Biting off more that I can chew.


6 years ago, our family relocated to SF Bay Area. The thought was to slow down and enjoy watching my kids grow up, going to basketball games and getting started in my second career in ceramics. To my delight (i think), my career in ceramics turned into… 3 exhibitions, Ceramics Symposium in China, 9 sales opportunity per year, 2 workshops and 2 teaching sessions, 2 board positions for ceramics and a part-time job that includes inviting visiting artists, scheduling and organizing workshops, sales and exhibitions.

End of last year, I made a mental note to slow down.

January saw me on the bleachers for my boys’ basketball games. High School basketball season is up to 3 games per team per week. I watched a lot of basketball. Enough to lose my voice for days!

In February, California takes a Mid-Winter Break that used to be called Ski Week. Apparently, it’s when Californians go skiing. We went to Hawaii. 10 days of hiking, biking and eating our way around Maui’s Road to Hana, Haleakala, and the sites around Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. Most of the time in the rain.

My March and April was all about the Wood-Fire Workshop at the Art Center and Spring Valley Anagama and then the 15 day Visiting Artists workshops and exhibition (more on that another time), coordinating my son’s basketball team tournament, finishing April with a Pit Fire Workshop.

May finds me at the Silicon Valley Open Studios…all three weekends! Even on Mothers Day! (See details at the end of this post.)

June has me demonstrating Saangam Style at Clay Carnival presented by Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild. This year held at Clay Planet in Santa Clara. (www.ovcag.org)(Clay Carnival 2018)

July is ACGA Clay & Glass Festival in Palo Alto. (www.acga.net)

August sees me in Paris and Bordeaux, France. (Follow on instagram)

September finds me leading another Hands-On Pit Fire Workshop. (Info to come.)

20 days in October spent in JingdeZhen, China for a Teapot Workshop and Exhibition! (I will have to catch you up on my time in YiXing last year)

November starts with the holiday sales season that continues through December. (See Events page for update)

Maybe next year, I’ll slow down.
Until then, hope you will visit me at one of my events…and to start, visit with me this weekend, SVOS Site # 176, 842 Stendhall lane, Cupertino, CA.

This weekend is the third and the final week of Silicon Valley Open Studios. I will be Cupertino, CA with three talented clay artists, Lisa Molaro and Cindy Percival. If you missed me in the two other weekends in Los Altos, this is your chance.

Saturday, we will be welcoming a special guest, Luisa S. Borja, a Bay Area Stylist and Floral Designer. She will be giving us a styling demonstration using fresh flowers. You will find me working on the wheel throughout the weekend too!

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Fresh from the wood fire kiln 2016.


2 months into the year and I’ve participated in 3 wood firings, and one more coming up next week! It’s a lot of work, but the little pyro in me is loving every ache and sleepless nights when I get teapots that look like these!

I think I’m getting the hang of what to expect–at least what to look for–out of the wood kiln and more specifically from the soda and salt firings. The teapot forms have been refined to take advantage of the movements of the flame and to allow for the ash and glaze to enhance surface effects. These 7 teapots survived in its whole without much touch up post firing. Credit to good wadding placement and key positioning in the kiln.

Several of these teapots show signs of heavy body reduction early in the firing. While this is not usually desirable and could cause carbon coring, there doesn’t seem to be any bad results from it. It really highlights the textures and coil details very well. You can tell which have the heavy body reduction by the “smokey” coloring—that’s the carbon trapped in the body of the clay under the ash/soda glaze.

You will find some of these teapots in a new exhibition that I am part of at The Main Gallery in Redwood City titled “Stories: Selected Works by the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild”. Exhibition opens on February 24th and runs through April 3rd, 2016. Artist Reception is held on Saturday 27th from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. If you are in town and can make the reception, please join me at the after party gathering at Milagros Restaurant across the street immediately after the gallery closes. Public parking can be found at the Redwood City Library adjacent to the gallery.

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It’s Just Clay …and upcoming show update.


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Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival was just a few weeks ago and my expectations were high with a big effort on not feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t score on the highest rating on either but had a great time! Many friends came out to see me and to congratulate me. Many visitors stopped by to give me an ego boost. And then there was the one customer who left me with a story that provided hours of laughter with friends and colleagues.

Every show offers me something to take away. Sometimes it’s wisdom, sometimes it’s a lesson learned. And then there is the “did that really happen” moment, and it usually goes something like… “how long does it take for you to make that?” (trying to assess hourly wage?),  “How much?!!!” (much more that what they think it’s worth), and of course all artist favorite, “will you take (what little I want to pay you for it and like it) $xx?” and not to forget the all time stinger… “I can get this at (Bargain Retailer) for $5!”.

But this time I got a new one…”It’s just clay right?”.

One can search any of the search engines to find pricing strategies of other artists and craftspeople and you would find everything from the minutia of detail accounting of each and every step taken to produce the one $25 mug to the philosophical rationale on why one little teacup is worth $1000.

So I won’t go into the detail of how I arrive at my pricing strategy nor the full conversation and what I told the man who didn’t like my prices.

I just have one comment. If you find it to be pleasing to you and feel the price is right for you, please buy it. By making that purchase, you own a piece of that artists heart and passion, a lovely story about how you met the artist and maybe a little story on how it was made and why you find joy in owning it.

If you have to question the price tag, it wasn’t meant to be. But don’t fault the artist for placing a value of their love and passion. Because, by no means will we ever be able to afford that Tesla Model S or the Porche 911 he may have in his garage by selling that little piece of clay… that sat on that shelf… on that beautiful sunny day in Palo Alto.

Below are the updates to the shows to finish out the year. My Events page is also updated and has additional details.

Thanks!

Oct. 24th in San Jose, CA.  A Fair of the Arts @Notre Dame High School presented by the Sisters and Associates of Nore Dame de Namur
http://www.HeartsAsWide.com

November 14 & 15 in Palo Alto, CA.  Art In Clay @Lucie Stern Community Center with Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild

December 5 & 6 in Fremont, CA. Holiday for the Arts Show and Sale @ Olive Hyde Art Gallery Presented by Olive Hyde Art Guild

December 12 & 13 in Los Gatos, CA. Fine Arts Show and Sale at The History Club of Los Gatos presented by Blossom Hill Crafts.

Next up: Fremont and Menlo Park, CA


Wow, what an amazing weekend! Initially overwhelming and intimidating by the sheer number of artists and talent, can’t help but to be humbled and inspired. I was one of 70+ ceramic artists presenting sculptural, functional and garden art at the annual Art in Clay Ceramic Art Show and Sale in Palo Alto presented by Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild. It’s surprising how one show with so many other potters can each be so unique in style, technique and presentation. Everyone eager to share the stories, tips and tricks to how their work distinguish from others’ work. Some artists more accomplished, some just starting out, all with their own amazing story. Yes, I used amazing twice, now three times, but I’m having a hard time finding another word that express what I saw this weekend.

If you were not able to come this year, mark your calendars for next year, Nov 15-16, 2014. A not to miss for sure!

Next up:
Olive Hyde Art Guild Holiday for the Arts Gala, Show and Sale in Fremont, Ca.
Friday Night Gala— December 6th, 5:30 – 9pm
Show and Sale—December 7-8th, 10am – 5pm, Free Admission
Olive Hyde Art Gallery, 123 Washington Blvd., Fremont, Ca.
Click here for poster.

German-American International School Winterfest 2013, Menlo Park, CA
December 7, 2013  2pm – 5pm, Free Admission
GSIS-275 Elliott Drive, Menlo Park, CA
Click here for poster.

Blossom Hill Pottery and Fine Art Sale in Los Gatos, CA
December 14-15, 10am – 5pm, Free Admission
History Club of Los Gatos, 123 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos, CA ‎
http://blossomhillcrafts.com/sale/

This completes this year’s show schedule for me. Hope you are able to visit these shows and when you do, be sure to say hello.

Getting ready to show and sell.


Start of the holiday season marks my busiest most stressful time of the year—preparing for the shows and sales leading up to Christmas week. Instead of thinking about festive decorations, organizing favorite holiday recipes and making a list of what I’d like to receive, I am elbow deep in mud, glazes and covered in price tags.

No complaints though…except for the gift list. I prepare the these weeks with anticipation of how people will like my new pieces. And I have some exciting new pieces!

These are exciting time for artists who show and sell. To get feedback and comments, to see how people handle each piece. It’s disappointing when people walk past my work and not touch them. I think most are afraid to touch or think that they would be obligated to buy once touched. Artists love to talk about their work. To share the thoughts of how or why they made them. Most of us work in small little studio on their own with Pandora playing in the background. We want people to talk to. So next time you are at an art show, be engaged, be social. Ask for the story, and there’s always a story.

Visit me at Art in Clay Ceramic Show and Sale presented by Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild on Nov 16-17, 10am – 5pm at Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto.

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Carved Globe Ornaments: $18 each. Available in bronze, black, red.
Watering Vessels: $65 each.Orders placed by 12/1 will deliver in time for Xmas!

Back to Teapots


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This was the last teapot completed successfully in my studio. Sadly, I’ve made at least 8 while in SF, and this is the only one that survived—thanks to a pre-mixed Cone 6 glaze from a bottle, brushed on. Inner liner glaze is my own.

Let’s rewind the clock to Fall of 2012.

September. I finally set up my little studio in the garage of our Redwood Shores townhouse rental, I was excited to continue my teapot making…I was starting to really enjoy the process. Got my little Skutt kiln hooked up after paying the electrician $300 for a special outlet—this we negotiated down from $500! Bought the necessary glazing materials and equipment…this was not cheap either since I couldn’t bring all of my wet glaze materials.

So, fast forward a few weeks… many bisqued teapots, cups and bird houses and other little experiments I was ready to glaze. Mixed up my usual batches of tried and true glazes in test quantities and fired up my kiln to cone 6. They seems to look fine… but it wasn’t. My second glaze firings included those new teapots and every pot came out with blisters! I mentioned this in my previous post, but didn’t get into what happened to my teapot making. Well, I was distraught, so I stopped making teapots…it was too heart breaking. I started hand-building and reformulating glazes and testing, testing, testing—glaze mixtures, clay bodies, temperatures, ramp/hold/cooling schedules. Turns out it was a bisque temperature and kiln load density issue…yes 5 months of testing! At least now, I have several new glazes that work beautifully (also found in previous post).

Fast forward again to this weekend.

I took a hands-on Ultimate Teapot Workshop with George Dymesich offered by OVCAG at Higher Fire in San Jose. Well, I think my groove is coming back. George was a very patient and thorough teacher, showing each step with explanation of why certain techniques are used, both functional and aesthetic concepts. All this time, I didn’t understand why there is a hole in the lid! It’s to allow liquid to flow without gurgling. AHA! There were many other Aha! moments throughout the day. Not only from George’s instructions, but from working with 10 other fellow potters learning, encouraging and inspiring from each other. Seeing little home made tools and shortcuts like: a little painter’s sponge bought at HomeDepot stuck at the end of a stick works so much better than ones you buy from the clay store! And I learned how to use a throwing stick on the inside of a pot to give volume…and I successfully threw a 5 pound clay pot!

Now I should have some photos of my hard work…nope. Packed it up in the trunk at the end of the day, got home and while unloading my pieces, dropped it on my garage floor. FLOP!

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Two things learned by dropping my teapots on the floor:
1. Got over my “precious pot” syndrome. It’s the “don’t cry over spilled milk” for potters. Kind of.
2. My throwing is getting better, even walls, mostly. Still need to work on not thinning out at the rim.

Back to the wheel.

Glazes, Slabs & Textures


Wow, my last post was a long time ago.

I did take a break after the Art In Clay Sale in Palo Alto with the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild. It was a great experience, 72 clay artist presented their work and every one as unique as they are. Everything from everyday coffee mugs to sculptural figures, mini tea pots to giant outdoor ceramic garden slug that was 10 feet long!

I showed my pottery brought over from Chicago as well as my new bird houses thrown on the wheel. And in to celebrate the winter holidays approaching, I also made little ceramic bird ornaments. Those were a HIT!

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So Glazes.
I began mixing my glazes again in my studio and as you see above, it did not work very well. It was awful. Every batch of my trusted glazed were blistering. Same recipe, same clay, same temperature and still no. So I tested a few more glazes, and the test tiles came out fine, but when moved to the big final pieces, still blisters. So, many months of struggling, giving up and trying pre mixed glazes out of a bottle, I finally got the recipe right. Only 5 months of anguish!

It wasn’t my glaze recipe. It was the bisque temperature and load density. I played with too many variables…new clay bodies, temperature and time shifts, load variations. But the one I didn’t try was firing my bisque higher for my red clay body. Since it has more impure particles, it needed more heat to burn out so that in the glaze firing , it doesn’t try to escape into my glaze surface. So, solution: Bisque to Cone 02=beautiful glaze finish.

I did end up with new glaze formulas in the process. See below.

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Maybe in following posts, I will share my recipe secrets, but it’s really not that secret, what I’ve modified in these are more the application process and allowing the clay body’s natural color to show through to enhance overall appearance and depth to texture.

So, Slabs & Textures!

I always thought that I didn’t have a talent for hand building clay pots. I looked at the slab of clay as a painter may look upon a white stretch of canvas. Some see possibilities and some see white canvas. I saw slab of clay.

Enter Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild… Mold making workshop with Jamie Meador, Art In Clay Artists, Jill Getzan‘s rain sticks, Lynn Wood‘s Slaberation workshop at Clay Carnival at Clay Planet.What do they all have in common? Texture. Everywhere!

Enter my patio garden…We don’t have a back yard yet, still renting in the bay area, so we have a stone slab patio garden with succulents in pots and a few indoor house plants. I needed a watering can and didn’t want to resort to a generic plastic watering can. “Well, I can make it myself with clay!” 2 months of experimenting….

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Oh, and I forgot to mention the beauty of the oxide wash! These are the results of the Manganese Oxide wash in various solution ratio and wiping power. These photos aren’t very good, I need to find my sweep again but I am quite happy with how they turned out. These can be found on my etsy store.

Would love to hear your thoughts and encouragement.