Getting ready…2012 Art in Clay, Palo Alto, CA


It has been a long month full of activity at the 2Frogs Ceramic Arts Studio…aka. Rutter Garage.

I finally made the jump and hooked up the kiln ($300), bought the glaze chemicals & supplies ($200+), and spent the gazillions of hours mixing and glazing and testing tiles. I’m on my 4th glaze test, each taking 15-18 hours of firing and another 10 hours of cooling to find out that I’ve failed…again. But bright side…I think I know what happened…maybe. The crazy thing is that the test tiles looked great, but the pots didn’t. So what gives? Another glaze test firing in the works.


If you are in the neighborhood of Palo Alto, CA in the second week in November, I’ll be showing my work with other members of the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild…details below.

12th Annual Art in Clay Ceramic Art Show & Sale
Sat & Sun, November 17-18, 10am-5pm
Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Rd. Palo Alto , CA



Built some bird houses, made some molds.

I’ve been asked about my pottery work…”so, what have you been up to now that you have some time to yourself?” My usual answer was, “I’ve been taking some time off to hang out with my boys for the summer”…more for the sake of not having to go through a myriad of excuses for the lack of ceramic work that I have not produced. Well, finally I have something to talk about.

I’ve been taking pottery class in San Mateo, hooked up my wheel in the garage and started throwing some forms and registered for a mold making workshop in San Jose!

Adventures in Plaster Mold Making!

Presented by OVCAG (Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild), I participated a hands-on mold making workshop with Jamie Meador, hosted by Jeannine Meidinger in her beautiful home in in the hills of San Jose. Jamie started with a demonstration followed by a detailed, independent hands-on work session where we were expected to make molds, compute water to plaster ratio using calculators to find the volume, pour plaster into forms, textures and bowls. In the photo above, the fruits of my labor–except for the small round bowl and square bowl forms that I purchased. I did have a failure of the bigger bowl…the bottom fell out…too thin. The stamps in the lower left hand side is showing brown…that’s because I haven’t cleaned the clay off of the plaster yet. Once I give it a good sponge rub, it will be nice and white like the others. Great experience…can’t wait to make more molds!

It’s for the Birds!

As I mentioned, I have started working at the San Mateo Park District Clay Studio. With the end of the summer session, I will be participating in a sandy beach pit firing. Our instructor recommended a closed form for best success and so I decided to make bird houses. As part of the process, the pots are made and before going into the bisque firing, we burnished the surface once at the leather hard stage and also at bone dry stage. The two on the right have been burnished twice while the one on the left is still unpolished…can you tell the difference? You can see a slight reflection on the surface. It feels like marble!

So what happens now?

These will be cooked once in the kiln to cone 04, to bisque. We will be going to a beach, digging a pit, placing the pots inside with firewood and sawdust, lighting it on fire. Once the bonfire has burned itself out and pots cooled enough to handle, we will wipe it clean for the surprises that the fire and ash left us.   I will post after effects photos to show the results.

For more reading on Pit Fired Pottery and Potters, check out these potters…a very short list of many.
Robert Compton Pottery
Matt Hoogland
Alex Mandli

If you are interested in the bird houses, let me know…I will be offering the finished pieces on my Etsy shop at $40 each. After theses three pit fired pots, I will be making traditional kiln fired ones with underglaze or glaze colors. I will also take custom orders too: colors and sizes.

In Search of Zenscape – Part 2

I started my google search and a visit to SF ClayWorks near Silver Terrace.


It was about 22 miles from home but in the middle of the day, a 20 minute ride on HWY 101. Located within an industrial office park, it was hard to imagine that there were artists working within its walls. A relatively new space and very organized still…noted the new gas kiln with only 4 firings. While the class times were flexible enough, they put restrictions on what you are allowed to do with your work once its finished…limited glaze colors and can’t sell any of the pieces I make. That put a damper on my needs. Studio spaces were another option but there were none open…plus it was out of my price range.

Another 20 minute drive through local streets of Mission is Ruby’s Clay Studio.


Very “colorful” and hilly. In fact I parked perpendicularly on the hill that seemed like it was about a 30° incline. First steps into the studio included a light an airy gallery space. Further exploration into the space was quite an adventure. A general work space with about 10 wheels and a small hand building station was probably for people who are taking classes. The rest of the 2.5 floors was divided into what looked like a 8′ x 8′ personal studio spaces for artists. I lost count after 20 artist spaces that had the feeling of walking through the catacombs. It should have a sign that said “only serious artist work here”. I didn’t get to meet any instructors or office managers, but a few flyers were available for me to browse the fees and hours. Based on the location and fees, this wasn’t for me either, it would be a 45 min drive in good traffic and very little space for non-studio artists.

I heard about San Mateo’s Parks and Recreations Ceramics Studio from Nina at SFClayWorks, so I paid a visit on Saturday morning. (No picture to included…website is generic info about class information). This one is like “the little studio that could”. The park included the San Mateo Japanese Tea Garden and this morning, there was a group practicing Tai Chi in the lawn…it was a good sign. The studio was nestled between the community center, tennis courts and the baseball fields. (I had to call into the main Parks and Rec office to help me find it.) The lone instructor teaches at least 5 classes that were listed for adults (possibly more if you included kids summer camps), 4 electric kilns, 10 electric wheels and about 5 kick wheels. The space seemed incredibly small for the 12-15 people who were there, but the energy was good, cheerful and respectful. Parking might be an issue, street parking is limited with meters but a strip mall across the street might be a good option. After a brief discussion with the instructor, we agreed on Wednesday evenings and to help develop a few new glaze options.

I decided that I will start a new series of work inspired by my need for new set of dishes for my house. My hope that the recent adventures in the SF Bay area will inspire new forms, colors and designs in my pottery.

Not sure if this will be the Zenscape I hoped to find, but it’s a start. It is what I make of it…right?

Inspired Pots:
Check out these potters on Etsy
Ray Morales, John Spiteri, Jeff Campana


In Search for Zenscape – Part 1

Studio potter looking for a new studio to call home in the SF Bay Area.

Now an official resident of California, well actually, the lease started March 1st, but just registered my car and got my license transferred this week. It has been a long 3 months of quitting my job, packing, driving out from Chicago to SF…twice, graduation of our son from college, unpacking and getting the two little guys settled in their new school and acclimating the our new neighborhood, city, and state. I’m leaving out a lot more of our mini-adventures around our new home, but I’ll try to work those into my blog posts along the way.

My latest adventure is to find a new clay home.

Original plan was to set up a mini studio and hook up my kiln in the garage. I’m rethinking that strategy now. Maybe I’ve become spoiled with my set up in Chicago, but working in the garage with the bikes, scooters the car and unpacked boxes (on shelves waiting for our next move), just doesn’t seem like the place where I can escape to my world…I called it “zenscape”.

The closest ceramic studio I found is 22 miles north towards San Francisco. (I will be visiting with them soon and post an update.) Or 35 miles into San Jose to the south. Yes, I live in the suburbs by all description, in the shadows of Silicon Valley with the brilliant minds of engineers, programmers and venture capitalists.

But I will prevail. I will make a home for my clay.

In the mean time, my 2Frogs Studio on Etsy shop has been repopulated with new work…some slightly older. They made it even easier to shop by allowing credit cards use. More options for payment than just PayPal.

Stay tuned for new developments of “In Search for Zenscape”

What a wonderful event at Brainforest Gallery!

earth : sky opening night at Brainforest Gallery, Chicago was last night.

What a beautiful space, gracious host and awesome turnout of friends and art supporters! Many thanks to Dian Sourelis of Brainforest Gallery for hosting!

This exhibition will be up through May, but my pottery will be packed up and put on a truck to sunny, norther California. Redwood City to be exact! You can still see the exhibition by appointment through March 18th.

You will still find me through this website and I will be updating my Etsy/2frogs studio as soon as I get settled.

Big thanks to my family, friends, colleagues and clay supporters for your encouragement in my clay pursuits—to define my own clay voice.

Follow me in my next adventure west, keep sending me your encouragement, praise, critiques… keep me connected.

Gallery night with ceramics and paintings!

March 9 – May 4 2012
Brainforest Gallery, Chicago

earth : sky

Miki Shim-Rutter, Ceramics
Pamela Callahan-Paintings

Dian Sourelis of Brainforest Gallery emails me out of the blue and says, “I would like to offer you a gallery night during the “2nd Fridays Gallery Night”. How else to respond to that but to calmly respond with “yes, thank you. That would be wonderful.” Get up from my desk and do the Snoopy happy dance. My next reaction was, holy cow, I need to start making stuff!

That was a couple of months ago… and with three weeks away from the show date, I finally make it down to the studio to turn out some teapots. I have to say, deadline is the best motivator!

I will be featuring the various collections that I’ve produced… even ones that I don’t show anymore but love. Hope you will save the date and come out to visit with me at the artist reception. I will be there from 6pm – 8pm with a glass of wine in my hand

March 9 – May 4, 2012,
Brainforest Gallery, Chicago

earth : sky
The Chicago Arts District hosts “2nd FRIDAYS Gallery Night
Miki Shim-Rutter — Ceramics
Pamela Callahan—Paintings

Opening night and artists’ reception
March 9, 2012  6-10pm
Gallery open by appointment

Brainforest Gallery
1932 S. Halsted Street, Unit 406, Chicago, IL 60608

The scoop on 2nd Fridays Gallery Night:

The Chicago Arts District hosts “2nd FRIDAYS Gallery Night”, the monthly opening receptions at the galleries and artists’ studios centered around South Halsted and 18th Streets in Chicago. The receptions begin at 6:00pm and run until 10:00pm.

Join the 30 creative spaces in the Chicago Arts District at South Halsted and 18th Streets, as they showcase an exciting display of art and artists from Chicago and beyond. This unique art community opens its doors, free of charge, and lets you get up close and personal with the art and artists.

2Frogs at Winter Art Collective in Chicago

Need something to do this weekend?
How about early shopping for Valentines Day?

What ever the motivation, six hand-craft artist will be showing and selling their works at the Winter Art Collective this Saturday, February 4th, Noon – 4 pm at the Healing Foundations located at 2112 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618.

Hope you can stop by to visit.

Glaze firing… epic fail.

Failed Glaze Firing

It had to happen sometime.
And it did.
Not that I expected every firing to come out perfect…
Well, yes, I did.

So what went wrong?
– Too much glaze coats
– Under-estimated glaze run
– Extra long cool-down schedule
– Not thinking fast enough to turn off the kiln when i noticed the wrong temperature.

And what did I learn from this?
– Don’t wait 2 months to get back to clay
– My throwing is getting better, even thickness from the bottom up
– Triple check my kiln settings

So, back on the wheel again.

Thanks for checking in.

Have yourselves a safe and happy holidays!

2Frogs Ceramic Arts at the Fall French Market at the Lycée Français Chicago-Oct. 14-16, 2011

Fall French Market Poster for Lycée Français 2011 by Yann Legendre

A short post today to update this weekend’s show at the Fall French Market at Lycée Français Chicago this weekend.

Fall French Market 2011
Lycée Français de Chicago
613 West Bittersweet
Chicago, IL 60613

Look for Miki Shim-Rutter at 2Frogs Ceramic Arts and Legendre+Rutter booth in the Gym!

Fri. Oct 14, 2011 7pm-10pm (tix $40/p, adult only)
Sat. Oct 15, 2011  10am – 5pm (tix: $5/adult)
Sun. Oct 16, 2011  11am – 4pm (tix: $5/adult)

The Lycée Français de Chicago Fall French Market.
Shop and dine with over 50 vendors, including Figaro Parisian Antiques, Bijoux Fantasia, Careful Peach and Provenance Food & Wine. Watch notable Chicago chefs prepare local specialties. A pavilion for children ages 3-10 will provide supervised activities while you shop.


What’s Next?

I want to thank everyone who made the walk at Ravenswood ArtWalk in Chicago this past weekend. It was a beautiful weekend with plenty of sunshine, lots of beautiful art to see,… and a lot of walking if you took full advantage.

Next is the Lycée Francaise’s Fall French Market on Oct 15-16th. I don’t have full details yet, but will update as soon as I have them.

On feature will be the Carved Series and the new forms in the Pebbles Series.

Form by Miki, carved by Lance Rutter
Carved Vase Detail

Carved is a series that Lance and I worked in collaboration. I create the forms and Lance designs the surface. I think it’s a perfect expression of fall. Settle in with a war cup of tea poured from one of these teapots… I personally prefer one of the black teas with a little milk to sip with my annual knitting project or a good chick book. You know the ones with a little laughter, a little tear and a happy ending at the end. The glaze is also applied in a way to enhance the texture and highlight the various surface impressions. While it is difficult to achieve guess at how the glaze might move on a pot, especially with carvings, its always a happy surprise when the kiln is opened after 18 hours of final glaze firing.

Pebbles Vases

Pebbles…that’s the name that came to mind when we photographed the earlier forms. They looked like pebbles in a stream of water, peaceful and tranquil. Working on these forms were just as theraputic for me. Here I’ve used my usual red caramel glaze and tourquoise glaze. I’m finding that these two provide me with so many options its great to work with, but I’ve determined that they have a mind of its own when it comes to how they play with each other. Kind of like raising children! At least they play nice.

I premiered these Pebbles vases at the Ravenswood ArtWalk and that is when I discovered the real beauty of these pots. The glaze seem to have magical properties (I even considered changing their name to Opals). My booth was drench in southern exposure and the pots with the red caramel glazes shined and glittered and the matte turquoise glazes sparkled. WOW! I need more sunlight in my studio was what I was thinking! Lance…? Anyway, this glaze offers so much diversity, you will be seeing a lot more of this glaze on my pots.

More on the Fall French Market soon.