Wednesday, April 28, 2010

first firing in the new studio

Ahhhhhhhhh ..... it feels good!  We opened the kiln today on the first firing since moving the studio, and now it officially feels like home.  It's the same kiln I've been firing in over the past two years, but this firing cycle was completely different as everything happened here.  No running back and forth to get the brush I left at my old studio, or check on students or a bisque there, or cramming a decorating session into three hours.  This time, I got it all done with time to spare.  I got more work done during the firing, and more importantly I was in the studio for the entire firing, not running in and out to do a turn up or peek at the cones before running back to work in the other studio.

I also used a new firing program this time around, one plucked from the kiln log and fired by friend heather in her last load.  The 'St. Pete' method, and it worked beautifully!  Here are some shots of our first efforts - now to get busy to fill the next load in a few weeks!

after two firings with questionable results, it's nice
to see the trees look the way I want them to look again

because I have to figure out how to make things more complex and
time consuming, I tried the 'carved' design in wax resist ...

actually writing this blog from the ChoLo, where I just dropped off
a new supply of mugs

and new mugs went to Roots earlier today ... 

... along with some sexy new plates for their sumptuous fare

 wine cups that are headed up to
Mountainside Wine in Spruce Pine

the carved trees in mugs ... hopefully some of these will make
it to the Tree Gallery this time ...

one in this batch has an 'easter egg' that studio member
Rebekah Newton is hiding on some of my pieces ... see him?

pieces by studio member Matt Clark -
nice, creamy mamo sake set!

pieces by studio member Helen Wadino -
the business card holders are so cute, and dig the design on
her mini pitcher!

pieces by studio member Rebekah Newton -
mushrooms for her garden, and a bigger version
of that 'easter egg'

pieces by studio member Katie Hadden - so happy to have
her back with us - we missed her beautiful designs!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rotarians & Kids Against Hunger (& me too!)

I spent this morning at Biltmore Park with the Rotarians and Kids Against Hunger, packing meals for quake victims in Haiti.  It was an incredible organized effort that gave people of all ages an opportunity to help out, and at the end of my shift, we had packed almost 65,000 meals.

a very well organized group of volunteers led us to our stations

we were a well-oiled machine!  our station ended up bagging about 550 meals

Kids Against Hunger is an international organization providing highly nutritious meals to children here at home and around the world.  While these meals we packed today are slated for Haiti, locally they have programs (this group operates through Mission Hospital) that package meals that are then distributed by MANNA FoodBank to hungry children in Western North Carolina.

And while I'm on the subject, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Empty Bowls Project, started by two of my local heroes, John Hartom and his wife Lisa Blackburn.  We've already started planning events for the Asheville Empty Bowls luncheon that takes place on World Food Day (October 16).  I'm working both with MANNA FoodBank (the beneficiary of the event) and with Imagine Render, the non-profit that founded Empty Bowls.  It's frustrating and challenging to acknowledge that in a world that does indeed have an abundance of food, hunger is a major issue in many countries and most often in all our communities.  So it's not something to celebrate that 20 years in we still need to bring awareness to the issue, but it is something to celebrate that for the past 20 years, the Empty Bowls Project has helped people realize their own power to effect change and help their community.

potter Heather Tinnaro & Empty Bowls founder John Hartom
at the 2007 Asheville Empty Bowls Luncheon

So we're shining a big spot light on Empty Bowls this year to mark the 20 year anniversary, and we're trying to find all sorts of big fancy famous folk to participate.  Why?  Well they have much bigger pulpits than most of us, and they can help bring awareness to a much larger audience.  Many already do, and in addition to latching on to those big, fancy, famous coattails, it's a good opportunity to acknowledge the work they do.  So if you know any big, fancy, famous people, or even any small, schleppy famous people, and you think they'd like to do a little something to help end hunger, have them contact me or Imagine Render (via my contact here or at the Empty Bowls website) and we've got a very cool project they can help with.  And hey, if any of the big/small/fancy/schleppy/famous folk I know want to help or have friends in that category who want to help, send them on too!

making bowls at the Imagine Render studio in Burnsville, NC

There's plenty for the rest of us too - I'll start throwing bowls for use in our Empty Bowls event soon, and I invite everyone who reads this to find an event in your area to get involved with.  Make a bowl, make some soup, help organize the event, buy a bowl!  No event?  Start one!  Or go and find your local foodbank and just ask them how you can help. 

It's gratifying to hear a couple hours work resulted in 65,000 meals, and while it's a drop in the hunger bucket, it also shows how easy it is to find a way to help. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the place to be happy is here...

So I may have mentioned that I'm very happy to be working on site where the kiln is ... oh I'm sure I've mentioned it once or twice.   But now that I'm heading toward my first firing since the move, there are a million little ways I am reminded of the importance of staying in place throughout a work cycle.

In this case, a picture speaks many of those ways:

In the foreground are the mugs I'm waxing, preparing to glaze.  If I don't finish them today, I get to keep them right where they are and pick up where I left off.

Above that is the platter I threw yesterday.  Shortly after I started waxing, I noticed that it was at the perfect stage for trimming.  Before my studio move, I probably would have wrapped the platter to make sure it didn't dry out while I was packing boxes of bisque to schlep to the other studio for glazing.  Stop, trim, keep going.

Above that are the demo pots I threw for my new student.  Schedule a student during the days you have to prep for a firing?  Ridiculous!  Not any more - gave her a demo, and while she was working I was laying out bisque to wax and even trimmed that platter.

And above that, under the cute table cloth is the pugger.  I may not actually pug today, but in addition to everything else getting done today, I've got clay drying in the sun that I'll pug up in the next day or two, perhaps as a break from glazing.  I may have laid out clay in the old studio while glazing off site, but odds are it would either stay wet under plastic or dry out too much, having missed the times when it needed to be turned.

I don't always need to nor do I plan to hop around from task to task, but it is an absolute joy to do it today ... because I CAN.  What I've done just to this point today may have been spread over several days before this move, having to choose what to focus on based on where I would be and when.  Including this post!  Now perhaps an afternoon coffee break and then back to the waxing...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

definite progress!

So the down side to having to stop production to pack and move the studio right after a firing that was less than stellar (I believe the technical term would be 'crap'), is that the first kiln needs to make up for all those that shoulda been as well as hopefully start stocking the will be's.  The upside is that I have no lack of what to make, although because I'm filling very specific needs for this kiln, I'm a little all over the place, doing this mug for this client, these for another, only this many of this plate for another and odds and ends here and there.  But once everybody's caught up, I'll be back in a good rhythm and able to work in larger batches of each form. 

For now, it feels like I'm both racing and crawling to the finish line, with time for one more bisque before glazing and firing, making as much as I think I can cram into the bisque ... yet with today's rain the drying has screeched to a very slow crawl.  The upside to that is I took a short break and ran to the West Asheville Tailgate, which started its season today. 

So working through the branded client work, then finishing more individual orders and looking forward to enough sun tomorrow to dry things out for the bisque.

And then, the extreme joy of staying right here to start glazing work already bisque fired ... what a concept.

Back to watching clay dry ...

getting ahead on mugs for the ChoLo

branding some new service plates for Roots Cafe

taking advantage of a break in the clouds to dry out
some Roots mugs and dinner plates

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

feels like a bit of progress...

Ok I was going to skip today, then I saw my pal Karen did her post so here I am ...

Today was a day of clean hands, but still much got done.  Spent time at Echo Gallery putting all the 3D work in place, including newly received work by guest artist Emily Reason.  I didn't have my camera, so you'll just have to come to the opening on Friday or wait till I get pictures up to see how nice it looks.  But take my word for it - it looks niiiice!  Our other guest artists are textile artists Jen Swearington, Barbara Zaretsky and Libby & Jim Mijanovich, and our core members have added new work.  Don't take my word for it - come see it!  Details HERE.

The other fun for today was going to a Clay Club meeting.  I usually miss them as they're usually just far enough away to make the trip seem more optional the later the day gets, but this month they met in town so it would be just silly not to go!  It was a great turn-out, with potter folk from all over, including the northern territories!  Got to see many I hadn't seen in a while, meet many I had only known of indirectly, heard about lots of cool upcoming events at Curve Studios, Michael Kline's studio and with Tom Turner in town, ate way too much and just in general had a good time hobbing and knobbing. 

Back at the studio, I unloaded a small kiln load that included mugs for Echo and the first batch of work that will go to the Tree Gallery, tests for a new client and kiln fillers that were a lot of fun to play with.

 new tree mugs - can you find the 'easter egg' hiding on one? 
Studio member Rebekah added one of her owls to some of the mugs...

I'll actually have just a handful of new for the opening on Friday, as my big kiln won't fire till the end of the month.  But squeezing in this cone 7 kiln will give me a little and gets me much needed tests for the next load.  I love the feeling of opening a kiln - like a prezzie each time, and even if it's not the prezzie you thought you wanted, the info is always good and the more you do it, the more it's really like waking up first on Christmas morning!

 figured I was testing materials, why not test some new trees?

And then for something completely random ... I needed kiln fillers for this firing, and I had some slipped cups that were extra from a previous project.  I had wanted to roll out some tile tests to play with some ideas that had been floating in my head but didn't get it done in time, so the cups became my test tiles.  Of course, not related at all to any work I'm doing now, so it was kind of fun to play with - got to see how the underglaze crayons acted at cone 7, learned about some other underglaze colors.  Not sure when I'll do these tiles, but it was fun for a test and great for kiln fillers!

Tomorrow: gallery business, drying out clay, makin' a bunch of stuff, having a bit of henna fun, makin' a bunch more stuff, pugging.  Now off to see if I can liberate those pictures on my phone...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I get by...

...with a lotta help from my friends.  So I've been away from the blog lately and I have a long list that could follow 'because...'

But I think more than a few of us are going through a whole lotta that, and really while I'd love to rant it just doesn't feel like it'll accomplish much.  I'd rather say that in spite of seeing a lot of other people going through a lot of other struggles - many like my own, many not so hard, many so much harder it makes me want to cry ... what I see, hear and feel far more are the smiles, words and hugs of support.  I certainly have a wealth of it in my life, and I see it in and for other people too, and it's not that other people are 'going through a rough time' too that makes it easier.  It's the other people who are there to help, whether it's by packing up a box or just being that friendly voice on the phone. 

I do have many things to catch up with on the blog, and they all involve some of these incredible people - pictures of the move, of the new studio, of the work finally getting made.  And an incredible weekend with the 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Candle Wax' ... as soon as I figure out how to get the pictures off the phone ...

For now, I just wanted to share that my return to enthusiasm for the blog is fueled by my friend Karen.

 She goes by K., but I'm one of the few allowed to stick with 
Karen as that's how I met her and I'm just stubborn that way.  

Karen and I go back to the days of yore, and she's been a big source of inspiration to me through my own artistic travels and continues to do so with her own fearless exploration.
 This is a link to her blog, Big Fat Art Cloth.  

She's entered a challenge with artists she knows to create art and blog every day.  This is a great motivation for me as I've been stupid busy without getting much done lately and needed goals with the right motivation.  That being said, for now my big commitment is to read her blog every day.  Maybe I'll just blog about what I read in her blog. I've been planning this post for two days myself, so that's a good first step.

I'm looking forward to finally seeing more of Karen's work 'out there', but more so I'm excited to be able to hear her voice in these posts.  Her perspective comes from a great depth of experience - personal, professional, academic and artistic.  It's about her art, but you'll get a lot of who she is (and isn't that what we get with any of our art?), and if you follow this blog you'll get to know one of the best people around.  But don't call her Karen unless she says it's ok.

And if you need more motivation in your own studio, check out my blog links and read some cool blogs. Then check out the links list on those blogs - some of the best summer reading, and you never now where the next burst of new inspiration will find you!