It’s Just Clay …and upcoming show update.


Miki_ACGAJuly2015

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.

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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.

Into the fire…on the beach!


I’m very excited to share my latest pit fire with the help of photos from a fellow pit fire participant’s photos–cuz I was too busy playing with fire.

Our scheduled OVCAG-Orchard Valley Ceramics Art Guild-September Pit Fire Workshop was managed by me and I must say it went very smooth…thank goodness!

Twin Lakes Beach, Santa Cruz, CA
Lovely beach with many fire rings that come in very handy. But the ashes need to be shoveled out first…at least about 2 feet. Lance dug out 3 feet and I believe it helped to give better reduction effects on my pot.

I arrived at the Santa Cruz Twin Lakes Beach with my very handsome muscle man, otherwise known as My Husband Lance in tow. And he did a magnificent job of digging out the fire pit!

Pitfire02_fillingup
Then the cowpies to cover all the pots.
Then newspaper and kindling and then tent the fire wood on top before lighting.

We piled on the wood collected from a local sawmill who generously donated their scraps.

Pitfire03_Lighting
Note how the fire wood is piled in a tent style. It’s to make sure that the pit is lit evenly. We piled as much wood as possible initially and filled in as it starts to die down.

And because I like to play with fire, I added a few more when I noticed some empty spots. Wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any exposed pots during the firing. Boy, it was HOT!

Pitfire04_adding
The flames were super high and really hot. I recommend using Kiln gloves or at least a very long tongs when working with the fire. As you see, I had neither! Notice also the mound of ashes and sand next to the pit?

Now the hard part…letting it burn.

Pitfire05_lit
We noticed that there were active flames only on one side, but it moved across the pit as it burned through. Giving the air to burn with the tented wood pile helps this greatly versus just throwing in the logs like a regular camp fire.

And wait…

Pitfire06_redhot
A bit over an hour has passed and the fire is dying down, but it’s still very hot and under the ashen wood, there were still active flames.

Trying to look like we are waiting patiently…

Pitfire08_waiting
pitfire07_peeking That’s my Muscle Man Otherwise Known As My Husband Lance. And fellow pit fire crew, Guo Feng and Joan Lin.

Lunch time! We came prepared with pot luck food…pastries, hot coffee, chips and dip, cold cuts, cold peanut sesame noodles and lots of fruit. We could have fed 10 more people!

Pitfire09_picnic
Can’t have a beach pit fire without the right provisions! Shade and food!

After about 2.5 hours, we started to get way too eager and decided to move the embers around to speed up the cooling process.

pitfire10_ashes
This is Guo’s pit. She used white stoneware and used clear and stained terra sigilata. While loading the pit, she also sprinkled Red Iron Oxide to the tops of the pieces. Great blacks on the bottom and spotted browns from the iron oxide showed well on the top.
Pitfire11_cooling
Yes, little miss impatient Miki took pots out of the pit while it was still very very hot…it was tinking loudly…not a good sign but all worked out.

And my pit. Great black and lots of color flashes from the Salt and Copper Carbonate. It was the deepest pit and burned longer than the others, and the results were beautiful!

IMG_4173
I wanted to take this driftwood home so I could take all my pit fire pots, but alas…

And back in my studio, the other pots.

Notice the difference between the smaller ones in the middle and the bigger ones. I started get bored with the pebble burnishing and so the bigger ones only got 2 phase burnishing while the little ones had 3 phase burnishing… 1. at leather hard, 2. at green and 3. at bone dry with canola oil. Once these are finished with floor wax polishing, I hope they even out, but in the future, I won’t be as lazy!

IMG_4178
I pebble finish all my pots. Take a very smooth river stone and softly rub the pots in small circles until they get super shiny. This photo is a reminder for me to not be lazy with my efforts because the results don’t lie.

We started at 7:00 am and left the beach at 1:45 pm which included cleaning up and packing up the car. Super efficient and got great results. A very happy crew!

PitFIre13_Group
Jim, Guo Feng, Megan George, Joan Lin, Miki Shim-Rutter, Irene Jenkins.

Photos by Lance and Jim! Thank you!

Something New, Something Timeless

2Frogs Ceramic Arts announces new show and sale dates for Fall/Winter 2013. Featured items are Teapots, Bird Feeder, Water Pitchers and Holiday Accessories and Ornaments.


A quick update on my show/sale schedule for Fall 2013.

I am filling the end of this year with shows and sales, 3 so far. Which means:

  • I am excited to show new work
  • My glazes are working again
  • My shelves are overflowing
  • Can use the extra cash to buy more clay!

SampleSet

Teapots
I’m excited to show my new teapots with techniques learned from the teapot workshop with George Dymesich and new glazes I’ve been perfecting. Look for new posts soon to see my progress with theses.

Bird FeedersYou have seen a few glimpses of these in previous posts and a few on my Etsy shop. I will have a few more in different designs and colors. I’m sure there will be ones you will have to have in your own bird sanctuary.

Water PitchersThese high-capacity vessels are slab formed and as functional as beautiful. Inspired by my need to water my indoor plants, they easily go from holding a bouquet of your favorite flowers to pouring a refreshing drink at your table.

Mugs, Tumblers and Stuff
I have been experimenting with textures, textures and textures. These will be featured on slab built mugs, cups and other versatile small dishes.

Holiday Ornaments
Last year, I featured little red birds to play around your holiday tree. This year…It’s a surprise. You will have to come to one of my sales to find out. Visit me in person and mention my website, one will be a gift from me to you.

Few of these items will be featured on Etsy as inventory become available so keep checking my 2Frogs/Etsy shop for new pieces if you can’t make one of my shows.

Thanks!

Blossom Hill Crafts Pottery: Fall Sale
September 21-22, 2013
Blossom Hill Crafts Pottery
15900 Blossom Hill Rd. Los Gatos, CA 95032.

OVCAG Art In Clay Show and Sale 2013

Nove
mber 16-17, 2013
Lucy Stern Community Center
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Blossom Hill Crafts Pottery: Holiday Sale
December 13-15, 2013
Blossom Hill Crafts Pottery
15900 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA 95032.

Back to Teapots


Image

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!

IMG_3673

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!

IMG_4102 IMG_4100

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.

Feeder_Sm_WhtGrn1b Feeder_Sm_WhtGrn1c LgPitcher_GreenWhite1c Pitcher_LtGreenOxide1d

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….

LgPitcher_GreenOxide1a Pitcher_GreenOxide1b Pitcher_LtGreenOxide1a

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.

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.