New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox

You might be asking what this post, “New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox” has to do with pottery. Allow me to explain how excited I am about this mailbox. 

As an independent artist, I sell my work online throughout the year. After moving to our new home last summer, I realized that our standard sized mailbox just didn’t cut it for placing outgoing mail, particularly large packages, in it. 

I started researching contemporary mail box designs on Pinterest (where else?) for ideas. I searched for designs that would complement our mid 1960’s home. 

After sharing my efforts with my father in law, he offered to build it for me if I could come up with some sketches. I thought about busting out AutoCad, but, he works well with a loose idea, provided that he can improvise slightly. As an artist, I get that impulse. 

New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox

This spring, I purchased this mail box online and gave it to my father in law. The dimensions are 17.91″L x 12.6″W x 14.17″H which is perfect for most items that I mail.

I also shared these sketches. 

Cindy Guajardo Mailboxes Sketches
Cindy Guajardo New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox Sketches
Cindy Guajardo Mailboxes Sketches 2
Cindy Guajardo New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox Sketch

I happen to be married to someone who has an aesthetic opinion in regards to what we bring into our home or what we build – including in the garden. So, we hemmed and hawed over the design, ultimately agreeing on a version of the sketch above. It morphed somewhat due to the logistics of the size of the mailbox, but my father in law loves this kind of a challenge and we gave him free reign as long as it was an approximation of our intent. 

Getting Closer

After months of sketches and reviewing models. Yes, my father in law made little maquette versions of what he thought would work. I’m only sorry we don’t have photos. We ended up tearing them apart to build a version of our final design before thinking to take photos. As a former landscape designer, I really appreciated these models!

Final Reveal of Our New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox

Cindy Guajardo Contemporary Mailbox
Cindy Guajardo New Contemporary Mailbox Design With Extra Large Mailbox

My husband and father in law installed the new mailbox last weekend. I LOVE it! It’s amazing and so much better than our old one. 

Old Mail Box
Old Mail Box – Isn’t it sad?

In the meantime, I’ve added some plantings to the area to freshen it up and so many of our neighbors have commented positively on our efforts. Our mailman also approves. 🙂 

Cindy Guajardo Contemporary Mailbox Before Staining
Cindy Guajardo Contemporary Mailbox Before Staining

My father in law used redwood to build the mailbox since it’s weather resistant. He also decided to stain it. I don’t love the color, but it does go well with the red brick of our home. He also had a say in part of the design since he built it after all. 

Cindy Guajardo Contemporary Mailbox Adding Numbers
Cindy Guajardo Contemporary Mailbox Adding Numbers

We purchased floating numbers from Home Depot. I can’t remember the brand, but If I find it, I’ll share.

Wait, so what does this have to do with pottery? 

  1. I can put large packages in the mailbox 
  2. Time saver – I don’t have to arrange to have someone pick it up or take packages to the post office myself
  3. It’s a good cross over exercise to sketch a design and then execute the object in real life. 

 

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Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters + Thoughts on Consignment

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters for River North Workshop
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters for River North Workshop (photo credit: River North Workshop)

Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters

I make private label stoneware planters for a local Colorado business, River North Workshop. What is private label? After making these planters, I stamp RNW on the bottom instead of my name. I also worked with the owner to develop a style and aesthetic, that is frankly very dissimilar to my more graphic work. The shape of the planter is one that I make for my own work, but the more minimal glaze and effect is something that I agreed to do just for RNW.

River North Workshop

River North Workshop is located in the RiNo, or River North Art District in Denver, CO. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with Denver, it’s an industrial area that is undergoing massive redevelopment north of downtown.

If you’re in Denver, check out the shop – it is a really thoughtfully curated, independently owned homewares shop. River North Workshop also hosts fun one day classes – check out Dabble Denver for offerings.

I recently received a purchase order for more planters and decided to bust these out this week so that I can deliver them this Saturday before summer really kicks off.

How I Make Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters

When working on a wholesale order, I know that I need to make sure that all my deliverables are the same or similar size. Basically, I need to make sure that they’re consistent. I’ve worked out a system, where I know how much clay I need and then use calipers and a ruler to ensure that they’re similar. Obviously with handmade objects, there will be variation. I also always make a few extra just in case something happens during the firing process.

The following is a pictorial synopsis of my process.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Brown Stoneware Clay
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Brown Stoneware Clay

I measure out 1.75 pound balls of clay which I then wedge and form into balls.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Clay on the Wheel
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Clay on the Wheel

I have found that it helps to use bats with inserts to throw and remove the planters once thrown.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Opening the Clay
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Opening the Clay

After I “cone” the clay, I start opening the center.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Base
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Base

After compressing the bottom of the planter, I use a caliper to make sure that I have the same size for the base of each planter.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Opening
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Opening

I also use the calipers to measure the rim of the planter once I’ve pulled up the walls.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Height
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Height

Finally, I check to make sure that the height of each planter is the same as the others. 

eramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Drying
eramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Drying

After removing the bat inserts with the planters, I let them dry until I can safely remove them with a wire cut off tool. I can typically remove the planters after about 4 hours or so.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Private Label for RNW
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Private Label for RNW

I clean up the bottoms and the edges and stamp RNW on the bottom of each planter.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters in the Kiln
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters in the Kiln

Once they’re bone dry, I bisque fire them in my kiln to cone 05. 

Tomorrow, after the kiln cools, I’ll glaze and fire the planters again. 

Thoughts on Consignment

Over the past year or so, I’ve slowly started to decline gallery invitations and am smarter about accepting new wholesale agreements. (Though…if it is a super star gallery, I might reconsider.) I want to remain true to my work and also not over promise what I can deliver. There is also a monetary consideration. Most galleries operate on a 50/50 split and do not pay the artist until the work is sold. What this means for many artists is that inventory is tied up with the potential for compensation at a later calendar date. 

I want to make it clear that I don’t begrudge galleries the commission split because I know that the owners have expenses such as rent, insurance, staff salaries, utilities, marketing and more. I do have a problem with consignment though. 

Consignment Conundrum

What other business model operates on consignment where a shop owner has free inventory (until sold)…besides an art gallery or consignment shop? I would wager that consignment shops don’t have consigners who are attempting to make a living. I do understand this model for higher end art work such as paintings and sculpture. It would be prohibitively expensive for a gallery to wholesale art work. But, for items like pottery, jewelry and similar fine crafts, I think that consignment is tricky.

I have worked with some really terrific gallery owners who are very conscientious and thoughtful. Again, I don’t have a problem with the commission split. At the same time, I understand why many artists agree to do consignment. Having a venue to sell one’s creative work is important, especially when first starting out. Also, having work in a number of galleries across a larger geographic area can expose one’s work to a larger audience.

Over the course of the last few years, I have made the decision to only wholesale or to sell my work myself in person or online. I just can’t make enough work to have it tied up somewhere where it isn’t earning an income for my family. 

Enter wholesale – which has a similar split as consignment agreements. I gladly agree to wholesale my work now because I get paid up front for work that I deliver to a shop or gallery. Once the work is in their hands, it’s theirs to do with it as the shop owner sees fit. This said, I’m very thankful for my relationship with River North Workshop and enjoy switching up the clay type in my studio for a few days.

 

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution

Last week, I decided to make some of my tried and true ceramic glazes for a firing that I had planned. I typically add about a 1/4 cup of a dissolved epsom salt solution to a 5,000 gram bucket of new glaze to flocculate it. 

This keeps the glaze in suspension and also aids problem settling or “hard panning” of glaze chemicals which makes it easier to stir and use again at a later date. After I made my glaze, I realized that I had used up my dissolved epsom salt solution and needed to make more. 

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution
Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution

The only problem is that I couldn’t quite remember the recipe or ratio of epsom salts to water. Google to the rescue!

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution Recipe

The container that keep my epsom salt solution in holds 32 ounces of water. You would need to adjust your recipe depending on how much you need or the size of container that you will be using to store it.

  • Heat 32 ounces of water and add to mixing bowl.
  • Add 1/4 cup of epsom salts at a time to the water and stir to dissolve. 
  • When the epsom salts do not dissolve anymore, you will have your solution.

In my case, it worked out to about 2 cups of epsom salts to 32 ounces of water. 

Although, after watching John Britt’s YouTube video, I should probably be adding a bentonite solution first  before deciding whether I need epsom salt as well. His bentonite recipe is 2 tbsp bentonite to 1 cup of water which can then be added to the glaze at 1 tbsp increments.

Here is another great video where John Britt describes the difference between flocculated and deflocculated glazes, why it happens and what to do about it.


Last Making Push Before the Colorado Potters Guild Sale

This weekend marked the very last making push in the greenware stage so that I can finish everything before my next two events.

I’m doing back to back sales in May. My first show is the Colorado Potters Guild Spring Show that runs May 4-6, 2017. I’m also participating in the Horseshoe Market one week later on May 13, 2017. What this means for me right now is that it’s crunch time!

I’ve been making as much work as I possibly can so that I have enough ware for both shows. Inspiration strikes at curious times for me – often when deadlines are looming. So, this weekend really was my last making push with greenware. My goal is to bisque fire my kiln this evening, glaze tomorrow and then we load the soda kiln on Wednesday afternoon at the Colorado Potters Guild.

Ceramicscapes - Last Making Push - Greenware
Ceramicscapes – Last Making Push – Greenware

Did I mention that I’m also the chairwoman of the Colorado Potters Guild show this spring? It’s always a busy time right before the show, but now it feels doubly hectic.

Ceramicscapes - New Form
Ceramicscapes – New Form

New Forms – Creative Exploration

My schedule is busy and also why my creative muse always seem to show up when all pistons are firing…or maybe it’s just procrastination on my part? I’m not sure, but I’m starting to feel the crunch. This past weekend was really the very last opportunity for me to work on any “wet” ware. Of course, I took the opportunity to explore another form that has been lurking in my imagination – again based upon seed pods

This form (see above) doesn’t exactly look like it did in my imagination. I’m going to fire it, but I don’t expect to make it again. It’s just too fussy for my taste. I probably could have used my time a little differently this weekend, but I’ve learned to answer creativity’s call when it happens. 

I’m keeping this post short today, but will return next Monday when I’ll share some of the process of getting work ready to fire in the soda kiln on Thursday at the Colorado Potters Guild.

 

Ceramic Wall Hangings – Exploring an Idea

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Wall Hanging 1
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Wall Hanging 1

Several months ago, I had an idea while I was out walking with my dog to create some ceramic wall hangings. Initially, I imagined that the ceramic pieces would stand alone. The idea makes sense to me – especially since I already make ceramic wall art. Then, I became fascinated with the resurgence of the art of macramĂ©.

Yes – the art of knot tying that had its heyday, most recently in the 1970’s!

Patti Hardee - Macrame Owl Wall Hanging from the 70's
Patti Hardee – Macrame Owl Wall Hanging from the 70’s

A friend of mine from high school tagged me in an Instagram post of a macrame owl wall hanging that she made in the 1970’s with her grandmother. Isn’t this awesome? What a sweet memory and I love that she still displays her owl. To me it still looks fresh…but I do remember the art form falling out of favor in the 80’s.

History of Macramé

According to Wikipedia, “MacramĂ© comes from a 13th-century Arabic weavers’ word migramah meaning “fringe”. This refers to the decorative fringes on camels and horses which help, amongst other things, to keep the flies off the animal in the hot desert regions of northern Africa.”

So, it’s actually a decorative and functional art that’s been around a long time. The art form later moved to Europe via the Moors and then to other parts of the world by sailors who passed their time making gifts using rope which was readily available on a ship.

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Wall Hanging 2
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Wall Hanging 2

Popular resurgence

As with much of fashion, trends wax and wane. Currently, macramĂ© has seen its popularity wax again in the last couple of years. Even Martha Stewart is sharing articles about macramĂ©.

So, as a ceramic artist, I decided to combine clay + macramé to create some home decor pieces. In preparation of trying my hand at adding fiber/cord to my ceramic work, I made a couple of stand alone wall hangings using some simple knots.

Cindy Guajardo - Simple Macrame Wall Hanging
Cindy Guajardo – Simple Macrame Wall Hanging (take 2)

My first attempt was just okay. I was much more deliberate with the second one. My daughter loves it, so I gave it to her and she hung it up in her dorm room.

Ceramic Components

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Wall Hanging 2
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Wall Hanging 3

Can you see my vision? I don’t think that I could have made the ceramic components without first trying my hand at making some simple macramĂ© wall hangings and practicing making various types of knots.

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Wall Hanging 2
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Wall Hanging 4

I even purchased about 600 feet of 3 strand cotton rope to finish my ceramic wall hangings. Also, I borrowed a couple of macramĂ© books from the library to use as reference. I’m excited to finish these and perhaps make them a regular part of my online shop. 

Originally, I thought I might bring a few to the Colorado Potters Guild Sale on May 4-6th, but I’m going to debut them at the Horseshoe Market in Denver on May 13, 2017 instead.

Stay tuned for the finished ceramic wall hangings in a couple of weeks once I fire them in my kilns and assemble them.

 

Children’s Clay Projects

In a land and time far, far away, I taught children’s clay classes. I taught at an after school enrichment program in Denver at an elementary school and I also taught a few kid’s art camps at the Art Student’s League of Denver and Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, CO. Recently, a teacher friend asked me for some clay project advice for her students and I was reminded of the variety of children’s clay projects I taught over the span of 3 years.

I had a ton of fun teaching these projects and classes. Kids are innately creative and are not afraid of breaking the “rules” when it comes to art making. 

After I pulled out a number of photos for my friend as reference, I decided that I should probably make a page on my website that features the variety of  children’s clay projects that my students made. Teaching also benefitted my own clay practice. 

Children’s Clay Class Age Ranges

The kids I taught ranged from five to thirteen years old. Typically, I broke the classes up into K – 1st grade, 2nd – 5th grades and then 6-8th grades. I find that the younger children have less dexterity and need more hands on help than older students. Also, some projects were just too complicated for the really young students.

A Sample of Children’s Clay Projects

References

Some of the children’s clay projects that I taught are ones that originated out of my own clay practice. We made a variety of functional items like soup can mugs, plates and other items. I also referenced a book titled, Ceramics for Kids by Mary Ellis. Often, making a project would spark new ideas and of course the kids made suggestions for projects that they were interested in making. 

Ceramics for Kids by Mary Ellis
Ceramics for Kids by Mary Ellis

If their suggestion was reasonable, I usually tried to make it happen. I would generally make the project ahead of time to use as a reference and then develop a lesson plan around the clay project. 

My classes ran 2 hours after school. We typically made the project one week and then glazed the next and allowed plenty of time for a snack and clean up since we used the art room in the elementary school. 

Other projects ideas:

  • rattles
  • whistles
  • fairy houses
  • marionettes
  • bowls
  • cupcake jars
  • and more

Stay tuned for a website update. I’ll add a page along with lots of photos of children’s clay projects.

Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work in Progress

On Monday, I shared a bit of my clay inspiration in a post titled Inspirational Photographs of Photographer Karl Blossfeldt.

Plant Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt
Plant Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt

Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work in Progress

Today, I share some of my botanic inspired ceramic work in progress – and some finished work from my last soda firing at the Colorado Potters Guild.

All of the work in progress is “green”, meaning it hasn’t been fired yet. Greenware needs to be “bone dry” before undergoing the first firing, also known as the bisque firing. At this point, if I mishandle or bump one of my fragile, bone dry pieces, it will break.

Bisque firing makes the work slightly stronger and able to withstand bumps etc. Glaze firing pieces makes ceramic work vitrified, or water tight and much stronger. Of course, being ceramic, all work will break if it’s dropped on a hard surface.

I’m having a lot of fun with these. In a sense, it reminds me of my childhood a bit. I could spend hours and hours playing by myself in a world of make believe. I would create environments or rooms using my cracked open books for my dolls. The end papers of my books made beautiful wall paper or even a forest. I developed elaborate story lines that could last for days until I decided to move onto a different activity. 

Today, I’m using some of the botanic or flora photographs as inspiration. In some cases, I attempt to replicate what I see, in others, I take artistic liberty to depict a flower or seedpod. In truth, it is really hard to make the real thing better.

Other Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work

I’m also fully aware that I am not the first artist to attempt to capture seed pods or flowers in clay. Just check out my most recent Pinterest search. What I find incredible, is the range of interpretations. Each person has a unique life view and will interpret the exact same subject differently. We each have our own way of working with clay – our touch is different, our tools, our mindsets, our preferred color palette and even our firing methods. All of these inform our making and interpretations which makes ceramic art (and all art) really exciting.

Finished Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work

Why have I moved in this direction? I’m not sure, is my honest answer. I have been content to explore drawing and clay. In fact, I still am. This newest work seems to be an tangent of my sculptural explorations and my stacked ceramic totem sculptures. It’s fun and joyful which makes going to “work” in my studio a great day. 

One of my goals for this work is to create functional ceramic objects that are also beautiful on their own. 

Truncated Cone Template for Hand Builders

I do my fair share of hand building with clay. In fact, my first successes in my ceramics 101 class were because I learned how to hand build using slabs of clay. Success on the pottery wheel came much later. 

I’m gearing up for my next soda firing at the guild towards the end of April and will be hand building mugs, bowls and other functional pottery. Paper templates are an easy way to achieve a uniformity in size and shape for hand builders.

I’ve made my own cup templates in the past, but in the interest of time, I decided to peruse Pinterest for templates. Low and behold, I found an online template maker – specifically a truncated cone template that is helpful for hand builders interested in making tapered cups of all sizes. 

Why?

I already have a tumbler sized template ready to go, but would like to add some wine/juice cup sized ones. Also, I like drinking wine out of a handmade cup and, frankly I’m too lazy to do the math and draw it by hand. 

Collection of Handmade Pottery Wine Cups
A sample of part of my collection of handmade pottery wine cups

The makers of the cups in the photo above are clockwise, starting with the light green cup – an old one of mine, Dick Howell, Michael Kline, Kathleen Laurie, Kristin Gruenberger and Jackie Harper.

What I like about this template, even though the site really caters to paper crafts, is that it’s scalable.  Users need only enter their desired measurements for the bottom and top diameters and the height in either inches or centimeters.

Here is my wine/juice sized truncated cone template for hand builders:

Truncated Cone Template for Hand Building - Wine or Juice Cup Template
Truncated Cone Template for Hand Building – Wine or Juice Cup Template

My template measures 2.5″ in diameter at the base, 3″ up top and 4″ high.

Considerations:

The only tricky parts that users need to account for are how to print a template and clay shrinkage.

Larger templates will not likely fit on an 8.5″ x 11″ letter sized piece of paper, so you will need to either bring it to a printing company like Kinkos or print it out on multiple pieces of paper and piece together. 

Paper Template Wine Cup Flat
Paper Template Wine Cup Flat

 

I guesstimated a reasonable size for my truncated cone template. Originally, I plugged in measurements of 3″(base) x 4″(top) x 4″(height) which was more of a small sized mug. I printed and cut the template out to check if the size works. After printing my first one, I downsized my measurements to 2.5″(b) x 3″(t) x 4″(h). This seems just about right for wine or juice.

Paper Template Wine Cup
Paper Template Wine Cup

I’m not concerned with volume at this point. I just want to make a cup that will hold about 4-5 ounces of liquid. If you are working on a custom order for a shop or gallery, however, you will need to do a bit of math (or use an online calculator) and also understand your clay shrinkage if a specific size is requested.

For further reading, the LaPellas, who I interviewed for Feature Fridays, have an easy clay ruler tutorial on their blog.  Or, if you know your clay body’s shrinkage, you need to take this into account to make a template that accounts for your clay body’s shrinkage.

Finishing details:

I like to laminate my templates with packing tape so that I can reuse them over and over. They’re water resistant and won’t warp or buckle after placing it on damp clay. Simply cover the front and back of the paper template with packing tape, being careful to overlap the tap about 1/8″. Trim the excess tape from the template afterwards.

Stay tuned for a tutorial on my hand building process.