Thursday, October 16, 2014

Horsehair, Crows, Porcelain and PR: It's Open Studio Time Again.

I love doing an open studio tour.  I meet some of the most warm, fascinating people.  I get to show and tell what I do behind the usually closed doors of my studio.  And I always learn something new.

This year has been a little different.  And that's a good thing.

As an artist on the Washington County Open Studios tour, I've made many new friends.  And this year, my new artist friends have been teachers and inspirations.  
Terry Grant's fiber crow on the right.

Terry Howard Grant is a fiber artist who helped me with the group's new blog.  She wrote a great blog about her amazing studio here, which I admit, I wish I had a studio like hers.  I wanted one of her cool, fiber crows and we traded...her crow for my porcelain mug and bowl.  She even put a picture of my mug filled with her morning coffee on her blog.  She did several blogs on using her iPad to do digital drawing and with her help, I learned how to do it, too. 
Karen French showing her raku kiln and our finished pieces.

Karen French is a potter who helped me with the group's event listings and online calendars as part of the public relations job I'm doing for the group.  She is excellent at excell.  She is also a wonderful potter who generously shared her raku kiln with me.  Twice now, we have hauled out the kiln, fired up our pots and draped them with horsehair which we finish with paste wax.  Her studio in back of her house is spacious enough for a wheel area on one side and two kilns on the other.  Ok, I have studio envy here, too.

My newly inspired raku pieces and crows.

I've learned about digital drawing and iPad apps from Terry.  I've learned about new clays and tools from Karen.  Terry's digital drawings and crows inspired me to make my own digital drawings and crows in porcelain.  Karen's horsehair raku vases inspired me to try horsehair raku on my masks and crows.  

Karen demonstrating raku on Good Day Oregon TV show.

Both of them inspired my approach to public relations this year.  Terry's studio by a bubbling creek was featured in a local Homes & Gardens article.  Karen's horsehair raku and studio set up was featured live on a local TV and radio morning news shows.
Terry Grant's cozy studio.

I've been a writer for decades, personally and professionally.  And, maybe, I've been an artist for that long too, but didn't know it.  The last 15 years, I've concentrated on my artist side, sidelining my writing to just my blog.  But this year, I've been able to combine them both. I'm doing my own art and using my writing to promote art and artists right in my own neighborhood.

I'm happy to do it and can't wait to open my own studio doors, too.  After I get off the computer and get it cleaned up, that is!  By the way, the Washington County Open Studio tour is this weekend from 11am-5pm, a free map is online at  

If you're in the area, come on by! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Dizzy busy week.

was going to write about sunsets and inspiration but I'm writing about perspiration instead.
The good, old, honest hard working kind of sweat and the kind that comes with excitement.  

Yup, it's been that kind of week.  And while I might feel the strain and pain a bit, I'm happy.  

always feel best when I'm doing something creative and that could be a wide range of things.  It could be picking out new light fixtures or painting a room.  Throwing clay, glazing or making a mask.  Making my own pizza for dinner.  Loading the kiln.  Writing blogs, press releases, pitches, emails to media, setting up interviews to promote my local open studios tour.  Or even, figuring out how to pill my cat twice a day without a struggle.   
I've done it all this week.  

Which is why I'm a day late posting this blog on my own personal blog.  But that's life, isn't it?  If there's one thing I've learned along this winding road of life, it's the bends that make it interesting.  Balance is not a single straight beam that you walk through life on with pious poise.  It's a see saw.   There's up and down and busy and slow.  

I lloved the see saw as a kid, maybe, I still do.

Hard work is far better than hardly working, in my opinion.  I always feel better when I'm doing something. But there are going to be those slower days, too.  Ah...the see saw of life!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Digital Drawing: Decisions...Decisions.

This week, my studio shelves are full again which means it's time to fire up the kiln.  A bisque load is in the kiln now.  While that load cooks, I'm waxing and mixing and getting other pieces ready for a glaze load.  There are pieces to be trimmed and under glazing to be done.

Which brings me to my dilemma: what to do with this vase?

I threw it a few weeks ago as an experiment.  I wrote about it here.  But now, I need to decide how to under glaze it in a way that keeps the whimsical nature of the form but doesn't wind up looking clownish or garish.

Thanks to SketchClub, a handy dandy digital drawing pen and my iPad, I can play with no fear of permanent consequences.  At least, as far as my vase is concerned.

Here are three digital design ideas. I'm not sure I'm in love with any of these designs, they all have draw backs.  

 The first one feels nice but maybe too much white.  

The second one feels like I'm looking at two pieces instead of a whole vase.

  The third one might be too dark? 

Beyond design decisions, there's the nitty gritty of glaze application.  

Although the idea of an overall color with is quick and appealing, it's a bit tricky to get it on the base without tainting the detail elements like the leaves and dots.  To do that, I have 2 options, wax out or wipe out the detail areas.  Both of these options have their drawbacks.

Waxing is a resist method.  Waxing out details works well if you are very, very careful.  Any wax drips or smudges anywhere else on the piece and the base glaze will not stick.  I've had the unfortunate experience of naked patches appearing on what is supposed to be a solid glazed section because of wax drips.  This cannot be fixed and it ruins the piece.  Sigh.

Wiping is an erasing type of method.  The base glaze is applied and allowed to set up.  Then, I get out a sponge and a bowl of water and start cleaning the glaze off the detail areas.  Any areas not well cleaned up, wind up with glaze where you don't want it.  I've had this happen, too.  Sigh.

If I use color in the detail areas, and clear glaze the base, I don't have to worry about any of the wax or wipe issues.  It's easier in that way, but the trade off is having every little hand mark on your clay surface show up, an base glaze can cover up a multitude of clay glitches.

So, while I love playing with design ideas and pondering methods, I know I have to decide and do.   That's the part that always makes me nervous because there's no going back.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Writing about Writing.

I've been writing as long as I can remember.  At first, it was just scribbles with pencils on any paper I could find.  It got me into a lot of trouble.  Until, I went to school.  There, I was supposed to use pencils and paper and I loved it.  I loved spelling and reading and writing.   It didn't matter if it was a book report, a research paper, news story or essay, I dove right in.  

Ok, I didn't like writing stories in Latin, but then, who would?

In high school, I was editing my brother's college papers.  I wrote in my journals.  In college, I took creative writing, journalism for print and broadcast and got my first job writing ads at a local radio station.  This led to a career as a writer in advertising.  In between ads and diaper changes, I wrote poems and essays and journaled. 

I still write in my journal.  And I write here on my blog about walking in the park, throwing clay, decorating my home, making masks, training my dog and sculpting a life with love and creativity.   

Lately, I've been sharing my love of writing and the creative journey by writing artist profiles about artists on my local open studios tour blog, Washington County Open Studios.  I feel grateful to be able to combine my advertising skills and writing to shine a light on the journeys of artists in my own community.  

But most important, I get to hear and read and learn from all of these artists.  I learn about the beauty melted wax and paint, the excitement of horsehair raku, the serenity of flowing watercolors and the magical mysteries of  the creative process through other artist's eyes.

Creativity and imagination opens so many doors and windows into the soul of all our adventures in life. Words and pictures, writing and art allow us to share the journey with each other.

I'm grateful to be able to do both.  Writing and Art.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Goofing around pays off.

I take my work seriously.  Very seriously.  Ok, maybe too seriously.  So sometimes, it's important to put in some serious goofing around time.  
This week, I unloaded a glaze load from the kiln.  Loaded another load with greenware, bisque fired it and unloaded it.  I have shelves filled with finished pieces, pieces to be glazed and others waiting to be bisque fired.  With my shelves filled up, there's no room for a normal week of thrown work. 

Instead of focusing on throwing my usual mugs, vases and bowls, I experimented.  I rolled out a slab and created a handbuilt jar.  I rolled out coils into branches and gingko leaves, attaching them all around the jar.  I cut out a lid, put on a handle and more leaves. 

Hand-building with clay is a lot like going back to kindergarten for me.  Remember the brightly, colored play-dough?

But wheel throwing is so peaceful, if I go too long without it, I get cranky.  So this week, I decided to combine my kindergartner with my adult artist by throwing two halves of a vase on the wheel and using hand-building to put it together.  Of course, I couldn't resist adding a layer of heart-shaped leaves and whimsical dots.

know this sounds like a lot of serious work.  But it wasn't, really.

Without the expectation or need to fill the shelves, I could goof off. Get out the clay and just play.  I goofed around, had fun and discovered some new ideas for more pieces.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Bouquet of Freshly Sharpened Pencils.

"I wish I could send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils." This quote is stuck in my head this week.  It's quote from the movie, "You've Got Mail". It was voiced by character, Joe Fox(Tom Hanks) as he is writing an email to Kathleen Kelley(Meg Ryan) about the wonders of Fall.  

It's the beginning of school for many families.  I've had years of the ritual: new shoes, binders, backpacks, notebooks, crayons and, yes, freshly sharpened pencils.

I didn't think I'd miss it but I do.  And not for the reason you might think.  

Of course, I miss my children's cute, freshly scrubbed faces twinkling with hope and excitement.  But what I really miss is starting a new year, a new grade, in a new classroom with a new teacher which all adds up to a new beginning.

New beginnings are exciting.  They're full of potential and opportunity and wonder.

As I work away in my studio day after day, there's no marker for my work days or time.  There's no bell to signal the beginning of the day or a bus to take me home at the end.  There's no anticipation of hunting for the perfect studio outfit or getting just the right shoes.  I don't need a backpack filled with new school supplies.

And while, I love my life and seeing life as my own teacher, I sometimes get so busy I forget to let myself out for recess. With my studio as part of my home, I can forget to get on the bus and leave my work behind. 

My new beginnings happen all the time, but I don't have a designated day.  So, I don't stop and see it.  Or let myself wonder at the potential or opportunity or discovery.

So, maybe it's time to do it.  Officially, designate a new beginning, everyday start my own first day of school by living it.  And maybe, honor it by getting something new?

Here's my very own bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  Recess anyone?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Change to smile about.

I've changed.  Over my life, it's happened in many ways, some expected and some not.  But one thing I thought would remain the same was my art. 
Why am I smiling?
Because I'm glad I've changed my media.  I love working in clay.  It feels like coming home after years of being away and being greeted by an old friend.   
I started doing clay work in high school and college ceramics class followed by watercolor, ink, jewelry, beading, embroidery, fiber art, oil painting, pastels, masks and copper repousse. In my professional life, I was a writer.  I still enjoy creating with words which is probably why I love my blog.  

Working on the wheel creating functional work is just peaceful and meditative.

Making masks and creating clay sculptural work inspires my imagination.  Adding color to all of this is just plain fun!

Which is why, I now have a brand new website.  Created by my talented son, it showcases the new feeling in my studio as well as my new work.  

And after many years of watching other artists on Etsy, I've opened my own store, SusangtCeramics.  

Yes, I've changed.  And I'm still smiling about it!