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.