Thursday, April 23, 2015

As The Wheel Turns: Step by Step.

As a big show deadline looms ahead, I'm tossing and turning.   The wheels in my head are going full speed ahead and beyond the deadline, while my pottery wheel is at a complete stop.  

My thoughts are full of to do lists.  Unload the kiln.  Tidy up the new pieces.  Label the sculpture.  Price my work and make an inventory list.  Finish waxing my late friends raku pieces.  Pack it all up.  Then the questions pop out like ghosts on Halloween.  Will everything in the kiln make it in one piece? Do I price my raku pieces differently than my glazed pieces?  How am I going to pack, haul, deliver and set up all the pieces at the show? Can I lift and carry it all myself?  What kind of parking will be available?  How am I going to get my car into the new loading area?  

No wonder I'm waking up at 5 am.  I need to stop the wheels in my head before I crash.


Breathe.  Now.  

Choose one thing I can do right now.  Do it.  Choose the next thing.  Do that.  

Saturday, I did my horsehair raku firing.  Check.

Monday, I glazed my new bisque ware.  Tuesday I loaded and fired my last glaze load for the show.  Check and check.

Wednesday, I waxed my horsehair raku pieces.  Check.

Today, I glued the hangers on my raku mask.  Put on the hanging wire.  Check.

Am I ready, yet?  The answer: No.

Will I be ready?  The truth is yes.  I will be ready because I'm doing all the things that need to be done, one by one.  And here's that word of the year again, faith, revealing itself.  I have faith somewhere deep inside that it will all work out.  

I can't stop my fears creeping up on me, but I can keep the faith and keep moving along.  
Step by step.


Monday, April 20, 2015


(Gingko jar)

I love experimenting.  Asking myself the question: What if?  Taking out a material I've never tried and trying it.  Combining an old technique with a new to me process.  Catching a whiff of an idea and following it.  

It's thrilling.  And scary.  

The thrill of unloading a kiln full of new porcelain pieces is something, 5 years ago, I'd never dreamed I could do.  I'd had a bad clay experience in my past and I was afraid of more failure.  I went back to school and learned more but I was still scared.  Until one day, while folding wash, I saw I had a choice.  Choose fear and fold up my dreams or feel the thrill of throwing clay anyway.  I put the clothes down and picked up my clay.  

I'm still throwing and I love it.  Yes, I've had my share of cracked pots alongside beautiful bowls.
(Happy dotty bowls)

I love drinking coffee in my own mugs and putting candy in my own porcelain bowls.  But I'm not an expert or a production potter, and frankly, that's ok with me.  Because while my hands are busy throwing or hand building, my imagination begins to spin.  Questions come up and ideas peek out waving at me.  

What if?  How about trying this? Or why is that?

So I throw a bottom and hand build a top and it's a vase.
(Thrown and hand built vases...the tops remind me of tuxedo shirts.)

I take my favorite leaf form and try out a sculpture idea.
(Leaf Fairies)

I challenge myself to learn how to make a long, narrow neck vase.  And then I cut it off and make different shape.
(Long necked sgraffito vases)

I've got many experiments that may never come out of my studio closet.  But that's ok, too.  Because this isn't about success or failure, this is about the thrill of following an idea wherever it leads me.  Some might call that fickleness or folly but I call it fun.  
(Inside my studio closet...the pieces that haven't made it out yet.)

And the biggest surprise?  Is that years later, the experiments in that closet turn out to be just the right solution to a new problem.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Birthday To My Sweet Jilly!

I'm so grateful to be celebrating Jilly's 10th birthday!  Not just because she's such a sweet, smart and loyal friend.  Not just because this marks her 9 years of being part of our family. But because she's STILL HERE.  

A month and a half ago, she was in the vets office going through a variety of tests.  The results were scary and ominous. I wrote about it here.  

Today is a reason to celebrate.

Jilly is alive.  She's still walking to the park with us every morning.  Still sniffing the shrubbery.  Still begging for cookies.  And still with me, sleeping on the carpet at my feet.  Right now.

I am so, so happy and grateful, today.  But I confess, I didn't always feel this way.

Jilly was a challenge as a pup.  She came to us as a Guide Dog Career Changer at 14 months full of spirit and spunk with a definite rebellious streak.  She and I were not best buds then.  We were student and teacher working through a series of difficult problems.  I wrote about it here and here.  

It was tough.  It took time.  But we made it.

She learned to respond to hand signals instead of the words that brought her fear.  She learned to follow me and find me by playing games of chase and hide and seek.  Now she's known throughout the neighborhood and park as the sweet girl who greets everyone happily.  Now she knows where I am at all times and when my husband is coming home.  She plays ball not keep away.  And loves to eat strawberries right out of my garden.

She's a blessing.

And I'm blessed to have her in my life.  Ten years doesn't seem like a long time, really.  In fact, it doesn't feel nearly long enough.  

So I want to be sure to celebrate today.  And everyday, she's still here with me.

I'll even let her eat all the strawberries in my garden this year and, hopefully, next year too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015


It's getting close to one of my biggest shows of the year, (Ceramic Showcase on May 1,2,3 at Portland's Memorial Coliseum) and I'm in a hurry to finish everything up.  But I can't.  Because I work in porcelain.  And if there's one thing I've learned about working in porcelain it's this: don't rush it.

Don't push it.  Be patient.

Patience is not my comfort zone.  I like creation, action and results.  Porcelain, on the other hand, likes calm creation, waiting and slow drying.  But what happens when I have a deadline?  That depends.  

If I get in a hurry-up mindset and throw or build quickly then try to get the piece to dry fast, I get cracks.  The top might topple.  Or the mask flattens out.   If I play with patience and plan ahead, my porcelain pleases me with a solid surface, strength and no cracks. 

Hurry up and wait. That's the true mantra of porcelain.  

Right now, I have several shelves of porcelain pieces drying.  With no show deadline looming, I'd be letting them dry slowly in their own sweet time.  With the show creeping up day by day, I find myself in my studio, standing in front of these shelves, peeking, prying, testing and hoping the pieces are ready for a bisque fire.  

"Today?" I ask the clay.

"Not yet," is the answer.

Truth is I have many good finished pieces.  I have more than enough for the show, right now.  But there are a few of these new pieces I want to bring to the show.  But I also know that if I  rush it, I'll probably lose them in the kiln process.


There is that word of the year.  Again.  Do you have to be patient to have faith?  Or can you have faith and still be impatient?  I don't know.

I do know that porcelain needs its own time to develop.  Maybe we all do.  Maybe I do, too.  Maybe that's why I love working in porcelain.  Ok, but maybe not today.