Monthly Archives: September 2013

Preparing for Saturday’s Sample Sale

This is the third year that I’ve had a sample sale on the first Saturday in October.  The first year it rained, the second year was very cold, and this year it will be just right! This is a chance to clear my studio shelves of everything I’ve learned and tried in the past year to make room for upcoming new techniques and projects.  It’s also a chance to “let go” of other pottery items that I thought I loved– a chance for someone else to love them.  My optimism was buoyed by two of my biggest fans, my daughter, Lily, and her boyfriend, Christian.  Their timing was perfect as they got to experience the potter’s Christmas–the opening of a kiln after a glaze firing. The kiln goddess was very kind.  The weather is great this week, and I’m using it as a chance to “push” myself to see how much I can accomplish this week–glazing, firing–without getting to the point of making a regrettable mess of something.  (all potters know what I mean….)  Pacing myself and enjoying the process.  Anyone have any advice to share?

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Sincere thank you to my sister

  Growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my mother stayed at home and raised six children.  Throughout her life, she had many interests through the resources of the county cooperative extension, local women’s clubs, and other organizations.  She sewed clothing,  she upholstered furniture, she caned chairs, she stenciled, she carved wood, to name a few.  I grew up thinking everyone did many of these now considered hobbies.  Looking back, as I raised my own children, I realized how creative one must be with “time management” to maintain these interests and raise a family.  Your priorities are decided and life goes on.  In addition, your interests change.  Before I had children, I loved sewing and quilting.  Twenty years later I can still sew but have transferred that energy into something different, i.e. ceramics,

My sister, Candy, had a similar shift in interests.  She transferred her sewing interest and love of color to stained glass.  As she became more comfortable and more skilled, her projects become bigger and more varied.  She now “gifts” her  inventory.  In August,  she emailed me the above stained glass photo of a bird and a sunflower.  It took me one second to look at the photo and smile and realize the bird (must be a fat robin) is me, the sunflower represents my younger sister who loves sunflowers, and the glass and color represents her.  I emailed a reply to her photo immediately and my thoughts were correct.  Three sisters inspiration.  We also have another older sister who enjoys sewing and quilting and I know a part of her is in that stained glass, too.

The end result?  That Fat Robin stained glass is now hanging in my front door side light…for me to look at and inspire me.  Onward!   Candy, thank you!

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Final Results

In the morning, with coffee in hand, my sister, Beth, and I began our ritual of discovery like a careful archeological dig. An archeological Christmas. What color gifts did the kiln gods leave us? Carefully each piece was uncovered and removed from the pit…and analyzed. What gave it that color? why? the questions, comments, and discoveries were endless. Very few pieces were cracked. Good results for the learning curve of pitfire. Immediately I began taking notes for the next firing, hopefully, at Thanksgiving

DSC01130    DSC01132      DSC01163      DSC01162    DSC01152

DSC01232     DSC01216     DSC01212      DSC01202

DSC01196     DSC01246      DSC01258DSC01261        DSC01265        DSC01266

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The Top Layer

You must be totally happy with the middle layer before you continue… are there enough air holes?  are there spaces and rolled up newspapers in several locations to light the pit?  what else do you want to add?  more organics?  where?  stop and think…. take a break and a step back… all is well?  start tumble stacking the acquired wood on top and around pottery….into the corners, around, in, on top off…  I now fill the pit to the top with wood….the pit is now ready to light….

After a blessing from the kiln gods, the pit is lit at various locations….  within minutes, all the wood is crackling and giving off heat….  in about an hour, when the top wood has burned below the top level of cement blocks, sheets of galvanized roofing are laid on top to hold in the heat….your work is done and in the hands of fate–hurry up and wait until the next morning when the fuel has burned out….

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The Middle Layer

The middle layer is your “intent”….all the pottery pieces you have created in the past month that you have transformed into your “canvas” for the organics (and a few chemicals) to do their work….  This pitfire’s theme is “old bottles…”  I grew up in an old cape house  in Newmarket, NH, a traditional mill town along a river.   As kids, we would dig in the old bottle dumps in the woods…and years later when my father sold the homestead, there were baskets and baskets of old bottles to be moved to a new home…  these bottles, which all my siblings and I still have, were my inspiration.  I made a dozen or more bottles using a combination of slab building and throwing techniques.  The bottles were then painted with terra sigilatta, a thin liquid clay mix which gives the pottery surface a sheen and hard surface to display the natural fired colors, and bisqued.   With much thought (and practice and patience), pottery pieces are placed in the pit surrounded by different organics which will color the pieces, with the addition of heat, smoke, fire, and wishful thinking.  Organics used in this pit were sawdust, banana peels, coffee grounds, corn husks, seaweed, and horse manure.

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