Monday, January 28, 2013


"What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have never been discovered."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My creative process has been all topsy turvy this month.

Normally, I start out with an idea, "sketch" it out and translate it into clay.  Then I make and make and make and make until I run out of time with each iteration tweaked in little ... well subtle ... okay already! so slightly that I, the creator, can't typically find them.  It won't be until months later that I return to the form to make major updates to either the form or surface decoration based on customer reactions, actual sales and my own preferences after "living" with the series.  Wash, rinse, repeat until I get sick of making pieces in the series and move on.

Every creative person has some sort of process, usually strange to everyone else, that just works for them.  The above is mine or was mine until the past few weeks.

It started out innocently enough with a request.  A request for planters.

I've never made a planter before.  I've stuck plants in plastic pots into my pieces sure, but those weren't intentional planters by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm not even really an expert on what makes a good planter.  The person requesting them gave me suggestions that I couldn't see worked into planters.  I thought they might be too squat and dumpy.

So, what to do?  How to come up with a design?  I must confess that my typical process wasn't really working because usually I start with a more nebulous idea like stained glass or trees or scraps before I even contemplate form. I felt like I was running out of time to come up with an idea before my new class session started.

Then it hit me!  I'll be making demos for my class, there was no reason not to demo each technique on a planter form.  Two classes each meeting twice a week why I'd have planters coming out of my ears in no time!

Week one found me demonstrating a pinching technique, but my "planter" sides grew out bigger and bigger as I talked during the demo and walked around to help students with their own projects.  I realized it halfway through class just before I asked my students to come over to see how to smooth the inside that my planter had become a bowl.  A really great, super-sized mixing or salad bowl, but a bowl nonetheless.

Week two, I did better.  In demonstrating how to use slab strips as coils I found some simple shapes a rounded square, a circle and a triangle completed a nice trio of planter options.  I felt pretty good about the design and even got a few ideas of how to mix it up a bit to make them a little more my style.  Maybe draw a tree in some parts for interest, that kind of thing.
It wasn't quite right somehow though.  I still didn't seem able to simply slip into mass production mode of striped pots.  On a break between classes, I tried out a basket weave that I thought might be the ticket.

Week three found me demoing nesting bowls.  It really appeared ideal with the creation of multiple pots of the same design just ever smaller in size being produced.  My morning class demo came out pretty cute.  Drainage holes and feet added after the class left ruined my great fitting nesting efforts, but voila! three matching planters.
My evening nesting bowl demo I got, admittedly, too ambitious.  I decided to demo a unique way to make the foot part of the bowl, but while my resulting two bowls nested they aren't my favorites.  Ever hopeful, I added drainage holes just in case.

Week three's demos ended with cube luminaries.  Figuring that wasn't a good day to coax a planter out of a normally scrapped demo piece, I was surprised to be reminded of a wonderful shape and form that I was really excited about.  I think I might even end up making luminaries from this type of form as well.
The very next day, despite going to the studio to set-up more forest luminaries for carving I spent the first few hours I was there setting up cube shaped planters.  I've got eight total drying on my shelf as I write.  My new stained glass designs are right at home on them. 

Ninety-nine percent of my class demo pieces last session ended up in the trash.  Many were tossed into the clay reclaim bucket and never fired.  Some were fired to be used for glaze demos before being thrown out.  A few were actually glazed fired.  Two, only two, live on after my last class session.  One, a kinda ugly tile, decorates the women's bathroom at the studio and one, a sun dish was given to a friend.

As I take a look back through all of these pieces created to demo different techniques for my students that led me to a pretty interesting new form for my own work, I have to wonder how many of those tossed out demos from classes past had more potential than I credited them with owning.  I wonder how many I simply saw as weeds and didn't look further.

Out of the Kiln - January 2013

Work started coming out of glaze fire the first week in January!  Below you'll find the latest designs for my stained glass inspired series.

The first of my new forest luminaries are out of the kiln this month as well with the rest to follow in the first few days of February!  A little sneak peak.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Out of the Kiln - December 2012

A little bit of a mixed bag for the month of December that includes some pieces I was putting off glazing (like the stained glass inspired tree with dark blue background), class demos, custom orders and, as always, some experiments!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I'm on a journey.

It's a bit unnerving to tell you the truth.  I started this leg of my life somewhat unprepared for what was in store.  I had a grand idea.  I wanted to do something completely different with my life.  Shift my focus away from the corporate world.  Sell art.

Not that it was that easy.

I spent the first few months overcome with doubt.  So much doubt that I lost my way a little bit.  Panicked, I interviewed for several open positions that would take me back to my old life.  By the time I resurfaced and set my priorities I was in the midst of the holiday crunch.

I've learned a lot those first six months and I've learned even more this past year.  I suspect that this time in my life will teach me more than I've ever learned in the past.

It's a bit unnerving to tell you the truth.  Just when I think I've got the formula worked out.  When I feel good about the direction my art is taking, my application gets rejected.

Rejection feels like a knife stabbing you in the gut.  It's swift, it's sharp and it gets you right where you are most confident.  At least it does for me.

I trust my gut instincts more than I trust any thought rattling around in my head.

It's a bit unnerving to tell you the truth.  To move forward and wade through the feedback, at least there was feedback, provided to make improvements.  What does that mean?  I've been told the exact opposite by others.


I've come to grips, if you will, with this most recent rejection.  I've begun to process the feedback.  New ideas are in progress at the studio.  The part of me that hates to do the same thing over and over is loving all of the ideas drying, waiting to be bisque fired.

It's still a bit unnerving to tell you the truth.  I guess I need to get used to never being comfortable again. After all, I'm on a journey. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Out of the Kiln - November 2012

The outcome of the latest round of color scheme tests for my stained glass series are out of the kiln this month.  Check them out below!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Darting Under the Eaves

When I told my mom that I was going to start teaching a handbuilding class a few months ago, one of the first things she said to me was that I would probably find all sorts of new ideas for my own work as a result.

Mom was right.

The other week found me demonstrating to my class how to create slab built mugs from their own paper templates.  The sample template I cut out was for a cone shaped mug with a waaaay too big opening at the wider end.  Oops!  Luckily I quickly thought of how to use the error as a discussion point about how they could refine their own templates when one of my students asked if they could "dart" their mug.

Darting in clay does exactly what it does in sewing.  Removes clay and creates a tapering of the piece just like darts do for skirts and shirts.  While it is a technique I'm familiar with I hadn't pulled it out of my tool bag for years until incorporating it into a class lesson on vases the prior week.

Since it had obviously stuck with my students as a cool process, I demonstrated what darting could do if used on my too wide cone.  I flipped it around to have the super wide end as the top and proceeded to add darts until the mouth was a more functional size and shape.

The class dispersed to start work on their own templates and mugs with my parting, "once you refine your templates keep them so you can make more later."

Good thing I took my own advice.

Just before the next class, I pulled out the template to re-make the mug again.  I wanted to re-demonstrate making and adding handles since my students' mugs had been a little too wet the previous class.  As I added darts to the mug, comparing placement to the original as I went, I was reminded of how much I liked the shape.

Those darted mugs seemed like they might be a finished design.  Little did I know they would stay in the back of my thoughts to re-emerge while I sat under the eaves at the Desert Art Center this past weekend.  

My view that day consisted of bunches of palm trees with haircuts.  At least that is what it looked like to me, trees with haircuts.  The dead palm fronds trimmed like split ends to prevent ragged ends of palm fronds from hanging down.  As I sat there pondering why landscapers hadn't just pulled off the dead fronds instead of giving them a trim, it hit me.

Trimming.  How could I incorporate this idea into my work?  My darted mugs popped back to the front of my mind.  I pulled out a pad of paper and started sketching some different options to trim (dart) mugs into interesting shapes.

So much for my "finished design."  I can't wait to try out some of these other thoughts to further develop my next mug series. 
At least the hard part is done thanks to my students and my palm tree view from under the eaves ... the title. Need you ask?  I'll call them Darting Under the Eaves, of course!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Out of the Kiln October 2012

Fewer pieces out of the kiln this month since my big glazing push was last month, so I could ensure having pieces in time for Art, for Heaven's Sake.  I do have some fun results to share though!

New stained glass inspired pieces in wall hanging form and with new designs!

Below are more pieces from out of the kiln the last full week of October. You can see some of my class demo pieces (mugs, tree stump vases) as well as my latest stain glass inspired pieces.

Also out of the kiln this month is a custom order for two vases and three luminaries. They will be adding to the decoration of a massage therapist's massage room!