Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Snow!

Last night brought our first snow of the season! It was light, but beautiful. Snow is the perfect excuse to keep a roaring fire going all day long and to sip hot cocoa with the kids while we make pots.

We've been busy getting ready for the holiday season. We have been busy, but our lists have kept us from getting too far off track. I keep a list of custom requests taped to my throwing mirror. I keep a grocery list by the coffee pot. I keep a To Do list taped the the cabinets about the coffee pot. Do you see where I spend my day? I'm either at the wheel, or at the coffee pot. But first, hot cocoa by the fire with the kiddos!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Craptastic Blogger

I have been a craptastic blogger. I got going well for a while, then I tripped and fell into my busy life again. I intended to write daily. I suppose weekly would have been pretty good, but monthly? Nope.

Let's see.... well, we have really gotten into stamped work. We have been making loads of stamped platters and plates and they sell as fast as we can make them. We are sill trying to make each one unique, but if this keeps up, we'll have to make some repeats.

We have also been making quite a few soap dishes. We are still playing with the design. We love the two piece concept, but we are playing with developing a squared version. It may never come to be officially, but the prototypes are being worked on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


This time of year always leaves me a little overwhelmed. Packing orders, parenting, keeping house, getting ready for the final shows of the year, keeping production high in the studio.... it all gets to be a bit much.

And then there are those items that come out of the kiln that I don't want to let go. Usually I go ahead and list them and hope they go to a good home. But these bowls.... well, I'm not ready to let them go yet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Mugs for a New Era

I said I wouldn't be political on this blog, and I'm not.
The mugs just have something to say.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Happened to Compassion?

I haven't been a good blogger lately, but I have a good excuse. I've had a lot on my mind.

So.... I've been thinking about compassion. It seems that a lot of people are lacking it.

How do you get compassion? Is it only through hardship? Or does it come hand in hand with gratitude? Or is it an act of love? Or a combination of all of the above?

I suppose it is comforting to believe that we are blessed because we deserve it and others suffer because they deserve it, but I'm not comfortable putting others down in order to raise myself up.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." The Dalai Lama.

That's my random, pre-coffee thought of the day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Potato Bread Croissants

These Potato Bread Croissants feature an easy, make-ahead dough that can be used for dinner rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, and sandwich bread. The bread is tender, airy and delicious.

1 cup prepared mashed potatoes, unsalted
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm (110˚F, 45˚C) water
2/3 cup turbinado (raw sugar)
2/3 cup shortening (or 3/4 cup softened butter)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all purpose flour
melted butter

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand until foamy - usually about 10 minutes.

2. Add potatoes, turbinado, shortening, eggs, salt, and half of the flour. Mix well. Gradually stir in remaining flour until dough pulls from the side of the bowl. Knead briefly by hand, or use the dough hook on your mixer to knead it. This dough is quite sticky at this stage, so machine kneading is much easier and keeps the dough tender by not adding more flour.

3. Oil a large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and turn it to coat it in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. The dough will rise in the refrigerator.

4. Remove dough from the refrigerator and punch down. Divide in half. For croissants, divide again and roll out each into a large round - about 8-12 inches. Cut with a pizza cutter into 8 wedges. Roll each triangle form the outer edge in and curve into a crescent. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, cover, and let rise for one hour in a warm place.

5. Bake in a preheated 400˚F (205˚C) oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter as they come out of the oven, if desired. Yield: about 32 croissants.

This recipe can also be used to make 2 loaves of bread, 16 hamburger buns, or 16-20 large hot dog buns. You can also shape into about 5 dozen dinner rolls and bake in a 9x13 pans. Wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of the flour without changing the texture too much.

These are a family favorite! I have to watch the LaPella guys or they will sneak away with croissants all day long. We enjoy them for breakfast, serve sandwiches on them at lunch, and mop our plates with them at dinner.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting Clean

We've been working on a few soap dish designs and are pleased with several of them. Our main considerations are that they must look good, they must be functional and the soap must be able to dry out between uses.

My favorite design in the two part soap dish. It is elegant and very functional. The water drains off of the soap and through the upper dish into a reservoir. The reservoir is easily emptied. When it is time to clean the soap dish, it can go into the dishwasher.

The other dish I like very well is a simple slab formed dish. It is deeply impressed with stamps to draw the water away from the soap. The glaze pools in the stamps accentuating the texture beautifully.

These dishes are fun to make and the process gives me a lot of wiggle room design wise. They are created with a simple curved slab, but my favorite detail is the little feet they sit up on. On most of the dishes, even the feet are stamped, adding a nice finishing detail.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Steampunk Double Shot

Etsy has such a wonderful array of steampunk inspired items and we have definitely been inspired. We have had loads of custom work to complete, but could not help but sneak this pair of cups through the kilns! But before we get into that, you ask, "What is steampunk?"

Steampunk is a literary genre in which works are set in a time when steam power is still the norm. Some works are set in Victorian England and others are alternate history works set in the present. Yeah, we haven't read any of it either, except for some who inspired steampunk like Jules Vern. Still, it sounds like something I'd like. (I haven't found much I don't like to read.)

We have called these cups "Double Shots" because they are four ounce cups... two shots. Yes, shots are typically 2 ounces. Is college now beginning to come into focus?

Now that we are grown up, they also make good demitasse cups or juice cups. They are sequentially numbered, so as long as you have enough brain cells left to recall which number was yours, you won't mix up your cup with someone else's.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Serving Dish Challenge

Join the Etsy Mud Team for our SERVING DISH CHALLENGE
July 27 - August 3
▪ ● ▪

Participating Etsy Mud Team members have been busy creating serving dishes! Please visit our website http://etsymudteam.craft-sense.com to view all entries and vote for your favorite. In return for your vote, you will receive a discount coupon code via e-mail. This coupon will entitle you to a 10% discount on all merchandise listed in the Mud Shop www.etsymudteam.etsy.com

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Sweet Gift

Yesterday, we received the sweetest gift from another talented potter! I was having a bluesy day and moping around when we got an email saying to look on our front porch. I ran to the door and there was a box from Judy B Freeman. Inside was this beauty:

Isn't is lovely? Monarchs are my favorite butterflies. Each butterfly represents a member of our family. It is so touching that Judy B Freeman put so much thought into this gift! We have been blessed by such wonderful friends on Etsy and through the Etsy Mud Team.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sweet Thank Yous!

I'm not sure how it all happened, but after sharing a little bit of my experience with Vana of Le Papier Studio, I received a lovely package in the mail as a little thank you from her - these great LaPella Pottery note cards! We are so touched and grateful! These kind of experiences make selling on Etsy so much fun.

We are going to use these note cards in our packages to say thank you to our customers. I hope they will turn these wonderful cards over, see the designer, and take a look at what else Le Papier Studio has to offer.

In the meantime, I am looking through our photos to see if we have a good shot of our boys so we can have some beach note cards made in this style:

Isn't it sweet?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Baking Bread

I used to bake all of our bread. But when things at the shop got busy, I'd give up baking and cooking and, well, cleaning, too! Lately the grocery prices have been rising and that motivated me to begin baking again. Also, I discovered the bread at the store contains high fructose corn syrup! Blech!

So, in honor of my refound joy in homemade bread, I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite recipes. I don't often photo my food, so there are no pictures of today's loaf. I'll try to do better with the upcoming recipes.

Dutch Apple Bread

1 envelope yeast
2 cups warm (110˚) milk
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP honey or sugar
3 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped (approx. 1cm cubes)
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch allspice
1tsp salt

In a 6 quart mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add 2.5 cups flour and mix well. Allow to ferment for 30 minutes in a warm place. Then add remaining ingredients, mixing the salt with the flour, and work into a dough.

Knead for 6 to 7 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth and somewhat glossy. Return to mixing bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Divide dough in half and shape each half into a round loaf. Set loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spray with oil and let rise 50 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350˚ oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove loaves from sheet immediately and let cool on wire racks.

Yield: two medium sized round loaves.

This bread is delicious straight from the oven spread with butter. We sometimes make this bread in loaf pans; it is really good for chicken salad sandwiches. I love to use Granny Smith of Gala apples in the Dutch apple bread. This is not a sweet bread, rather it is pretty hearty. You could up the honey, cinnamon, and allspice to make it more of a breakfast bread.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

We celebrated Independence Day all weekend long with swimming and parties, but our favorite part is always the fireworks! Keeping 2 kids confined to a blanket for 2 hours is all worth it once the show begins.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vacation Sale!

July 6th - 10th we are having a vacation sale!

All purchases will be 10% off until midnight EST on July 10th. Etsy Mud Team members can take off an extra 5%!

We will ship out everything by the 11th and then no more shipping until the 21st of July.

Just put the discount code VACATION in the "Notes to Seller" upon check out to receive your discount!
Thank you!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Turkey Talk

Yesterday I took the kids to the WNC Nature Center in Asheville to see the butterfly exhibit. The volunteers sprayed the kids with sugar water and the butterflies flocked to them!

The Nature Center has a lot of native animals and a petting farm as well. My oldest wants one of everything we saw: goats, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, bunnies, and more!

He had a tender moment with a big tom turkey. They were nose to snood. Free was gobbling softly and the tom just eyed him and gobbled back. It was sweet!

As we walked away, I was feeling so touched by that tender moment when Free said, "Mom, boy turkeys just have that floppy thing instead of a pecker."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mugs, Mugs, Mugs

I'm drowning in over-sized mugs! We had a big custom order for large mugs come in and we are just plugging away at it. The other day I threw the mugs. Yesterday I trimmed the mugs. It was late in the day when I finished and I was too tired to start adding handles, so I went to bed.

Today the handles will all get attached as well as some sort of decoration. I have a ware board covered with handles that are still a bit too wet to attach. Now I just need to keep the bodies of the mugs damp long enough to get the handles on! As for the decoration... well, there is a loose nature theme and other than that I guess I'll wing it. Every mug should be just a little bit different. It would be nice if I had some sprig molds prepared, but there is no time to do that before the mug order is due.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Look Out for Carnivores!

Last weekend, we had a booth at a local arts, crafts, and music festival. This festival also leaves room for some vendors of a different sort. There are vendors selling locally handcrafted foods, such as artisan breads or local jams. There are also a few plant vendors. There is an amazing daylily hybridizer, a old man with gorgeous, affordable bonzais, and a couple that specializes in carnivorous plants.

I return to the carnivorous plant dealer every year and buy something new. They always remember me, too, and remember which plant I bought the year before and ask about its progress!

So this year I bought a pitcher plant. They seem so exotic and primitive. However, my dear plant friends tell me that they are actually native to this area and can survive the winter outside! These pitcher plants don't need to be fed like a Venus fly trap. They look innocent, but they really work.

Last night some ants found an in, through my kitchen window where the pitcher plant sits. The pitcher plant has a sweet nectar that attracts bugs, so the ants made a bee line for the plant. They marched right into the pitchers and could not get out! Amazing! The plant is beautiful and effective - I think the pitchers look like little heads all craning their necks in the same direction.

Last year I bought a Venus fly trap from the couple. We've all had one at times, right? And we killed them. Well, I have learned from my friends that often our little friends don't die, they go dormant. If you give them some time, they come back out again. What will kill them is chlorinated water, so give them bottled water or water that has been sitting out for 24 or more hours.

So what about the first photo of the flowers? What does that have to do with any of this? Well, my yuccas are in bloom and they are gorgeous. Are they carnivorous? Technically, no. But they will gouge your eyes out when you try to weed around them and slice the kids legs as they run by. They seem to like to make people bleed. Does that count?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Skully Love

We made these skully guys for a craft and music festival last weekend and they sold like mad! Some were back with high powered rare earth magnets and some were given aanraku bails so they could be worn as pendants. We did manage to come home with a few and they are slowly being listed in our Etsy shop.

As for the festival, it was loads of fun. The first person to enter the tent for the day was quite rude and insulting, and frankly my confidence was a bit shaken. However, for the rest of the two day festival there was nothing but sales and praise. I had to massage my cheeks at night because they ached from grinning!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Day Off

This is really what it's all about. We took an afternoon and walked along the Nolichuckey River. The ducks and geese all had their babies out on parade. The boys slowly walked toward the water and three young ducks came toward them. I think the ducklings were just as curious about the little boys as the boys were about them.

We got our feet wet and flipped rocks looking for wildlife. We found salamanders, crawdads, freshwater mussels, a bristle worm, mudpuppies, and a strange aquatic nymph most likely of a dragonfly or damselfly.

The mussels were very active. Once a rock was flipped and they were exposed, they immediately began to open up and use their foot to wedge themselves under the sediment. Some of the crawdads we found were around a quarter of an inch long, though we found one large on with a missing claw. The salamanders were probably mole salamanders, though there are several possible species. They were young and only about 2 inches long.

This tributary was too calm to house the larger creatures. Just once I'd like to see a hellbender, but we'll have to find a rushing stream in SW Virginia before I can see one of those. Imagine coming face to face with a 2 foot long giant salamander! Supposedly hellbenders can be found in streams in our area, but I haven't heard of anyone seeing one in a long time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mad About Texture

There is a trend right now of using commercial stamps on slabs of clay, adding some stain and clear glaze and VOILA! You have a cutesy little ceramic dish. These dishes are everywhere! And the makers are accusing each other of copying constantly. Not every cutesy dish maker uses commercial stamps, but a fair number do.

12 inch Platter

Well, the danger in not using your own artwork is that anyone can come along behind you, buy the exact same stamp, and suddenly you are not an original anymore. Of course, you have to consider that the artwork on the stamps actually belongs to someone else... often big companies like Stampin' Up. Many companies forbid using their stamps commercially and some, like Stampin' Up, have Angel policies in place that require acknowledgment within listings of the use of their stamps and the use of a special licensing stamp on each piece.

Side View of Feet

Although I've been a bit sidetracked, the purpose of this post is that sometimes the unexpected inspires you. Sometimes the muses will put something in front of me that makes me think, "Oh wow! That's great! Except I would....." Other times the muses put something in front of me that rather than pushing me in a parallel direction I am shoved perpendicularly.

12 inch Oval Platter with Wave Design

These stamped platters and dishes are my reaction to the overwhelming cuteness. They begin with slab of clay and a stamp or ten. (We have bins of stamps that we have carved. We carve stamps when there is nothing else to do. They fill the small spaces of our kiln and are used for years and years. ) We roll out our slabs and cut them to shape. Then we stamp them. Sometimes we stamp in an allover pattern. Some are stamped in quilt-like designs or stripes.

The Underside

After bisque firing, we prepare them for glazing. Because many of these dishes are not footed, we decided to fire them on wadding, so each dish is dotted with wax on the bottom. We dip or brush on the glazes - again we make our own glazes - and then clean them up and fire them. We don't have anything against commercial glazes... except for the price. There are a lot of great commercial glazes out there, but we would have to raise our prices if we relied on them!

Perhaps it is a Soap Dish

We are very happy with our new dishes. The glazes break beautifully over the texture and they are a joy to touch. We nearly sold out of them at last weekend's show! I think we brought home four - one round, one oval, and two square dishes. The ovals sold quickest and we have more in production already. Each is one of a kind!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hot From The Kiln

Last night, the kiln was hovering at about 200ºF and we just couldn't stand it anymore! With gloved hands we reached in and snatched out a few things from the top shelf. After I downloaded (uploaded?) my photos from the camera, we went ahead and unloaded the entire kiln. I'll have to photograph everything today because it is all getting packed up to take to an art and music festival this weekend.

This dish turned out exactly as we wanted. The glazes break beautifully and work so well with the design. Our rolling bamboo stamp was the perfect focal point.

These were the first four pieces from the kiln. They are a reaction to a trend I have been watching using commercial stamps. We hand carve all of our stamps - it is really the only way to be sure the mark we make is our own.

We love the detail of this little dish. Being occasional quilters, we love that this piece echoes the piecing of a quilt. I have made series of quilted dishes in the past, but it has been a long time. This one is far less cutesy than the ones I used to make for bridal parties!

The rest of the kiln had some great pieces, too. We have a couple of duds and one gorgeous piece that had odd bits growing out of the side of it - sort of like clay crystals. I'll have to do some research and figure out what happened.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm Not Sure We Can Sell These

I know I can make more, but pulling these bowls out of the kiln was like falling in love. I just want to hang on to them for a while. I may enlarge a print of one of these to hang in the studio for the days we need inspiration.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Totally Offensive!

We made these at the request of some friends following a hilarious conversation. The response has been overwhelming! We have had orders pour in - some asked for PG 13 versions and others gave suggestions for other saying for non-morning people. I have to get to work and throw mugs and stamp sayings! If you want some, too, please contact us through our Etsy shop and we'll add you to the queue.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Better Photos

Well, finally we took pictures of our new necklaces. I have a huge stash of handmade, ceramic pendants and now I feel like I know what I want to do with them. We have offered them for sale loose with little interest so we decided to string some and see how it goes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

We have been making pendants for a long time, but we finish them, smile, and say, "Now what?!" We have sold them loose, but not very well. I think customers must have the same it's-lovely-but-what-do-I-do-with-it response.

We have tried stinging them on ribbon or leather or silk cord. They seem at home, but undone. After a visit to a great bead shop, I felt inspired and sat down to take on the challenge. This is my result.

Aside from the photo being bad, I am pleased and I think it will help people visualize what can be done with earthy ceramic pendants. The beading was tedious but satisfying. I used the Fibonacci number sequence to decide the bead pattern, starting with the number 5.

The Fibonacci number sequence is a string of numbers in which the sum of the last two numbers determines the next. In other words (or numbers) it goes like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and so on. It is a soothing sequence that appears often in nature. The most notable example is the spiral of the nautilus.

There are lots of fun scientific articles out there regarding the Fibonacci numbers in nature, the golder ratio, and the Pheidian spiral. While you may not like looking at the algebra, it is nice to the the sequence applied to images and to understand why certain compositions are comforting and others are jarring. Check out Spira Solaris Archyta-Miribilis, Souls of Distortion, and this blog post on Values Australia which charts art, beauty, and more using Fibonacci numbers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New Line?

This bowl came out of the last kiln load and as we unloaded I heard Alex behind me saying, "Oh, HELL yes!" I'm seeing this as a whole new line of work. I have never wanted to be too matchy, but I really love this look. I know in order to be more marketable as a functional potter, we need to have some standard lines and this on I think I can live with for a while. What do you think?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Big Changes

Last night, the dragonfly dishes came out of the glaze firing. We are very pleased with the results! The matte brown glaze spread a little and turned purple and blue. The result is a much more organic look and feel which is what we were hoping for.

The rest of the pieces in the firing were all worth getting weak kneed over, too! More photos of it all to come!