Friday, January 28, 2011

Clay Solutions for Small Problems

Sometimes, a problem can be solved using a clay design.

On occasion, I do quilting and it seems I was always reaching for the large white thread spool. It never seemed to be in a convenient place. So, I designed this thread holder. Now, I can reel of mass quantities of thread when needed with very little fuss or searching.

Just made of a slabbed stoneware, I cut out a paper pattern first. The piece is a bit longer than the spool plus the length of the front and back which are bent up, slots are cut with a fettling knife and smoothed out in both ends. This makes for easy removal and replacement of the spool and spindle.

Add a springy piece of bamboo (a skewer will do if the pointy end is cut off) to hold the spool.

The holder keeps the thread in one place, like on a table top within easy reach. It makes it easy to recharge your needle and doesn't look too bad just sitting there.

Now if I could just figure out how to mount a pair of scissors...........Better yet, an Exacto blade glued into a pre-made slot offset somewhere on the side for a thread cutter.

Next time!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Record Keeping

I have an old 3-ring binder standing on a music stand in my studio. A pencil is tied to the stand with a string. (I can NEVER find a pencil or pen when I need it.)
The binder is divided in sections and one section says, Glaze Record. Another says, Firing Record. A third says Throwing Record (although handbuilt pieces are included).

I make blank pages for these sections so they are already formatted for my notes.

Here's what a sample looks like filled in:

The last page, the firing page, has a check-off box for the type of firing, a place to note the program number on the computer and one for noting how long the firing took. (Kilns change over time and you need to know about any changes in firing.)

The box in the corner is for quick notes on this firing I want to remember. The space at the bottom of the page is for more elaboration. This makes it easy to flip back through the pages and find what I'm looking for if I need to review a past firing.

The Throwing page is really just a blank grouping of sheets available for me to note down the measured diameter of a teapot lid, the beginning raw clay measurements of a piece so I can know the shrinkage rate, a place to diagram something--whatever you Think you'll remember, but Know you won't.

I find this works for me and I keep scanned copies of these pages in a file on my computer to print new ones quickly when I need them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The Christmas tree has been down for a week or so. The decorations are all packed back in their boxes--I used to take everything down right after Christmas because I worried about the tree drying out and becoming a fire hazard. A couple of years ago, we bought an artificial one and it's okay, but I sure miss that great smell. Oh well.......

The house got a good New Year's clean. I finished sorting through my 'To File' file and gave the studio a good going over.

Time to regroup, to access and to think about 2011.

I spent the last few days sifting through my visuals stack--all the clip-outs of clay and other ideas, hints gleaned from the magazines I had received this last year. All my own notes and thoughts of new projects and ideas. It does get the juices flowing.....

It wasn't until I had sat down and sifted through all the little scraps, notes and various pages of my purse notebook that I realized what a great batch of things I had thought up at randum points in time. (After I read the book on Agatha Christie's notebooks--How in the World did that woman keep track of what she was doing? Even with notebooks**) I know that jotting down ideas as they pop in your head isn't such a bad idea after all.

**Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran.

I never go anywhere with some kind of small notebook. After I leave a show or while in a museum, I make rough sketches and notes (sometimes even too cryptic for me if I let them get cold) about what I have seen and what might be a good springboard for my own work. Sometimes, mixed in with that will be grocery lists, book titles, other reminders. I AM learning to use my iPhone to list book titles to look for, thereby avoiding the amnesia that always descends on me at the library or bookstore.


I have a new camera to learn how to use and have been taking some shots with it and the old camera to see if there is a difference--and there certainly is. An 8 GB video card just arrived in the mail.

I'm still finding there is work I have never photographed. And I will try to correct that in the coming year.

This is one of the first photos I took of a piece I made early on. This was before I took a class from Roger Schrieber, one of the best professional photographers there is, whose work can be seen at

It's out of focus, wrong angle, strange background (my driveway) at least it is a record for my own use. I usually take my own shots (in the basement, excluding all outside light, using a special bulb and neutral grey backdrop roll, tripod and my old SLR). I'm sure the new camera will do fine, but I won't have that great hands-on ability as much as with my old camera and it's beautiful lens.

I just uploaded a bunch of photos for my Gallery page on the Southern Arizona Clay Artists' Association website. With the exception of the big green teapot, which is a pro shot, they were all taken with the old camera.

I have no idea how the new camera will work. I won't really know until I can return to my set-up and get a new light bulb. It makes me wonder how long those special lights will be available......

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two Beauties

A few weeks ago, I went to a flea market/antiques fair and found these beautiful pieces. They are porcelain lab ceramics made by the Coors company. Both are about 5 inches in diameter at the rim.

I just couldn't resist......Their shape is so beautiful and the form of the pour spout is perfect. The smaller one is only glazed on the inside and about an inch down the outer rim. The bisque is a pleasure to feel. They are perfect on the inside--no cracks or stains. The spout on the smaller one has a tiny chip on the lip that will grind out easily.

I felt I 'rescued' these pieces. They were sitting on a bargain table labeled, Each Item - $5.00. The vendor sold me both for a total of $5.00!

My first thought was they would make perfect molds, but I brought them home and put them on a cabinet in the living room and there they have sat ever since. They are just nice to look at.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tangents and Springboards

Springboards and tangents--the most brain tickling thing to do.

This is the sketch or doodle that started a train of thought.

Vertical lines at random placement across the form, then doing the same with horizontal lines, connecting a diagonal line at the intersections--simple as that.

Regimentation is created with the vertical and the horizontal, but the irregularity of placement creates interest.

The introduction of the diagonal creates the feeling of movement. However, if I were to draw diagonals in the opposite direction, the whole thing would become static.

Could be the beginning of a painting, fabric, metalwork. A broach, a wall piece. - think steel plate with gold pins and lacing of silver wire with one solid gold square placed three-fourths of the way up and off-center.

The design holds up. Theme and variation.

One way to know if a design has integrity is to hold it up and look at it from all four directions--vertical, horizontal, rotate it all the way around. If it looks good no matter which way it is turned, it's good.

What followed in the doodle process was not jewelry, but thoughts about a series of square, rounded-edged plates.

(The first has a note to do wax resist dots on the dark ground.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Woo Hoo!

I just opened my January issue of Ceramics Monthly and saw they had published my suggestion about how to make a foam trim batt, first seen on this blog in May of last year.

One free year of Ceramics Monthly! Yea