Monday, December 31, 2007

Etsy Mud Team Post Holiday Sale!

We can't have an after Christmas Sale because the Etsy Mud Team is a diverse group of potters who are Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Ba'hai, and more. So, we are having a Post Holiday Sale, instead. A lot of shops a participating, but check out ours first!

We planned this sale earlier in the year, but most of us had such great holiday sales, we were left with empty etsy shops. So instead of getting the left behinds, the forgotten, or the sub par, you can find newly listed, fresh from the kiln pottery! Lucky you!

Anyone who buys from a participating shop will be entered into a drawing for more free pottery! You can look over the raffle pieces on the Etsy Mud Team web site.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Val's Turquoise

I found the formula for this glaze in a Clay Times forum archive. I believe it is probably a Val Cushing glaze, but I am not sure. I made a test batch and tested the glaze on a buff stoneware and a darker speckled stoneware from Midsouth Ceramics. I was not crazy about the test on the buff clay, but the darker clay showed promise. The formula is available by clicking the test tile photo.
This mug does a better job showing off the glaze. It is a rich turquoise, but it has a lot of interest. Where it is thick, it is prone to blistering, so take care to finger sand any drips well. Hopefully, you can see this glaze is glossy and smooth. The turquoise color ranges from pale to almost teal in places. Even where the glaze breaks over the rim and handle, the surface remakes silky.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Love is...

I am in love... with my latest glaze formula! I have been mixing and testing new batches of glaze in order to expand the look of our line. The process is loads of fun, if you happen to love meticulously measuring hazardous chemicals with your triple beam scale. Of course, I happen to get all kinds of giddy when the needle on the scale finally settles on the mark!

The process is slow, but I get so excited. Measure, mix in water, a little more water... a little more... and let it rest. Then, mix and run the glaze through a sieve twice. I create a little tool that makes short work of this - I epoxied four cheap bristle brushes together to push the glaze through the sieve - works like a charm and is so much faster than a scraper.

Finally it is time for a test tile. this is the hardest part. I hate to wait for the test tile and want to jump right to trying the glaze on some pieces. However, after ruining some lovely work by jumping the gun, I am trying to maintain some sort of self control.

If the results are pleasing and seem predictable, it is time to try it on a pot of two. And here is the latest love of my life - Xavier's Warm Green Jade revised. It's got a catchy name, doesn't it? I am thinking I need to call it something else for my item descriptions, so if you think of anything better, let me know!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bad Blogger

I have been a bad, bad blogger! But honestly, this holiday season has kicked my butt! From family issues to a slammed business, I am not sure what day it is or who I am.

One thing that has kept me busy is a custom tea set that I just shipped off the Canada. I love doing custom work. The idea that someone has enough confidence in my work to ask me to create something completely new is an amazing boost. However, while we work on that project, it consumes me. As for this order, Alex was the work horse! He started with the creamer and sugar bowl and when he unveiled the creamer after attaching the handle, I shed a tear it was so beautiful! Seriously.

Getting ready for the holidays always seems to catch me by surprise. It's as if I don't know that Christmas follows Thanksgiving by a mere month. Every year, I wake up around the first of December and think, "OMG! I have 3 weeks left!" To make matters worse, our studio is overwhelmed and we work 7 days a week from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. No time to do laundry, shop, wrap presents... what?! A Christmas Tree? We need a Christmas tree, too?! *sigh*

I really do love the holidays and every year I say, "Next year I will be better prepared." It never seems to happen. In July I say, "Next month I'll start gearing up for Christmas." But by August I think, "Oooh, the last days of summer... I'd better drink them up!" Then school starts and my world begins spinning way too fast.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Packaging Tutorial

During a discussion between potters about the percentage of breakage when shipping pottery, I discovered there is a real need for a packaging tutorial. We have been shipping pottery for years and have yet to have a buyer report breakage. I know our time is coming, but in the mean time, I want to share my method for shipping fragile items.

The first step is to wrap my items in bubble wrap and the box pack them in a small box. I want to be sure that they fit this small box securely and fill in with packing materials so the pieces cannot shift in the box.

Then, I find a box that is larger than the small box by at least 4 inches in each direction.

I put at least 2 inches of polystyrene peanuts in the bottom of my outer box. The inner box is then placed inside the larger box with an equal clearance on each side.

When I am sure the inner box is well packed, I seal it and then fill around the box with peanuts. Notice that the inner box is cradled all around by at least a two inch cushion.

I tuck the receipt, thank you card, or extra something on top of the inner box so it won't get lost in the sea of peanuts.

Almost done! At this point I fill the box with peanuts. I press around the sides of the inner box to be sure there are no air pockets where peanuts can settle in shipping. I mound the peanuts up so the box will be over filled.

Now it is time to ask for help. I usually have someone hold the box closed and I tack the flaps shut with some tape. Then I really work to squeeze the flaps together and tape like mad! I want to be sure there are no areas poking out that can catch on the machinery and cause the box to fail.

Finally, the address is added and the box is covered in the word FRAGILE. I don't buy stickers, but the box pictured is a recycled box and came with the lovely FRAGILE sticker, which I always read as fra-GEE-lay.

I know some people have issues with polystyrene peanuts. I do, too. I cannot in good conscience throw them away. I receive mounds of peanuts in my other business and I reuse every one. If you get peanuts in a package, you can always take them to a local independent mail shop and they will reuse them. When I get an excess, I call my local Pack and Mail and they will come pick them up. Be on the lookout for a new product - bubble paper! I am beginning to receive shipments packed in bubble paper and it seems as effective as polystyrene peanuts.

Feeling Selfish

These tumblers were only in our etsy shop for a couple of hours before they sold. Stamped "MINE" and "NOT YOURS", they bring out the toddler in all of us! Now I am feeling selfish and sad to let them go. Goodbye selfish cups! I'd really like to keep you! I know I'll make some more, but you will always be my first.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


These tiles are tests of the same glaze - Xavier's Warm Green Jade - on two clay bodies - a buff and a brownstone.

Last month, I mixed up a round of new glazes to test and possibly add to our studio line. One of the glazes I mixed was Xavier's Warm Green Jade. Initially, I added too much water and the glaze was very thin. I did my first test tile on a buff clay, which resulted in the tile on the left. It suits the name - a warm green glaze.

After the glaze settled out, I poured some of the water off of the top. I mixed it again and dipped a second test tile, this time a brownstone clay which is my preferred clay body. The glaze went on much thicker this time, resulting in the tile on the right.

So, the mystery is... is the difference due solely to the thickness of the glaze, or it is due to something settling out? Was it not settled enough when I poured off the water? I plan to make a large bucket of this glaze, since I love it, but I want to continue to get the results on the right.

Xavier's Warm Green Jade
Custer Feldspar 22
Ferro Frit 3134 16
Whiting 12
EPK-Kaolin 20
Talc 9
Silica 21
Copper Carbonate 3
Rutile 5

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shopping Spree!

A girlfriend called to see what I was going to be up to while the kids were in school - my so called "day off". "I'm going shopping in Ashville!" I replied. She regretted she couldn't go and I thought she probably didn't have in mind what I did.

I hopped in the car and headed over the mountain into North Carolina. An hour later I pulled up in front of Highwater Clays. I was giddy! I got a squeaky shopping cart and perused the aisles for over an hour! I bought EPK! Rutile! Gerstley borate! Red Iron Oxide! Talc! It went on an on and I was so happy. I restocked my glaze supply shelves and got the supply run buzz!

I have been doing some more typical shopping, too. Christmas shopping! Here are a couple of things I have bought on etsy. Click the pictures to visit the seller's stores.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Custom, Custom, Custom

We enjoy doing custom orders for people, but lately, we have been covered up with them! I do not get over anxious about making the items perfect. I am comfortable knowing they like our style enough to trust us to create something just for them.

We are just about dug out from the avalanche and we are feeling less panicky about the length of our list. Ticked off our list this week are bowls, a tea set, and a number of family portrait ornaments. Still remaining are more bowls, monogrammed ornaments, and mugs. Back to the studio to keep plugging away!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Product Shots for the Not So Dumb

I get questions all the time about how to shoot ceramics without an expensive or involved set up. I have looked online for a tutorial to share with my fellow mudders, but I cannot seem to locate one. So, I decided to create a tutorial here. I am using Photoshop 7.0 on my beloved iBook.

My set up is very basic. I have an inexpensive Kodak EasyShare camera and a piece of white poster board. I shoot my product shots outdoors at dawn, when the sky is bright but the sun is not yet casting shadows. As seen in the first screen shot, I just prop my poster board up (in this case against a dead potted plant) and set my pieces on it.
Once my photo is imported, my first step is to go under Image > Adjustments and select Curves. If your version of Photoshop does not have curves, you can do the same adjustments by choosing Levels and continue following along.
I little box will pop up. just under the Options button there are three boxes with what look like droppers in them. Click on the white dropper. We are going to set the white point. We are going to click on the darkest area of the picture that should be white.
In this case, I clicked on a spot just above and to the left of the top of the sake bottle. For some reason, my cursor does not appear in the screen shot. Bummer.
Now it is time to crop my photo. I know Etsy says to crop photos to square, but I do not. I believe most people view the site in gallery mode which is the default. Also, the front page and treasuries are seen in a gallery view, so I crop with those views in mind. In the tools menu on the left hand side of the page, I selected the upper left tool, which is the rectangular marquee tool. I simply click and drag my mouse to create the box shape I want.
Then under the Image menu, choose Crop.
Once the image is cropped, remember to go again under the Image menu and choose Image Size. Etsy requires out images to be under 1000 pixels wide, so I always set my width at the maximum of 1000 pixels. Click OK and save. You should have your product shot.
Below is the image ready to list on Etsy: a fabulous Pumpkin Pie Sake Set glazed in a rich orange and then dipped in whipped cream white. It's perfect for getting you warm during those first autumn cold snaps.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On Trunkt!

Yesterday we applied to be on Trunkt. The answer came back within a couple of hours - so fast I thought it must be a mistake! I read and reread the email to be sure and then went to Trunkt where I could see our portfolio! So cool!
We have been thinking about applying to Trunkt for ages. We are confident in our craftsmanship and artistic abilities. We love what we do. We regularly pull things out of the kiln jumping up and down and shouting, "This rocks! I love it!" So why is it so hard to put ourselves out there? If we were rejected from Trunkt, it wouldn't change the quality of our work. So why did we wait so long to apply?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Front Page Honors

Yesterday I saw a forum thread on Etsy about the awesomeness of the front page. Naturally, I had to go check it out. It was a grouping I curated! I have had items on the front page, but I was more excited to see artists I admire up there because of my treasury. Several items sold and I felt wonderful all day!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


In honor of the Etsy Mud Team's Mud in the Trees Event, all of our personalized ceramics are $5 off through November 11th. The EMT's Event will run November 4-11 and during that week, anyone who purchases from a participating EMT shop will be entered into a drawing to win a free handmade ornament. You will be able to view available ornaments on the EMT site and mark your favorites, if you'd like.

My hand-painted, customized ornament orders are starting to flood in. I have several in the queue already, but I will take discounted orders until November 11th. I can work from photographs for the Family Portrait Ornaments or take descriptions. The Monogrammed Ornaments can be done in any color scheme.

I love doing the family portrait ornaments. I feel so connected to a family after looking at their photos and creating cartoon versions of the family. I often add the family pets and once they included hamsters! It is so nice to hear back from families who say that Grandma cried she was so pleased or sister gave it a place of honor and displays it year round. Even though the orders for ornaments get overwhelming around the first of December, every year I take so much joy from them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Glaze Tests

I've been mixing some new glazes and running tests on them and this Speckled Glaze looks promising. The test tile looks amazing! I also tested a thick coating on a coffee mug and it ran like hell and glued itself to a kiln shelf, so more work needs to be done. Still, this one is luscious!

Speckled Glaze ^6 Oxidation
Gerstley Borate 59
Talc 41
add Rutile 18

I am also curious to see what would happen with iron oxide or cobalt carbonate as a colorant. There may be more to see from this glaze. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Easy Favorite Winter Dinner

Cool weather has finally come to the Appalachians. To celebrate turning the heat on, I made a pot of my favorite soup, Pasta e Fagioli. This soup is hearty and filling plus it is done in under 30 minutes, but it tastes and smells like you slaved all day on it.

I don't do a lot of measuring, so if this makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry, but this soup is pretty forgiving. Don't worry and just go with the flow. If you get a little more of this or less of that don't worry. It will work out. The secret to this recipe is olive oil and lots of it!

Pasta e Fagioli
Olive oil
½ - 1 pound of cubed ham
2 cans of Great Northern White Beans or Cannelini
1 can of Italian diced tomatoes, drained
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
I small onion diced
1 quart of chicken stock
1-2 cups small pasta (small shells, etc)

Heat a large soup pot to medium. Add a liberal coating of olive oil. Lightly brown your ham. Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender. Add in one quart of chicken stock. Add in one can of beans, drained, and one can with the juice. Add drained tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil. When the soup is at a rapid boil, add in your pasta and cook until al dente.

Serve in bowls, drizzled with olive oil and topped with parmesan cheese. With a chunk of crusty bread to mop of the liquid, it is a great meal.

While the onions are cooking, you can add in diced carrots and celery, but we don't always have it on hand and it adds to the cooking time.

If you wanted to do a vegetarian version, you could sub vegetable stock for chicken stock and take out the ham, but you would have to add salt to make up for the ham. I would definitely add in the carrots and celery to round out the soup in a vegetarian version.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where's the time?

I have been trying my hardest to figure out how to get more hours into a day, but so far, nothing is working. I have custom orders lined up. I tape the invoices to the wall behind my wheel, and I am running out of space! I have tea sets, sets of bowls communion, sets, and huge fruit bowls to get done. On top of that I have monogrammed ornaments to paint, baby plates, and Christmas platters to paint. And I still need to keep finished pottery on my shelves for shoppers.

It isn't even November yet! Next month will be even crazier! I am so grateful that many of my customers are beating the rush this year. It will help me not feel so frazzled over the next 2 months. Don't tell anyone, but I already find myself looking forward to January!

I chose the Raven Magnet for this post because of Poe's penchant for pointing out that there is nothing more threatening then one's own mind. The most terrifying of ghosts is our own conscience. Or in my case, my own "To Do" lists.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Alex and I own a paint-your-own ceramics shop - the kind that families visit at the holidays to make hand print plates and ornaments. Most of our clients are families with young children. They come and go and we see but a snapshot of their lives. But some families return again and again, year after year. While the children paint, we catch up with the parents. If older children are still working we entertain the younger ones. We look forward to their visits and they work their way into our hearts.

One such family has been coming into our shop on a regular basis for at least 5 years. Nik, the youngest child, was a toddler when we first met him. He was full of energy, engaging, and sweet. His older sisters, Katarina and Rebekka, have always been full of questions, very frank and sure of themselves. This family is something special. We always have been excited to see them come through the door, looked forward to hearing about the next year in school, the family trips, and all their adventures.

Last night, I learned that Nik had been killed in a horrible freak accident. He was seven years old. Their last visit to the shop was only 2 weeks ago. I cannot imagine the grief of this family. I pray that the light that I have always seen in the girls' eyes does not disappear. The family may have no idea that they have been such a joy in my life. They would probably be shocked to learn that I burst into tears at the news of their loss. Today I am praying that they will find peace following their grief.

I know firsthand that life can be drastically changed in an instant. I know that life is a fragile thing and our time here is short. I want to believe that everything thing in my life will remain as it is, yet, when a child dies, it is made so clear that the only moment we have is the one that we are in.

Nik, we will miss you. You and your memory are fixed in our hearts. Be at peace.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

EMT Autumn Challenge

The Etsy Mud Team's Autumn Challenge is under way! The Autumn Challenge invited Etsy Mud Team member's to create ceramic pieces inspired by autumn. Some artists relied solely on autumnal colors, while others featured leaves or gourds in their work.

There is an amazing group of artists participating. All voters are entered into a drawing for ceramic magnets made by EMT members. The artist receiving the highest number of votes will receive a pendant made by Ginny of GinPins. Please vote at the EMT web site.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just Silly

If you feel the need to claim your territory, these magnets will get the message across! Coffee mug sets available with the same message!

Friday, October 12, 2007

French Butter Keeper

Have you heard of a butter keeper? This special pot is made to safely keep butter unrefrigerated on your counter. The cup or "bell" under the lid is filled with softened butter. You then place an inch or so of water in the pot. When the lid is put on, the water creates an airtight seal, keeping your butter fresh for up to a month.
This butter keeper is my entry in the Etsy Mud Team's Autumn Challenge. It was thrown from a rich black stoneware clay, and then glazed in my pumpkin spice glaze. The leaf on the lid was painted with wax, which resisted the glaze when the pot was dipped.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The No Ugly Magnets Brigade

I always keep a bunch of magnets on hand and somewhere along the queue. The reason? I hate ugly advertising magnets. Your fridge is something you look at over and over each day - make it a gallery of things you love!

So, I make lots of pretty magnets and when people order mugs and other things from me, I throw in a magnet or two. I do sell some of my magnets, but for the most part, they are freebies I send along with larger orders. Hopefully, I can convert more people to join the No Ugly Magnets Brigade. Can I count on you?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Feeling Tender

I spent a good part of my weekend at the International Storytelling Festival. The tellers had me doubled over laughing and sobbing into my hankie. Some managed to do both in the span of a half hour.

I came home feeling both recharged and raw. I am ready to take on the world... after I have a good cry.

Today, I am remembering my stepmother, Linda, who we lost two years ago to pancreatic cancer. She was a force of a woman who was blunt and honest, but secretly tender. She gave love easily to animals, as none had ever hurt her, but was sometimes cautious sharing her soul with people. She had been let down and hurt too often as a child.

Linda would have never considered herself an artist, or even crafty, but she created constantly. One of her creations was a giant lighted Christmas ornament, made from plastic cups and Christmas lights. I thought they were redneck and tacky, a little goofy and the kind of thing your neighbors would snicker at. She would hang dozens along the front of their house and people would stop and buy them from her. She made about 50 each year and sold them for up to $50 each!

When she became ill, it was important to my dad that I learn to make them. Suddenly, instead of being a joke, the giant ornaments became a tribute to Linda. I made one after another and hung them from the front of my house. People's reactions vary from "What the heck?" to "Man those are cool!"

For me, they are a tribute to Linda. She helped to make me the wife and mother that I am. She loved my dad with all her heart and sought to protect his. She cared for the rights of animals long before it was cool. She called me her daughter. And I am.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

EMT Teapot Contest Winner!

The results are in and the official winner of the Etsy Mud Team's September teapot Challenge is Ginny, of GinPins! Her imaginative teapot mimics a cup of cocoa!The marshmallow is the lid of the teapot and the handle of the spoon makes up the spout! Congratulations, Ginny! Your teapot is amazing!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

Why are you so comforting? Is it because you only appear twice a year following a wonderful meal with a loving family? Is it because you are shared while laughter floats above and children crawl below? You are a harbinger of the holidays - a time of joy, giving, and love. You are the goodbye to autumn, the hello to winter. Your orange pays tribute to the leaves now browning and crumbling under the trees. Your white cream whipped to perfection welcomes the coming snows. Today, I pay tribute to you, pumpkin pie, with a mug that awaits your arrival.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Striped Tea Bowl

I had a definite vision for this little tea bowl and I was bowled over when it came out of the kiln exactly as I imagined it.

It is glazed in our bamboo glaze and our teal blue. Where they overlap, a lovely jade green appears. I am so pleased my lines are parallel and the glazes stayed put. Usually when I overlap glazes, I want the glaze to run. but in this case I was hoping for clean lines.

I don't test all my glaze combinations. I know - I should be ashamed, but I really enjoy this risky part of ceramics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Building Teapots

Alex and I have been preparing all month for the Teapot Challenge that the Etsy Mud Team is holding next week. Twenty-three team members are participating in the contest and the competition is stiff.

Teapots are some of the most challenging functional pieces to make. The body of the pot, the spout, and the lid are all usually thrown as separate pieces and then assembled. The handle is usually pulled or extruded and then added. So, you have to have an assemblage of parts that will hopefully works together and you have to slowly dry the pot so that those pieces don't crack and fall back off.

Another difficulty that potters have with teapots, and the reason so few regularly make them, is the dribbling spout. So often, a gorgeous teapot comes out of the kiln and whenever it is poured, a good amount of tea runs down the belly of the pot. It is the potter's bane.

My teapot goes into the kiln tonight, but Alex's is ready and up for sale. The Bamboo Forest Teapot is a somewhat traditional teapot with loads of details that make it something special. To see what makes this teapot special, just check out the listing on Etsy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fresh From The Kiln

Every kiln load brings about great pleasure, and usually sadness, too. There is always something that didn't turn out right or whose glaze isn't what you expected. It is the nature of pottery, but it can be harsh. These are all from the same kiln load and all bringers of pleasure. I won't too often show the disappointments here, at least not until I've lived with them a while. I don't know if other mediums are such harsh masters. Do other artists frequently have to trash their work? I suppose if I stopped experimenting I would not have theses disappointments, but I am not willing to give up the joy of an experiment that wields something amazing.