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 on Wednesday 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 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.

 

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. 

100 Days of Patterns

A few days ago, I randomly noticed a post on a Facebook group that I belong to announcing that former and current students in the Make Art That Sells e-courses were participating in a 100 Day Project. I don’t exactly need one more thing added to my to-do list, but I signed up anyway.

The premise is that for 100 days, participants will post an image of their project. Participants choose their own themes for the 100 days. I chose 100 days of patterns with the notion that I would use this exercise to work on surface design for my clay work.

History of the 100 Day Project

According to the 100 Day Project website, “The 100DayProject is a creativity excavation.  It’s about unearthing dormant or unrealized creativity by committing to a daily practice everyday for 100 days.”

I like this so much that I couldn’t really improve upon the description. The website and idea is in its fourth year right now. It’s so popular, there are literally thousands of posts on Instagram that use the tag #100dayproject.

100 Days of Patterns

I knew that the time that I can commit to the project is limited. With that in mind, I decided to choose patterns as a jumping off point to explore clay surfaces. I intend to spend no more that 15 minutes a day on each sketch and will do it first thing in the morning. Sketching first thing in the morning over my first cup of coffee is also probably a much healthier alternative to signing on to my computer. It’s a warm up exercise to start my day creatively.

Ceramicscapes 1 of 100 - 100 Days of Patterns
Ceramicscapes 1 of 100 – 100 Days of Patterns

100 Days of Patterns – Beginnings

Translating a 2 dimensional surface to clay is limited to using slip, underglaze, glaze and texture instead of pen, ink, etc. I can explore circles, squares, lines, and other shapes at leisure. Since I have 98 days left, I’m spending the first part working with circles or dots. I’m also limiting my color palette to black and white for consistency.

Ceramicscapes 2 of 100 - 100 Days of Patterns
Ceramicscapes 2 of 100 – 100 Days of Patterns

Epiphany 

After I decided to work with a square format – mostly chosen for sharing on Instagram, I had a crazy idea on day 1.

I’ve been meaning to play around with paper clay and to explore the non-functional ceramic art realm. What if I used the 100 Days of Patterns as a jumping off point to explore paper clay? I can use the structure of the 100 Days Project to make a large body of work that can be shown together, but also broken up into smaller groupings.

What if I made paper clay tiles and used the images  from my 100 Days of Pattern to create 100 tiles? Maybe, I could propose a gallery exhibition locally that featured all 100 tiles and the accompanying sketches. What gallery and where? I’m not sure, but I have 100 days to figure out how to make my idea a reality.

Ceramicscapes 2 of 100 - 100 Days of Patterns
Ceramicscapes 2 of 100 – 100 Days of Patterns

Currently, I’m reading (rather listening) to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert while I work in my studio. It’s a bit woo-woo, but the book is speaking to me. Yesterday, I listened while she hypothesized that the universe flows with  inspiration and ideas looking for a vessel for expression. Being open to inspiration and embracing the challenge is good and maybe even cosmic intervention.

Many people have similar ideas, but each of us expresses them uniquely. Part of expressing an idea is to welcome it, announce it to the world and to act on it. Creating habits, like 100 Days of Patterns is my first step at realizing this lightening bolt of an idea that popped into my head when I started drawing on day 1 of my 100 Days Project.

Follow My Project

I will only be posting sporadic updates on my blog every so often. I will, however, be posting daily progress on Instagram @ceramicscapes and my Ceramicscapes Facebook page. An archive of my 100 Days of Patterns can be found as a sub page of “In the Studio”.

The hash tags I’m using are #100daysofpatterns, #100daysofpatternceramicscapes

 

 

How to Format a Ceramic Decal Sheet Using Photoshop

A couple of years ago, I purchased a color ceramic decal printer from a local company. The printer was pretty pricey, so to help offset the expense, I decided to sell custom ceramic decals to other artists. By far, the biggest issue for potters is how to format a ceramic decal sheet using Photoshop or another photo editing program.

I offer graphic design services to people who want or need assistance, but, many people want to format their decal sheets themselves. In the end, I decided that it would be easier if I did a few video tutorials on how to format ceramic decals. 

The first tutorial up is my photo software of choice – Adobe Photoshop. I use Photoshop CS 5 and 6 – but it looks like Adobe offers most of their programs by subscription now via the cloud. 

How to format custom ceramic decals in Photoshop
How to format custom ceramic decals in Photoshop

How to format ceramic decal sheet using Photoshop

So, without further ado, here is my quick video on how I format ceramic decal sheets using Photoshop. This video is by no means the only way to format a sheet of custom ceramic decals, but is one I use frequently. My goal is to format a sheet that has as many images as possible on a sheet. I also want each image to have at least an 1/8″ spaced border so that cutting the decals is easy.

Using your own artwork

This tutorial assumes that you know how to scan your artwork and save it to a place on your computer. Please let me know if you would like a tutorial on how to scan artwork.

Color conversion from ceramic decal image to the printer's color space
Color conversion from ceramic decal image to the printer’s color space

My preferred file types to print custom decals are .jpg, .tiff, .pdf. Files need to be a high resolution, preferably 300 dpi so that no quality is lost. Keep in mind that my ceramic decal printer uses food safe ceramic toners. Many brighter colors print and fire duller than what is shown on your screen. Visit my Custom Ceramic Decal Page for more information.

In the near future, I will be offering tutorials on how format ceramic decal using GIMP and other free  image tools. 

To purchase  a custom color or black and white ceramic decal sheet, please visit Ceramicscapes’ Etsy Shop.

If there is any part of the video that doesn’t make sense, please let me know in the comments. I will attempt to clarify and update the video.

How to Organize a Pottery Craft Show and Sale

I have been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild since 2008. It’s been wonderful to be connected to other potters in Colorado. Founded in 1965, the Colorado Potters Guild is the oldest clay co-op in Colorado that thrives on shared responsibilities and volunteers to make the organization run smoothly. I manage the guild’s website and social media activity on a year round basis. It’s something that I enjoy doing and a way that I contribute best to the guild’s success.

We have other members who serve on our board. Everyone has a skill that contributes to our success including accounting, marketing, legal, construction, kiln operation and maintenance, purchasing and more.

Organize a pottery craft show and sale
Organize a pottery craft show and sale

Pottery Sale

We also host two pottery sales a year in the spring and fall. This year, I volunteered to be the chair of our Spring Sale to learn the skills needed to organize a pottery craft show and sale. While, our show can almost run itself, I want a fuller picture of everything that is involved to put on a sale  – all the moving parts. 

I also have some ideas that I want to try to make the experience a bit more fun for our customers. Ultimately, I’m interested in organizing a pop up sale in Fort Collins or other cities in Colorado in the future and feel like this experience is going to be helpful.

Colorado Potters Guild Sale
Colorado Potters Guild Sale

How to organize a pottery craft show and sale:

Aka – all the moving parts

  • Communication with the members. As the chair, my job is to make sure that all of the jobs for the show are filled, that the venue is paid, and that I communicated with our members. Also, if something doesn’t go well, the buck stops with me. Eeek!
  • Venue rental. The Colorado Potters Guild is located in an old creamery that is far too small to host thousands of shoppers. We have a long standing contract with a local church that leases a large room that holds 37 potters work and there is plenty of parking. The Potters Guild also has use of their kitchen, and another room for our treasurers to work securely in private.
  • Post card invitation and poster design and purchase.
  • Coordinate with the business that handles the mailing of our cards. Additionally, we clean our mailing list after each show to account for people who have moved or are no longer interested in attending our sales.
  • E-vite design and scheduled mailing. 
  • Marketing efforts including print, online, social media, radio and our email newsletter. We have a team of roughly 4 members dedicated to show marketing.
  • Show photography. Every show, we have a dedicated team of photographers that take photos of pots that we use for the website and future marketing efforts.
  • Show set up. Since we’ve been in the same venue for a long time, we have a map that helps speed up set up with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers. Set up takes approximately 1.5 hours.
  • Opening night refreshments. We serve baked goods and a light punch on opening night. Members sign up to bring baked items and the refreshment team staff the welcome table.
  • Moving truck rental to transport our set up supplies including table cloths, risers, shelving, boxes, bags, wrapping material etc. to the venue and back.
  • Show staffing. Everyone works opening night and 2 additional 4-5 hour shifts over the course of 3 days. Members work as cashiers, pot wrappers, floor staff, help pot carriers, pot guards, accounting and staff the jewelry table.
  • Show Breakdown. After the show ends on Saturday at 5pm, everyone collects their pots, inventories remaining pots against sales records and helps to pack up the guild’s supplies in the truck.
  • Treasury/financial bookkeeping. Since we do this sale as a group, everyone receives a standardized inventory sheet that the show treasurers use to cross reference as they keep track of sales. The treasurers also pay show expenses, reconcile sales and pay potters.
  • Signage placement on days of show. We have a crew that places signs near the venue of our sale. We have to be in compliance with the city’s zoning ordinances for signs.
  • Post show wrap up. Two weeks after our show, we meet at a members house for an amazing pot luck. At the pot luck, we have a show recap meeting and choose a new chair for the next show.

Final thoughts:

I’m sure I’m forgetting a thing or two, but the main point is that there is a lot that goes into how to organize a pottery craft show and sale on a larger scale.  Organizing a smaller pop up sale in the future will still require some of the same planning and organizing steps as a larger one, but hopefully with less moving parts. The items of consideration also work with other types of crafts and art – not just pottery. 

Colorado Potters Guild Spring 2017 Sale Info:

Where & When: 

First Plymouth Congregational Church
3501 South Colorado Boulevard
Englewood, CO  80113
(Hampden + Colorado Blvd)

May 4 – 4:00 – 8:00 PM (Opening reception)
May 5 – 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
May 6 – 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Developing Ceramicscapes Editorial Calendar and History

I’m developing an editorial calendar for ceramicscapes so that writing becomes a regular habit in an effort to build more content on my website. I need a calendar to hold myself accountable on those days that I might not feel like writing. While I hope to benefit from some added traffic that content will bring, writing helps to clarify long term goals and provides a record of my creative efforts.

The evolution of my creative business:

In the not so distant past, I wrote about my art and pottery business on my website, Colorado Art Studio (don’t bother searching for it – the domain is being held hostage for a ridiculous sum). In fact I wrote, on average, every other day and was able to build up a nice network of virtual creative friends and a bit of regular traffic to my website.

Archived Snapshot of my former website Colorado Art Studio
Archived Snapshot of my former website Colorado Art Studio

Topics included my pottery, the kids classes that I taught after school at Steele Elementary in Denver, summer art camps that I taught at the Art Student’s League of Denver and Anderson Ranch, my association with the Colorado Potters Guild, technical problems I had and I even shared personal snippets of my life.

In 2009, I decided to finish a masters degree in landscape architecture that I had abandoned when my daughter was younger. For the most part, I blogged sporadically when I returned to school and my website was basically parked, but still live.

Pinterest:

An odd thing happened though – my website continued to receive traffic despite not having any new content. I credit this in part to the advent of Pinterest, a visual bulletin board or “catalog of ideas”. People searched for pottery related ideas and my photos came up in their searches. 

Colorado Art Studio Google Analytic Snapshot
Colorado Art Studio Google Analytics Snapshot showing traffic despite not adding new posts

Why is this important? Pinterest serves as a potential funnel for people interested in buying my work or clay enthusiasts who want to take classes. The problem now is that people who click on the image are directed to a dead end – a domain repository. Someone purchased my old domain who is in the domain resale business. 

Covered Box Pinned from Colorado Art Studio
Covered Box Pinned from Colorado Art Studio – this photo has over 1k repins

Business class for creatives:

After I graduated in 2012, I worked for a landscape architecture firm in Fort Collins on a part time, contractual basis. At the time, my intention was to make pottery as a hobby when time permitted, but I ended up having a lot of free time (the construction business was just beginning its rebound) and started fantasizing about restarting my clay business with a focus on architectural ceramics. 

I signed up for a business class for creatives through the Small Business Development Center in Denver. I even won 2nd place for my business plan submission. Ultimately, I decided to leave my position at the landscape architecture firm to try making my creative business a reality.

Rebranding:

After I graduated from the business class for creatives, I rebranded my clay business and called it ceramicscapes. The name is a play on ceramics + landscape. This made total sense to me at the time after spending several years studying landscape architecture and my new interest in architectural ceramics.

I started working on a new website for my business in 2013 and decided to start fresh rather than import old content. I was so sure about this decision that I let my old domain lapse. (Don’t do this! I should have just redirected the old domain to my new one)

To be honest, not all of my old content was worth importing because I wrote about so many different things, much of it personal. 

Ceramicscapes editorial calendar:

This brings me back to my need for structure as I rebuild content for this website. I commit to writing three blog posts a week.

Rain or shine, I’ll be posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every single week, ideally at the same time. Though, I might need to employ a scheduling app at some point in the event that I go on vacation.

What is an editorial calendar? 

According to Wikipedia, “Editorial calendars are used to define and control the process of creating content, from idea through writing and publication. An individual or small business might have this publishing process: brainstorm content ideas to publish, where to publish, and when to publish.”

Ceramicscapse Editorial Calendar
Ceramicscapes Editorial Calendar in development

So far, I’ve identified the schedule. Now I need to identify the types of content that I’d like to publish for ceramicscapes editorial calendar. 

If you look at the calendar above, you’ll notice that I’m using Google Apps to keep me organized. I’ve scheduled my blog posts just like I would any other to-do list item. 

Content:

I plan to write about my own work, offer tutorials, write about topics in the field of ceramics and also profile other ceramic artists working in the field. Feature Fridays happens – you guessed it –  every Friday and I’m thrilled that I’m currently scheduled up to May 2017.  

This leaves Mondays and Wednesdays for the other types of content. I still need to start preplanning my posts. I’ve been following along with Darren Rowse’s podcast, ProBlogger, where he provides so many great tips for people interested in writing and specifically blogging. In addition, I’m also taking an online blogging class that is helping me develop a robust website and to think long term. 

Final Thoughts:

Developing an editorial calendar for my creative business will take a lot of the guesswork out of writing for me since I can have several topics and draft posts  already started. It won’t be like sitting down to a blank screen wondering what the heck I’ll write about today.

How about you – do you have an editorial calendar for your creative business? If not, how do you schedule your time?

 

 

Botanical Inspired Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art

Ceramicscapes Pinterest Seeds and Pods Board
Ceramicscapes’ Pinterest Seeds and Pods Board

Nature is pretty darn interesting and makes beautiful artifacts. I’ve been collecting images of plant seeds and seed pods for visual reference to use in my ceramic work. This direction is a new one for me, but one near and dear to my heart as a former landscape designer and Colorado Master Gardener. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to translate these to clay, but decided to use the winter months to experiment and the following ceramic seed pod wall art trio is the first incarnation.

Making

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before under construction
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before under construction

Originally, I started this exploration with the intent of making ceramic garden stakes for use outdoors. Each one has a hole in the back in which I planned to attach a 3 foot long rod that could be planted in the dirt of a garden bed.

Being a bit of a pack rat, I had saved a dried lotus flower seed head that came in a flower arrangement I had received last year for future use. I think the form is interesting and provided a jumping off point to begin sculpting.

Making the ceramic seed pods was slow going for me. I’m a novice sculptor and translating the likeness of a seed pod is tricky. 

In fact, I asked myself why I would even want to try? It’s not to improve upon an already interesting form, but I want to translate the essence of nature’s artifacts at a larger scale for permanence and decoration.

Decorating and Glazing

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before being bisque fired
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before being bisque fired

When I was sculpting these, I learned some (new to me) techniques that abstracted the forms in clay.

Throughout the process, I continually reminded myself that these were destined for the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild. I thought about how to glaze the forms and how the soda ash would affect the surface of the ceramic seed pods. 

Final Finished Ceramic Seed Pods

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art Trio Glazed
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art Trio Glazed

When we unloaded the kiln about a week and a half ago, my firing partners remarked that these would be really interesting as wall art. While I originally designed these as garden stakes, I have to agree. I make a lot of ceramic wall installations and would like to expand this direction and think that this is a good start.

On a technical note, the two enclosed forms on the right hand side of the photo above are rather heavy. I have some technical issues to resolve and think that working with paper clay would help lighten the sculptures.

Paperclay: Art and Practice by Rosette Gault
Paperclay: Art and Practice by Rosette Gault

With that in mind, I picked up a new book on paper clay by Rosette Gault to learn a bit more about the medium. I haven’t been able to dive in, but am really excited about the possibilities!

My Work Is Featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns

 

Ceramicscapes featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns
Ceramicscapes featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns

I woke up to a flurry of Instagram notifications on Monday morning and was surprised to see that my work is featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns. The current guest host for Skutt Kilns is Paul Blais, the founder of The Potters Cast.

I’m a total Skutt Kilns fan and user. I purchased my Skutt KM 1027 in 2008 when I first started to outfit my home studio. It’s a power house and has a capacity of 7 cubic feet. Some days it’s too big and during my busy making months it’s not big enough. In the near future, I would like to add an additional kiln to my studio, but can’t decide if it should be bigger or smaller.

Before I upgraded to a digital Skutt Kiln, my first one was a smaller ancient manually operated Paragon kiln that I found on either a free cycle or Yahoo group.  It has a smaller capacity – roughly 3 cubic feet – and worked well for a beginning potter. My advice to beginners looking to equip their studios is to scour Craigslist and similar sites for kilns, wheels, and other studio items. You never know what you’ll find. I also have a small Aim 88T test kiln (shown in the photo below), however, the elements need to be replaced. It has a teeny tiny capacity that is really only suitable for jewelry or test tiles. Although, I have used it to re-fire a mug or two on occasion.

Ceramicscapes - Skutt KM 1027 Kiln in my studio
Ceramicscapes – Skutt KM 1027 Kiln in my studio

Kiln Temperature Firing Ranges

Typically, I bisque fire to ^05 (1914 degrees F) and glaze fire to ^6 oxidation (2232 degrees F). Here’s a link to the Orton Pyrometric Cone Chart for more information on firing temperature ranges and a link to the Orton Ceramic website.

Soda Firing

About 6 times a year, I participate in soda firings at the Colorado Potters Guild with a group of women. The core group of us has been firing the soda kiln together now for about 3 years. The soda kiln at the guild is fueled by gas and has a capacity of nearly 25 cubic feet which we fire to ^10 or 2345 degrees F. Sharing the kiln makes filling, firing and cleaning the kiln a ton easier. I love the process and outcome of soda firings so much that I would love to convert an old electric kiln for home use. 

Typically, I bisque fire my ware in my Skutt KM 1027 before I pack it up and schlep it to the potters guild. 

To give you an idea how we load our soda kiln – also known as a vapor kiln, check out this quick 5 sec. time lapse video.

On Friday, I’ll be sharing another ceramic artist’s profile. It should be a good one!

 

Colorado Potters Guild Interview Repost

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Soda Fired Pottery Bottle
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Bottle

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Cindy Guajardo and I’m an artist/potter living in Fort Collins, CO. I also manage the Colorado Potters Guild website and social media channels. Chances are that if you’ve messaged the guild through our website, I’m the one that responds to your general query.

How many years have you been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I joined the Colorado Potters Guild in 2008 at the same time as Penny Woolsey and Wendy Kochar.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

When I applied to be a member of the guild, I was a recent ceramics graduate and had been taking classes at the Art Students League in Denver to bridge the gap between school and real life. I had set up a home studio in my garage, but missed the interaction and community of being in a group with like minded and clay focused people.

For me, the Colorado Potters Guild is a wonderful community of people from all walks of life who share a love of all things related to clay. I still work solo at home most days, but enjoy firing at the guild on occasion, learning from other members, coming together for our biannual sales (shameless plug – our next sale is May 4-6, 2017) and eating really well at our pot lucks. In short, the guild keeps me connected to other creative clay artists in Colorado.

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Soda Fired Pottery Planters
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Planters

How many years have your been working with clay?

Short answer: 15 years

Long answer: I always describe myself as a late bloomer. I worked for United Airlines for almost 17 years and attended college part time while working towards a BFA in studio art. I was about half way through my art degree in 1997 when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. At the time, I had planned to take a beginning ceramics class, but the instructor discouraged me because of the danger of working with potentially harmful chemicals while pregnant. I was disappointed, because I just knew that I would love clay. I ended up taking a leave of absence from school until my daughter was about 4 years old and in preschool. In 2002, the first class I signed up for was Ceramics 101 and the rest is history.

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

Yes, I earned a BA in Studio Art with a concentration in ceramics and a minor in art history from the University of Southern Maine in 2004. The head of the ceramics department at the time was Ray Chen – a fantastic sculptor who is currently the director of Fine Art at the New England Institute of Education in Falmouth, ME.

I have also taken classes with Mary Cay at the Art Students League of Denver and numerous in person and online workshops with Annie Chrietzberg, Diana Fayt and others.

Cindy Guajardo - Sketch to Pot using illustrations to make patterns on pottery
Cindy Guajardo – Sketch to Pot

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

In addition to making pottery, I enjoy dabbling in 2D work like printmaking, painting and drawing. In 2015, I took a series of illustration classes from Lilla Rogers, an artist and director of an art licensing agency, with the thought that I’d like to dip my toes into the commercial art world. At the end of the courses, I didn’t take that path, but the exercises did spark a new graphic direction in my work. In fact, my work changed so much that visitors to our shows asked if I was a new member because they didn’t recognize my work.

Since taking this class I keep a sketchbook and often use some of the icons in my work because I like to add an illustrative touch to my pottery. To translate 2D imagery to a clay surface I employ techniques like sgraffito and slip inlay – I typically hand build my forms for a more organic feel, but also use a pottery wheel. I have also narrowed down my color palette to make my work more cohesive. At home, I glaze fire my work in an electric kiln in oxidation – but about 6 times a year, I enjoy firing in the guild’s soda kiln with a group of women who share similar desired outcomes firing wise.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

I’m not often content to make the same thing over and over, so for me, being creative is a continued desire to improve both technically, but also to push myself to explore new ideas and forms. I think this is why making illustrative work is so appealing to me right now because it keeps my “canvases” fresh.

Currently, I’m exploring sculptural aspects of ceramics and plan on expanding my offerings beyond functional pottery. Scaling up is both a creative and technical challenge for me.

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Pottery Mugs
Cindy Guajardo – Illustrated Pottery Mugs

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

Because I am a self employed artist, my schedule is my own – like many people, I can get sucked into internet rabbit holes or otherwise waste time. In the past couple of years, I have had to set limits on my internet browsing and to schedule studio time. I treat my ceramic practice like a job.

Typically, Monday – Friday, I allow myself one hour to peruse the internet while I drink my coffee. This allows me to wake up and to catch up with friends, read the news and research a potential glaze or new making methods. After this, I get to work in my studio. My system is not glamorous and involves referring to my planner that I map out daily/weekly and monthly depending on what time of the year it is. I definitely work in cycles and the items I work on in the studio depend on what events are on the horizon. Unless I have a show or other major deadline, I work Monday – Friday so that I can spend time with my family on the weekends.

I allow time for creative exploration which often sparks new ideas and directions in my work. I also listen to podcasts while I work to keep my mind active. Favorites are Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, The Potters Cast, The Moth Radio Hour and more.

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

Clay is a demanding medium and it can be humbling when things don’t turn out. Bad firings, rushed work, cracked handles, glaze mishaps and ideas that don’t turn out the way that they look in my head make me want to quit some days. During this time, I take a break and do something else. I try to take daily hour long walks with my dog which always clears my mind, I’ll switch to a different medium like painting or drawing, I’ll do administrative tasks like working on my website or book keeping and more to just switch the gears in my brain.

Clay is very process driven which is something that engaged me in the beginning – it’s very much about problem solving which keeps me interested in the medium. By taking breaks, it gives me time to approach the challenges differently. I also brainstorm with other clay people if something is really stumping me. Asking for help can be difficult, but it offers an opportunity to hear about different approaches. Are some of my ideas bad? Yes, but ultimately, overcoming obstacles is about not quitting, just rethinking.

Cindy Guajardo - Illustrated Pottery Dishes
Cindy Guajardo – Illustrated Pottery Dishes

Do you pursue any themes in your art work?

After taking the illustration class that I mentioned above, I have started pursuing more themes in my work. In addition to art, I also have a background in landscape design so I tend to favor plant and animal/bird life in my work, in addition to patterns.

In a sense, I enjoy creating little drawings on my functional pottery. I have a “ground” and an “above ground” area. The ground is often a pattern like stripes, lines, dots, arcs, chevron, or herringbone. The above ground area is flora, fauna and sometimes other things like little homes.

My sculptural work is literal, yet stylized translations of plants, birds and rocks.

Who or what inspires you?

So many activities inspire me – being outdoors, gardening, listening to podcasts, going to the movies, drawing, looking at other art, traveling, cooking all spark ideas.

As to specific artists, I tend to admire a lot of ceramic work that is very painterly and graphic like the work of Craig Underhill, Brenda Holzke, Andrew Ludick, Louise Gelderblom and others. There really are so, so many more….

Cindy Guajardo - Sculptural Ceramic Components
Cindy Guajardo – Ceramic Sculptural Components for Ceramic Totem

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

I plan to continue to explore sculptural work and to scale up in size. My immediate goal is to make some prototype stacked sculptures that I plan to install in my garden. I’d also like to work on more ceramic wall art.

Where can people find your work? (websites/social media/galleries?)

I’m all over the place including:

My artist page
Instagram
Facebook
ceramicscapes
Etsy

Link to original interview.