Ceramic Bird Totems + Thank you for coming out to the Colorado Potter’s Sale!

First, I want to thank everyone who visited the Colorado Potters Guild Show this past weekend! I am so humbled and honored at how well my new ceramic bird totem sculptures were received and am pleased that all but 1 of my sculptures sold.

Thank you for coming out to the Colorado Potter's Sale!

Ceramic Bird Totems

As prototypes, I made 2 larger stacked ceramic totems that featured a bird on the very top. Unfortunately, I only have a photograph of one of them. I do have some rough photos of the work in progress that I can use for future iterations.

CeramicScapes Large Ceramic Bird Totem
CeramicScapes Large Ceramic Bird Totem – Roughly 2 Feet High

My thought in making these stacked sculptures is two fold. I am interested in sculptural art work and other than the ceramic wall pod installations that I have made in the past, I’ve never made sculpture. I didn’t know if I have the capacity, interest or even the market for the work.

CeramicScapes Ceramic Bird Totems
CeramicScapes Ceramic Bird Totems – The Smaller Ones Are About 8″ High

Amazingly, I have the interest and the market! I am pleasantly surprised at people’s reception. It’s affirming and wonderful to know that people really like the new work. I’m happy to say that I had one of my best shows ever in terms of comments and sales. It’s enough to keep me going! 

CeramicScapes Small Ceramic Bird Totem
CeramicScapes Small Ceramic Bird Totem

Ceramic Garden Stakes

8 ceramic birds that I envisioned as garden stakes also made their appearance at the potters guild show. I will be making more sculptural work for the garden in the near future, including totem stacks. I sold all 8 garden stakes by the morning of the second day of the Colorado Potter’s Guild show. Displaying them required a bit of on the fly thinking. I lugged a terra-cotta pot filled with Mexican beach pebbles to Denver that I picked up at a local hardware store to use for the display.

Ceramic Bird Garden Stakes - Display
Ceramic Bird Garden Stakes – Display

My rigged display is pretty heavy, but it works to hold the garden stakes in place.

Spring Horseshoe Market

In the meantime, I need to finish decorating some greenware today that I plan on bisque firing tomorrow. I’m participating in a one day craft market this Saturday, May 13, 2017 in Denver, CO at 46th and Tennyson. If you’re in the metro area, please stop by and say hello!

I’ll be sharing a booth at the Horseshoe Market in Denver with Sarah Christensen Ceramics.

Olinger Moore Chapel
4345 West 46th Ave
Denver, CO 80212

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

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.

Meet Sarah Christensen Ceramics

Sarah Christensen is a ceramic artist and the creative force behind Sarah Christensen Ceramics located in Denver, Colorado. She is known for her highly decorated wheel thrown functional work and ceramic wall pieces. 

Sarah Christensen Ceramics
Sarah Christensen Ceramics

Please introduce yourself:

I was always encouraged to be an artist, and I always wanted to be one.  While I dabbled in lots of mediums as a kid, I didn’t touch clay until high school. Only then, did I really think it could happen. I went to college to blow glass, but after many burns, found clay to be more conducive to how I translated my ideas with my hands. That was all it took, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Wheel Thrown Bowl
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Wheel Thrown Bowl

How many years have your been working with clay?

I’ve been working in clay 25 years.

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

I have a bfa in ceramics from Alfred University, which gave me a great base of knowledge from which to work.  I think I am still processing all the info I absorbed there. Since graduation I have been more interested in finding my voice in my work, and have chosen to limit my exposure to new techniques and influences. I love seeing what others are doing, but I get distracted easily and overwhelmed with new ideas which limits my focus.

Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Covered Jar
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Covered Jar

As a graduate of Alfred’s ceramic program, one of the most respected clay programs in the nation, can you speak to the rigor of the program and how it has prepared you to pursue clay full time in recent years? 

I can still hear my professors when I am working. It is rare for me to make anything without thinking, what would they think. Is this piece up to standard?  It has made me a harsh critic of my work, and others work as well. I’m okay with that, I want to make the very best work I can and I want to encourage others to do the same. 
 
Often, I still think of the advice my pottery teacher gave us to wait to put the work out there and to make it the very best you can. Once the  work is in the world, that is the work people will expect you to make, so don’t get stuck making under developed work. I’m not sure anything prepared me for life as a full time artist, but I do feel like I want to live up to the standards set by my education and the talented people I went to school with.
 

Were you ever interested in pursuing a MFA in ceramics?

 
I’ve always debated MFA, no MFA. I still think about the possibility, if it’s something that would enhance my work or open up opportunities. I guess I haven’t made a conclusive decision about it yet so it’s still on the table.
 
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Sugar and Creamer Set
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Sugar and Creamer Set

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

Working on lots of projects at once keeps my day interesting. I throw for part of the day, then switch to handbuilding or sculpting. It is easier on the body to move around, and I don’t get antsy doing the same thing all day. I throw functional ware in porcelain, handbuild slab pots, make decorative wall hangings, and sometimes make attempts at what I call “real art”, but it’s really just playing in the studio.

All my work is very focused on surface decoration. I like simple forms that give me a canvas to use slip, glaze pencils, glaze and stamps, to layer color and image.  Soda firing has always been a part of that process. It adds that extra magic to a surface, and it is always a surprise.

 

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

When I joined the guild, I was desperate to have a place to fire, but otherwise I was fine working in solitude. I didn’t realize at first how enriching it would be to have a group of clay friends to talk shop with. These days I am constantly grateful for all the enthusiasm, problem solving and fun that being in this group brings.

Sarah Christensen - Spraying soda into the vapor kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild
Sarah Christensen – Spraying soda into the vapor kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild

We have been firing the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild together with a few others and you lead our firings. What is your philosophy or end goal for a soda firing as it relates to your work since it’s so highly decorated with color and fine line work?

The end goal is always the same. How can I get the most exciting, beautiful surface possible on a pot? It has certainly been a process to find just the right firing to keep the decoration intact, while making sure the soda does its magic. 
 
Lately, my interest is in getting what I call “radioactive” color. Most people associate high fire with brown or subdued colors, so I love that I can get bright colors, but retain the complexity that comes with higher temps. The soda has the potential to really enhance the glaze colors, while also softening the design work and making it more variable.
 
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Wheel Thrown Mug
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Wheel Thrown Mug

Technically this makes you teacher or instructor by taking the lead in our firings (and you’re good at it). Have you ever thought about teaching classes to other potters or aspiring potters? Why or why not?

I have done a little teaching, but have not found a good fit yet. There are times I think I would like to teach, but it is hard to give up my own studio time for it. I wouldn’t rule teaching out if the right opportunity came about, it just hasn’t been a goal particularly.
 
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled

People love your functional work and I think your sculptural wall boxes are under appreciated. Would you like to move more into the sculptural realm, or do you enjoy straddling both functional and sculptural?

There is something very comforting about making pots. They are art objects, but their function gives them purpose and meaning and definition, so I don’t have to. As long as my pots function, they are what they were meant to be.  Its nice to have the container of function and it takes the pressure off when I’m not feeling especially creative, but still want to work.  
 
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
 
I never intended to show the sculptures when I started making them. They are an exploration of a personal experience, and I really wanted them to stay private. I guess I (mostly) got over this feeling, plus I ran out of wall space to store them.
 
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
 
I have been missing making them lately, but the functional pots have taken precedence as I try to get them into the world…. I would love to make more of the wall pieces, but I feel so much more pressure to make them meaningful, to have them say something about me or the world. Sometimes it’s just really nice to sit down and make a mug.
 

Who or what inspires you?

I’m loving Danish midcentury pottery right now. But inspiration is everywhere, all the time.

Where can people find you?

Online:

Sarah Christensen Ceramics
Colorado Potters Guild Website
Instagram: @sarahsclaybits

Galleries:

Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery
Gallery 1505 

Upcoming events:
 

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching 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.

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

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.

You are invited to the Colorado Potters Guild’s Fall Pottery Sale!

Colorado Potters Guild Fall 2016 Postcard

Hi everyone – the day has finally arrived! I’ll be in Denver, CO this weekend for the Colorado Potters Guild’s Fall 2016 Pottery Sale. I have been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild since 2008 and manage the guild’s website and a good bit of the marketing for our shows.

Ceramicscapes - small dishes
Ceramicscapes – small dishes will be making their debut

I’d love to see you there and share some of my new work that I’ve been developing over the past year and a half!

Details:

Opening Reception: Thursday November 3, 2016 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Hours of Operation Friday November 4, 2016 9:00am – 8:00pm
  Saturday November 5, 2016 9:00am – 5:00pm

The members of the Colorado Potters Guild invite you to save the date for our Fall 2016 Show and Sale on November 3, 4 +5.

Members of the Colorado Potters Guild join together twice a year (spring and fall) to sell their work. Approximately 30 potters who average more than 15 years experience will present more than 2000 items including pottery, sculpture and jewelry for you to purchase or just enjoy. Sale items are refreshed daily since only a limited portion of the artist’s inventory can be displayed. Our Fall show is just the place to find handmade artwork made in Colorado for all your personal and gift needs.

The show is staffed by member artists who can help you find just the right piece of pottery, explain the pottery making process or introduce you to the person who made your favorite piece.

Admission is free.

ADDRESS:

First Plymouth Congregational Church
3501 South Colorado Boulevard
Englewood, CO  80113

Soda Firing at the Colorado Potters Guild

Waiting to be fired - Ceramicscapes

I really busted my rear last week to make sure that I had close to 50 pots to fire in the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild last week. It was a marathon and I felt like I was in school again cranking, all pistons fired, who needs to sleep to meet a deadline? kind of sprint. I hate to admit it, but I work well under pressure. Anyone else?

What is soda firing? Emily Murphy has a great explanation on her blog.

[Basically] Soda firing is an atmospheric firing technique where “soda” is introduced into the kiln near top temperature (2350°, ∆10). The soda that we use is: sodium bi-carbonate, also know as baking soda (the Arm and Hammer™ kind), and sodium carbonate, which is also known as soda ash.

Wendy spraying soda into the kiln
Wendy spraying soda into the kiln just after ^9 dropped

The soda essentially creates a glazed surface on bisque that is sometimes described as “juicy” after its introduction in the kiln. It’s addicting and wonderfully unpredictable. The surface variations are really unlimited when used on flashing slips, glazes, different decorating techniques like mishima and even the clay body that is chosen. The first time I participated in a soda firing at the guild, I had no idea how to glaze/decorate my work. I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I wanted more.

Ceramicscapes Decorated work - not yet glazed
Decorated work – not yet glazed

Over the last 3 years, my work has shifted and I finally have a better idea of how to glaze/decorate my work for the soda firing. I make highly graphic work that is sometimes on the precise side, but when the the soda hits the surface, it can muddle it slightly making the work just a tad more interesting.

 

Ceramicscapes - Soda fired mugs
Ceramicscapes – Soda fired mugs

My challenge now is to continue to develop my surfaces and to find a way to make them interesting after being fired in an electric kiln to cone 6 (2232° F). After the Colorado Potters Guild Fall 2016 sale the first weekend in November, I plan to start some glaze testing. It might be interesting to test out some glazes that have some movement to create a little bit of that unpredictability that I like so much.

Fired work from the soda firing on Oct. 22, 2016 at the Colorado Potters Guild
Fired work from the soda firing on Oct. 22, 2016 at the Colorado Potters Guild

In the meantime, I’m still making work for our sale full speed ahead.