Meet Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura

Introducing Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura, a Maryland based ceramic artist and teacher. Laura has been getting her hands muddy since she was fourteen years old in a Saturday clay class at the Corcoran School for the Arts in Washington, DC. She is well known for her highly textured and colorful pots that exude joyfulness.

Introducing Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura

Meet Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura

I’m Laura Silberman and I call myself a clay artist. I create FUNctional ceramics for home and garden. Primarily, I use hand-building techniques embellished with lots of texture. Using a low fire clay and a bright color palette have helped me achieve a personal style that is often recognized by my customers and fans as a ClayByLaura creation. Sometimes I add mixed media elements to the pieces I make. People tell me my pieces are fun and make them happy! I’m glad to know the pleasure I get from making pottery translates to the finished work!

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Bird Houses
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Bird Houses

I read that you have been working with clay since you were 14 years old. Do you have a formal education in ceramics, or have you acquired your skills through community classes, workshops and by working by yourself?

My journey to full time clay artist began at a kid’s class at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC when I was 14. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications at Goucher College in 1978, I pursued a career in audio-visual production followed by a freelance career and full-time motherhood. During that time, I took a variety of clay classes and workshops.

I gained valuable technical knowledge from a variety of teachers along the way but I think regular practice and experimentation with my craft has also contributed to my success. My original home studio was outfitted with a used wheel and kiln in the 1990’s. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Studio
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Studio

Initially, the potter’s wheel was my clay workhorse as I exclusively threw pots on the wheel. I began to explore and enjoy hand-building techniques over the last ten years. It is now my primary method of clay making. My trusty Northstar slab roller is in constant use and has lasted more than 20 years with a few spare part repairs here and there.  I joke that my potter’s wheel has become ‘the treadmill’ of my studio. I won’t give it up, but it sits in the corner and is covered with various studio ‘stuff.’ 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Hand Building
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Hand Building

When did you realize that your clay hobby could become a business?

Over the last decade, I worked seriously to develop my own creative style. Prior to that, I had been selling my pieces at occasional open studio shows. When I helped found and run a co-op art gallery in Bluffton, SC, in 2008 sales of ClayByLaura started to take off. I began to participate in juried craft shows and developed a business website to further market myself and increase sales opportunities. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Craft Fair Booth
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Craft Fair Booth

Many potters start out selling their work on Etsy. I noticed that you are using Squarespace as both a selling platform and website. Why and how is it working out for you?

I have an ETSY account, but decided to focus website sales through my own Squarespace developed site. While I appreciate the fact that ETSY has the potential to draw customers from a wide net, I decided to consolidate ‘my brand’ through one platform.

I am able to publish my weekly studio blog post, track statistics, receive inquiries, and comments from potential customers all from one source. I really love Squarespace. It is very easy to navigate and update. If I ever have a question about my website, the tech crew has been very helpful in resolving any issue. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Close Up of Texture
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Close Up of Texture

Similarly, how do you market your work?

I sell and market my pieces in numerous ways. I write a weekly blog post about myself and what is percolating in the studio. It is published through my Squarespace website, posted on my Facebook page and mailed to a customer email list through MailChimp. I started it more than 3 years ago.

Pottery Making Info repeatedly mentions and rates my blog in their monthly review; they have awarded it as a top pottery blog the past two years in their annual review. In addition to the website, I sell through shops, galleries, pop up shops, occasional craft fairs and private home shows. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - The Maddux Welcome Posts
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – The Maddux Welcome Posts

I’m very interested in your public art project that you have been working on with a local school. This is an avenue that I would like to pursue. Did you put together a formal proposal or did the school contact you directly to work with them? Can you share your experience designing and executing the tile totems with the students?

I recently completed a public art project for a local private school. A friend of mine is in charge of fundraising for the school and she approached me about creating a tile project to beautify the front entry of the school.

We came up with the idea of having the children (pre-school – 2nd grade), their parents, and teachers decorate pre-made bisque tiles with underglaze. The 4 x 4 tiles were then used to decorate 3 wooden posts of varying heights at the entry of the school.

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Public Art and Fund Raising Project For School
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Public Art and Fund Raising Project For School

The opportunity to ‘paint’ the tiles was sold at a fundraising gala as a way to help raise money for the school. I provided the materials, guided the ‘painting’ activity, glazed and fired each tile. I also made some of the tiles with the school name and logo. Finally, I adhered the tiles to the planted wooden posts. This project is emblematic of projects and new ideas I tackle. “Can you make?” is a question I love to explore with customers. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Garden Bell Class
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Garden Bell Class

I notice that you also teach clay classes and just read about your “Garden Bell” class on your blog. Do you host your classes in your studio or at another location?

Over the years, I have taught classes and workshops to other clay enthusiasts sometimes at my own studio or other teaching venues. Most recently, I have been teaching quick project classes in tandem with a local shop in Frederick, Md. called The Muse. The owner, Whitney Bingham, hosts regular craft parties for customers featuring all kinds of art projects including jewelry, painting and fiber through her store.

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Garden Bell
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Garden Bell

The classes are held at the Frederick, Md. studio (near The Muse) of another local fiber artist, Margaret Hluch. With these particular classes, I create a bisque fired item that students decorate with acrylic paints. The textured surface on the clay responds beautifully to layering and wiping away a variety of paint colors.

These items are not meant to be used for food, so we have made several different garden items in the classes including a pot sticker, wind chimes and a garden bell. Buttons and beads are some times added to embellish the finished pieces. In a few weeks, I’ll lead a jewelry class; we’ll be making a wrap bracelet using a central clay medallion and recycled bits of fashion jewelry. 

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Garden Totems
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Garden Totems

I’m particularly drawn to your garden address number totems. These are so clever…and I might need to make one for my own home. 🙂 I assume that these are custom orders that clients work with you to design?

I began making outdoor totems about ten years ago. What started out as simple house numbers stacked on top of each other has morphed into many other creative outdoor garden shapes. I work with an individual client to customize a design just for them. Words, numbers and a variety of shapes can be stacked to create a beautiful outdoor adornment. Some of the pieces are finished with mixed media to complete the design. I have created, installed and shipped numerous totem combinations throughout the United States!

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Greenware
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Greenware

In perusing your website, I’m so impressed by your range and creativity. Who or what inspires you?

I LOVE making things with clay. It’s my favorite part of the process. As I mentioned previously, I get input and inspiration from my customers. Additionally, I tend to make items I like to use. Bright colors and lots of texture make me happy and led me to my current use of low-fire clays and glazes. Texturing clay reminds me of different fabric patterns I combined when I used to sew clothing in my younger years. I like to make many of the texture tools I use. Pinterest and Instagram are other great inspiration resources.  It’s helpful to see what other potters have made to spark an idea.

Clay by Laura - Blue Cake Stand
Clay by Laura – Blue Cake Stand

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

I love to cook which is another reason I like to make pieces that are FUNctional. I want people to use my creations in their everyday lives and I often include a recipe with pieces I sell. This gives people an idea of how to use a particular pottery piece. Additionally, it’s another marketing tool. My recipe cards include a photo of one of my recipe boxes, my name, logo, and contact information!

Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura - Yarn Bowls
Laura Silberman of Clay by Laura – Yarn Bowls

I am also an avid knitter and I knit every night when watching television with my husband. It is a meditative and relaxing activity for me.

Also, I putter in my garden. Digging in the dirt and planting flowers keep me busy and give me an excuse to spend time outdoors!

Where can people find you? 

Online:

Galleries/Shops:

Upcoming events:

Making a Wrap Bracelet – The Muse Craft Party – June 21


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Would you like to be featured on my blog? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

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Meet Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery

Today, I introduce the beautiful garden and fantasy themed pottery of Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery. Karrita lives and works in tropical Florida and is inspired by her love of gardening and literature.

Queen Bee PotteryMeet Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery

Hi, I’m Karrita Renzelmann, the maker behind Queen Bee Pottery.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery in her studio
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery in her studio

We have something in common. We both previously worked for United Airlines as flight attendants. My own clay journey is full of starts and pivots. How did you find clay and make the transition?

Cindy, I think that this is such an interesting coincidence that we both had long careers flying with United Airlines and both ended up working in pottery. I often miss flying to some unknown international city for a day or two of exploration, but probably wouldn’t have discovered clay if I were still flying.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House 2
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House 2

I found clay when my husband surprised me with a pottery wheel for my birthday in 2006. I had recently resigned from flying and now had the ability to be home consistently and take a weekly class in ceramics & pottery at the local community college. It was love at first touch!

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Mug
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Mug

I’m always interested in how people name their creative businesses and I love the name of your’s, Queen Bee Pottery! How did you settle on a name for your pottery?

I have a deep connection to nature, gardening and femininity. I thought that the name ‘Queen Bee Pottery’ combined those pieces of me well and also had a memorable ring to it. Although, I did question the common connotation of what a ‘Queen Bee’ can be thought of in our society. I chose to go with it and let my work convey what Queen Bee Pottery means to me.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Bird Houses
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Bird Houses

Your work has a really strong theme – everything to do with the garden. This must really help you organize the items that you make. Can you explain how your garden and love of plants influences your work?

Plants, nature and blooming flowers are what visually bring me the most comfort and wonder in life, and I somehow hope to convey a bit of those feelings in what I create with clay. We have the toads in the garden, so we need a toad abode, then we have the flower fairy spirits in the blossoms, so of course, we need a few fairy houses and then there’s the birds, and the lizards, and it goes on and on with all the inspiration to be found in a garden.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Toad Abode
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Toad Abode
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House

When my daughter was younger, we loved making fairy houses in our garden after reading several books about garden fairies at our local library. We would also construct them at nearby parks out of found materials. You make delightful ceramic fairy houses that are becoming collector items for your fans. How and why did you start delving into fantasy?

I think my curiosity and imagination were piqued by fantasy as a child, starting with classic fairy tales, flower fairy images for the alphabet created by Cicely M Barker, and continuing with books in the science fiction and magical realism genres…I’m still a sucker to this day for anything by Alice Hoffman or Marion Zimmer Bradley. The love of magical realism meets the love of nature when I see flowers blooming and imagine Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words “Earth Laughs in Flowers.” Sounds a bit saccharine, but really is true for me.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House Detail
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House Detail

I bet you remember the excitement your daughter had about fairies and creating spaces for them…there’s something magical about a child’s unquestioning belief. I recently made a fairy house for my 4 nieces and threw them a fairy garden making party…their glee, curiosity and belief were priceless to witness and be a part of!

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Clay Sprigs
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Clay Sprigs

You have a second successful Etsy Shop where you sell bisque clay sprig molds, clay texture rollers and press molds. Why did you decide to dip your toes into the ceramic supply realm?

I took a bas-relief tile making workshop given by an amazing potter named, Jan Kolenda. I used the skills learned from that workshop to start making ceramic sprigs for my own work and then realized that I had a product to offer to the clay community that no one else was offering at the time. The bonus part for me is that sales of the bisque sprigs can support purchasing all the clay and glaze I needed for the Queen Bee Pottery business.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Berry Bowl Colander
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Berry Bowl Colander

Do you sell any of the sprigs that you use in your own work in your supply shop? If so, are you worried that others will try to replicate your style?

I don’t offer sprig molds in the ClayStamps.etsy.com shop that I use in my own work. They say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Sometimes I have wondered with mild irritation why someone would copy, but now I try to look at it as just sharing inspiration.

People have reached out from across the world to show me photos of their work, modeled from mine, who were just plain excited to have been inspired from my work and share that with me. There’s something special about that kind of invisible interchange. We have no control over what others will do and in the end, the feeling and vibe in one’s work really can’t be replicated.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Berry Bowl
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Berry Bowl

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

I love to garden, be in nature, eat incredible food, play games (Scrabble & Backgammon) and spend time with my closest friends. Also, I travel occasionally…I’ve recently fallen in love with the hot springs found in Costa Rica near the Arenal Volcano. Hot springs in the middle of a lush, tropical setting…pure bliss for me! I’m going back in a few months to celebrate a milestone birthday!

Where can people find you? 

Etsy Shop: QueenBeePottery.com
Instagram: instagram.com/QueenBeePottery @queenbeepottery
Facebook: facebook.com/QueenBeePottery
Pinterest: pinterest.com/QueenBeePottery
Etsy Supply Shop: ClayStamps.etsy.com


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

Meet Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic

Noelle Horsfield owns and operates Full Circle Ceramic, a handmade ceramic studio and shop located in Huntington, WV.  Full Circle Ceramic is a community clay studio where Noelle teaches classes and produces a full line of functional ceramic wares and gift items. Noelle decorates her work with distinct illustrations with a refreshing edginess that amuse and delight customers from across the country.

Noelle Horsfield - Full Circle Ceramic
Noelle Horsfield – Full Circle Ceramic

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi there, everyone! My name is Noelle Horsfield and I own and operate Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV.

Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic
Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic

How did your clay journey begin?

I was a painting major in college. I’m actually still just a few credits shy of a degree. Imagery, language, form and the different processes of creating art has always interested me and I played around with a bunch of different mediums until I finally found my way to ceramics.

I think this period of exploration was necessary in order for me to develop a studio practice that is uniquely my own; it was a gathering up of skills that I then turned into my own way of working. As soon as I put my hands in clay, I knew I had finally found the right medium for me…there is no getting bored with ceramics as there is always a new challenge or problem to solve.

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I “met” you back in the blogging heydays around 2008. If I remember correctly, you were living in Maine at the time and were a resident artist at Watershed. At the time, your work was so different than its current incarnation. Can you pin point the stylistic shift?

I don’t know and I go back and forth on how different the work actually is at the core. Back then I was working in earthenware and making big chunky forms that had a lot of sculptural additions with all the color in my work coming from slips that I mixed myself. It was very sweet, and, for lack of a better word, whimsical in nature.

Noelle Horsfield - Earthenware Work
Noelle Horsfield – Earthenware Work circa Watershed days

The technical aspects of my work have definitely changed drastically as I have been working in cone 6 porcelain and white stoneware for the past 4 years. Mishima and sgraffito processes form the decorative and illustrative aspects of the work. However, I feel like the playfulness and sweetness is still present in the work. It’s balanced with a dose of profanity or maybe some of the darker parts of my nature. Maybe the earlier work just seemed a bit too one sided and I needed to inject the work with some reality…bringing a little weird to the party never hurt anyone.

Noelle Horsfield - Stay Weird Plate
Noelle Horsfield – Stay Weird Plate

Speaking of blogging, do you still have your old blog and website? I can’t find it anywhere on the interwebs. Do you think blogging is still relevant?

I wish I still had the old blog if only to go back and read my thoughts from my time at Watershed! I’m not sure how interested anyone was in my day to day blog posts back then but I felt like I was offering a unique look inside, spending time at an artistic residency retreat like Watershed.  That other artists seemed to gain some insight into that experience through my posts made me happy.

The decision to stop blogging is really just due to time constraints as well as the idea that Instagram and Facebook allow for a fast and easy way to connect with my customers and audience in a very visual way. I do think longer form blogging still has a place in the online community but I think the writing needs to be really smart and thoughtful. Posts should be heavy on photographs, and be regular and dependable. These are all things that I feel like I just don’t have time to commit to right now.

Noelle Horsfield - Cut Paper Art
Noelle Horsfield – Cut Paper Art

For a time, it appeared that you stopped creating with clay and had switched to the art of paper cutting. As someone who is interested in many art forms myself, it’s a direction I understand well. Can you elaborate on your creative detour?

After living in Maine where I had freedom to create ceramic work in my home studio, at Watershed, or in the studios at Portland Pottery, my husband and I moved to Massachusetts where I found myself without access to a ceramic studio at all. While I love ceramics and the process of working in clay, I am a maker at heart and I needed to have the ability to make something. Cut paper collage is a medium that I worked with a bit in college so I returned to this art form as a way to fulfill myself artistically. 

I feel like I made a lot of nice work and even had a couple of solo shows in Northampton, MA. Greeting cards made from my original collages are available in my shop in Huntington. It is interesting to see people enjoying this work alongside my current ceramic pieces.

Noelle Horsfield - Carpe Diem Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Carpe Diem Platter

In my opinion, the art of swearing isn’t appreciated enough. For this reason, I love how you’ve embraced adding a well placed curse word in your current clay work. It’s just the sort of levity that is desperately needed today. I also love the irony of using profanity on ceramics, an art that has a history of being a “keepsake” or special occasion item. Having one of your platters reveal itself on a holiday table would have been so interesting when I was younger…. Can you speak to your use of salty language in your clay work?

My first sentence as a baby was “I’m a damn fine baby!” My grandfather taught me to say this as a kind of parlor trick…it was a hit and I think it just stuck with me. I began putting profanity on ceramics about 3 or 4 years ago now and people just really seem to have fun with it and appreciate the honesty and humor that goes into the work. Sometimes the work might get a little bit confrontational but I mostly try to stick with what I like to call “positive profanity.”

Noelle Horsfield - Don't Be A Dick Plate
Noelle Horsfield – Don’t Be A Dick Plate

I don’t normally make things that say “fuck you” and even my biggest seller, which is “fuck that shit” is intended to mean “fuck all that shit that brings you down or makes you feel less than enough or feels like too much for you to bear.” Balancing the profanity with sweet animals, some floral designs or anything that helps to lighten the tone of the piece is important. It makes the profanity a little easier to take. Everything has a particular role to play.

Noelle Horsfield - Weird and Wonderful West Virginia Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Weird and Wonderful West Virginia Platter

I’m curious about your new business, Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV. It appears that you’ve moved your studio into a retail space and now offer classes as well as other types of products outside of ceramic work. To be honest, I’m a little jealous. What prompted this move and how is it working out for you?

Well, having a retail shop and a working studio in the same place is definitely a balancing act but it seems to be working for me thus far! Like most ceramic artists, I spent years working in a home studio and sending things out to galleries and shops with some online sales here and there. This is a fine business  model and it works great for some people but I was left feeling very alone and isolated in my studio.

I craved interaction with my customers and I really needed to be able to have more of a work/life balance. If I  stepped out of the studio to let the dogs out, before I knew it I would be caught up in household chores and hours had passed away from the studio. The idea of a shop where I could both create and sell my work has been on mind for a long time. When the opportunity to lease a space in an old train station complex in Huntington presented itself last spring and I jumped on it.

Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery
Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery

Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery

We opened in June 2016 and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I sell my finished work, t-shirts and stickers with my own designs, some jewelry, my Dad’s original stained glass art, and the work of a few other local ceramic artists as well as taking custom orders in the shop. The floor space is about 1/3 retail selling space and 2/3 work space. So, I am able to work in the studio and talk to customers at the same time, stopping when necessary to run the cash register or meet with customers for more in depth consultations.

I was a little concerned about the local reaction to the profanity and edgy nature of my work but people have been really kind and welcoming and most people just really get a kick out of it. It’s so fun seeing customers come in and interact with the pieces in the shop. You don’t get this experience when you just box things up and shop them off to a gallery. And, let’s be honest, it’s fucking awesome to get full price for a piece rather than giving half of it to a gallery right off the top!

Can we talk about your tattoos? I love yours! I understand that tattoos are often very personal. From the outside looking in, yours remind me of your ceramic work. Is there a correlation?

Noelle Horsfield - In the Studio Carving a Plate
Noelle Horsfield – In the Studio Carving a Plate

Thank you so much! I think my tattoos bring to mind my ceramic work because both my tattoos and my pottery reflect my personal design aesthetic. There isn’t much difference between my life and my work so everything tends to swirl around and it just becomes a way of life. My tattoos are both a form of self expression and a way of collecting artwork.

The tattoo artist has a general idea of what I would like for a particular tattoo and where I would like to see it on my body and then I allow them the freedom to create something beautiful for me. I have never been disappointed with what they come up with and I know that I do my best custom work when I am afforded this same freedom by my own customers.

Noelle Horsfield - Love Trumps Hate Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Love Trumps Hate Platter

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration sources are pretty varied and I try to always stay open to new patterns, colors, thoughts and ideas. I have always been a big reader and I listen to audiobooks as much as possible when I’m working in the studio so I get a ton of inspiration from words and stories that find their way into my head. I also collect little snippets of quotes and ideas from NPR and the podcasts I listen to. Some health problems have plagued me and Frida Kahlo has become a sort of personal inspiration and patron saint of mine as well. I also LOVE folk art and outsider art from Appalachia and around the world.

Noelle Horsfield - Sometimes You Need Some Crazy Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Sometimes You Need Some Crazy Platter

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

My husband and I have 4 dogs and 2 cats and taking care of these guys is a big part of our lives. We live near a beautiful park and walk our greyhound Betty there every evening. However, since opening the shop last summer, the line between work and play for me is pretty blurry. This is fine because I would rather be in the studio with my hands in clay than almost anywhere else in the world.

Where can people find you?

Upcoming events:

I mostly stick to the smaller local festivals and events. The shop takes so much time and I often have trouble making enough work to keep up with stocking the shelves, custom orders and wholesale accounts. If you’re in the Huntington, WV area you can find me at:

I would also like to give a shout out to a few shops that carry my work:


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

Soda Firing Process

Last week, I participated in a soda firing at the Colorado Potters Guild. The soda firing process is a gas reduction type of firing and is fairly labor intensive as compared to a regular reduction firing and definitely easier than an electric or oxidation type kiln firing.

Soda Kiln is loaded - kiln packs are visible
Soda Kiln is loaded – kiln packs are visible

Soda Firing Process

In the soda firing process, soda ash (sodium carbonate) in water solution, is sprayed into kiln at maturing temperature, and sodium vapor combines with silica in clay to form sodium-silicate glaze.” – excerpted from Ceramic Arts Daily. It’s a magical process and I’m addicted to the outcome.

My firing partners and I spray the soda ash solution into the kiln ports when cone 9’s have fallen. Cone 9 is the equivalent of 2300 degrees F. We have 2 visible cone packs in the front bottom and top of the kiln. While we have a pyrometer to measure the temperature, we use the cone packs for visual confirmation of the kiln’s temperature. After the soda ash container is empty, we shut down the kiln and plug all the ports and burners. Once the kiln has cooled down so that pots can be handled with bare hands, we unload the kiln. We fired on Thursday and unloaded on Sunday, though, we probably could have unloaded on Saturday.

Soda Firing Process - Wadding Recipe
Soda Firing Process – Wadding Recipe

Wadding

After the soda ash is sprayed in the kiln at maturation, there is a fine layer of sodium silicate glaze over the interior of the kiln and on the kiln shelves. For this reason, we add little clay/alumina wads to the bottoms of our pots so that they do not stick to the kiln shelves. The wadding recipe contains 50% alumina which does not stick to the pots or the kiln shelves.

The wads to leave little circular marks on the pots which are the sign of a soda, salt or wood fired pot.

Soda Firing Adding Wadding to the bottom of each pot
Soda Firing Adding Wadding to the bottom of each pot

Post Firing Clean Up

After unloading the soda kiln, clean up begins. We use silicone carbide scrapers to scrape the glaze off all the shelves and posts. It’s a huge job, but one that goes fairly quick between 4-5 people. We had 5 people in this last firing and were able to unload and clean up in two hours time. Clean up is dirty work – with silica dust flying wildly. We use safe practices and all wear respirators and eye protection.

Penny Woolsey Scraping Shelves
Penny Woolsey Scraping Shelves

Below is a gallery of images if you would like to see more of our process.

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.

 

Meet Kathleen Laurie Clay

Kathleen Laurie is one of my favorite local Colorado ceramic artists. She lives in Evergreen, CO – a small mountain town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Kathleen’s work bridges ceramic and two dimensional art practices such as painting and printmaking. I confess that I have collected several of ceramic pieces over the years.

kathleen laurie

We are both members of the Colorado Potters Guild. What does it mean to you to be a member of a clay community?

I joined the guild 18 years ago after working in other studio/classroom type scenarios. It is a unique space with my clay family. Being a potter usually means working in isolation unless you have found this magical place with my people who speak my language of art and clay.

Kathleen Laurie - Printed and Slipped Covered Jar
Kathleen Laurie – Printed and Slipped Covered Jar

How many years have you been working with clay?

I had my first experience with clay in the 3rd grade. It was a clay epiphany, an artistic lightning bolt. Overall I would say I’ve been working with clay for 40 years with some breaks in between but I’ve always returned to this medium.

Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I have a degree in art/art education from Illinois State University. I’ve studied art my entire life. My mother nurtured my interest in all things art by putting me in classes, taking me to museums and encouraging my artistic growth. She was a science teacher and her interest in the natural world enhanced my visual education.

I spent most of my childhood outdoors running around in the woods and nearby swamps (where there was clay!) Over the years I have participated in workshops to learn glaze formulations and form making, some of them at the guild and some as far away as Vancouver Island with Robin Hopper at Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts

Kathleen Laurie - Paper Clay Ceramic Wall Canvas
Kathleen Laurie – Paper Clay Ceramic Wall Canvas

How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

My work encompasses wheel thrown pieces, handbuilt pieces, slabs, lots of texture and incising. Sometimes I combine wheel work with slab work. It varies from functional to sculptural. Wall work and garden pieces. It’s all how my brain tells me to proceed. It’s become intuitive. As I throw a large bowl on my wheel, I envision what kind of beautiful salad will live in it and what color glaze to consider.

The firings take place at the guild. I fire to cone 10 in reduction or soda kilns. Glazing is my way of painting. My art background was comprehensive with drawing, painting, printmaking and ceramics. Now all of that training has morphed into my glaze style which is very graphic in nature. Clay has become my canvas. There’s lots of layers of information, lots of marks, lots of overlapping glazes. 

Kathleen Laurie - Tumblers
Kathleen Laurie – Tumblers

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Being creative means having the freedom to explore, invent, fail, succeed, move on, revisit, stall etc. I’ve always been creative and therefore the exacting left-brain talents are weaker. 

Speaking of exploration, you recently confided that you have started hand building more. Can you share some work in progress? 

Kathleen Laurie - Slab Work in Progress
Kathleen Laurie – Slab Work in Progress

I’m doing more hand building at the moment, decorating with slips, textures and decals.

(Editor’s note – I can’t wait to see these in person when we fire next week!)

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Music is part of my studio environment. I work at my home studio. Usually there is a fire in my pellet stove, incense going, I must bustle around a bit, clean up, organize, chat with the cat and after an hour I settle down to some actual work. I work in spurts. Can’t work 8 hours at a time. Procrastination is my nemesis. I jokingly say that I have Studio Attention Deficit Disorder, SADD. It takes a while for me to focus and let go of outside, everyday diversions.

Kathleen Laurie - Ceramic Sculpture
Kathleen Laurie – Ceramic Sculpture

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

I keep working thru it. If I hit a stall or creative wall, it usually takes some time to get back to work. The drought passes in time and with experience I realize it’s just a temporary incubation where something is evolving into a new design or idea. Sometimes it requires discussing with my guild mates to get past it. YouTube is also a great source of quick training.

Do you pursue any themes in your art work?

Patterns, grids, linear designs, turtles, fish, birds, dragonflies, color.

Kathleen Laurie - Fish Platter
Kathleen Laurie – Fish Platter

Who or what inspires you?

Nature, traveling, reading, museums, artist friends, my guild mates, life experiences. Just about everything I see has a possibility of making an appearance in my clay work.

Kathleen Laurie - Wheel Thrown Ceramic Bottles
Kathleen Laurie – Wheel Thrown Ceramic Bottles

Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

I would like my work to increase in height and volume! New forms are always on the horizon. Sculpture is happening.

Where can people find your work? 

Online:

Galleries:

The Evergreen Gallery  
The Aspen and Evergreen Gallery in Estes Park  

Upcoming Events:

The Colorado Potters Spring Show May 4-6, 2017

This interview originally appeared on the Colorado Potters Guild website, but has been updated.


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

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 macramé.

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, “Macramé 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, macramé has seen its popularity wax again in the last couple of years. Even Martha Stewart is sharing articles about macramé.

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 macramé 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 macramé 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.

 

Meet Page Kelly Piccolo of Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery

Page Kelly Piccolo is the owner and creative force behind Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery located in Montana. Page makes lovely functional pottery that feature botanical themes and the texture of fabrics.

Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery

Please Introduce Yourself:

My name is Page. I’ve long wished that I could just be monoeponymous (I made that word up).  If I could legally go by Page, I would do it. Currently, I live in a bedroom community outside of Helena, MT, which is known both as Montana City and Clancy. I’m a fifth-generation Montanan, but I spent a good chunk of my early adulthood moving my furniture from one side of the country to the other and back again.

Page Kelly Piccolo In Her Studio
Page Kelly Piccolo In Her Studio

How did your clay journey begin?

I vaguely remember an art class in sixth grade, or so, where our art teacher, whom I can only remember as Mr. M???? (my brain continues to refuse to fill in the space) had a short ceramic section where we all had an opportunity to throw on the wheel. We also built a bust. Of all the pieces that I’ve lost to the kiln gods over time, that bust is the one I miss the most. My memory of it was that it was really good, but we didn’t carve out the centers, so everything exploded, likely due to residual water. I love figurative sculpture, and want to explore that work more in the future.

When I was a teen, I had the opportunity to do a studio visit with Judy Ericksen. She let me throw a couple of bowls on her wheel and then at some point we did a raku firing. I enjoyed it immensely. Sadly, I didn’t get the support or encouragement to explore pottery further.

Many years later, lifetimes, I left my second husband and returned to Montana to keep my mother alive. We’d lost three immediate family members in the span of two years, and she was sliding down a black hole of depression. We sold her “in-town” house and moved to a twenty-acre property where she, and I, could start over.

The road to our house went by the Archie Bray Foundation and I drove by twice a day for months. I finally stopped in and signed up for a class and I took my first official pottery class July and August of 2003. Jeremy “Jr.” Kane was my teacher. The following January, I had enrolled in Carroll College with the intent of getting some kind of degree. In the fall of 2004, I took a class through the college that was in cooperation with the Bray, and Ben Krupka was my teacher that semester. The semester-end crit was brutal, I was unprepared for it, but in the long run, it has been the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

“BE INTENTIONAL.”

I’ve since taken several classes and workshops at the Bray, and I was a studio tech for Ralph Esposito at the college for a couple of semesters. In 2007, I’d become frustrated with the community firing at the Bray and no longer had access to the ceramic studio at the college. This pushed me to buy a kiln and a wheel which I set up a little basement studio.

By and large, my education has been in my studio – pushing myself to do better, to try something new, and to problem-solve. I’ve had four physical spaces in the last ten years. Between some interruptions of moving and having a daughter, I’ve found those breaks have led to great leaps of improvement in my work. The time off quiets my hands, but not my mind as I constantly obsess about clay.

I’m curious about the name of your clay business, “Zephyr Valley Pottery”. Is this a place or region in Montana where you live?

I’m fuzzy on the timeline, but some time before Montana was a state, my Great-Great-Grandfather had registered a livestock brand with the territory. It reads, “Reversed Hanging Z V.” This brand was eventually inherited by my grandmother who had a ranch in a valley in Meagher County. When I was a teen, Gram made a sign with the name “Zephyr Valley Ranch” which had the image of the brand on it.

Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery Logo
Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery Logo

I wish I knew what happened to that sign, I’d love to have it. In any case, my grandparents are long dead, the ranch has been sold, but my mother retains a quarter of the rights to the brand. In homage to my grandma I named my pottery business Zephyr Valley Pottery and now it’s Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery. I use an image of the brand inside the jug form as my signature on my pots.

Page Kelly Piccolo - Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - Bowl with Decal
Page Kelly Piccolo – Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – Bowl with Decal

What happens if you ever leave Montana? I ask, mainly, because my creative business was called Colorado Art Studio at one time. In 2013, I rebranded my as ceramicscapes so that I could easily move in the future should I desire. I also really debated whether to use my name, but my last name is so difficult to pronounce and spell. Naming a creative business is more challenging than it seems – have you ever considered using your name instead?

As far as the business name goes, I don’t have any issue in taking it with me wherever I go, because it really is more of a familial connection rather than a geographic one. The problem that I’ve recently come across is connecting my business name with me, the artist, and the work that I’ve been exhibiting.

Last year I began applying to juried shows in earnest, and I’ve been very fortunate to be accepted into many of them. The galleries put Page Kelly Piccolo on the labels, not Zephyr Valley Ceramics so I don’t think the connection is necessarily being made. Fortunately, Google has me covered, but folks have to think to search for me there. This is just one of the areas where being an artist in business can be challenging, there is no clear path or one right way.

Page Kelly Piccolo - Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - Yunomi with decal
Page Kelly Piccolo – Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – Yunomi with decal

I am excited to learn that you (and another friend, Judi Tavill) have both been invited to show your work at the AKAR 2017 Yunomi invitational. I am thrilled for both of you. Did you apply to the show, or did AKAR find you online and invite you?

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to be a participant in this show. For me, this show is THE ceramics show of the year. I always buy a piece (or three) and sit at my computer hitting refresh waiting for the show to open. I LOVE this show.

This truly is an invitation only exhibit – I did not apply. I’m not entirely sure how they found me, but a couple of things happened. As I mentioned, I had earnestly applied and been accepted into several shows last year. Two of those shows were pretty big – one at Companion Gallery and one at the Charlie Cummings Gallery. I was so excited to be selected to those shows.

The other thing that happened was a post by ClayAKAR on Facebook that I commented on. I read it as a kind of fun, ‘hey we’re sending out invitations, is there anyone we should be sending invitations to’ post, so I was like “Uh, yeah, ME!” (none of this is the actual quote, but the essence). Maybe three or four weeks later, I received the questionnaire asking if I would like to participate. I might have hyperventilated a little.

Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - New Studio
Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – New Studio

You recently moved to a new home after building your (what appeared to be) dream home. As someone who moves fairly frequently as well, I understand the impulse. Why did you make the move to the new place. How has that impacted your clay practice?

Yeah, I really have to quit moving. Where to start…. My husband and I actually built our dream home in 2012. We have another business, BearGrass Homes, which is a construction business, now more property management. When we built the 2012 house, we were in a neighborhood where we could pick which school our daughter could attend.

In 2014, I had a health issue that caused me to quit working in the studio for an extended period, and I had to get a full-time J.O.B. outside of my studio. We set up our life and work schedules based on my daughter going to a specific school. They had an after-school program that the other school did not, which meant that I could go to work and not worry about her after school. We discovered when we went to register her, the school had drawn hard lines, and we were outside of that line by two blocks. They also made a rule that they were not accepting out-of-district kids, no exceptions.

I couldn’t mentally or emotionally get to the place where the other school would work, so I moved my family. My husband couldn’t be convinced to buy a house that was already built, so we found a lot and built another home. And that house was another dream house, one level living with a few bells and whistles with a studio in the basement. But, I was regaining my health and working in the studio again. Also, my husband was unhappy with the location.

Page Kelly Piccolo -Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - Yunomi
Page Kelly Piccolo -Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – Yunomi

As I achieved more success with my pottery business and started getting more wholesale and consignment accounts, the path to being a full-time potter again seems really viable. But the mortgage on the new dream house would never have allowed for that. I started looking for a home that had an outbuilding and needed some TLC, something inexpensive that we could improve on.

I found it. It was back in the old neighborhood my husband and daughter loved, and the school district has different rules for existing students, so we bought this beat-up repo house. Now I have my dream studio and the family is glad to be back in the old ‘hood. I’m closer to being financially able to go full-time in the studio again.

My clay practice has had a lot of interruptions. Emotionally, it’s incredibly challenging being away from the creative process. Mentally, it’s challenging because I’m not producing work, so I get behind on orders or goals. Right now, I don’t have anything to submit for exhibitions because I’m in full order-filling mode.

I work 60-70 hours a week, 40 at my day gig and the rest in the studio. I hope to find balance someday. Strangely, these breaks have a strong positive impact on the quality of my work because it has improved by leaps and bounds. I think a lot of that has to do with all the time I think about the work and the process, and the challenges I want to overcome.

Page Kelly Piccolo - Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - Cup
Page Kelly Piccolo – Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – Cup

I imagine that Montana has a fairly decent, but seasonal tourist season similar to Colorado. How do you sell your work typically? On Etsy? Or is your best market local such as galleries, shops or craft markets?

This is a tough question. My hometown is an odd place for me. I don’t fit into any specific cubby, and until recently it’s been challenging to find a place to sell my work locally. I don’t really do the Montana touristy stuff – graphics of the state, elk, moose or the like. And, I’m not one of the elite potters that have been through the Bray residency.

I’ve done okay with Etsy, and I think that continues to improve over time. I did the wholesale trade-show circuit in Montana, but I ran up against the “oh you use photography? Can you put a moose on that?” To which my answer was, “Can? Yes. Want to? Going to? No.”

Part of my impetus for applying to the exhibits last year was to see if my work would sell nationally. Now, I’m working on building a portfolio to send to galleries across the country, but I’ve also been developing my wholesale and consignment accounts.

I have a lovely boutique in Bozeman, MT that has led to a wholesale account with a farm-to-roaster coffee shop. Recently, a local gallery has added me to their stable. I’m also a member of Montana Clay, and last year we had our first studio tour. It was very successful and we are hoping to build on that. Helena has a Spring and Fall art walk each year, and I try to participate in that.

Zephyr Vallery Ceramics and Pottery Studio
Zephyr Vallery Ceramics and Pottery Studio

One of the primary goals I had with this last move was to have a place that people can come to and be more informed about the process and buy from me directly. I will be hosting studio sales once or twice a year to bring in the larger crowds, but I am always happy to have locals come by. I’m hoping to hold an Open-House style event here in the beginning of June. This is all part of rebuilding the business, and it takes time. At the same time, I hope I can keep up!

Page Kelly Piccolo - Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery - Bowl
Page Kelly Piccolo – Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery – Bowl

You take wonderful photographs of your ceramic work. Photographing work is challenging for a lot of potters, myself included. In scrolling through your Instagram feed, I’m curious about your photo set up that you posted on April 1, 2017. Can you expand on the equipment and techniques you use?

Thank you. My husband should really get all the credit. I take most of my pictures but he has done all the work on figuring out how to get the effects I’m looking for. He’s the kind of guy that gets interested in something and then has to figure out how it all works.

A few years ago, he became interested in landscape and astral photography, so I challenged him to help me with my pot pictures. We started with a lightbox on the kitchen counter, we had a space in a storage room where I hung a cheap canvas wrapped in tinfoil from the ceiling to use as a bounce light. We tried all kinds of options.

Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery Photography Set Up
Zephyr Valley Ceramics and Pottery Photography Set Up

The set up that you mention is now in my new studio. I’ve got a roll of white paper, a piece of foam board to use as a light bounce, and a strobe light with a soft-box. Along with these essentials is the stands to hold everything up and in place. The strobe is on a remote, so instead of a flash, I get a much stronger burst of light. The angles of the light and the bounce board are about 90° to each other. The benefit is a controlled outcome and I can take pictures in my studio and not worry about any environmental light from windows or the ceiling.

I get a graduated background effect when I want it, or I can open up the angle of the light and bounce board, add a light, and have a white or grey background. Because my pots are white, the graduated background helps make them pop a bit more. I love natural light pictures, but my schedule doesn’t allow for me to take pictures on Mother Nature’s schedule.

I’m excited to see what ClayAKAR does this year with the Yunomi Invitational. This year they are posting 360° views of each pot.

I had to delete the Periscope app on my phone last year because I ran out of space. When I replaced my phone I never re-installed the app, because I found the notifications distracting. Are “scopes” automatically archived now to watch later? Are you still active on Periscope? If so, what does it add to your clay practice?

Periscope is awesome. It’s also extremely distracting. (you can turn the notifications off in settings, btw.)

The clay community that has been built around the ‘Scopers and the viewers is amazing. Initially, it was really addicting and I watched and broadcast a lot. There were a few hiccups initially, but Periscope has improved a lot of its features in the last year.

So here’s the bottom line: As a broadcaster, I love it when my viewers interact, ask questions, engage. Hearts are like applause (tap the screen to give a heart). The trolls can be really really super awful, so I limit who can chat to those who follow me. I can look at your profile and see if you are someone who is actually interested in ceramics. Also, when I’m doing throwing demos it’s really hard to split my attention between my pots and the conversation, and it really slows me down.

Page Kelly Piccolo Applying Decals
Page Kelly Piccolo Applying Decals

I’m more likely to ‘Scope these days when I’m glazing or applying decals or the like. The broadcaster has the option to save the broadcasts or delete them, so yes, they can be archived. To conserve space on my devices, I delete the videos. I occasionally upload them to my YouTube channel because I will be referencing that video in a blog post.

And that last bit is really what Periscope has added to my practice. I re-started my blog on my website, because I felt like there was more information to share. Photos of completed work, links to other artists or products or whatever that was discussed in the broadcast. It helps fill in the spaces, and I think sharing information is one of the things that I most love about potters. We tend to be supportive of each other, and I want to pay that forward.

Who or what inspires you?

My daughter inspires me. Mostly to be the woman she can look to as an example of someone who is strong, independent, caring, kind, thoughtful, inclusive. I want better for my child than I had or did, so I try to model that for her.

Beyond that, in my art, I’m a sensory inspired person. I love texture, pattern and love subtlety or things that make me want to engage or investigate. Attention to how things feel is maybe more important than how my work looks.

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

Right now, I work mostly. I’m intent on getting back into the studio full-time and I’m doing everything I can to make that happen. I’ve also managed to get my arthritis and fibromyalgia under control so that I can physically handle going back to the studio. I study nutrition and am always working toward getting healthier. Recently, I started taking a pilates class once a week.

My mother-in-law taught me some knitting basics, so I’ve done a bit of that. Always looking for balance in life, never quite getting there. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I also hope to get some camping in this summer.

Where can people find you? 

Online:

Shops/Galleries:


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

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.