts. With this piece I learned that I don’t want to use colored markers to make leaves, if I want to do a leaf like the one in the top right corner, I need to be more careful about what color I use for the veins.

I think I’ve got the design worked out for a quilt. I’ve got a sketch I like and idea on how I want to make the leaves. Next, I need to play with watercolor crayons on fabric. If I can do what I have in mind, this is going to be a fun quilt.

If you Love Lucy, check out what Nina Marie has been doing.

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Thumbnail Quilts

They’re like thumbnail sketches only different.

I’ve been feeling as if I’m about to give birth to emotional art, but I can’t figure out what it is that I’m trying to get out of me. Meanwhile, I’ve been wanting to make a quilt, but I seem to be design stuck. I’m still wanting to make an Antarctica quilt, but I haven’t been able to figure out what I want on it and how I want to make it. Window with several panes? Collection of rectangles not all the same size but fitting into a nice rectangle? Part of it batik? I’ve been sketching, but I haven’t been able to work out what I wanted.

I decided to make thumbnail quilts experimenting with a couple ideas. What if I used a double thickness of variegated thread and reproduced the stylized pine tree that I’ve been putting on mugs? I grabbed some scrap material – linen/rayon blend because that was a solid and on top of the scrap pile. I grabbed some scrap batting. Cut batting, folded the scrap fabric around the batting, and proceeded to see if what I had in mind could come out of my hands. Then, I thought it might be interesting to try stippling by hand.


Stippling by hand is…. ugly. I almost like the stylized pine tree. Maybe I’ll try an appliqué version. I might like that better. On the left, I tried quilting and leaving open spaces inside the tree. On the right, I tried quilting in the spaces inside the tree. I’m not wild about either of them.

So I tried a bit of variation. I got out embroidery floss and used three strands at a time. I grabbed a different color to make the veins in the leaf. I first thought about doing echo quilting like what’s found in traditional Hawaiian quilts. Then I got the idea that maybe French knots would work. It took a few tries before I figured out how to make French knots. It’s been a few years.


I like the embroidery part and I may play around with abstract lines. The French knots aren’t all that exciting. I’ve now got some leaf ideas floating about my brain.


Same blouse pattern but with the alternate hem. I really like this pattern. The blouse is cool, comfortable and I don’t have to wear a bra under it. What could possibly be better?

I also made Jim two pair of boxers from leftover fabric from this blouse, and leftover fabric from the set of pillowcases I made from fabric I bought for…. what was it I bought that fabric for? Must have been for pillowcases.

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Mountain Mist Quilt Batting and Quilt Memories

I get a Quilt Of The Month e-mail from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln International Quilt Study and Museum each month. This month’s quilt is from a pattern featured on the inside of a wrapper for Mountain Mist Batting. There are two short videos on that page that explain about the exhibit and show many of the quilts in that exhibit. I told Jim that as soon as we get enough air miles to fly for free, we have to visit this museum.

When I made my first quilts back in the 70’s, I used Mountain Mist Quilt Batting. I remember seeing a quilt pattern inside the wrapper although I don’t think I ever used any of the patterns. Until I watched the videos this morning, I had no idea the profound impact on quilting that the Mountain Mist patterns had. These patterns are the forerunners of what is now termed modern quilts.

So much of our lives are presented in quilts. When I was in law school, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY had an exhibit of quilts by Faith Ringold. Her quilts told her life story.

The videos brought back memories of my early quilting days. The first quilt I made was made from fabric scraps – lots of polyester in that quilt. I never use polyester for anything now – only cotton, linen, rayon and bamboo in assorted blends. For my first quilt, I used the scraps because my grandmother had made a quilt for me when I was about seven. I remember seeing her use cardboard from packages of rickrack and binding for templates. This was late 50’s, well before rotary cutters and quilter’s rulers. I remember her cutting pieces of leftover fabric using those cardboard templates.

My grandmother sewed all of her clothes and I remember seeing her roll up the left over fabric and tie it with another strip of leftover fabric. She never threw fabric away. It’s my grandmother’s fault that I had amassed nearly an entire room full of scrap fabric before I attacked the sewing room and did major cleaning and tossing.

My grandmother used scraps for my quilt.  I remember looking at that quilt and being reminded of the clothes and stuffed toys she had made me because leftover fabrics from the clothes and toys were in that quilt. The quilt had a huge heart made from leftover light brown fabric (she had made me a blouse out of that fabric) in the middle of the quilt. When Jim saw the quilt I had made from scraps, he pointed at different squares and said what I had made from each scrap. “There’s my pants…..” That quilt was done entirely by machine, and it exquisitely shows my inexperience. I even quilted it by machine. We lived in a tiny apartment and my “sewing room” was the kitchen table. I did a horrible job of quilting and the batting shifted when I washed the quilt. I still have the quilt.

Eventually, Jim made me a set of plexiglass templates. I had the templates in both the cutting size and the quilting size. I’d take a pencil, draw around the cutting size template on fabric, and cut out the piece. Then I’d take the finished size template and draw around it to show the sewing lines on the fabric. I was making quilts entirely by hand back then. Jim even made me a quilt frame so I could quilt by hand.  I made a quilt for my sister’s wedding and for my brother’s wedding. My sister married a Canadian fellow and they lived in Hamilton, Ontario. I bought red fabric and white fabric to make red maple leaves on a white background. We joked about how my brother-in-law would have to salute the bed each night. For my brother, I used yellow fabric and a brown print to make a fence rail quilt. I think that was my favorite quilt.  Each quilt took me a year to make.

I have the remains of my grandmother’s button box. My grandmother saw an ad in the newspaper for a huge amount of buttons for a small price. She sent away for the buttons and I remember they came in what my 3-year-old brain thought was a huge box.  When  I was little, I would play with those buttons. She gave me a needle, thread, and the box of buttons so I could string buttons. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor and playing with those buttons. Now, when I look at the buttons, I think: these are the buttons on my blouse, these are the buttons on my pajamas….. My grandmother was always poor, but she once told me that one thing she would spend money on was buttons because buttons can make a garment be wonderful. To this day, I have no qualms about spending money on fancy buttons. Jim, who didn’t grow up sewing, balks at spending $4 a button for his shirts.

The page also has a link to both online exhibits and exhibits that are at the museum now.
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Can You See The Forest For The Trees?

I’m getting ready to do a bisque firing this coming weekend. Instead of making new pots this morning, I worked on putting terra sig on the bottoms of the pots that have dried. Terra sig is a refined slip. Paint on thin layers, burnish, and my pots have shiny white bottoms. Why? Because the terra sig is thick enough to make a smooth bottom on the pot thereby making the pot furniture friendly.

I also did some under glazing. Underglazes can go on greenware – pots that have not been bisque fired. They work more or less like paint and what you see is more or less what you get.

The idea is to make the pots look as if they are under water and undulating. I think the underglazes are going to be darker after they are covered in a clear glaze and  glaze fired.


I’m working with two types of clay which is why there are white pots and brown pots.


These next two are purely to play with.


The pot on the left has yellows and greens. The one on the right is an experiment. I used purple, lilac, pink and rose. Underglazes are geared for low-fire work and I’m using a mid-fire clay. Sometimes, when underglazes are fired at a mid-fire temperature, the color disappears. Reds are particularly susceptible to this.

Next, a bit of silliness.


I’ve been playing with lidded containers. I tried a technique I saw in a magazine, but I didn’t like the lid. The twisted coil makes the lid bearable. I used shades of green on the pots and carved stylized pine trees into the pots.


This was an experiment that got away from me. It was supposed to be a mug, but I made it too tall. I could: cut part of it off – which is a pain. Or I could turn it into a vase. More greens and yellows. This pot was still wet when I painted on the underglaze. Because the layers of underglaze didn’t completely dry before the next layer got added, the colors blend.

So…. looking at the pots…. can you see the forest for the trees?